A tremendous slamming, like the whole world colliding with me. The noise, filling my whole head. Flying. Lying on grass with one arm bent underneath me at a wrong angle. People shouting. “Don’t move, the ambulance is on its way.”image

Saturday’s long brick session ended very early with a hit and run.

………

I’m ok.

………

 

I can’t believe that I am ok.  It all happened so fast. I never saw the car coming. I was pedalling happily, down in aero, riding east along Northlake Boulevard towards the coast.  It’s a big road, but I was in the bike lane. It’s a long straight road. There were no cars pulling out, no turns, nothing to make me wary. I had been working against a fierce wind heading north for the first hour of the ride and was now in a crosswind that allowed my efforts to reflect some speed. I was riding moderately hard and going 34 km/h (just over 21 mph).  I had swum an hour in the dark that morning, got on the bike around 8 and was looking to be on the bike for a solid 6h30 before running for 50 minutes.  It was to be my very last full big brick session before Ironman Florida.

Last year I had a major crash 4 weeks out from Ironman Lanzarote.  That one was caused by bad luck and my own doing – I hit a pothole and lost control and crashed into a tree (read about it here if you’re interested).  This year, it’s just 3 weeks out from Ironman Florida, and it was absolutely not my fault in any way.  That makes it feel worse.

We don’t know what happened.  The driver just drove out of his lane into the bike lane. He clearly didn’t see me.  Witnesses said they watched him crash into me and just keep going.  Nobody got his license plate number.  The impact was hard enough to tear his whole wing mirror off his car. He was going about 50 mph (80 km/h). The police speculated he may have been drunk, he may have been uninsured, he may have been texting. We don’t know.

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The wing mirror that ripped off when it collided with my arse

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What I do know was everyone else that day was tremendous. The witnesses who stopped to help me, who called an ambulance for me. The paramedics who took care of me – who even let my bike come on the ambulance with me once the police had taken photos for evidence. The nurses and doctors at the hospital, the police who came to the hospital to check on me. Everyone was brilliant.

As I lay on the stretcher in the ambulance, my phone buzzed. A text from my friend Ben. “The wind is bad coming from the north. Hope you’re only riding south today.”  I hesitated. Do I tell her? I didn’t want to worry anybody or be melodramatic. But it had happened. It was real.  I told her.

She and Travis met me at the hospital 7 minutes after I arrived.  7 minutes.  With clean clothes for me because mine had been cut off by the paramedics. Tom arrived not long after. The shock was starting to set in.  Seeing them all there in my room felt like tangible happiness.image

Ben told me that our friend Nancy was also trying to track me down. We eventually learned that she had heard about the crash on Facebook.

I had sent Nancy my planned route the night before. She knew exactly where I was going. She knew it was me although she desperately hoped it wasn’t. She was frantically texting and calling all our mutual friends, not saying why, trying not to scare anybody but trying to find out if I was ok.

And actually, truly, I was.

The Good News

  • I was alive.
  • I didn’t hit my head. Zero head injuries (I will still likely replace my helmet just in case!)
  • X-rays showed no broken bones!
  • When I was hit, I was next to a grass verge, so rather than flying through the air and landing on concrete or asphalt, I landed on grass. I think that made a real difference.

The Bad News

  • Road rash. We aren’t sure if it’s just from the car or whether I somersaulted through the bike lane before ending on the grass, but I have bad road rash on my shoulder and elbow, and also some on my hip and knee. I lost my favourite jersey and shorts – both were burned through and then cut off off by the paramedics.
  • Big puncture wound in my left elbow and very swollen elbow area.
  • Sprained shoulder / rotator cuff issues from landing with the arm at a wrong angle.
  • Severe hematoma on my left arse/hip where the car had direct impact.  Some utterly fantastic colours coming through now….
  • Sprained right ankle, likely from the bike hitting me as I fell.
  • Various bruises of varying degrees of severity all over my knees and calves.

All in all, I got off pretty lightly considering that a car ran me over at 50 mph.

As for the bike, it didn’t come out too badly. Unlike last year’s crash, where the bike frame literally ripped in two, this time I only managed to tear off the left Di2 shifter and there are some compressions on the frame. If I manage to heal in time to race, the bike should be good to go too. If I’m not too scared to get back in the saddle.

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So what next?

Ironnman Florida is in 2 weeks, 3 days. I don’t know whether I will make it to the start line. The hospital wanted to send me home on crutches with an air cast, but I said I would rather hobble. I am acutely aware that I am lucky to be alive, to be relatively intact, and that whether or not I’m fit to race is irrelevant when I consider the big picture. Nonetheless, I’ve been training hard for this race for months and I really have put in nearly all the work. It is crushing to miss it after all that.

I’m taking it day by day. My good friends Will and Malogsia are flying in for the race from London, arriving in 10 days – yahoo! And I’m trying to stay positive, moving gently, drinking copious cups of tea and hugging my dog Haile despite his protests.

I am grateful to be alive and to have such caring friends and family who came to visit me in hospital, who brought me homemade cookies, sent me flowers, chocolates, books, made me cups of tea, and who continue to send messages of encouragement and love every day. Thank you all.

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Thank you Zoe, Alex, & George for the flowers!

17 Comments

  1. Hope you get well soon and can make it to iron man Florida. I enjoyed seeing your whippet along the Sunday course at the ~8mile mark. It gave me that speedy inspiration I needed at the end. P.S. You write very well.

  2. Wow Julia! You are a survivor and amazingly strong. My prayers are with you for a speedy recovery.

  3. Marissa Despins

    So, so, so happy to hear you are on the mend. Such a sad story! Sending copious amounts of love your way!

  4. Wow Julia!!! You are truly a superwoman. Stay strong and my prayers are with you for a speedy recovery.

  5. This is why I do nearly all of my cycling on computrainer ErgVideo. One crash and too many close calls to ignore. I hope you heal quickly and are in the saddle for IMFL.

    • I hear you, and thanks for your good wishes. I did nearly all my training for Ironman Lanzarote last year indoors on a trainer. Part of the reason we moved to Florida though was to be able to enjoy being outside. It’s hard to know when to be cautious and when to enjoy life….

  6. I to am a friend of a friend of yours. I also cycle and am in the process of joining a tri team to compete in my first ‘rea’ triathlon (not a sprint). There has been a few really bad car/bike accidents this summer and it scares me to death sometimes to ride by myself along the roads – both in an out of town. I’m very happy to hear you are ok, and I hope you’ll be able to race Ironnman Florida – but do take care and don’t push too hard. Even though you may feel half decent after being hit by a car, you may need more time to heal internally.

    Take care, good luck and happy healing!
    Tammie

  7. Hi, I’m a friend of a friend to you. I saw your post – heal up well and you will be back racing at some point. 🙂 -wendy

  8. Glad to hear you are OK. Hope you can make it to the start line.

  9. I am SO glad you are OK! Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery and a SAFE race!!! You rock!