Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
The past two and a half weeks have been quite the adventure! It started out with the usual race-centered escapades, but shortly thereafter tailspinned into a full-blown Lewis Carrol novel!
We flew down to TX on April 3rd for Galveston 70.3. Our pal, Sgro, picked a few friends and us up at the airport in his sweet, new, double-cab pick-up truck. Originally from Brockton, he’s just a cowboy hat and bolo tie short of a true Texan, now, folks!
Our suitcase did not make it to Houston with us, but Southwest had it delivered to us before we went to bed that night. Because that suitcase held all of the training clothes that we had packed, we needed to get creative for the little run we had planned. We both borrowed shorts from our buddy, Matt Curbeau, and I bought a cheap sports bra at the local sporting goods store. I made a mistake with the size, and basically
hyperventilated for 40 minutes up and down the sea wall of Galveston Island, while wearing men's shorts and a much-too-tight sports bra. Good times.
The address for the rental house, which the landlord both emailed and texted to us, had a minor typo that caused some moderate issues:
- spent a significant amount of time circling a not-so-nice neighborhood looking for a house that did not exist
- texted/called/emailed the correct address to the seven of twelve housemates who were not with us
- hustled to update USADA with a real location for my whereabouts to replace the make-believe one they had on record
- needed to redirect several packages that we had shipped to the rental to save on luggage fees
- got ahold of Southwest and correct the drop-off location for our missing luggage
We had to shoot over to the "local" bike shop for obligatory post-travel, pre-race tune-up. By ‘local’, I mean ‘closest’…40 minutes away, in Houston. The guys at the shop, Bike Barn, were great! Took care of us quickly, and were so friendly!
The next couple of days were pretty low key. Just some short workouts, and a lot of sitting around, relaxing, waiting for the race.
The race went well! I am pleased with my performance, and thrilled for QT2 – we won the team competition!
This race involved a small wager between Tim and Mike…
To wrap up the event, we all headed over to the QT2 post-race party. Fun stuff!!
We drove to Bastrop, TX on April 10th for the Austin Rattler 100k. While I had nailed down our lodging for Galveston, Brad found our accommodations for Austin. He won! It was beautiful, the perfect size, and fully equipped with washer, dryer, blender, and front porch. AND it was in a lovely, backwoods “neighborhood”.
We got to swim at UT Austin several times – I LOVE SWIMMING OUTDOORS! – and checkout many of Austin’s popular landmarks, including THE Whole Foods Market. I LOVE WHOLE FOODS!!!
The guys raced on Saturday, and Tim secured himself a spot for Leadville:
After far too brief of a stay in Austin, we packed up on Sunday, and hit the road. We drove to Houston, TX on April 14th. The guys hustled to get packed up, clean up the house, and move out so that I could get my training in before it got too late.
Brad and Gibbons dropped Tim and me off at Sgro’s place, where we planned to stay for the night, before flying home on Monday morning. I hopped on my bike and, wanting to avoid riding unfamiliar roads in Houston, I hit the George Bush bike path for my four-hour ride. With the local MS 150 ride scheduled for the following weekend, the narrow path was packed! It was a wide spectrum of athletes out there, so I knew immediately, that, to avoid any mishaps, I needed to be alert and focused. I was doing a great job, and about three and a half hours into the ride, was looking forward to my transition run. I had turned around a little early on the loop to cut out a somewhat sketchy portion of the path, and was headed back toward the more open section when I encountered a group of five or six riders coming the other way. As I approached them, I sat up and slowed my pace a bit. At the same time, the guys at the front of the group single-filed up, and it appeared that we would pass each other without incident.
Unfortunately, one of the men toward the back got a little distracted, and took a hand off the handlebars while looking down (to get a gel or adjust his computer??). He drifted over to my side of the path. I shouted and we both tried to react, but it just happened too quickly.
Our bikes made contact, and I went down hard. I immediately started yelling for help. It was all that I could think to do. It was hard to breathe and I just wanted someone to come help me. I was lying mostly off the path, with my head right at the edge of the pavement (YES, I most certainly had a helmet on!), but I was on my side and could see a woman running my way.
