Thursday, April 02, 2009

EC Recovery

This year, recovery from the 2009 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge has been really hard for me, in fact, I’m still not back. It was my best finish time (by 45 minutes), still in cruiser mode, but, this was not the most enjoyable of times among my previous six.

Unfortunately, I started the race an hour after a fall in the parking lot of Ft DeSoto, carrying the last of my food bags in the dark from car to kayak. During the fall, I took care to protect my hands, arms, and shoulder, but I was pretty sure I’d bruised if not cracked a rib. Already pumped on adrenalin, I found I could torso twist without pain, and knowing there is no real treatment for a rib injury, I figured I’d start the race and just see how it goes.

I really hurt! It hurt to breath, it hurt to laugh, cough, roll over in sleep, and certain other movements were uncomfortable. But it wasn’t excruciating pain, and with regular doses of Ibuprofen and Tylenol, and focusing on the challenge, I found it was doable. Luckily, though always bothered by headwinds and contrary tides, we had very mild weather overall, no fronts or storms, and nothing really too difficult to deal with. I recall one morning saying to myself "if the weather changes for the worse, I’ll have to seriously consider dropping out".

This is not a happy SandyBottom signing in at CP1

No smile here at CP2

So the race was doable. Doable, but I was pretty emotionally fragile throughout. There were a few sad phone calls home and even a dramatic emotional breakdown during the challenge on the 3rd day. During one call I told Paul “I always have fun during these challenges, and I’m just not feeling any fun”. Paul continued to tell me I was doing great, and that the pain management was affecting me emotionally. He really worked hard as my land support this year to keep me in spirits. And he was there for me at the finish, with a kiss and a home made bougainvillea lei in hand. I sure do love that guy.

Paul (DancesWithSandyBottom) congratulating me at Finish

Of course spending time with KiwiBird and KneadingWater is always a good time, but this year it was often a mixed blessing. We camped together each night, occasionally even arriving together, but more often than not I’d arrive an hour or two later, having spent most of the day and night paddling solo, working hard through pain and frustration of trying to keep up with them (not a good idea ever regardless). Thinking back, I’m not sure putting up with me was the most fun for them either, and I’m thankful for it, as I’m sure they helped me keep going.

KneadingWater helping to pull me out of the Kayak at finish

The first and only time I’d ever even thought of dropping out of a Challenge, was that last morning before leaving Flaming. I’d gotten in late the night before, and was exhausted from headwinds and tides. I’d already heard stories of other’s making an attempt at the 38 mile crossing the day before and turned back by the winds, weather predictions were only for worse. I’d only had 2 good hours of sleep, when KiwiBird and KneadingWater saw me sleeping on the grass by the dock, woke me up at 4AM and said, “let’s go before the winds get really bad”. I groaned. KiwiBird said we’ll paddle and finish together, and then I knew I could do it.

Aside from the personal demons, it was actually one of the easier EC’s, and likely the real reason I was able to finish with my rib injury. Yes it seemed we were always paddling against big tides (full moon), and a constant 10-15 mph headwind (no different than the last 3 years), enough for complaints, but nothing to really cry about. And except for that last night needing a very early start, most nights I stopped before midnight, got a pretty full night sleep, rarely leaving camp before 8am.

I arrived at Key Largo with a few bad blisters on my hands (not really paddling blisters but wounds received early on from the wet sheets of the Pacific Action Sails), a couple other bad blisters on my feet from a poor design on my paddling shoes (they are now in the garbage), and some pretty bad chafing around my waist and hips that will leave scars. If you’ve seen the photos on the WaterTribe site of the awards ceremony, that’s me in a comfortable Muumuu. The chafing was from PFD, spray skirt, and even rubbing from my kayak. My fault, I didn’t lose that extra weight, a painful mistake I’ll not make, and am even fixing right now.

It’s the rib injury that’s been my biggest problem. With the focus of the race over, the pain has been constant. X-rays also revealed a possible small pneumo-thorax, I’ve a partially deflated lung, and some fluid buildup around and in my left lung. Insult to injury, my low defenses had me catching the flu, and developing a horrible and painful cough. It’ll just take a bit more time.

Regardless, I’m already planning next years Challenge. Paul and I are talking about doing it together in Class 4 with our sailboat the ‘Dawn Patrol’. A real change for me, and one I’ll have to work hard on this year, as I have to learn to sail, and learn to love to sail. I've already started, and look forward to the new Challenge.


Kristen said...

You're a true fighter, Dawn, and great pal - love you and all the determination you stand for. Thanks, Paul.

Capt'n O Dark 30 & Super Boo said...

Outstanding Dawn!!

greg knipe said...

sandybottom- thanks for the chafing and some pain in a story. you are an inspiration and oh what a choice to have, next year sailing in the dawn patrol. i would not want to stop at key largo. your gumption is an inspiration here, in the slighly frozen, slightly thawing north.
greg knipe

Brett said...

As a paddler, and Paramedic, I was going to add the potential dangers of paddling ( or doing anything physical) with a broken rib, But you are living with them now. pneumo thorax is just the beginning of the trouble you could have had. I have a great deal of respect for your ability, and tenacity, but at the end of the day it's just a race. The list of complications is long, and none of them end well.


SandyBottom said...

As usual, hindsight always provides lessons learned. At the time, I had no idea my rib was broken, and that I could still paddle and twist side to side, I certainly thought it was only a bruise at the time, one that would get better. The EC is not just a race, or a race at all for me actually, but is a vacation with good friends that I look forward to each and every year, for the whole year. At the time, I wasn't going to let a bruise stop me. And once in the race, on Tylenol/Ibuprophen, I was clearly too focused to know what was really going on. Yes, I'm paying now. Dawn