Broken back

Jan 13

Falling over sneezing

I just about fell over sneezing – which is less ridiculous, but just as strange as it sounds.

For about a year after I broke my back, I would, from time to time, have these crazy nerve spaz outs down the front of my legs. They would only last a second or so but, because they were basically like very short-term paralysis, could make me fall over when they were really bad. I always worried it would happen when I was crossing the road!

They diminished over time and after a year or so they had more or less stopped altogether, but I do sometimes get a little glimpse of them when I sneeze or squeeze out a jobby. Today was the first time for years that it has been really strong. Pretty strange and would probably be cool if the implications weren’t so freaky.

Aug 11

Waking up from spinal surgery

I was talking about pain this evening with someone and hours later a memory popped into my head that I don’t want to forget. By coincidence, this memory is very close to being exactly 8 years old. Here it is:

My memory of the theatre is only a snapshot, but it is vivid. Upon waking up from my long and quite complicated spinal surgery, I was, despite still being fairly anaesthetized,¬†immediately struck by a pain that was indescribably intense (second only to breaking my back – and even then, only just). I screamed “CUUUUNNNT! THAT IS SO FUCKING SORE!” and at the same time opened my eyes.

My brain wasn’t really keeping up with all the input. There seemed to be about 12 people around me, which was reassuring and made me feel safer, but also highlighted how serious this was. “AARRGGHH – MAKE IT FUCKING STOP!“. A couple of them were holding me down, someone was giving me morphine, a couple of nurses were telling me that everything was fine and that I was alright and the others just seemed to be really busy doing something to help. Then I assume the¬†morphine started to work – my screams faded to shouts and then only words: “FUCK that hurts, fuck, fuck, fuck, oh shit, holy fuck that is sore, oh man… fuck…” and my memory ends.

It was pretty mental.

Jan 09


I always find Dave MacLeod’s writing very good. From his blog:

Dealing with an injury is as much about the psychological aspects of adjusting to the new reality as implementing a course of physical rehabilitation work for the tendon.

This is one of the best sentences I’ve read on a blog and has been ringing so very true for me this year.

On a positive note, I’ve just been out for the longest and hilliest (admittedly, not much of either) run I’ve done since hurting myself at the start of the season last year – ace!

Jun 05

West Highland Way in a day

I did one of the most memorable rides of my life last week – the West Highland Way in a day. While this is hardly a ground-breaking achievement, it meant a lot to me on a few different levels. When I was fifteen, I read an article in a bike magazine about three folk who rode the Way in a day and I instantly wanted to do it. Actually, I wanted to do it solo and unsupported because, like ascents in climbing, I think bike rides can be done in varying levels of style and on your own is definitely ‘good style’. I also really wanted to see how I dealt with doing big rides on my own. Although I was probably fit enough back then, I didn’t get round to doing it but it managed to lodge itself deep in my head, surfacing every chance it got. After falling out of biking and through climbing, I crashed into kiting and stopped hard. Last year I found myself back on a bike and trying to get some general fitness together when a familiar old thought made its presence felt. What better target to aim for than the West Highland Way? The route I’ve thought about more than any other just happened to be a perfect test of my general recovery and fitness.

I really started to get hyped a day or two before and didn’t really get much sleep. On the day I got up at 02:15 and drove to Milngavie. After scoffing some cereal in the carpark I got cracking at 04:30. I had read a few bits and pieces about bikes on the first half of the way that varied from “pointless” to “You will have major problems on a bike.”. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was mostly quite good fun and involved none of the anti-bike gates that I had expected (there were gates, but they were all just normal gates!). I love riding my bike early in the morning and the empty fast tracks for the first fifteen miles were a great warm-up. After not too long I came to Conic Hill, the first climb of the ride. There was a little light rain and a bit of walking involved (it would be an extremely tough climb even if I wasn’t trying to save my legs), but I still got to Balmaha way faster than I expected. The speed wasn’t to last much longer though and I soon started to find some pokey bits of singletrack on the way to Rowardennan, which were easy enough since I was fresh but they all ate away energy and time. It would be easy to skip these parts and just head along the lochside road, but that would be a bit lame and some of them are nice riding. After a puncture and a break for some more food, I made a charge for the north end of Loch Lomond, desperate to get that section over with.