When she got to me, I grabbed her hand. I just wanted to hold her hand. The group, including the man I had collided with, stopped and came to help, as well. I asked the woman to take my phone out of my back pocket, which she did while continuing to let me squeeze the feeling right out of her hand.
Because someone was already on the phone with 911, I called Tim. I explained to him that I’d been in a little accident and described exactly where I was on the path so that he and Sgro could come as quickly as they could. I knew that this one was going to involve an ambulance ride – my right side was pretty sore – but I wanted to see Tim. After I hung up the phone, I just lay there, squeezing that poor woman’s hand, trying not to think about how bad this could be.
I can feel my toes. I can breathe. It hurts, but I can breathe. I must have just knocked the wind out of myself. My head doesn’t hurt. Where’s Tim? Where’s the ambulance? Is this really happening? I want to cry. Why? That won’t help. My hand kind of hurts. Maybe I should loosen up my grip. How am I going to get all my training in? I still have to run and swim today! Ok. Stop. That’s probably not going to happen. But it’s not the end of the World. You’ll probably be at the hospital for a while, have a rough night’s sleep, and be sore as all get-out on the flight home tomorrow, but you’ll be fine.
Then I could hear sirens, and, just after that, the woman said that she could see Tim and Sgro pulling into the nearby parking lot (I’d asked her to keep an eye out for a big, blue pick-up truck). She said, “He’s coming. He’s running over now.” I was so very happy to see him. I was also happy to see the EMT’s hot on his trail. They asked me some basic questions –
“What’s your name?” Caitlin
“How old are you?” 31
“Do you know where you are?” The George Bush bike path in Houston
“Did you hit your head?” Yes
“Did you lose consciousness?” No
“Can you feel this?” (touching my lower leg) Yes
“What hurts?” My right side, from my sternum to my spine. And my left hand, a little.
They put me on a backboard, and secured me to it using duct tape, including a strip across my forehead. (That was all fine and dandy until it came time to un-secure me from the backboard. Good times!)
First, I was taken to a hospital that was quite close to the path. After performing a basic exam (“Does this hurt? What about this?”), they took a CT scan of my abdomen and x-rays of my chest and left hand. I was warned about what they were looking for, but did not expect that they would find anything worse than a fractured bone in my hand. Tim and I chatted while we waited. I told him all about what had happened, how decent my ride had been going to that point, how crowded the path had been and alert I had tried to be. I asked him how my bike was (He hadn’t looked at it; had been a little distracted.). I told him I was getting hungry and asked if he thought I could eat something. (No! Lame!) Meanwhile, the nurses kept checking my vitals and taking blood. I do NOT like needles. I don’t mind them when I’m sewing, but, when they are put into the crook of my arm, where I imagine they are going to snap off and float around my blood stream, I get squeamish. So that wasn’t fun.
Eventually, the nurse practitioner came in with the test results, and just spilled the beans. “You have a lacerated liver, fractured ribs, a partially collapsed lung with a small pneumothorax, and a fracture in one of your vertebra.” Whaaaaat??.....whaaaaat?? “We need to transfer you over to another hospital that has a trauma unit.” WHAT?? A TRAUMA UNIT? Oh, I don’t like this! The nurse explained that the trauma unit would be able to monitor my injuries 24-7; that I would be in the hospital for at least the next two days.
He explained that the pneumothorax and lacerated liver were the most concerning, and needed to be watched closely; that, if the liver was bleeding, emergency surgery may be necessary; that if the pneumothorax grew, they may need to insert a chest tube to release the air and relieve the pressure being applied to the vital organs in my chest cavity. Oh, my goodness! This sounds serious. Ok. Just do what they say. He said that an ambulance was on its way to transfer me to Memorial Hermann Medical Center. Memorial Hermann? I know Memorial Hermann! They sponsor Galveston and The Woodlands! I think it’s a good hospital...
