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My convict miracle ride

Black Flash's picture

By Black Flash - Posted on 17 May 2012

Re: This ride meeting: 
Convict 100 2012

I'll keep this brief. Kind of.
The Convict 50 was going to be my best ever race result - lots of training in the aim of a sub 2 hour time.
It all started well, Giantnut any i went out with the elites to find the initial pace - well, comfortable - thanks to the many k's of riding West head and Akuna Bay numerous times. We hit the hill with plenty in the tank but both of us decided that a couple of minutes walking wouldnt be too bad. Back on the bike, and keep riding... Felt like i was doing it tough but when i was starting to overtake many of the riders whom went past me earlier i felt pretty good about the fact i was riding again. Could see the KOM sign so kept up the rythym. Settled into a quickish pace and let the 29er do its thing!

I found myself dualling with a guy on a 26" spesh. I would catch him on the flats and he would obliterate everyone on the climbs. After this tooing and froing, i managed to keep up a head of speed on one of the downhills to attack the next hill and eventually overtook him and a bunch of others. Next thing i know, im again dualling with a black yeti (philberesford i believe) but managed to again put some distance in after another small downhill.
It was close to 30kms now and i was feeling great! Plenty in the legs, lung were good - all is well. On a nice long straight i gulped down a gel with some electrolyte, preparing myself for a careful decent with intent on smashing it on the final run home - after all, this was where my training was aimed at! Quck check of the time - yep - on track for sub 2hrs!

Now i knew this decent was steep and sketchy, just didnt know when to expect it. I knew by the caution signs on the previous waterbars, they took things prettu seriously - especially when i was told to slow down near the feeding station. Dont worry i told myself, they'll have a couple of marshalls and probably a huge sign saying "SLOW DOWN!" So there i was, ramping up the speed to around 30kph, looking for the sign to say slow down. And there it wasnt...

Ive rounded the corner at a great rate of knots to see the trail point to hell! Im trying to wash off speed, but im already at the first water bar - and still picking up speed - probably around 40kph now. Hit the second bar out of shape, im not slowing because brakes dont work when you are in the air! All the while im getting faster. Ive hit the third water bar really ugly. The back wheel has collected the top of the bar and sent me into a forward somersault - and according to my gps, i was doing 60kmh at this point! Ive covered 25 metres in the air, upside down! People have asked me - what went through my mind now??? Family? Visions? No - 15 years of martial arts training had me poised for a forward roll when i landed - its a bit like a commando roll - minus the assault rifle. I do remember thinking - this is probably going to hurt! And i was right. Instead of rolling and spilling down the trail for miles, i just landed initially on my head, then onto my shoulder, then splat onto my back. No continued rolling down the hill, just splat into some huge immovable object. I was conscious. I was alive. I was in lots of pain and couldnt breath. I wiggled my toes and fingers - yep all good. Were mr legs broken? No, was i winded and could i go on? Then the answer really kicked in - my race was over. I couldnt move due to the pain and injuries (will cover that later). Pretty soon 2 riders a couple of 100 metres behind stop to render assistance - Mat a firey, the other was philberesford. Mat knew right away i was screwed and needed a hospital real fast. And out of the blue! A doctor in an rfs 4wd arrives on scene. She is casual until Mat briefs her - then she hastens her step and agrees - i need out right now! The doc sits behind me making sure i have an airway, i do, but i also have a resp rate of 120! (imagine taking 120 breaths a minute through a straw) At this point im turning blue with lack of oxygen! Round about now the doc stands up - and for some reason decided to use my shattered shoulder as a hoist to get herself up... I recall growning a bit, Mat recalls shedding a tear at that point too! Extra Ouch.

Just then Giantnut enters the scene - im sure he's thinking, shit, not again. He's seen me have a few offs, but never this bad. Quick, we need tp radio for an ambulance and an evac chopper. But none of the mobile phones have reception. Use the CB radio - nope no reception! WTF! Getting my helmet off was easy... It has amazingly done its job, smashed to pieces, and was really just pulp. Glad i had a good one is an understatement. The previously injured people in the 4wd (cheers Paul) help me into the car, whereby i felt every single rock, rut an hole all the way to the base.
Meanwhile phil and GN had to send for help personally (many many thanks to you guys), but when i arrived at the base we were told the chopper isnt leaving until it has somewhere to land - you see the emergency evacuation site was now event tent city! Someone had to find a paddock, clear the animals and send lat/longs to the pilot. There goes another hour!

