Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When It's Over

As I was cartwheeling through the air I thought, "well if I don't hit the ground too hard maybe I can still race on Sunday..."

It's truly amazing to me how quickly things change. One minute you are super fit and ready to put together a great effort, excited for the rest of the summer and the season; the next you are in the ER, can't move your leg and writhing in pain.

I headed back to NJ on Wednesday night for a few days at home prior to the Providence half Ironman. I went out for a 3 hour ride on Thursday (really it should have taken only 2 hours but I rode with my friend and we were riding slow). I had run that morning and everything felt great. Friday morning woke up, ran again, and around 4pm went out for a short hour long ride. With about 2 miles back to the house I told my friend I was just going to kick it up for a mile or so and get the legs going, so I took off. Conditions were perfect for going fast - all the roads are very flat around here, I had an ever-so-slight tailwind and I was riding my TT bike. My speed was up at 35mph as I flew up the road.

After a bend, up ahead on my right is a retirement community. Notorious for their dangerous drivers, I'm always very alert as I go past here. I noticed two cars stopped at the exit; one was making a left and one making a right. The guy making the left made eye contact with me so I know he saw me. I'm barreling down the road and then I see it - he's darting out ahead of me. I had maybe 0.5 seconds to brace myself, which was basically me going OH SHIT and holding on and praying.

It was the most terrifying thing I've ever seen, and there's a moment when you realize you have no option but to hit this car, at a car's speed, only without a car protecting you, that you think "man, this could be it." I hit the driver's side of the car (t-boned it) and went flying over the roof with my bike. I remember having my eyes open and seeing everything spin around, until I hit the ground and skidded to a stop.

First order of business is to try and move my toes. My concern was lightened when, although numb, I was able to move them. The guy that was making the right turn jumped out and ran over to help me, and a short while later my friend made his way around and saw me on the ground. I'm glad he was far enough back that he didn't see me actually get hit. The old man that hit me (he was 81) asked the guy first if I was alive, and then said "well you saw it, he hit ME!" The other guy just lost it. Started flipping out on the old dude. What the F were you thinking, what's wrong with you, he kept saying. The old guy replied "I thought I had an opening."

The paramedics come and there is a commotion all around. In a twist of fate I am laying on the ground across from my late grandfather's house, where my mom grew up. I explain to the paramedics that I have no health insurance. They assure me that the old dude is going to be on the hook. At the ER, the people are nice but not very helpful. They take x-rays, tell me nothing's broken and let me go. I go home on crutches, hobbling but I guess it could have been worse.

Of course, it was completely avoidable in the first place, so I don't take much solace in it. And all the people that are like "well at least nothing's broken" - perhaps you don't understand. Unless I had broken my hip or femur, I'd take broken bones any day over ligament and tendon damage. My knee was completely blown out, and how the doctor's couldn't see that was beyond me. Broken bone you cast up, let heal and you're good to go. Ligaments, tendons - that means rehab and surgery.

The next day I went to get an MRI. Unfortunately the results couldn't be read by my doctor to me until Monday, so I got those just yesterday. Torn ACL. That will require surgery. Grade 3 strain of the MCL. Fractured fibula head. Fractured trabecular (ankle) and torn deltoid ligament (ankle). Massive trauma to my hamstrings and other ligaments in the knee.

Obviously not very happy about this, but unfortunately what's done is done. This 81 year old made a very poor decision and will really only have to live with that decision for a couple of years tops. I, on the other hand, have just had the only good thing in my life ripped away from me.

Needless to say I will not be able to race anymore this season. I don't have any races that I'm completely and totally psyched on as far as their results this year. I did a lot of work and now have nothing to show for it, because as each day passes I will continue to lose fitness and then have to make the decision whether I even have the energy to start over. The checklist of shitty things is pretty high right now. I'm not looking for a handout, I'd just like to catch a break for fucking once.

So you've got no job, no insurance, no car, probably soon to be homeless and you're going to have tons of medical bills, plus your bike got destroyed and the one thing that brings you genuine enjoyment is no longer a viable option? It's easier to understand why and how people become homeless or get into drugs.

