Words by Claire Buchar
I was a privateer my entire racing career except for 2 seasons, 2009-2010, when I was lucky enough to be a part of the CRC Intense World Cup Team. In 2011, newly back as a privateer, I was unable to make it to any World Cup rounds but I managed to win the Canadian DH National Championships and bring home a bronze medal at the DH World Championships in Champery, Switzerland. Going into that off season, I was more motivated than ever to train and return to racing World Cups.
However, I was running on low batteries and that winter after starting to feel particularly lethargic and not being able to make it through a gym workout, I set my ego and goals aside and allowed myself to sense that something wasn't right. Stuff that had been creeping up on me for years had finally caught up and my poor body was not keeping up with my mind anymore. I sought help through various avenues and was eventually diagnosed with a pretty real autoimmune disorder and this is when my very real healing journey began.
In the spring of 2013, an auto accident sent me falling backwards on this healing journey. An out of control driver hit me side-on going about 80kph and there was only a thin metal door between their truck and me. I was badly concussed, broke most of my ribs and my pelvis in 2 places. One lung was full of blood and my liver and spleen were lacerated. When I woke up and realized what had happened and that Chris, who was with me in the car, was alive and relatively ok, I had to breathe tiny gasps of air from the top of my lungs to stay calm and alive until help arrived. What followed in the coming weeks was an experience I’ll never forget and I’ll forever hold a huge respect for our firefighters, paramedics, doctors and nurses when it comes to rescue and putting the body back together!
The very first second that I was able, the rehab began. However, the injuries, trauma and concoction of drugs from the hospital triggered quite a set back in my health. Visions of my own strong and beautiful mother, who fell ill and who I lost when I was 17, would flood into my head and I just thought that that would also be my fate.
But my goals and dreams also danced within my head. I took my athlete mindset, I took my pain and grief and I took my gratitude for life and dove head first into rehab and recovery from the accident. I stacked towels on a stationary bike to cushion my pelvis so I could spin my legs, I pool walked with seniors, I did lung exercises and my ribs finally started to heal after vomiting for weeks on end from the drugs and trauma. Physio was so painful and exhausting that I’d go home and nap afterwards. My right shoulder will never be the same. But I was gonna get back on my bike and fall into the swing of things as if this didn't ever happen. I started visiting a concussion specialist to help ease my vertigo and as soon as I got the ok from the doctors, I got back on my bike.
Looking back now, I returned to riding my bike too early. The central nervous system and PTSD can take years to heal and I ended up re-braking 3 ribs later that summer in a small crash. I wish I had waited but this is just where I was with my ego at the time and I was convinced to get back to who I identified myself as, a World Class DH racer, as quickly as possible.
I also wanted to start moving forward with my health again. Seeking answers, navigating much misinformation, finding truths, getting lost again, being scared, being determined and finally following my heart to where I am today, mainly through diet, I have healed immensely, gone off of my medication (which did include antidepressants at one point) and have even baffled some doctors with how my blood test results are moving in a positive direction by just allowing my body its incredible ability to heal itself.
Today my bones and organs are healed from the car accident and hopefully I have pulled the last piece of car window glass out of my right side! I have done a lot of work to heal my energy systems and will continue to do so. My internal healing journey is not over yet and likely I will have to continue my plant-based eating lifestyle for the rest of my life. Oh well, there are worse things, I love it! It is a healthful and compassionate way to live and, as I said, I do feel better than I ever have. It is a 3 steps forward, 2 steps back kind of thing and I have to be careful with what I take on or my energy can fall flat fast. But steadily moving forward is key and the lessons I have learned are 100% invaluable. It has also allowed me to share the knowledge I have gained along the way with friends and family that too are seeking health.
The ego is a huge double-edged sword, it can help you to accomplish incredible things and it can harm you or hold you back and finding a balance is tricky to navigate. I have been lucky to be able to continue riding and racing my bike through most of this adventure. The mind and heart is a very powerful thing!
To everyone over the years who has helped me in my healing, to everyone who has shown encouragement and support with my riding and to everyone who has tolerated my competitive behaviour (as it has not always brought out the best in me), huge love and a very genuine thank you.
Let’s keep on rockin’!
- Claire Buchar