Crash, Collarbone, and Coming Back

Crash — check.

Collarbone — broken.

Coming back …. work in progress.

A little over six weeks ago.  The day was Sunday.  The date was July 13th.  It was going to be a long training day with great friends.  We were one week out from Chelanman, an Olympic distance triathlon.  I met Roxie and Rusty at Lake Padden for a swim, which oddly I have no recollection of whatsoever.  I know we swam, I just can’t recall ANY of it, not even driving to the lake or what I ate for breakfast that morning.  But, I know I swam and then we all set out for a long 50+ bike ride with a run to follow.  This date was also going to mark my 54th day of running straight.  My runstreak was going amazing!

I do recall some of my bike ride from Lake Padden to Chuckanut.  I also remember passing a unicyclist and taking a picture of him behind me.

biking cycling unicyclist

I almost hit this weird patch in the pavement along Chuckanut Dr and my heart was racing, thinking I was going to crash.  I didn’t however.  Not then …

biking cycling selfie

As Roxie and I were coming out of Chuckanut Dr and onto the Skagit Flats, Rusty was about 200 feet in front of us.  We were riding comfortably side by side in our aero position.  AND, we just so happened to be talking about how nice it was to be able to ride next to someone and feel completely at ease knowing that neither one of you would make any overt moves to put the other in danger.

and then …

BAM!

Without warning, it was like our front tires were magnetized, as they sucked in with such force and sent both of us flying.  In less than a second, we tasted pavement.  There was no time to react or think in this split second, we were already down before the thought popped in my head.

Our speeds had been between 21 and 24 mph, which propelled the both of so violently that neither of us could do anything to recover or break the fall.  I went down directly on my right shoulder and spun around on my right shoulder-blade.  I could feel the loose gravel below me, hot and burning.  I had no idea where my bike was, but I looked ahead of me and could see Roxie about 15 feet away on her back and looking at me.

I was grabbing my right arm and trying to get up to get to her.  I was kicking my legs and yelling for Roxie, apologizing because I had no idea what had just happened.  Rusty came running back to us and I could hear him telling me to stay still.  I could hear Roxie calling to me and apologizing too and all I wanted to do was get over to her to make sure she was okay.

I was a mess.  Something hurt so incredibly bad, it was a type of pain I had never felt before.  I realized I was grabbing my right upper arm and holding it close with my left hand, but did not know why.  I had never broken a bone in my life … surely this couldn’t be broken.  Just badly bruised I’m sure.  Maybe not … it hurt like hell.  OH DAMN!

I was pissed.  Thoughts of my race the following weekend went through my head.  This could not be happening.  Get me up.  Roxie!  Someone call my husband.  Mother F’er!  Aaaggggghhhhh NOOOOO!

Volunteer firefighters showed up and they were kind.  My RoadID was on my wrist but the older volunteer couldn’t understand to read the number, so I just gave him my husband’s number.  It didn’t matter though because Rusty had already called Dean.  Rusty was taking care of the both of us.  The first ambulance arrived and took Roxie because she hit her head hard and was in and out of consciousness.  I was sick to my stomach.  What the hell just happened?  All I could picture was our wheels coming together and the sound of the metal tangling and throwing us.  I just cried.  BECAUSE I was mad, pissed, confused, hurt, and sad that Roxie had been injured.

The second ambulance came for me and before they even tried to move me, they started an IV and gave me some pain meds.  More flowed in the ambulance and I remember taking one photo …

ambulance ride bike shoes

 

The emergency room was a blur.  I think I was on so many pain meds by this time.  My husband and daughter showed up and I immediately started bawling and apologizing.

bike crash road rash

The x-rays were taken right in my room and showed a broken right collarbone …

broken collarbone

 

I was told that most people don’t have surgery for a broken collarbone and it would possibly heal on its own, but since it was broken in more than one place with fragments in between, I might want to think about seeing an orthopedic surgeon for surgery.  I made my way to Roxie’s room as we were both being discharged at the same time.  Just walking a few feet to her room, I broke out in a sweat and had to sit down.  It was not a pretty site and I felt nauseous.

ER broken collarbone sick

We finally made it out of the hospital and picked up our bikes, which were so graciously taken to the nearby fire hall for safekeeping.  The ride home was a pukefest and I felt horrible for my family having to listen to me.  It hurt so bad to throw up because I didn’t have anything in me to throw up and it was moving my shoulder all around.  UGH!

The next several days were spent high on pain medications because the pain was quite literally, the worst I had ever felt.  It hurt to sleep, to move, and I was a dirty mess!  I was frustrated that I couldn’t get into the orthopedic surgeon until Friday, July 18th, five days after my accident.  However, once I did get in, the doc wanted to get me in for surgery right away to fix my collarbone, which was the first bit relief I had all week.  Finally, someone to fix it!  I offered him all sort of gift cards and incentives to fix it right then and there that day, but he laughed and said he liked my motivation, but suggested Tuesday afternoon.   Tuesday it was!

