How to get up after a fall

One thing that you realise when you become a serious cyclist, is that the term “blood, sweat and tears” seizes to be a figure of speech and becomes a literal description of a state of being. I warned you that it was going to get tough. I just did not realise that “tough” in this context was going to mean a trip to A&E!

One moment I was happily cycling along, the next I hit the ground with the force of a 10-ton elephant. When these things happen in movies or books, the characters experience an epiphany or come to some sort of insight that would lead them to a greater understanding. Falling serves a purpose. As I was lying there with my face in the dirt, there was no epiphany, only shock and confusion. I could not understand it. I am always a very careful cyclist. There were no ice warnings on the news and in fact I had cycled the previous two days without any problems when it was clearly very icy and bitterly cold. I was wearing my helmet and gear, cycling slowly on a straight path and it just happened. This is real life you see, and unlike the movies there are often no real reasons why bad things happen. They just happen.

There is one good thing about falling hard though… and that is the getting up part. It seems simple enough, but this is where most things can go wrong if you are not careful. After a quick check, I picked up my bicycle, got on and rode it until I got to a place where I could call my wife to be picked up. My lips were bleeding and very painful, the taste of blood strong in my mouth. All I wanted was to go home, clean my face and then continue my day at the office as usual. Unfortunately, that was not to be. In the car, I decided to remove my balaclava to see the extent of the damage and there it was: A big, bloody gash on my chin. After seeing it, my shocked wife ordered me to leave the balaclava on until we arrived to the Royal Infirmary’s A&E. “I have to drive dear” she explained… “The less I know about what is going on underneath there, the better. I do not want to make any accidents on the way!”

So there I was, a reluctant patient in A&E on a Thursday morning getting my face sorted. Mr Brown, the nurse who stitched me up, is also an avid cyclist. “I am thankful to you” he said while pushing the needle through the gash on my chin for the first of four stitches. “You can never know when accidents will happen. But you do keep me in my job”. Mr Brown: If you are reading this, I am happy that you got work. I hope that you will have many, many more years of work. You did a really good job. But please do not take offence when I say that I do not want to see you again!

“At least you have experience in falling!” my wife jokingly said afterwards. When it comes to falling, I have to say, I am a bit of an expert (even though I was lacking some recent practice). If you have read my previous blog, you would know why. Even so, falling is not one of those skills you really want to hone. But this is all very encouraging. I am such an expert at falling, that I am also an expert at getting up. And when you get up after you fall, it means that you do not give up.

A&E Poster - Keep active
Falls can be prevented – keep active

In the A&E there was a very useful little poster titled: “Falls can be prevented – keep active”. Very ironic under the circumstances! Wouldn’t you agree? Even so, one thing I know about falling is that you should get up as soon as you can and try to ignore whoever may be laughing. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. The next day I spent 60 minutes on the static bicycle and the day after that I had a fantastic ride of 50 km around East Lothian. So I completed my weekly training plan in anyway. I rode 245 kilometres, with a total of 888 metres climbed last week. It may not sound like a lot, but it will increase as I get closer to the start of my 1200-mile in 13 days challenge in Land’s End.

This fall will most definitely leave a scar. Most people see scars are little reminders of times when things did not go to plan. I would d like to think of scars as the tattoos of life. Unfortunately, diseases like Polio don’t just leave scars. Perhaps, on this epic journey I might get more scars but I am happy to get them if it will mean that we (you, dear reader and me) will be successful in raising money to stop polio from destroying lives. Please help me in my effort to donate or share this blog. I cannot do it without you!


The fundraising target of £10000 is already getting closer. Last week saw the opening of our online donations page and “Seize the Day”, an Edinburgh meet group was true to its name and was the first to donate £50. And things only got better… Once I was at home after getting back from the hospital I was cheered up by another £50 donation from Lawrence Marshall, Secretary of the Rotary Club of Portobello (my own club). At the time he was unaware of my recent accident. I was very happy to then also receive an email from David Mills (Secretary of the Rotary Club of Camelford). David, together with his wife Diana and Preta (their lovely black Labrador) have offered to accommodate me on June 6th after my first day of cycling between Land’s End and Camelford. All this really made that fall worthwhile! Thanks, to the Mills family, I could cancel my hotel booking in Camelford and donate the amount saved to the fundraising pot. That puts the total at £185 which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation can convert into £555 as part of their pledge to End Polio Now with Rotary International. Not bad having still a few months ahead don’t you think? But there is still a long way to go and your support is still required.