It started off well enough, with easy fireroad and some fun cruising on singletrack until the posh looking Inversnaid Hotel. After the hotel, things started to get tougher. There were some big boulders to carry over at Rob Roy’s Cave, but they were simple enough and I started to think this entire section of path was going to be easy. But I was wrong. The next few miles are the hardest of the Way – the trail is much too technical to ride, with lots of carrying over annoying boulders and roots. I actually didn’t find it as irritating as it could have been and I was probably better prepared for it than most people (I’ve done plenty of long carrys – like along Loch Maree – and this one is pretty short in comparison), but it sapped a lot of energy and really slowed me down – definitely not one for the Glentress generation! I also got ‘The Scrunch’ on my bad ankle twice in just 500m, which was damn sore. The whole section along Loch Lomondside would be much faster to run and I was glad to get onto rideable trail again on the way to Tyndrum.

From here the ride started to get much more interesting to me as I started to explore the psychology of long rides. I began to feel some tiredness, the whole thing seemed like a bit of a mission and I still wasn’t even halfway. Getting to Tyndrum was further than I expected. Although the trail was good and I managed to find some legs, I hadn’t looked at the map very much and had assumed that it was just a few miles past the end of the loch. I arrived at Tyndrum tired and feeling like the end was far away, even though I was now on familiar ground. Although the first half hadn’t involved as much nastiness as I was expecting, it had still taken a fair bit longer than I had hoped and with hindsight I realise that it is harder than the top half. It’s amazing what a quarter of an hour off, a can of coke, a pork pie, a Mars bar and phone call to your parents can do for your spirits though and I headed off into the headwind towards Bridge of Orchy with renewed confidence, enthusiasm and legs.

I motored past Bridge of Orchy and was soon onto ‘the cobbles’, which were much smoother than I remembered, but went on for longer. Out on the moor I got hit suddenly with a bout of tiredness and my morale soon dropped. I still felt positive enough, but there were still thirty hilly miles to go and this was the first place that I realised the route wasn’t going to give up without a fight. It dawned on me that success on longer routes depends on a bunch of things. Firstly you need to realise that there are highs and lows for a ride, periods where confidence and legs are strong even when you feel tired and times where you can’t seem to pedal and the end seems far away. Once you’ve accepted this, the trick lies in keeping the highs going as long as possible and trying to minimise the lows. It becomes a bit of a game and working out what works is great fun in a kind of introspective way.

I forced some more food down my throat and decided to push on to Glencoe and past the Kingshouse to the bottom of the Devil’s staircase. I found it a tough few miles – sore legs, sore knees, sore back – and arrived at the bottom of the climb feeling knackered. The sun was just dropping behind the hills but I took ten minutes to put on some more clothes, sit down and scoff as much food as I could. The little break had done the trick again and I set off up Devil’s staircase like a man possessed. At the top I reminded myself to take it easy on the downhill, but that didn’t last long. The track to Kinlochleven is still one of the best downhills I have ridden in Scotland, even when tired. Although there are a couple of very short ups, it’s an excellent long downhill, with contrasting rocky and mental fast halves, that spits you out right in the town. I didn’t really stop and decided just to batter on and finish the job. I pushed up the steep hill to the Lairig and got myself back on the bike. The last fifteen miles were some of the most rewarding I have done. I was very tired, but consistently surprised myself by finding the legs and motivation to keep going at (what felt like) a reasonable pace. I had been dreading this section before the day and even up until I got there but once I got on it, it wasn’t scary or hard and although I was completely wasted, I felt good (in a first three gears only sort of way!). I knew it was nearly over and I hit the final section of woods with a burst of energy. Although pedalling uphills felt desperate, I found I was somehow able to nearly run up them (!) and decided to try to hammer the last few miles as best I could in the failing light. After a decent burst and with just a few hundred metres of singletrack left it all started falling down! I felt the start of a bonk and I cursed myself for not eating since Glen Coe. I found a couple of eccles cakes and a Mars bar in my bag, which barely touched the sides and I carried on at a much more sensible pace.

