This was a long time in the making, writing this bad boy. I went straight from race to convalescing in Valencia, to playing tour guide showing my parents around Edinburgh and starting school the day after they left. I was also just OUT of triathlon mode because this was my 2 week off-season, no triathlon break! Must say it was pretty needed and I took full advantage, only going on a couple of runs once I could handle athletic clothing on my back.
Came with some gloom because it was raining BUT ALSO SOME CHEER! The race start time was 10 AM!!! So amazing. Waking up for a race at 7 is something that should be embraced in some places with similar climates to Austria. We leisurely walked over to transition in the rain only to arrive to some mayhem! The entrance into transition was just so congested with people also trying to get into the swim start area so I quickly was getting behind schedule and had to say good bye to my parents in a super rush. Not ideal. I got into transition and was one of the last to uncover my bike. People were frantically running around and the pump up music was so loud and I was letting it get to me, just getting more and more panicky. I saw another pro, a guy, with headphones in just like doing his thing getting his bike ready not at all in a rush or looking like he was feeling tardy. I tried to take some of his zen but as I ran away from my bike I still wasn’t too relaxed. As I was getting to swim start I still needed to put my race suit all the way on, Vaseline up and get my wetsuit on. AHH! I ran by my parents one last time, which was nice. I quickly shoved everything while on suffering minor palpitations although I had a good 30 minutes. The atmosphere was just insane. Then I gave my white street clothes bag to a stranger to drop off for me and headed to swim start, finally feeling relaxed….
Until I reached the timing mat and realized my CHIP WAS IN MY BAG. WELLLLLLL CRAP. Panic mode back! I asked an official and they said I needed to go get it. I ran against the flow trying to stay calm, got to the truck FULL of white bags and when I asked if they could find mine they looked at me like I had 5 heads. I quickly went back to the start area and found another official, who eventually, after I was sitting there panicking, got the race director then a member of the timing team. In the mean time they were announcing the pros at the race and I heard them say my name and where I was from and everything but couldn’t even appreciate it at the time!
I also spotted my parents. The timing people were like omg honestly haha I was just like I know I know I’m so awful! But they were AMAZING and had an extra chip but no strap…one of the guys pulled out a roll of duct tape and I was about to strap that crap on my ankle but then I motioned for my mom and took her hair tie and made a nice little strap out of that. PHEW!! Most impressively the timing guy got it all fixed so my splits were working the whole time. I quickly got in the water, no time for warm up, and took a few deep breaths before the gun went off.
The pros start was with a “10m” gap to the 30-40 year old age group men. This gap obviously quickly disappeared to nothing. The best part about the rain was the sun was not out so I could breath to my preferred right side with no blinding light. Sweet! I actually had a fairly good start and I just WENT. There is always a point in the swim for me, about 400 in when I’m like so where is the wall, like do I get a break now? I’m pretty tired. It never fails that I get a bit disappointed when I realize umm nope, just have to umm keep going for likeee almost 5 hours. Having the realization that this happens is half the battle though because now I can preempt it and know better how to deal with it. I was pleased to see another female pro next to me and we were breathing into each other’s faces. We were also fighting for some prime age group guys feet. Mine!!! The swim was a super simple triangle and besides some jostling I was able to hang onto some feet most the way out and a little of the way back into shore. I came upon the girl I started with again and she and I came out of the water together. I was pretty happy when I saw my bike had like a couple buddies on the rack! Phew. I hoped on and headed out of transition all excited to tackle the bike course.
The bike course was two laps and pretty much flat. There were a few climbs but the most difficult parts were all of the turns and the 180 turn-around points. Since it was raining my power meter was not working, again, so I knew I was just going to have to go off of feel. The roads were soaked and the rain was driving but I was really enjoying not having too many other racers around and just steadily laying down some watts. At the first turn around I was pretty pleased to see the front girls were really not that far off! I mean this wasn’t that bad! The rain was tricky but the race wheels I was using felt great on the roads. About ½ through the first lap the course comes up on a shared part of road then people coming back into town were ushered to the left when the road split. Then we were meant to cross over and get back on the right side of the road. There were some signs on the side of the road indicating they were doing some road construction in the area.
