Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fighting My Demons at the Mt. Diablo 50k

[Foreward: This blog entry contains some adult subject matter (the gory horror movie kind). If that’s not your thing, it would probably be best if you skipped this one, and instead caught the cheery scenes of the Bay to Breakers.]

On Saturday, I joined 250 trail runners for a hot run at the Mt.Diablo 8k/25k/50k in Clayton, CA. This monster of a 50k climbs nearly 9,000 feet in a two loop course in the dry and exposed Mt. Diablo State Park, and is considered the toughest of the races put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs. I had brought some personal demons of my own to this Devil Mountain, and they would prove harder to outrun than the fastest runners of the day. Despite the challenge (or perhaps because of it), we would all cross the line stronger than when we started.

(Looking down on the San Francisco Bay from Mt. Diablo)

I had debated all week whether it was a good idea for me to race on Saturday, due to the fact that I was emotionally not in a good place. On the previous Monday (Memorial Day weekend), I had witnessed a cycling accident devastating enough to haunt my every thought. I don't have a lot of experience with that kind of trauma up close, and it shook me pretty hard. What little sleep I had in the following days were filled with images of blood and broken bones, jerking me awake in the cold sweat every half hour. I know it’s not a good idea to race when both your emotional and physical foundation are weak, but I was desperately hoping that the trails could somehow lead me out of this state of shock, like they had led me to salvation before.

An Introduction to My Demons

The previous Memorial Day Monday had started out innocently enough. The weather was wonderful, so I decided to put in some miles on the bike and head out towards Portola Valley. As I was coming down Sand Hill Road, I heard an accident about 300 yards in front of me and looked up to see a lycra-clad body rolling to a stop in the intersection. A small truck had turned against traffic and struck a cyclist coming down the hill at full speed. I jumped off the bike to help, along with about a half dozen cyclists and drivers already on the phone to 911. I knelt beside the cyclist and quickly understood why most people were keeping their distance...she was a mess.

Her skull and face were fractured. Her arms were both broken, lying lifeless on the pavement even as her shoulders rotated up to reach out to us. Her slow gasps for breath were gurgling from blood pooling in her throat, complicated by a broken jaw. I knelt beside her and tried to hold her head still, but parts of her skull felt like broken eggshells and it was freaking me out. I tried to keep the teeth and blood clear from her mouth so she didn’t choke, but it would pool as fast I could clear it. Each breath she took was more labored and less effective. I felt myself going into shock just witnessing it, and as I got dizzy and took a few steps back to regain my composure, another person stepped in and took my place. Then I realized that most of the people standing nearby were doing the same, stepping aside long enough to get a clear head, then stepping back in to assist in any way possible. We were trying to help, but honestly I've never felt so helpless in my life.

I found a cell phone in her bike bag and randomly called speed dial numbers to try and get her name. The first number was “Annie”, who turned out to be her teenage daughter. The cyclist, Deborah, had gone out for a solo ride from Menlo Park like she had many times before. Annie could sense my panic, but all I could say was “your Mom has been in an accident”. Soon after, I handed the phone to arriving police, shared the info I had, and watched the EMT’s and Woodside Fire Department intubate Deborah and load her into the ambulance with disturbing efficiency. As they pulled away, my ears were ringing from shock. It felt like I was watching myself in a movie. I got back on my bike and rode to nearby Ladera Oaks to shower off the blood that caked my hands and legs. There I would be told that a cyclist had died on the way to the hospital, but I was still too numb to react. An hour later, I would be sobbing uncontrollably on the side of the road as the emotions caught up to me. A disturbing way to gain respect for Memorial’s Day, that’s for sure.

The Race on Mt. Diablo

So I found myself at the starting line, exhausted but glad to be among friends doing the thing I love the most. Rob Evans had car-pooled over with me, and it was good to talk to him about the previous weekend. Rob is a trained psychologist, and was able to give me a lot of insight into “acute stress disorder”. I also knew that he would be keeping an eye out for me on the trail.

(Jeff Browning and Garett Graubins prepare to do battle)

There were lots of familiar faces at the race, including Bev and Alan Abbs, Garett Graubins, Brian Wyatt, Kate and Keturah Morejohn, Wally Hessletime, Chuck Wilson, and of course, Race Directors Wendell and Sarah Doman. Everyone was looking forward to what this race could dish out. Garett was here to defend his Mt. Diablo 50k win from last year, but was the first to point out that Jeff Browning (multiple winner of the Big Horn 100, here in training for the Hardrock 100) and Western States winner Graham Cooper were going to be tough competition. Bev Abbs, in top form for States and complete with Sunsweet wingman Alan, was going to be the one to beat in the Women’s division. We all lined up at the start, and at 8:30 charged up the first of two laps to the top.

