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- in an e-mail from our ultra running friend Matt Watts:
I always like this quote from Red Spicer, the now-deceased RD of Palo Duro:

"Life is a headlong rush into the unknown. We can hunker down and hope
nothing hits us or we can stand tall, lean into the wind and say,
'Bring it on, darlin', and don't be stingy with the jalapeños.' "

I've seen that quote in several variations and have always liked it, too. Thanks, Matt.

And no, I don't remember the interest-free $100,000 I promised to loan you and Anne when I was in that 30-minute period of amnesia after my bike wreck!!

You goofball!  


The best thing that's resulted from my bike crash is/are the wonderfully supportive (and sometimes humorous) letters and phone calls I've received from family and a few friends who we told about the accident about a week after it happened. I wanted time to write the entries about the accident and have some good news before I worried them needlessly.

I've also gotten some great e-mails and responses from folks who here for the Leadville 100 race or who saw this web journal and wanted to wish me well -- and I don't even know some of them! I haven't heard from a few of them since I did the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run four summers ago. I had no idea they were still reading this journal.

That is so heartwarming. Thank you all so much!

I'll try to keep this update shorter than most of my recent entries. The news is good.


First, here's a picture Jim took of me in my new LT100 bike volunteer shirt on Friday:


You'll notice a few other things in that photo besides the attractive shirt:

  • I got my hair permed a few days ago, so it's shorter and curlier for a few weeks.
  • My face is back to normal, with only a tiny scar on my forehead from the nasty lacerations and abrasions I received in the wreck. Even my shorter hair covers it. I'll continue to use the Mederma or another similar ointment for a while to try to "erase" the scar. Or maybe I'll keep it for a souvenir!



Then (no, I'm not jaundiced; the lighting was very different in the ER than it is outside)

  • There is still some scabbing on my arms (and left knee, which doesn't show in the photo), but major healing has occurred on what were very large, deep abrasions. Compare them to what they originally looked like:

Then (see first photo for "now")

  • I've also got a bit of leg and arm bruising that hasn't faded completely but it's almost gone.

With about 1400 cyclists in Leadville this week and their collective history of road rash injuries, I'm no longer embarrassed to walk around wearing shorts and short sleeves! I keep getting these knowing looks . . .

Knee now

Knee then

My strained left shoulder and fractured ribs are significantly less sore than they were a week ago so I've begun walking 3-5 miles every day or two. It will take more time before I can run; that's too much impact right now. I still need to sleep with my head and chest propped up a little bit so my rib cage doesn't hurt but each night I get closer and closer to sleeping in more normal positions and with fewer pillows. [Note: after three weeks, I can run and sleep like a normal person.]

I could sure use some chiropractic adjustments for my neck, which started hurting only recently. I'd much prefer to see my own doctor in VA when we return in the fall rather than start with a new one out here in CO now. I've gradually resumed some of my physical therapy exercises for both shoulders again, hoping that will help both my rotator cuffs and neck soreness.


The upper left side of my head, which took the brunt of the fall, doesn't hurt when I touch it any more. The only symptom I think I have from the concussion, other than amnesia about the accident, is a lack of focus sometimes. That's a common symptom of victims of head trauma and it seems to be decreasing as time goes on. Fortunately, I haven't noticed any of the other concussion symptoms I wrote about in the August 5 entry.

My sense of humor hasn't taken a hit. When I'm talking to people and they ask me how I'm doing, I sometimes surprise them with a quick, "I'm fine fine fine. There's nothing wrong with my head head head."

That gets a laugh after about a five-second pause when they realize it's a joke!

One frame from my brain scan (proof that I really do have a brain??)

If I'm on the computer for hours I sometimes get headaches but I attribute them to my old glasses and not the concussion. I need to replace the better lenses that I destroyed in the wreck; I've collected several price quotes but hesitate to order them while we're still traveling. I'd rather get them either when we return to Roanoke in a few weeks or wait until January, after having another eye exam. Although I have good medical, dental, and drug insurance, I chose to do without vision insurance this year. That was definitely a "false economy," trying to stretch an eye exam and new glasses from October of 2008 to early 2010. My bad. I didn't account for accidental damage.

I still have the same amount of amnesia I've had since the crash: no recollection of what happened and for about 30 minutes after impact. And I'm OK with that. My insurance company will probably have lots of questions, but I stopped obsessing about the incident after the first week. If I had reason to think that someone else caused the accident (e.g., a hit and run), I'd probably still be harboring a lot of anger. But that's not likely the case; it was most likely my screw-up and I own it. Time to move on.

All in all, I'm about back to normal physically after that near wipe-out. I'll talk more about the psychological impact later in this entry.


I contacted the San Juan County Sheriff's Office to see if the woman from that office who responded to my accident, Sheriff Sue Kurtz, had any more information about the wreck. Jim was so busy attending to me at the accident site that he really didn't notice things like skid marks or tire tracks (the bike's or another vehicle's). We didn't see any evidence of either the next morning but by then dozens of cars, trucks, and campers had likely driven over that stretch of road. Maybe the Sheriff saw something right after the crash that would give her a clue as to what caused it.

I also wanted a copy of her report in case my insurance company wants an explanation. I mean, I can't exactly tell them what happened, now can I? I still don't know and there were no apparent witnesses -- certainly no one who wanted to stick around to tell the Sheriff what happened.

The Sheriff was out on a call but I think I got all I needed from a woman who works in her office. She quickly faxed a copy of the report to me -- a very sparse report, not because the Sheriff wasn't concerned or diligent, but because she also has no clue what happened! She'd love to know. She saw no signs of a hit and run OR where I skidded. Nothing. Same thing Jim and I saw the next morning when we went back out to the site (below) to investigate and see if it would help me remember anything.

