There's nothing that screams midlife quite like a prolapsed disc.

There you are one minute thinking you've got the body of a 25-year-old but sagacity of the Wise Old Elf and then the next wondering if you'll even be able to get up off the floor.

That was me in May when a disc in my lower spine popped and trapped a nerve. It was a bit like firecrackers going off as the Roman candles exploded in my body but this was one show the public didn't need to see.

Needless to say, the pain was excruciating. Suddenly my midlife crisis went from perceived to real.


I couldn't stand for more than a couple of minutes, couldn't sit comfortably for more than five, couldn't bend or twist and certainly couldn't run. There were many who probably thought I was praying to Allah as I kneeled prone on the footpath trying to find some relief when out walking, only I wasn't usually facing west.

It didn't bring me any joy to learn 28 percent of over 40-year-olds have a major disc abnormality and, depending on your age, some abnormality will be revealed by an MRI in 50 percent of the population.

Nearly five months later, life is a little more comfortable. I still can't run due to numbness and a lack of strength in my foot (the nerves that run all the way down your leg do some wacky things) but, mercifully, I can ride a bike. It has kept me sane and also given me something to work towards.

So I'm training for the Pioneer again – a six-day mountain bike race. Some of you might remember this was going to be the solution to my midlife crisis a couple of years ago. It was going to arrest a slide as I hurtled towards older age, prove I could still overcome big physical challenges and give me a new sense of purpose. It didn't really do that but it was wickedly fun.

I had already entered the Pioneer before my back injury and there have been many times over the last few months when I didn't think I would make the start line – there still are – but it was good motivation when I was asked to do one more leg circle on the Pilates reformer, one more lap in the pool or one more kilometre into a niggly headwind.

It has been challenging, which is why I figured I needed a little help. I realise I wrote last year that I would never shave my legs but, you know, that was before my body went on strike. Losing four months of valuable training is a big deal.

People had told me they feel faster with shaved legs but studies now reveal the effects are even more significant than that. Tests done in a specialised wind tunnel showed cyclists saved, on average, 70 seconds over 40km, which equates to a power saving of 10-15 watts. That's huge.

Now, I'm not exactly Chewbacca, but I have a decent thicket. I figured shaving my leg locks would help me keep up with my brisk Pioneer partner. Rather than hack at them with a $2 razor, I thought I'd do it properly. Waxing. By a professional.


Slogans like 'say no to fur' and 'don't let your lady garden go to seed' scattered the walls around OFF & ON wax bar as Destiny's Child's 'I'm a Survivor' played in the background. I wasn't sure if this was in reference to what I had been through or was about to experience. I was then met by my waxing ninja, as they're called. I certainly hoped she would move stealthily.

It wasn't exactly comfortable, but it wasn't as painful as I imagined it was going to be. It's probably not going to make that much difference over a six-day mountain bike race, especially as I'm aiming just to finish the Pioneer after what I've been through this year, but it's already made me feel faster and lighter.

It also made my day when a friend of The Wife complimented me on my legs. Maybe there is a bit of life left in this old dog.