(Rob Evans and the Abbs chase down the lead pack)

Jeff, Garett, and Jason Reid (25k) set a quick pace from the start, with the Abbs and Rob Evans in a group just behind them. The pitch got steep fast, and it didn’t take long for all of us to be whittled down to a brisk walk. I was drinking my water quickly, and at our pace, it would be over 80 minutes to reach the first aid station. As the temperature climbed above 70 degrees, we all understood Mt. Diablo was dishing out a tricky day for us.

(Heading up the canyon)

Just when I thought I was suffering in the heat, Graham Cooper went by in his “heat training outfit” – black wool hat, gloves, black jacket, black shorts – with sweat pouring off of him. I guess that’s what it takes to win States! Rob Evans came by soon after him, looking strong and running the steep hills. We made it up the steepest climb and into the saddle, and were rewarded with the first aid station (mile 8.4). I was out of food and water, so I stocked up on both.

(Charging the hill)

As we headed up the next 5 miles to the observation tower at the top, I had some time to run solo. The runner’s high “clarity” kicked in, and I found myself more introspective than usual. The only distraction was the gorgeous views, and the front-runners already coming back. Jeff Browning and Garett Graubins were bombing down the hill, with Bev and Alan Abbs not too far behind.

(Rob Evans sails past me as he charges up the steepest section)

As I reached the top, I realized I was out of water again. Perhaps even worse, I could have been out of water for quite some time since my mind was so occupied. In fact, I was having trouble keeping my mind on the race at all. The “clarity” in my head was working against me, rekindling details of the Memorial Day accident that I had forgotten, or perhaps repressed. With each corner of the trail, I remembered something new – the smell of her breath, the screams of the driver, the broken hand moving on the pavement. I wasn’t over this trauma, not by a longshot...and I had no idea how much more baggage was about to fall out of my head.

I worked my way down slowly to the aid station (mile 16.7), where volunteer Mark Gilligan got me set up with salt, water, and sugar snacks. As luck would have it, I soon met up with Eric Chitwood from Galt, CA, who is also training for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. Eric is a firefighter and worked for years for the San Mateo Fire Dept, and was a welcome perspective on my situation. I felt comfortable sharing the fact that I was having a hard time, and the stories he shared helped me understand that even professionals have to work through these things. “Just don’t try to shove it down and hide it,” Eric said, “you have to face it, talk about it, and know you did everything you could.” As Harry Walther joined in on our conversation, we pulled into the aid station at mile 16, halfway done.

I went through the motions at the aid station, and got back on the trail as Harry and Eric charged up the hill. Both were nice enough to offer sticking with me (which Harry graciously did for a mile), but I could tell they were both having a great race so I let them go ahead. I climbed up the hot canyon a second time, conserving water the best I could while fighting the dizziness of the heat. A few folks passed me, and I was happy to exchange even a few words. The alone time continued to take me to some scary places.

(Brian Wyatt ran a well-paced 50k at Mt. Diablo to finish 7th)

Around mile 20, Graham Cooper came by again in his sweat-inducing bank robber outfit. He sensed something was wrong, and was quick to offer up anything he had to help. That's quite a statement from a guy sweating a gallon an hour! I shared my emotional struggle with him, and he slowed a bit to talk it out with me over the next mile. I really appreciated how he listened and internalized what I said, and I could tell he knew that listening was the best help he could give. At the top of the crest, we wished each other luck and Graham charged down the hill.

(The rugged landscape)

I jogged for a few miles and realized I was out of water again. I hadn’t factored that all this fast-walking would take a half an hour longer to get to the aid station on the second lap, and it was much warmer this time around. But my thoughts were still consumed with Deborah, and the little details kept zooming through my head like butterflies. As the dehydration reached a new level, my walk became more of a stagger and it was difficult to climb the hill. My thinking was hazy, my face felt like it was on fire, and it was clear that I needed some help. My ears started ringing, and I heard the sound of the accident over and over in my head. I looked down at my hands and swore I could feel blood on them. But it wasn’t blood, it was vomit. My vomit. I don’t even remember puking, but the proof was all over my hands.

Now I was officially scared. Not only was I dehydrated, delirious, and cramping, but not being able to recall how exactly I got here meant I wasn't in the game. It’s amazing how fast that downward spiral can catch up to you when you aren’t paying attention. I found some shade and sat down to collect my thoughts. I have never DNF’d before, but was thinking it might be a good idea. I found comfort in the fact that I knew where I was, since it was the second lap. But it did point out one issue - the best place to get help was to keep going uphill another mile. I calmed down best I could, and started walking.

