Rider spotlight: Five years after nearly getting killed while training for STP, Kathi Sturgeon finally gets to #BikeSTP
UPDATE Sunday, July 14, 2013:
In 2008 Kathi Sturgeon registered for the STP and started training. A horrible collision while training left her fighting for her life and unable to lineup for STP. This year, five years after the collision, she’ll get her chance.
It was June 18, 2008, and Kathi was out on a morning training ride with a fellow STP registrant. Suddenly, a car struck them, injuring both riders.
Behind the wheel had been a 19-year-old drunk driver.
While Kathi’s friend sustained several broken bones, Kathi was not expected to survive.
Among other injuries, Kathi had sustained a traumatic brain injury requiring a craniotomy. She was in a coma for almost a week, barely hanging on.
“I was not expected to survive,” said Kathi. “If I did survive, there was uncertainty in how I would be able to function.”
But Kathi survived and embarked on a long journey to recovery. After relearning the basics of talking, walking and eating, Kathi longed to bike again.
“While in the hospital, I do remember wanting to get back on a bike,” Kathi recalled. “I wasn’t scared at the time, but wanted to ride again. Before being hit, I really had come to enjoy cycling.”
Prior to getting hit, Kathi had rediscovered cycling and joined a community of women cyclists known as The Bodacious Biking Babes.
“I found great satisfaction riding and I had made some good relationships,” said Kathi. “When I decided to try and get on a bike again, I thought it would be easy.”
But it wasn’t.
“When I got on the bike, I got very scared. I was not expecting that,” said Kathi. “There were challenges with my balance, I kept leaning to one side and I felt I was going to fall over. We stopped there.”
Kathi started physical therapy, which got her started on a stationary bike. Later, the stationary bike was replaced with a tandem, captained by her physical therapist.
“As we rode on the tandem, my confidence began to grow. [We] actually rode in a metric century a couple of years ago. It was a great ride. I had fun and enjoyed being on the bike again,” said Kathi.
It was a lot of work and took a long time but eventually Kathi was able to ride solo again.
“I enjoyed having the ability to ride again but I stayed on bike trails and I did not ride alone,” Kathi said. “I found then, and still do now, that there would be times I would get scared. I would come upon a situation and I would sort of freeze.”
In 2012 Kathi moved to Everett, Wash. to be closer to family. The bike riding increased and, while still in the final stages of physical therapy, Kathi decided to ride STP.
“Bicycling means satisfaction; accomplishing things greater than I thought I could accomplish. It has helped push me to some things I didn’t realize I could do,” said Kathi, adding that bicycling has taught her perseverance and determination – two things needed to recover from her life-threatening injury.
“Over these past months of training, I have seen [bicycling] help me develop my confidence and not just confidence on the bike. My balance has also increased while I have been cycling. Since my legs are stronger, I am even walking better,” Kathi stated.
For Kathi, crossing the STP Finish Line on July 14 will mean that her life has come full circle.
“It means so much coming back from being hit and nearly killed while training for the ’08 STP, to be back on the saddle and riding the 2013 STP. In spite of all that I have been through, this ride became a reality," said Kathi. “It means that God still works miracles. It means I am very grateful to have had more life left to live. To cross the finish line will be the culmination of a lot of hard work, perseverance, as well as the love and support of others.”
Kathi said she’s excited to see her friends and family at the finish line, who are traveling to meet her there.
“They went through a lot when I was injured. They stuck with me on the good and bad days. They hung in there and some of them will be at the finish line,” said Kathi. “[My sister] flew to Sacramento right away to be with me when I was injured. She has had to experience a lot, she has given a lot and has demonstrated her love and care for me in incredible ways. This ride is for her.”
Kathi will be riding with bib number 2404 and she will be joined by her two physical therapists, Grace and Erick, from Integrated Rehabilitation Group. Be sure to say hello and cheer them on when you see them!