Monday, May 10, 2010

"This is going to hurt"

Well foks, there's going to be a setback in the cycling season. After a solo Berkshires ride on Saturday where I largely escaped the rain, riding 78mi and 10,000ft of climbing, I decided a light day on the trails was in order. SteveG and I headed out to nearby Yudicky Farm in Nashua, a beginner area to ride. I was on my 29er, which with my fatigue level, felt a bit like driving a school bus through the tight, twisty singletrack. About 10min into the ride, I side swiped a tree. It threw me a bit off balance to the left. I got my leg out just in time to jam it squarely into the loamy soil. My foot stopped, my leg did not. Those that have ever hiked with me know I have a tendency to roll ankles. What happened was the ultimate roll. The loud, audible crack instantaneously told me I broke my ankle. The second thought that went through my mind a millisecond later was my Italian trip planned for next week just went poof.

The pain was indescribable. I have never broken a bone before. My foot just kind of dangled off the bottom of my leg. Bones were nearly piercing the skin. It was a disgusting site. When Steve came back to me, his words were "it doesn't look good."

We did not have a cell phone, but were only 100m off Gilson Rd. Steve said he would carry me there and get the van. In hind sight, this was stupid. Steve has a hulk of an upper body and does squats with small cars. Carrying me piggy back was no problem for him. My foot dangling on my leg was a whole 'nother issue.

He laid me down by the road and went to get his van nearby. Passerby's stopped. One guy called 911 and made me talk to them to explain why I didn't need an ambulance in between F-bombs. I convinced 911 I would get to hospital shortly. The wise man called 911 again and said I needed an ambulance. That clearly turned out to be the right thing to do.

They got me into the ambulance before starting a IV. I was writhing in so much pain, I kept ejecting the IV from my hand. They went to the elbow with greater success. They started with 5mg of morphine. Other than an initial flushing feeling, it did nothing for the pain. Another 5mg. Maybe made a minor dent in pain. In ER, they gave me another 5mg. I was able to stop screaming by that point, but my voice was already trashed.

I got Xrays, which hopefully no women or children were within two floors of. It friggin hurt. I think I was up to 26mg of morphine at this point. The deal with morphine is it doesn't kill the pain, it's supposed to make you not bothered by it. It took a while for the orthopedist to show up. His name is Dr. Heaps. He told me I had three fractures, two needing metal work. It was going to be a while before I got into surgery. He said he needed to get my ankle to look more like an ankle in the mean time. He said "this is going to hurt."

Ankle was pretty much FUBAR.

Fibula fracture closer to my knee did not need surgery.
Like the calf muscle definition?

What ensued for the next 10 minutes will give me nightmares for years to come. He proceeded to set my ankle. Being on the other side of a closed door was no match for my wife. She had to flee the area. I never screamed so hard. Dr. Heaps was pulling, twisting and pushing bones back into place. All I could feel is bone to bone grinding. I thought surely I was going to black out. This hurt 1000x more than breaking my ankle and getting carried out of the woods.

I went down to surgery around 4:30pm. I'm normally terrified of being put under, the only other time was when I had tonsils out at 7. This time, I couldn't wait.

When I came back around, the pain was gone, but I was wicked doped up too. I guess it went well. Back in my room at 10pm, I got to see the pre- and post-op Xrays. Looked like things pulled back together nicely. I don't think I was on pain meds overnight. I had no pain as long as I didn't move. I actually slept bits in between the hourly nurse checks.

One titanium plate, 6 screws, two threaded pins put 'er back
together again.

They made me take two percocet in the morning. The nurses said trust us, you want it for later when they get you out of bed. This stuff made me wicked nauseous. I could not eat my breakfast. Still, my pain was minimal.

So as I type at 1:30pm Monday afternoon, I've been up on crutches briefly. I hope to go home later today. Getting up was not nearly as painful as I feared. A two story house is going to be challenging. Have to keep leg elevated above heart for a week. Then stitches come out and I get some kind of boot cast put on. Could be in that for up to 10 weeks. Both of our cars are manuals. That means no driving for six weeks.

Here's the grim damage for this season. My pre-paid, non-refundable trip to Italy is gone. Colorado trip with Leadville is gone. I'm registered for many other races already. I think the tally is in $6000-7000 range. I feel badly for Brett Rutledge, my Italian travel partner. Anybody want to go in my stead? We can work out an extraordinary deal.

I wonder if Fat Doug is going to be revived? I see some serious challenges ahead. I knew sooner or later my number would come up. Didn't expect it to be such a freak thing, riding a beginner trail at 8mph.


plum said...

Oh my God. Not what I would have ever expected to read.

What do I offer. Token condolences, an anecdote about easy terrain and serious injury. I'll pass on that.

I the right thing and execute the rehab as instructed, and try to use the time to catch up on some other things you haven't been able to find time for.

Definitely pulling for you - that's a rugged story to sit through. Let alone be the star of.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear.
Not that I had much planned, but I had a quad tear last June. Kept me 100% off the bike for almost 8 weeks to heal properly. Good news is that I had one of my strongest fall & winter riding seasons yet.
Relax. Get better. You'll come back stronger I'm sure.
-Brian in NJ

Lanier said...

Sorry to hear about this Doug. The first couple weeks are the hardest because your mind is still addicted to riding every day and you can't do it. After that it gets a bit easier. Sucks about the trip. I'll bet you can find someone to go in your place if you look around.

solobreak said...

Wow that looks bad. It looks pretty good after they fixed it though. This story made me nauseous just reading it. You will bounce back!

Jonny Bold said...

I'm so so sorry!!! I never expected to read that report, who would? I was just reading Brent Bookwalter's blog about his awful leg injury in 2007. It was greusome beyond belief and yet he nearly pulled on the Pink Jersy at the Giro the other day. You've got a long painful road ahead, but maybe his story will offer you some good positive encouragement.

I'm just sick knowing this happened to you. Especially after a 3 hour Trail of Tears solo hammer ride yesterday. I did have my phone with me, and I think I always will from here on out. I'm glad you had such a good and strong friend to carry you out. He gets a big "Atta Boy" from everyone I'm sure.

This will suck for a while, but I have no doubt you'll be back grabbing life by the balls like you always do, sooner than later.

Get off the percs as soon as you can. That shit is the worst! You won't crap for a month if you get too much of it in you. Then you've got more problems.

I hope someone can trade cars with you for a while when you're up to driving in a couple weeks.

So sorry, JB

Luke S said...

Doug, good luck with your recovery. Do you rehab right, and don't rush yourself!

Mookie said...

Doug, my condolences. As Lanier said, the initial two weeks are going to be rough, but it's imperative you find something constructive to occupy your mind. I found reading/x-words helped pass the time.

Look on the bright side, this could have happened on one of your solo epics in Durango or somewhere and you likely would have been way up shits creek.

Here's to a little Zatopek effect coming out of this...



CB2 said...

Real sorry to hear this Doug.
But you have plenty of time to get back into shape to beat me at Winding Trails next year.
Heal well.

Brian Anderson said...

Bad luck. I broke my hip mountain biking 2 1/2 years ago and was on crutches for 12 weeks. I did not gain weight, just naturally ate less. Going up and down stairs is tricky at first, I moved a bed to the first floor. The pain meds do case constipation, get drugs to counter to that ASAP.

Staying with rehab is important. Since riding can use your legs asymmetrically, it's is easy to start riding but favor one side and end up with one leg weaker.

On the bright side, being home for 3 months gave me perspective on working long hours and missing home time. A major accident is an opportunity to rethink you priorities.

I'm still riding an racing, so it all worked out, best of luck to you on recovery, and if I can help in any way let me know.

MrFrenzy said...

Very nice calf definition! But your gonna loose a bit of it I'm afraid. Maybe they will let you in the pool soon. That saved me through the herniated disc this winter

Anonymous said...

Doug - yikes, so sorry to hear about your injury & it's impact on your considerable plans for the next couple of months - ! Argh...I suspect all the readers here would agree with certainty that you'll be back quickly -- 'bigger/stronger'...faster. Patrick in CT

Anonymous said...

As an anonymous reader of your blog, I am prompted to write and say I'm so sorry to hear about this gruesome accident!

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!


PS - No better time to tell you how much I appreciate your extension collection of NE hill climbing data!

Peter Minde said...


Here I was, feeling sorry for myself with a mere torn hamstring. Best wishes for a complete and quick recovery. Following rehab completely is key to getting better. I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts.

Best regards Peter

The Warrenator said...