(Google Earth view)

Kevin Swisher (a fellow TRT100 training ultra runner) soon caught up to me, concerned after watching me stagger from behind. I told him I felt drunk and thirsty, and he walked with me until I got to the aid station. Mark Gilligan was there again, and when he asked what was wrong, all I could say was “I couldn’t fix her. She was broken, and I couldn’t fix her.” Mark didn’t skip a beat and said, “Uh, yeah. Maybe you should try some potatoes and salt, and a whole lotta Cytomax”. I took a seat and started eating and drinking everything I could get my hands on. I felt better instantly. Kevin reminded me of a spot to douse my head in water just a few hundred yards away, and headed off.

Mark has a gift for finding the bright side in any situation, and quickly pointed out to me that this might be better training for TRT100 (Mark is also doing it) than a well-run race. If I could “get back to good”, then I was probably ready for anything TRT could throw at me. After seeing the training that Graham Cooper was doing, maybe Mark was right! As I gathered my senses and set up the hill after Kevin, Jeff Browning came screaming by at full speed leading the 50k. Bev Abbs was about a minute behind, saying Alan and Garett were right on her tail. They were all suffering in the heat, drinking as much as possible, but still going hard.

(Heading down from the aid station)

With new calories, full water bottles, a mini-shower at the spigot, and a mental boost from seeing the fast folks I started walking up to the top. If I could make it to the top, I was determined to leave any demons I brought on this race there for good. Rob Evans stopped to check in on me, and he was really looking strong, as was Brian Wyatt, Chris Garcia, and Charles Stevens. Each one of them flashed a smile, and boosted my spirits just enough to take a few more steps. I climbed for what seemed like an eternity, and when I arrived at the top, I unloaded all my remaining emotional baggage in one sobbing mess.

Then I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. It was Kevin Swisher, who had also reached the top, letting me know that everything was going to be alright. I couldn't believe how much it helped to have the hand of a near-stranger on my shoulder, but it was more than enough. Kevin set me straight by saying "Let's get this done. You can do it for her. Just let me know when you're ready to finish this, and we'll head down the hill together. I've got a couple cold ones with our names on them". Kevin was absolutely right. I bet Deborah would give anything to be where we are, at the top of Mt. Diablo with our legs seizing in pain. Pain is life. Pain is good. And beer is even better.

We refilled our water bottles at the top (should have done that the first time up), and headed back down. I found a good pace for the first time in the race, sort of a fast shuffle. It was slow, but it was nice to have a rhythm. The farther we went down, the less burdened I felt, and I realized I actually did leave some emotional baggage at the top. The view from the top seemed more clear. By the time we hit the aid station, I was running again. Super-volunteer Mark applauded my recovery and filled my water bottles with ice water and my hands with Jelly Belly's. He was great all day, and I couldn't thank him enough for his help.

(The clear view from near the top)

I "downhill shuffled" through the last few miles, refusing to stop until I found the finish line in 7:01:49. By crossing the line and being welcomed by my ultrarunning friends, I felt an odd sense of closure to the day. As we cheered on the fellow finishers, I felt my spirits rise with each round of clapping. Jeff Browning had won in 5:14, with Bev Abbs coming in 4 minutes later to set a new Women's course record. Garett and Alan stayed on her tail right to the end, finishing 3rd and 4th. Rob Evans had a stellar run of 5:47 for 6th place, with Brian Wyatt running an even race to finish a few minutes behind. Everyone was depleted, but smiling. If there was going to be a day I melted down, I'm glad it was here among my "people". To each of you that were there for me, you will always have my deepest gratitude.

(Kevin Swisher brings it home)

I slept all night that night, thanks to physically and emotionally draining myself to the last drop. The next day I heard the most unbelievable news - Deborah was alive! I had been told by police officials that a cyclist had died and assumed the worst, but it appears they had likely been referring to a different cycling accident. Deborah was in critical but stable condition at Stanford Hospital. Apparently she had no spinal damage and minimal brain impact, and was already on the road to recovery. Given what I saw, that was nothing short of a miracle. I felt much better knowing that Deborah and her family still had time together.

(This wild turkey came down the finisher shute in roughly 28th place)

Life is fragile, life is resilient. The body and soul can heal beyond our wildest expectations. I've left my demons on Mt. Diablo, and as Rob Evans said "got 7 hours of therapy for a $50 entry fee". So true! But I know it was my friends along the way who really helped me get through the day, and beyond my tragedy. The ultrarunning community means more to me than I ever could have imagined, now more than ever. I am grateful for all of you.

- SD


  1. That's a terrible thing to have witnessed and I hope you continue to heal from the trauma. Having such a tight community around you can only help.

  2. Wow Scott. That was am amazing an emotional post! I can't believe that trauma you were put through and I AM glad Deborah is alive! Nothing like 7 hours of trudging through the mountains with friends to help heal your soul.

  3. Scott, thanks for sharing all of that. Had no idea that you were going through all of that, plus it was a tough course. Glad to hear she is alive...

