As some of you may know, my Mom has been battling a severe respiratory disorder since last summer. In October I made plans for my son and me to travel to Virginia during the holidays to spend some time with her. On the day were flying up to Virginia, I received a call from my sister, Anna, that Mom had taken a turn for the worse and she was going to drive her up to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville to be checked out.
No worries, I quickly did some mental gymnastics, rented a car, contacted my ex-husband to see if I could bring Josh to him from the airport, and planned to then make the 2-ish hour drive from the NRV to Charlottesville. Our sister, Jennifer, lives in C’ville and had offered up her home as basecamp for us for as long as we needed to stay. The flight from Orlando to Roanoke was on time, I dropped Josh off in Christiansburg, grabbed a venti Starbucks, and headed for Hoo-ville.
I stopped at the hospital and saw Mom first thing. She was better than I expected her to be, which put my mind at ease to some degree, although I knew things were not good. I left the hospital and made my way to Jen’s. It was great to get there and see that not only were Jen, Sabrina, and Anna there, but also my Dad and Step-Mom had stuck around as well! It had been a long day and the next few promised to be stressful while Mom underwent a lung biopsy and we waited for some definitive diagnosis of her condition, so we all called it a night shortly after I arrived.
The next morning I woke up early and felt stressed out. I looked at my phone and saw that it was 30 degrees outside. I debated going outside for a run, but I didn’t have any running tights with me – only shorts. I had promised myself I would run at least 6 miles while I was there. I don’t like the cold… I didn’t want to go… But I got dressed anyhow. I put on my Cannondale thermal shirt, my long-sleeved Space Coast Marathon race shirt, and my prized Ironman Florida Name hoodie (this will be important later), my compression shorts, running shorts, and sneakers, hat, and gloves and headed downstairs.
My sisters were on the sofa talking and enjoying coffee. I wanted so badly just to grab a cup and sit, but no, I had WORK to do! Races don’t train for themselves and all that stuff. Jen told me about a great running path and out the door I went. I have played what happened next over and over in my mind, trying to make sense of it… Trying to figure out what exactly happened, and the truth is that I have no freaking clue, but I’ll relay as best as I can remember.
I turned on my running playlist, hit GO on my Garmin and started a slow jog down Jen’s street. I turned right, making my way to a traffic circle, feeling great even in the cold, and thought I should probably make my way to the sidewalk instead of running in the middle of the street. At that moment, my right ankle rolled outward and I was unable to recover my balance. What happened next probably only took 0.5 seconds, but it seemed to take 5 minutes. It was one of those moments like when Neo dodges the bullets in The Matrix. I felt myself falling, I knew I was going down and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Years of martial arts training kicked in and I evaluated the possibility of doing a front fall, but I was falling sideways and couldn’t figure out how to straighten myself out. My next thought was literally “PROTECT THE GARMIN!!!” so I pulled my arms into my core and tried to throw myself into a forward roll. I landed in a tuck on my left shoulder and thought all was well until I heard a sickening “SNAP” inside my earbuds. I knew I had just broken my collarbone. I finished my fabulous forward roll and stood up (I should have gotten style points if nothing else). I surveyed my situation… I could walk… no blood… nothing hurt THAT bad… OH GOD, THE GARMIN… Whew, it wasn’t even scratched… Maybe I could just go 3 miles instead of 6… No, that’s stupid, clearly I had a broken bone. So, I turned around and walked back to my sister’s house. She was walking her dog and came up to me on the street. I told her I thought I had broken my collarbone. I went into the living room to sit down while Jen went to fetch Anna and they figured out what to do with me. I sat there with my eyes closed, going inside my mind, evaluating… analyzing… trying to figure out a way to make this not so… Then, I heard Anna say she would pull the car around and we would go to the ER. I stood up to walk to the front door, took one step and then everything went black.
When I opened my eyes, Jen was standing over me asking if I was okay. “Of course I’m okay, I’m just going to the front door.” Then I realized I was crumpled in a heap on the living room floor. I had passed out cold. I tried to get up again, but my legs just wouldn’t hold me and down I went again. I remember thinking that this must be what it feels like when people collapse during a race and just can’t get up and get moving again.
