This is late in coming, and it almost feels like a world away, so it is actually almost hard to remember all the details, and yet everything is perfectly clear. It’s crazy how much things can change in a heartbeat.
Arriving in Kona on November 5, I was pretty excited to race. It was a pretty chaotic time for my wife and I because we had just moved out of our home of 15 years the week prior to leaving for Hawaii. It wasn’t the plan, it’s just the way it worked out. So we left our duplex rental unit full of boxes and figured we would just deal with that mess when we got home after the race.
We had a nice little rental spot in Kona, pretty small, maybe 600 ft.², but it was enough for the 3 of us. I started right away into training alone, but a few days later managed to hook up with Jochen Dembech from Germany for a swim and then a nice 180+ kilometre ride to Waimea and up and over the Kohala mountains and back, which was nice. My wife and I settled into island life fast this time around, and we really felt comfortable there.
Lyle arrived on the 22nd, and Drew arrived on the 23rd. My other crew member, Doug, lives on the island so we had bumped into each other a few times already and made some plans. I had made time for several massage therapy appointments and a chiropractic appointment to make sure that I was in the best shape possible. I had also had my bike at bike works and everything was tuned up and completely ready to go (even though I had already gotten my bike completely tuned at Castaway sports in Sylvan Lake before I left, and it was running perfectly. I’m just that careful.) I also picked up 2 brand-new pairs of my favourite running shoes on sale at Bike Works. I did a few test runs in them of course, ‘nothing new on race day!’ as I always tell my coaching clients.
I practiced swimming on the toughest parts of the course, in the worst conditions, I practice road the hills, and ran in the heat of the day. I was ready.
I volunteered at the registration Expo where I met lots of the newer athletes that I had only known before on Facebook. It was going to be a great year, and the front end of the field was going to be very, very fast!
Thursday morning welcome breakfast is always is big family reunion! So fun!!
At the breakfast, Jochen surprised me and Lyle with custom-made cycling shirts, that absolutely blew our minds! Such an awesome guy! Lyle and I were messaging him back and forth all year and motivating each other. It was so cool.
After a great time packing up the van and getting all the final details ready, enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving dinner at the King K hotel with my wife, my son, and my crew. Something that we discovered a few years ago, is that it is best if I stay overnight at the King K hotel before the race. I am just too focused and 2 raw to be at home with other people the night before the race. Not that I’m a jerk or anything, but I’m pretty laser focused, and I just need a little space. A few years ago it was my crew chief’s idea, and it was a good idea.
I got settled in my room, shaved my legs, prepared my race day clothing again, played a little Soda Crush on my phone, and tried to settle down for the night. I took my anti nausea tablet at around 9 or 9:30 PM figuring that would be good enough for the next day. The phone rang at 2 in the morning because one of my staff didn’t enter her alarm code properly back in Canada…. Not great timing for that to happen but at least I was able to see on my telephone remote camera app that everything was okay and I could just go back to not sleeping.
Race day I woke up nice and early, and excited to get things going. I was certainly very nervous about the swim, as it is always my nemesis. I really tried to focus on all of the incredible volume my coach; Craig Percival, had put me through in the past few months, and try not to think about the 3 hours I spent throwing up during the swim in 2013. Lyle, Drew & Doug arrived on time and we all zipped down to the pier together, excited to race. It was a wonderful morning, and I was much more calm than I had been 2 years ago at my 1st world championships, where I thought I was going to puke or pass out at any moment. My kayak crew and I met right away when I arrived at the pier, and we arranged for how we would find each other in the water. Some athletes had kayakers with glowing hair, or coloured lights, or funny flags etc. We just knew that I would recognize their particular boat having stared at it for nearly 5 hours in 2013, and since most safety kayaks were one paddler and mine was two, I would find them. Donna and Ann were both very nervous on my behalf, because they also kayaked for me in 2013 when I had such a tough swim. I wanted so badly to reassure them that this swim would be much different, but of course I didn’t know that either. I just hoped it would be better, and I knew I had done all of the preparations that I could do. Coach Craig had done amazing things to get me ready like I have never been ready before. Things like 8 km swims in a 25 meter pool at 6 AM….. with hand paddles on. Plus I had done tons of mileage with the swim kick fix that I invented, and that really streamline my swim. Still, a pool is one thing, and 10 km of open ocean is a totally different thing.
