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Craig Preece

Age: 43

Biography

Hi there my name is Craig Preece and I am currently sponsored by Planet X for both road racing and Time Trialing

I have been asked to write and tell you a bit about myself and my journey from being in the British Army to being severely injured and how cycling helped me cope physically and focus mentally with what I went through

I was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2010 and was serving with the Royal Engineers. Whilst on tour I conducted a variety of roles. For the first half of the tour I was based in the north of Helmand province called Kajaki. This is a very hostile area and would result in us coming under attack on most of the patrols we conducted. My role there was to patrol with the infantry and act as an explosive method of entry man. This involves carrying large amounts of plastic explosive on your back and if we needed to gain entry to the numerous compounds in this area I would run, often under fire, to blow an entry hole to allow us to breach.  The patrolling was exhausting as I had to carry a large amount of equipment including water, ammunition, medical kit and explosives whilst also wearing a Kevlar helmet and body armour. This could easily weigh in excess of 40Kg.

I could be patrolling for anything from four hours up to 16 hours depending on what was encountered in temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius.  For me it was amazing to put into practice what I had been trained to do; reacting to hostile threats and coming under direct fire from the enemy, whilst also conducting reassurance patrols with the locals and helping them with anything they needed.

When I wasn’t on patrol, as a qualified electrician, I was in charge of all the power and electricity for our small Forward Operating Base. This is a vital job as all the communications between the operations room and troops on patrol are powered by these generators so if they went down you could have troops in contact on the ground with no way of communicating with them. In the June of that year I came back to the UK for two weeks rest and recuperation.

Following my return to Afghanistan, as part of an engineers’ detachment, I was sent to an area controlled by the Danish.  They had been taking very high casualties and losses and we were sent there to primarily stabilize the area and build a number of patrol bases to dominate the ground.  In the early days of this operation it involved me blowing up tree lines and compounds to remove the enemies’ firing points.  Once the area had been cleared we could start constructing these new bases. Whilst building sangers and bases we often came under RPG or small arms fire.  It was like being on a construction site whilst wearing helmet and body armour, with the added bonus of people trying to blow you up and shoot you.

I had been with the Danes for almost two months when my incident happened.  It was the 07/08/2010.  I had jumped in a Danish battle tank at the last minute to go and do a job at one of the new bases that had been built. As we were travelling to this base we hit a huge Improvised Explosive Device.  I ended up 20ft away from what was left of the vehicle. When I became conscious after the blast I looked down and saw the mess of both my legs. This is where my training took over and I applied tourniquets to both of my legs to stop the blood flowing out and applied morphine to myself to take the pain away.

I was then flown back to the main camp in Afghanistan. The operating team not only saved my life by providing me with six units of blood, but they also managed to save both of my legs.  When I came round both of my legs were in a massive cage construction, but I was just thankful to be alive.  Sadly two Danish soldiers had died at the scene and two were on life support. A few days later the other two soldiers passed away so we had four fatalities and my mate sitting next to me was paralysed from the waist down.

I was flown back to the UK two days later and spent five weeks in Birmingham hospital, where I underwent a series of operations to repair my legs. This is where my recovery journey started.  I went to Headley Court which is a rehabilitation centre for injured service men.  Over the next few months, I went from being non weight bearing on either leg and wheel chair bound, to slowly being able to start using crutches, to put weight through my legs. In the Christmas of that year I went back to full weight bearing and had to use two sticks to walk.

In the next few months that followed my left leg progressively got better but has never fully recovered. My right foot and ankle had been totally shattered in the blast and was so painful to walk on for even the shortest of distances.  In the March of 2011 the decision was made to amputate my right leg below the knee.  For me this wasn’t a big decision as I wanted some quality of life back and have that chance to be pain free. Before I was injured I was a very fit person and could run a sub three-hour marathon. I would always be out running as this was something I loved to do. With my injuries this has been taken away from me.

Not to dwell on that I have always been very determined and like to set myself challenges and goals and in July last year I took part and completed the Ironman Bolton that consisted of a

  • 2.4 mile Swim
  • 112 mile Bike
  • 26.2 Mile run ( I had to walk due to the injuries)

A week after this I flew to France and competed in the Trois Etape.  Which consisted of three days racing over all the iconic alpine stages of the Tour de France.

After these events I really had got the bug for cycling and decided to take it really serious since September 2012 after I was classified to compete as a C4 Para cyclist.  Im hoping within the next two Seasons to get to national level.

Planet X have been amazing with the support they have given me coupled with supplying me with the bikes I need to take part in the competitive races I do, and the various charity events that I undertake.