Just . . . nothing to indicate what happened.

Get this: the woman in the Sheriff's office said they are so interested in what really happened that they want me to be sure to tell them -- if my memory of the crash ever comes back!

What's wrong with this picture??!!  Aren't they the ones who are supposed to investigate it??

I am glad they are concerned about my well-being, however. The woman I talked to said they can't get any information from the EMTs or hospital because of medical confidentiality laws. Well, you know me. I told her about all of my injuries and the healing process thus far. She was very relieved to know I was released from the hospital the night of the accident and have done well since. For all the Sheriff's Department knew, I might have died at the hospital.

When we get our next mail drop, it'll be interesting to see how my insurance company is responding to the claims they're probably receiving by now from the hospital. There isn't anything on my account on their website yet (claims status).


"I hope that you continue to feel better after your accident.  It certainly is a life changing experience even if there were no broken bones.  I think just the trauma of the whole situation can put you off kilter for a while."   - ultra running friend Anne H., who had an even more serious bike wreck 11 years ago

I mentioned in an earlier entry that the more people I tell about the crash, the more people I hear about who have had nasty bike wrecks. Some of their injuries and circumstances have been very similar to mine.

Anne's was one of the worst accidents I've heard about and she's been paying for it in various ways ever since -- surgeries, insurance and legal hassles, loss of balance and subsequent injuries from falls while running, post-traumatic stress symptoms, etc.

Although I haven't had major problems like these (yet, anyway) and my injuries weren't as serious as hers, it it still a life changing experience for me and I know what Anne means about being off kilter for a while. As in any situation that is new or stressful, it is reassuring to hear that others have experienced the same or similar things. I am so appreciative of the empathic responses I've received.

Most dangerous day (#141) on the AT: four flooded streams with chest-deep (or deeper) water

I've mentioned several ironies since the crash. One is that I nearly killed myself on a rather short, easy bike ride yet have managed to avoid any serious consequences for sixty years when I've been in much more risky situations during mountain trail runs and hikes -- or simply driving or riding in a car!

Another irony is that I have assumed for the past two years, since receiving the bad news that my knees are just about out of cartilage, that knee replacements would spell the end of my running, as well as any thoughts of continuing ultra-distance hiking and walking. Now I have an even more compelling concern: that I'll get another concussion if I take a bad fall while trail running. I'm a klutz to begin with. I've never broken a bone or knocked out any teeth or smacked my head on a rock but it's certainly a risk as I age and lose even more of my sense of balance and proprioception.

Learning that subsequent concussions could mean permanent disabilities or even death does make me more hesitant to run on rocky, rooty trails. Duh! That's probably the biggest psychological consequence of this wreck. Even though this is not a sport for which I'm particularly well-suited (at least on paper), it's my favorite physical activity for many reasons and not one I'll give up easily. I'll just have to modify it a bit by running on smoother sections and walking on the rougher ones to minimize the risk of falling.

Good running surface for a klutz like me! (but oh, how boring compared to mountain trails)

I am not afraid to get on a bicycle again. It's like falling off the proverbial horse and getting right back on -- I'm not going to allow one accident, even a serious one, to eliminate an entire sport from my limited repertoire of aerobic exercises.

Neither one of us is wild about getting on this particular bike again, however. Jim rarely rides it and would much rather run. I'd prefer to have my own new trail bike that fits me better than his and has better components (it's 20 years old, was inexpensive at the time, and is simply out-dated). That may not happen until I've got fake knees and can no longer run or walk as much as I want. I'll have to have something aerobic to do then. (If you think I'm a klutz running on trails or riding a mountain bike, you should see me try to cross-country ski! That's not a likely substitute.)

When we get back to Roanoke this fall I'll probably resume riding my nice Terry road bike, shown above. Of course, I need to get a new helmet or use Jim's; it's just like mine. The one that ricocheted down the rocky slope into South Mineral Creek should be in the Gulf of Mexico by now!

I still have the goal of a journey ride someday on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park . . . if I can talk Jim into crewing for me.


"I wouldn't expect this to put you in a rocker permanently, but DO take it easy. We'd like to have you around for many more (tamer) adventures!"   - my sister Nancy

That bike ride was so tame I didn't even consider it an adventure!!

Nancy, the rest of my family, and most of our friends have probably already figured out that this incident isn't enough to render me a couch potato. I will continue pushing my physical limits and seeking adventures until my body won't allow it any more. I'll just try to be more careful.

Our friend Matt also wrote in the same e-mail as the one I quoted at the beginning of this entry,

Sue, I do disagree with one thing in your blog. You wrote, " . . . so I suppose I should 'start acting my age' to increase my chances of making it [to 100 years old]." Screw that. Be smart but [stuff] happens. Do adventures as long as you are able. Adventures and people we care about are the spice of life.

Dick Powell, Matt Watts, Sandy Powell, and Anne Watts:  four of the people we care about

I wrote back to remind him that I ended that entry with these words:

I have no clue if my bike crash three days ago was caused by too much speed or other risk-taking behavior but those are two of the possibilities. I'll probably never know. All I can do is try to minimize as many risks as possible before and during future rides, runs, and hikes -- without taking all the fun out of them. I don't see myself making any significant changes in my personality or lifestyle. I have too big a need for both physical fitness and adventure.

And I'm not likely to "act my age" any time soon, either!

That still applies.

Next entry: LT100 Run pre-race activities from our perspective as volunteers

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil