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Minor Setback…

March 21, 2011

We’ve all heard those cliches about what one experiences before being involved in a serious accident. “My life flashed before me, it happened in slow motion” etc. Last Friday around 5pm i was out doing hill repeats in West Austin. I was descending Big View drive, one of the longest  climbs in the area. Mr ride, my race season, and a host of other life endeavours were abruptly ended when a driver in a Nissan Xterra did not see me coming down the hill and proceeded to take a left turn onto the road from Riverplace.  A second glance by the driver did catch me and prompted the driver to stop, but having already anticipated the car being fully in the road by the time I reached it, i had changed my course to the right to try and avoid a collision. My life did not flash before my eyes, nor did things switch to slow motion. It happened fast. So fast, that i felt like i was in a dream. i froze in disbelief that i was about to smack this brown hunk of metal with extreme force and there wasn’t a thing i could do about it. The front wheel hit first. The momentum flung my right shoulder into the driver side door, followed by the rest of my body. All i remember past that point was laying on my side behind the vehicle. By the time i propped myself up on my rear, the driver and his son were there trying to assist me and see if i was alright. I’m a pretty tough guy and my instinct in situations like this is to assess damage, walk it off if i can, and get rolling again. My shoulder hurt like hell and i couldn’t move it, but i could still move my fingers and forearms so at first i didn’t attach too much weight to the shoulder problem. My knee was laid open though and starting to bleed nicely, so at that point I knew a trip to the ER would be needed anyways. As i sat a little longer to assess the situation, it became clearer that my shoulder was really jacked up and would need prompt attention. In hindsite, an ambulance ride would have been a good call, but i didn’t perceive my injuries to be life threatening and I wanted Colleen to be there, so i gave her a call at work and arranged with the driver to drop me off  at a gas station about halfway between the accident site and her work.

The driver was courteous and did everything someone in this situation should have done, especially in this age of hit and runs. He put the bike in the rear, helped me get in, even got a paper towel for my gushing knee cut,  and off we went.  The hilly swervy roads to the gas station amplified the shoulder pain and when I grasped where the joint used to be, it was freaky to feel it hanging about 2″ down and tucked into my ribcage.

Colleen found us about two minutes after our arrival. We swapped the bike, the broken body, and insurance info before Colleen drove me to the nearest ER we knew of at St. David’s in south Austin. When your arm feels like it’s about to detach completely from your torso and the pain rates 10 on a 1-10 scale, it feels like check in and treatment can’t happen quickly enough, but they actually did a pretty good job. The first dose of morphine didn’t put a dent in the pain, the second dose started to help, but it was all good when they put me under for a few minutes to reset the joint.

I woke up with a duct taped shoulder and 12 sutures in my knee. Well, they didn’t really use duct tape, but seeing as how my shoulder was far from being good as new, that’s sort of how it felt. Everything else seemed ok so we checked out and rolled down the street to the 24 hr Walgreen’s for some Hydrocodine. I normally turn down pain meds because pain is my body’s way of saying something ain’t right and i should fix it, but in the case, duh, something is obviously not right and I knew the drugs would help me get some rest and back on the road to recovery.

I’ve started to lay off the meds after 3 days and while the right shoulder is the main concern, my left shoulder has some moderate aching and bruising, as well as my left hip. Overall, i just feel banged up. I am able to sleep at night, at least.

Today, Monday, we went to the orthopedic surgeon for a follow up. We did some mechanical tests and Q&A, and while it was a pretty big blow, it doesn’t appear like surgery will be needed (knock on wood). i have to stay in a sling for three more weeks while the soft tissue scars over, and after that i can begin an extensive physical therapy program.With a little luck and a lot of work, perhaps i can be back on the bike by Fall.

Day to day activities we all take for granted are now somewhat of a challenge to me, especially since I’m right handed. Typing, getting out of bed, getting dressed, showering, cooking, you name it. I had a few architecture jobs that I can’t complete. I have lost a pasttime i hold very dear to my heart. Sleeping and watching movies are about the only things I can do. Through all my adversities in life, though, I always try to find the good in them.

1. It could have been worse! Thank God I didn’t smack my head or crack my spine. I’m thankful to still be alive, and at that, able to be sitting at my desk 4 days later writing this post. In fact, all the X-rays i had done didn’t reveal a single broken bone. This is a great testament to the power of the Paleo diet and exercise routine, especially to critics who think one doesn’t get enough calcium through the diet. I can almost guarantee you a pure road cyclist with no cross training and a high grain diet would have smashed quite a few bones in such an impact. I’ve got great faith in the nutrient dense Paleo diet to accelerate my recovery as quickly as possible.  2. The driver of the Xterra and his son are ok, and as far as I know, the vehicle is still drivable. There were no other cars nearby when the accident happened, but there could have been and more injury/damage could have been done. As cyclists, and friends of cyclist, we tend to be one sided when incidents like this occur, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is an ordeal for the motorists too. I’m glad no one else got hurt. 3. Steel is real! I was riding my trusty 1986 Trek Elance 440 that day. Word from the shop is that the frame is still straight and there was barely $100 in damage. Great news, because its a cool bike and would’ve been tough to replace. I bet a modern carbon machine would have splintered into a million pieces. 4. The time off will afford me the opportunity to pursue a new business idea I’ve been toying with the past few months. Luckily it doesn’t require commuting or getting dressed up or any other typical demand one would find at an office job. I can do it from the convenience of my computer, altough typing will be a little slow until i get out of the sling. 5. I have a wonderful wife and friends to help me get by the next few weeks

So, not all is lost, in fact, there is much to be gained. Feel free to swing by and visit if you are in the area. To conclude, I would like to say that if you road ride a lot, no matter where, but especially in hilly populated areas, be very mindful of motorists. It is not their intent to hurt you, but  it’s just the nature of cycling that we aren’t always very visible. Two tons of steel always wins over 165 lbs of flesh. Be safe out there.

Elizabeth Kreutz portrait of Lance following surgery of his right collarbone resulting from a crash in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in March 2009. Lance went on to finish 3rd in the Tour de France that summer.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Greg permalink
    March 30, 2011 3:40 pm

    Scary stuff indeed, glad you are ok. We have met a couple of times on the cross, 24hr, DD course, as a paleo person myself I can definitely relate to how it has helped with my own injuries. If you or Colleen need anything let me know.


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