10 days ago, the night before the Louisiana Triathlon, I was super pumped and getting my gear together in preparation for race day. The temperature gods were going to hand it to us on a platter with predicted perfect weather. Warm, calm waters to swim in. Virtually no wind on the flat and fast bike route and moderate temperatures to end out the run. After my finished 50-miler last weekend, I was really excited about testing my speed and times in a shorter distance.
I decided to take my bike out for a quick spin in my neighborhood to test out my gears and make sure all was working properly since my chain came off during the race the previous weekend. I finished up a few quick laps and was heading down the last street before going back home when I spotted a young girl (about 8ish) on her bike heading in my same direction. She was on the right side of the road and as I approached her, from a couple of houses away, I started warning her (quite loudly) that I was coming up on her left. I figured all was good as she started veering right, even further away from my side of the road. I figured wrong. At the last minute, she took a hard and wide turn in my direction, right as I was coming up on her, and basically t-boned the front wheel of my bike. No time to unclip from the pedals. No time to break or even brace myself for what was happening. The 8 year old and her bike, came tumbling down on top of the bike…and me. Me and my bike went crashing down, while sliding across the asphalt. I crawled out from under my bike and sat on the curve, knee and leg torn up and bleeding but masked by the pain I felt in my hand and wrist, which were sending shooting pains up to my elbow when I tried squeezing or closing my hand. I knew immediately that something was wrong. I knew immediately that racing the next day seemed more than questionable.
I sat on the curb repeating “m*ther f*cker” over and over while the 8 year old apologized, said she had to go see her Mom and took off on her bike. I don’t curse very often, so this was a bit out of character for me. I do believe I managed to tell her a few times that it was OK, although I might have wanted to punch her. But she was 8, so I didn’t.
I was cursing some because of the pain, but mostly out of disappointment because I could tell by the way I was hurting that this could mean not only no race the next day, but maybe no race at all…for a while.
I composed myself as best as I could, with some clean up work from friendly neighbors, walked my bike home, was fed by Lynette and then off to the ER we went to find out that I had a fractured elbow.The next week went something like this:
Fri-Sunday: Pain meds, sling, bed/couch watching non-stop TV, eating junk food and feeling sorry for myself
Monday: Saw an Orthopedic Dr and after reading the x-rays, I was informed that I had 2 fractures and he wanted an MRI to get a closer look at my elbow.Tuesday-Friday: Go to work, get on couch, go to bed. Every night. While Lynette did all the housework, laundry, cooking, etc. (I was a total slug. She was not, thankfully.)
Friday: MRI and a visit to my doctor.MRI Results: Fractured ulna and fractured radial head (elbow) in the joint. Also, partial dislocation of elbow.
What does that mean? The fracture in the elbow is going to be a slow healer. It needs to be babied in order to heal properly and to ensure no displacement or surgery. No running or swimming for at least 3 weeks but could possibly be back on a stationary bike next week.
I called my coach, ready to throw in the towel for my big race and he talked me off the ledge. We’re going to refocus our plan to include lots of leg and core work and will be back on the trainer as soon as possible. It’ll be tough, not comfortable and more challenging (with one arm and all), but we’re taking it one day at a time.
Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake was my goal but if that is derailed, there will be another to go after. Practicing patience to be smart about the healing. Refocusing my training plan. Moving towards a finish line (wherever that may end up). Just taking a little detour.
And I will take my coach’s directives to keep my head up, to move forward with a purpose and to always with a smile.
I was half nuts for signing up for this race. I’m half broken now. But I wholeheartedly still believe that I can and will do this!
2 1/2 months of training. TexasMan X-50. 1 mile swim. 40 mile bike. 9 mile run. Remember when I couldn’t put on a swim cap?
4:00 AM: There was little sleeping so this is the time I drug myself out of bed, nerves on high alert, scared and ready to take on the day.
5:30 AM: Transition set up. Panic when I figure out my race belt is broken. Thankfully, Tracy had a spare to save the day.
We pulled on our wetsuits and headed down to the lake to warm up and try and shake off some of the jitters. (yeah right)
I was naively reassured by the glass-like water that this swim wasn’t going to be as terrible as I anticipated. After the intial shock of the cold water, and submerging your face into said cold water, AND trying to swim normally as if you are in a clear, calm pool, I settled in and actually swam (like with real strokes and breathing like I do in the pool) out to the first buoy and back and felt really great and confident. We came out of the water, found our coach, got a little pep talk and then were off to meet our group for the start of the race.
7:30 ish: Off I go into my “calm waters”. Until we reach the first buoy. After that, it was ride the wave time. Yeah, the water got pretty rough with waves slapping me in the face, and I gulped down quite a bit at moments (at least I was staying hydrated), but I kept telling myself the faster I swam, the quicker I could be done. So I kept plugging away. It was reassuring to have so many kayaks around in case of panic or emergency, and there was a brief moment that I could have used a little breather to regroup, but I kept going. I made a mental note earlier that unless I was in distress, I wouldn’t grab a kayak just because I thought I needed a break. Mentally, I needed to know that I could do a mile without help. And I did it. And swam it pretty confidently after rounding the second buoy and headed back to shore. What I wasn’t prepared for as I stood up in the water and made my way out and onto the sand was how little control I felt in my legs. I didn’t fall but I felt like I was hinging on it all the way up to the wetsuit stripper.
