AmpTriLife Interviews Boulder’s Craig Towler: Adapting & Giving Back

From Amp Tri Life

For this blog I interviewed Craig Towler, who started an organization called the Amputee Concierge in order to help people find answers to their questions and connect them with resources following limb loss. I first heard about Craig shortly after the incident that lead to amputation of his legs happened, and was recently connected with him through my friend Nicole DeBoom. Craig is extremely insightful about amputation and life in general, so I hope you enjoy reading the thoughts that he was gracious enough to share below.

Can you talk a little about when and how you were injured?

My amputation was the result of an intoxicated driver on July 4, 2016. I made it home after putting on a 10k/5k run at the Boulder Reservoir to unload my vehicle. I was excited to go celebrate the 4th of July with friends and watch fireworks. Just as I was about to finish unloading, I felt an impact that pushed me into the back of my vehicle, and before I knew what had happened I looked down and saw both of my legs detached. I immediately knew my life was in danger, and action had to be taken immediately for me to survive. I was in tremendous shock at the time, but I remember everything very vividly. I was standing behind the tailgate of my SUV when I felt the impact, and I was pushed into the back of it with my legs hanging out the back. Shortly after the impact, people who were nearby at the time came to my assistance and called for an ambulance. I instructed them to help me lay flat on the ground. To this day, I’m still not sure how I had the mindset that I did, but my thoughts were very clear, and I knew exactly what needed to happen if I did not want to die. Once I was on the ground, I could see the amount of blood that I was losing, and I was losing it very quickly. I then instructed the people around me to remove their belts, and secure them as tightly as possible to my upper legs above the injury to work as a make-shift tourniquet. I later learned from the doctors that the tourniquets had stayed on my legs until I entered surgery hours later, and are the reason that I am alive today. I was taken to the local hospital near my house, and was then air lifted to another hospital with a more advanced trauma unit. Once there, I underwent 5 surgeries throughout the course of the week involving the amputation of both of my legs. One is below the knee, and the other is through the knee. Skin grafts were also taken from both of my upper legs to close the wounds. I was in intensive care for over a week.

What sort of familiarity did you have with the amputee/disability/adaptive community prior to your injury?

Prior to my injury I was not very involved with the adaptive community. Through my work with race production I saw some amazing adaptive athletes compete, as well as worked with a few organizations like Athletes in Tandem, and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

What sorts of thoughts went through your mind the first few months following amputation?

A lot of thoughts were going through my mind. In the beginning, everything was happening so quickly it was hard to comprehend what was really happening. Everything changed in a split second. When such a large change takes place without any warning or preparation I think it takes a while to come to terms with the new reality…

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Mark on Monday: Face Your Fears

By Mark Cathcart

A discussion about dealing with events, challenges, unexpected problems, and most importantly, those challenges life throws at you during the race season.

When I first agreed the schedule of articles with Dana for my 303 Column, Face your fears seemed like a good end of season challenge, little did I know what challenges would lay ahead of me.

In terms of fears, no matter what you are afraid of, someone else is probably more afraid but will get over it. That’s what makes a champion, looking fear in the “eyes” and fbeating it. That’s your challenge, take something triathlon or sport related that is really different, something you didn’t think you could do, something you were afraid of and do it!

For me this year it will be very different, after 18-years of triathlon, I’m planning to make the start line at the Without Limits Oktoberfest Triathlon. Last time I was at the Union Reservoir for the Outdoor Divas triathlon, to support my partner Kate in her race, I had a full-blown heart attack and was taken away post-race in an Ambulance (3).

I’ve seen people take on and achieve much bigger challenges. A club colleague of mine in the UK, was training for Team GB, when she was hit and paralyzed from the waist down. Just a year later, Paula Craig was the first Team GB Para-triathlete at the ITU Worlds in Cancun in 2002. You don’t have to look far to see incredible stories. I was amazed to see the progress that BBSC Endurance Sports Craig Towler had already made after losing both his legs after being hit by a driver while out training. (1).

I’ve stood at the start line for many races, both open water, with high waves, and frenetic pool based triathlons and heard people expressing grave concerns about their ability to start, much less finish.

To this day I can remember a race in the UK in 2006, pool swim, all the competitors lined up down the side of the pool waiting for the start. The pool was crazy, arms thrashing everywhere, there were as many as 6-people per lane, the noise was crazy, there were almost waves as the water crashed against the sides.

The guy next to me was, like me, 6ft tall, and he was having serious doubts about the swim. I told him it would be fine. He wasn’t convinced. I pointed out that while racking my bike I’d spotted a prosthetic arm in transition. He looked puzzled. We scanned the line of swimmers and couldn’t see the “owner”. It turned out to be the first ever triathlon for Claire Cunningham (nee Bishop). Claire is a medal winning and Champion paratriathlete for Team GB now and just 5’6” tall.

How must Claire have felt that day?

There is nothing special about these athletes. They don’t have a superpower, they take the challenges and setbacks and find a way of getting past them.

Most of us don’t face triathlon with anything like those challenges. Whatever you decide to do over the next few months, tackle something that challenges you, something that proves you are still alive. No matter if that is taking on a greater distance than you thought possible; going faster and placing higher than you think you can; getting out and becoming the hill climber; the cyclocross athlete and more.

