Monday, August 25, 2014

#runchat Blog Month: Seeking Boston Marathon

Huge shout-out and thanks to the good folks at #runchat for profiling SeekingBostonMarathon in their August blogger profiles sponsored by the Key West Half Marathon. Click the photo or HERE to see the #runchat write-up.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Keep up the Good Work

I have had incredible support from loved ones close to me and my internet running and triathlon community. I went for a three mile walk on Thursday night and came across a group of young kids training with a triathlon team. These were little ones that looked like ages six to eleven. As I was walking back to the car, a steady stream of kids rode by on their bikes with huge smiles on their faces. One of the energetic boys yelled out to me, "keep up the good work!" It seemed out of character for such a mature competitive string of words to come out of such a little athlete.

A huge smile came across my face and I thought to myself. I will...keep up the work, to get back to where I was six weeks ago. Thank you little man.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Juggling Act and Counting Sheep

Tuesday this week was three weeks away from getting wheeled out of the hospital. My latest update since my accident is a bit of a juggling act and perhaps two steps forward and one step back.

I was on a call this week with an executive from my company. Unlike popular opinion and fantasy play, I don't run or compete in triathlons for a living, or make a "plug nickle" off my blog. In other words, I have a "day job." This was the first time, I had the opportunity to talk with him and as most people are, he was a bit shocked to hear of some of the details. I honestly feel, I cheated death not once, but twice. Once on the course, and the other time in the hospital. He commented that I seemed to have a calm about myself which I have also felt as I've gone back to work. It's either the drugs I'm still on, or the event has perhaps somehow altered my look on life.
"Juggling chainsaws"

Being in sales, there's always pressure to deliver. That pressure seems much different post accident. I am not as worried as I used to be. That does not mean that I am not driven. The drive is there and probably stronger. I have hospital bills that will start to arrive and my first of three kids went off for her second year in college. My wife is in her last year of (her return to) college. All of that adds up to what could be financial pressure.

Since I have been back to work, as the pain has finally started to wane, and I'm on less drugs than I have been (more on that below.) I have become more focused on making myself successful at work. The tricky part has been and always is maintaining a balance; work, life, kids, wife, school, finance, and priorities. Given that, what I've also realized is that I have lofty goals to return to the level I was competing at, but I need to put it in proper perspective and a proper timetable.

I have tried to maintain connection with my run and triathlon world, but as I wrote last week, it has been difficult to see races come and go with friends providing amazing results...from the sidelines. Last week, I struggled to see all the stories coming out of the Boulder Ironman. This last weekend, was the Leadville 100. I am not an ultrarunner, but have yet to witness the race first hand. I had visions of going up to cheer on Michael Aish to a victory, but Thursday night last week was another "off night" on sleep and pain management. There was no way I could muster the energy to drive five hours round-trip, walk around the race course, and cheer...all at elevation. The same weekend, was a wicked fast downhill half marathon in Denver. The Revel Marathon (and half marathon.) Having missed the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half already, this would have been my back-up race. Lot's of BQ's and PR's from that race. I would watch them both via Facebook posts. (Aish came in 2nd.)

I was delusional in my thinking in that I thought perhaps I could return for a September race. Trying to stay in tune with at least the social media aspect of running and triathlons, I have jumped into a number of twitter chats and continued to be active with my blog and Facebook Fan Page. Asking my readers, where I should run last weekend if I wanted to try in Denver, one response surprised me.

"Your season is over," he posted.

Those words stuck in me like the 12" tube that was resident to my chest cavity for ten days in the hospital. I longed to return to my PR and podium form. This was the first time, I realized that it is not happening at the end of my summer, and not likely to happen this Fall.
Even though it was only two miles in the gym, it felt great.

Sleep was a disaster Saturday night so I went back to bed early Sunday morning and woke up in a fog in the heat of late morning. I went out as planned for my son's senior (in high school) photo shoot, then returned home to watch some Broncos preseason football.

The hospital Dr. said "wait six weeks without question" for any strenuous activity and no travel. My primary doc told me I could try mild activity last week and a light run this week. I took the later's advice literally. Being stubborn, I ran two miles late Sunday afternoon on the treadmill. In hindsight, it was stupid. My wife was worried (as she should,) that if I was still writhing in pain at night, how could I run? The stubborn part of me wanted to prove to myself that I could still run and perhaps "rush" my recovery time.