  4. Holy moly, Scott. I hope you r ok. Its not all bad. Maybe since u helped, she lived. I bet she's glad u stopped to help.

  5. Scott, thanks for sharing what was obviously a very emotional memory. I had no idea what you were going through out there on Diablo, but I was surprised when I saw that your weren't that far ahead of me at the second turnaround. I'm glad I had the opportunity to say "hi" at the end of the race. I hope your recovery, physically and emotionally, goes well.


  6. Scott -

    The most difficult races teach us far more than the others, and your Diablo experience is a great example of that. Thank you very much for sharing this story. I feel like a small part of me suffered along with you out there, and that same part felt elation to learn that Deborah is alive. Let me know if there's anything I can do or if you'd like to get out for a head-clearing run. I'll drive over to your side of the Bay and we can hit the dirt.

    - Garett

  7. It's amazing how long runs really cause everything else to fall away, and sometimes the tough things come to the surface. It can make for some of the most challenging running, but it's also such a great opportunity to work through those things that we often shove down during daily life because they are too difficult to deal with.
    It sounds like you had a tough but ultimately rewarding day. Thanks for sharing all that Scott, it was intense just reading about it. Hopefully writing about it was further therapy for you. I was also really impressed that even the fastest runners were there for you when they noticed that you were struggling. It speaks volumes about this community.

  8. Scott,

    This is very touching! My heart is totally with you.

    Thanks for the Samaritan effort. I had a similar situation 4 years ago when I did a CPR on a man who had a stroke. He came alive later, but I was shocked for some time.

    Life is short and fragile. Glad that we are able to run on the trails and get helped by running and friends.

    All the best to you and Deborah,


  9. What a gorgeous course.. I'm Jealous!

  10. That some story...it made me cry, cry for Deborah, and for her girl, and for your witnessing it and not been able to help, and for your struggles, and for the always there shoulder and ear of an ultra0friend, and then - for her coming alive...Man, Scott! As I searched the results for two days and finally saw your time, I was worried whether it was a planned finish or something happened. In my wildest dream did I picture it was an emotional stress shock. I am glad you are ok physically, although first hand know that more often than not recovering from emotional distress takes longer and rarely fully. But one thing you are right about for sure - those "7 hrs $50 sessions" are best we can offer ourselves. With trails, friends, volunteers, sky and lots and lots of pain. Pain means we are alive. Scarily, it can be different.
    Thank you.

  11. Thanks for sharing your story. It was wonderful to read how the trail racing community supported you and your healing along the way. Wonderful news about Deborah surviving too. Good job on all accounts.

  12. I'm somewhat speechless by what I just read.

    First of all, I'm just happy to hear that you, Scott, seem to be doing better and that Deborah is alive, too.

    Thank you for sharing this with all of us (because you certainly didn't have to in such a public forum). During my run this evening I felt a little bit more grateful than usual to be alive. Simply being able to 'get out there' is such a blessing. I'm sure I'm not the only who felt that way during their run tonight.

    Best wishes,


  13. Scott,

    Just wanted to thank you for your amazing smile you gave to my mom and I before the race. You were such an inspiration as you charged up the first hill... and as you came down and passed by us... thanks for having such a great attitude despite all you'd been through... I would have never guessed! You really made a bright face as you passed us on the trail and helped us through our run.


  14. Scott I feel for you. I came across my friend in a similar condition after hitting a tree while skiing leaving him a life long quad, it messed my head and his wife and kids up for years. It takes something like this to make one realize that life as we know can change in a moment. That is one reason we run ultras or anything else that brings us the joy of living the moment. Glad to hear you both are on the road to recovery. Godspeed to you.

  15. Scott,
    That is just such an awful thing to have witnessed. I'm so glad that she is alive and on the road to recovery. Sometimes it takes those moments in life to really put things in perspective and know how you want to live your life. I'm so glad she is alright and am glad you can rest a little easier. Congrats to all of you who finished that tough race.

  16. Scott, What a day out at Diablo this past weekend! I know I was suffering, but your pain made mine feel so insignificant. I hope you realize how your words can encourage and inspire as much as they have. Hearing Deborah made it has made my week!!! I'm glad I was at the right place at the right time to lend a hand. While you may feel I helped you, you've helped me more than you'll know. After Saturday I know we'll both have solid days at TRT100. I can't wait. See You Soon.


  17. Scott, My head is spinning from just reading your story. It's hard to imagine what you went through.

    It is truly a miracle that Deborah is alive. I am so happy for the little girl and Deborah's family.

    All the best.

