anniversary of life, again

On 02/02/02 I had my only near death experience (so far). I was a freshman at Colorado State University. I had come to CSU four years after the shoe box under my bed had filled with letters of interest from university running programs all over the country following my freshman year of xc and track, three years after my first knee injury and repair, 2 years after the second knee repair, 1 year after the letters dwindled, and 3 months after my third knee repair. Needless to say, I wasn't there on a big scholarship, I wasn't there on any scholarship. I'd gone from huge promising career, to basically just another walk on. And it was a hard pill to swallow, so I didn't. I blindly fought, I knew I could I scrap my way back up to where I should be.

I road my bike when the team ran. I went to the gym like it was my job. I did all my PT. I looked ahead to the day when I would be in the line-up, when my knee would be healed up and strong. On February 1, my coach sat me down and said, welcome to the team. I was out of my mind. This was the start. The first step getting off the walk-on bench was done.

The next day I headed up to the mountains to watch some sort of box sledding competition. It sounded fun. But we didn't make it. Just outside of Denver on I-70 suddenly the friend driving got caught between gears while going 70 mph. We slowed immediately. It happened so fast. I was in the front seat and looked at her, looked back, the semi truck behind couldn't slow. There were cars flying all around. The impact was huge, the entire trunk of the Jeep came to meet the back seat. The windows blew out. I thought so logically, and filled with anger, that this was it. I pictured our car pin balling the highway until we were crumpled into nothing. Until it was over. I was so mad that this stupid, plain, boring accident would be my end.

The next thing I knew we'd cleared the highway, smashed headfirst into a tree and settled in a ditch. Blood was pouring from everyone's noses. My back was in excoriating pain. The dust from the airbags filled the air. I opened my door and rolled onto the dead grass. I lay there, unable to move. Cars began to pull up in the breakdown lane. A woman who was a nurse found me, and asked me, while poking at my legs and feet, what I could feel. My friend leaned over my face, blood dripping. I don't remember any of us crying. Too shocked I think.

I could see the traffic building behind us, people craning their necks to look at the wreckage. To look right at me. It was surreal, to be the accident everyone couldn't look away from. Now I can't look at accidents at all. I cry for complete strangers all the time.

I ended up breaking three vertebrae, staying in the hospital with a steady morphine drip for two days, and wearing a metal back brace for a 9 weeks. The grabber I had to use to pick up anything that normally would require bending at the waist really completed the look. My dating life was H-O-T, hot ;)

I was devastated that I would have to start over with running, but nothing in my life has given me more perspective. Even if it took years for the perspective to boil down to clarity. Every day is a gift, running is a gift, even bending over to pick up something I drop is a gift... I really don't know how or why we all made it out of the Jeep. But no amount of years will take away the feeling of living, again.

Comments

  1. Holy cow. This is the kind of post that sends shivers down your spine. It really puts everything in perspective! I love following your training and I know you've got big things ahead of you - so glad you haven't given up!

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  2. Wow I had no idea. I love what you said "Every day is a gift, running is a gift, even bending over to pick up something I drop is a gift". I think it's true on so many levels. Thank you for sharing this, it really puts life and running into perspective.

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  3. inspiring stuff, lady. i had an inkiling you were tough, but daaaaamn... keep at, starfish, you've got a hell of a lot more life in you yet!

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  4. wow! but you're right - perspective is everything. meaning, realizing your gifts. you're one tough cookie - i'm glad i found your blog via Lauren Fleshman via Oiselle via...?!

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  5. This was a beautiful post. Really made me stop and think how lucky we all are to be alive!

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  6. I work out often and I really enjoy it. My supplements definitely help me get towards a more healthy lifestyle. And a few sites really have the best prices and reputation anywhere.

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  7. Sarah, you're an inspiration. Truly.

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  8. Your positive outlook is so beautiful! Glad we can all continue to be inspired by your drive and your stride.

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