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HEADS UP – This is not another blog post breaking down scientific research about dental erosion, or the latest performance studies on hydration.

If you are interested in this Everesting thing, or you just came off the surgeon’s chopping block and want a motivational ‘kick up the arse’ – this post is for you.

This post will cover:

  • The 6 lessons I learned when recovering from surgery
  • Surgery, depression and understanding what’s important in life
  • Motivation and goal setting
  • The difference between recovering and training
  • How went from surgery to my first ride 2 months
  • Links to my Strava files

Lesson #1 – In my mind, little things can cast great shadows. It’s all in your head.


All wrapped up for a shower.

I tell myself the only limits that exist are the ones I set myself. At Sukkie we’re always throwing around the words ‘smash your limits’, they always defined that moment when my body is screaming for me to stop and I tell it to keep going. These words sounded a bit meaningless when I’m lying on the floor, in pain and exhausted, after only doing 5 of the 8 leg exercises I was meant to do that morning.

The gurgling in my knee was an indication I needed to take a break. This video contains ‘disturbing’ sounds:

It was mid December 2013, 4 weeks after surgery to fix a knee injury from a car accident. All I could see were my problems:

I was in a fair bit of pain, popping analgesics and anti-inflammatories like smarties
I was frustrated because I still couldn’t walk without a crutch. (I was told I would walk without crutches in 2 weeks.)
I couldn’t pay the games I love with the with the kids. I felt like a burden on my wife who was amazingly supportive.
There were whole days I struggled with a heaviness in my chest like something was squeezing it so I couldn’t breathe. I had tightness across the front of my my head. I was anxious and couldn’t concentrate or think straight. When I was like this nothing made me happy.
The 4 times daily floor exercises were boring as sh*t, and they kept reminding me how far I had to walk.
My body was changing, I had lost 4cm of muscle-mass off my left quadricep (I worked hard for that muscle dammit!).
It was summer. I missed my mates. I missed my bike.
I had never had surgery before. I didn’t know ‘how’ to recover. I felt like I was trapped in someone else’s body. I didn’t have control of my progress and couldn’t see the results of what I was doing. Worst of all, I had only had ‘minor’ knee surgery, I felt like a big whinge – my problems were minuscule compared to many people who had it much harder than me, yet, that didn’t stop me feeling a little low. Instead of organising social rides, I started organising social drinks.

Lesson #2 – Work out what’s important to you. Set goals.

“Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement.” – Brian Tracy

I told my Physio I wasn’t happy with my progress. His response was pivotal for my progress, “What’s important to you right now?”, “Let’s train your body to do what you want to do. We can use pain as a guide to how much you can do, and go from there”.

He didn’t dwell on the ‘soft’ stuff and instead turned his attention to action. I got the hint – don’t focus on the problems and what I couldn’t do. Instead, be clear on what I love doing, and focus on what I can do to work towards them.

I need some goals. I need a list of the things that were important to me. I made a mental note of these 3 goals:

1) I want to walk.

2) I want to do more to help my wife out at home and play Monsters with my kids.

3) I want to ride my bike.

Lesson #3 – Break goals down into tasks. Measure progress.

My Physio helped me design specific exercises that would help me achieve my goals. Small steps, then stairs, then squats then lunges. I hit them harder and with more focus. We saw changes with the quantifiable improvements, like numbers of reps, strength and range of flexion of the knee. I was making fast progress.

2 weeks later I got the all clear from Physio to ride (on a spin bike). Using pain as the guide to my cycling. I progressed from slow 10 minute sessions then 20, then 30 minutes, increasing duration then intensity. Soon I was strong enough to do single-legged cycling to build my left leg. I felt ready for the road.


First ride back, Australia Day 2014: It was awesome to be back on two wheels. I think my bro and I were both excited.

I teed up a flat road ride with my bro, he laughed said, “I’ll never turn down this one opportunity to kick your arse on the bike.” On Australia Day, January 26 I had my first ‘real’ ride. All 14.8kms of it. Baby steps.

Lesson #4 – Expect setbacks. Re-adjust.

Ride after ride, things were starting to improve, although I did have my setbacks, a niggle could have me off the bike for a week or two, and feeling down in the dumps. Two things impacted my progress:

Setback 1 – Walking: I had to walk to work but I couldn’t walk further than 1-2kms without a sharp pain. This pain would last a few days.

Re-adjust: I realised that if I wore running shoes this wasn’t as much of an issue.

Setback 2 – Riding: My knee got hot and throbbing the night after a ride, skin temperature was ~0.6 degrees warmer than my good knee (temperature was based on the average reading from three sample points on each knee using a digital thermometer).

Re-adjust: After a conversation with my Chiropractor who’d treated AFL players after joint surgery, I decided it was best to not ride when there was a discernible temperature difference from one knee to the other. This could take up to 2 days to return to normal. Over time this temperature difference was less and less of an issue.

Lesson #5 – Celebrate goal achievement. Raise the bar.

The more I rode my bike, the better I walked. The more I could help out my wife at home and play Monsters with my kids. The better I felt about myself mentally.

Ironically the last of my goals was actually helping me achieve my first goal of walking and my first goal was impacting on my last goal of riding. It was like cycling was the centre of all my recovery.

I had one ride in late March and I felt amazing. I set a PR on a steep section of road and at that point I something changed. I didn’t want to be ‘recovering’ from surgery anymore. I wanted to prove I had recovered. I wanted to raise the do something big. Something definitive. It’s always easy to postpone the things that are daunting, the things that push us out of our comfort zone, the things that we might just fail at. For this there is only one remedy…

Lesson #6 – Set a date. Don’t miss that date.

“Pick a date. It can be far in the future. Too far, and we’ll all know that you’re merely stalling. A real date, a date we can live with and a date you can deliver on.” – Seth Godin

During a celebratory ‘brainstorming’ session with the boys (AKA drinking session) the imagination went a bit wild. The challenge was laid down: in 7 weeks time, on Friday May 23, I will Everest Kinglake (link everest to, all 379kms of it.

I’ll admit, from where was with riding to where I needed to go, Everesting pretty epic, but epic is what I need.

If you are interested in what your return to road riding might look like (including all the false starts and mini wins) check out my Strava files here:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Saturday February 1, 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014 and Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In this epic post Road to Everesting Part 2, I will cover the big ride, how planned to control the variables, my nutrition, the mental and physical side.