  18. I hear lots of runners say that trails are their church or place for reflection. It sounds like Diablo was the right place for you to work through the pain of what you witnessed. I'm glad you had great support from running friends and strangers. How great that Deborah is mending, hope you continue to as well. She was lucky to have you there. -Amy Burton

  19. Here's to your speedy recovery. Nice report.

  20. Thanks for sharing the story! Glad to hear both you and Deborah are on the mend. One great thing about running is how it can be a microcosm of real life - overcoming a running challenge can help one figure out a life challenge.

    For what it's worth, the first entry in my cell phone reads "Amanda - wife", not to remind me who I married but rather in case I get hurt out on a run I want the first responders to know who to call.

  21. long time listener, first time commenter. Just wanted to say 'hang in there.' In my experience (search and rescue veteran of a few similar incidents) running helps, friends help, and time helps.

  22. the single most emotionally draining post i've ever read on a blog. thank you so much for sharing. and thank you for stopping to help Deborah. i am so glad that both of you are still here with us.

  23. Wow, you guys. I logged in this morning and felt like all of you had given me a huge group hug with your comments! I am overwhelmed with your generosity. Thanks so much for your well wishes, and for sharing your own experiences. It helps to know I'm not alone.

    For those at the race that didn't know, let me just say that your smiles (and extraordinary performances, Ketura and Kate) did a lot to cheer me up so it's so surprise I was smiling back. You were definitely part of the healing. As was writing about it, which many of you bloggers can attest is helpful in sorting through your emotions.

    Thanks again for all your comments. I have been doing much better and almost feel like myself again. Let's all continue to send our thoughts and prayers to Deborah, and watch the cyclists when you drive (and cars when you bike). I'll see ya out on the trails...


  24. hi scott,

    thanks for putting things into perspective. i feel more fortunate and grateful than ever to be able to run and do the things i love. as you said, pain is good, pain is life. thanks for bringing such inspiration to us.



  25. God, I so relieved to read the last part. I hope she will be OK. Good on you for finishing the race after such a struggle. Perhaps that race will remove the demons. I would imagine the good news has already helped a bunch. Thanks for sharing ...

  26. Yes she was very fortunate to have you there at the scene Scott, good for you...well done.

    Sadly there was a male cyclist killed on the same road just three days earlier.

    Glad to read you worked through your emotions with some support, not easy.

    Cheers, Will G.

  27. Scott, sounds like a horrible thing to go through. Thanks for sharing it. I hope no one thinks I'm triviliazing Deborah's injuries by telling you you ran awesomely considering. May you continue to heal.

    This unfortunate incident and your unintended involvement with it remind us how lucky we are to be able to do what out there on the trails and to do it with a great bunch of people. I'm touched and encouraged. Thanks, guys for taking care of Scott, who's done so much to build our community.

  28. wow, what a crazy ordeal! Good that you had the strength to drag yourself to diablo, looks like the run was exactly what was needed!
    Glad to know that the cyclist survived. Makes me all the more wimpy to try cycling here in bay area.


  29. WOW! Glad you made it through!

  30. Wow, Scott, I admire your strength at bouncing back from the horror of such an incident. I'm glad Deborah is alive and recovering, and that the trails did not fail you in providing some well-needed healing. You've got some supportive friends out there. I hope that everyone involved in what happened can heal as well and perhaps even grow stronger. My thoughts and prayers are with you and them.

    -Michael Kanning

  31. Here's the story in the local paper - her name was Debra Weil.


  32. Scott, thanks for sharing your story. I had no idea you were going through all that out there. You are truly inspiring and resilient. Those seemingly simple gestures of a wave or smile as we pass each other mean even that much more when put in the context of your experience. I've had someone pass in my arms before and what helped me was my community and the trails. We are truly fortunate to have these gifts. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

  33. Hi Scott,

    I had a really bad day today and pulled out of a training run in the hills with some friends. I sat down instead and read your post. That brought me to tears. As a cyclist and runner that accident was way to close to the bone and I felt for your every step during that tricky race.

    My bad day pales into significance...and now I'm off for a run up a local hill to watch the sun go down.

    Thank you so much for such a heartfelt, sad, uplifting post.

  34. Just got back from that run.

    it was cold, wet, windy and I'd missed the sun going down. I ran up the hill faster than I ever have and pounded my way down. It really hurt.

    And it was fantastic!

    Thanks again Scott. I can't believe I ever take being able to do this for granted. That post was a great reminder to be thankful. It's a privilege to be alive and running.

  35. I know the outcome of the whole thing, your ordeal with it and I'm still speechless.

    That was quite a story. Makes little problems kind of pale in comparison, and hopefully makes you grateful for what you've got - and realize you've not got it forever...

    I hope you are doing better, of course prayers and best wishes go out to Debra.

  36. What an amazing account, Deborah is so lucky to have someone as caring as you stop to help her, I'm sure her and her family will always appreciate what you did. You're a true hero!

