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Hit-and-Run Cyclist Joy Braun on Goals, Determination, and PR

It was a warm, sunny Sunday morning in late May. A week prior, I had been racing hard at a 70.3 Ironman event in Central Florida. I felt strong and had checked off a box on my 2013 training schedule. Next, I was on my way to Ironman Florida in five months. I had completed that race in 2011 as my first IM and had been proud of my accomplishment, time, and 14th place finish in my age group. I decided to try for one of the coveted spots for 2013. I got in and figured, “it was meant to be.”

On that Sunday morning, I was riding with a friend on a narrow, two-lane road when the front, right wheel of a red pickup truck came within a foot of my tribike. When the back wheel was within an inch of me, I was shocked, but breathed a sigh of relief. Never before had I had such a close call.

The next thing I knew, I was down. A trailer connected to the truck had struck the side of the back wheel of my bike. I was on the pavement, in the middle of the two lanes. My bike spun out in front of me into the lane of oncoming traffic, with a car headed toward it—and I was next. Thankfully, the car was able to stop just in time.

I looked back, and my cycling partner was already off his bike. I knew he would be concerned about me, but I motioned for him to collect my bike first. I was certain, with the adrenaline and endorphins rushing through my body, I could get myself to the side of the road.Joy running.

I knew I was pretty beat up, but figured the road rash would heal in a few days. But, I could not walk when I tried, and the excruciating pain did not subside.

The next day, hobbling along with one borrowed crutch, a friend took me to an urgent care facility. After x-rays and a visit with the doctor, I was told I was fine and that I should try getting back on my bike in about five days.

I asked to see my x-rays, and the doctor hesitantly agreed. He pointed out my hip, which seemed intact. My friend pointed to what looked like a separation in my bone further down from the hip. The doctor stated that he had not looked at that area since I had said my hip hurt. After examining me again, the doctor said I may have a fractured pelvic bone.

 

“There was a break in my pelvic bone, and my sacrum was crushed.”

Late the following afternoon, I finally found a physician. It turned out I not only needed an orthopedic surgeon, but the doctor needed to specialize in trauma. X-rays were taken again, and the doctor was certain there was a break in my pelvic bone, and my sacrum was crushed. He had a strong calmness about him, and he took all my questions in stride. I asked the doctor about IMFL. He looked at me straight-faced and said I could do it. He explained that most people with a broken pelvic bone are on crutches for 12 weeks, but he gave me six weeks due to my physical status. I was encouraged—and thankful I was in top form.

During my next doctor’s visit, he told me I should get in the pool and swim. I wanted to ride a stationary bike and he agreed, if I promised to do so with no resistance. Again, I was encouraged.

Cardio Meets Comfort: GT Bike

For the next six weeks, I hobbled to the pool and gym on crutches. I swam, biked, and lifted weights. I felt a spectrum of emotion from pride to foolishness when I had to ask fellow gym-goers to bring weights to me. It was painful some days, and I was well aware that my movements in the pool did not resemble swimming. I kept active but also slept every chance I had. I truly felt my body recovering and healing itself, using all the energy that I had to get me back to normal.

I had frustrating moments, but I wanted to stay positive. I had never imagined how difficult it would be to walk a dog while on crutches or to get a plate of food from the counter to the table. Nevertheless, I pressed on and encountered others who had experienced an accident. I was motivated by their stories and how they allowed themselves time to heal. Months or years later, those individuals still experienced physical repercussions from their accidents. But I stayed positive, and made progress slowly and steadily. I had my goal.

It was that goal that kept me going, along with my doctor, friends, and a fellow triathlete who was also training for IMFL. I knew I could not push too hard because I did not want to risk further injury. I was elated some days and concerned on others. I got off crutches about three months before IMFL, which meant I had precious little time to peak and then taper before the race. I had to go from walking with crutches to running a full marathon!

I managed to ramp up to a 16-mile run once and slowly biked around 100 miles two or three times. Incredibly, my run time (including water breaks) was the pace I needed to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I was elated to run again. My body was moving how it was meant to.

Joy holding her IronMan medal.

The days leading up to the race (and even during the race itself) I was full of questions about my capabilities. I figured all I could do was go out and give it my all. I anticipated bonking at some point simply because my body was not capable of high mileage or long training days. My training included many more rest days than previously allowed. I was almost satisfied just to make it to the start line.

The swim was amazing. The bike was tough. Later, I realized I had been using my small calf muscles to bike 112 miles rather than my quads. Due to my injury, I had created that adjustment to get by. On the run, I was in some discomfort during the first 13-mile loop, but I was excited to be running, to be moving. I never bonked and actually picked up my pace throughout the marathon. I was careful to walk a bit and take in fuel at the aid stations, but I had a secret throughout the entire race—motivation. I wondered how many other athletes were running with a hole in their pelvic bone.

I finished the race. I rocked the race. My finish time was 11:28:30—I had taken 21 minutes off my personal record for an Ironman. I was, and still am, proud of that accomplishment.

Today I am training for my fourth Ironman (Cabo) and recall how my recent experience changed my outlook. Now I am certain that I can overcome anything. I have faith in myself, and I believe it to be true of anyone.

 “I rocked the race—I had taken 21 minutes off my personal record for an ironman.”

The key components for me were having a doctor who never doubted me or questioned me. He trusted that I knew my body and that I was the one who could make the best decisions related to it. Additionally, my training friend became my boyfriend a few days after the race. The importance of having a training partner and someone who supported my decision to race, even while recovering from a broken bone, was so encouraging.

I will compete in Ironman Florida again in 2014. It will be my fifth and perhaps final Ironman. I will be even stronger, especially mentally, because of the ordeal I went through, proving to myself that I am stronger than I knew.

 

Joy M. Braun
aka TriOak
2014

 

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