Road Back

In September 2013 I was out for a social bike ride with a bunch of friends. Nothing too serious, certainly not like a training ride or race. In my life before the ‘incident’ I enjoyed training and racing triathlons and completed 3 Ironman distance races and countless shorter distance races. But always just for fun, I was no superstar.

Anyhow, I was on this social ride with some friends and a part on my bike failed and sent me to the road. Now, I have always been aware of the risks of a fall, but nothing could prepare me for this result: I suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I), spent several weeks in a coma, several months in ICU and had to relearn to walk, talk and just about everything else. And yes, I was wearing a proper helmet!

A lucky aspect of my injuries is that I have absolutely zero memory of the incident, nor of the next 6 weeks.

Now, I am left with several issues and will have to live with them permenantly. Ataxia is one of the most impactful aspects (other than the actual brain injuries) and effect my balance and coordination. I also suffer from a vision condition referred to as Bilateral Hemianopsia as well as a few pins in my elbow.

At age 55, being a husband, father of 2 kids and small business owner, this was not how I had planned to sail off into the sunset. Tennis, doubles squash, downhill skiing, cycling and triathlons provided me with lots to do and a lot of friends to do them all with while I worked with my wife to grow the business.

So now I have relearned to walk and most things. I have gone from a wheelchair to a walker, to a walking stick, to not using any aids at all. I am still pretty shaky and it took a lot of hard rehab work to get this far, but I am functional. I can no longer work but I volunteer everyday helping a new not-for-profit foundation help people with a disability lead healthier, more active lives through recreational sports.

Thanks to the truly amazing support of my wife, my kids and friends and extended family, I am ready to figure out what’s next. I will never fully recover due to the brain injury and boy, have things changed. I am now living with some permenant disabilities that will forever change my life. We are planning a family trip down south after all the stress of living through what happened and I am not even sure if I will be able to walk on the beach!

I guess I am applying my old triathlon workout ethics towards regaining my strength. I do 2 sessions a week of yoga, 2 sessions of strength training and 2 PowerWatts cycle training classes. I also do twice daily neurological sessions at home. The yoga not only helps build some functional strength and flexability but also works on my balance and breathing. The strength training helps rebuild specific areas that I need just to function. The PowerWatts cycle training is a whole different matter. This is to try to rebuild my love of cycling.

My road back started with relearning to walk … and to brush my teeth … and just about everything else. Then, this past summer, I got back out on the road on a 3-wheeled recumbant trike made by a company called Catrike. I just rode alone and worked on my speed and endurance. By mid-summer I completed the Ottawa Gran Fundo — Corto division: a 65 kilometre ride accompanied by my son with my daughter and wife cheering us at the finish-line.

Next summer, I have planned something a little different: I will be trying to ride an up-right trike. It is a regular up-right bike with a special conversion axle that allows 2 regular wheels in the back. My friend Pierre-Paul at Cycle Paul will be building this for me and Trek is helping out with the parts. This is the same type of cycle that is used in one of the official para-cycling divisions.

I tried it out this past summer and boy, it is hard to ride. With the 2 rear wheels, the cycle just doesn’t lean and so the cycle constantly tries to swerve into even the slightest dip in the road. Even just the natural camber of the road is challenging!

So in late April, I will be riding my first para-cycling race, right here in Montreal! While there are virtually no races outside of World Cup races, there are 2 in Montreal each year. Montreal is home to an annual multi-sport disabled sport event called The Defi Sportif and para-cycling is one of them, held down at Le Circuit Jacques Villeneuve. Here’s hoping that we have an early spring so I can get some road-time on the new cycle.

So this summer I will be trying to get comfortable on the new cycle. It won’t be easy based on my trial last summer. And a few weeks later I will be trying to walk on a Bahamian beach. I doubt that the challenges will ever ease as I try to live with my disabilities. So, as I get onto my road back, both in life and in cycling, I will be cronicalling my experiences here. Keep an eye out for the next chapter “Getting The Fit Just Right”.

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