Kevin, Tom Danielson & Scott M. on Mt Evans
Winning any race is a huge victory and winning the overall in any race is one felt by few. Kevin Nicol of Tokyo Joe's-Whole Foods/ Primal team won the men's field at the season opener, Frostbite TT under evil windy conditions but it the wind was nothing compared to what he had to over come in the last 9 months that makes his stop on the podium an impessive achievement. Last year at the prestigious Gila race in New Mexico Kevin suffered a crash that left him with displaced fracture of the femoral neck and a shattered collarbone. Here is how Kevin describes it.
[303Cycling] First off, basic details, you crashed at the Gila which put you out for the rest of last season?
[Kevin] Last May, the “Crash” was quite dramatic and life changing. First stage at Gila, about 75miles
in, my front wheel was swept out. Landed and first thought was “Get Up!” Couldn’t move my leg and my collar bone was shattered. Helmet was split…always wear a helmet! That was a very long ambulance ride given the almost certainty of emergency surgery; no drink, food or pain meds, talk about bonking!
Every little crack in the floor on the gurney was crazy pain as they rolled me onto the imaging table with a tarp. The x-rays were kind of interesting in that behind my shoulder and hip was what appeared to be a handful of safety pins….all my clothes were cut off and left underneath, including my numbers. The result from all of this drama was a collarbone that required 12 screws and 6” titanium plate to repair, and more significantly, a displaced fracture of the femoral neck. I was told there was a 50% mortality rate for this type of injury. The consensus amongst the Gila Regional Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr Carreon, family doctors in Colorado, and Dr. Inigo San Milan http://www.coloradocenter.com , my trainer and friend, was that I was to have a full hip replacement that next day. My team mate, Tom Zirbel was very reassuring in that one of his clients happened to be my surgeon’s business partner and that he was an extremely qualified, Harvard Grad.
I lucked out in that they actually do over 100 of these procedures a year at the hospital, go figure? My loving wife caught a flight to El Paso, hired a guy in an old Cadillac to drive her to Silver City and met me as I came out of recovery. I’m now the proud owner of a Stryker titanium full hip component.
I was grateful for all the support that came my way, my team manager and friend Barry Lee sat at the bedside for days. Team mates past and present came by, Diana’s Restaurant; go there!, in Silver City, sent me meals and muffins, even after I came home! I couldn’t eat much, but it fed my visitors. I was there about a week and the hospital staff was so compassionate. I made many friends in New Mexico, who to this day I still keep in touch with.
[303Cycling] How has the training and healing been this year so far? Did you enter the year way behind
or had you healed up enough last year that allowed to to get some base in before winter training kicked in?
[Kevin] Baby steps….at first I was wondering if I’d ever walk again. It’s amazing how your perspective
is altered when one day you think nothing of riding a bike for 6 hours and the next; it’s an exhausting perilous effort to even get up. The saving grace was entering this rehab in good form from racing all spring. I was decently fit and could do things that sped up the progress tremendously. It was daunting though, the hip replacement, bolted together shoulder and covered in road rash, and yeah, a chipped out tooth. My friend and professional physical therapist Charlie Merrill encouraged me to get on top of things right away. At first it was just getting across the room, than walking around the block with a crutch, walking around the park, walking miles, hiking up mountains and then finding the bike again. My first goal was to ride with my son to school on bike-to-school day, never missed one. 2.5 weeks after the fall and with a very, say, concerned wife, I rode the mile. Had to have a milk crate to dismount and my daughter had to help get my shoe off….the buckle had broken in the crash and would not release. It was almost funny with her, screw driver in hand trying to get this thing off my foot.
My Orthopedic surgeon in Boulder put the fear of God into me. I was capable of permanent disability if I screwed things up. My crew at Pace/West Physical Therapy looked at me as the supreme challenge. First day I had to take the elevator up. The rehab sessions were very intense and to this day I’m in once/week, probably for another 2 months. I cannot express enough gratitude for their care.
Again, baby steps. Almost daily, there were dramatic changes, so it was very difficult to set the bar as it was always different. I hiked up Bear Peak many times with my Kahtoola Microspikes. After riding progressed passed the indoor, I wanted to do things that used to feel “normal.” I started doing my favorite climbs….Magnolia….the first time, I was actually concerned my leg might pop off, but it held fast.
A crazy idea hit me to do the Moriarty Record Challenge in September. 40K time trial event and in my mind should be plenty safe. My friend Nico Toutenhoofd assured me the only fall was by an 80year old at the turn around years ago. I really had no more aspirations than to get there and participate in a race once more. I watched races go by all season that I have done every year since I was 15. I started “training.” Took a family trip to Durango in August and I snuck a bike into the car. I rode with my light there before the sun came up so as not to draw too much attention. For the first time, I rode to Silverton, met the family for lunch and then rode back to Durango. That was a long way, but I was grinning ear to ear! About two weeks before Moriarty, the Buckeye TT came up. Last minute, I jumped in. All my stuff was still packed away from Gila so it was like opening up a time capsule. I found a team mate’s sock, someone’s wrench, a bunch of race food. This first race was like the world championships to me. I really wasn’t quite ready physically. I had my bags packed two days before and Nico’s loaned P4 TT machine, no better friend than that! Short story, I missed my start time, first time ever, due to misprint, and did the master event with 15 minutes from street clothes to start line. I was learning how to use Nico’s Powertap the first two miles of the race.
[303Cycling] Has the crash changed your outlook for the 2012 race calendar in any way? What are those
[Kevin] The crash has changed me as a person; I’m not the same and never will be. There is so much
support and encouragement out there, friends, family and an amazing team and sponsors (Tokyo Joes-Whole Foods/Primal). It’s easy for people to forget about things because it’s not visible but for those with a trained eye. At that first race here in Colorado there were a bunch of Paracyclists, it was their Worlds qualifier. For the first time, I thought, that’s me, you just can’t see it. They are out here pouring their heart into something they are passionate about. It’s ok to do something you love. I have raced bikes most of my life and am quite fond of the small tight knit community we have here. As far as racing, I’m day to day. I have a few personal goals, but I have to be respectful of my family and risks. I am not used to thinking about whether it’s slick out, windy, or what-not. Frostbite TT conditions were no surprise, I’ve done this many times, and hats off to everyone who participated, you are hard. Chris Carr in particular had a great ride.
[303Cycling] Last question: What has this crash done to you mentally? How did you move on after such
a terrible crash?
[Kevin] I have a bit different take on things…..this incident was a gift….it’s up to you to open it. Not one moment do I take for granted. I did my first big bunch ride in Boulder two weeks ago. Only when you have something taken away from you in the blink of an eye do you learn to truly appreciate. Having a big event in one’s life does not only affect one aspect, but cascades in many directions. As I learned from Chris West at his clinic, opportunities present themselves that would normally not be there if certain occurrences in life were not to happen.