After lots of hugs and high-fives and wishing of good luck, it was time to get into the wetsuit, and into the ocean to get ready for the swim. In a blink it was time to go, and the Ultraman World Championship was underway! Today, just one 10 km swim and then a 145 km bike to go! I found my kayakers right away and I felt like I was swimming very strongly, staying in the middle of the pack. The water got very, very rough in the early part of the swim, with swells around 5 or 6 feet that really started to toss us around. At one point I turned right to breathe, and I was shoulder height with my kayakers, just 8-10 feet away from me. I was happy to not feel any nausea at all and kept powering through the big waves. The 1st 30 minutes of the swim seemed to take forever, but pretty soon we were ticking along the miles. My quick stops every 30 minutes for hydration and fuel were going perfectly well and then the waves calmed down. After about 4 km we actually had a stretch of about another 3-4 km where the waves weren’t so bad. Then…. we entered ‘the washing machine’.
The current was against us, the tide was going out sideways, the swells were coming in from the ocean on the right, and the wind was blowing off of the island from the left causing waves to heave in every single direction. Looking at the coral below me at around kilometre 9, I could see the that we were being pushed left and right several feet with all the different wave actions. I kept just powering through and swimming as hard as I could, but I started to feel myself slowing down and my energy going away. I stayed focused on the big turning buoy at the Sheraton Hotel, and managed to finally get there, and make the big left turn as my energy was fading. I kept just trying to dig harder, but as the waves continued to crash I realized what was happening, and I started to throw up. I figured at least I was in the bay of the finish area with maybe 6 or 700 meters to go so I knew I could just gut it out and get this thing done. I took a few moments to finish throwing up and then just put my head down and pushed to the finish.
I don’t know who was happier to be at that finish line, me or my crew chief Lyle, who 2 years ago had waited over an hour and a half extra. Steve King, the amazing voice of ultra man announced several details upon my arrival and I believe he said some stuff about how I must be super happy with 3:35 swim compared to the 4:44 swim that was my 2013 Time. I hope that somebody recorded that moment because I would really love to hear what he said. I was so happy at finishing, I didn’t really catch it.
I was feeling pretty good, so we blew through transition fairly fast and I was on my bike in no time, powering up the 1st big hill, we begin with a thousand foot climb that occurs over just a few kilometres. It’s a fairly tough course on day one: the ocean is always rough, and the 1st day of cycling is all about hills. I was having trouble getting my nutrition to stay in my stomach was still upset from being sick, so after about an hour and a half, I told the guys I needed to pull over and sit down for a moment. As I was sitting on the back of the van having a banana, a wild rooster was quite uncomfortably close to me. Yes, I forget the story of why, but the island of Kona is full of wild chickens. Anyway this fellow was a few inches from my feet, and looking at me quite intensely. He seemed particularly interested in what I was eating, so I pulled off a small chunk of banana and threw it towards him and he gobbled it right up! I couldn’t believe it and was laughing, because I had never heard of a banana eating chicken. I kept giving him some pieces of my banana, because to be honest I didn’t feel like eating it at all. After a few moments I realized I was about to throw up so I motioned for Doug to move over. I absolutely projectile puked out everything I had in the last hour and a half. That part sucked, but what was hilarious, was that this rooster was gobbling up all of the chunks. I know that’s a bit gross but it was pretty hilarious at the time. I puked a 2nd time and the rooster stayed there and got splashed on its face and didn’t even care, he kept just attacking the chunks. It was so funny I told Lyle to grab the camera. Lyle has a lot more manners and social graces than I do, so he was trying to be professional about it. At any rate after throwing up, I felt 1 million times better, and my stomach was finally able to accept the food we were putting into it and I was getting my energy back.
Pretty soon I was smashing off the miles on the bike and we were seriously accelerating along the course. The weather was a bit overcast, but not too bad. I nearly got hit by a car once, but thankfully my screaming ‘no, no, NO!’ woke the lady up and she saw me at the last second before she pulled out right in front of me from a stop sign. Visions of Mike Coughlin a few years back were in my mind, and I was very grateful for the close call just being that. After most of the 1st section of climbing was done we were into the rolling hills, the wind started to pick up and it started to rain. Then the wind started to absolutely howl, and keeping my bike on the road became a bit of an effort. That’s okay though because I’m a strong cyclist and I love this sort of thing. While I rode past some of the safety volunteers at the big right hand corner on South point Road, I yelled out in my biggest Scottish voice, “it’s a fine Scottish morning then isn’t it?”. I got a lot of laughs from volunteers and I kept hammering the pedals. I passed the second-place female athlete who was being blown all over the road in the heavy winds. I waited until she was clearly to the right and there was space, and then I ripped past her and said something positive like ‘keep up the good work you’ve got this!’. I felt bad for her being pushed around by the wind so much, but myself at 195 pounds, the wind just wasn’t able to push me around like it was her. This is true of most of the athletes that I race, they weigh in at around 140 to 160 pounds, so I can really hang onto the bike in these high winds. It’s one of my strengths. Of course being heavier does make me slower uphill, and I have to put out way more power than they do, so I live for the down hills and flat sections.