The big disappointment is not being able to do Arizona. More than any race this year, that was the one I was looking forward to. Each year goes by and I continue to not get an opportunity to do one. And the sign up period for next year is already caput for many of the ones I'd be able to do. I'm not going to have the funds to travel outside of the US next year now and I won't be ready for a spring IM, and don't want to have to wait all the way until next fall again.

For now I'm trying as best I can to be positive, but since nobody else I know is in a similar situation, it's tough to hear encouraging words because you just want to scream WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW? I can't walk or stand up, I can't bend my knee. I sit on the couch and my entire body is in pain. My arms feel as if I was giving the double dutch rudder for hours and hours.

But I am keeping things in perspective by forcing myself to watch sad stories of people who have/had it worse than me. Like the 2006 Ironman where John Blaze, who had finished the year prior, was basically unable to do anything due to ALS. "Life's not a dress rehearsal," he said. There was a story of a girl who got hit while on a training ride and now can't use her legs. That's how things could have turned out. The speed at which I hit that car and the sound it made, I thought for sure I was going to be eating out of a tube.

So thanks to everyone who has expressed concern and support over the couple days, I do appreciate it. I hope to be back in Baltimore soon but for now I just don't know. I hate being here because I can't even go to the beach right now, which makes being home worthless. And I am going to have to go on a hunger strike so I don't gain too much weight, as that will make any attempt at a comeback that much harder.

The good news is that my friends did kill it in Rhode Island. I saw results for Matias, who went 4:04 which is absurd, and he must have be first amateur because he was 8th overall. Mike Zero killed it in his first half, and Alyssa, just two weeks off of her Western States finish, swam and rode real strong. Amazing since she never does either of those things in training. I wish I could get faster and not have to ride or swim. Ha JKKKKK.


Katie said...

Wow, this was definitely not the post I expected when I checked in tonight. I'm really so so sorry about everything, Ryan.

Senior_Slug said...

Ryan you have always have had the magic touch as far as making the lives of the people around you better. You have been bitch slapped as hard as a person can be slapped. I read through your posting and the Ryan that I have known is still there. In the days ahead just continue to be Ryan.

Kristie said...

I'm frustrated for you. Won't say anything like things have got to get better as I'm sure that just pisses you off. Regardless, stay positive. You seem to be one of the most amazing dedicated and positive people regardless of the shit that is thrown your way.

PR said...

Hang in there dude...get well soon! From the accident account, I'm glad to hear that you "only" broke a few things and tore a few others.

dirkdeheer said...

Hi Ryan, this is dirk from Holland (new to GRC). Even though we've never met, I'm following (and been impressed with) the tri-guys/girls related to GRC and just wanted to wish you a good recovery. I am trying to transition into a duathlete/ triathlete, and thus cycling a lot recently. Been close to crashing a few times with the traffic in the area, and cannot imagine what you are feeling right now. Hope you can keep your head up and focus on the improvements each week!

RM said...

Thanks everyone for the words of encouragement. I'm doing quite a bit better as of right now, now it's time for what I'm sure may turn into a fairly draining legal and financial saga!

Dirk - don't let things like this deter your transition. While it does happen, it actually is pretty rare. The best thing you can do is find a group - cars always notice a group of cyclists easier than just one or two riders!

TurtleHead said...

Ryan, when I first heard of this, I didn't know what to say. I still don't, but I do wish you a speedy recovery.


alyssa said...

I meant to say this earlier but I forgot:

This just proves that spinning class *does* improve your biking skills! Maybs you need to take a lesson from your ole pops.

Wii Fat Marathon said...

Holy crap! What a rotten experience. I read about your incident on the GRC blog.

I often jokingly ask people "What's the last ability you lose before you die?" ... the punchline is "The ability to drive!" ... this 81-year old seems to prove it. I see elderly folks all the time who can't hear, can't see, need help to eat, drink, and use the restroom, but still insist "I can still drive a car!". And I think "Heaven help those who cross your path!". Unfortunately, it seems to be you who had the misfortune of meeting this guy on the road. His first reaction, after finding out he hadn't killed you, seems to be a defensive manuveur to protect his license. A guy lies on the ground, all messed up, and all he can think to say is "He hit me!"? What kind of world do we live in?