I must admit, my pneumothorax played "mind tricks" with my head as I was nervous about how my right lung would react to eighteen minutes of running lungs. The two miles felt okay. It felt odd to have so much wind rushing in and out of those lungs when I've felt "winded" on walks the last two weeks. I hovered perhaps a 9:20 pace which is slow for me. Pre-accident slow and no disrespect to those that consider that their "fast." I was glad to feel that my body could still run, but felt selfish afterwards to put running above my family and overall health.

Sunday night's sleep was just as awful as Saturday night. I slept three hours until 12:30 PM then was up to close to five AM. A couple hours sleep then I had to get up for work. Counting sheep does not work, but counting pills (or should I say taking them) is the only relief.


I still continue to take two flavors of oxy, one tablet twice a day for slow release pain relief, and at night, an "acute" 5mg to deal with the pain from trying to sleep. This last weekend when race reports were rolling in on the internet, my mailman delivered the disk I'd ordered from the hospital of the cat scans and xrays to share with my chiropractor and local doc. Not that I'd forgotten, but the 3D image of my four broken ribs reminded me, that I didn't exactly stub my toe, I was in the ICU with major trauma injuries. It may be awhile before I return to form.

Ending this week's report on a "high note," last night was a first. I slept from 10PM to around 4AM. The first time I'd slept six hours in one block. The previous high (no pun intended since I'm "high" when I'm sleeping) was four hours. (UPDATE: Hotel night number one I was pretty tired from travel and expected another six hour night of sleep. Too much on my mind perhaps combined with a sore body from travel added up to about three hours of sleep. Now Wednesday, I'm once again thinking, there's no way I don't absolutely "konk out" tonight.) Something positive to build on in terms of overall sleep improvement. Another first? I flew on Tuesday for the first time as I get back to work. I landed with both lungs functioning. A good thing.

Thanks for all the positive vibes and comments. For now, I will try and juggle less and not rush my return. Running will come in due time...perhaps not as quick as I want.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Crash Course: Four Week Update

On Saturday, it will be four weeks from the triathlon bike crash that sent me to the hospital with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Another Seeking Boston rehab update. Crash post HERE.

In some respects there has been a lot of progress, and in others it seems like the healing process isn't happening quick enough. I sense my family is tired of asking,

"how do you feel today?"
"how did you sleep last night?"

Not so much that they are tired of asking, but I'm tired of the  same answers. I met with my general practitioner last week and he "tweaked" my pain meds since I had still been waking up every 1-2 hours in pain and needing another pill. If I slept (rarely,) a full three hours, I would be in intense pain. Regardless, this has been my biggest challenge and that is night-time pain management and getting some decent sleep. I went back to work last week which overall has been great, but sitting in an office chair for periods of time or talking for long periods of time tax my body.

Some conference calls, you merely have to listen and occasionally "chime in." My toughest call was a nighttime Singapore (their morning) call where I had to cover the first 30 minutes. I was short of breath near the end. On a call with my boss this week, I had the same thing happen. It's a bit disconcerting to get out of breath merely talking when six weeks ago, my lungs were in the best shape of my life. Given that, my company has been great telling me to ease back into it and understand when I need to sneak off for a nap in the afternoon, or last Friday when I cancelled my call with my boss altogether because meds were wreaking havoc with my system.

On a positive note, I had two nights that provided a bit of a breakthrough in that I slept in blocks of four hours. I am hoping that I hit a new phase of my recovery and that's going to be a positive trend. Last night however lapsed into one three hour block, intense pain, and disrupted 30 minutes to an hour of drug sleep until my work alarm went off.

Some have recommended sleeping on the side of my broken ribs on a pillow. Even on my highest dose of drugs, I can't do this even for a couple minutes yet. For someone that proclaimed that I can't sleep on my back, I've set some kind of record as that's all I've done since July 19th. I'll "take" the progress of those two nights with four hour sleep "blocks. " This is infinitely better, but it's still a rough night's sleep.

Exercise

When you're little, there's the concept of "ask mom, ask dad," and take the best answer. When I asked my Dr. in the hospital how soon I could get back to training, he looked at me like I was crazy. He wanted six weeks off of any exercise, and travel. My general practitioner is a bit more liberal and suggested I could start mild "non-impact" exercise this week. I am following his advice.

