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What to Expect From a Broken Clavicle

In desperately googling every nook and cranny of the internet about broken clavicle surgery and recovery from it, I managed to run across a gem of a blog post series about broken collarbones, treatment, surgery and recovery. One post was so funny and so accurately depicts my life right now that I couldn't not share it. Courtesy of Laura and sent in to Hans Kellner Dot Com, I give you...

What to Expect From a Broken Clavicle

full post linked here but some highlights:

Killing the pain. First, let’s discuss the power of alchohol. Through the ages this fine substance has been used to dull the pain of many a fallen soldier. Seeing myself as such, I broke into the whiskey with wild abandon. Choosing Jack Daniels’ as my personal “fav’ I set out to imbibe. If you dose this correctly you won’t have to pick up your prescription vicadin. Careful to drink a glass of water for each alcoholic drink so you avoid hangovers.

Dressing, this becomes a new adventure. You must keep your hurt shoulder extremely still. This means that the arm attached to it is completely useless. If you are a woman then forget the bra. If you must have a bra get someone you “trust’ to put your most comfortable one on and realize you will be wearing this item for at least two or three days. Unable to work out how to get a t-shirt on I tried my shirts that button up. You soon come to realize that buttons are not an option. Ok, back to regular shirts. I could get large t-shirts on by feeding the sleeve of the bad arm over my useless hand up to my armpit and then carefully pulling it over my head and then putting my functional arm in the other arm hole. Getting the t-shirt off again is usually a two-person project. Forget tying shoelaces or wearing tight pants, they become the enemy.

Sleeping. Most certainly, one must avoid, at all costs, rolling onto the affected shoulder during the first week. This will wake you up in just as much pain as the day you crashed. I found that propping pillows all along the length of my body helped to reduce unwarranted movement. I slept a lot, there wasn’t much else to do. But, this doesn’t really matter, as dressing, eating, and drinking will take about 5 times longer than usual, so I filled my day accordingly.

Pit of Despair. This probably only applies to women. I could not shave the injured arm’s pit! This was horrible and I began to refer to this area of my body as the “pit of despair”. This is when you realize the ultimate greatness of the Mach 3 razor. You can literally shave without lifting your arm! Well lift it as much as you can. Good luck girls!

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The above pretty much sums up my life right now. For example, this morning I found myself screaming into my pillow around 3am because I managed to roll onto my stomach/shoulder in my sleep. I can't drive anywhere, so the highlight of my day today has been my Dad dropping me off at Starbucks, where he will pick me up later in the day after five hours of compulsive slowtwitching and facebooking and googling "clavicle surgery rehab return". Sitting in the Starbucks is just as mind-numbing as sitting around the house, except then it takes away the temptation to drink to make the day go by faster. So there's that.

One thing the post fails to mention is just the whole part about being one-handed. Though I may feel this more acutely since I broke my right collarbone and I'm right handed. This means trying to eat holding my fork in my left hand and having food fall in my lap. I haven't really brushed my hair since the accident since it's such a pain and the only hair-do I can accomplish on my own is a questionable low ponytail. Or a one-handed bun that falls out every time I turn my head more than 5-degrees. One handed typing/texting? I'm now a pro. Though for this, I've taken my arm out of a sling and have managed to use two hands. I bought those little one-use picks for flossing but even my left-handed brushing leaves much to be desired.

Right now my saving grace (sadly) is television. I've watched two seasons worth of Friday Night Lights—well, one season—the first season—twice, since my mom decided we needed to catch my dad up on the drama before moving forward—and a full season-and-a-half of Breaking Bad. Though I have to admit, Breaking Bad does a much better job of distracting me from the pain, mostly because it simultaneously reminds me that life could be way worse and strangely cheers me up at the same time. It also gives me a reason to (jokingly) tell my mom, "YO, let me have another Vicodin, Bitch". Thank you, Jesse Pinkman and thank you, Netflix.

Judging us for our television choices.

I've been walking a lot. It sucks. My HR only gets up to about 115 max and southern Louisiana is as flat as a pancake. The total elevation change of 2ft might have been me sitting up from putting on my shoes. I walked 6.5 miles yesterday and pretty much covered my whole neighborhood. Speed walking is no where near as good of a stress reliever as running and even just walking aggravates the collarbone from the up/down shock on my spine. I really miss living in a city where no one would bat an eye at someone walking around in a sling down the street—in my neighborhood, we don't have sidewalks so I'm basically walking on the street. Nothing to look at but the occasional person who gives me a concerned look as they drive past me walking down the street. No, I do NOT need a ride. The lack of window shopping stinks as well.

