The Vampire Den: Crashes that Bite

Meredith Kessler  > Blog >  The Vampire Den: Crashes that Bite
Meredith Kessler cupping therapy after bike accident

Last update I wrote I was ‘high-fiving angels’ coming off a fun and rewarding Vineman weekend….thrilled to report that while it may be for different reasons, I’m still slapping fives with those angels as I feel lucky to be alive and able to race again.

A couple weeks after Vineman, we were in LA for Matt’s purplepatch pro camp and at the tail end of a fabulous ride..a gentleman wiped in front of me on a narrow decent (he ended up breaking his hip and had surgery that night–argh–poor guy but he is doing a-ok now thankfully) and I wiped right behind him. We thought it was ‘just’ torn ligaments at first based on the initial x-rays but after getting an MRI, it turned out that I fractured my T9 vertebrae – not ideal by any means to break part of your spine, but it truly could have been so much worse – I remember the policeman asked me my name when I was lying on the ground – a surreal moment many people experience – and I was just grateful give him the correct answer.

AK flew down to LA (and Hillary was there within minutes – I m so lucky) from SF to help me deal since I was in great pain and in what I have deemed the ‘VAMPIRE DEN’ – in a true vampire (horizontal – non moving) like state for many many days. Things got a bit worse before they got better understandably – and if you ever break part of your spine and/or tear ligaments in your ribs/back – please ping me as I kept track of the ‘healing’ process with exercise still jammed in there as much as pain tolerance could manage.

As we can understand, breaks take 4-6 weeks typically to heal – spine breaks a titch longer. I was appreciating and very focused on doing what I could do (trainer rides and slower treadmill running albeit wounded animal like looking the first few weeks) VS. what I could NOT do (swim – I could not seem to hold my body up in the water without ‘poke your eye balls out’ extreme pain). There was pain tolerance that I could push through and manage (running/trainer) but in the water, it was unbearable.  Thus, swim time was replaced with physical therapy and strength with the help of Chris Daprata from UCSF Orthopedic Institute – thank you CD!

Dr. Bob (thankfully the most amazing and liberal doctor out of the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis – the gentlemen who also helped me with my kidney/salt issues last year – eternally grateful to him) told me to let pain be the guide. This is a big statement to say to an athlete but it’s what I have learned before in previous injuries (albeit a bit different since those weren’t from impact) but sometimes you have to fight the pain a little to heal – the body adjusts and is resilient.

In reflection about this, I never took for granted being ‘injured’ before this crash and it reminded me yet again the luxury of being healthy. It’s amazing how the little things such as pulling up my shorts, getting upright out of bed, and well, breathing in general were a chore.  BUT – your mind and body ADAPT. GOALS SHIFT.  Having been out of the water for 4 weeks – the goal became: swim 1 lap today, 4 tomorrow, 8 the next day, 20 mins the next and so forth …and before you knew it, we’re back up to 5-6-7-8k while NEVER forgetting the 1 lap day.

I appreciate, respect and value an array of athletes such Dede G, Julie Dibens, Donna Phelan (just to name a few) who have underwent multiple surgeries, pain and agony with massive injuries which have understandably forced them to take the proper time to heal and get better as fast as they can. What they wouldn’t of given to be out there doing what they love – I think about this a lot. I know their goals had to shift too and while my ‘blip’ was FAR less severe than what they have had to endure – I thought of their resilience on the road to recovery and already see them back on top again. I look at someone like Lukas V (who crashed the same day as I did) who broke countless bones and is already running at 14 mph pace again. Non of this is an easy feat but motivation, positive thinking, willingness to want to heal and gratitude to even be alive help achieve this faster than most. The body is an amazingly resilient beast – and if we let our mind be as resilient – then positives will prevail.

There is always an answer for blips like this…perhaps a chance to work on weaknesses and if anything it motivated me even more than I thought I could be motivated. While Vegas 70.3 was probably a little too early for me to race and it showed in a pretty brutal performance…I wanted to take the chance and the goal once again shifted from being ‘in the race’ to just finishing. That is all that I could of asked my body to do in the moment.

Thank you to people near and friends, family, sponsors – for the notes, e-mails, flowers, texts – I cherish it all and am forever grateful.

Thank you Jene Shaw from Triathlete Magazine for capturing and summarizing some thoughts leading up to Vegas and post Vegas.

We’ve had a great few weeks here  – trip to Ohio to visit family and friends, re-scheduled Kona ‘Traincation” with AK, celebrating weddings, promotions, baby showers, birthdays – life is good.

Ak and I have been working on our e-book LIFE OF A TRIATHLETE ( – a ‘how to’ manual of the ‘info’ you didn’t know about becoming a pro etc. We hope to launch the first edition in late fall.

We are excited to venture off to Kona here in a few days – BEST wishes to everyone racing and we’ll see you out there!