I took two long walks last week which was awesome just getting out in the sun and getting a bit of a sweat worked up. Surprisingly, there was no temptation to try and run even 100 yards, as I'm taking my rehab advice quite literally so I can get out there as soon as possible at the best possible strength. Yesterday, was the first time I drove a car. Something that hasn't happened since I got my license back in the '70's (going three weeks without driving.) Yes, I am a time traveler.

The other "first" was my first time back on a bike. Don't get that excited. Not that thrilling since it was a stationary bike with no dangers of a 30+ mph wipe out on a downhill corner. Regardless, it great to get the legs turning over a bit. A day after the bike ride, I went out for my longest walk yet of 3.5 miles. While this was encouraging, it was discouraging to be winded walking up a hill. My how far my training has slipped. I know...I know...I can't be that hard on myself as I was in ICU a mere three weeks ago with a collapsed lung, but I am anxious to get back to where I was before the accident.

Normalcy

Getting back to work has been great for my recovery and so has some mild exercise. My energy at the end of the day, end of the week, and on the weekends is not where I want it to be. I am burned out on the television, but that's good news for my writing as I've been blogging more than I have had time for in recent months and produced (at least what I thought was) my funniest illustrated video blog of the phone scam guy that called me and how I turned the tables on him see POST HERE.)

I have filed a claim through my home owner's insurance on my bike, helmet, tri-suit, etc that was totaled in the Rocky Mountain State Games Triathlon. Still waiting on what they will cover and whether or not I replace the Trek Speed Concept 7.0, or go after something like a Specialized Shiv. For now, my totaled bike is sitting in the bike shop collecting dust. I didn't want the daily reminder hanging out in my office.

I feel sorry for my wife as I'm sure I have been a giant pu**y throughout this ordeal. I guess I fit the stereotype there of a tough athlete that turns into a big baby when they're sick. I miss date nights, fine wine, intimacy, and cold beer. Without getting into details, extreme pain and narcotics are not good for the bedroom, and man is not meant to go very long without sex, beer, AND running. How much can one guy take?

At least I got to drive a car this week. One step at a time.

Footnote: I surveyed readers on whether or not they would expect to hear from a race director in a small race that sent them to the hospital. Overwhelming response was "YES!" I had written it off until I ran into the parent of another athlete who raced that day on my son's team. He spoke to the race director a couple days after and told him how serious my injuries were and that I was in ICU in the hospital. I'll paraphrase, but it was something to the effect of "because of liability," I can't call him. Some gave him the benefit of the doubt if he didn't know. He knew that day as I saw him run over to me with his walkie talkie. I now know he heard of my situation a couple days later. Oh well. Unlikely, I will race there next year. The final insult was I was guaranteed a podium as there were only two others in my age group with attendance way down from 2013. My guess is that 2015 will be even lower with this kind of karma. I will move on.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meme Monday: A Champion Gets Up

I got an email from my favorite Aunt Marge this last week with a quote from (famous boxer) Jack Dempsey which is inspiration for this weeks Meme Monday.

"That was you the day you crashed.  Luv You, Marge"

My aunt was not just referring to my crash resulting in four broken ribs and a collapsed lung. She'd heard that after I wiped out roughly 1/3 of the way through the first of three laps, I gathered my composure, grabbed my water bottle which sprawled to the other side of the street, and got back on my bike. This was after telling the nearby officer that I was "okay."



































I rode for two miles (roughly) to get to the transition area completing one of three laps. My breathing became even more constricted, and my bike was in even worse shape. I pulled off to the side of the road just beyond the first lap where the medics (and subsequently) the ambulance showed up. The overlay image above shows the bloody elbow that started to pool onto my padded tri bars.

I'm now entering my fourth week of my triathlon rehabilitation. Last week's progress report (including link to original crash post) can be found HERE.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Day Bill Gates Tried to Take Down Seeking Boston

It has been a wild "magic toad ride" the last three weeks which has challenged my ability to maintain my sense of humor. This week, I got a peculiar phone call  which I recognized right away as a scam. Perhaps influenced by the pain medications I was on, I didn't hang up. I decided to play along...and record it as a public service announcement and perhaps some deviant fun.

You may be able to temporarily take away my ability to train, but you'd better not threaten Seeking Boston Marathon's world headquarters computer.

(Rated PG13 for at least one "F-Bomb.")




And a reminder to vote daily for Seeking Boston in the Chocolate Milk Contest (HERE.)