And then I went on that failed bike ride Friday night, mostly a failure because I forgot my bike shoes in Austin. First we tried tape:

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I got on and managed about 20-minutes of trainer time:

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And then I ripped through the tape, got discouraged and sat on the couch for the rest of the evening. The next day I had to go out and buy a pair of Used (gasp!) Specialized (gasp!) bike shoes from the local shop because they didn't carry Pearl Izumi. Got a good deal on them so they'll do for the next few weeks. I'm going to try the bike again tonight, though staying upright is a total pain and not having a free hand makes shifting hard and staying hydrated hard. Also leaning forward hurts some because it requires me to extend my upper body forward to reach the bars—though I've read that raising the front wheel helps some so I'll be making that adjustment before my next attempt on the bike.

Can only go up from here, right?

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Make it Happen

This time of year is a tricky one. On one hand, we're all "New year, new me! Clean slate! Resolutions!", but on the other hand, there's the siren's call of holiday parties, champagne and sugar cookies. For me, this season has been a particularly tough one: I've gone between the extremes of head down, hard work, clean eating, counting down the days to my next race and then late nights, second helpings and (gasp!) a skipped workout... or two. The hardest has been slipping away from the family for a gym sesh when it feels like you've flown all this way just to... stare at the black line at the bottom of a pool.

Already, just a few days in (my holidays didn't really start until Christmas Eve), I find myself craving the regular routine and looking forward to life as usual. I miss my trusty bike-and-trainer set-up (I don't trust gym spin bikes one bit) and I miss knowing that I wont piss off the family if I crank open the garage door to slip out to the pool at 5-am.

But on one of my lovely (and lonely) swims across the past few days, I was in an empty pool, in the middle of a kick set and found myself reading the text of this poster each time I headed down the lap (if you click, you can read some of the smaller fonts).

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"FINS" is the local performance swim team in my hometown, one that I happened to swim on back in the day. It's a year-round deal and most of the swimmers who stick with the team through high school end up swimming at top-notch D1 college swim teams, while a handful have gone on to swim in the Olympic trials.

Even though my goals don't necessarily align with a bunch of 15- and 17-year-old swimmers, reading these goals made me push a little more and kick a little harder as I worked through the set. If you look closely, some gems include:

  • Swim as fast as I can in every practice
  • Take it to the wall
  • Make Olympic Trials in next 3 years
  • Stop skipping turns and resting on the wall
  • Use swimming as a vehicle to take me far in life
  • Make every morning practice

While I can clearly identify with some goals (stop skipping turns and resting on the wall) more than others (make Olympic Trials in next 3 years), skimming the entire list started to motivate me to be a better athlete. It was almost impossible to not face the goals and reminders tacked up across the chain fence. I even braved an extra few seconds out in the chilly weather to hop out and get a closer glance (and photo) of the entire poster once I finished my swim.

Can you imagine if these were YOUR goals, and not some strangers?

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In my own history, posting goals in a visible place has proved successful. In high school, I sharpied our school's 1600m record on my watch during the off-season before my final year. Every long training run or interval session when I wanted to stop early or ease up, I was forced down to look at those numbers before hitting "stop" or "lap" and be reminded of what I was working toward. Long story short, it worked.

The problem with triathlon is that it's not always black-and-white when it comes to goals. Instead of a perfectly measured, flat, 400m oval, we have various differences, distances, elevations, conditions, etc. Your goal could be to quality for USAT Nationals, for Vegas, for Kona—but then those benchmarks all just depend on who else in your age group shows up to play that day. The list goes on.

As a result, I think I'm going to take a page from the FINS and focus on the everyday and not necessarily the end game. Take it to the wall. Listen to your coach. Don't cut corners. Trust. Performance. Ambition.

