The Extra Mile

My Journey Late in Life as a Triathlete – Setbacks and Triumphs

The Start of the Rest of My Life

by | May 26, 2017 | Bike Accident | 4 comments

Twelve days ago, on May 13th, 2017,  around 7 AM, I struggle to wake up.  I think I hear, “you’ve been in a bike accident, and you are in the hospital.”  I’m thinking to myself, “wow, this is a real shitty dream. I need to wake up to end this.”  I try focusing on the ceiling, and I try to figure out if I recognize it.  The voice tells me again that I’ve been in a bike accident and that I’m at the Lahey Clinic.  I start to choke and try to move my hands, and someone puts their hands on me and tells me to relax  – that I have a tube down my throat to help me breathe and they will be removing it shortly. My mouth is incredibly dry and hurts a lot.  I think to myself; all would be better if I could just get some water. After what seems like an eternity they finally pull the tube out, I choke and croak out that I want water.  I get a sip and choke on it.  What I anticipated would be a tremendous relief, turns out to be a horrible experience that I regret.

Then I think – where is Sandra, my wife?  Where’s Brenna, my daughter?  Do they know where I am and what happened to me?  Do they know I am OK? I ask “Where is my wife?”  The nurse tells me that she was here last night, but they sent her home because there was nothing she could do for me here and that she would be coming back this morning. They then tell me that she called and is on her way with my daughter.  Little did I know that she was already there and the nurse didn’t understand that she was calling from the waiting room.  I had waited for two hours before they figured out she was in the waiting room.  Those two hours seemed like an eternity.

During the two hour wait to see my family, I started to piece together that I had gone on a bike ride the previous day, but don’t remember it ending and really where I rode.  I remember being on Camp Sargent Road but that is about it.  I then remember that was the early part of my 2.5-hour ride.  I do triathlons, and I have a 70.3 race coming up on June 17th in Freetown, MA – the Patriot Half.  I was sort of training for it, but it is my “C” race so more or less a training race to prepare for my full Ironman race in Arizona in November.  I also have a “B” race scheduled for Sept – the inaugural 70.3 half Ironman in Lake Placid.

Maybe an hour after waking up, I am visited by a team of doctors including each of the specialties that worked on me to save my life and make me look somewhat like I used to.  I’m told I look much better than when I came in – like that means anything to me.  I can’t even remember how I wound up here in the first place. I’m told that my upper lip was split all the way up into my nose and that I may have chipped a tooth.  Turns out that “may have chipped a tooth” means the tooth broke off just below the gumline.  The plastic surgeon tells me the cartilage in my nose was somewhat torn, but they were able to stitch me back together, and it shouldn’t be noticeable after I am all healed.

Then I am introduced to the neurosurgeons, and one of them tells me I have a C1 Vertebrae Fracture and that my neck needs to stay immobilized for 4-6 weeks.  A C1 fracture is meaningless to me, other than I need to wear a neck brace and I was really uncomfortable.  I was unaware that a C1 fracture was what caused Christopher Reeve to be paralyzed.

The medical staff leave and nurses taking care of me start mentioning that I must have hit a pothole while out riding.  I think to myself – That’s weird. I can’t imagine not seeing a pot hole and avoiding it on my ride.  I must have been traveling really fast to have not seen a pot hole.

My wife and daughter finally come in, and we are reunited.  The first thing I say to my daughter is I am alright.  I have no idea what I look like but my tongue is incredibly swollen, and I can barely get out the words.  I learn that I have a tongue laceration and as a result, my tongue is 2-3 times its normal size.  I can only manage to get ice chips down by inserting them into my cheek and letting them melt.  I can’t form a seal around a straw due to my split lip.

My wife is all teary eyed, and I tell her I am alright. She holds my hand and the rest of the day is a blur that seems to last forever. The TV was on, but it was like watching paint dry.  I remember the Red Sox being on and seeing them getting pounded by the A’s of all teams. I have always struggled to watch my team lose. I missed much of the Patriots comeback in the Superbowl and even missed Malcolm Butler’s goal line interception a few years before because I left the room in disgust. That night was no different.

I did learn from Sandra that a car cut me off and that I flipped over my handlebars when I broke hard to avoid the car that cut me off.  She tells me there was an eye witness that called 911 and stopped to help me after the crash.  We refer to her as my “Guardian Angel”  from that point forward.  I spend the rest of the night dozing in and out of sleep between nurses checking my vitals and feeling pain.  I am a stomach and side sleeper and am now forced to lay on my back and try to keep my mouth open to breathe.  Both nostrils are plugged.

At one point in the night, I think to myself – shit I can’t do the Patriot Half – that sucks. Oh well, I’ll have to start riding on the trainer in a couple of weeks to start getting ready for Lake Placid Half Ironman in Sept.  It may be a little bit longer before I can run and swim – so I’ll have to get my fitness back on the bike. I look back now – what the fuck was I thinking.

Just a note about the name of the Blog.  In my second half ironman – Timberman.  I was shooting for breaking 6 hours.  In my effort to do so, I made a costly error in the bike to run transition.  I forgot to grab my number belt and didn’t realize it until I was a half mile into the run.  I reached down to get a gel and realized I didn’t have my belt.  So I ran back to transition to grab my belt, got yelled at by the guy manning the transition entrance and took off to finish the race.  Here are my results – Timberman Results – I ended up running an extra mile for this race.  Luckily they didn’t disqualify me for going back to transition.  And, Andy Potts, the Pro winner of that day’s race, placed the medal around my neck, so that was pretty cool.

I wanted to start a blog leading up to my first full Ironman last year, Ironman Mont-Tremblant, but I never got my act together to do that.  I figure, with my recent events,  this is as good a place to start as any.  I still have more about my struggles and triumphs leading up to me getting out of the hospital and what I gradually learn about the accident.  I will add them in future posts.