Arriving at the end of the singletrack was a magical experience. The woods cleared, the lights of Fort William were not far away and Ben Nevis suddenly came into view on the right, looking beautiful in the dusk light. I took a moment to savour the situation and felt quite emotional. I’d just ridden the best part of a hundred miles off-road, a route I had dreamt of doing for the last ten years. I’d had a pretty shitty time with my back less than two years before and this was a major milestone in my recovery. I felt great – I had been riding my bike for 18.5 hours and I had made it – but I felt even greater because I had made it feeling so good. Not in the legs, they were blasted, but in the head. I had pushed myself much further than I had before and learnt so much about myself on the way. I was ecstatic, exhausted and hyper at the same time. I wanted to stay there forever, but I knew that wasn’t going to be the last special moment that I was going to get from sport so shot off down the fireroad, feeling every bit the smug bastard. I tried to let out a victory scream, but only managed a feeble squawk and decided just to leave it at that. I checked into a youth hostel and was mid-shower when I caught myself smiling broadly. Life can be so rewarding sometimes.

I woke surprisingly early and with a satisfyingly sore full body ache. I had time to kill and wandered Fort William in the sun, drank coffee, ate sausage rolls and caught myself doing that grinning thing a few times. I felt wasted like I had been clubbing, but had a brilliant warm glow rather than a sore head. The train ride back to Glasgow must be one of the best in the country and I was able to let my mind wander and daydream. I craftily managed to escape the conversation of some crazy old guy who was saying things like “Well, you know my views on the Jerry’s – bastards!” (No, I dont, and I don’t particuarly want to) and spent the rest of the journey looking at the lovely views of the hills and the girl at the other side of the carriage.

It’s been a week since that ride and I’m sort of sad that it’s over. I have already forgotten my ‘never again!’ vows and am starting to look for a new mission. I feel like I have some good base fitness now (which was the plan for all of this) and think that I’m ready to train properly, which is something I’m really excited about – riding fast is so much more fun! It feels so good to have some confidence in my fitness again and I can’t wait to improve it some more. Maybe I’ll go get involved in some chain-ganging or something…

Wow, what a long post – I guess it was a pretty long ride though!

Final note: if you’re going to ride the Way, try to pick a day where you haven’t got the runs. Parp!

Apr 05

Some physiotherapy

I went to see a sports physio today. It was extremely interesting and uncovered a bunch of little things that I would never have thought of. After a whole load of strange stretches and positions she thinks that she’s nailed down what the recent troubles with my ankle and knee are all about. It was pretty funny in a way – we’d do a stretch and she’d say:

“You know, you’re really flexible”.

Then we’d do the same stretch on the other side and she’d say

“That’s strange, you’ve got a lot less movement on this side”.

“Ah yes, I broke X/Y/Z a few years ago.”


We did one exercise that highlighted something strange happening with my right leg, that exactly mirrored what Dave had spotted the first time my knee got sore mountain biking. Then there was a bunch of other stretches that showed me what effect the position of my back had on my legs – the difference was eye-opening. For a fairly long time after breaking my back I was getting strange shooting nerve pains down my thighs from the extra pressure on my spinal cord. Over time these have improved so that I rarely get them now, but it seems that I haven’t totally healed. The physio thinks that all of my little tweaks are back/nerve related and that the pain is coming out in my ankle because it is already weakened from when I broke it. Referred pain – strange stuff.

This was highlighted when she stretched my ankle while I was lying down – it didn’t hurt. Into a strange position, stretch, still no pain. Then another strange position – leg out here, back twisting and stretching, the other leg up – then the same ankle stretch, ow! She likened the nerves to a garden hose. The more you twist it and bend it around things, the more it complains until it just stops letting the water through. As I twist and turn, I’m putting more pressure onto my nerves which is hurting my ankle. I was starting to worry that I’d be told to take a rest, but she said what everyone who’s into sport wants to hear, “You don’t want to rest it, just keep doing what you’re doing” – big smiles.

To be honest, I haven’t really thought all that much of physiotherapy and stuff in the past and if someone had told me that I would have to go for several sessions and spend a few hundred pounds, I would have laughed (politely). But a lot of what I found out today made a lot of sense and, while I’m not about to start singing the praises of physios from the rooftops, I’m starting to wonder why I haven’t though much of this in the past (actually, that answer is obvious – I got duff NHS physio after my broken ankle). Of course, the real test will be if I actually improve after some of this stuff, but I’m not as sceptical as I was when I woke up this morning. I think it’ll be interesting.

Jan 05


Here are the rules of Appleball, a game that Brendan, Pedro and I developed while wandering about in the Garleton Hills when I was recovering from an injury. The game first came about by throwing apples, but these were soon replaced with juggling balls due to the rather short life span of the apples. I recommend 120g JAC juggling balls, available at Wind Things. Balls that bounce or roll too much won’t work. The game is equally at home in Tesco’s car park as it is in the hills, as some rather confused Czech boys, who we managed to convince to play the game, will be able to tell you.

