“It’s a risky business being a cyclist in the UK, there are a lot of people who really dislike us. It’s the Jeremy Clarkson influence – we’re hated on the roads. We just hope people realise we are just flesh and bones on two wheels.”
Victoria Pendleton, gold medal winner in the women’s sprint at the Beijing Olympics, 2008.
I read this quote about a week ago and I remember cringing when a vivid image entered my mind. One thing I have learned from a few too many injuries is to lead off any conversation with “I am okay!”
So to begin, I am okay! I am alive. I am sitting upright at my computer with perfectly functioning nerves and a brain that is completely intact.
Life took a bit of a spin a few days ago when I was struck by a car while out on a bike ride. Quite literally a spin. I departed for my daily ride just like I always do. I took the elevator down 12 floors, rolled Charlie through the lobby, started my Strava, and was off on my ride. I was having the ride of a lifetime. With a beautiful tailwind, I was breaking my PR’s left and right. As I was coming to the end of my ride in the quiet town of Zichron Ya’akov, everything changed. I was making my way through a round-about when a car came crashing into my right side. I saw it coming. I saw that it wasn’t slowing down. I saw that it didn’t look both ways before entering. I knew right away that it was headed for me. I knew I had no where to go. That image is something I will never forget.
In the past I often exaggerated and said that I felt like I had been hit by a car. I used this when my muscles were a little sore and I was a bit bruised up, but I had no idea what these words really meant. It is now that I know the feeling of a 3,000 pound vehicle colliding with flesh and bones. I know what it looks like to see your life flash in front of you. I know just how hard asphalt is, and just how fragile the human body is. I understand how fragile life is.
As I sit in this hospital bed, I am in complete astonishment. I was diagnosed with a pubic ramus fracture and a sacrum fracture on the right side. I am battered and bruised but I am absolutely amazed that my injuries are not worse. I knew from the second that I hit the asphalt that I was in trouble. I knew things were bad, and don’t get me wrong, they are, but I also know things could be a thousand times worse.
To add a bit of irony to this whole experience, exactly 7 days before I ended up in this hospital bed I had another crash that landed me in another hospital. This accident quite small in comparison and a bit more my fault. This one introduced me to the healthcare system in Israel and got me ready for the real deal. As I descended a little hill and made a turn, I was surprised by a stream of water that sent charlie and I sliding onto the asphalt. It was painful and a little gory, but I have decided that I would take sliding and scratches over tumbling and broken bones any day. I gained 14 little souvenirs in my chin and was back riding the next day.
“Cycling is such a stupid sport. Next time you are in a car traveling at 40mph think about jumping out – naked. That’s what it’s like when we crash.”
–David Millar, cyclist.
This recovery process is going to be quite different than the stitches and scrapes. In fact, it will be a lot different than anything I have experienced in my life. I have never been so immobile, so helpless, and so dependent. I am lucky that the prognosis is surprisingly quite positive, but if you know me, you know I like to move. Frankly, I have relied on constant movement, whether that is on the soccer field, running up and down mountains, or racing around on my bike. I know this is going to be hard and long, but I also know that I will be able to move. I will be able to run around and get back up on my bike. I am already on the walker a bit and soon I get to test out crutches. I will get through it and I will be stronger, smarter, and more ready to take on this world.
Here are my takeaways from this experience:
- The Israeli health care system seems so rational. With no local insurance, I paid a reasonable fee and I was given excellent treatment in a somewhat timely manner.
- I am pretty darn lucky.
- Anytime you take the wheel of a car, you must commit to being completely focused at all times. There are laws for a reason. Cars are huge pieces of equipment that can cause a world of damage. I knew this before, but I understand this so much better now.
- Charlie has tougher skin than I do. Aside from a destroyed front rim and fork, she looks pretty good.
- Josh is an incredible caretaker. Although it kills me to be helpless and dependent, Josh has been absolutely great.
- We have some amazing friends who have made this whole incident so much more manageable. They have brought us incredible food, helped us navigate the legal and health system of this country, and have simply just been there for us. I am so thankful for their genuine kindness and can’t imagine getting through this without them.
And last but not least, my biggest take away:
Life is about adventure. It is about exploring the world, doing what you love, and putting a smile on your face. There are always risks, it can’t always be fun and games, sometimes adventure leaves you lying flat out on the asphalt in a foreign country with absolutely no smile on your face. You can’t climb mountains and not reward yourself by bombing down the other side. You can’t take every corner slow and never feel the wind across your face. You can’t only ride the flats and never see the world from above. You can’t ride whats familiar and never venture out to unknown terrain. Don’t get me wrong, I am scared to death to get back on my bike. I am scared to death about this journey of recovery I have set out on. Just like any injury, this sucks and this hurts, but it has been a good reminder that I am not invincible, my body and my bike can break. The experience has reminded me just how fragile life it, but also just how important it is to enjoy this fragile life.
I might not get to chase sunsets and climb mountains till this curve ball starts to straighten out, and I will have to leave Charlie at home for a while, but you better believe I will be back out there and stronger than before!