Fast forward an hour - im at Westmead hospital, where they confirm my injuries are bad:
Broken and displaced all ribs, front and back on my left hand side. (lots of flailing segments)
Broken collarbone - required a plate and 9 screws
Broken scapula (shoulderblade)
Fractured spine at T1, T2, T3 - all now stable thank god!
Dislocated shoulder
40% collapsed lung (required 2 attempts to reinflate)
Punctured chest cavity (drained nearly a litre of blood and gunk through a tube more than an inch wide! Do you know how big that is!!)
Sprained wrist and thumb
Cuts and abbrasions to pretty much everywhere
Black eye

So - 5 days in intensive care, 4 days in high dependency, 2 days on the ward and now home. Yes im still in lots of pain, yes i will heal eventually and yes i will ride again!

Other than the miracle of my survival and the fact i have typed this... The most amazing thing has been the support of my riding buddies. My wife has been through hell, but since that day, she hasnt had to cook or clean at all. My riding buddies organised a roster whereby all main meals have been catered for for 3 weeks! The neighbourhood has rallyed to do my gardening etc. School families have taken care of my 2 girls for afterschool care etc. It has simply been amazing! I have had messages of support and encouragement from countless nobmobers'. And special thanks goes out to:
philberesford, Giantnut - without your prompt actions and will to ride damn fast - could have changed the game.
There may be a few missing, im sorry, but again a wholehearty thanks the postman, twotommos, iron horse pete, rory, giles, james u, dave hoef for the support you have given my family. I know there are others behind the scenes - some i may never meet.

Ihope to see you all out there soon.

hawkeye's picture

Not impressed that they had signs out on the earlier water bars, and then on the *sketchiest* descent of the race ... nothing. Talk about poor expectations management Sad

Hope you heal fast. Will drop by for a visit in a couple of weeks when I'm 200% sure I'm no longer a risk to you from this bug.

When do ou start physio?

Hop fiend's picture

but we haz just gotta know? how is the Cannondale? & does Morphine really work?

pancakes's picture

Mate, job well done to simply survive that. Excellent that you're out of hospital, too. I guess one good thing that has come to light is what those around you will do to help out. It's great to hear that when bad things happen people rally to the cause. :thumbs up:

I find it amazing that the heli landing site was part of the camping area...what tha? One would expect he event organisers to be all over this stuff.

Re. the punctured lung, are you switching to tubeless? Laughing out loud

mikethebike's picture

Duuude.... I felt sick reading that long list of injuries! Heal fast buddy. I look forward to riding with you again soon!

Lach's picture

hope you get well soon.

FWIW, last year when I got to the bottom of the hill and out onto the road, the chopper was in the grass on the other side of the road. Dunno why they couldn't have done the same this year???

GAZZA's picture

How's the new bike?
Na, really. I've had time in hospital with serious injuries and it's not good.
Take it easy and let yourself recover properly. I hope you don't lose confidence and come back stronger than ever!
All the best,

GiantNut's picture

First up - I enjoyed the race and will do it again ( besides all the above - Seeing a blue black flash wasn't a highlight) but think when we all pay $100 odd dollars we should expect some contingency in case of an accident.
People ride over rough terrain and things can happen we know that - so what's the plan if something goes wrong? Helicopters have been needed previously over the last few years so a helipad should have been organised, Sat phones should have been hired if radio reception is not available etc. Perhaps have paramedics at the bottom of the hill rather than at the sausage sizzle in town? Its not the first year of the event-FFS!!
Don't get me wrong the medical guys, the Dr on scene the paramedics were great just needed to be organised better. The discussion who's job it was to go into a paddock and get the lat/longs was comical.
The race organiser came across as an uncaring, pig of a man - never once enquiring how Heath was or offering assistance other than grunting i need to see the guys at the Fire station if i needed an ambulance.

daveh's picture

You've really done a job on yourself there so here's to you healing well and coming back stronger than ever. Its sounds like you were having a cracker of a race and did everything right for an amazing time.

The list of injuries definitely had me wincing but thinking about the effect on your family had me close to shedding a tear. Great to hear you've had lots of support, especially from the mtb community. It's hard to explain the camaraderie that exists within this sport to non-mtb'ers but every now and then an example comes along that illustrates it perfectly.

