Not Exactly How I Wanted To Test Recovery
This year's been an interesting one, but not for any of the reasons I expected.
Back in April I raced the Tour of the Battenkill road bike race as I have the past couple of years but it didn't quite go as I expected or hoped. I remember being at the start of the race, meeting up with a couple of my State 9 Racing teammates, and listening to the pre-race information as our field was next to be sent off.
Then it was 3 weeks later.
A couple hours after the start of the race, just before mile 50, I crashed at a high speed on a steep downhill. It's a downhill I've done in previous years, at similar speeds, but spectators that saw it say my front wheel slid out on some sand going into a curve, only to catch a crack in the pavement mostly sideways soon after and send me flipping. I was going right around 50mph at the time according to my Garmin.
A photographer got a few pictures of the end of the crash. Apparently I flipped over once landing mostly on my wheels, then a second time landing mostly on the right side of my face. That knocked me unconscious and I ragdoll-slid on the pavement until I eventually came to a stop.
After a helicopter ride to Albany, I had a 10 day hospital stay with a broken neck, traumatic brain injury (a concussion, bleeding, and nerve damage), collapsed cheekbone and a whole lot of road rash. You can even see the helicopter ride on Strava.
I had surgery to add some plates around the orbit of my eye to reconnect to my cheekbone, and was eventually allowed home though aside from a few still images my memory doesn't pick back up until I was home for a couple of weeks. Apparently during that time my memory would last a few hours before I would forget things, but it was somewhat hard for others to have a good feeling of what I remembered and what I didn't and wasn't aware of.
One of the stranger parts of it was timing - it was just at the end of winter, and the morning of the race was 50F, with brown grass, and leafless trees. When my memory started working again it was the first week of May, 80F, the grass was green and trees were filled with leaves. To me it seemed like it was the next day and that made for a very strange feeling.
Although it was a severe crash, after the dust settled doctors expected me to make a full recovery given time. I've always felt my strength as an endurance athlete is that I recover very quickly, whether it's on a lul in the course, or just day over day, but I didn't have any plans to put it to the test in quite this way.
So, over the next 3 months it was a whole lot of plateaus and spikes of recovery, and over the last couple of weeks even some more steady recovery. Every couple of weeks I would think I felt pretty good, but not 100%, and then a couple of weeks later would realize just how far from 100% I had been to feel so much better again than I had prior.
The upside to all of this was that at least while I was out of work and far from myself, I got to spend a lot of close time with my 7 month old son Simon. If I had to chose a time and place for this to happen, this would be it. Being at the race meant there were plenty of people around to get help, and being this year meant my wife and son were home to keep me company.
At this point I've been cleared of my neck collar, and cleared for physical activity again. The biggest limitation is double vision. Due to the nerve damage in my head one of my eyes isn't looking down normally so my eyes get out of sync as I look down and I end up with double vision. It's something that can often heal by itself, but takes 6-12 months to happen.
A couple of weeks ago my vision got noticeably better - looking straight ahead is no longer doubled and it's made huge difference, allowing me to look at computer screens again, drive, and even go for runs. It's a good sign that it improved just 3 months in and it will likely improve even more, but even if it doesn't I can live with this - it just makes going down stairs hard.
So, I'm back to catch up on blogging, starting to run again, and hopefully getting back to being me. In the meantime, a little extra Simon time is a pretty great boost to the morale.