Surgery day:  July 22nd.  I was excited and nervous.  I just wanted to be fixed and whole again.  Surgery was uneventful for me as I was under a pain/nerve block and anesthesia.  Once the both of those wore off … sometime the next day …

ohhhhhh man …

WORST PAIN EVER!  Even worse than the initial bike crash.  What did I do?  How long will this last?  And, my pain meds weren’t even cutting through the pain.  Thankfully, the worst of the pain was over within 48 hours and I was just really uncomfortable for the next week.  My daughter was magnificent and took such awesome care of me, keeping me on schedule with my pain meds.  The next week was spent in bed, watching a bit (or a lot) of Netflix and sleeping.  I had never slept so much in my life!

Every day was better and better and I went off all my pain meds one week post surgery.  I signed up for another 70.3 (Oceanside) and also planned my first 50K in December.  Hey … I’m an optimist!

But, even optimists have their days of disappointment.  For me, this came 3 weeks post surgery at my first follow-up appointment with my surgeon.  I was ready to start physical therapy and most of all, run again!  I was all smiles while I waited.  I envisioned the doc telling me that I was ahead of most of his patients.  I mean, after all, I was off all my pain meds completely after just one week post surgery and I was starting to feel good.  (confession:  I may have also googled PT exercises post CB surgery and tried doing a couple of them on my own using pain as my guide … I will soon find out that this was NOT a good idea.  A very bad idea in fact).

He had me go take some X-rays and then I waited.

…. then … the worst news:

my collarbone was STILL BROKEN.  What?!!! How can it still be broken?!  I was so dumbfounded and upset.  I was told not to move it AT ALL and keep it in the sling if I wanted it to heal properly.  I told my doctor that I had been doing a couple of very easy exercises and was promptly told to stop doing that.  I was told that I was NOT to use pain as my guide because I had no concept of pain … huh?

The doctor leaned in, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Gina, you are an Ironman.  You can’t use pain as your guide.  You have no concept of pain.”

Point.  Taken.

 

broken collarbone surgery plate

I left the office feeling an all time low.  What a setback.  More sling life.  BUT!  Two positives:  he told me I could drive and I could cycle on my trainer sitting up and keeping my arm tucked in.  DEAL!

Other stellar positives include my wonderful friends and family who have gone out of their way to make my recovery the best.  I have received the most beautiful flowers, food, magazines, friends spending their time with me, phone calls, and texts.  My heart has been overwhelmed with the support.  One friend even sent me his ultrasound device to heal broken bones.  To those friends and family who have been there for me or have thought about me … I thank you!  It has meant the world to me.

AND … as most of you know, I haven’t been just holed up in my house.  I have been able to get out and about with some help and below are some of my favorite outings:

 

ironman whistler olympic rings

 

fragrance lake hike broken collarbone

 

spirit lake broken collarbone

 

SUP broken collarbone

 

Lake Stevens 70.3 Ironman broken collarbone

 

smokes birthday broken collarbone

 

family broken collarbone

 

driving starbucks broken collarbone

 

cycling trainer broken collarbone

 

One more week and I see the doc again (Sept 5th).  Praying for some good news … like perhaps I can go back to work and also RUN again!

 

 

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Gatorade Endurance Team Ambassador

Gatorade Endurance

 

I am thrilled to officially announce that Gatorade Endurance has selected me to be a part of their team of ambassadors!  I fell in love with Gatorade Endurance after trying the G Endurance Carb Energy Chews given to me by another Gatorade Endurance ambassador and friend, Doug Silk, last November.  Since then, they have been my go to choice of fueling for training and racing IM 70.3 Oceanside and IM 70.3 St. George.

Stay tuned as I will highlight the different products by the Gatorade Endurance line and do some fun giveaways!

 

IM 70.3 St. George Race Report

IM 70.3 St. George (StG) is an EPIC race of GRAND proportions.  And, hopefully, this race report will do it justice and give you just a little taste of what the race was like.  Epic and Grand? Yes, totally! And, during this writing, I might think of some other awesome, stellar, dynamite adjectives to add!

 

IM 70.3 St George

 

Preface:  I have been training for IM 70.3 St. George since January, with IM 70.3 Oceanside as my warm-up.  It was on tap to be my “A” race this year.  My goal was sub 6 and I knew I was capable of that.  In fact, I just hit a new PR in Oceanside just 5 weeks prior and I was (am) in the best racing shape I ever have been in.  I was feeling very strong and confident going into this race.