  37. Wow, what an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  38. Hi Scott,
    I really appreciate your sharing this...and so happy to hear Deborah survived. I'm proud to know you ... and reading all the heart felt comments makes me so glad to be a part of the trail running family. Let me know if there's any way we can help.
    Your friend,
    Dale Reicheneder

  39. I spent alot of time reflecting your experience over the last few days and have kept both Deb and you in my thoughts.

    the wonders of the trail never cease to amaze me and what it can bring to our lives. likewise, you never cease to amaze me.


  40. My friend Devon pointed me to this entry after my recent (and only ever) DNF in my Old dominion 100 mile run.

    I can only imagine the joy you felt when you heard Deborah was alive mnade any pain and agaony of your 50k ebb away.

    A successful day all around. Congrats to you.

  41. Thanks for the entire posting.

    As an ultrarunner, it's been driven home that none of us are supposed to complain. On my blog, though, I let it all out. I've been very hesitant to express any emotion but happiness when physically around other runners, though. I guess I've been misunderstanding and underestimating the ultrarunning community. It's just a matter of what you share and how you share it.
    Certainly this has been a huge event. It's inspiring and sets a great example that you never crawled into a hole to lick your wounds. Instead, you just kept doing life as best you can.
    I guess in that way, each of our lives are ultra events. There are times we might feel like giving up, but somehow we find our never-give-up gear, and a helping hand, and we manage to pull out of it.

  42. I am immensely flattered by all your comments! It's so great to hear your support, and that many of you have similar stories. I hope it gets us all out to run trails even more.

    Brian W., all I can say is whoa. That must have taken a lot of miles to get through.

    Thanks again for all your comments. I can't tell you helpful it is to read about them and reconnect with all of you. I had hesitated to share such a nasty experience on the blog, but I'm really glad I did.

    Thx, SD

  43. Hi Scott, I hope your doing better & continue to heal... that was an amazing account of what you witnessed but also your strength to get in & HELP shows your courage.

    all I can think about as I type this is Deborah is alive!

    GOD Bless You Scott & hope one day to meet you on the trails...and as man enough as I can say it, "BIG Hug" will follow after I say Hello!


  44. I had to re-read and re-read. Just couldn't believe what I was reading...just such a crazy thing to experience. And then the healing process on Mt. Diablo with the ultra community. I'm glad you're okay. I'm glad she's alive. We had a bad accident at Escape and I haven't stopped thinking about it. I can't imagine being up close.

  45. Great post Scott. I was on the emotional roller coaster just reading it. You are inspiring

  46. Thank you for sharing this very moving story, Scott. It was a very emotional reminder of how fragile life is and how lucky we are to enjoy every second of it.

    Jennifer Ray

  47. Sorry to hear about what happened to that cyclist and what you went thru in trying to help. Good luck Scott and congratulations on fighting thru Diablo.

  48. What to add to such a moving and pathetic experience... Although I feel I missed a big ultra moment last weekend, your detailed blog makes it so close, I feel we are all taking part of our healing, by just reading (or re-reading!) this story.
    Hope Debra recovers well and can get back on a bik to fight her own demons. Please let us know if you keep in touch. I'll certainly think of her next time I bike down Montebello road...
    As for me, I look forward to hours of therapy with pacer Rob in two weeks, you know where...
    Scott, happier trails 'till TRT!

  49. And, gosh, checking your schedule before TRT, just found out about The Death Ride, scary home page...
    Take care, Scott, promise?


    PS: when I think of the connection between you perfect smile and biking...

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    IAAF Grand Prix 6/8/07 Lille, FRA
    IAAF Grand Prix 6/10/07 Bydgosczc, POL
    IAAF Odlozila Memorial 6/13/07 Prague, CZE
    IAAF Grand Prix 6/17/07 Warsaw, POL
    IAAF World Youth Championships 7/11/07-7/15/07 Ostrava, CZE
    IAAF World Championships in Athletics 8/25/07-9/2/07 Osaka, JAP
    IAAF World Athletics Final 9/22/07-9/23/07 Stuttgart, GER
    IAAF Road Running World Championships 10/14/07 Udine, ITA

    We also have a large archive of past events on-demand, such as the 2006 World Indoor Championships and the London Marathon. Please let me know if you would like a complimentary account and we will set it up right away. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

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    World Championship Sports Network
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  51. Hi Scott,

    I was sent your blog by a friend and read your story about fighting demons. I have to say I sat in tears reading about the death of a women whos daughter answered the cell phone but then was crying even harder when I read she was alive and thought about ger daughter again. It seems so strange at times how we all learn from experiences in life and how others are touched. Your blog post and sharing has and will help us be reminded that life is so very short. Live in the moment, love deeply, care deeply and give, give give until it hurts..and when it hurts keep on giving.
    Yeah for Deborah and we pray she is back on the bike very soon.
    And to you Scott, Nice race!