Tim and I quickly made a plan – he would ask Sgro, who was waiting so patiently in the waiting room, to bring him to get a rental car, he’d swing by Sgro’s place to grab a few things for me, call Southwest to adjust our flights (they couldn’t have been nicer), and then meet me at Memorial Hermann. Off he went!
A few minutes later, Chris Farley and David Spade showed up to transfer me across the massive city. Haha, they were great! The guy who sat in the back with me throughout the ride, doubled as an EMT/comedian, making the anxiety-riddled, somewhat bumpy ride pass a little quicker.
Once we got to MH, a very friendly, although fully worked, staff attended to me immediately. More x-rays and blood were taken, and I was hooked up to vital-sign-monitoring machines. Let the beeping begin! (A beautiful sound, I agree!) I was also given a fun little toy called an “incentive spirometer”. A meter! Meters equal data. Data’s fun! This tool is used to check lung capacity and help expand the lungs. You breathe out as much air as you can, and then inhale using the straw. The higher the blue disc goes, the better.
Sometime around 2am, I checked into my newly assigned digs, had my vitals checked one more time, and was asleep before the nurse left the room. I was shocked by how well I slept! With all of the “excitement” of the previous few hours and the pain that I expected to hit any minute, I anticipated a restless night of sleep – if I even slept at all! I slept until the nurse came in to check my vitals and take more blood at 6am.
They would continue to monitor my vital signs every four hours, and draw blood every eight hours. The blood work was used to check on the liver – if the hemoglobin count went down, then the liver was likely bleeding and they would need to do surgery. They also took an x-ray each morning. These were used to check on the pneumothorax and make sure that, at the very least, it was not getting any larger, and, hopefully, that it was getting smaller.
Monday morning, I watched the first few hours of the marathon online. Tim got to the hospital around noon, and the coverage had really slowed down, so I stopped paying attention. Tim and I talked for a while, and then I shut my eyes for a little nap. A few minutes later, I woke up to Tim scurrying around, trying to figure out how to turn on the TV. He got CNN on, and said, “Look.” It took a few seconds to register what I was looking at. Bombs at the marathon?? No! That can’t be right – it must have been firecrackers or something. Some little prank by some punk teenagers.
Unfortunately, as we, and the rest of the nation, would come to learn, that was not the case. Over the coming days, we would stay glued to TV, radio, and Twitter in an effort to understand what was happening back home, and follow the investigation into who could do such a thing. It was tough to be so far away from home when this happened to a place that is considered a part of our home. I described it to a friend this way: It’s like a loved one being hurt; being beaten, and all that you want to do is hug that person; to be there and give him/her comfort, even if you can’t take the pain away, but you’re thousands of miles away. We wanted to be home to show our solidarity with the rest of region, but that was going to be an adventure all its own.
The blood work continued to come back stable, my resting HR continued to confound the staff (I was told that they usually see numbers in the 70’s, not 30’s), and my progress looked great. Mid-day on Tuesday, I was served my walking papers. But there was a caveat: no flying for a minimum of two weeks. Yut-oh! That’s not going to go over well. We had three options: stay in Houston for two weeks, rent a car and drive home, or take a train home. After a little bit of research, and some guidance from family, we opted for a good ol’ fashioned railway adventure!
We went back to Sgro’s, got organized, bought tickets for the train, and grabbed a happy-to-not-be-eating-hospital-food meal at an awesome little Greek place called Niko Niko’s. It was SO good! Previously, the extent of my Greek cuisine experience consisted of hummus, pita bread, and feta cheese. I couldn’t quite bring myself to get anything with lamb, but I did try a sandwich with tzatziki sauce. It was wonderful! Not only was the food amazing, but we got to hang out with some fun folks, and, while it may have hurt a bit, laugh a lot. Thanks, Sgro, Heather, and Aubry!
Wednesday morning, we packed up, and began the next leg of our adventure. Before we could board a train, we needed to take a four-hour bus ride from Houston to Longview, TX. At the bus station, similar to an airport, we needed to check our luggage, which entailed weight restrictions and fees. Tim went to work!