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

First Crash and First DNF Post Mortem: Two Weeks Beyond

I made a vow on the last day of July that I would leave all negativity behind me. This is sometimes much easier said than done when recovering from an injury. On July 19th, I suffered my first ever crash on a bike (race or training) which also resulted in my first ever DNF. (Crash Course blog post HERE.) Two weeks and three days after the injury and five days into my self-proclaimed "nothing but sunshine" proclamation, I'm having a hard time keeping my happy face on. Locally, the Ironman Boulder was running on Sunday August 3rd.
In the E.R. before the chest tube was put in

While I had no plans to race at the Ironman level this summer, I had big plans for my accomplishments in shorter courses. I'll admit, it has been tough to see all the social media posts on my friends who competed in Boulder. Don't get me wrong, I am happy for them and very proud of some of the results I've seen. Regardless, as the stories came out on Monday, my pain had not waned by much and I still struggle to sleep more than 1-2 hours at a time at night even with heavy doses of narcotics. Knowing that I'm still at least a month away from my first run or swim makes it even tougher.

With that, a progress report of sorts on what's happened since my accident at the Rocky Mountain State Games Triathlon in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

First off, I would be curious to get some candid feedback. The RMSG Triathlon Race Director knew I was in the hospital as he showed up on the scene with his walkie talkie once I'd pulled out of the race and the medics were arriving. Would you expect to hear from a race director (particularly in a smaller race) if a competitor had a severe crash that sent them to the hospital? I'm a bit shocked I never heard a word from them.

The Body and the Drugs

Drugs were a very bad thing while I was in the hospital as I discussed in the Crash course blog write-up as one morning, I nearly didn't wake up as my blood oxygen consumption dropped to 50%. From what I've seen, anything below 80% can be dangerous or potentially life-threatening.  My oxygen has been a wild "magic toad ride" since then starting with the car ride home. Knowing I was at least a couple hours away from the Target Pharmacy and my home medications, the nurse gave me a full dose (three pills worth) of my Oxy for the ride. I was still quite buzzed by the time we reached the neighborhood Target store and apparently, I was scaring some of the small children and at one point stated out loud that I was "really high."
3D Image showing some of the broken ribs.

Yeah, no shit.

The pain continues to be centered around my right rear scapula. If I was a Game of Thrones character, I would have taken a crossbow arrow through the front chest plate out out the shoulder blade if I was describing the pain to the "Medieval Barber."

The Dr. sent me home with two variants of Oxy; Oxycontin which is my twice a day pill, and the other was a 5mg short-acting (every 3-4 hours) "roxy" oxycodone. At some point, I will move to "over-the-counter" drugs. By the time Saturday night rolled around (four days at home) I realized I was going to run out of the short-acting pills (Roxy) before the end of the weekend so had to start rationing the pills and went to a combination of Tylenol and Motrin during the day.

Chest tube scar to the left of my arm
(SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU"D PREFER NOT TO HEAR BODY FLUID DETAILS) Aside from the obvious side-effects, the worst was constipation (I know...TMI...) Fortunately, I was able to take one small "number two" while at the hospital so they were able to release me without going to any extreme measures. My appetite has been fine so I've ingested a ton of food...including some varieties that you would expect to "get some things going" like burritos, chili, and lasagna. All attempts of maintaining a gluten-free or gluten-light diet have "gone out the window." Approaching my tenth or eleventh day post-accident at home, my stomach (and bowels) were no longer able to manage all the "short-term residents," but normal attempts of "emptying" over a period of twelve hours yielded nothing. Taking matters into my own hands, we resorted to an emena which finally resolved the clogging issue. I won't get into details, but let's just say if Snooki ever had a baby...well, you get the idea.

Much of my road rash is healing fine although I've got some respectable scabs on both elbows, shoulderblades, and along my right side. I had stitches removed on Monday from my right elbow where tendons were exposed during the crash. After three days of having a dressing on my chest tube entrance wound, I've now exposed it to being "air healed." The wound (and eventual scar) is pretty intense and resembles either a prison "shiv" incident (I've watched too much "Orange is the New Black" T.V. show) or as I nicknamed it, a "Cabbage Patch Doll" vagina. Both gross and inappropriate.