  52. Wow, what a post Scott. I saw you on your first loop back. Wow, going throught that race with everything that happened, and then in the end finding out she lived...wow. So sorry you had to deal with a situation like that.

  53. What an emotional story. I was totally veklempt reading it. I would like to add a thank you for being strong enough to kneel down and hold her when others were not. At that moment, having someone hold her and not be afraid was undoubtedly very comforting. As a biker and runner, these kind of stories, really keep you alert.

  54. I'm in tears; what a moving post.

    I've found that running, and ultrarunning in particular, is an amazing way to deal with shock and trauma, having come from a history of PTSD. Many people are too scared to talk about their fears, their flashbacks, the fact that they seem to leave their body and they don't know what's going on. The fact that you reached out to your fellow runners was probably the best thing you could have done in terms of healing. And then to post about it to share with even more people is amazing.

    and how wonderful that she is alive.

  55. What an amazing run. Thank you for sharing it!

  56. Hi Scott, first time visitor to your blog and what a time to visit. Undoubtably an incredibly hard thing to witness and deal with. Well done on completing the race.

  57. Thank you all again for sharing your thoughts and experiences! If ever there was a doubt about the support of this community (which I don't think there was), one can just read through the comments. You guys are awesome.


  58. Scott, I'm late to this party, but I wanted to thank you for sharing your story of the accident. Its a gentle reminder of so many things to keep close to my heart.

  59. Scott,

    I am so happy for Deborah and her family. For you too. A weight must have been lifted off your shoulders when you heard that she was alive.

    Thank you for an amazing post.

    Congratulations to you for making it through that unbelievable period near the top on the second loop.


  60. Wow, what a post. I'm so glad Deborah is recovering. Running can be so amazingly therapeutic.

  61. Scott:
    I type this trying to fend off the urge to weep... I am a friend of Debby's, and have been so distraught since the accident over 3 weeks ago; no one really heard too many of the details of the actual accident, and of course we have been so worried about her as she recuperates. [I was looking for an article about the accident in the Menlo Park Almanac, and came across your blog] I am hoping you have heard that just this past weekend (6/17), she has been transferred out of intensive care and into 'regular hospitalization'(she had a trach tube breathing for her for 3 weeks, concussion, fractures in both arms (one requiring reconstruction), and of course, multiple reconstruction of her face was required--2 surgeries so far: the first one, 8 hours long. What I really wanted to express is that it's likely due to your Hero-ic actions, when everyone else was "keeping their distance"-- like clearing the 'debris' from her mouth so she *could* continue to fight for breath, and for your very present Energy Field of Concern, focused & being with her--that her Life was saved. Thank you, thank you, thank you Scott.

  62. Whomever you are, thank you so much for leaving an update about Debra Weil. I have been getting updates here and there, and it sounds like she is making good progress. She is an amazing woman.

    You'll be happy to know that there were about a half dozen people at the scene doing their best to help. Some called 911, others helped her stay still and comforted her, a group (including the driver in the accident) redirected traffic and made a clear place for the ambulance and police to pull up, etc. It was a group effort, and I wasn't the only one by any means. And if you want to know who REALLY saved her life, all you had to do was watch the EMT crew when they arrived. They were amazing.

    When you see Debra next, be sure to let her know that a lot of people are pulling for her and praying for her. Thank you again for the update.


  63. Hello again, have just come from visiting Debby in the hospital, and she has continued to make amazing progress! She asked me to let you know as soon as she can, she is looking forward to emailing you or chatting on the phone to express her gratitude (she isn't yet able to speak normally, due to the the trach tube site still being open). Best wishes, MC

  64. This comment has been removed by the author.

  65. Dear Scott,
    I am a member of Debby's family, and I discovered your blog when I "googled" Debby's name. After speaking with Debby today, I had to let you know how very grateful I am that you helped her. I can't imagine what life would be like if we had lost her.
    May all good things come your way.
    Bless you, Scott.

  66. Scott and Friends,

    I'm a buddy of Debby's from work and wanted to let folks know that yesterday (6/30) Debby left Stanford Hospital! The day before, I spoke to her for the first time since the accident and she passed on her endless thanks for everyone’s thoughts and prayers. We talked for a while, told some stories, and had a laugh or two. It's been a long haul in the hospital, but she could not stop talking about how grateful she is for your actions, and amazed by the magic worked by the EMTs and doctors who saved and rebuilt her. You should know that one of her docs told her that she's made the most rapid recovery he's witnessed in his medical career.

