August 12, 2007

Not about me

My Pan-Mass Challenge did not turn out quite as expected. Day one 111 miles on Sat. Opened as a beautiful day. A light breeze carried a sense of freshness and excitement that was tangible. At the start point, nearly 4000 cyclists gathered to begin a journey they began preparing months in advance.

As we rode out, I was filled with a sense of belonging. To be a part of such an amazing event had me pedaling like I was on feathers. Little did I know that this feeling was only the beginning. I've done a number of endurance charity rides in the last few years. Each has a special place in my memory. None of them prepared me for the welcome I found in the Massachusetts countryside. People lined the route and it often felt like we couldn't ride two blocks without someone cheering the riders on and thanking us for riding. From little kids wanting to high five the riders to seniors in lawn chairs waving us on. Later in the day as the heat grew people had set up sprinklers or hoses to help cool the riders. Riding through one of these gave a renewed energy to ride for another mile or two. There were families in the middle of no-where passing out ice-cold bottles of water to riders by the truckload.

I initially had wanted to leapfrog 40 miles into the ride in an effort to bypass the hardest sections. However, the constant cheers and encouragement from other riders had me past the hardest hills with a smile pasted on my face. The final pit stop is a mere 7 miles from the finish. I stopped here to ice my knee and chat a bit with my ride partner J. I remember a rider coming into the med tent looking a bit like he was a boiled lobster. I immediately stood and gave him my seat and my ice bag. He was surprised. "I didn't know I was that bad off." I smiled and said, 'you'll be fine, just sit for a while.'

Back on the bike, I alternated checking on J and my odometer. My heart running trills. The rush of passing a full century mark is something that is hard to describe. The century is a bike riders marathon, a mountain climbers summit. According to my cycling computer, I burned over 8000 calories getting to the 100-mile mark. That's about 736 MM's, 32 McDonald's Hamburgers, or 24 medium ice cream cones from Dairy Queen.

I'd like to tell you about the amazing reception at the finish line, but I never saw it. At 108 miles into the ride, another rider swerved into me. I tried to maintain my position, but crashed to the ground, losing consciousness for a brief time. My helmet is crushed on the side I hit on. I would later find out the impact ruptured a blood vessel in my brain, (a subarachnoid hemorrhage), broke two ribs and my clavicle. Road rash over various parts of my body and 8 staples to close a 1.6 inch gash in my head round out the damage.

I was taken by ambulance to one hospital then transferred by medivac helicopter (see photo below) to Mass General in Boston. CT's showed blood was pooling in my skull and my left side neuro responses were slow to respond. I was placed in ICU under constant watch until Sunday evening when another CT determined the ruptured blood vessel was no longer increasing pressure on my brain. I was given a load of anti-convulsion meds and will be taking them for a couple weeks as the blood dissapates. (They almost went in to relieve the pressure.)

Needless to say, I'm in a great deal of pain and have severely restricted ability to move. Would I trade the experience? Not for anything in the world. Despite the crash and the painful reminders when I move, I have a renewed trust in the human spirit. That people all find ways to help. From the cheering kids I high-fived on the side of the road to the riders offering quiet encouragement on the hills to everyone that donated money to help me reach my fundraising goal. Ultimately, It's not about my 8,000 calories, my broken bones or my completion of the ride. It's about cancer and helping those that suffer from it's devastating effects.


At 12:06 PM, Blogger Buffalo said...

Good all over you, MM. Speedy recovery!

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Alice said...

holy crap, dude. glad to hear you're mostly OK. that sucks that you were so close to the finish when it happened... but WOW, 100+ miles? duly impressed :-)

At 6:48 PM, Blogger celtgirl said...

You are truly an inspiration. I do hope you have a speedy recovery. What an accomplishment. And I was impressed with my measly 5K walk. I have a new font of inspiration, you.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger SS said...

Wow, what an amazing story on so many levels. I know I should be worried about the fact that it's been 3 months (assuming this post was written shortly after the accident) and your injuries are still causing you to groan (and I AM worried about that and I do hope that, despite the pain, you've come a long way to healing) but I also can't help but think what an incredible experience that ride must have been. More even than wishing you well I do wish you could have seen the finish line.

That head gash must have been pretty deep to require staples! I've seen those before (an ex-boyfriend once had a brain surgery that required him to get 52 of them in his noggin) and they are not a pretty sight. But, by now I'm thinking that much of you is probably healed nicely. And look what happened to your helmet! I think about that stuff every time I see a guy on a Harley without one on. It really saved your life.

I say, feel free to whine! Don't delete your words venting your frustration. That sort of stuff helps you heal too... though in a different way.

At 12:25 AM, Blogger Jill said...

After looking about, I found this finally.


I mean, damn.

But I am so proud of you. So incredibly proud of you. For what it's worth.


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