I’m releasing the rules under a Creative Commons licence. Utterly pointless, of course, but it sounds cool. OK, here are the rules (almost certainly incomplete – I’ll tweak them as I remember them!):

Appleball requires three players or more, but is noticably better when played with just three players. It is a tactical, turn-based ball game that involves throwing your own ball to try to gain points. Points are gained by either hitting another ball or by hitting the current target. The winner is the first player to fifteen points.


  1. Play stone-paper-scissors to decide the initial order of play.
  2. The first player selects the first target and throws his ball first, as far or near as he likes. No points are scored if the target is hit by the first player on the first throw.

Throwing rules:

  1. The person farthest from the target throws, unless he has just thrown.
  2. A throw must finish closer to the target than where it was thrown from. If this is not the case, the thrower misses an entire throw.
  3. Throws must be made with one foot where the ball lay and the other foot not closer to the target than the first foot.
  4. If a ball hits an opponents ball, the thrower gets a point and gets to throw again. The same opponents ball cannot be hit twice in a row, even if the throwers ball lands behind it.
  5. If a ball hits an opponents ball and rolls/bounces on to hit another opponents ball, the points are doubled (four points awarded for two balls, six for three…).
  6. If a ball hits the target, the thrower gets a point and everyone collects their balls and moves to the target. The thrower who hit the target selects the next target and throws first. Again, no points are scored if the target is hit by the first player on the first throw. The thrower who was next closest is second, etc.

Some thoughts:

  1. Location – although I imagine you could play the game in all sorts of places, try to pick somewhere with plenty of space. A smattering of obstacles keep things interesting. Woods are probably bad and groups of neds are worth avoiding.
  2. Target selection – entirely up to the thrower, although something too close or too easy to hit isn’t that great. Fence posts, lamp posts and small signs work well.
  3. Attitude – remain focused and deadly serious at all times. Appleball is the reason for life itself. Don’t lose sight of that in favour of taking the piss out of your mates. Never play Appleball under the influence of alcohol. Not even strange Czech spirits…
  4. Tactics – the good part of the game is working them out for yourself :)

Aug 04

One year ago today…

… I broke my back. It was definitely the worst event in my life so far, saved only by the fact that it could have been much, much worse.

First there was pure terror, which I’ve never experience before or since, of thinking I might not be able to walk, the pain of the accident – it was much, much more painful than you can imagine, then the pain of waking up from the operation (not as bad, but not a million miles off – I woke up after six hours on the sugery table with 13 nurses/anaesthetists and two surgeons standing over me. Four large, strong male nurses were pinning me down while I screamedOH YA FUCKING CUUUUNTTHIS FUCKING HURTS!”. The immediately put me as at ease as they could have, I think and gave me loads of morphine. It did help the pain, but me me feel dreadfully sick. For the next four or five hours, every time I threw up I involuntarily sat up a bit, which was intensely painful and made me scream “CUUUUNT!” again.

After three and a half weeks of constipation I was walking about reasonably, with my new back brace and my catheters had been removed. I wasn’t allowed to leave the Spiral Unit until they could confirm that I could piss, wank and shit – I didn’t do it that order and the shit was last (it took an enema and was the first time I laughed properly since the accident – I spent 2 and a half hours pooing and giggling the whole time). The nurses called in after a while because they were worried about the noise I was making: “Are you OK there (sounding worried)?”. “Yeah man – this is totally brilliant!”

Then I got out of hospital and I started on a long recovery period, which is far from finished yet. It was a grim situation, there’s no denying that. However, for a reason I cannot figure out, I sometimes look back at my time in hospital and the early recovery period afterwards with fond memories. Perhaps it just reminds me of how lucky I really was and of how much worse it all could have turned out. I don’t ever want to forget my thoughts and emotions at the time, part of the reason I’m trying to write some of them down here. I really don’t want to forget just how painful and scary it was. My thoughts still go out to some of the people I met at the Spinal Unit, especially Joey, the lad from Arbroath who was involved in another kiting accident just a few weeks before me – he was the first person to break his back kiting in Scotland. He was not as fortunate as me.