Pre-Race:

I flew into Las Vegas the Thursday before the race and met up with some great friends.  I rented a van and drove a couple of hours to StG, where I had rented a condo.  This was my first time flying with my bike, so I was nervous as heck that something would not go back together right.  My nerves settled as my friend, Josh, was able to help me put it all back together.  (**A special thank you to Brent for helping me pack my bike and to the Bellingham TRI Club for the bike box loaner).

bike box triathlon travel

 

friends at airport

 

Steph, Josh, Angelina, Me, Ginger, Doug and Stephanie below
Left to Right:  Steph, Josh, Angelina, Stephanie, Me, Ginger, Doug

 

 

On Friday, I did a mini shake-out brick, consisting of a 20 minute bike ride and 10 minute run.  Josh and I did this together near the condo, while our other friends (not racing) were out for a long ride together.  Josh went to meet up with the girls, and I went to the expo.

shake out bike ride triathlon

Expo/Packet Pick-up:

Ironman Village, was located in the Town Square of StG.  It was only a 10 minute drive from my condo.  Plenty of parking and easy access.  The expo had outdoor booths with vendors and the packet pickup had a tent with a long line.  I waited and finally entered the tent.  The day was hot and there was no shade, except for when I was inside the tent.  The packet pick-up was seamless and I was off to see what the Ironman Merchandise tent had.  I bought just a couple of t-shirts and water bottle.

athlete village St George expo

I met up with Josh and the crew sometime after 2 pm and we headed out to check our bikes in at T1 – Sand Hollow Reservoir.  We located the area and took some stunning photos of the water.  It was so hot out and this was the first time I really thought about how the heat (THIS heat) might affect me on race day.  It was dry and HOT.  The temps called for mid 90’s on race day.  It was low 90’s when I checked my bike …. uhhhhh … okay then.  I can do this!  I practiced with heat at home on the trainer.  Long sleeves and a wool cap.  That should be the same.

***(insert wide eyes here optimistic but realistic scared look here)***

Sand Hollow Reservoir Beautiful

Sand Hollow Reservoir
A pano shot of the entire swim course!

Trek Speed Concept racked at St George

Race Morning:

3:45 am wake-up.  A cup of coffee, 1/2 a bagel with peanut butter and a banana.  I got ready and we were all out the door by about 4:30.  We went straight to T2, near the athlete village and dropped our run bags.  We then said our goodbyes to our crew and we boarded the buses to the start.  The drive seemed to take forever.

race crew
Kim and Marco (far left) were also racing!

Once at the T2, I made my way to my bike and filled my tires with air, got my hydration bottles ready and laid out my bike gear.  Two more trips to the porto-potty and I was good to go.

josh and I getting ready

I met up with Ginger, Jazzy, Steph and Angelina for some last photos and before I knew it, I was in the water.

Jazzy and Ginger see me off
Jazzy and Ginger see me off

 

swim start St George 70.3

Another friend from the F3 community was in my wave and it was so nice to have someone there with me.  Thanks Kim!  This was her very first 70.3 and I was so excited for her, that I forgot about my own nerves.

Kim and I talking race.  You've got this!
Kim and I talking race. You’ve got this!

Race:

The swim started in the open water.  I had exactly 3 minutes to get to the red buoys in the water before the air-horn would blow for my start.  From the pictures above, they don’t look at that far away, but they were!  I didn’t even make it to the red buoys before the the air-horn blew.  Dang it.  I’m already behind.  I started my Timex and started my race.

Head down, I told myself to relax and just swim.  I had really worked on my swimming the past 3 months and knew I was capable of sub 48 minutes if I really worked.  I wanted to get 45 or less truth be told.  I held my own and could feel others swimming by me from the wave starts after mine.  I was clawed at, hit, and grabbed.  I maintained my position and kept swimming.  The water started out cold (60 degrees), but I soon warmed up after about 10 minutes.  I was breathing hard, reaching and pulling.  Trying hard to focus on being relaxed and not slowing down.

Before I knew it, I was headed in and hit the mat running.  I looked down and saw a 45 something on my Timex …. WHAT????!!!!! YES!!!!!!  A huge smile formed across my face.  I was so proud of myself.  I did it!!  It was at this very moment, I decided I didn’t care what the rest of my day looked like, I was so happy with this accomplishment.  (If you have followed my triathlon journey, you know I didn’t even know how to swim just a few years ago).

credit: Finisherpix
credit: Finisherpix

Wetsuits strippers peeled my suit and I was running to my bike.

My bike … where was my bike?  I was turned around and it took me a little bit to find it.  Mistake #1, but not a biggie.  I still had a faster transition time than I’ve ever had!  I was off and pedaling.

t1 bike St george

The bike … Oh the awesome, amazing bike!  This truly was the course of all courses for beauty and scenery.  I took it all in because it was breath-taking.  It was also the hardest bike course I’ve ever done.  The hills never seemed to stop and the descents were sparse.  I felt solid on the bike and took in plenty of fuel for the run.

credit: Finisher Pix
credit: Finisherpix

Coming into T2, I could not locate my run bag.  It took me an extra 30-45 seconds.  Mistake #2.  When I finally found my spot, I racked my bike and quickly changed shoes.  I grabbed my run belt with bib, visor and water bottle.  I was off.