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Twitter: @Rotary_Porty

Are you on the right side of statistics?

There are lies, more lies, and then there are statistics. According to statistics, but also depending on who you read, more than 75% of people have already broken their new year’s resolutions. Luckily for you and me, the bicycle does not judge and it will not hold it against you. This is the story of the lies and statistics that shaped my early childhood. Fortunately, these statistics (and lies) did not shape my life!


This is me as a little boy in Colombia where I grew up. I got my first bike at the age of two. It was the beginning of a love affair that would prove to last a lifetime. I would cycle on the dirt roads and in the streets day in and day out. Little did I know that cycling would take me on various adventures, open up new possibilities and even help me to find my wife!

The problem with statistics is that there is always a very small chance that you can be amongst those people for whom the statistics does not ring true. Learning to cycle is widely accepted as being very easy for most people. Unfortunately, when I first started out, I was on the wrong side of the statistics. I would fall almost every time I went out. I could not keep my balance and always felt dizzy. At one point, I had more scars than friends. Even so, cycling was my escape. Colombian locals today, still remember me as the boy who cycled with a helmet bigger than my bicycle, and then kept doing it while asking for fruits at every house on the road.

My first experiences of school were not very positive. As a matter of fact, I cannot remember most of them. I know what happened because of the stories that I have been told by family, friends, teachers, etc. The ‘people-in-the-know’ more than once told my parents that I was completely stupid and with no solid future. Well, if my parents believed them, and decided to lower their expectations for their son, then this would be the end of the story. As a matter of fact, I probably would not be writing this. After all, according to statistics ‘people-in-the-know’ are (almost) always correct!

Luckily I was blessed by having parents that were utterly committed to my development and growth as a person. They did not accept the opinion of ‘those-in-the-know’ and went as far afield as the USA to find the root of my ‘stupidity’ and cycle balancing problems. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends used up significant savings and also had to raise money for me to be able to go and be seen by a specialist.

It was discovered that I had Meniere’s disease… an illness that affects the middle ear, hence the problems with hearing and balance. It was not stupidity after all. I had to get hearing aids in both ears. I also had to control this affliction through a specific and rigorous diet.

After discovering the root of the problem, life was a bit better and cycling became more enjoyable than ever. Even so, life was still not easy. I was often teased because of my hearing aids (which at the time were also bigger than my ears) and I had a lot of catch up to do academically. I often came home with a purple nose and bloody sleeves from being in fights. Even so, my bike was there, and after school, no matter how horrible the day, I could climb on it and leave all my worries behind.

Fast forward 30 years, and I am living in Edinburgh now. I still cycle every day and I got a PhD in Civil Engineering at Imperial College London a few years back. I still remember the faces of ‘the-people-in-the-know’ when they saw me arrive back home with a PhD diploma from one of the top ten universities in the world.

Through it all, my bike was there. When I first arrived in London after winning a partial scholarship and being heavily in debt, I did not have enough money for public transport. I would spend 2 hours each day cycling from the university and back at crazy hours while I completed my postgraduate studies. My English was not that good and nobody could understand me very easily. Everything was so different and when things got too much, I had my bike. And it is still there, now helping me (and you) to give back and make others have a better life.

I am now in the final and ever increasing training phase for my epic Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) journey. After lots and lots of reading, preparation, and discussions with those ‘in-the-know’ all my training plans are completed. Everything I need to do from now on until the day I dismount from my bicycle in John O’Groats has been planned to the last detail. Neat little charts and daily exercise routines all set out. From here onwards, these charts and plans will dictate my life. I hope to give all of you avid cyclists and non-cyclists out there the reality. It is going to get tough. Things might get in the way, stuff can happen. I might have to deal with illness or (God forbid) injury. I do not promise anything, but statistically speaking (and you now know how much I believe in statistics!), I have a good record when it comes to overcoming challenges. In fact, my success rate is very high. Sounds promising, won’t you agree?

As you can see, I have first-hand experience of how illness can hamper the chances of children. My disease is not as devastating as Polio and yet it really had a big impact on my life. Because of the help I received, I was able to grow up to reach my full potential. How many children have been confined to a life of misery and hardship unable to reach their full potential due to the devastation caused by Polio? This should not be happening!

I want to live in a world where children can have a real chance. To end Polio would mean that we have succeeded to create a better world. So, get off your seat and donate! Support me, support this worthy cause. Do something good today, help to End Polio Now!

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Twitter: @Rotary_Porty