    Debby has as long and extremely challenging road ahead, including more surgeries and rehabilitation. I know her well, and I promise you that if there's anyone who's physically and mentally equipped to come back from this unspeakable trauma, it's Debby. I know she's ready, even anxious to keep moving up and looking forward. In her whisper of a voice on the phone last Friday, she said "I can't wait to get back to my life."

    Thank you so much for saving this wonderful person, for staying by her side until the pros arrived, for keeping her in your thoughts, for this amazing account and for the inspiring and brave way you related this story to your own. You are a rare type of human being, and I'm grateful beyond words.

    Best to you,

    Ed Gray

  67. Scott, how do I thank someone for saving my life? You and the others who stopped to help are heroes and I am eternally grateful. It was almost three weeks after the accident when I woke up in the ICU at Stanford and began learning what had happened and what I needed to prepare for. I had 19 hours of facial reconstruction surgery, two broken arms, broken ribs, lacerated kidneys, liver, spleen, lungs... but I know I am lucky. I'm home now with 24 hour care.

    I am certain it was the positive energy and encouragement (letters, prayers, cards, flowers) everyone sent my way that helped me emerge from the darkness of the ICU, find my way out of those lost days in Trauma, and finally achieve success in rehab. Of course my team of 29 doctors helped too.

    In rehab, I learned how to swallow water again (that took five days), I was pushed to take five more steps when I thought it impossible, I performed memory exercises and surprised all the therapists, I performed memory exercises and surprised all the therapists (did I already say that?), and I rode an exercise bike (which may be as close as I get to a bike in a long time).

    I am truly grateful to all of you!

    Today is Independence Day. I hope you enjoy the day and count your blessings - especially for your good health and the wonderful people in your lives.

    Scott, I will call you again when my vocal chords begin cooperating. btw, congratulations on completing the Mt Diablo run while carrying those demons. I believe I was with you the entire 50k.

  68. Thank you, Debby, for letting us know you are back at home. Your progress is quite an inspiration! We continue to think about you and hope you are doing well.

    I'm certain if our roles were switched, you would have stopped to help me. I hope you get a chance to reach out to the others who stopped to help too, for there were certainly people who did more than me. I look forward to meeting you when the time is right.


  69. BTW, I feel like I need to correct one thing in the blog entry where I said "I was told incorrectly from police officials that she was dead".

    The person who informed me that she was dead was not the police officer on the scene, but another person shortly thereafter who claimed to be in close contact with police and insisted this was the news. Under no circumstances did an official give me information about her condition - they aren't allowed to do so.

    In retrospect, I think the person who informed me had confused Debra's accident with a previous death on the same road just two days before. It could also have been my error in hearing "the police just told me" and assuming it was the same case. Anyway, I just wanted to make sure nobody was thinking that I was getting insider info from the cops.


  70. This is one of the most insirational and moving posts I've ever read. Scott's emotional account, having Deborah's friends and eventually herself check in...

    I got hit on my bike in front of Alice's restaurant two years ago and flown to Stanford hospital with fractured skull, etc. The Stanford docs told me that fit bicylists recover in a third the time an unfit person would, and survive crashes unfit people never could.

    God bless,
    Chris MacAskill

  71. Scott, as we traded paths recently at the SB9T event (11/24/07 - that's me in the photo coming out of the bamboo trees) there was a vibe I could not explain...the guy who broke his foot (also a Scott, interesting!) pointed me to your blog...now I know why there was a vibe...I read this and found myself back to the day that I nearly died ~10 years ago being hit as a pedestrian, doing of all crazy things, running while on vacation on Cape Cod. Closed head injury, multiple pelvic fracture, lower back injuries, partial kidney loss, etc...the driver did stop and neighbors called the emergency crew...airlifted to Mass General, shunted for the head injury swelling, surgury for pelvis, bolted back together, weeks/months of therapy (physical and more)...the goal simply was to run again...and a marahon at that, for which I had only done in passing the prior year (no official race)...if not for family, friends, and the grace of God, I endured...though I still endure a level of pain, strangely enough it is best relieved running distances...both for the body and the mind...frequently too, across many courses, with a wide range of people, the sights are plenty, the conversations are wonderful...the running community, particularly I'm finding this year with ultra trail running is a deeply thoughtful and inspirational group...wonderful blog, best wishes to you...and btw, your daughter at the turn on SB9T was great to see! :) Mike (37 @ SB9T)

  72. Hi Scott, I realize I’m a bit late in reading this post, but I’m sure the ordeal is still quite fresh in your mind. Sometimes a grueling run will open those emotional gateways, and fortunately, others recognized your mental state and were willing to sacrifice their own goals to support a ‘fallen’ comrade, just as you did with Debby. Good to hear that she is recovering nicely and will someday return to the road.



    P.S. Was hoping to contact you directly, but can’t seem to find an email. Please contact me at funkylegs(aht)yahoo(daht)com if you get a chance.


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