Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mt. Everest and the Triathlon Connection

Early in September, I was competing in my 5th Triathlon of the Summer Season. I had already successfully completed four triathlons. I placed 3rd in my second triathlon, and 1st in the 3rd and 4th triathlons. It occurred to me that I might only attribute my places to the fact that I had turned 50 years old this year and so I was now competing in an older age bracket. Even though I was now competing as a 50 year old, I was feeling stronger with every race. This 5th and final race of the season promised to be the best and most likely the fastest I was going to run all season.

I started the first leg of the triathlon (i.e.- tri) with a good swim and a quick transition to the bike. I was primed and my bike pedaling was going strong. I cycled out to the half-way point and turned around. I was really cruising....passing other athletes just as I had done in earlier races. However, the race ended prematurely because I hit a "gap" in the road which caused my hands to come off of the handle bars and take a nasty fall. I had been traveling between 20-25 mph and when I looked for my bike I found it about 15 feet further down the road than where I was lying. The "gap" in the road that I had hit was probably 30 feet from where I landed....at least it seemed that way when I looked around to get my bearings. I picked up my bike and was ready to get back on it, when I realized that several pieces had broken off. I looked around and found them in the middle of the road. At the same time, I realized that I was now bleeding pretty heavily from above the eyebrows on the face.

In light of the fact that the bike pieces now posed a safety problem for the other cyclists coming from behind, I decided to retrieve the parts and then continue to the transition area where I could get some medical help. I looked both directions...all was clear. I stepped out into the road and reached down for the first piece of my bike and heard someone say "what are you doing, get out of ...." At that point all I remember is the bike hitting my face with a very hard smack. I fell backward and realized that I was now really hurt. My whole head was throbbing. However, I realized that the cyclist that ran over me was now in the ditch on the opposite side of the road. So, I got up to see if I could help. After finding out that he was fine, I started apologizing to the cyclist All the while, I remember the cyclist swearing at me. He seemed to not care that I was hurt or anything, until he did a double take and saw me standing at the top of the road covered in blood and still bleeding heavily. At that point, he picked up his bike and took off to assuredly finish the race for himself. I never saw or heard from him again.

I was surprised that he hadn't offered to help, but I was now feeling dizzy and losing control of my legs, so I managed to get back to the other side of the road without getting hit a second time. But by now, all I could do was sit down and hold my head...and wait for help.

It seemed like eternity, before someone stopped to help. So, there I sat by the side of the road, bleeding and feeling sick to my stomach. I couldn't really look at the riders because of all the blood, but I could hear them as many of the them passed by and remarked, "Oh my G..!" Why wasn't anyone stopping was a question I never asked myself. I guess it never crossed my mind that anyone should stop. I figured that someone would report it to the race director and they would send out someone to help. Lots of thoughts were going through my mind....specifically, my wife and my two year old sheltie (Meggie) were both at the finish line waiting for me. I knew my wife would be anxious, because she always times my phases of the race...and by now, I would have been way overdue for the run portion of the race. So, I stared to wonder how long it would take before someone came to help. It seemed like forever.

Finally, two ladies stopped racing and asked if they could help. They talked with each other about what to do. One had a cell phone, but no coverage at that spot in the countryside. So, she told her friend that she would cycle up to a spot where there was cell phone coverage and call 911. The other lady tried to calm me by letting me know she would stay until the police arrived. I did feel better now, knowing that the police should be there soon.

And finally, they did show up. The police officer did a good job of assessing my condition and called in an ambulance. By then the two ladies had left and most likely finished their tri race. I will forever be grateful to them. After the police officer took control of the situation, one of my friends had arrived and asked if he could help. I assured him that I would be taken care of now and that he should finish the race. I was grateful to him for at least checking in on me and then going on to finish the race.

So, the police officer did a very professional job. He had his wits about himself, and asked me if someone was at the finish line that he could call. I told him my wife and Meggie were waiting. He called my wife and let her know that I would be at the hospital shortly. By then the ambulance had arrived and the EMTs did some bandaging of my head before transporting me to the nearest hospital where I received some 20 stitches in my head and, after two shots of morphine, had my nose set twice to make it somewhat straight again. By then, my wife had arrived in the ER and after a short visit decided that she needed to return the ankle timing bracelet to the race director. So, she took the timing bracelet off of my ankle and went back to the race location.

When she found the race director, she returned the bracelet and let him know that I would not be finishing because of injuries I suffered during the bike portion of the tri. He looked at her very confused as if he didn't know anything about the accident. By now over an hour later after the crash, and the race director still had no knowledge that any accident had happened. My wife came back to the ER and let me know that no one had yet reported the accident. I couldn't hardly believe that. Lots of racers saw me and knew of my condition, because they remarked about it when they raced by on their bikes. Yet, no one reported the incident. Surely, the man that hit me on his bike would have reported it....but, nope, there was no such report. I am grateful to the two ladies who assisted me. I hope someday that I will be able to relay my thanks to them for their kindness and reassurance.