As I went to cross over the road I realized too late there was a gap in the asphalt just a little larger than a bike wheel. I can still see it in my head. Right when I realized this I already had both wheels trapped in it…. too late to do anything about it. My sideways momentum carried my wheel into the side of the asphalt, sending my bike and I flying sideways. I was going at a pretty good clip since it was just a flat section where I was just hunkering down and going. The worst part about this crash was I was conscious of what was happening the whole time. I felt myself go sideways then land on my right hip and back on the road before careening in a diagonal all the way across the road, not stopping till well off the side of the road in the grass. Honestly I felt like I had skinned my back completely off and would need a skin transplant. It honestly felt awful. I had also never crashed my bike before (besides 1 time practicing dismounting in a parking lot, at like 0 mph) so I just laid there in shock before popping up just whimpering in shock. As soon as I got up I saw a volunteer rushing towards me. He said are you ok you ok? I said I dunno! Am I? How is it? Am I ok??? I just had no idea what it looked like I just knew how it felt. He was a bit speechless and I think just freaked out but he got my bike out of the way of other racers and said well I think we need an ambulance, you are ok, how do you feel? I just kept saying how is it? I don’t know! I was also just so upset because I just didn’t want to stop and it was so agonizing thinking about facing the decision to drop out or not. I said does it need stitches? Like how is it? He said yes I think so…I dunno. I was still like holding myself in a half crunched up position so scared to move. We decided to cross the road so he could call someone to look at me. Some other volunteers were there and they were like eekk I dunno… my guy went to get me some water and shortly thereafter 2 race officials pulled up on a motorcycle. I was still agonizing with what to do and they were like well are you ok? How do you feel? I still didn’t know! Ha but I turned around to show her and she said I mean yeah, it’s not good but you can go on it’s up to you. I said well I think I feel ok? Might as well try?
By then he had brought water back and said ok, lets pour this on so we can see what’s going on because it was just covered in blood and gravel. Right when he started pouring I was all no!!!! ha it stung so bad. But I’m sure it helped clean it up a bit. Then I sort of said ok, yeah I’m going to go. Next thing we hear a crash and another guy had done the same thing as me! He went down right in front of the gap though instead of going across the road. So bad though…so people went to help him and I said you have to block that off now! People are going to start coming through in huge numbers! After according to my Garmin 7 minutes I leisurely got back on my bike.
I was anything but comfortable as the wind and rain just felt awful moving against my open skin. I also realised the cut and bruise I had on my right hip as I began to cycle. This was not feeling too good but I said ok, you are close to town, so just one step at a time, first, get to mom and dad. This was a reasonable goal so I went with it and it was motivation for me to keep going. I tried to move into my aero bars but realized I had done something to the right side of my bike because the pad was completely jacked up. It also made the stinging of the rain/wind worse so I tried to avoid them. Coming into towns the crowds were a real lift up. I slowed down to try and spot my parents and when I came upon them it was at the end and they were cheering their heads off. Right when I spotted them a guy rode up next to me and just looked at me and said way to go. Ha I admit I got tears in my eyes but it gave me such courage and then I decided ok, you can do this. What’s a little pain? My new goal was to just get through in a timely manner but I was just so nervous on my bike after the wreck and the wet roads were not helping. Going into the second lap I dropped a gel ha but that was the least of my worries. I must say one of the best parts was when someone would come up next to me and go woaaahhh or if I passed and then I could hear them. One guy rode up to me and said “ohh shiza!” in german. That made me smile. People were so supportive so it was very helpful.
It was all getting very stiff and at one point I moved my arms in a running fashion and said oh no, this is not happening there is no way I can run. I made my way around the second lap and with anxiety came upon the crash area only to find they had thankfully completely blocked it off and were directing people safely across the road. As I passed my parents again I tried to point at my back but they didn’t see. Then a race official road up next to me and said are you ok? Ha I said well you tell me, how does it look, it doesn’t feel too good! He said, umm well….are you ok? You are doing great, really great. This again spurred me on.