Given all of that, I was having an absolute blast in the horrible unbelievable weather. I was starting to pass other athletes, and make up ground. At one point Lyle told me later that Doug, (who doesn’t actually know me all that well) was saying in the van that the weather was terrible and he hoped it would calm down and get nicer. Lyle tells me that he laughed and said ‘Scott probably doesn’t. Scott loves this kind of weather, in fact I bet he hopes it gets worse.’ Lyle said Doug gave him quite a look, and Lyle continued by saying that I not only loved this kind of weather, but that I knew that it was my strength, and that other athletes would slow down and struggle. Lyle said he talked about the fact that I had done so many miles in the basement at full tension for 8 hours at a stretch, and that I was absolutely ready for this.
He was right. Although it was crushingly hard, I was having a blast, and I was well trained for this challenge. It had been on my mind during every single bike ride for 11 months.
After descending nearly to the ocean again, the final quest of this day is a climb all the way back up 4000 feet to Volcano National Park. I just kept seeing people in the distance, and then working to pass them. I did that over and over and over again, and it was a wonderful experience of appropriate pain and suffering. It is always great to see other athletes, offer encouragement, and share a quick moment. So much of this race, we get so spread out, and hardly see each other.
I crossed the line on day one after 6 hours and 55 minutes of hard riding, in 22nd place overall. Not too bad, considering how slow my swim is compared to the other athletes. I had the 16th fastest bike split of the day, and I had done everything I could do. Which is all I could ask of my body. My total Time for the day was 10 hours 31 minutes. I collapsed at the finish line in a heap. Happy, exhausted, sweaty, and filled with joy! The hardest day was over! Tomorrow all I had to do was ride my bicycle for 276 km, my favourite day of the 3 race days! The swim was over, and that really was enough to be absolutely jubilant.
We got some food, I showered up, had a massage, had some great conversations with some other athletes, and we headed over to the place we had rented to sleep for the night. The crew did a great job of getting the van ready for the next day, and everybody settled in fairly quickly.
5 AM came early, and we woke to a steady rain in the dark. It’s fairly common up in this area, so we were not too surprised. We got everything ready and packed up and headed down to the start line area. While my crew finalized everything I was privileged enough to just sit in the front seat of the van and wait. One of the other athletes, (Beth Brewster) came and sat in the other seat and we chatted for about 10 minutes while our crews got everything ready for us and the rain steadily fell.
(I am the guy with the greatest light LOL!)
Soon it was 6:30 in the morning and with all of us assembled on the side of the road, with our bicycle headlights on high beam, it was time to go. We flew down the mountain, and the lead end of the pack, (myself included) basically ignored the pouring rain. That was no easy task, let me tell you…. It was impossibly hard to see in the driving rain, and a lot of the cycling had to be done on faith. There were hazards in the shoulder like poles and bumps and potholes and debris, and I really had to stay sharp. Even just raising a hand to free a finger to wipe off my glasses was a huge risk, but the only way I could really see anything. I got off the mountain in a good time and turned right for a long stretch, and towards an area called ‘red road’. I knew I was in the top 10, and pretty excited to stay there, so I kept hammering on the pedals. I got through all of the challenges down towards the south end of the island, absolutely loving the jungle canopy area of red road.
Riding through Red Road area is so beautiful!
I made my way back up towards the city of Hilo and then beyond. My crew had my nutrition dialed in, and I felt absolutely fantastic. I never did feel the hollow empty feeling that was so prevalent in 2013 where I was running on empty all weekend from the nearly catastrophic day one. This year was so different, I felt so strong, and so amazing. I hardly saw anybody for hours and hours, and hammered through the 3 big ravines, and powered through most of the climbs. During one of the longer climbs out of a ravine, I was caught by Peter Hudson and Adam Fox, both from Australia. Those boys are lighter weight than I am and strong cyclists, so they were able to make time on the uphills. We exchanged a few jokes and talked about the scenery and stuff and I was quite honestly happy to have some people around me to chase and ride with. Peter asked me if I had done any half Ironman races, which confused me at first. Then he said, ‘well all we have left is a half Ironman bike and we are done!’ I realized he was just referencing the fact that we had nearly passed through 190 kms and only had around 85 km to go. He made a couple jokes about pterodactyls flying out of the jungle, because the scenery was so rich and we laughed about that. Adam had pulled off to get some water from his crew, and I joked with Peter about the fresh Hawaiian doughnuts that we were going to enjoy it about 10 kms.