Running out of T2
Running out of T2

It was hot out and I pushed it out of my mind for all of about 2 seconds before I thought about it again.  Dang … it’s hot!  Shuffle.  Small steps.  Just keep moving.  My coach, Daryl, told me if I was breathing too hard, to slow down.  Okay then, I was breathing hard and I was in the first mile.  Granted the first 3 miles are all uphill.  Not just little hills, they gradually became bigger by mile 3.  It was about this time, I thought my head just might pop off my body.  My head was seriously throbbing and my face felt hot, like steam was coming out of my ears.  I fueled at every aid station and dumped ice down my top and shorts to cool my body temp.  Nothing seemed to be working.

I will admit at this point, about 3.5 miles in … I thought about stopping at a medical tent and calling it a day.  I had PR’d my swim after all and had an amazing bike ride.  I just could not get the throbbing in my head to stop and I was not sweating.  My clothes were wet from ice, but my skin was bone dry.  I thought I might have a stroke or something my head hurt so badly.  I walked.  I thanked the volunteers.  I tried to stay positive because that is who I am.  I thought about everyone cheering for me and eventually I kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept at it for miles.  So many thoughts swirling in my head: Why did I sign up for this race again?  I am never doing another Ironman.  I think I like sprint TRI’s.  Yeah, those sound nice.  I do not like hot weather for racing.  Me and Heat don’t get along.  Ginger can’t do this race, so buck up and get going!  Mikey would have killed this course.  I loved the Yoga I did last night.  Oh — that’s a cute TRI suit.  Oh, HI! Where are you from? I wonder where Josh is.  Is it almost over?  These volunteers are so friendly.  Oh, see … he’s walking too.  Eek, does he know those black tri shorts are see-thru?  Just say no to crack buddy.  Looking strong Michelle!  Run to that bush.  Where is the shade?  There is no shade here.  Oh, photo op … start running and smile …. the random thoughts go on and on.

The scenery was gorgeous, but to be honest, I had a hard time enjoying it because I was suffering.  I was not cramping however, which is the best news of all.  I continued to jog/run/walk.  In no particular order.  In the last two miles, I put the hammer down and just wanted to be done.

run St George 70.3 Ironman

ironman 70.3 St George finish running

Post Race:

Upon crossing that finish line, I was greeted by the nicest lady who helped me.  I was not feeling well.  At all.  She asked me if I wanted to go to medical, but truth is, I didn’t know what I wanted.  I saw my friends and thanked her for her time.

finish line volunteer St George

As I continued to exit the finishers area to meet my friends, my emotions overcame me and I started to bawl.  Not cry … bawl.  I’m not sure exactly what overcame me in that instant, the heat, the accomplishment of being done, my friends, the fact I didn’t feel well, or all of the above. Thankfully, my friends knew just what I needed … shade.  And ICE.  Angelina ran over to grab some ice from the medics and put some on the back of my neck and head.  This did the trick because in about 10-15 minutes, I felt so much better.

We found Josh and took a few photos and grabbed food.

josh and me St George finishers

It sank in … I finished!  My fifth 70.3 distance.  I was happy and I was not going to be let down by my overall time.  Why should I? There was too much to be thankful for.

Thankful take-a-ways:

*Swim PR (45:51)

*T1 PR

*It was the MOST beautiful course — EVER!

*I finished (and I have the medal to prove it!)

*I had the best friends there for me (Thank you Josh for racing with me; and to Ginger, Jazzy, Stephanie, and Angelina for cheering me on all day.  Also thank you to Doug and Stephanie for meeting me at the airport!)

*I had friends who wanted to race today, who were registered to race, but were not able to.  I thought of them during my race! ❤

Finisher medal St George IM 70.3

A few more Memorables:

1.  I did not wear my Garmin.  The day before the race, I knew I did not want to be dependent on my pace/time.  I needed a stop watch for fueling, so I opted for my simple Timex for time only.  This was a good call.

2.  The volunteers were the best EVER.  Like EVER.  In all the races I’ve ever done … StG volunteers take the cake!  I had all the ice, all the coke, all the love from the run course.  Simply awesome!

3.  Thank you to Gatorade Endurance for my fueling!  The G Endurance Carb Energy Chews are the best!  I am proud to be an ambassador for this company!

4.  The entire race experience was unforgettable.  In every way, even the hot run, I am so thankful for it.  I now know what it feels like to be in an oven (on broil) and trying to run at the same time, up hill.  That is the best analogy I can give you.

5.  I have the best friends.  They came from San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco.  Each one of them inspires me.

swim bike run St George