A few months ago my flatmate asked me if I thought any good had come from me breaking my back. I was quick to answer “no”, but on reflection I’ve been trying to draw as many positives from the experience as possible. The whole thing was very grounding as my life was quickly shoved into perspective. Kiting and all the little things that I had focused so much energy on suddenly didn’t matter. I realised how trivial it all was and how I had taken so many important things in my life for granted. In hospital and the months afterwards I had plenty time to think about family, friends and myself. Over the winter I stayed at home in Haddington with my parents while I started to recover and I now feel even closer to them than before. I appreciate how how great they really are and how much they’ve helped me, not just in the last year. They really are brilliant people.

Cheesy as it sounds, I also found out a lot about myself. In hospital, it dawned on me how selfish it can be to just do sport to the exclusion of a lot of other things. After I had started to recover a reasonable amount, I started to live a relatively normal (read: not into sport) life. It was really interesting to suddenly have lots of time, with nothing to be overly passionate about, much like many other people appear to me to live. Things are changing back again now, but it was good to have a completely different perspective on things for a while. Does this mean I’m going to take a different approach to things like sport? On the outside I doubt it will appear like I have, but I feel it has matured me a little.

I’ve also found out a lot more about how I deal with injuries, both physically and mentally. I’m certain that I can cope better with them now than in the past, but is this because I’m more mature or just because I’m more experienced at getting injured? The recovery has been a much slower and harder process that I imagined. Although I have broken a few bones before, I wasn’t really prepared for how much the injury was to take out of me. It’s not just back pain that you need to content with – your entire body gets pounded and your general strength and fitness take a real beating. I’ve been finding it particularly hard not to do too much too soon (I’ve been having some troubles with my knee from over-cycling). However, my fitness is starting to come together again, albeit pretty slowly. I’m looking forward to getting out biking more and more over the winter, starting kitesurfing again and improving at surfing once the autumn swells start to kick in.

Kiting, in particular, will be interesting – will I remember what to do? Will I get scared? Will I have calmed down at all? In answer to the last question – almost certainly. After all, with hindsight it was obvious one of us was going to get hurt sooner or later! Of course, the flip-side of this is that it’s the perfect opportunity to think up something new and take a different approach to the whole thing and I’m really excited about that.

Last week I had my final appointment with the hospital and was discharged from the Spinal Unit out-patients. My bones have more or less healed fully now (although they will still get stronger over the next year), and I’m feeling better than I have for a long, long time. Now, if someone can just arrange some sunshine, wind and waves for every day that I’m off work, everything will be all good!

Jul 04

The trick is to keep riding

As you might know, I get a real buzz out of improving at sports. I love it.

Staying injury free is the best way to improve.

Jun 04

Surfing makes sense

Surfing: an odd game to me for a long time. I could never see the point – all that paddling for a few seconds on a wave. Why not just use a kite and be having fun all the time? Realistically I said that because I couldn’t surf. With a few friends who have allowed their lives to be fully taken over by surfing, I had splashed about on non-kiting days a few times before but somehow it just wasn’t happening.

Last year I went off to South Africa and New Zealand and, after months of berating the lack of wind, I bit the bullet and bought myself a mini-mal to try to get into surfing properly. It was obvious it was going to be good and I knew I just needed to stick at it to find out what it was all about. A few sessions later, just at the end of my trip, it happened – it was good, really good. Clean shoulder high waves let me get up and charging and make a couple of slow turns. Suddenly it all made sense. Encouraged, I tried to get out again, but my lack of knowledge and perhaps luck meant that the last couple of weeks were free of decent surf so I was frustrated with it again.

As soon as I was back in Scotland my kiting exploded and all thoughts of surfing were gone. At the end of the summer highs I broke my back and everything was put on hold as I was out of any sort of action for months, with a twelve month rest from kiting prescribed by the surgeons. That was ten months ago and lately I’ve been starting to get back into things. In the last week or two I’ve managed in the water a fair number of times and the bug is starting to bite. Things have improved immesureably now I can get planing along a wave and I feel like I’m at the stage where if I can have a few sessions in good conditions I’m going to improve loads more. With any luck I’m just at the point where it all goes ballistic – a wee bit more and I’ll be happy, always just a wee bit more. I live for the feeling of getting into and learning new sports – you can’t beat this shit.

Mar 04

Bike trauma

I’ve been super keen on the bike and in the pool recently, but I just feel like my training is going backwards. After a lot of thinking and discussions with triathletes I’ve decided that I’ve been over training. I did this just before a mountain bike race years ago and it was nasty – felt awesome just before a complete fitness collapse and come race day I could barely turn the pedals! This time I realise that my swimming started to drop off shortly after I started biking again and think that while my body was coping with the stress of the increasing swim sessions, the extra effort on the bike combined with still recovering from my injury pushed it over the edge. I decided to take at least a week of complete rest.