We had two bikes in bike cases (thanks to TriBike Transport it was only two – Tim’s tribike was already northbound), one large suitcase, and two smaller bags. Five bags, including two bikes.
Want to guess how much that cost? Go ahead, guess! $300? $350? Nope! $60. Six, zero! The poor woman felt so bad about having to charge us so much for just our luggage. We could hardly contain our excitement! I tried to keep a straight face as we handed over the dough, afraid that, somehow, the fees would increase if she had any idea how much it would cost to fly with this cargo.
We took the bus up to Longview, waited at the train station for a couple of hours, and then boarded our mobile hotel. It wasn’t exactly a suite. For the first of two legs on the train – a 19.5 hr ride up to Chicago – we had a room that was 3’6” wide, 6’6” long, and just over 7’ tall. The room on the second leg – what was supposed to be a 23 hr ride from Chicago to Boston – was two inches wider, and contained a toilet.
I was quit concerned about the “personal” toilet. It sounded nice when we booked the room. Oh, our own bathroom! That will be nice! That was before we saw that the toilet and the lower bunk were, literally, conjoined. Not cool!
Considering my condition, I was quite grateful to have the lower bunk, but was not excited about the prospect of catching any splash. Luckily, Tim’s response to my warning about precision, was, “Nah, I’ll use the bathroom down the hall. I have bad enough aim at home. I don’t need to be trying that in the dark on a train in the middle of the night!” THANK YOU!
Again, I was shocked by how well I slept. Between the injuries and the rickety nature of a moving train, I figured there was no way I was going to get more than two or three hours of shut-eye. Not the case! Pretty much slept right through the night. There were a few wakeful moments, though, when we hit a bit of turbulence. It’s one thing when the train rocks around while you’re awake. You’re relatively alert and fully aware that you’re on a train. When you’re sleeping, though, you tend to lose a sense of your surroundings and whereabouts, and the slightest movements are exaggerated. The next morning, Tim recounted, “I thought the train was going over!” Luckily he had his safety net up on the top bunk!
When we got to Chicago, even though the train that we were on was running three hours behind (literally!), we still had four hours before our eastbound train was scheduled to depart. We took advantage of the opportunity to catch up with family and grab some authentic Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Tim’s cousin, Carl, along with little Mae and Jude, picked us up at Union Station, and swept us across town to the city’s legendary Gino’s East pizzeria, where Rachel met us for dinner. Another great meal with awesome company! Thank you, Carl and Rachel!!
Throughout the trip, we had been keeping a close eye on the progress of the investigation back home, and knew, when we went to bed Thursday night, that they were close to finding the suspects. When we woke up Friday morning, we found that there had been a great deal of activity the night before, leading to the lockdown of the city and a number of surrounding towns. With our train continuing toward South Station, we followed the news, and checked in with friends and family to make sure everyone
was safe. As we made our way through New York, we got word that trains were not being allowed past Albany. Amtrak would provide buses for those us headed to Boston, but would only be able to take us as far as Worcester.
Luckily, we had folks who we could count on to drive out and pick us up. I was surprised, and a bit saddened, by how many people were going to be stranded at the bus station until transit into the city was reopened.
We listened to the radio and live-streamed the news the whole way home, watching, with the rest of the country, as the BPD and FBI closed in on the suspect they had trapped in a boat. Just after we got home, the arrest was made, and the celebrations began. Even though we weren’t right in the city, it was great to be home and “with” everyone when the first step in justice was made. Lot of pride in Boston right now!
Although my crash was nothing compared to the life-altering events in Boston, my injuries were serious enough that my training was interrupted. Due to the timing of the accident, the extent of the injuries and subsequent down time, I am going to shift my focus from IM Texas to IM Coeur d’Alene. I’m healing very well, and am VERY bummed about not being able to return to the Lone Star state for another go at that great race, but at the same time, I’m pretty excited to go back out to CDA. It’s been a couple years, and it is a beautiful course. Hope to see you out there, Teigen!
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