The next thing I remember is waking up in the intensive care unit in the hospital in Honolulu.
That is not entirely true, I do have a scattered memory of people holding me down while somebody put staples in the back of my head. Later Lyle told me that there were 4 people holding me down while they put the staples in my skull. I remember that hurt ……a LOT.
When I woke up, my buddy Lyle jumped out of the chair in my room in intensive care and said hello or something. I asked him where I was, concerned about how the race was going. The way he answered me, told me in a split second that I was bloody lucky to be alive, and that the race didn’t matter. So I never did ask that question…. I knew the race was over.
I have no recollection of the crash, but Peter Hudson from Australia after a few days, was kind enough to tell me what happened.
” Hey mate, I’m sorry I couldn’t chat with you about the crash earlier. To be honest I’ve never actually seen anything like it and it affected me pretty badly. This is the only part of the 3 days that I remember clearly and I’ve had some (crappy) dreams and for the first 3 or 4 days, and the first thing I heard when I woke was the sound of you hitting the deck. I’m still doing that occasionally but not as often and not quite as vivid. It was sickening and I’ve almost been physically sick from the memory of it.
This is just my side of it, I know Adam and Gary were awesome and Adam was there the whole time doing so much.
As you’d said, you remember the lead up, I had been riding with Adam nearby for around 80km, his back was hurting so I made sure he was getting through alright, figured it’d be good having him nearby when I needed him at the 200km mark and have my dark patch where I might want to give up.
We’d been riding pretty well, keeping in sight, 20-100 metres apart, seeing our crews was helping too as they’ve gotten to know each other over the 2 ultra mans we’ve done together.
We caught you at almost exactly 180km, I’d come up beside you and asked “how many half iron mans have you done?” You looked at me like “who is this crazy aussie asking me about half iron mans,” you said you’d lost count, and I replied that we’ve only got a half ironman ride to go. We got a bit of a buzz from that, and realised we were going to do it and post a good time too. As we were passing bridges we’d look left, looking at the unbelievable scenery, I said it looked like Jurassic park and you said they filmed some of the movies here, not the big Island, but Hawaii. I said I thought I saw a Pterodactyl and we just laughed a bit, little bit of chatter and we said lets go. We hit a downhill and we were all flying, then as I hammered up a bit of a hill you flew past me like I wasn’t there. You absolutely smashed it, you got about 20 metres in front in no time, then it happened. I didn’t see you go down, but I heard an almighty thud, it made me sick to my stomach, sounded so bad. I saw you just sliding along the gutter and I hit my brakes, I missed you by inches as I skidded past, and ended up about 30 metres down past you before I could stop (I told you, we were flying). I ran back to you and Adam was there, we looked at you, then at each other and I knew he was thinking what I was thinking, we’d lost you. A car pulled up as I was trying to call 911, and I yelled at him to call as my phone wouldn’t work through the plastic bike cover. He stayed on the line while we relayed the situation.
There was a huge puddle of blood from the head wound and you were just cut up everywhere, stuck in the gutter with one arm out behind you almost on the footpath. You weren’t moving and were just lifeless. The blood just kept coming, and we bent down to get an idea. I could hear such a shallow breathing, it was almost non existent, and I told Adam. He said “let’s get him into recovery position” we tried rolling you and we couldn’t do it. By now a couple of other people had come up and they helped us, I got down on the ground and held your hand, we were talking, but couldn’t get a response from you, nothing.
It felt like an eternity, but you woke and started vomiting, a lot. It was probably the happiest I’ve ever been to see that as it meant you were still with us.
You finished and you tried to get up, but we had to try to keep you in the spot. You were yelling at us to get off so you could get up, a common thing supposedly, but you settled really quickly and listened to us as we told you what had happened. Bec Fox had been making sure your head was supported while I kept telling you to squeeze my hand.
You were able to squeeze my hand when I asked, and we just made sure you tried to stay with us and not go back out. You answered Adam’s questions, knew your name, where you were and then we asked what race but you went quiet again. I asked you to squeeze my hand if you were ok but couldn’t talk, you did.