Entering T2 I said ok one step at a time, just see how it goes. I so thankfully hoped off my bike and grabbed my run gear with some stiff waddling.
Putting on my shoes I sort of did a mini assessment of my body and was pretty sure I could at least get through the run. I wanted to so badly because it was a flat course, 3 loops (my fav) so great opportunities to see my parents and have lots of people cheering. I certainly didn’t feel good but I also didn’t feel like I couldn’t go on. Early on I didn’t look at my Garmin at all, the last thing I needed was anything negative! I made my way close to town and got to pass my parents and based on how hard they were cheering I knew they had not seen my back yet. As I passed I pointed it out but then got myself into some sort of zone. It was going better than I could have hoped! It was also fun to pass people then hear their reactions. I saw the female race unfolding in front of me at the turn arounds and these girls looked so incredibly strong, it was so inspirational. Coming into town the second time I passed my parents and slowed a bit and knew they had seen me as my mom was crying, saying “are you ok??” and I just said yeah yeah and spurred on, fighting back a few tears because I just wanted a hug. I finished the last lap, really giving it what I had left and was so thankful to cross the finish line. I was so happy to be finished I was like surprised when they were like you need to go to the med tent. I thought oh yeah! My parents were right there and they got ushered into the finish area and they swept us all there. I was so relived to be finished and with them but still a bit euphoric and like what just happened.
The medical team was so great and since I was the only person in there at the time I was very well taken care of. I finally saw a picture of what my back looked like (just so curious!!). I had to strip down my top and hold a t-shirt on part way to get rid of the straps from my tri suit and they went to work cleaning it up which stung a lot but I had gotten used to the feeling by then. They said they needed to get a race doctor in because they could not get the gravel out. I didn’t mind waiting because there were about 5 EMT guys in there and they were pretty easy on the eyes! The doctor came in and tried but she also couldn’t get it removed and they said I had to go in the ambulance to the hospital. I was like no, that’s so not happening, but my parents sort of insisted. My mom went to get my morning clothes bag and then we rode to the hospital.
I had a great time in my gown, but the best part was the numbing ointment they put all over my back. Phew, a bit of relief! I was still just stiff and sore and my hip was feeling worse but I was so happy! I sat on the hospital bed and mixed up my Vega shake, immersed in recovery mode.
Recovering in Valencia!
Button-up backwards. Thank goodness my mom brought this shirt!
This race didn’t exactly go how I thought it would. I had built it up in my head so much as being a break through race for me, and one that would show all the work I had put in over the spring and summer and really display lessons I had learnt from other races. It was not so much a break through as far as time (4:47) or placement goes (12th) but it was for mental toughness. I am very glad I finished. It was not easy but I was also so lucky. I saw other people go down and have seen many people go down in races before and sometimes the results are terrifying. I am so so thankful my injuries were just some pretty bad road rash and deep bruising. I consider myself lucky. I do remember thinking about Chrissy Wellington during the race and how she raced Kona with major wounds from a previous bike wreck and rib damage. I mean, if she can do that can I not finish a dinky half ironman? YES.
I also thought about all of my family and friends and everyone that supports me and listens to my training ups, downs and in betweens. Mostly I listened to myself. I thought it so funny looking back that my last post was about looking for reasons to drop out of a race and sometimes wishing for them. Now I know: this is absolute crap. I had every reason to stop this race but when push came to shove I didn’t, I couldn’t and didn’t want to. This can do nothing but help me in future races to stomp out the mental demons of stop stop, please lay off this hurts a bit too much.
I am flying to Miami as I type this for Miami 70.3. I was not planning on doing this race until my coach and I decided we could give this one more go before the season is over. I have only ridden my tri bike outside once since the accident but have been riding my commuter bike all over the place. I am hopeful that I can deliver at this race. My parents and brother are also coming which will be so amazing and I am so thankful to have them there.
Thanks for reading whether you stuck through the whole report or skipped to the end!! Happy training and see you out there!