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hills and rain and bears, oh my!

saturday, by the numbers:

  • miles: 50
  • elevation gain: 5,638
  • minutes where it was NOT raining: 0
  • minutes where i was uncontrollably shivering on the bike: 180
  • hot chocolate purchased at the halfway mark: $1.50
  • rain jacket purchased at the halfway mark: $28.50
  • average age of person who would wear said jacket: 7
  • number of times i lost feeling in my hands: 3
  • # times i preferred killer climbs over (cold) descents: all the times
  • powerbar gels normally consumed over 3.5hr ride: 7
  • powerbar gels consumed due to climbing/scary, wet descents on sat: 4
  • close calls with crashing on wet pavement: 5
  • stupid crashes rolling into the parking lot curb: 1
  • minutes run off the bike: 15
  • minutes running where i was happy/warm: 15
  • bear cubs encountered: 1
  • momma bears encountered: 0 (KNOCK ON WOOD)

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::crickets::

my first half-ironman is about six days away and i'm starting to freak out. while i've been training consistently for eagleman for nearly the past six months now (like real training, not just my regular goofing off), suddenly it's starting to seem much more real. just this weekend, while my twitchy quads and achy calves were keeping me awake after what should have been a start-of-the-taper-easy-bike, i let my mind start to wander: can i really hold those watts for that long? will my 2-3 missed swim sessions come back to haunt me? what it i blow it too early on—heaven forbid, what if i WALK? and most importantly: will i give myself heatstroke and end up in medical?

part of me wants to shout "mulligan" and insist that eagleman is my first pass at that half-distance, meaning i can sandbag it if things head south on raceday. the little voice in my head reminds me that i'm racing the half at both rev3 cedar point and then again at anderson... maybe eagleman's just the warm-up to my finals... but i don't really like excuses. instead, i'm just looking to control the controllables and have fun out there. that's why i'm avoiding posting any goals or expectations. regardless of whether i hit my best case scenario, falter to plan B or—gulp—worse, i'm excited to just get out there and put to test my training from over the past few months. it also doesn't hurt that riding the eagleman course reminds me of growing up in the hot, muggy and bug-infested swamps of louisiana... ah, home sweet home...

but that's why it's been so dead around here: i've been training up a storm, trying to tackle the increasing work responsibilities in my 9-to-5 and apartment-hunting like a madwoman across all corners of D.C./Northern VA. and so i leave you with:

a few observations....

  • there is no shame is licking a spilled powerbar gel off your fingers, forearms, jersey... and shifters... when you accidentally squeeze gel all over your aerobars on a very windy day
  • aero helmet, zipp wheels and a $3k shiv have no business biking at sub-17 mph pace around DC's hains point on a mid-week, post-work ride
  • pretty sure Rev3 and Pearl Izumi have already seen ROI on my Rev3 kit... since i like to run around the mall/monuments, i photobomb a LOT of tourist photos. i mean, A LOT A LOT.
  • the paved walkway around the outer circumference of the washington monument is exactly .5 miles (thank you garmin!)
  • the route from my current apartment, past the white house, around the monument and back up 16th is a reliable 45-minute trek... as long as it's not tourist season (then it's 90-min)
  • during the summer in DC, steady-state runs can very quickly disintegrate into fartlek sessions if you're not careful about avoiding the overly touristy areas
  • eau de chlorine can sometimes be sexy... but usually it isn't
  • get a bike fit and gain so much free speed you don't even know what to do with yourself

finally, there are few things better in the world than finishing a 4-hour brick at dusk at the very edge of a rickety old pier and then cannonballing into the river—clothes, shoes, garmin and all:

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Wide Open Spaces

Also known as: Once you go flat, you never go back. This weekend took me up into Maryland for a long ride through the DC Rainmaker-approved farmland of Queenstown, MD. I’ve been getting tired of my hilly tour de Montgomery County and was looking for something a little flatter in prep for my first half coming up in June, Eagleman. I couldn’t have picked a better place:

Only a few miles north of Cambridge, MD, this route was a much needed change of scenery from my regular car-filled routes. There were a few stretches where I would go half-an-hour without seeing a car or even another person. The roads were pancake flat and the shoulders ample: rural riding at its very best!

Aside from some close encounters with the wind and occasional cow, the only very eventful thing on this ride was accidentally biking onto a divided highway. Not sure how it happened but all of a sudden cars where whooshing by my and I was saying a few hail marys as I skidded over some rumble strips along the side of the road. After dismounting, turning around and praying that I made it out alive, I finally made it back to my wooded route and continued exploring the area. Seriously, even with a few iPhone-aided reroutes, it’s a miracle that I didn’t end up super lost at any point in the trip.

In all, I made it about 50-miles, having downed three bottles of H20 (two supplemented with some PowerBar Perform) and a medley of PowerBar gels. I got back to the playground where I had parked, knocked out a speedy t-run (almost too speedy… felt good!) and then rode windows down back to D.C. Could not have asked for a better Saturday!

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