Each of these “fears” can be broken down and divided into constituent parts; each of those parts you can find a way to address. As Claire says on her website “Nothing is impossible, you can find a way”. (*2) Create goals for each part, after you’ve achieved those goals, start combining the parts and setting new goals.

Look for help from coaches, books and videos. With not much of a racing season left, why not pick a fear and set about facing it before next season?

Me, I’ll be working the mount/dismount line for the upcoming 5430 Harvest Moon race, and then I’ll be doing everything I can to start, and finish the Oktoberfest triathlon in a few weeks.

  1. https://www.rhone.com/blogs/collective/my-story-by-craig-towler
  2. http://clare-cunningham.co.uk/about-me/
  3. I can’t thank Gaby and the EMT’s at Rapid Response Paramedic Services, the Mountain View Fire emergency crew, especially Carlos who, coincidentally volunteered with me at Ironman Bouler 2016; Dr Paik and everyone at Longmont Unit Hospital enough. Really!
Mark Cathcart took up triathlon in the late 90’s to get fit for adventure racing, which to this day he has never done, and has since taken part in 170+ events. His pragmatic approach to training, racing, and life have lead in from being the Chairman of one of the bigger UK Triathlon clubs 15-years ago; British Triathlon volunteer of the year; a sometime race organizer; The organizer and ride leader for Austin Texas award winning Jack and Adams triathlon shop; doing sometime Sports Management for development and professional triathletes; he has attended all the Triathlon Business International, and Triathlon America conferences, where he usually asks the questions others won’t; moved to Colorado in 2016 and is a co-owner of Boulder Bodyworker

Craig Towler Freedom 5k & 10k Run

Boulder

 

Craig was born and raised in Boulder, CO and is very passionate about the outdoors, fitness and health. Craig is an avid weight lifter.  He competed on various sporting teams such as baseball, basketball, and track & field growing up. Craig started volunteering for BBSC events in 2012 and fell in love with the high-level stress of race-day execution, and became an official course coordinator in 2013. Now, Craig has learned the skills of timing, volunteer coordination, sponsorship and customer service.

A Race to Help Others Achieve

“Please join me on July 4th, 2017 to celebrate life! One year ago, my life was forever changed and I witnessed a community come together in support of me and my recovery. I am forever grateful to each and every person who donated to my recovery, helped share my story or even had a positive thought or prayer for me and my family. I will never be able to show my true gratitude for all your kindness, but I would like to invite everyone to celebrate my Alive Day (alive day; the anniversary of a close escape from death, especially one involving permanent injury) with me at the first annual Craig Towler Freedom Run. I’d like to use this opportunity to once again come together as a community and to show the world that life is good and there is nothing more powerful than having perseverance and a positive attitude! The 4th of July is the day I became a survivor and I’d love to share it with everyone that’s been my support and motivation to not only keep going, but to succeed and continue to live life to the fullest despite the obstacles that are placed in our way. We have so much power as a community it’s truly an honor to invite you all to celebrate life on Independence Day!”

-Craig Towler

Craig serves as an inspiration to those of us who know him and those who will read his story. However, for his friends and family his inspiration did not begin with a tragic moment.

 

Event details here

 

Celebrating Life: Craig Towler Freedom 5K and 10K Run

Photo: Daily Camera

From the Daily Camera

Craig Towler, the Boulder man who lost both of his legs after being crushed between two SUVs a year ago, is celebrating his “Alive Day” by helping with a Fourth of July run in his honor.

He said he learned about the idea of celebrating the anniversary of his close escape from death while recovering in the hospital.

“I really took that to heart,” he said. “We choose how we want to remember that day. Every year that we’re still here, that’s a good thing that needs to be celebrated.”

The company where he works, BBSC Endurance Sports in Boulder, decided to rename its annual Fourth of July 5K and 10K run as the “Craig Towler Freedom Run.” There’s also a virtual race option for those who won’t be in town for the event.

“We can move forward together,” Towler said.

He said he considers the Fourth of July the day he became a survivor.

That day, he spent the morning working BBSC’s Star Spangled Splash event at the Boulder Reservoir, timing his first race by himself.

As he was unloading his car in the 3300 block of Aurora Avenue after the event, Dylan Gottschling, who was 19 at the time, crashed his car into a parked black SUV at about 40 mph, pushing it about 12 feet into another parked SUV.

Towler was pinned between the two SUVs. He instructed his roommate and neighbor to lay him on the ground and create tourniquets out of their belts until paramedics arrived. Doctors told him the tourniquets saved his life.

Gottschling pleaded guilty to Class 5 felony vehicular assault operating or driving in a reckless manner and an added count of driving while ability impaired.

Police said Gottschling admitted to using heroin and then taking Xanax before the crash, along with admitting to looking down at his phone while trying to select music when the crash happened…

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RELATED: 2016 BBSC TRI BOULDER Race Report – Community Rallies for Craig Towler

If you go:

What: Craig Towler Freedom 5K and 10K Run

When: July 4, registration starts at 6:30 a.m., run starts at 8 a.m.

Where: Boulder Reservoir, 5565 N 51st St., Boulder

Cost: 10K is $50, 5K is $45