I’m too hyper to find resting easy and decided to fit the new drivetrain that I’ve just bought to my Orange P7 (don’t like the look of the new ones!) this weekend so that I couldn’t ride it. Everything was going fine until I couldn’t remove my bottom bracket. Headed down to the local shop to get some help where we put the tool in a vice and used the leverage of the frame to try to unscrew it. BANG! Snapped vice. We soaked it in oil for a couple of hours and ‘Mike The Bike’ went shopping for a new vice. Two of us leaning on the frame this time. BANG! Snapped vice. Holy shit! I’ve never seen a vice snap before and we’ve just snapped two heavy duty ones with my bike! Thankfully I’ve known Mike for years and he found it pretty funny, but he wasn’t up for trying it on the next new vice…

The next option is heating it with a blow torch, but this is sounding like mistakes could be expensive so I’m going to get someone else to do it. Current plan is to send it away to a frame builder and get them to shot blast and respray it too (the blow torch will burn off at least the lacquer anyway). Assuming I get another few years from my frame this will be worth it I think. Of course it could break next week (it is eight years old), but that’s the gamble. Man, the costs of this little renovation are spiralling out of control in a Ratho stylee! It takes about three weeks to get this job done so at least I’ll be getting plenty of rest!

Jan 04

Click, click, pop

Went to the hospital yesterday for my delayed appointment. The news was probably mostly as I expected apart from the annoyance of not being allowed to do press-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups until I’ve seen them again in four months. I had been hoping to be able to do a little indoor climbing, but it looks like that’s not happening for a while. Also no running and I’m not really meant to play racket sports where I’m lunging about too much. I was tentatively told I could cycle on the road, but to take it easy.

“I’m afraid I don’t think you’re going to listen to me.” the surgeon said as I was leaving. She’s judged me wrong though – nobody is more keen to get back to kiting, climbing and all the rest than I am, but the last thing I want is to hurt myself more. ‘Click, click, pop’ would not be cool.

Yesterday I was reminded again what a serious injury it is. Although there’s always a bit of pain, it can be easy to forget. I’m also starting to realise how long it’s going to take to get strong again. My priority for the next four months is to get as fit and strong as possible, although I’ll need to find out what the best way to strengthen my back is. Longer term plan is to be back to kiting strength by the start of September.

Dec 03

Swimming again

Been swimming again today, the fourth time since taking the brace off and probably the fourth time since stopping triathlon five years ago! Starting to feel a wee bit better in the pool, even went for some structured training today with timed sets and rests. Swimming about 1600m a session just now and starting to build some pace into my swimming again. Hopefully I’ll be swimming 6km a week in the new year. I’ve really enjoyed swimming recently, not had this sort of satisfaction out of it for about ten years!

Since recoding the Wind Things home page I’ve really changed my opinion about JavaScript and have been learning stuff about it, especially unobtrusive (inobtrusive?) DHTML as demonstrated in this Sitepoint article. There are some really cool features I’m looking forward to implementing for JavaScript enabled browsers when we release SC3. Right, I’m off to Edinburgh to get pissed.

Dec 03

Exercise at last

My delayed appointment in January still stands, but today I was x-rayed and examined in Edenhall hospital, Musselburgh. The news was way better than I expected – my back all looks like it should (the x-rays are very cool!) and I can start to do some excercise at long last. Only swimming and gym work just now, adding cycling and running in a month or two, but still loads better than waiting until the end of January to do anything.

I didn’t waste any time and got straight to the pool for the most tiring swim session of my life. I could only manage a feeble 8×100m sets (a warm-up!) but that’s probably to be expected all things considered. Right, time to get fit again then.

Dec 03

First day with no brace

Had my back brace off for 15 minutes for the first time this morning. Back felt super weak (no shit!) and I don’t think I looked too relaxed walking about. I’ve got my brace back on now and my back is really starting to hurt. Think I’ll take it off for another quarter of an hour just now, I’m deperate to get stronger. Getting there…

Nov 03

St Andrews kite day and purple hair

Last night I had dinner at Potter’s house where he and his wife Diana made it seem like a good idea to try dye my hair blue. All was going well until we washed my hair and most of the colour parted company with my head leaving a kind of blue rinse effect…not cool. Hopefully this photo does it justice. If it doesn’t look that bad, it hasn’t done it justice!