By now we had space blanket on you, and maybe bike shammies or something under your head for support.
The ambulance felt like they took forever but it was probably 20 minutes or so. We stayed with you while they got organised and we just let them know what had happened; unresponsive for a bit, came around, vomited, your approximate speed, and what we thought happened.
I walked over to the bridge once you were getting out on the stretcher and Adam and I just hugged and cried, just so glad you were “ok”. We saw the marks on the path from your helmet, and I found one lense and arm from your sunnies (I’ve kept them for you), as well as a leather bracelet I thought was just litter, so wasn’t going to pick up but then thought it may be yours. I read it. “Relentless” yep, that’s Scotty’s. I went to hand it to your crew and he put his hand out to take it, he was in a bit of a state too, so I clipped it around his wrist to wear for you.
I didn’t want to get on my bike but your crew was saying you’d want me to. I thought about it for a bit and decided you definitely would, and I rode off to catch Adam who was waiting just down the road. We rode the rest of the ride close together, and finished arm in arm over the line, I wouldn’t have done that any other way.
I’ve never been involved in anything as scary as that incident. I think it’s shaken me to the core and I’m just so glad I was able to be there to help in some small way. To see you in the videos from the hospital, and to hear the reports has been awesome. Seeing you recover the way you will.
The docs said if you weren’t as fit or strong as you are that you wouldn’t have lived through that, seeing you there as soon as it happened I can tell you they are 100% right. It took everything you had to stay with us through that, and I think a lot of others would’ve just given up trying, there was something inside you that kept you going. Seeing your kid again, wife, family, no doubt in my mind.
I was on hands and knees, in my own vomit on Sunday’s run, and just thought you’d always move forward until you couldn’t anymore, you kept me going out there on the Queen K during the double marathon.
This is Huddo on Day 3. “In the Warrior’s Code, There’s no surrender. Though the body says stop, the spirit cries NEVER!” You are a warrior my friend!!!
I’ve known you on Facebook for a month or two, and you reached out when you didn’t have to. Facebooking to ask if I wanted to catch up for coffee, chatting for 20 minutes at the merchandise stall, sharing the Vegemite sandwich after day one in the massage line. You had so much time for me without even knowing me. I love that in a person, and have so much respect for people like you.
I just want to pause here for a second to point something out: Peter Hudson, Adam Fox, and Gary Wang paused their own world championship race for 40 minutes to take care of me. Let that sink in a moment.
The 3 words that are the motto of Ultraman are: Aloha, Ohana, Kokua (love, family, help/spirit). These guys embody that to the letter.
Fairly soon after coming around in the hospital, I was made to understand what had happened to me. I had badly fractured my skull, had a concussion, had broken my left shoulder, had 2 or 3 broken ribs, (they said it was hard to tell with the swelling and everything) I was covered in road rash on my knees and ankles arms face and back. I was in a lot of pain, but I was alive, and I was grateful. I had also broken the top bone in my left arm (radius) in half, but we didn’t know that until I got back to Canada. It just bloody hurt a lot is all I knew.
I was in the hospital for 3 1/2 days in ICU, in the brain trauma ward. Lyle, slept in a chair in my room and never left….he is absolutely an amazing friend. He texted people back home, made Facebook posts, and let people know how I was doing while I spent most of the days sleeping. In addition, he helped feed me at nearly every meal, because my left arm wouldn’t work, and my right arm was full of IV hoses. He is absolutely an amazing friend, I think I mentioned that.
A few days later, my wife and 3-year-old were able to get a flight over to see me. They had a place to stay thanks to a connection on Facebook from a friend of Jochen Dembeck. The next day turned out to be on the day that I was released. On that day, one of the race organizer / volunteers, a lady by the name of Jen McVeay, arranged for us to have a hotel, and airline flights back to Kona the next day.
Let me explain that again….
she paid for our hotel and our flights back to Kona. Used up her own personal Airline points and stuff to make sure that we were okay.
Kaden seeing Daddy for the first time. and Aunty Jen in the background.
When I tell you that the people of Ultraman are family, I mean it for real. She made sure my buddy Lyle was set up as well. That is not something I could ever thank you enough for Jen, and in spite of offering, she just said don’t worry about it she was happy to help. I am here to tell you, that if she can get her butt to Canada, she has an all-inclusive ski trip waiting for her any time. Just sayin.
