Aug 17, 2011
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by Michael Gougis
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Former Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association (WMRRA) Overall Champion Alan Schwen remains hospitalized but is recovering from injuries suffered in the closing minutes of a WERA National Endurance Series 4-hour at Virginia International Raceway earlier this month.
Schwen, 46, of Tumwater, Washington, suffered broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade and wrist, chipped vertebrae and a punctured lung in the crash, he said from his hospital bed at Danville Regional Medical Center, where he remained nearly two weeks after the crash.
"Typical road race stuff, you know," Schwen says.
Schwen had gone back to run the 4-hour on August 5th with a couple of old racing buddies John Greer and Katie Bladon who used to race with him in the Pacific Northwest before they moved to the East Coast.
"I'm pretty good friends with them. I did the (WERA) National 6-hour at Summit Point (Raceway) with them a few years ago. I hadn't seen them for a while, so I decided to come back out here and do the 4-hour," Schwen says.
The original plan was to race a Ducati 848, but mechanical problems forced the trio to take Bladon's Suzuki SV650 to the starting grid. Schwen says with just four or five minutes left in the race, the engine apparently seized.
"I don't really know exactly what happened. I talked to John, and he said the motor's blown up. All we can tell is that the rear wheel must have locked up as I was going through the esses," Schwen says.
"It lowsided me. I remember hitting the ground, sliding over the curbing, and then all I remember was ground-sky-ground-sky. I probably got hit by another bike; there's rubber marks on my helmet. But I don't think I got tangled up with another bike (before crashing). I was the lead bike (on that section of track), and I didn't know anyone was behind me."
Schwen's wrist has already been pinned and plated. The biggest difficulty is the lung, which is not responding well to treatment and has made it impossible for Schwen to make firm plans to get back home. So far, Schwen and family have looked into traveling across the country via train and are also trying to arrange a medical flight, but everything is contingent upon what his morning X-ray shows.
And meanwhile, it's the little things that make the aftermath of a crash so annoying. Schwen had flown into Norfolk and rented a car from Budget. He hasn't been able to get the rental car back, and the charges are piling up. "If we could find some help with that, that would be awesome," he says.
Still, Schwen remains in good spirits, saying his collapsed lung is "embarrassing" the rest of his body. And he has been very complimentary of the care he's received at the hospital none of the criticism, explicit or implied, that bashed-up road racers can receive from medical experts at times.
"Can't say enough about the nurses and the doctors. They've been excellent," Schwen says.
Schwen won the overall WMRRA title a decade ago, in 2001, on a Suzuki SV650.
Schwen can be reached at the hospital at (434) 799-2100.