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Greg's ITU World Triathlon Race for Concussion Awareness!

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William Hawrelak Park

9330 Groat Road

Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8

Canada

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About me:

At 35 I took up triathlon and entered the athletic endurance world of swim, bike, run, eventually working my up to doing 5 Triathlon World Championships on the Canadian National Age Group team (between the years 2003-2009). Following that, I took a few years off before returning to hardcore training. In 2012 I was in the best shape I had been in years, preparing to race at the 2012 Canadian National Championship with the goal of making the national team for the London 2013 Age Group World Championships (one must qualify a year before the race). Then on June 18, 2012- just 2 weeks before this Qualifying race - my life-changing crash happened, a thing that happens to ‘other’ people, in ‘other’ sports, in ‘other’ situations. A thing you could never imagine could so drastically change your life.

I feel like I never came home.

That night in 2012, I set out on my race bicycle excited to go out for one of my last extra long rides before the race. It was a Monday on a beautiful hot summer evening just after 8pm. I said goodbye to my partner, Twilla, and mentioned I would be gone for a few hours on the bike. I got just 6 blocks from home. I remember being at the top of a hill about to descend. I don’t know what happened next. I have no memory of a van coming up the hill and crossing into my path as I was cycling down. The driver was charged with careless driving the actions of which caused me to literally have a ‘head’ on collision with the side of his van. Post accident was a blur. It was at least an hour later that I became fully aware I was at a hospital in emergency being assessed and monitored.

Twilla got the dreaded call that explained I had been in a ‘little mishap’ and she needed to come immediately to the hospital. They had to call her back a minute later forgetting to tell her that she needed to bring me clothes as they had to cut me out of everything I had been wearing.

I suffered the usual assortment of bicycle vs. car injuries: lots of soft tissue damage, torn AC, fractured ribs, a mashed face, but unknown to me and really above all else I sustained a bad head injury, technically called a minor traumatic brain injury or in general terms a concussion, a really bad concussion… It certainly makes sense now because my brain felt like it was exploding. I did not lose my ability to walk or talk. No surgeries were required and I had no immediate, life-threatening issues. At the time of hospitalization, surprisingly, no mention of brain damage or of my head trauma was made. I didn’t know, then, that this was going to be a very long and slow journey about learning about concussion and how badly I was hurt. I didn’t know that recovery would not be measured in days or weeks, but rather years or, as it seems now, a lifetime. I figured I was still going to be well enough in a few weeks to paddle, peddle and hobble along for my race. It took me a full week to realize I was not going to be at the start line. I had to accept that my race bike was broken and so was I, but mentally, I could not even comprehend my injuries as my brain was in such a fog.

My ‘2nd life’ started with a constant massive, full on pressure pain headache and numb brain, like having your head pushed down to the deep end of a pool, extreme physical and mental fatigue and fog. From there I went downhill with aphasia, bed spins and zero sleep. I was neither awake or asleep, hungry or full, in a state of constant pain and numbness. Life became just a single focus on surviving the day only looking forward to the meds to put me to sleep through the pain. Yet within months in between the hard times I would pull myself together long enough to do things almost as if I was never injured. Unfortunately, there is always a cost related to those positive days and I always must recover with down time.

After the crash, I started testing my physical limitations, the first time I got my heartbeat over 80bpm with walking up stairs I lapsed into a massively painful 3-day bed ridden recovery. This injury was nothing like had ever experienced. I worked hard with many setbacks but the full-on impact of running only took 10 months to reach. My profession as a taiko drummer however was something that I refused to give up to the brain injury and within months started back at taiko drumming as best I could. Yes, I play big drums and yes, I have a constant headache, but, as Twilla says, it is when I am playing taiko she sees me full of life again.

5 years later, I have had a very long, up-and-down road of specialists, clinics, therapies, meds, tests, healing and dealing with my new life. My daily life has been filled with major post concussion symptoms. The neuro and physical fatigue is constant. I always say, “I don’t get headaches, because I have one continuous pressure/pain headache.” But, I recognize that I am lucky to be functioning at a level that no one on the outside can generally tell (at all) how I am. I work hard at maintaining this façade, but my emotional, physical and cognitive self was shattered and the pieces still sometimes fall away easily. To the onlookers I say I am ‘FIERCE… but fragile’ because at any moment I can be overwhelmed with pain and fatigue, emotions or cognitive lapses. I must manage and run my life at a much different speed and level of complexity. Like in a car when you take a wrong turn and your GPS says ‘recalculating’. Every day feels like a process of recalculating daily life.

The triathlon this July 29th, in fact will be my second race back. In 2014, I did a sprint triathlon fundraiser, also for the Brain Care Center. Athletics, although difficult, greatly aid in my overall well being and recovery. Being as healthy physically as I can be, is one of the best coping and quality of living things I have found that I can do to help get me through. It is important for me to race for the Brain Care Centre again, because I spent a year going through one of their programs as part of my recovery process and the connection that I found there with others was life-saving. I want to help them continue their good work by using this race to raise funds and awareness of what we are all going through. Triathlon is an extreme endurance sport. Surviving and thriving through concussion also takes endurance of mind body and spirit, just to get through each day.

They say the only way you can lose a triathlon is to stop, so I’m race (again) for all those dealing with concussion and the ‘FIERCE but fragile’ fight we find ourselves in and to keep us all moving forward.

To find out more about the triathalon please visit: http://edmonton.triathlon.org/


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Date and Time

Location

William Hawrelak Park

9330 Groat Road

Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8

Canada

View Map

Refund Policy

No Refunds

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