A Strange Sense of Calm
Straight away I need to say this is the hardest post I have ever written. I didn't even realise the direction this would go or how honest I was going to get until it happened. I hope you all get something out of it.
I’m back from an amazing 3 weeks of training, family and love in Thailand. I celebrated the marriage of my baby brother to the love of his life in what is without doubt, the most amazing wedding I have ever been to. We swung by Singapore for a sneaky trip to ensure an incredible time was had. The training in Phuket was the most and hardest I have ever experienced and I was so excited to see the way that my body reacted to it. On the last day I rode 150kms and with about 5km to go I was shocked by just how amazing I was feeling. I honestly have never felt so strong on a bike at the start of a ride so to feel that way at the end was an incredibly encouraging experience.
The trip was not without incident though. On my 3rd last day in Phuket about 80km into a 105km ride I was distracted on the bike and rode over a reflector. As a result I lost control of my bike and crashed into the middle of the major motorway that runs through the island of Phuket. I want to talk about my experience.
I think after riding for 8 days straight and averaging over 100km a day it is fair to say that my confidence was high. I had ridden many of the same roads multiple times and this particular stretch of road was one of the smoothest, widest and least concerning I had encountered. I was just passed by some of my friends and decided I would be social and turn off my iPod. I had been riding with my iPod on, listening to podcasts. I know this can be risky so to ensure I was still alert I always have my right earphone out of my ear and the volume reasonably low. This is to ensure I am able to hear traffic coming past me on the right. I had one hand off the handlebars while I hit the pause button and that is when I hit the reflector. My handlebars turned and if I had my hand on the handlebars properly I would have been able to regain control. Unfortunately I didn’t.
There was a moment I remember when I knew I was about to crash. I guess I accepted it but it is hard to know exactly what I did actually think at that moment versus what I think I thunk at that moment in time. I do not remember hitting the road, I do not remember sliding. I do remember sitting up (I landed on my back). This is when I felt the first truck go past. That is right. I did not hear it. I felt it. It was so close to me that I felt the vibrations run through my body. I then looked up and saw another truck coming straight at me. It noticed me and swerved. The trailer attached at the back began to jacknife (come out sideways) and was heading right for me. It skidded around me literally at the last second. I think it missed me by no more than 15cm. If nothing else this shocked me into action. I jumped up, grabbed my bike and ran off the road. Amazingly my bike was ok. The right shifter had been moved a bit but there wasn’t a single scratch on the bike. I sat down and tried to gather my thoughts.
The noises of the trucks braking and skidding made me scared I had caused a HUGE accident. A car had pulled over that I don’t remember seeing and the two trucks had slowed right down. I was relieved to see that they hadn’t crashed and in fact continued to drive. I saw my iPod ran over by a car (miraculously it still works.) I gave my body a check over and saw I had taken some skin of my elbow and my right knee was swollen already. I did what I could to get the shifter back into a decent position then insisted on getting back on my bike to make the last 20km home. Over the next few hours I realised that I had hurt my hip quite badly as it had swollen up quite badly and the road rash on my elbow was more significant than I had expected. But to be honest I could not believe just how lucky I was. It is literally the closest to death I have ever come.
Here’s the thing. I checked my heart rate when the accident happened the next day and when I crashed my bike my heart rate didn’t spike. Instead it dropped. When I sat in the middle of the motorway and looked up at that huge truck coming straight at me I didn’t panic. I was calm. Completely calm and the only thing I can think is that I accepted what was coming. I thought I was about to die and there was nothing I could do about it. That crushing realisation and helplessness is probably what scared me the most. You always hear about the fight or flight but this was the sit there and take it. The funny part is that this is a feeling I have felt before. Just in a completely different way.
As I am sure by now most of you are familiar with my weight loss. I lost a whole heap of weight after I completed my first ever triathlon. One of the most common questions I get asked about it is ‘was there a moment when I decided to make a change?’ The truth is there were many. But there was another moment that I do remember. The moment that I gave up.
Becoming overweight doesn’t happen quickly. I didn’t look in the mirror one day and not recognise myself. It creeps up on you. I’m not sure about other people but I convinced myself it wasn’t true. “It’s all good as long as you are under 85kg” “You are a big guy who lifts weights, it doesn’t matter as long as you are under 100kgs.” “So you need to buy bigger jeans, they were old anyway.” Your brain goes into self-defence and you don’t face what is happening to you. But there was a moment where I knew I was big and decided I wasn’t getting any smaller. I went though all of the clothes I had kept that “I was going to fit into one day” and threw them all out. I really think that was my rock bottom. I did it while Dez was out and to be honest I was in tears while I did it due to the overwhelming weight of hopelessness I felt. I gave up. I decided this is it, this is how I am and to be honest, this is what’s going to kill me. Even writing this here makes me physically upset. But I always try and be honest and this is me being honest.
So perhaps it isn’t just the fact that I literally came inches away from death on the road in Phuket (coincidentally it was the exact same spot I double punctured during the Thailand 70.3.) I think that half the reason I keep revisiting those moments when I close my eyes is because it reminded me of how I felt that day, sitting in my room by myself feeling completely helpless crying while I accepted my fate. Man there are literally tears in my eyes writing this. What is wrong with me!
But this is a happy story. I didn’t get hit by that truck just like I didn’t keep putting on weight and let it rule my life. I guess the main point I want to make is that no matter how helpless you feel, whether it is because of weight, or alchohol or any other thing which you think controls you, DO NOT GIVE UP. There is always hope and there is ALWAYS a way to overcome your struggles.
I could have vowed to stay off the bike but I am proud to say that I rode 150km the day after the crash and while going over bumps hurt, I finished that ride feeling stronger than I ever had on the bike before.
Keep two hands on the handlebars, never give up hope and remember to TRI!
Jose Luis Villadiego Diaz
27/3/2017 01:36:40 pm
Remembered the day you post it the incident on your instagram. God has bigger plans for you m8, I bet you have touched so many lives with your weight loss story and motivate lots trough your blog and social networks. Keep up with the good job
5/6/2019 03:40:14 pm
Training in Thailand could be one of the highlights of this story, but it's your courage that makes me admire you more! It simply says how passionate you are on what you do! Triathlon has made a huge impact on your life, and I don't see nay plan of you letting go of it. I just want you to know that you are making a good decision. As long as yo know how to follow your heart, you will always be happy at the end of the day. I haven't tried it yet, perhaps it's about time for me to do it? Let's see!
23/11/2022 03:47:13 pm
Great post thhanks
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I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.