A day in the life of a Triathlete.

I’ve been struggling with what to write about in another blog post. I’ve just been training all winter, so nothing interesting to report really. Until Monday. I was 5days into a 2 1/2 week camp in Portugal, coming to the end of a 3 hour ride in the hills around Vilamora, when BANG… my rear tyre blew up on a decent. The wheel locked up and I went over the handlebars, landing on my left wrist, then rolled and skidded along the tarmac on my hip. Lucky really, seeing as 15m away from my final stopping point was a 50m sheer drop. It could have been worse. I’m definitely not writing about this for they sympathy vote, but because the rest of the day was full of moments of comedy, weirdness and all too good not to share.

So, there I am, lying in the road in a tiny Portuguese village. I was riding with fellow cyclist John, who was excellently calm in the situation and called everyone necessary- Thank you!! After a couple of minutes some of local villagers appeared – probably because a bike inner tube blowing up sounds like a gun shot- followed by my screams of ‘oooo ouch, that hurts a bit.’ Must have sounded like someone had been shot. One lady very kindly thought it appropriate to protect my face from the glorious sun beaming into my eyes – so she popped her sun hat over my face. Just to recap – I’m lying in the middle of the road, obviously been involved in a crash, and now my face is now being covered. To anyone passing by it must have looked like I had died!! Classic.

As soon as I stopped my slide along the ground I knew my wrist was broken – it was zig zag shaped. John, in an effort to keep spirits up, tried to reassure that it could just be a bad sprain and really swollen. Only to be corrected by the local Portuguese lady who said ‘no, no it’s definitely broken – look at it.’ Tactful…

I don’t know how long it took, but eventually the Ambulance arrived. They went though all the usual spinal/neck injury checks. Fortunately I managed not to hit my head during my crash, so all ok there. I was picked up and carried/walked to the Ambulance, apparently – I can’t remember the walk, I just remember waking up lying on the ground next to the ambulance. Faint #1 of the day.

On the way to the hospital it was established that I was an elite triathlete, and that my left hip had been scrapped raw, and that I had a hole in my new bike shorts. Yeah – I’d ruined my new bike shorts. Annoying.

I arrived at Faro A and E, was checked in- and transferred from the bed into a wheel chair, given a pair of slippers (seriously…) and left in a waiting room where I must have been the youngest by 30 years. I was in there for nearly 2 hours, not allowed any food or drink and still not given any pain killers. I nearly reached Faint #2 but managed to breath my way through it, before being called for an X-ray. So, rather pathetically I wheeled myself single handedly (quite literally) to the next waiting room.

I should mention that I hadn’t been abandoned by my friends – they had gone back to the hotel to collect my passport and insurance documents etc and were on their way.

So, eventually, my friend Tom arrived with all necessary documentation and talked his way past the ogre-esque security guard. Then the fun really began. We were told to go for an X-ray, guessing our way round the hospital corridors we eventually found it. In I went. I needed to move from wheelchair to X-ray stool. Faint #2. They arranged my arm for X-rays, seemingly with little regard that I needed the X-ray because it was broken and so ‘flipping’ hurt. An inability to manoeuvre was not taken into account until Faint #3 happened mid way through setting up. Eventually got through that and was wheeled into the X-ray results waiting room. Still not allowed any food or drink. However, Tom had smuggled in some contraband water, and ensured I was adequately rehydrated.

This waiting room was like a scene from a comedy/horror/war movie. About 15 injured people with bandages stapled around different parts of their anatomy. Ranging from a guy laid down on a gurney with blood covered face and banged hand. To an Everton fan (I know this due to his attire), with a bandaged foot. Then a lady with the comedic bandage round the forehead. This room was home for another couple of hours, where almost experiencing Faint #4 of the day. I was now definitely hypoglycaemic – it was 5 pm, Id only eaten half a cereal bar since breakfast at 8.30am and I’d done a near 3 hour ride. Not ideal. But then the most surreal moment happened. A nurse (who looked like a cliche of a nurse) appeared at the doorway, announced my name- I identified myself, she walked over to me pointed to my arm and just said “’tis broken.” In a very drool, emotionless way, then just walked out again. What a way to deliver such a bombshell.

Eventually I was taken into the plaster room, here I finally spoke to a doctor about what I had actually done. His diagnosis was a broken Scaphoid, fractured Radius (on the bad side- his words) and a bit chipped off the end of my ulna. Brilliant. Triple whammy. If you’re going to do something, do it well.

