Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why Endurance Training Is Not Nearly Enough

I love endurance sports, don't get me wrong.

By virtue of not being very fast, I'm an endurance specialist. I like to go long and you all know I LOVE my swimsuit, my bike, and ... well at least I like trail running. But what does endurance training give you beside endurance itself (mental, physical, sometimes emotional)? Not much. Despite triathlon's three disciplines, it's a very narrow skill set that you acquire for all those hours and hours of training. Just a small slice of the overall fitness pie. And probably not the most crucial piece.

When I came flying off of my bike on Thursday, I was traveling somewhere over 20 miles per hour. My chain came off the sprocket and jammed in my rear derailleur, stopping my back wheel cold, I hurtled about eight feet through the air before the first part of me struck the pavement.

By all rights, that first part of me should've been my outstretched hands, probably followed by my face, head, and torso. That's the way it usually goes. If it had indeed unfolded that way, I would probably be typing this from a hospital, while the doctors debated about whether it would be better to rebuild my jaw first or do the skin grafts.

But I had several things going for me that the average bike crash victim doesn't. Many of them are contained in the pie chart above. I had the agility, flexibility, dexterity, balance, and coordination to duck my head toward my right shoulder, curl my left arm in front of me, and execute a near-perfect martial arts forward roll. As this was happening automatically with my body taking over for my mind, my mind was free to contemplate all sorts of things.

If you've ever been in a situation of heightened danger, you know all about the relativity of time. The absolute slowest four seconds of my life occurred on a skydive between the moment when I knew that my main parachute was malfunctioning and the point that my reserve parachute was fully open above my head. It's amazing how much you can observe and contemplate in such a span of time. I could note the runway numbers painted on the pavement directly beneath me, debate whether or not I should try to move myself away toward the much-softer-than-asphalt earth should my reserve parachute fail to open, mentally review the last time my reserve parachute was packed and by who, think about the last things I'd said to several loved ones and evaluate whether or not they were what I'd want to leave with them as my final words, and hope that my mother didn't read my teenage diaries if she should go through my apartment after my demise.

So when I say that while I was flying off of my bike, I had time to think about the fact that I was hurtling toward the lane of oncoming traffic and I should really twist my body and roll on my left side instead of my right, but damn, that's my bad arm so I better make sure I tuck it under myself so I don't re-dislocate my wrist, you'll know I had plenty of time to figure that all out. And so roll on my left side I did, taking me away from my trajectory into the oncoming lane, and landing me back up on my feet. At first, I thought I'd gotten away scot free. I didn't have so much as a scratch on me that I could see, other than a small dime-sized dot of road rash on my elbow.

My elbow.

Huh. Now standing there my fingers were starting to go numb. Not good. Yep. I dinged it just hard enough to re-break it in the same spot I did last year. That's a bummer for sure, but not a catastrophe.

I was talking with a friend yesterday who said they'd just met a woman who survived a similar bike crash. Her face looked like it had recently met a belt sander. So for this, I can thank my martial arts instructors and my dedication to pursuing overall health and fitness, not just a narrow band of endurance sports.

Later, when I got home and started to take off my shirt, feeling a bit bruised and tender, I noticed this interesting pattern of rash/bruising across my back. Evidence that I indeed executed a roll that distributed the impact of my crash in a lateral line from left shoulder to right hip. I don't normally post half-naked photos of myself (though I suppose that blogs who do get far more traffic than mine, LOL), but I am justifiably proud of this rash pattern (so mild, it didn't even tear through my shirt).

Eight of the twelve pieces of the Fitness Pie above helped save me from severe injury. Coupled with my helmet, they possibly saved me from concussion or coma as well. Only my endurance, stamina, strength, and power were not called into play. However, as I had only my own two feet to transport myself (cradling broken arm and carrying my bike bag) to first the doctor's office (1/3 mile down the road) and eventually home (2+ miles away), my endurance did also help me out in the end.

We never know what trials life will bring us. Are we ready to face all of them? If we had to lift a heavy object off of a family member after an earthquake to save their life, could we? If we had to walk 20 miles to safety while carrying our children or possessions, could we? If we had to make a split-second decision to roll away from an oncoming vehicle, would our body comply?

Ahead of me is yet another road of healing and rehabilitation. But just like last time, when my body has recovered, I'll be looking at that whole pie and making sure I'm ready to face what life throws me.


Trail Smitten Mom said...

Chills! Wow, Robin. A truly amazing story. I am just speechless. Thanks so much for sharing this experience in such an eloquent, inspiring way. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

Christina said...

Wow, glad you're OK. You sure have a way of making an inarguable point! :)

Laurel said...

ditto both above... you.are.amazing! speedy recovery wishes!

juliejulie said...

You are amazing! Nice bravery. And thank you for being a never-ending example of inspiration.

Maria (maslife) said...

Glad you are okay. Amazing story, important lesson to take from it. Thanks for sharing.

Dunabit said...

Great story, fantastic reflexes. I'm glad you're relatively ok. Heal well!

Marv said...

You have the makings of a stunt womman. :) Life is sort of like that: it works out better if you can take a fall well. I am glad you didn't get hurt any worse.

tinaparker87 said...

Glad you are okay.