You all know that moment, that split of a second, when you realize that something happened. Something that will change your day and maybe even your life. It´s that moment when your, usually very slow brain, fast forwards your life and as a flash in front of your eyes you see what is going to happen and you scream. You scream out of pain. You scream out of physical pain. You scream out of emotional pain. You know it´s finished. You see it in front of your eyes. You feel it in your body. Your brain registers the fact that ÖtillÖ is over for you before it even really got going. Once again.
Our bodies remember this pain as we have now experience it three times. Three in many ways very painful times. Some would argue that it´s too much for one team while others think nobody is given more what they can deal with/carry on their shoulders. Obviously, somebody out there thinks we are strong but seriously…? Should there not be a limit how much shit you can pour over people? At least it´s a bit more balanced now as this time it was Thomas´ turn be stitched up as so far it has been me. You know, Thomas is the smart one. He knows what we are doing. I´m the idiot who studies the race course the night before swearing like a Russian taxi driver. Thomas always jokes that I´m like a Formel 1 car which parts flying off as we go and he is the mechanic trying to fix it up in 200km/h. Now my mechanic has been hospitalized for 12 days with a deep cut to the knee bone and an aggressive bacteria infection that has slowly been eating him. I will save you all from a detailed medical report but I can say that he has been through hell during the last two weeks. A harmless fall on an easy trail resulted in potentially life threatening infection, surgeries and possibly a skin transplant. A harmless fall that he has done hundreds of times before and simply wiped the dirt off and continued running.
One of my colleagues asked me last week: `why can´t you guys just catch a simple cold like normal people do? Why do you need to break your foot into thousand pieces, hit your knee in the only rock out there, get borrelia and a bacteria that basically eats your leg for breakfast?´ A week ago my answer would have been `because have unfair amount of bad luck.´ Today, my answer is `because there is a deeper meaning with all this and we have to figure out what that is.´
Have we figured out the meaning with this? Thomas has been in so much pain that the deeper meanings have not exactly been pushed through the pain (painkillers) yet but I think we both have had this `inner peace´ from the time of the accident. We have not been angry, bitter or frustrated. In opposite, we have been very calm, positive, optimistic and at peace. It is so empowering to notice that something so negative, painful, and frustrating can make you stronger and better in so many ways as an individual and as a couple/team. But only if you let it happen.
The hand knitted ÖtillÖ hats we received gave some purpose to Thomas´ suffering. I remember saying to Thomas before the start that if nothing else comes out of this day so at least us suffering for one day has taken several Romanian women and children off the streets for a period. It gave us additional motivation to go out there in that crazy weather. We can at least get warm clothes, food and shelter at the end of the race day. We think this was a perfect example of how we can all (direct/indirect) help people in need and it doesn´t need to be big. Hats off to the ÖtillÖ staff for this great initiative!
Don´t cry over spilt milk. If you always look back and worry over things that you cannot change, you will not see what´s in front of you. There is no room for `ifs´ and `buts´ as they will not take us forward but make us bitter and negative. I have to admit that I was possibly a bit too positive right after the fall as I kept saying to Thomas `come on honey, you can do it! We just get first aid and continue! You can do it honey! We only have…8h left´. No wonder he kept yelling to shut up. I would have done the same. Only an idiot like me goes into a `you can do it honey´ mantra when the other has a knee cut open and is screaming like a pig being butchered. I understood that my emergency handling skills are not the best. `Honey, I know you knee is basically cut open but would you mind just limping 8h to finish so we can get this over with, please?´
You know that stupid bandage that you must carry with you at every race? That small thing that could save somebody´s life but also takes place from one disgusting tasting gel (which, in theory could also save a life but that´s a different story). I´m sure that you have also thought about just ditching it? Don´t! Stick it inside the wetsuit and train yourself to survive with one less gel. I have to say that I did have a moment of pride when I, in my own head, took over the situation out there, pulled the bandage out of my wetsuit and wrapped it around my patient´s knee. I took it even one step further and took my bib number off and put that on top of the bandage. In reality I must have been a complete nut case just mumbling `it´ll be fine, it´ll be fine….shit, shit, shit.´
We all know that it takes something serious for people to stop, to breathe, to evaluate their lives, to prioritize and to start doing yoga and meditation. This has been serious. A lot more serious than any of us first thought but we are not yet sitting in lotus position doing mindfulness exercises. Our life is still as chaotic, busy and random as it was before Thomas´ accident. Our house is still a mess, our kids still wear dirty clothes at daycare and our schedule is still overbooked. What the accident has, however, reminded us of is to focus on positive things and on positive people and filter out as much of the negative as possible. It has reminded us not to take anything in life for granted and to enjoy the small things in life. 12 days in the same hospital bed puts you out of your comfort zone and you need to dig deep. Just the way you need to dig deep on the race day. Same but different. When you share a hospital room with an ex- drug addict who sits in the wheelchair after crashing a car into the rock and with an ex-alcoholic who sits in the wheelchair after jumping into the water head first on a Midsummer eve, you get perspective (now you understand why they always emphasize not jumping into the water at race briefings!). Your hectic and messy everyday life with a house that always needs fixing, kids who always make a mess, clothes that have been drying outside for 3 weeks (in pouring rain), your wetsuit that is full of `bullet holes´ after not-so- successful trainings session does not matter (no, we didn´t get shot by angry summer house owners but we tend to go off the course and end up in deep bush). Stupid things simply don´t matter. Very liberating actually.
