Today is a very special day. Not only have we finished all the racing days of joBerg2c (tomorrow's times don't count), but we are remembering that exactly one year ago today, John survived a brush with death while finishing up a training ride at Lusail circuit around 8PM when he was struck head-on by a motor scooter while cycling downhill.
Photo taken post-op the day John left the hospital May 2016
When the ambulance brought him to Hamad hospital and I started to learn the serious nature of his injuries, my first thought was we would never cycle again. But anyone who knows John knows that was never an option.
For those who don't know, John suffered multiple traumas including a traumatic brain injury with several bleeds on the brain when they first brought him in. He also had a fractured spine and wrist, and he broke every bone in his face except his lower jaw. He was in serious pain, but he was talking when they brought him in. He even joked with the doctor when he asked if John knew who I was and he replied, "Yeah, that's the missus." I can never thank Shane Guinan enough for riding in the ambulance with him and letting me know everything I needed to know in those first minutes when he was rushed into the trauma room. And all the people who supported his recovery (and mine!!), we will be forever indebted to you.
This year has been a year of steady improvements since then. He quickly regained his short term memory and was walking around the compound within the month. He had to wait for his vision to settle after the extensive facial surgery to reconnect all the broken bones in his face (no, he doesn't set off the detectors at the airport...not quite enough metal for that), but he has finally gotten the right prescription. He still can't smell or breathe through one side of his nose, but surgery is next on the list to repair that. Incredibly, he was back on the bike by August when we went to Newfoundland and despite my fears, he was adamant that getting back on the bike would not wait another day. Since then, he has been racing and training and improving all the time.
The significance of all this (for our race fans) is we signed up for JoBerg2c when John was in the very early stages of his recovery. As Kevin Hickey says, John was still on morphine at the time (why else would we think this was a good idea?!) 😉 We wanted a way to motivate John to recovery. This was his choice, and I wanted very much to be a part of that.
I honestly didn't know at that point if John would be able to ride again. He was still struggling with his memory, and on the day that we registered, he was not allowed to sit up for more than 10 minutes at a time. I remember telling him off for getting up to look at his computer for registration details because he wasn't supposed to have much screen time due to the brain injury and his vision problems. But we took a leap of faith and registered!
Seeing him sprint up the hills ahead of me, race down flowing singletrack, and toast a beer after each stage of this race with a huge smile on his face has made me stop and appreciate how far he has come and how incredible he is to complete something of this magnitude so soon after so much trauma to his body. All the while never complaining and constantly encouraging me onwards.
John has come so far from that day one year ago, and we have grown stronger together. This challenge of a 9-day stage race has undoubtedly made us stronger as well. We have planned, prepared, and persevered together. Without his crazy ambitions and encouragement for me, I can honestly say I would not have completed this race.
Today's stage was a day of ups and downs (heh heh). The first half was a beautiful descent down into the valley with singletrack just inches from the side of steep high cliffs overlooking a breathtaking view of a winding river peeking through lush green forests. One wrong move - a misjudged corner, picking up too much speed, late on the brakes, and you'd be finished! It was not a day for those scared of heights, but we loved it! Then the bad news...you have to climb out of the valley.
The rest of the day was brutal. First, a ridiculously steep climb up Iconic Pass - around 20kms of very steep, rocky uphill. Most people had to walk, and so did we, but we pedaled as much as we could until John found himself behind someone who stopped and couldn't keep it going. He fell onto his hand, which I was worried was broken (it isn't). He was wincing in pain (and mostly checking for bike damage!) but he pushed his bike the rest of the way up the pass where he then started encouraging me to hurry up!
From there, when we were sweaty and our legs had had quite enough of uphills, every turn was another incline. I could only bear it for so long before I started to cry in anticipation of the next uphill (yes, I was crying BEFORE the hill!!).
Finally, a few small descents came and offered some relief to my aching back and my literal pain in the butt. All told, it took us 6:32 to complete the 95kms of this final timed stage. I collapsed in a heap at the finish (John made me sprint to the finish up a grassy hill) and one of the organizers, Gary Green, came over to offer some consolation, making sure I didn't need a medic and offering me reassurance that it was indeed a very tough day. We then had a short 4km pedal back to camp, and grabbed a celebratory beer as soon as we dropped our bikes off at the mechanics.
And the results! J&J Racing moved up from 40th to 35th in the mixed pairs category over the 9-days with an exciting 28th place finish in today's stage!!! There are some pro teams racing and some very fit people here, so we are super happy with our results. Of course, the journey is the most important, but it was also very rewarding to see improvement as we got stronger and stronger each day.
So, here's to a very special day! Celebrating John's life and living it to the fullest! Cheers ❤️