Meanwhile at the race; Doug took my bike across the finish line on day 2 and honored the day and the effort. I wasn’t there, but I can tell it was pretty emotional. Thanks Doug…… That meant a lot to me. Peter, Adam, and Gary all finished their day. And I’m super proud of them for that too.
On day 3, Beth Brewster wore my warrior code jersey for the double marathon, as did Scott James (a volunteer, past finisher and friend). Representing my spirit out on the race course. As well, back home one of my friends, Stephen Beckwith, arranged to have a bunch of people run in my honour on that day. They accumulated enough mileage to cover over 5 double marathons. Pretty amazing stuff! Drew and Doug went all over the race course filming other people, and keeping the energy going. Both were amazed at how many people cared more about how I was doing and they did their own current pain levels or racing effort. Back home in Canada,in Hawaii, or wherever….. Healing energy was flooding my way.
Let me say it again: Ohana means family.
Beth finishing in the jersey and Peter finishing as well. awesome!
Back to leaving the hospital, they told my wife to keep watch over my concussion like a child who hit their head, and make sure that I didn’t bump into anything. My wife had asked if my shoulder would heal up, and they said it probably would, but I should see somebody when we got home. She was told that for an extra $1200 a night, I could be upgraded somewhere else. We moved on. The flight over to Kona was not very pleasant, but I managed.
Once back in our rental place, I did my best to try and be comfortable, which was no easy task. I tried to resume to normal, as if I just had a few bumps and bruises. I tried to socialize with some of my friends before they left the island, and I tried to get a few things done. It was brutal, because I was so tired, and so sore all the time. I couldn’t think straight, and felt like my brain was in mud. So of course I went to Starbucks and got a large frappuccino to try and wake up. Never having any clue, how serious my head concussion and brain injury were. Oh yeah, and by the way, caffeine is the worst thing for post head concussion. That might have been good to know.
When it was time for me to lay down for a rest, Hilary had to help me. I would sit on the bed, and then she had to hold with all her might to slowly lower me down to the pile of pillows we had made. If any pillow was in slightly the wrong spot, I could not breathe, or was in searing pain. She would have to lift me back up, make some minor adjustment, and we would try again. A couple of times this would take up to 15 minutes. Once I was in a position that was okay, with my body tilted to the right, and my head turned to the left to avoid the metal staples sticking out of it, I could then not move or I would wake up instantly. (In case you missed it, my wife is absolutely amazing!). I took my bike to Bike Works to thank Vern for his help at the crash scene, and for my bike to be checked over. People have asked how my bike is, and apart from a few minor scrapes, it is okay. Must be my Scottish roots, save the expensive bike, sacrifice the body.
Some of the damage etc. And obviously my shoulders don’t look level.
After 6 uncomfortable days, it was time to fly home to Canada. I had an appointment for a follow up with a doctor, to be cleared to fly, and he said that I should be fine. (really….) The flight home to Canada was absolutely awful because of my concussion and the air pressure, and the seat, and it was a redeye, and I’m here to tell you it was just brutal. ((Did I mention I was out of the small painkillers they gave me?) I managed it though, and in spite of the physical challenges, was very pleased with West jet, as they had wheelchairs and people to help us through every single step. It was amazing, because with my broken bones and dizziness, I was not able to help my family through this process at all. Every single West jet staff was super patient, super polite, and amazing. I cannot say enough about those great people.
We met Hilary’s parents for lunch at Tim Hortons, and Hilary drove us home to our duplex full of boxes. The next day I met with my regular doctor here in town, and told him that my arm and my shoulder were really sore. I said I was concerned about them healing properly so that I could race again and asked if we could get it checked out. He gave me requisition forms for x-rays, and the next day my wife and I went to the red Deer regional hospital after I worked a few hours, and we had our son in daycare.
When the x-ray technician walked out of the room after taking the pictures and sat down across from my wife and I in the hall, the look on her face told me everything. She said “I’ve got good news and bad news; the good news is I know why your arm is so sore. The bad news is, the top bone, is broken in half.” Then she said something very professional about not being able to step outside of her rights and boundaries for her profession, but she said something like “I cannot believe they let you out of the hospital with your shoulder the way it is”. She then informed us that we needed to go directly to emergency to have my arm and shoulder stabilized and that I was not going home. Once I saw the orthopedic surgeon in emergency several hours later, one of the nurses let me see my x-rays, and I realized how badly I was broken.
I’m no expert, and I certainly didn’t go to school to read x-rays, but I’m pretty sure those are broken.
