Ep 57 – Sometimes it Takes a Crash [Lessons Learned]

Glenn Johnson PIR | Live Fit

 

In this episode I’m going to share some things that are more of a personal nature than I usually do. I’m going to discuss:

  • The obstacles that kept me from doing something that I love
  • how I dealt with it
  • how I recovered, and
  • what I learned from it

Sometimes it takes an accident, or some other illness or event, to make a person learn a lesson.

The Bike Is Magic

As you probably know, I am an avid cyclist. I like to ride bicycles. I like to ride for fun, exercise, commuting, and sport, in all weather and terrain. I honestly believe there is magic in a bicycle. Whenever I am feeling bad (for any reason – sick, stressed, tired, etc.), a bike ride always makes me feel better. Even if it’s only for the time I’m actually riding the bike, it’s still worth it. Riding a bike makes me feel like a kid. It makes me feel free. It is a great way to see a countryside, to commute, and to stay in shape.

Circumstances

I have ridden less miles this year than I have in the last 12. This is not because I lost that loving feeling, but because I have been putting my attention, and therefore energy, into other things, such as helping others prevent illness through coaching and teaching. I was still riding and running and lifting at the gym, but I wasn’t racing or training for racing very much.

In fact, racing this year has been sort of a folly. It seemed that every time I planned to race, something came up to stop me. Work, family, illness, and even (embarrassingly enough) weather kept me from riding as much as I would have liked.

My first race this year was in April and loved it. I had a great time and couldn’t wait to get out there again. But I wasn’t able to until late August. What stopped me? Initially work and family obligations. But then I came down with pneumonia which, didn’t keep me off the bike, but it did keep me slow. This lasted a 4 weeks and then it took another month to get my fitness back up enough to race ((even at that I couldn’t hang, but I tried and had fun)).

Premonition

Do you want to hear something weird? I’ve had a premonition that I would crash racing at PIR (Portland International Raceway) for about two years, and that I’d break my collar bone. I can’t say it was a a certain premonition because people crash there nearly every race. And though I’ve been lucky and able to avoid them, I felt my luck was running out and with every race a crash was getting closer. I’ve tried not to let this interfere with my racing. I didn’t want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy and I don’t think I did. Crashing is always a possibility, but you can’t let it get to you. The prospect was enough to keep me ultra alert and near the front, but I don’t think it drew me toward a crash.

Aside

For those of you not familiar with road racing, it is similar to the TdF where we all start at the same time, usually ride in a big group, and sprint at the end for the finish. This is where crashes happen most often.

Races are held every Monday and Tuesday evening throughout the summer months on a motor racing track called Portland International Raceway. Each lap is about two miles long on flat, smooth, and wide asphalt. It is really an ideal road racing environment and is a great place to hone your skills and get in a fantastic workout. We are lucky to have it.

Accident

I was feeling good, strong, clear headed, and motivated during the last race of the season. We were on lap 3 when on a fast corner a guy ahead of me clipped the front wheel of someone else, he went down and I had no where to go. So I plowed into him and went flying. Me and my beloved bike hit the tarmac at about 32 mph, bounced and rolled to the edge of the track.

I came to in the grass and said to myself “what happened?” I knew that I crashed, but was really wondering to what extent the damages were. I tried to sit up, but my head was spinning I had to lay down again for a few seconds. When I sat up next I saw about 4 guys on the ground and 4 or 5 more stopped and in the process of getting back in the race. I stood up and noticed that my knee was bloody, check the rest of my body out and said “that wasn’t so bad.”

Go Raw | Dr Will Bar | Live FitI picked up my bike and inspected it. In so doing I felt a strange sensation in my left collar bone and thought to myself, there isn’t a joint there. But, I didn’t want to think about it too much at the time. There was no need. At this point I only felt pain on my hip and elbow and saw a little blood on my knee. My jersey was a little abraded on the left shoulder, but I didn’t feel much. I realized that I was in a slight state of shock, but my thinking was clear, I was calm and felt pretty good. I also knew that if I let my imagination wander I would probably not be functional. Me and a teammate walked to the start/finish line where the medic told me my clavicle was broken. I was not surprised, but needed time to accept it. I noticed I’d been holding my arm bent at the elbow with my hand tucked into my waistband to support it – as if I had a sling on.

Fortune

Fortunately, my Dad who is a sports photographer was there and he took me to the ER where I saw an x-ray of the bones that used to be one. My clavicle snapped like a pencil and had sharp, jagged ends crossing each other. There was also a crack in my shoulder blade and a couple in my ribs and several spots of road rash.

Rest In Peace

Broken Clavicle | Live Fit Lean

What happened next surprised me, the doctor told me to go home and wait for my surgery appointment. So, I spent the next four days and nights laying nearly motionless on the couch.

I am a very busy, and active person. I do not like to be stationary. I don’t even like stationary bikes. I don’t like going to bed at night to sleep because I can’t do anything. I’m a task oriented person and I have many irons in the fire and balls in the air.

