The First Rule of Back Club Part Part V

Part 5 of Phil's post spine-surgery Journal.

Posted by Philip Cavell

Phil Fiona

Fiona Troupe working with Phil at Six Physio - Very rare to get a photo of Fiona by the way.

Rear View Mirror

Sixteen or so weeks since the operation. Already it is an event disappearing in the rear-view mirror. No longer raw or real but something ever more poorly recalled in minute detail. Which makes the re-building process in many ways feel unconnected, abstract, almost a means within itself. Initially the endless physio and daily exercise routines were umbilically linked to surgery and therefore recovery. Now so much time has gone by that it is human nature to move on a step or two. There are times I feel relatively normal – standing, looking out at the garden, pondering the day, boiling the kettle for example. A false reverie that is still easily fractured by such mundanities as requiring socks to be placed on feet, a dropped tea-spoon to be retrieved from under a table or a sitting in a car seat immobile for any length of time. Reminders all, that the recovery journey is protracted and that I am almost certainly still closer to departure than arrivals, even at sixteen weeks.

The Healing Seasons

My rehabilitation is smoothly following the seasons, cemented into long-term memory by flawed perception and emotion.

Fuelled by Blue Bells

Immediate post-surgery and then post-hospital is now irrevocably linked to blue-bells - log-rolling out of bed to totter a few dozen leaden steps to the garden, throwing open the gate to watch the terrier snuffle about in the carpet of violet-blue at the edge of the woods. May 2017 is for me now frozen in aspic as relentlessly, gloriously warm, sunny, with the air full of hope and the sweet scent of bluebell flowers. I was very lucky to have such a balmy and fragrantly pollenated start to the recovery process.

June – Serotonin and Vitamin D

June and the weather just got brighter and hotter. Just at the time I turned 55 and was liberated into a 2 x 20 minute walking routine per day by my surgeon, Mr Tucker. It was possibly the most wonderful present I could have received. It was such a huge boost to walk out everyday in blue skies and bone-warming (and hopefully bone-fusing) heat. Everyday was a monochrome opposite to the last surgery, which I had in late September. Which meant I had to try and mobilise in the winter damp cold and dark. Top tip - if you have to have complex surgery, try and organise it for the spring or summer, it makes such a huge difference. June 2017 was a watershed for me - as the scars healed and the walking distance increased, I could feel my optimism slowly lift. A bit of serotonin and vitamin D goes a long way when it comes to healing I think.

Could do better - July

July was a total disappointment. Both in terms of the weather, which immediately imploded the very afternoon the schools broke up! Poor little things all staring longingly out at a heatwave in June, walk straight out into a monsoon in July (and August and September). Plus the Tour de France was earth-shatteringly dull. I agree with Lance that it was entirely and depressingly predictable from the opening TT in Dussoldorf. Four of team Sky in the top ten and Froome’s nearest rival back in 49th and a colossal 36 seconds in deficit. The rest were essentially out of contention a few minutes into the race. T-h-i-r-t-y s-i-x seconds in 14 kilometres! Who didn’t think Le Tour was over right there? I did and Lance did. Because that statistic alone told Froome and his band of metric-obsessed flunkies that Mr Elbows was killing the competition on sustainable power. So just where were they going to beat him? Not on the climbs, not on descents (anymore) and certainly never in their dreams in a TT. The only reason I kept watching was because of the Lance Armstrong Podcasts which were intelligent, insightful, exciting, irreverent and downright honest, in diametric contrast to the largely sycophantic coverage that I witnessed elsewhere else.

"T-h-i-r-t-y s-i-x seconds in 14 kilometres! Who didn’t think Le Tour was over right there?"

Lance Who?

Whatever you think about Lance - and I am largely ambivalent - what is undeniable is that Armstrong had one of the best race-brains on the market and is now in a minded to share it with us. I have to also confess that I find it mildly and continually irritating every time Froome looks down and then whispers into his microphone, summoning reinforcements from the deep well and pockets of Team Sky. Mine and Jules' is the era of Roche, Millar, Hinault and Fignon. Flawed giants who were nevertheless bred to think on their wheels. Team support was wonderful if you could get it, but none was scared to function on their own driven by instinct and race-craft, often in an almost total vacuum of information. That just doesn’t happen now and for me, the racing is the poorer for it. Think about Roche and how he won the '87 Giro, virtually riding against his own team. My recommendation to Le Tour organisers would be:

· Take away race radios and ignore pro-team DS pleas of safety. Guess what bike racing is a wee bit dangerous and we, the spectator, like it better that way.
· Teams in TdF should consist of six riders - to limit the firepower of the big squads.
· Ban power metres in racing – fine in training but power metres make the racing more processional and less exciting. The best riders should be able to judge how they feel and how near their red-line they are. If not we get to see them go pop. Everyone's a winner. Almost.

August - Fiona Who?

Sorry I drifted off the point there. Too much time on my own. August sees me shift up a gear with Fiona Troupe (Six Physio). Fiona is my lead physio and has been managing my physical therapy for a long time, both pre and post surgery. But you never see Fiona in pictures or hear from her because she likes it much better that way. With Fiona it is all about the work. You are a compliant client or non-compliant client, and you do not want to be the latter. My rehab thus far had consisted of: sessions with Fiona, sessions with Shaun Rowse (ex Cyclefit), directed by Fiona and the work on my own at home, again minutely directed by Fiona. Ergo, all roads lead to Fiona. August sees a step up in tempo and more regular visits to Fiona at Six Physio Fitzrovia where the work gets harder and the homework longer. Often I do multiple sets of different exercises that all seem to work on one tiny (invariably atrophied) muscle group. When I pluck up courage to seek clarification the dialogue normally goes thus:

"Fiona, all the exercises for the last ten minutes seem to be very focussed on my lower-traps"?

"Pretty much".

"I feel better now that has been explained"

"You are welcome Phil"

"But I didn't say thank you?"

"You will".

Quite right. Thank you Fiona, this would be a lonely place without you.

About the author

Philip Cavell, Co-founder

Co-founder, bike fitter and bike designer. Phil rides a Seven titanium disc bike. He likes dogs and fine wine.

View other posts by Philip Cavell

Phil 3