The Team Ilizarov story

5000 Miles UK to Siberia Cycle

Cycle from the UK to Siberia 2003

Follow my progress as I cycle from the UK to the Ilizarov Scientific Center in Kurgan, Siberia during 2003. This cycling expedition is to raise money for orthopaedic research and those that saved my life and prevented amputation of my leg following a near fatal road accident in 1999. Departure date was January 20th 2003 at 12.30 pm from Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, Essex, England.


My Life - Changing Experience

I was 44 years old when I had the accident and the past two - three years have changed my life in many ways. Of course physically, regarding the injuries, but I think the psychological changes have had the most influence on this 'Life-changing Experience'

Before the accident I worked as a senior manager for a computer company west of London. I had a drive of approximately six hours each day getting to and from the office. The company did give me a Mercedes car for my personal use, so I just accepted that this amount of driving was part of my working day and got on with it.
Although these hours left very little time for anything else, I always managed to fit in my cycling and weight training all year round regardless of the weather. (A family joke is that I always have a weight training session on Christmas morning.) I've always been serious about my fitness training, so finding time for this was never a problem - for me.

The above pictures: Me in the squat racks at my local gym. I had a personal record for the squat of 400lbs. The Mercedes, provided by my company, was very nice at the time. However my life is completely different now and I just want to help others less fortunate than myself. Here are my two dogs Kit and Ralph - I missed them so much when I was first in hospital.

At weekends I would start early each day and take my dogs out for exercise, walking them several miles across the countryside starting at the bottom of my garden. Alternatively we would often set off early and take the dogs down to the coast. This is where they really enjoy themselves. They love to go swimming and have a penchant for digging very deep holes in the sand.

These photographs show the dogs playing in the fields at the bottom of our garden.
I did have another passion - music. I have played guitar since my school days and studied hard to play at professional level. As I got older with more career responsibilities, I played only for my own pleasure. I have a lovely collection of instruments and my prized possession is the Alembic 20th Anniversary limited edition - I have No 125 of only 200. The Alembic was completely hand-made in the States.

Above - here I am starting young and pictured with the Alembic. I'm very sad not to be able to play anymore - unfortunately with the damage to my left hand it's just not possible.

So, What Has Changed?

Well, there are changes to all the aspects of my life that I briefly outlined above.

Immediately following my accident I couldn't work, and as time progressed and still with a long way to go regarding my injuries, returning to that company became impossible. Also mentally, I couldn't imagine ever again wanting to spend so much time driving and working.

Time is so precious and I really wanted to use my time in a much more positive and productive way. Yes the company cars and big salaries are all very well, but when you are 'thrown' into a life-threatening and traumatic situation, spending lots of time in and out of hospital, your mind becomes extremely well focused on the things that really are important.

Before the accident I was left - handed. With the damage to my left wrist severly effecting mobility and sensitivity of my left hand - and despite further surgery planned for 2002 - I will never again be able to play my guitars. I have had to teach myself to write again using my right hand. Amazing what one takes for granted!
It was approximately a year before I could do any weight training, and again, because of the damage to my wrist/hand, every exercise I had been able to do before the accident now had to be changed in some way or not used at all. My grip was almost non-existent. The exercises themselves, the weight used, the reps and number of sets - all this had to change.
I couldn't take the dogs for walks anymore, this was left to Su. Continuing to work full time - she now had to look after me as well - which included my personal hygiene.
About half way through the first year I was diagnosed as having 'Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome'. Counselling was organised and medication prescribed. Although I was assured that PTSS was a 'normal' reaction to the severity of the shock I received and coming to terms with my injuries. This didn't change the way I felt at this point.

I was captain of the football team, athletics and rugby - gaining my school colours. I represented the school in the all Essex athletics championship and later represented Essex in the all England championship. While at college I was selected to play football for the Essex county youth team. Next I was selected to join the England youth team - a great experience. I was signed to a professional club but also continued at college.

I later took up cycling and participated in both Time Trials and Road Racing. I also began touring and did some extensive touring throughout England and Wales. For extra fitness and to have a synergistic training regime I began an interest in weight training that would stay with me and eventually be responsible for saving my life. The weight training turned to body building and in turn I began serious power lifting. All natural, just using diet and supplements to reach my potential. I reached a personal squat of 400lbs at 14 stone with a low body fat percentage.

