Crash, boom, bang

26 08 2010

Ah, the memories…. The sights and sounds and smells of a skate training run gone terribly wrong still hang around me like an old friend.

My skate crash exactly twelve months ago today that ended my season 2009 rather suddenly and violently was a freak accident. It could have happened to anyone, anywhere. Instead, it happened to me (wearing appropriate safety equipment, I hasten to add) at the bottom of a hill – when a cyclist and I took each other’s right-of-way as I was forced to swerve to avoid an oncoming car. The end result of it was three broken bones (all mine) – one of which was shattered enough to require two operations to fix. To add insult to injury, the cops nailed me with the blame and a fine of $500.

The chronology in a couple of words goes something like this: Happily skating. Crash (snap! snap! crunch-smush!). Pain. OH, F***ING PAIN!!!!! Ambulance, drugs, PAIN!!!!! More drugs, hospital, operation, titanium plate and screws, three days inpatient, two weeks on the sofa at home. Bored, bored, bored. B-O-R-E-D! Harumph.

Yep, that would be my left arm.

The best part of the whole experience was indeed the drugs they gave me while still in the ambulance. They were quite amazing – the world went fuzzy, and then suddenly colorful neon flowers lit up right in front of my eyes, where, rationally, I knew there weren’t supposed to be any. The drugs in the hospital were good too, but the halucinations were slightly less impressive.

(Just for the record, the worst part about the whole business was the sound of the electric screwdriver during surgery. Two surgeries, seven screws.)

At the time, without knowing any of the details, my mother sided with the cop. She chided me for being reckless, told me that it was all my fault and I deserved the consequences. (Thanks mom, I always knew you loved me.) She also tried to talk me out of skating ever again. To those who know me, a ludicrous thought. If you fall off a horse, aren’t you supposed to get right back on? Exactly.

As I do my training laps here this summer ahead of the Berlin Marathon in a month, my accident always gives me pause to think about how fragile the human body is, and how miraculously it heals. Still, while the physical damage has, for the most part, been repaired, the psychological after-effects remain. These days I do think differently when I skate, and my situational awareness is significantly higher than it was before. I don’t speed down hills anymore, confident that nothing will happen if I just keep my eyes open. My faith that other athletes (cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers, skaters) will behave predictably and sensibly as we speed past one another is also considerably lower than it was a year ago. In short, I’m now scared of all the stupid crap other people are capable of when their brains are stuck in neutral.

Swoosh!

I now skate as defensively as humanly possible, but not so defensively as to risk being picked up by the sweeper-bus in my next race. And despite all the time I am spending on my eight wheels this summer, I’m not really sure where I stand physically or mentally, and I often wonder if I’m just wasting my time and risking my health. My only other event this year was a cold, rained-out half-marathon in March, where I clocked my slowest 21 kilometers e-v-e-r. The marathon in September is supposed to be my opportunity to pick up where I left off a year ago, a triumphant return for a fallen gladiator, rising from the ashes, charging to a personal best and set to leave her mark on the history of the sport.

I’ve now spent the whole summer skating and I’m tired. But this afternoon, after work, I will be out there again – padded, helmeted and wheeled – swooshing my way on one of my two favorite routes in Zurich – around the airport (17km), or a local lake (19km), I haven’t decided yet which. One thing is for sure: with every training circuit I complete, I’m a couple of kilometers closer to the finish line. See you there in a month.

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