At that point, the idea of taking me to the ER was ditched and an ambulance was called. I was told that it looked like every ounce of blood in my body had vanished and that I was white and pasty and obviously in shock. While we were waiting, Jen got Deb on my phone and I just started bawling! I told her how badly I had effed up and that I had come to Virginia to help and all I was doing was making things more stressful for everyone, and how was I ever going to be able to start my Ironman 70.3 training program on time now… She assured me everything would be fine in a way that only Deb can.
After we hung up, I noticed that my shoulder was really starting to ping and so I closed my eyes and again went inside my own head and dealt with the pain – which is just what I do when I hurt. It’s quite effective. I didn’t open my eyes again until the EMTs arrived, who were, BTW, FANTASTIC! Well done Albemarle County, well done! They evaluated me right there on the living room floor, asked me what happened, what hurt, etc. That was the first time I mentioned rolling my ankle. They carefully took my shoe and sock off and I saw the huge lump on the side of my foot for the first time. SUPER!
They got me out of the house and onto a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance where they started getting all the vitals and stuff. They said my vitals were quite impressive as was my pain tolerance. Then the most horrible part of the whole entire episode happened. They had to CUT my clothes down my left arm to assess my injury. Bye bye, Ironman hoodie and marathon race shirt (from my ONLY standalone marathon). I nearly started crying again. Once I got to the ER, it was kind of a blur. More vitals, the right sleeves of my beloved hoodie and race shirt cut out so a proper blood pressure could be taken, more assessments, x-rays, drugs, but hey, ZERO WAIT TIME!! #bonus My dad and step-mom showed up… Jen and her daughter came back… Anna had come in the ambulance with me – it was a freaking family reunion, but it was AWESOME, I’m not gonna lie. I have really missed my family!
We passed the time joking around until a doctor came back and delivered the news I already knew. I had broken my left clavicle and had an avulsion fracture of my right 5th metatarsal. Basically, when I rolled my ankle, my peroneal tendon stretched so far that it snapped the end of my 5th metatarsal off. Happily, it was not floating so no surgery would be required – just lots of time in a boot.
I left the ER a couple of hours later with my arm in a sling (clavicle fractures like mine rarely require surgery and are not casted), a crutch, a plaster splint, and a way too small walking shoe. Thankfully, my step-mom had a zip-up hoodie in her car because they finished cutting off all my layers and I was left with my sports bra and shorts – and it was 28 degrees outside!
I spent the next few days in a pseudo-haze of hydrocodone, but all-in-all everything went great. Mom had her biopsy. We got some answers – not enough of them, but some. My dad, step-mom, sisters, and sweet niece couldn’t have been more amazing caretakers. Anna and I had hours of much needed (and longed for) conversation. We all made the very best of a truly suck-ass situation.
I flew home on Saturday and got picked up in Orlando by a wheelchair at the plane door – Deb made me promise – which was weird and surreal. Deb and Erin took great care of me during the holidays. It was frustrating to not be able to do all the Christmas cooking and things I normally do, but I was so grateful to be surrounded by people I love. It’s easy to focus on the things that are going wrong while losing sight of everything there is to be so incredibly grateful for. I was determined to be present for the holidays and enjoy them, regardless of the “perfection” of the circumstances, and our Christmas was terrific.
Today I head back to the orthopedist to get another round of x-rays and see how I’m healing and develop a plan to get me back to a point where I can start training again. My training plan for IM Gulf Coast 70.3 is supposed to begin on 1/21… I don’t know how realistic an “on-time start” will be, but maybe I can get clearance to ease back into swimming… or aqua jog… or run on the elliptical in my boot. We’ll see.
At the end of the day, I DO believe that everything happens for a reason, and I believe the reason for my unfortunate injury was threefold:
- It broke a pattern and allowed Anna and me a much needed shared experience to open the door to healing some old wounds. It was totally worth it and I’d have it happen again tomorrow if that is the ultimate outcome.
- It taught me a valuable lesson about letting go of control and allowing other people to take care of me for a change.
- It gave me a pause in my “training” (if that’s what you would call what I’ve been doing for the last year) that I desperately needed. It gave me time to think about what is really important to me regarding triathlon in 2018. Is it REALLY so important to do another Ironman RIGHT NOW? And it has me HUNGRY to get back in the pool, on the road, and on my bike!
Let’s do this, 2018! I’m predisastered and ready to go! 🙂