So, 6 hours after crashing, still without a sniff of painkillers or, more importantly sugar, I was laid on a bed in the plaster room (which can only be described as a messy school art studio, with plaster of Paris on the floor and walls.). Finally a local anaesthetic was administered, and three doctors started pulling my wrist into the right shape. Then a fourth, and fifth arrived. Each of them grabbing a finger each. Mean while, my whole body is shaking (literally), and I’m being told to relax by the junior doctor. Then he leans over and says “this is definitely going to hurt.”. Bed side manner, just amazing. Tom, meanwhile is trying to distract me by pointing out the meat hook hanging from the ceiling (really), and describing the scene outside the window.

On my way out of getting plastered, a young doctor appeared from nowhere. He asked me if I was ‘the professional triathlete’ and if he could take my pulse. With no energy to question his motives I obliged. I sat there in the wheelchair, while he sat there opposite me, taking my pulse, asking what my testing heart rate was. ’44’ I replied, this obviously impressed him as i got an approving grin and nod. Having taken my pulse, he gave me my arm back with another approving nod, a wink and smile, and disappeared. I’m sure he maybe hadn’t considered I had just exited the torture chamber having had 5 men pulling my broken bones into the right place. Again, couldn’t make it up!

I went back to X-ray, greeted by the same team as before. They were a little kinder with me this time. No more fainting incidents. Just a few jokes that injuries such as mine were a good reason why they didn’t ride bikes. Fair enough. The X-rays showed the plaster and splint were doing their job.

I was free to be discharged- after a visit to the vending machine. Where I downed two cans of coke, a cereal bar and family bag of chewy sweets. THE most well balanced meal I’ve ever eaten… NOT. I was sorry to be parting company with my wheel chair, but beyond happy to be heading back to my hotel and friends. Tom had done a great job of packing warm clothes, food and drinks for me. He was also brilliant at distraction throughout the whole hospital ordeal. Thank you Tom!

Eventually we found our way out of Faro hospital, then negotiated Faro city rush hour and made it back to the hotel, after another stop off for sugary drinks. I checked by bike over, its ok on the surface – apart from a buckled rear wheel. Everyone on the camp reacted with kindness and offers of help. The best part of the whole thing was my coach of 12 years, Nick Anderson, doing my hair each morning. That’s dedication to your athletes needs and should be part of the coaching manual!!

I’ve flown home already, been to hospital over here and am getting fixed up. Initial thoughts are that I don’t need surgery, however I’m being monitored closely and if my bones shift from their current position in the cast, then I will. Fingers crossed. I’m not the kind of person to wallow in self pity, as you can probably tell by the humor employed in this blog. I’ll be honest, I was in great shape, aiming to qualify for the elite World Duathlon Championships. Obviously that’s now out the window. So, I’ll readjust my goals. There are plenty of races throughout the season. Short term goals are to do anything and everything possible to mend, recover and rehab. I’ve already spoken to various people to help with this, including my nutritionist, physio and coaches. There’s a lot to be done. I’ve never broken a bone before, I’ve also never had a serious injury. I’m looking forward to seeing how I react to this new situation, how I’ll learn from it, and how I will take what I learn about my character and apply it to improve my overall training in the future.

I’ve got my bike set up on the turbo already, as soon as I’m given the go ahead I’ll be on it as much as possible.

Enjoy your runs, swims and bike rides…

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade ay?!


7 thoughts on “A day in the life of a Triathlete.

  1. mrsvjdw says:

    I follow you on twitter so had already seen this (I’m @mrsvjdw) and our paths crossed last summer at one of Richard Stannard’s openwater swim races. In a strange twist of fate, I had a bike accident (tho I was knocked off by an idiot driver..) and also have a broken wrist, only the ulna and the radius for me. So much sympathy for the one handed life and relying on men to do your hair. It sounds like I was jolly lucky to be able to attend an English A and W as it was a lot more civilised and it turned out that one of the doctors is in my triathlon club (tho we’d not met before). Anyway best wishes for the recovery, I’ll continue to follow your tweets and hope that you’re not feeling as fed up as I have been! Verity

  2. simon says:

    Indie, your spirit is amazing. As a fellow broken-scaphoid-after-bike-crash sufferer, I can tell you that you are over the worst and I hope that surgery is not required (although we did establish that scars look cool, right?) Be smart and you’ll be back to full fitness really soon and taking on the world!

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