Goal Setting & Jaw Breaking

“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”
– Dr. Seuss

This past year has been absolutely fantastic. I guess when I turned 25 it totally freaked me out. Quarter century old…and what did I have to show for it? I remember being in high school and thinking to myself…when I am 22 I am going to be married and by the time I am 25 I will probably have a couple kids! Was I totally insane back then? I am so far from that stage right now. Not because I don’t see it in my future but because I have my mind set on some different types of goals.

I remember sitting down at Starbucks and having a serious goal writing session last year. Goals are one of the single most important steps to reaching your dreams. It is important to write them down, to review them on a consistent basis and adjust them when needed. I think it is good to have short term and long term goals. I personally have goals that I know I can accomplish with a small amount of effort and I have goals that seem so far out of reach that I know it will take years and years of consistent work to obtain them. Regardless, you need to capture them so you know what you are working towards. If we just wonder around letting ‘life’ happen to us then we will miss our opportunity to reach our full potential.

It has been so fun reflecting back on this past year and a half and realizing how much I have crossed off my bucket list (goal list). It truly would not have been possible if I was not surrounded by amazing people, friends and family who have set me up for success. They have pushed me, encouraged me, supported me and believed in me when I needed it the most. My family, friends, riding partners and my boyfriend have been such a crucial instrument in my life the last couple of years I wonder where I would be without them. It is fascinating to me looking back and realizing how every little thing that happened, good or bad, has led me to where I am today and it all worked out for the better.

I have had a lot of first time items that I was able to complete this year! Here is a list of a few:

  1. Completed a half marathon in 1:20- San Diego Rock and Roll 16th place out of 10,125 females
  2. Completed my first bike race- El Tour De Tucson 55 miles- placed 7th out of females
  3. Completed my first full marathon 2:59 in Eugene & qualified for the Boston Marathon
  4. Completed my first half Ironman 70.3- Oceanside, California placed 3rd in my age group and 9th out of all females
  5. Completed the Grandfathers of all marathons…the Boston Marathon this past April.

I was signed up to compete in an Olympic triathlon last weekend, a half marathon in San Diego at the end of the month and was planning to run another marathon in the next few months (I want to qualify for the Olympic trials!). That was until I fractured my jaw in three places on Thursday, May 7th, as well as both of my temporomandibular joints.

I was riding with 5 other of my friends on Thursday morning. We were going for a short ride, maybe 30 miles or so. I had not been on bike since my half Ironman over a month ago and I was just ecstatic being back on my bike. Just about 20 minutes into our ride was when the crash happened. We were riding on the local river path and had come to a transition area where you have to get on a paved road for maybe 1000 yards to get to the other side of the river path. It was a total freak accident and I was not going very fast, probably around 10 mph. It is a very narrow road with some traffic and a cyclist started coming down the road the wrong way. I did not even see the man heading towards us. I was in 5th position and all a sudden one of my ridding partners had to move to the right to avoid this cyclist getting hit by the cars or hitting him. I could not move over to the right anymore or I would have gone off the road. I had to come to a quick stop and to make matters worse the road was filled with pot holes. I think it was a combo of coming to a quick stop and also hitting a pot hole that sent my rear tire in the air and my bike and face into the ground.

I stopped the fall with my chin. The bike is ok!! But, my jaw not so much… I didn’t think it was broken though, maybe dislocated. I was in shock I guess. Of course, by bike was my first concern. I was cursing a little bit and was pretty light headed and nauseated. My chin was bleeding and I had some road rash on my chest but other than that no injuries. I was spitting out some blood and was not sure if I bit my cheek or my tongue. I could not open my jaw more than an inch. I remember touching my ears at one point and saying that they freaking hurt. My face was in a little pain but mostly just angry about the whole thing plus I wanted to finish the ride! To make matters worse the guy going the wrong way did not even stop. He was probably clueless to the crash he had just caused.

My riding partners were so sweet. I could tell that they were all worried but were trying to just stay calm. I was debating if I should try and ride back to the car or not…ya I know, I am crazy. Luckily, they had their phones and called my boyfriend who was on his way to work and only 10 minutes away. He picked me up and took me to the emergency room. On the drive there I got out my phone and was snapping pictures to my friends, ‘my first real bike crash’ completely oblivious to how serious the injuries were. Once I saw the Dr. the pain started creeping up a little bit but he seemed hopeful because I was able to talk to him and did not feel like I was in excruciating pain or anything. The Dr. had ordered a CAT scan and while Andy and I were waiting I said, “I feel like there is some liquid in my ears” and then blood started to run out of them. That was totally freaky! That is when I thought to myself, this cannot be good.   At that point Andy, my boyfriend, went out into the hall and was yelling, “Excuse me, my girlfriend’s ears are bleeding!” I think the blood in the ear part really had us both a little panicked.  When the Dr. came back in he took one look in both of my ears and told me that I had broken my jaw pretty good. Once the results of the scan came back it confirmed that yes, I had done some serious damage. My Mom was teasing me that I never do anything halfassed or halfhearted and that includes when I hurt myself. I couldn’t agree more!

I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon the next day and he scheduled me for surgery on Saturday morning. The plastic surgeon also did breast augmentation so I joked with him if I could get a two for one deal. He told me that they would be too heavy to run with and he talked me out of it. I had a plate put in my lower jaw for two of the breaks and he also had to wire it shut. The night before surgery I googled ‘wired jaw’ and let me warn you, do NOT do that. It is very scary looking. Plus, they use screws and rubber bands now that do not look as freaky as all the metal in your mouth.

I remember waking up in the operating room and my jaw was already closed.  I started yelling that I was in a lot of pain and I was shaking.  The people in the operating room were rushing around trying to re-do my IV because it was not in my vain correctly so I was not getting the pain medication. It was totally like a real life Saw movie if you can imagine! I came to in the recovery room. My family started to come in and the nurse was trying to have me drink some liquids. My stomach was so upset from the anesthesia that as soon as I tried drinking I vomited. Trust me, vomiting while your mouth is wired shut is not good. Not good at all! Finally after being in the recovery area for way too long they released me to go home. I threw up one more time after the car ride and I was in so much pain. I did not keep my pain medicine down that they gave me in the recovery room and I couldn’t wait fast enough for my pain prescription to be filled so I could take it. The first day was the worse but every day since has been better. Today marks day thirteen of recovery and the swelling has gotten much better and the pain is pretty bearable.

The couple things I will take away from this event are:

  1. I need to pay more attention to detail when riding. I think it could have been avoided…maybe.
  2. I am so grateful for the family and friends in my life. Everyone has been so supportive that I am just overwhelmed with happiness.

Breaking your jaw does not hurt as bad as racing the Boston marathon or an Ironman. However, the surgery itself just about killed me. Looking forward to the next race because I know that the pain I will feel will be insufficient to what I just went through and I will force my body to run faster.

Thanks for reading my blog! Hope you enjoyed this session on goal settings and jaw breaking. Come back soon.