Tuesday, September 11, 2007

San Marcos - Down for the Count

As many are aware, the July 15 San Marcos Circuit race didn't end too well for me. I crashed, breaking my left hip, knee and toe. My entire left leg suffered an incredible amount of trauma.

Over the next week or so I'm going to try go get this blog up to date by adding some posts that'll take you through the crash, surgeries, and recovery.

So here we go with the San Marcos race report:

The monthly SDBC club meeting was held the Monday prior to this race. The guest speaker for the meeting was a sports psychologist who spent his time talking about having a plan and executing it during the event. One of his biggest points was that if you had a plan and were well trained, it was important to let your body do what it needed to do to achieve the goals; rather than trying to speak to it the whole way. In the past I can definitely say that I would spend most of races arguing with myself as to just how much more pain I could take and mentally telling my body what it needed to do, rather than letting my body physically take over and do what it could do to meet the pre-determined goals.

So I went into this race with a new approach; try to let my body, rather than mind execute the plan. Here's what I had in mind:

First 15 minutes – take it easy in the middle of the field.
Second 15 minutes – ride up near the front and try to make/get in a break
Last 15 minutes – If in a break, ride as hard as my body would let me and try to hold on for a good result. If in the peloton, make sure I took advantage of my ability to grind up moderate grades to sprint for a good finish. This course finishes with a drawn out 100 foot vertical climb (probably about a 3 or 4% grade), so I knew I had a bit of an advantage if I needed it.

At San Marcos, things started out well enough. I rode in the middle of the pack for the first 15 minutes, often slotting in right behind one of my teammates, Jeff Dingler, and keeping it smooth.

With a little over 15 minutes gone people’s desire to set the pace up the hill appeared to be waning. I found myself coming out of turn 3 with a couple guys already up the road. The pack was moving a little slowly, I was maybe 10th from the front and Troy Huerta, a strong rider from the Swamis team, was right in front of me. I didn’t even bother to think twice, I picked up the pace a bit, encouraged Troy to come with me and we started to grind our way up to the break. By the start/finish it was now Troy, Josh Gruenberg (another strong rider), me and a couple other guys out in front. We all quickly talked about working together and got on to trying to make some distance from the field.

As we came down the hill to turn 2, Josh pulled off the front, I scooted by and started to lean into the corner. Unfortunately I had totally blown it coming into the turn. I was going way too fast and was unable to get my bike turned into the corner. As I quickly headed towards the traffic cones on the outside of the turn I knew I was about to be in big trouble. I continued to slam on the breaks, went through the police tape and cones and was now one lane away from going over the median. I seriously thought about trying to bunny hop my way over the curb, but before I could react I was into one of the large cement dividers and launched off my bike. I guess I took the impact on my left knee and foot.

As I lay there on the ground assessing where I was messed up a couple things were obvious. Firstly, I could see that there was about a 3/4" diameter hole at the top of my knee which you could look into and see the inner workings of my knee. Secondly, my left hamstring, quadriceps and groin were amazingly tight. My leg felt like it needed a really good stretch. It didn't take too long for the ambulance to arrive. They scooped me up and carted me off to the hospital.

Net result:

1. Broken big toe - not the end of the world
2. Shattered knee cap. What’s left (2 pieces equal to about 2/3 of the total size of my knee cap) have been wired back together. At this point my knee seems to be functioning pretty well. At the time of the accident there was a lot of concern that my knee cap might need to be removed entirely and that simply being able to walk again would be a major challenge.
3. Dislocated and fractured hip. They "relocated" my hip when I got to the hospital (a couple guys pulled on my ankle to get this done), but with my joint still broken it wasn't really in place. I then spent the next 9 days in traction waiting for hip surgery. The traction was required to keep my hip relatively in place.
4. Possibly broken hand - it turned out to not be broken, just very swollen
5. Nerve damage. I am still unable to dorsiflex my left ankle (i.e. I can't raise my foot).
6. Extensive leg trauma. My entire left leg was like a giant sausage

I guess the bottom line here is that I’m a little lucky to be alive. I could have easily gone over the median and been run over by a car. It remains to be seen if I ever ride a bike again.

This accident has been very disappointing on a lot of levels:

1. Obviously it was incredibly painful, both from an impact and recovery perspective.
2. I was really starting to perform in races. After a year of hard training I was able to hang with just about anyone in the category 4 fields (with the exception of steep climbs). If I would have held it together in this race I really felt like I would have been on the podium.
3. I really miss riding my bike. More over, If I can't ever ride a bike again, that's going to be pretty tough to take.

More to follow tomorrow.


maxproballer said...

Eric, I just found this on the web. Wow, I knew there was a crash behind me but I had no idea it was this bad. I hope by now you are back up and riding and are healthy
I wish you the best.
Josh Gruenberg

maxproballer said...

Eric, I just found this on the web. Wow, I knew there was a crash behind me but I had no idea it was this bad. I hope by now you are back up and riding and are healthy
I wish you the best.
Josh Gruenberg