Borrowing Forrest Gump, I could say: We are like peas and carrots. That’s me and Thomas. There is rarely one without the other. We are often asked two questions: `how is it to race as a married couple?´ and `what makes you such a strong couple on a race day?´ Our answers to these two questions are often not so exhaustive, deep or surprising as people would like. `we don´t know anything else´ is our standard answer. I think the first question answers the second question and vice versa. Think about swans. The swam pair is a team forever. It´s a strong team because they stick together and they learn from the failures and successes when raising the babies (or whatever baby swans are called). Being sensitive, respecting each other and continuously learning makes the team strong whether it´s swans or humans in neoprene. Swan couples are also very effective fighting teams and this healthy fighting spirit is needed on the race day. Here I have to say that we are actually shit scared of swans after one feisty female swan tried to attack us while swimming and forced us to climb in a tree. In our full swimrun outfit. It was an angry and stressed city swan in Stockholm though. I would probably chase people into the trees if I had to live in a city so I won´t blame her.
The last 12 days have been extremely tough and painful for Thomas. For many reasons. He is an athlete who is used to a very active lifestyle with full action from morning to evening. He is a father and a husband who runs this household here. He is an all-arounder/handyman who fixes everything and anything. Our everyday life relies on Thomas being in one piece. I have tried my best but the compost bin is still waiting for somebody to empty it, the wood is still waiting for somebody to grab the ax and start chopping, the summerhouse roof is still leaking and the swimrun gear is still in the hallway. Kids have been eating popcorn for dinner and nobody has been sleeping in their own beds. I have remembered to change diapers though. I think. Supernanny would not be impressed but we hope to get papa home soon so we get some order in this house.
We are hoping that Thomas can come home next week Monday, after two weeks in the hospital. That harmless looking fall and the cut on the knee turned out to be much more serious and complicated than anybody initially thought. It took everybody by surprise. After 10 days of simply fighting the bacteria and infection, they have now finally been able to start treating the wound itself and the knee. During the first surgery, they opened up part of the upper leg and removed dead tissue and cleaned the infected area. The last 4 days Thomas has been attached to a low pressure vacuum that has been preparing the wound for closing. The second surgery should take place anytime now and this time they will attach the patella tendon back on the knee as 90% of it is ruptured and then they will try to close the wound. We hope that they will be able to close it without any skin transplant. If everything goes well, he can slowly start the rehab part in about a week. It will be a long, painful and frustrating journey back but we have done it many times before so I´m confident that we can do it again. After my accident, I have 6 working toes and Thomas will have one working knee but as my mom always said to us when we hurt ourselves as kids: `what doesn´t kill you, makes you stronger. ´ As a kid it was hard to understand but now I could not agree more.
At last but not least, we would like to thank the person who ran with me from the first aid station to where Thomas was waiting. Unfortunately, I did not get his name and I have to apologize to him as I did not clearly mention that the injured person was about 2km down the trail and not 100m. This lovely gentleman mentioned later that he had not run for 10 years but I was impressed about his performance on those trails. Thank you!
Also, a very warm thanks to the team on that rescue boat that picked us up. Tommy and his team did an excellent job stapling Thomas´ knee together in that storm. The boat was all over place but the team was super professional and nice. Absolutely amazing organization and hats off to all the people making it to happen. Year after year.
Our deepest thanks to all the people who have been supporting us. At the time of the accident and after. So many teams stopped and asked if we are OK and if we needed help. That I call sportsmanship! All our friends, family and the swimrun community who have supported Thomas during these weeks. Also, thank you all dear friends who have offered support here at home. We can feel the LOVE (from the island of Love) 😊
An applaud to all the teams that started the race in that storm and our sincere congratulations to the phenomenal teams on the podium. Amazing race, amazing people!
Team: Say No! to Doping
Me: Thomas Schreven
NEW!! Subscribe to receive notification to your email about our latest blog post.
info (at) advenu.fi