I'm a regular reader of your excellent blog Doug, and we always seem to be bumping into each other, but I have never felt the need to comment. This time is different though, as I think all of us are wishing you a quick and full recovery. One of the guys I ride with did an endo a few years back, and broke his collarbone and some ribs. He came back to run a marathon PR and can climb with the best of em'. If anyone can do that it's the Hill Junkie. Good luck Doug.

Az said...

I bet Doug could still beat me up one of those hills with the cast on his leg and broken ankle.

Sorry to hear about the accident. Its never fun to be on crutches. I was on them twice, once for 6 weeks and the other time for a week, damn knees. Going up stairs is a challenge at first, but gets easier as you do them. Just don't fall backwards.

Best of luck on the recovery. You still need to do the trips you planned, but take Mrs. Hilljunkie with you on the trips.

Dana & I wish you a speedy recovery from Texas.


Anonymous said...

Best of luck on the recovery. You'll be back, no doubt, better than ever. Stay positive.

gewilli said...

H.S. doug, I saw the mention over at solo's and got a chance to read this today.

ouch, ouch, ouch - man I can't imagine the pain - wow. Heal up, eat well (not alot just really good stuff) and take care, we'll all be wishing you a speedy and complete recovery!

Alex said...

That was a gruesome read, and a scary one as we all thank our stars it wasn't us this time. Good luck with the healing process, being in a cast is no fun but you're a tough cookie. The good news is that breaks heal more cleanly than torn ligaments... if you can call that good news.

Hill Junkie said...

Thanks for the well-wishes everybody. Sitting idle at 40bpm max HR hasn't caught up with me yet. I wonder if Percocet works as a substitute for endorphine. They are both morphine-like substances.
I forgot to mention that every person that checked my HR at the hospital commented on it. The low HR alarm always went off when they came by with the cart for the hourly checks.

Gewilli - you'll be proud. Cathy brought home the biggest bunch of whole foods ever, lots of different colored fruits and vegitables. I'll try to make this an opportunity to take my diet to the next level. We need to purge the house of pastas and rices I normally load up on to keep the engine stoked for 10-14hrs of training per week. It will be much harder to put on weight eating only whole foods. The question is, will I have the will power to commit?

rick is! said...

bummer dude. sorry to hear this happen. timing couldn't be worse.

it's funny because while I was riding yesterday I had a thought that eventually my number would be up since I've thus far avoided breaking a bone. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

get better soon!

Steve C said...

Sorry to hear of your injury, I know it is hard but stay positive and let your body heal fully before starting any activity. I have been a fan of the blog and the detailed NE hill climbing library for some time, you even inspired me to sign up for the Mt. Washington race this year. Take it slow with the recovery and soon enough you will be dropping guys on the bike once again.

Anonymous said...

D- Nothing will make you feel any better. But I will offer my method of dealing with these freak setbacks...which is that as much as I am a cheery agnostic, I do believe that this stuff is the result of some kind of divine intervention- that perhaps it happened because it prevented something even more devastating from happening...And, I'm thankful of what I still have...good luck and take it easy...Marvin

Anonymous said...

I’m very sorry to hear about your accident. I was expecting to read about another epic ride, instead the story went from bad to worse. My wife fractured her tibia plateau in Jan and required similar hardware. She has been making steady progress since and I hope you do the same. I remind her that Michelle Roark, who competed in the moguls in Vancouver, had 6 knee surgeries and she still could ski the bumps at an Olympic level. Luckily, biking usually helps the recovery for leg injuries.

Jonny Bold said...

I'm glad to see so much love coming your way Dougie. You're a well liked and very repected member of the New England Cycling Family. Good karma for you. The worst of it is already behind you. You'll be back at it in no time.

Judsonc Cake said...

Very sorry to hear it. Like you said, a challenge ahead. You can do it.

Get well soon. Email me your address and I'll send you a care package from Maine. Blueberry pie and anything else you might need to keep your mind busy the next few weeks.

Judson Cake.

Kevin said...


Ouch! Steve passed the word to me today. Sorry to hear you will be down for a while.

Since I have experience in recovery, I offer the following advice:
1. Maintain a positive state of mind and you will recover quicker. Talk with Dan. He is the poster guy for positive recovery.
2. Be nice to your recovery team - especially your wife.
3. Get a pool membership and purchase a swim in place belt. Once your cast is off, you can enter the deep end with assistance and tread water to get your heart rate up - and then begin swimming as you progress. In water you can control speed and intensity of movement without any impact or loading from gravity. Use it to augment therapy.
4. Surround yourself with supportive friends.

