333 days ago, at approximately 10:20 am, while feeling like I was at my peak of fitness and athleticism, I was cycling past a local park in the final miles of a successful practice training ride for an upcoming race and.......well, that's all I remember about that. The bright world around me went dark and the next thing I remember was about 10-15 later when an ambulance crew was attempting to get me onto a backboard. Somehow during that dark period I had managed to give a an assisting by-passer my wife's name and cell phone number, though I still can't remember that either. I don't know much about what happened other than it appeared that I was hit on the side by a passing motorist's side view mirror and then flipped forward over my handlebars head and shoulder into the ground. According to my GPS watch I was moving at 19.1 mph at that moment and was likely about to begin braking as I was approaching an intersection.
A lot happened to me after that. I spent over 5 days in the hospital, mostly on morphine to ease the pain of numerous broken bones and a bruised lung. It really wasn't until later that I realized how badly I was injured, including internal injuries such as a rib that was a fraction of an inch from causing a punctured lung, which was something they thought could still require immediate surgical intervention for the first few days I was in the hospital. Perhaps it is best I didn't know some of that at the time.
When I first met my orthopedic surgeon, I asked if I would be able to do Ironman Texas seven months later. His answer was hopeful, if everything went well, but his tone didn't seem so hopeful. It was at that point that I resolved to do everything I could to make the Ironman Texas 2013 starting line. I put so much effort into resting those first few months that it almost seemed like activity for the next few months. It was almost seven weeks before I could move my right arm out of a sling--something which happened on my birthday. It was close to another month before I could get close to thinking about a real workout and probably another month after that before my workouts began to resemble what a workout used to be. Through that time I got by on faith and the love and support of my family and friends. In time, things began to come together for me. I went on to make the Ironman Texas starting line and, with the enormous amount of support I had behind me, I made it to the finish line as well. The last 8+ mile lap of the IMTX marathon felt like the longest and most satisfying victory lap ever!
Fast-forwarding to now, I am periodically asked if I am fully recovered. The answer is that I don't know. While I sure don't feel like I am "back", some of my racing and training times indicate I am close to where I was in the months before my injury and some times might even be better.
Everything else aside, I am doing well today. While I wouldn't wish my injury experiences on anyone, it has helped me remember what is truly valuable in my life. Family, friends and faith were all strengthened because of my experiences and I was reminded how unimportant some other things really are. I met and made new friends who most likely never would have been more than casual acquaintances otherwise. There are parts of my experience that I may have never fully shared with anyone, though I know there are those close to me who know this and undertand. As I recovered while having to live a sedentary life for the first time in years, I had time to reflect on all the wonderful challenges I had been a part of in the past several years. Before this event I was certainly on my way to becoming a still improving athlete. somewhere in all this I have lost some of that drive and perhaps even some of that ability. Maybe I will never be able to live up to the thought of the athlete "I might have become" but I may be a smarter athlete and a better man as a result of what I've been through. Because of what I went through I've been able to offer support and inspiration to several other athletes in ways I never could have before this experience.
I came to feel that if I had suffered a much harsher fate that day, then I would have at least known that I had lived well going into that event and it would have happened doing something I loved. It is true that I could have died that day, but that can be true for any of us on any day. Do we all feel that we live well enough to not regret our lives when viewed in hindsight? I hope that I never face that question again, but if I do I hope I can answer it the same way.