Just prior to my accident I had made solid plans to begin cross country mountain bike racing and do some of the 24 hour endurance events.

All this had an effect on how I felt and how I saw myself, mainly in terms of what I would do in the future when finally recovered from the injuries. I began to look hard at the way I had lived before, how I had manged my time between work and family - I began to think seriously that surviving the accident had given me a second chance. I now had the opportunity to give something back.
I immediately thought that I should start by raising money for the two hospitals directly responsible for saving my life and preventing amputation of my leg. Then I decided that I should expand this idea to include orthopaedic research - currently funded solely by charity.

What could I do to raise a substantial amount of money, and how could a project like this be organised? I was determined to do something worthwhile and adventurous which also involved cycling. Su came up with the idea of cycling from the UK to The Ilizarov Scientific Centre in Kurgan, Siberia. Now that was a challenge! I couldn't refuse!!!

So, project 'Team Ilizarov' was born. I would promote and organise the expedition throughout 2002 and do my training whenever possible - working around the surgeries planned for 2002.

I begin my 10,000 mile cycle to Siberia by leaving Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford - January 2003. I have allowed a year for the journey because it's about completing the challenge and raising money rather than anything else. I do estimate that nine to ten months should do it - we shall see!

In conclusion, following my traumatic accident in 1999 I have spent the past two years adapting both physically and mentally. There are major differences between my life before the accident and now. The most important difference is my realisation and understanding of how precious life is and spending the time in a balanced and worthwhile way.

Training following my accident.

Immediately following my accident I couldn't get out of bed let alone think about exercising. The only exercising I had to do was physiotherapy to clear my lungs of fluid - an exercise which is extremely painful to do when all your ribs are broken.

Eventually I was allowed to sit out in a chair for a short time each day to begin and then for much longer periods. At this point I asked for one of my dumbells to be brought in so that I could do 'something'. My left hand was immobilised by the damage to the wrist area and so I contented myself with doing some curls for my right arm.

During the following year - despite being in a wheelchair - I devised a training program for my upper body. Going into the second year I had an Ilizarov frame fitted to my leg which meant that I could now manage without the wheelchair.

I continued with a modified weight training program but now I also began to do some gentle - for me - cycling using a turbo trainer set up indoors. After several months and with the permission of the consultant, I began to do some road cycling. I gradually built my fitness until I was completing circuits of 23 miles in about an hour and for endurance I was managing around 30-40 miles every other day. I still had the threat of amputation hanging over me and the pinsites of the frame on my leg, where the metal work went through one side of my leg and out the other were excruciating - as was the fact that the frame was tearing into the back of my hamstring as I cycled.

All the doctor's agreed that I survived the accident due to my good general fitness and that my strong mid-section significantly reduced the internal injuries which were none-the-less life-threatening. I surpassed the expectations of all the doctor's and physiotherapists with the way I began training again - especially when I had the Ilizarov frame fitted. I pushed myself hard despite the pinsite pain, the infections and the frame tearing into the back of my leg.

My leg is over 50mm shorter now and I have to use a 'made-up' shoe device attached to my normal trainer so that I can reach the left pedal. This isn't conducive to good cycling style, but I just get on with it desperate to build fitness and muscularity.

My current training regime consists of the following:

Weight training with adapted exercises - compensating for the lack of mobility in my left hand - every other day.
Road cycling 30-40 miles every second day and on the weight training days I do a one hour aerobics session using a road bike on my turbo trainer - indoors.

Although I am now reasonably fit again, my training will change in the second half of this year.
Using the bike that I will use for the expedition and loaded with all the equipment or the weight equivalent, I will be cycling 50 miles every other day gradually building up the endurance for that type of workload.
By the time I leave the UK bound for Siberia in January 2003 - I will be ready for the endurance cycle ahead of me.

So, why will I be successful in completing this challenge?

Well, the brief outline of my sporting achievements, the continued training at a serious level of commitment - up to my accident and during my recovery period which still continues - shows that I have the tenacity and dedication to complete this challenge.

By the time I leave for Siberia - in January 2003 - I will also have the added motivational responsibility that hundreds, hopefully thousands, of people will be supporting me either directly, in helping to organise the project, or indirectly through the generosity of their sponsorship donations.

Support me - I will complete this challenge!