I have to admit, I was also a little shocked that they let me out of the hospital in Hawaii with a broken arm that we didn’t even know about, in spite of many x-rays.
They had a room for me pretty much right away, and I was escorted upstairs to wait the night for surgery the next day. I was on standby for 7 AM, but didn’t have to wait too long, I got my surgery at 7:30 PM. I enjoyed a tasty saline IV all day to keep me going, and at one point I put a post on Facebook that I wondered if they would notice if I changed the saline to gravy. I was pretty hungry.
The surgical team took amazingly good care of me and took several precautions for the anesthesia requirements, in consideration of my recent head injury. They wheeled me into my room just after 1 AM with a freshly rebuilt left shoulder and a plate in my left arm. I was very happy to finally be put back together the way I knew I should be. My wife was there waiting, and said I was pretty funny actually, excited and happy and thanking everybody like crazy.
My new shoulder, and a great card that my wife got me in the hospital gift shop.
Once in the red Deer Hospital I was in absolutely amazing hands. The level of care was phenomenal. The nurses noticed that I was very dizzy, and needed help walking to the washroom so they arranged for a doctor to come and see me. I saw a neurologist shortly, and he did several tests on me pertaining to my concussion. I failed those tests. He put in a request for a CAT scan and MRI, which I got the next day.
It was revealed that I had a Diffuse Axonal Injury to my brain, as well as hemorrhaging and bruises to the front and back of my brain. He said I was incredibly lucky to be alive, and to have any memory of who I was at all. I also had knocked free the crystals in my inner ear that work with balance, and that was why I was so incredibly dizzy all the time. The next day the physiotherapists did something called an Epily manoeuvre and they moved the crystals back inside my inner ear canal and improved the dizziness a lot. The procedure itself was absolutely horrible, but worth it in the end. From a seated position on the bed, they basically turned my head to one side, and then laid me down. After 2 minutes the dizziness calmed down, and they turned my head to the other side. I got incredibly dizzy again, but after a few minutes it calmed down. Then they turned my whole body and had me look down at the floor, at which point I thought the entire planet was spinning off its axis at 1 million miles an hour. It was brutal, and I nearly threw up. Then they sat me up, and the crystals reset themselves in my ear. I had to have a shot of Gravol (anti vomit meds) in my leg and I slept for the next 3 hours.
After 5 days including several visits from family, friends and clients, I was released from the hospital, and came home, grateful not only for the amazing care, but for the fact that my wife had 5 days without needing to be at my beck and call in addition to our little boy’s. I was stabilized, reinforced, and felt I could be much less of a burden.
It is several weeks later now, and although my shoulder and my arm are still quite sore all the time, they are healing up nicely. My doctors say that I am recovering remarkably well, and one of the doctors said she had never, ever seen anybody recover from such a severe head injury so well. I suppose that is when we really realized the full extent of my brain injury. We had just sort of brushed it off as a concussion, but it turns out it was much more. The type of brain injury I sustained, is the leading cause of all people in a vegetative state in the world. It wasn’t until the 4th doctor told us we were lucky that I still was myself, that we realized how lucky I am.
I had to google it after that meeting: “Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is a brain injury in which damage in the form of extensive lesions in white matter tracts occurs over a widespread area. DAI is one of the most common and devastating types of traumatic brain injury, and is a major cause of unconsciousness and persistent vegetative state after head trauma.”
At the end of it all I am just incredibly grateful for all the people that helped me out, prayed for me, sent messages, and took care of me through this. I am an incredibly lucky man. My staff at the gym that I own have been absolutely incredible, and have not missed a beat. They have taken on larger roles, and done everything they could so that I can recover from this accident. And that is my absolute goal right now. To recover. To get back to good. It’s frustrating right now, because I’m not allowed to drive (Which is wise, I shouldn’t be driving.), I sleep most of the day, and I cannot focus my attention for more than a few hours at a time before I have to have a nap. Because my dominant hand, my left arm is badly broken, I have to write my newsletter articles and communicate using voice recognition software. While it’s not brilliant, it does work, and again, I am grateful for it. There are many entertaining challenges, such as trying to use my other hand for such complicated tasks as feeding myself or brushing my teeth, but one of the things that bothers me most these days is my loss of taste. Pretty much everything tastes awful. Mostly it is salty foods. Even if they just have a little bit of salt in their preparation, like boneless skinless chicken breasts. They taste like acid. Chicken, chili, curried rice, soup, fresh beef, vegan meal bars, oatmeal, pizza, stir fry, it all tastes the same. Awful. Some things online say this might go away and my tastebuds will return to normal, and I sure hope that is true. Thankfully things like vegetables, fruit, and dessert tastes okay. So at least there is that.