Failed experiments in hair dye

Today Potter, John, Pedro and I went to the St Andrews kite day. Bad start to the day for Ped as I trapped and mangled his fingers in the door of the van – bad one, sorry mate! It was the first time I’ve been around kiting since I broke my back and it was actually pretty cool. Thankfully there was no wind (typical kite festival then) so nobody was looking like they were having too much fun. Was cool to speak to loads of folk I’ve not seen since the summer: like Kai from Flexi, all of the St Andrews crew, Iain from Twist and Turn and GPS Roj from PKD. Had a decent scran and some beers in St A’s which was a laugh then back in the van with the usual proper discussion on the way home :).

Tomorrow’s the day I’ve been waiting for for the last three months, I finally get to start taking my brace off – yippee (although it’ll probably be a total anti-climax)! It’s only for half an hour, but it’s a start and I’ll probably be glad to get it back on ‘cos I reckon it’s gonna hurt.

Nov 03

Delayed appointment update

Finally got to speak to the hospital about my delayed appointment. Looks like my appointment will remain on the 20th January, but I can start taking the brace off at the start of December. This is mixed news.

Obvioulsy I’m glad I’ll be able to start taking it off, but I can’t swim (or anything else vaguely althletic) at least until I see the surgeon in January. This is later than I had hoped but I guess a few weeks won’t make much difference in the long term. They also told me to only take it off for 30mins the first couple of days, build up slowly and prepare for it to be very sore. Again I’ve been reminded how serious breaking you back can be. Hmmm.

Nov 03

Crappy day

Got up this morning to find a letter from the Spinal Unit telling me that they “regret to inform you that your appointment on 02/12/03 has to be re-scheduled to 20/01/04”.

WTF? I’m expected to wear this back brace for 20 weeks instead of 13? Something wrong here. I called them a few times but couldn’t seem to speak to anyone important. In the end I was told that the surgeon would call me on Thursday or thereabouts to sort something out. We’ll see what happens…

To try to get that out of my head I went to St Abbs with my parents and niece, Jenny. It’s a lovely wee village in the Scottish Borders and we’d never been before. We checked out the harbour, little museum and walked for a couple of hours around the cliffs of St Abbs Head, the nature reserve. If you’ve not been and you live nearby you should check it out next time you’ve got a day free.

Note to self: must film some moutain biking on the clifftop paths there when my back is better, could look really good.

We’d just finished our walk when the client who’s site we’ve been working on recently called to tell me, out of the blue, that he already has a new site that he only just found out about so he won’t be needing us. A pretty shitty way of doing business to say the least and it’s left me with a foul taste in my mouth.

Oct 03

Not recommended injury

Not recommended injury

EDIT: the post I made a year after my accident may be interesting too.

A little over two months ago (August 17th) I broke my back quite badly in a kite mountainboarding crash. I landed very hard on my arse after my bar (which controls the kite) got caught on my harness. My L1 vertibrae burst into my spinal column damaging my spinal cord, but thankfully not severing it. I spent two and a half weeks in Glasgow Southern General Spinal Injuries Unit, which is an excellent facility by the way, where I had an operation to stabilise my back with two plates and four pins.

By all accounts I’m super lucky to be able to walk and should make a pretty much full recovery, even if it takes a year. I’m at the stage where I’m starting to feel like I’ve got a back again and I’ve got another eight weeks of wearing a space-age-looking back brace before I can start to get my back strengthened up. The surgeons are very non-commital (fair enough!) about how long it’ll get to back into sports and I’m just going to take it as it comes.

Oct 03

Who’s Mark Somerville?

Despite the dangers of this sounding like a classifieds ad, it’s time to let you quickly know who I am. A 23 year old Scottish lad, freelance web developer and kite boarding addict. Into most sports, but usually only one at a time. I help run the main ScottishClimbs site which has been our wee project for a couple of years. I’ve recently broken my back in a kiting accident (more about that in another post) so I’ve been living with my parents in Haddington until I’m fixed but as soon as I’m fit to work again I’ll be moving into a flat in Edinburgh somewhere. At the moment I’m having a lot of fun learning as much as I can about web development to try to keep my mind off the fact that I can’t do sport.

If you don’t know me, then we’ve only just scratched the surface, but you get the gist :-).