However, there is something deeper that I want to share with you. Something similar, but not to the same critical level, happened on Mt. Everest to a climber that was left for dead. This climber's name was Lincoln Hall. He was leading a climbing team who had already reached the peak of Mt. Everest, but fell ill due to altitude sickness on the descent. Several Sherpas and others from his own climb tried to get him to wake-up, but to no avail. Lincoln was pronounced dead after his incident. Lincoln's family and the rest of his team were notified of his death. On Everest, if you die, you most likely will remain on the mountain. So the climbing team left Lincoln on the mountain and made the descent to the next base camp.

At the same time, on the way up the mountain was another team, led by Dan Mazur, who was about to make the most courageous decision of his life. The day after Lincoln's death, Dan Mazur led his team to the area where Lincoln had died, he saw a person sitting up in the snow, with his jacket off and his hands and chest exposed to the harsh elements. It was Lincoln....no one could believe it. But, what to do now? The team leader found Lincoln about 1000 meters from the peak. He had a tough decision to make now though. He would not be able to continue to the peak if he was to stop and help Lincoln. In fact, he was responsible for the other climbers he was leading to the peak. He had no formal responsibility to Lincoln at all. He realized that if he helped Lincoln, then all the money and the time spent to guide his own team to the top would be sacrificed....and maybe they would never have the chance to "summit" again. The decision the team leader made was to take care of Lincoln....and sacrifice his summit experience. What courage that must have taken. Later, he would relay that quite a few other climbers had passed Lincoln by on the way to the summit. At least once, two individuals indicated they could not help, because they spoke no English. The team leader found out later that both of those climbers actually lied and did speak English. They were merely using that as an excuse to ease their consciences since they were not willing to sacrifice their own goals for the welfare of Lincoln. You can read more about his story at http://www.abc.net.au/nightlife/stories/s1926568.htm

Well, clearly there were several other climbers as well who were unwilling to sacrifice their right to summit for someone Else's benefit. Out of all those climbers, only one was willing to help. That is how I felt the day of my accident I didn't ask anyone to help me, but quite a number of people passed by before the kind Samaritan ladies stopped to help. Clearly, they were not going to get a good race time, or finish without being impacted by my injury. Whatever, their goals and objectives that day, those two ladies were my heroes. They sacrificed their own personal goals for my well being. That was huge. But, it speaks volumes....

My triathlon accident and the Mt. Everest experience of Lincoln Hall share a common thread. Could it be that these incidents speak volumes about our society today. Have we become so selfish, jealous, greedy, and self-centered that we no longer look out for the well being of our fellow human beings? What does it mean to "gain the whole world" and sacrifice a good deed one could do for someone?

I have decided that if and when I see someone in need in the future, I will stop to help. I have already done that on one occasion when climbing Mt. Ararat in Turkey. But, that story will have to wait for another "blog" day. How about you? Would you sacrifice your own personal needs and goals for the benefit of another? Wouldn't you want someone to stop and help you if you were in trouble? Every culture in this world has a version of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Following the Golden Rule may very well help us get back to basics and focus on other human beings first when in need. That is the most noblest and courageous thing to do.

In some small way, I believe that Mt. Everest and the Triathlon stories both have a common connection to each of us as human beings. In your daily journey, don't forget that significance is more important than success. -Heidi Ho-

The link below is a short video of Lincoln's story. He has even written a book titled, "Dead Lucky."


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAFzJfgSavA

2 comments:

Bob-RJ Burkhart said...

Dane - Great story about selfless community stewardship in a competitive environment ...

>> Well, clearly there were several other climbers as well who were unwilling to sacrifice their right to summit for someone Else's benefit. Out of all those climbers, only one was willing to help. That is how I felt the day of my accident I didn't ask anyone to help me, but quite a number of people passed by before the kind Samaritan ladies stopped to help. Clearly, they were not going to get a good race time, or finish without being impacted by my injury. Whatever, their goals and objectives that day, those two ladies were my heroes. They sacrificed their own personal goals for my well being. That was huge. But, it speaks volumes.... <<

Find my BSA100 (NESA) Blog :: http://GeoVenturing--LNT.blogspot.com
Plus ECOTrekUSA EcoFuturist(UI) :: FUTUREThought.pbworks.com

Bob-RJ Burkhart said...

Whoops - Got an extra hyphen for GeoVenturing-LNT.blogspot.com