Take care and get well.

obmal's picture

So.. as they were not giving out those “I rode the canoe bridge DW100” bracelet thingies this year.. I don’t suppose that you got one of those “I flew through the air for 25 meters, landed on my head, breaking all my bones and got a helicopter ride directly to ICU” ones…? No?? those cheap ba$tard$!

Hope you mend quickly, get back on the bike soon and don't forget to take two beers from the table at the finish line next year.

hawkeye's picture
The race organiser came across as an uncaring, pig of a man - never once enquiring how Heath was or offering assistance other than grunting i need to see the guys at the Fire station if i needed an ambulance.

Noted that when I read your blog.

Not good enough.

Medigger's picture

I'm pretty sure I gingerly helped you back into the marshals truck with another chap. You didn't look too flash at the time. Owning a few pins in my collarbone myself I was creeping down that descent!

Hope you get back on soon.

Brian's picture

Get well soon mate.

I'm amazed with the helicopter thing requiring lat,lon points etc. When my partner got air lifted from Perimeter trail, I just called 000, told them we were in the national park and the closest road. I didn't request a helicopter and they just make the call on what to send. Maybe they have a plan for Terrey Hills but they still had to winch her up.

I thought if they don't have a place to land they just winch the medics down with a stretcher, they stabilize you and then winch you up.

Anyway, I'm sure the organisers will learn from this.


andyfev's picture

Gutting to hear (read) about your accident. Very best wishes for an A1 recovery Eye-wink

If there was an award for most spectacular NobMober's crash you'd probably be right up there!

Sinkes's picture

Very glad to hear you are on the mend!
Enjoy the rest and the extra time with your family. They need you!
Get well soon!
Ps. 1 Take it easy on the descents, and smash everyone on the uphills!
Ps. 2 Happy to take your bike out for a spin if it gets lonely! Eye-wink

Logan's picture

I know the feeling from time in hospital as well as been subject to it a bit recently myself.

Get well soon, hope the Insurance cover the bike as well.

philberesford's picture

I'm so glad to hear you're out of hospital and resting up at home with your family. And wow talk about support from friends and other MTBers. You're one lucky guy and lucky that 4WD with the Doc in was heading down the firetrail. BTW I have NFI why it decided to go down the firetrail when it did. It pulled out right in front of me and the 3 other guys I was racing with, nearly hitting it at speed. We gave it the obligatory yelling, swearing and shaking of fists at it as we managed to get around it. Little did we know it would come to your aid minutes later. Thank god it did.

Looking forward to racing with you again next year


PS: no beer at the end?
It's ok I had yours - didn't think you mind Sticking out tongue

I knew your side of the story would be a lot more interesting than mine.

Buck's picture

Wow what a story......
Good to hear you are on the mend. All the best!

Hans's picture

Scalpel = name of the bike.... Sad

Thx for the update. We were worried about you and had a beer on you on our recent night ride with schnitzels.

Soon you be riding again - you still be faster than us and can sprint ahead and order the schnitzels before THT kitchen closing time.

Hope you heal as fast as you ride ❀.•❤•.✿

Black Flash's picture

Resting up at home is a damn sight more comfy than the hospital...
@RobbieO - The morphine made me sick, so i had an epidural of Markaine, a subcut of Ketamine (very Special), and an IV line of Fentanyl. As for the bike - i'll get that back tomorrow - apparently in pretty good nick!
@obmal - i got plenty of wrist bands in hospital...
@phil - the least i could do was let you drink my beer...

pancakes's picture

You should turn your profile pic upside down for added realism.

That'll do it. Laughing out loud

Fatboy's picture

Wow. Great story unfortunately ....

Hope you mend soon. Looks like that little light on top of your helmet survived Smiling

AdrianG's picture

Darn BF, glad to hear you're mending. It really sounds like it was all rather uncomfortable, to say the least. And also that it could have been a bit worse?

Eating, talking, walking? Yup, you've got the three keys signs of life covered. Excellent.

Sense of humour intact? Yup. Legendary.

Bike rideable? Apparently. Bonus! Smiling

Floydo's picture

Hans has had to start his social night rides from the school, instead of the tavern. Now your not there to deliever the orders in time.
Mend quickly.
Hopefully we will see you back speeding pass on the trails soon.

evan's picture

I hope your wounds heal quickly and well.
Its great to see the support you have received, it must be a great comfort.


monkey's picture

After reading the stories it's good to see you are on the mend. It did not sound good going by some of the initial feedback. It seems like it will be a while till your on the bike again, maybe a recumbent is on the cards so you can lay down and ride???

