Finishing Ironman…With a Fractured Pelvis

Falling off the bike Hurts!

This week’s guest blog posts is from a very special athlete: Jessica Lane. She is all of about 105 lbs, but tougher than many professional athletes that I work with each week.  With a dream of becoming an Ironman triathlete, Jessica asked me to help her manage her preparation for her first Ironman 6 weeks away….with a badly fractured pelvis.  Trust me: I had the easy job. She endured tremendous pain just to experience what I call “the greatest 200 meters in sports”  – finishing an 140+ mile Ironman with everyone cheering you! This is her story about persevering in the toughest of circumstances. Enjoy this story! Mike

In September 2011, I was 20 weeks into Ironman training and out on my long ride for the week. I was finally wrapping my head around the idea of completing the 140.6 miles Ironman entails.  I felt confident and excited; I could finally envision myself finishing.

That same day, on that same ride, my confidence was shattered when I hit something in the bike lane and crashed. A CT Scan showed that I had broken my inferior pubic ramus of my pelvis.  I was crushed with the fear that my dream of becoming an Ironman lost!  Only 6 weeks from my first Ironman and my dream was gone with a fractured pelvis!

Dr. Jeff Smowton, my ER doctor, is a runner and knew how important my Ironman goal was to me. He was determined to help, and knew just how to do so: Mike Ryan.  The first time I talked to Mike, and every time after, he made me feel like there was nothing I couldn’t do, no matter what was in my way. I knew he really believed that I could still complete this Ironman.  He immediately had a plan.

Mike had me in the pool three days after my accident, showing workouts to me maintain my cardio fitness. My hopes were once again high. I did everything I could to encourage healing. I drank a disgusting amount of milk, took supplements, wore a bone growth stimulator every minute I wasn’t in the water and I sat in a huge ice bucket every day (that last part was not a typo).

I continued to swim and water jog.  Sitting on the bike was unbearable for more than an hour.  Running was completely out of the question.  Three weeks from race day, I went for an orthopedic check up with hopes of some good news. Instead, I left feeling crushed. My x-ray showed no new bone growth; evidentially I was a slow healer. Once again, I felt like Ironman seemed to be an unreachable goal. However, Mike Ryan’s confidence in me did not waver. He told me that as long as I was OK with walking the marathon, I could still complete Ironman. Honestly, at this point, I thought Mike was a little crazy…I mean how, after hardly riding for 6 weeks, would I be able to bank enough time on the bike to be able to walk the marathon?!  But, I trusted Mike, and I wanted to believe in myself the way he believed in me. I wanted to prove him right and everyone else wrong. I made up my mind: I was going to trust Mike and I was going to race in my first Ironman with every ounce of courage I had!

Racing the Race

Ironman Finisher Jessica Lane

On November 52011, I was standing at the swim start amongst the 2500 other athletes who overcame their own challenges to make it to this day. I couldn’t have been happier, I was so proud to be standing there after all that I had been through. No matter what happened that day, it was going to be my Ironman adventure, broken bone and all. I was here. And, I was doing this thing.

I loved every moment of the swim. It seemed easy and before I knew it, I was on the bike course.  I felt pretty good up until mile 50 of the 112 mile bike course.  That was when my still-fractured pelvis finally let me know it was beyond irritated.  I kept trying to readjust my positioning to ease the excruciating pain.

I stopped several times just to have an excuse to get off the bike seat. I was miserably uncomfortable, but I kept riding. Mile 85 came and went…I was now in unchartered territory. Before my accident, the furthest I had ridden was 85 miles.  Mentally, I was letting this get the best of me.  Everything hurt because I knew I wasn’t well trained. The broken bone just kept hurting and every time I didn’t think it could hurt worse…it did. Somehow, through sheer determination, I eventually made it back to transition area.

When I got there, I cried.

I cried because I made it that far.  I cried because I was off that stupid bike, and I cried because I was crying…at Ironman. I was a mess.  In T2, one of the volunteers saw how bad I looked and came to help me. We started talking and the next thing I knew, she was crying too.  She had also been in a bike accident, but her Ironman experience went from racing to volunteering.  She looked at me and said, “You are here and I’m not.  You have to dig deep and finish this thing.”

So, I got up. I walked out with my head up. And, I left my pity party in the Transition area.  I was ready to race the final 26.2 miles.

A Simple Marathon Left to Go

Early in the marathon, I tried to run…just to see.  I mean, miracles happen right?!?  Why not now?  I didn’t make it a half mile before I couldn’t run any farther.  There was no way this little bone was going to let me do anything but walk. Even then, every step I took I felt the sharp pain letting me know it wasn’t happy.

At mile 3, this lady just walked up to me, asked me if I was planning to walk, and  told me she was going to see to it that I finished this thing.  My unexpected partner’s name was Jan. Next thing I knew, Jan had me power walking. I was told I better keep a 15 minute pace to finish by 10:45 pm. Jan and I picked up Dave around mile 9. The three of us were happy to have each other’s company.

Each mile, I read a message from my family and friends. They never thought I would make it far enough to get the messages, but they still sent notes to make me laugh, to inspire me or just to cheer me on. And, inspired I was! For the next four hours, Dave, Jan and I talked, laughed and ate. Ironman aid stations have great food and being able to eat during the marathon was one of the luxuries of having to walk it!

Before I knew it, we were a mile from the finish. We could hear the crowd, we could hear the music, and we could hear the names of the finishers as they crossed the line.

It was then that I knew I had made it.

As I rounded the corner and saw the finish, I ran.  I felt no pain; I only felt pride. At 15 hours and 47 minutes, I heard “Jessica Lane…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” I crossed that finish line with my arms up and tears streaming down my face.  I had really done it! I had really finished! My family was there to greet me. And, so was the volunteer from T2. She came back just to see if I had finished. Once again, she was crying.

Finishing an Ironman!

Ironman is an amazing accomplishment – especially with a broken bone…no matter how small.  I completed the race because:

  • I had the support of my family and friends
  • people believed in me when I didn’t
  • I met some of the most amazing strangers that day

And, I finished the Ironman because I never gave up.  I am an IRONMAN!

4 replies
  1. Jerry Macnamara
    Jerry Macnamara says:

    Jessica (&Mike) –

    This is an amazing story and accomplishment! I mean finishing an Ironman is out of this world, but to do it while injured is incredible. I can’t even imagine the pain that Jessica endured. I guess Dan Gable was right, the mind does quit far before the body.

    Congratulations on an amazing accomplishment and an inspirational story.

    Reply
  2. Scot Schlein
    Scot Schlein says:

    I wanted to leave a comment for Jessica Lane on her incredible accomplishment. I couldn’t even imagine the type of pain she endured. To finish one of the most grueling challenges in sports with a broken pelvis is just incredible. It is a very inspiring story and I would like to congratulate Jessica on her amazing accomplishment!

    Reply
    • Mike Ryan
      Mike Ryan says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Scot. Jessica is a true Ironman! I would like to make a correction with my intro to this article. I made a terrible error with an assumption regarding this athlete. Jessica has never seen 3 digits on the bathroom scale! I hope Jessica can find it in her heart to accept my apology for my insulting error of reporting that she weighs 105 lbs?? 🙂

      Reply

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