I will have my primary care follow-up on Thursday, but stopped in to the Emergency Care to get my pain short-term "Roxy" medication refilled on Monday as my first day back to work with over the counter during the day was not working and had run out of night-time help.
Trek bike is totaled. Cracked carbon frame. #doh

The Bike and Gear

Before I came home from the hospital, I asked my wife to hide my bike. Mentally, I was still wrestling with my "brush with death" emotions and didn't want to see the mangled Trek Speed Concept 7.0 in my office as a reminder. It wasn't so much about the cost (at that time, I still thought it might be reparable) but the visual memory of the wreck itself. She took my advice literally and took it to Bicycle Village where I'd bought it a mere two seasons ago. All three bike techs labeled it as "totalled" with the most egregious damage being a cracked carbon frame in the center of the crossbar. They were also shocked to learn that I only had four cracked ribs and a collapsed lung based on the amount of damage. They were further impressed that I got back on my bike for another two miles thinking I might be able to finish. (I pulled off course shortly after one of three loops on the bike course once I realized my body and bike were not going to make it.)

As energy allowed, I started looking at the other components of my race and realized they were in equally poor shape. My Bontrager helmet was cracked. Again, at first I wasn't worried so much about
the cost of getting a new helmet, but the fact that my head did in fact strike the asphalt. The whole right side is dented and there's a crack near the rear of the helmet. I also found a scab inside my ear that had gone undiscovered for two weeks. I felt like I'd once again dodged something that could have been much more serious.

I had a curious injury to the top of my right foot and my Louis Garneau carbon shoes showed (again) that my right side took the brunt of the fall as the right shoe was ripped up by the black asphalt. My Tyr Tri Suit was equally surprising. Inspection of the suit showed tears starting again on the right shoulder, but the whole upper back of the suit took either a bounce or roll  as it is ripped up across the back. There are also blood stains mainly around the right hip where I took a fair amount of "road rash."

Insurance

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield have proved to be a complete circus on this whole fiasco. I wrote from my hospital bed (under heavy drugs) that my Dr. had recommended "plating" my ribs due to pain management and the severity of the breaks. Short version is they denied insurance coverage while I was in the hospital, but when I called (from ICU,) they initially said, "we'll call you back in 48 hours."  "Ummm...you don't understand, I'm in ICU and trying to get this surgery this week." They offered me a appeal which would provide a verbal answer within 72 hours.  They never called. Out of sheer curiosity and still in pain, I called yesterday (six days after they said they would get back to me.) Giving them the call reference number, the woman said "it was denied." The appeal....the original? "I'll call you back today," she said. I still haven't heard back. I it didn't hurt to laugh, I would. What a joke.

With a totaled bike, helmet, shoes, tri-suit, etc., I am in the process of submitting to insurance to see about mainly getting a new bike. Yes! I do plan to get back on that horse. Unsure if I will go with the same Trek Speed Concept 7.0, Specialized Shiv, or some other tri bike. Only thing that makes me hesitate on Trek is out of superstition, but may be the route I have to go as far as getting the most out of insurance.

Races and Recovery

I was scheduled to race in the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon next weekend and that's obviously not happening. I wrote to the race director hoping for a refund, deferral, or even
offering some volunteer efforts to apply my registration to 2015. I was unable to break 1:29 last month at the Slacker Half Marathon and felt training was putting me in a decent shot of cracking that time. That's obviously not happening as the Dr. has put me on a strict "no activity" routine for at least six weeks. It's not just the matter of healing the ribs, but the dangers of the recurring pneumothorax which could be quite dangerous.

I am not taking the Doctor's guidance lightly and have no plans to try and come back early. Having said that, I did get in three half mile walks since I've been home, but my chest and breathing is not ready for much more than that. On Saturday, we went out to the reservoir where my son trains with his triathlon team and soaked up some sun for about 45 minutes while he was training and we were enjoying the coffee and rolls. While it was tough to watch athletes out there training (and wanting to do the same,) I enjoyed the dose of Vitamin D.


Lungs

I was sent home with an Airlife Inspirometer which I'm supposed to use ten times every hour which measures the capacity of my lungs. While pain still persists, my efforts are paying off as I've crept up to 3500--the scale only goes up to 4000 so my conditioning as a distance runner put me at an advantage with my rehab. A long road ahead, but perhaps something to build on.

To end on a high note, the outpouring of support from friends, family and my blog and social media has been phenomenal. This has been very helpful to keep my spirits up and focused on recovery and "getting back out there." A special thanks to Runner's World and their PR team who sent me a get well care package to my house that was waiting for me when I got home from the hospital. As posted on Facebook, my thank you card to them below. Unexpected, classy, and greatly appreciated!