This has been the summers most frequent question I had to answer. Justifiably, as I have been very silent in regards of racing results or social media activities. What leaded to this silence, how I am doing right now and what my plans are like I want to give an idea of in this blog.
In the spring I had to 70.3 races on my agenda to collect points for the kona ranking. For three weeks between 70.3 San Juan / Puerto Rico and 70.3 St Croix / Us Virgin Islands I planed to stay on the Caribic island of St Lucia at friends to avoid flights, climate changes and time differences.
So after an ok performance and a better third places in San Juan I flew over to St Lucia. There is just one road around the island. It does not have a shoulder, but a lot of traffic. Still there are some ambitious road cyclists and triathletes, that train there day in day out. After about 15 years without a crash or accident my guardian angel apparently took the opportunity for short vacation from his assignment.
My wife later told me, I was calling from out side the locked gate at our friends house, carrying my bike with an unmounted front wheel and visibly from a distance covered with blood and dirt and with a swollen face. My jersey and short were torn and a big, strong local was standing next to me. It must have looked like we had a big fight, but the fact was that this guy fortunately had collected me from the road and driven me home to my friends house, after a car driver failed to see me while turning left. I was about to head straight across a big and clear intersection, when suddenly a white car turned up next to me. I still remember, that I thought, that it is going to be close and then I already touched the metal and had to realize: This car is not here to overtake me but actually to turn left. And then there is this gap. This big gap of memory that should keep me busy for a long time. The problem is, there is nobody I can ask what exactly happened. My island samaritan told us, that he saw the accident from farer back. He could not say what happened. I was alone with my black out. A terrible feeling, that I have been unconscious while my life was in danger.
At second glance I had massive bruises and abrasions in my face, on my knees and right shoulder and my zygomatic questionably broken. But one could not feel it because it was hidden underneath a big swelling. Apart from that nothing seemed to be broken or more seriously injured. Luckily my wife was traveling with me and as a doctor she saved me from staying at the hospital.
After this big shock and an almost sleepless night with a boomy head and bleeding wounds I realized that I seemingly did not suffer from much more than a serious concussion. The wounds and the swelling in my face were healing quiet quickly. After three days I was able to ride one hour on the roller and run for twenty minutes, while my face felt like bouncing jelly.
So, have I been very lucky and could I return to normal after just on week?
The following nights were restless with the open wounds sticking to the sheets, but the rest of my body felt better everyday and then there was still the race on St Croix. An absolute classic wich I had been dreaming of long time before I turned pro. So I trained little more everyday and after one week I had a fartlek run on my program. During this session I passed some dogs, wich were playing on a meadow. When I was next to them they suddenly turned on me and barked wildly while threatening me. I had to stop and after I had chased them away roaring and throwing stones, my knees were trembling and the accident, the fear, the pain and bad luck, I had to suffer, came back instantly. I was sitting in tears next to the road trying to recover. After a little while I made an effort and started to run again. After a few steps I felt a sting in my calf muscle- a musle strain! Although something like this can always happen it was the first sign, that my accident would keep me busy for much longer than expected and hoped.
Nevertheless I tried to prepare for the race on St Croix as good as possible. After a little test run the day before the race it became clear, that I had to withdraw from the race. A few days later I returned to Germany with unfinished business.
Although my wounds were almost completely healed I still had huge problems: I had difficulties to fall asleep in the evening and I woke up very early every morning (between 5h and 6h am). Even though I was dead tired in the evening, as soon as I was lying in my bed I was wide awake. My heart rate felt continuously elevated and with just a little scare, for example a little stumble, it went up high. My body was in a state of emergency.
First I thought it would get better, when I was tired from training or that I was nervous because of the chase of Kona points. Maybe I had developed to many self doubts after the poor race on Puerto Rico.
Looking back it was obvious, what caused all this: After the shock of the accident my body switched to permanent state of emergency. A natural and logical reaction, a protection function, to be prepared for the next accident that might come.
My training was different in many aspects to before the accident:
Riding my bike I had to force myself to look back, when I had to. A harmless parked car made my heart jump because I had visions of crashing into an opening door. In the pool I had often pictures in my mind when doing flip turns, that I crashed into someone head to head.
Performance wise I had some good days in training thanks to the permanently elevated adrenaline. But after three to five days fatigue overcame the stress hormones. Then I would feel ill for one or two days and after some days to recover the pattern started again from the beginning.
After a decent olympic distance race in Mussbach I logically got the summer flu for 2 weeks. It was followed by a normally harmless shin irritation, that was never healing completely without the necessary restful sleep. After two weeks without running I was able to train symptom-free for about a week until the irritation flamed up again. That happened two or three times and now I lost to much time to get in shape for a successful autumn of racing.
I felt the need to keep me away from anything, that could put me under stress, to get my body and mind to recover. I switched my smartphone and computer on only two times a week and took a break from social media like Facebook and twitter. Additionally I stayed away from coffee and sugar, wich was not easy but helped a bit.
At the end time heals all wounds.
Now I am able to sleep normally in the nights and I am happy to get up in the morning and start my day. That is helping a lot with my shin and it is getting harder everyday not to go outside and train. Now I have my season break and starting at october 1st I will be back in training. And I can´t wait.
It was an unbelievably hard time, but I learnt a lot about myself and what stress really means, and how precious a good recovery is. And I was very, very lucky to get away with my live and with out lasting injuries.This experience makes me appreciate my live and health much more, and I am looking forward to the upcoming training and mostly off course to a lot of fast and furious racing!