I’m not only physically active, but mentally as well as I am constantly planning classes, creating programs, writing articles, and all the little things that come with teaching and running a small business. I don’t like to lay on the couch for more than 30 minutes at a time.

I tried to make good use of my time by using a computer, but I didn’t have the mental where-with-all because of the pain and the meds. Plus, I could only type with one hand and I would get drowsy after 15 minutes.

My intentions then shifted to enjoying some entertainment. Reading didn’t work, but I thought I could watch some movies or TV series’. I can be productive while laying on the couch, right? In a way?

But, that didn’t work either. I couldn’t focus and nothing was interesting. Plus, I kept falling asleep.

So, I really could do NOTHING.

Nothing.

It took some time to get used to. It reminded me of one summer when I rode my bike from Fairbanks, Alaska to SLO, CA. I was pedaling all day, but my mind didn’t have much to do but look at scenery and read road signs. It took me three or four days to get used to it initially, and then I had to fight a rebellion a week later when my mind couldn’t believe it still was not needed.

So here I was doing nothing. Not even pedaling. Truly nothing. I couldn’t even heal because I was waiting for surgery. So I laid there, napped, pondered, ate soup, and my wife’s healthy cookies. She baked cookies, which smelled amazing and I ate them which also tasted amazing. I know you shouldn’t use food for emotional reasons, but these cookies made me feel better.

Wife

Speaking of my wife. She missed her calling and should have been a nurse. Sharma took such good care of me. Thank you honey.

Be Careful What You Wish For

As I laid there, I thought of all the times I had far too much to do in far too little time and was stressed beyond good health. I know this isn’t healthy and I would usually work off this stress with exercise, such as a bike ride. But, I remembered halfway wishing for something to happen that would give me no choice but to lay down for days at a time. Be careful what you wish for. I didn’t truly wish this for me, but it was a thought that I recognized as a cry for help to slow down.

Surgery

I crashed on Labor Day and had a my clavicle put back together with a plate screwed in that Friday night. I have never spent a night in a hospital as a patient so I was looking forward to it for the experience. This was my worst night of sleep in years. I didn’t sleep. I had tubes hooked to each limb and my head. So I couldn’t move much. Plus all the sounds and nurses checking on me and my roommate were disruptive. But, that’s ok, I got plenty of sleep on the couch. Now we’re old friends and I miss it.

Clavicle Plate Repair | Live Fit Lean

Clavicle Plate Repair

I left the hospital the next day. I found out later, right about that time a friend of mine was breaking his left collar bone racing and he had to wait 11 days before his surgery. Talk about purgatory.

Healing

The following Monday morning I woke up feeling “normal”. My body was no longer in emergency mode and could focus on healing. My stress level had gone down enough to let me heal.

This was something I hadn’t thought of and didn’t realize I didn’t feel normal, until I did again. I almost jumped for joy. But, my shoulder still hurt so I didn’t. I still had plenty of pain in various places, but I knew I was on the mend and I’d be better soon enough. Two days later I was off the narcotics. A week later I was back at work and my road rash was healed. In fact, the adhesive from the tape has lasted longer than the bruises and abrasions.

Set Backs

I had a few set backs this year with my riding. There was work, family, illness and now a broken bone. But, I will get back on the horse.

Set backs are what defines us. How do you handle the tough spots in life? Do you collapse or jump back up? How badly do you want it? Are you willing to work for it?

The Moral of the Story

If a lesson can’t be learned from all this, it was wasted. I didn’t find an error in my bike handling, so no lesson there. Other than not racing, it couldn’t have been prevented. Except that I ride my bike anyway so there can be an accident at any time. In fact a few weeks before, I had a major malfunction on my bike and it could have resulted in the same injury. I don’t want to live in a bubble. I want to live and enjoy life. I want to get the most out of this go around. I want to learn, and teach, and experience, and love. Life if worth living. Life is amazing and so is the human body. Watching it heal before my eyes is amazing. Seeing what modern medicine can do to help it is amazing.

Lesson Learned

  1. Sit and do nothing
  2. Relax and accept my situation
  3. Enjoy silence
  4. Think
  5. Appreciate those around you
  6. Learn who your true friends are
  7. Pain vs discomfort
  8. See life through a different perspective
  9. Persevere against obstacles – never give up
  10. The pain I expected from an accident like this was not as bad as I feared.
  11. Appreciate the simple joy of feeling “normal”
  12. This was a good, memorable experience that will help me relate with others
  13. I put on 5 lbs right away – cookies and ice cream
  14. I will ride and race again

Conclusion

I’m actually thankful for the year I’ve had so far. I learned a lot. I experienced a lot and this will help me relate and coach others. I don’t want life to be boring.

Update

On May 27, 2016 I went into surgery again to have the plate removed from my clavicle.  Here is a photo of what they took out.

Clavicle plate

Clavicular stabilization plate and screws

 I feel so much better now. Free. Whole. Complete. Yes, I was complete before, but I didn’t feel “right”. Now I do and I also feel like I can move on. It’s done.

Over.

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