Regarding the surgery, you're lucky Dr. Heapes was on duty.

My wishes for a speedy recovery,


Anonymous said...


Paraphrasing what someone else said, you could probably still beat me up Lincoln Gap with one leg. F'in awful luck, and any upside seems nonexistent at the moment, I'm sure. But they say cycling fitness improves year to year, not just week to week and month to month, so with the miles you have in the tank, I'm sure you'll be back flying in no time. Or maybe you'll take holy orders. I can't see it, but I expect you will find some way to improve without turning the pedals. Heal fast and painless, my friend.

Jon E., Arlington, MA

Jacked Up Old Man said...

Wish I could purchase Italy trip from you but am going on active duty stint soon.

Best Advice is to get arm pull machine and use 1-2 hr day.

It is boring when I fractured pelvis I did 10 min intervals then rest for an hour plus a day.

it does a couple of other things besides getting your arms in shape.

It will increase your overall blood flow to your arms but also to your broken ankle. Collateral blood flow will bring nutrients to the fracture and enhance healing process
It will also keep you sane.

Another idea is one legged pedaling. There is some data that the firing of muscles on one side will cause some benefit to the other side.

thank god it was your foot not your head.

Adapt and overcome, as you are the master at.

nbannish046 said...

I've been reading your blog and hillclimb site for some time now - great job on all of it!

When I saw this I knew I had to comment.

I just started road riding two years ago and before that it was mountain bikes. So, needless to say, I've broken things before! Two ribs, my big toe, and my ankle. All I can say is: don't worry, you won't gain too much weight at all. At first you'll feel weird and possibly a little weak once you get back on the bike, but it won't last for long.

I know it's easy for me to say since I'm not the one with a busted leg, but don't worry, it'll be over soon and you'll be riding again before you know it!

John C said...


Wow what a story. Maybe it's time for you to get some of your stories into print. Cycling mags, Reader Digest... You write well and your stories are good. Gie it some thought. Hang in there guy. Use this time wisely lots of good cycling, diet, sports books to read.

Maybe you can do some coaching. I think Mr. Ting could use a good coach. The start of a new career.

Hope you feel better and heal fast.

Gerard said...

"Athletes can condition themselves to endure pain that would incapacitate others."

And I know cyclists who climb mountains for fun learn to love this pain. The exhilaration of the victory at the summit makes the pain worth it.

Doug, I know its hard but keep a positive attitude, you will come back to where you were and maybe even stronger. And Italy's mountains will still be there next year.

Good Luck!
- Gerard

Anonymous said...

Hey Doug, stay positive and heal fast. You've got a lot of people pulling for you. Rest hard.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug- don't know you personally but I follow your website and have done some hill climbs that you participated in. I broke my tibia and fibia in a skiing accident at Attitash just before Christmas in 2008. Looking at your x-rays they look similar to mine (except my tibia was spiral fractured and it looks like your fibia was). I did my leg in on 12/21/2008 and was back on the bike the first week of March. I wasn't pushing any real watts at first, but it comes back very quickly. The key thing during rehab is to try and stay as positive and upbeat as possible- things will get better- it just takes time.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

ever met you but follow the web sorry man...hope you have as much mental toughness to get through rehab as you do with your climbing and cycling abilities...
just 8 weeks to go now.....

Booksy said...

Positivity, man. After my knee surgery, I was stuck at my moms house for two weeks (seriously) and it seriously set my recovery back a couple weeks. Stay positive, visualize healing, love your ankle and it will love you back.

Anonymous said...


Very sorry to hear about your injury & I hope you make a quick & full recovery.

Rich Brown.

Brian Cavanagh said...

Health educator & former Spam & Guinness Team rider Brian Cavanagh here. When I shattered my R shoulder in Jan 2008, risk of bone death (avascular necrosis) was a concern. Months of rehab later, I rode 87 miles in July 2008, then 136 miles a year later, then a PR 165 miles in 12 hrs (July 2010) at age 54. Hope this gives you hope. Remember to work abs & other core muscles along w/ back, arms, shoulders and chest as a way to blow off stress, enable sleep, and provide the supplementary training that will ultimately complement your past cardio (which will come back, in good time). email me if you have more questions, Doug.