The Battle Of Wounded Knee

If I’m honest, December’s been a bit of a struggle, a bit like all of November was, only worse. For more days than I care to remember, probably the past six weeks, I’ve been counting the cost of the Battle Of Wounded Knee…

I remember it well: Friday, 1st November at around 6:40am. Battleground: the Ayr Road, just down from the Malletsheugh past the roundabout as the road bends left before straightening up towards the traffic lights. That stretch of road is characterised by having two bus stops within 50 yards, one with a shelter and one without, and on the days that I used to get the bus (with my folding bike) before LifeCycle started, I always wondered why this woman (who always took the last drag of her ciggie before boarding) stood at the windswept stop instead of heading thirty seconds down the road, round the corner and into the shelter away from the wind. I always consoled myself safe in the knowledge that it takes all sorts…

Anyway, getting back to the story, on this particular morning, it was wet, cold, and blowing a south westerly gale: but that’s actually quite good because it’s what I regularly term a tale gale. I was flying. On a stretch of road with no traffic about, downhill, okay it was dark, albeit dimly lit by street lamps, I was tanking it. Strava recorded my speed at exactly 30mph (I was on a mountain bike remember) as I rounded the curve past the bus shelter onto the straight.

Now at this point I want to emphasise that when you’re going at that speed, and you’re in a bike lane, and it’s not yet 7am, the thing you’re looking out for is a parked motor. There are many places where selfish home owners dump their cars on the cycle lane to avoid reverse parking and you kind of get wise to where they’re gonna be. So you’re always aware and casting your gaze a hundred yards down the road for the shadow of a four wheeled obstruction.

And that’s precisely how I came to miss a feckin shopping trolley right in my path.

By the time I realised that I was going to crash, I was probably less than two seconds from impact. Just never saw it. Totally opaque in the dark, or so it seemed because I was looking out for something much, much bigger, I hit it at 27mph (once again, speed on impact courtesy of Strava). I actually tried to swerve around it but that manoeuvre was much too late and the left handle bar caught the trolley full on.

And my feet were clipped onto the bike… Bang!

I thought I’d got away with it at first because the only damage appeared to be a hole in my leggings and a load of blood. Got up, checked the bike, confirmed that the chain was still on, swore, swore some more, dumped the trolley on the pavement, got back on the bike and limped my way down the hill the remaining five miles into work.

The knee hurt like feck all day but you’d be amazed what a regular dose of Ibuprofen can do when you’ve just got the return leg to do to complete a first ever 170 mile weekly maximum. There was no way I was letting that one go so I just took a lower gear than normal and ambled my way back up the road at the end of the day. Should I have taken a rest that day? Maybe. Should I have taken the next week off ? Maybe. But I don’t do days off, not without a note from my mother anyway, and I most certainly don’t do weeks off. You’d need to chop my legs off first…

Also, I’d already eyeballed the fact that because October ended in the middle of a week, November held out the prospect a five week month and some big miles: but ultimately they were sore, just about all of them.

Down the years I’ve had a lot of trouble with that knee. It served me well until I crashed on a recce over the Corrieyairick Pass on my old MTB in 2006. Then I crashed again not a mile from the same spot in the actual race a fortnight later. Those two injuries together cost me my running career and an operation (in 2008) to determine that the cartilage was terminally damaged. But that was then and this is now. I’ve biked thousands of miles since so there’s no excuse in my book to regard that as anything other than a mere annoyance.

But unfortunately, that was the same knee that hit the deck on Shopping Trolley Day…

Looking back (and hindsight is a wonderful thing) I suspect damage that’s unrelated to that original injury. The cut wasn’t on the same spot for a start. But I do suspect something internal. That would at least explain why that knee’s been about 30% bigger than the other one for the past 800 miles. But you just get on with it, knowing that the Christmas holiday is just around the corner: the James Forrest mindset of only turning up for the big games is not welcome in my head.

So now, as I look the last full week of Life Cycle (2013) square in the face, I see a rest. Okay it’s not till a week on Tuesday, but only six of the nine days between now and then are Life Cycle days. Twelve more rides then a rest.

It can’t come soon enough after the Battle Of Wounded Knee.


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