It is indeed a struggle, but I know there are a lot of people in the world in far worse shape than I am, and so again I am absolutely grateful for my life, and for the fact that I can possibly recover from this and be back the way I was.
My wife has been absolutely amazing, not only being an excellent parent to a 3 1/2 year-old, but all of a sudden carrying the entire burden of parenting and day-to-day life with me not being able to help much. I am a very, very lucky man.
Since writing this, my friend Drew, the filmmaker, has sent me the raw footage from the accident scene. It is a pretty sober 5 minutes to watch. The film piece starts with me being hauled into the ambulance, as Drew runs up, realizing something had happened to me. Lyle is squeezing my hand as he gets into the ambulance while trying to keep me awake, Peter is quite shaken, as are Adam and Gary. There are lots of people around helping: Amber, Kari, Dene, Rebecca, Vern, and so many more. At one point, Doug is holding my bike helmet, and the black interior is crimson red.
Which by the way, makes me want to send a huge thank you Rudy Project. My wingspan helmet saved my life, and is one of the reasons that I can still be the father my 3 1/2 year-old little boy knows, and needs.
There is a large pool of blood on the ground, and vomit as well. Doug is convincing Adam and Peter to continue on with their race; saying that I would want them to finish, and he was absolutely correct.
A few scratches and cracks on the helmet, (I will need a new one for sure) but while the helmet and the jersey are a write off, they tell a story.
I am so incredibly grateful for everybody that helped out, and so in love with the ultraman athletes and crews that did exactly what we all agreed, be family.
I also wanted to throw a shout out to my co-athlete friend Christian Isakson, who also crashed on day 2. He broke 7 ribs, a collar bone, and punctured a lung. He has had an equally horrific experience in trying to stay alive, and we have been praying for each other since the race. I am happy that we are both in recovery, and it looks like we are going to get through all of this. I look forward to racing with you again soon my friend!
to Peter, Adam, Gary, Lyle, and everybody at the accident scene and all the way through: I can never thank you enough, and I am just so glad that you were there when I needed you.
To Jane, Sheryl and David: sorry for the mess. It is hard enough to run a race, without having athletes argue with Bridges. I am so thankful for your race, and for the standards you hold. This race could be bigger, it could be more commercial, but I am absolutely glad that it is not, for it has a soul. Thank you for giving Peter, Adam, and Gary the Ohana award. I saw many, many deserving athletes of the award this year, but I am a little biased on these 3.
Peter Hudson and his Ohana award. I don’t have many photos of Adam or Gary, they just aren’t as active on Facebook I guess. Where else do you think I got all of these?
Also, a big thank you to Lyn Beckwith who agreed to translate my crew’s text messages into blog posts during race weekend. I never for a second dreamed that it would be 5 days of hell, wondering if I was alive or dead or what. Sorry for the stress, and thank you for keeping all of our friends up to date on how I was doing. Thanks for being such a great friend in general. When we arrived home from Kona, our fridge was full of good food so that we could just come home and settle down.
And yes, I am excited to race again someday when I am well. It’s part of who I am, it’s part of my lifestyle, and without it I would be less. My goal is to be the fastest man ever to recover from headbutting a concrete bridge.
I have to be patient, but I am starting to see improvements every day. Each day I can think clearly a little bit longer, and stay awake little bit longer. I don’t want to rush it, because I know that is a bad idea. And once again, I will say how thankful I am to my staff, for allowing me the space to heal by virtue of their greatness. I am incredibly thankful for my wife’s parents, who have stepped up and supported us in many incredible ways that could never be explained. We are so incredibly lucky to have you.
Physiotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen treatments have been critical to my recovery speed. I have also been taking a product by Pharmanex that is really amazing for cellular regeneration. Lots of sleep, no TV, and just taking it easy as best I can. I am impatiently waiting for when I am cleared to start training again in some capacity. I start coaching the annual run clinic next weekend, and I am hoping I can run with the ‘Learn to Run’ people.
Thanks for tuning in….. Congratulations for reading over 8,000 words.
PS what are we going to do about the living the warrior code documentary film? I guess the question now is:
do we wrap up the film and completed as it is?
or do we film the next 12 months of recovery, and film the following 11 month return to the Ultraman in 2017?
There are lots of unknowns, but of course, your thoughts are welcome.
This article was written by admin