I am a new St Albans RFS member and any other feedback or comments I can use as a lessons learned is welcome. (PM me) The RFS just mans the stations with volunteers, the docs etc are separately organised. (FYI I am currently helping to see if we can get better comms coverage in the area)

ajy129's picture

Hi Monkey
My observations may assist you in further refining the RFS attendance at MTB accidents. I was the witness to and fellow assistor of Paul Barnett who also had a major accident at a water bar on the 100km route. (He may have been the Paul that BF mentions in his account). He came down on his face at a water bar about 2-3km after the 25kmer feed station. His injuries consisted of broken teeth, fingers, being knocked unconscious and what ended up being vertebral fractures. What REALLY concerns me is that Paul was placed in a 4wd in a vertical position without any neck brace. This is a very dangerous position to carry anyone who may be suspected of having neck injuries, and we must assume the possibility until proven otherwise. IMHO those who overseer this event should also have 4wd vehicles with thick sponge rubber mattresses in the traybacks of the 4wd (in Paul's case a Toyota Landcruiser with trayback) to transport people such as Paul and Black Flash in a horiziontal position. They also should have stretchers in these vehicles. Paul was assisted into the front seat of a 4wd, when he should have been stretchered onto the tray.

To hear that a dedicated site for chopper landing was not available is beyond belief.

(May I also comment here that the organization at the pontoon bridge for the 100k race was woeful and I heard of one rider who prefers to walk the river have a near drowning moment beggars belief. The rider concerned is short - very short and she found herself being washed down the river, tangled in the ropes holding the canoes in place and susbsequently rescued by being hauled up onto the bridge. Yes it was here call to walk through the river, but heck, someone involved in the crossing should have pre-walked the river and offered safety advise )

Finally we can be grateful for the willingness of others to come to BF assistance, the RFS, paramedics, doctors, nurses etc etc

Roguemc's picture

HI Heath, your mum passed on the link of you blog that described your MTB accident.
I hope you are doing better, and well on the road to recovery.

Let us know how you go.
My email is:

it was good to see Leslie & Adam a few months ago at Dad's funeral. Cant believe its been years since we all saw each other.

Michael & Cook family.

BIGnige's picture

Mate very sorry to hear about your injuries. Just wanted to let you know that it does get better.
A couple of years ago I had similar injuries to you from a motorcycle crash. 7 busted ribs, lung, ankle, leg full of blood clots, sat on the side of the road breathing through a straw for 45 minutes blah blah blah.
Anyway, it took a while and a good bit of effort but I'm right as rain now. Riding my MTB was crucial in my recovery. I actually started up again on my bike trainer in the garage and progresssed from there. Figured even I couldn't fall off that.
Also did a lot of walking everyday once my ankle could bend a bit again.
So anyway mate hang in there and keep your chin up.
All the best.

Black Flash's picture

Hi all, just a quick update.... A few things have happened over the last 5 weeks. The pain has been getting better, which always helps. The specialists main shoulder concerns of a shoulder recon have been alleviated through ct and MRI. Ribs are still freakily overlapped but should still function...
But.... Would you believe it.... The day after I was given the all clear from the orthopaedic surgeon, the collarbone snapped, right through one of the screw holes!!! Bugger. That was last Friday, a 4 day wait for corrective surgery and here I am now recovering in hospital again, this time with a much bigger plate that extends from my shoulder to my neck!
So here we are again, playing the waiting game for bones to heal...
All things going well, I'll be heading home on Friday.
Once again, thanks to all of those people that have and continue to, provide support to myself and my family. Same for all the well wishers, it is appreciated more than you know.
Thanks also to jet black, the distributers of met helmets (small plug) they were kind enough to send me a replacement lid! If only they sold collarbones....
Cheers all, hope go be back on a bike around august.

andyfev's picture

Great to read your pain is settling. The setback of having the clavicle replated is a pain for recovery but if it makes you feel any better none of the trails remotely near Sydney are worth riding at the moment. They should come good just in time for your return Smiling

chin up and keep pluging away at whatever evil exercises those physio's have been making you do Eye-wink

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