Clipped on and off for a little 40 mile, hilly stroll.
Mile 2, I lost my chain..and almost lost my shit. About 6 minutes later, I was all greased up, chain was back in place and I was off. Again. The first 20 mile loop was going pretty good. Lots of people on the road to keep me company. The wind wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t terribly hot. None of that held true for my second lap. At this point, the majority of the racers were doing shorter distances so they were done with the bike and the ones doing the X-50 were mostly ahead of me, so it was just me and a few stragglers out there, finishing up the course. The wind was stronger, it was getting hotter and hills seemed a bit tougher, but reflecting back, this was one of my favorite parts of the race. This is where I had the most time to learn.
We were out in a rural area, so not a bad route scenically speaking. The smell of cow pastures were not too pleasing to the stomach but having grown up in a similar environment (in the country), it felt familiar and was quite peaceful. It was during this time that I embraced “the humble.” I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I was always one of the top girls (and sometimes boys) picked during PE for any ball sport – kickball, soccer, baseball/softball, basketball, dodgeball, football, whatever. I was not an elite athlete by any means but I managed to work my way to the top percent most times. But on Sunday, I was not “that” athlete. I was the one pushing as hard I could, only to still fall way behind. The one to feel inferior. The one wishing I could be competing with even the middle of the pack. I could only see one biker behind me and none anywhere close ahead of me, so I knew I was going to be one of the bottom finishers. And after initially hating the thought of that, feeling not good enough, I quickly regrouped and remembered that it was only on February 2nd that I took the leap to sign up for 70.3 miles. It was only 2 1/2 months ago that I could barely swim a couple of laps without struggling. It was only a couple of months ago that I clipped into a bike for the very first time. And the distance that I was doing, on that day, was gigantic for me. My mindset changed quickly from “I wish I was faster, stronger, better” to “I’m out here working my ass off and when I cross that finish line, I will feel like I gave it my all – on this day.” And I did.
So, bike’s done and off I go on the run. Except I almost headed in the wrong direction. Big thanks to the traffic director for pointing me on the right track and to Lynette for capturing this priceless moment.
My coach found me about a quarter mile into the run and ran with me to the first aid station and continued to find me during different points of the course, making sure I was staying hydrated and giving me tips along the way. I actually felt better than I thought I would on the run. I think by this point, I knew I was almost home-free so that gave me the little kick that I needed. The coke and pretzels at mile 4 helped as well. Lynette popped up at mile 5 to snap some photos and I knew if I caught her eye, I would lose it, so I basically ignored her in order to keep my shit together. I knew she’d get it. What was truly amazing throughout the entire day, were the words of encouragement from the racers passing me up, running next to me, and those I ran by (yes, I actually caught a few once I got to the run). And it wasn’t just one or 2 of them, but almost every person I crossed on the run gave me something that kept me moving. THAT was pretty awesome. With 2 miles left, my coach appeared and ran with me until the last quarter mile. He took off in a different direction to meet up with everyone at the finish line and I had that last little moment, alone on a paved trail, with 2 wild turkeys glaring at me, to soak in what was about to happen. And that was finishing this race, feeling strong and accomplished and so frickin’ excited. I rounded the corner, out of the woods, saw Lynette smiling ear-to-ear, heard the announcer say my name and something about Buffalo Springs Lake HIM, zoomed in on the finish line and brought it home.
TexasMan X-50 in the books. 2 days rest looks like a nice little payoff.
I was told that it was normal to fight your way into your wetsuit. So, the first time I put one on, one borrowed from a friend, I knew that the struggle was real. It took me what seemed like an hour to work it up, inch-by-inch, until my arms were able to find their way into their collective homes, all while still maneuvering the thick material into the right spots until I could successfully raise my arms without feeling like they were bungeed to my feet. I’m not sure I was ever truly successful, but to the extent I thought I could be, I was. You are as successful as you think should be. Meaning, I had no idea what a wetsuit was supposed to feel like so what I was experiencing, I thought was normal. And what I was experiencing was extreme tightening of the chest. Maybe even some labored breathing, before I even got into the pool. Imagine a WWE wrestler squeezing you as tight as he can. Now imagine jumping in the pool and swimming with this wrestler still attached to you. THAT is pretty much how I felt in my wetsuit.
I asked around and most swimmers replied that “it takes some getting used to” and “your chest will feel a bit constricted” and “the more you practice in it, the more used to it you’ll get.”
Ok, I got this. With practice in the wetsuit, I will slowly lose the wrestler and get back to swimming as a singular being.
I completed my first race in the wetsuit, practiced a couple more times, asked more swimmers about the breathing not getting any better and wondered (not for the first time, folks), if maybe my borrowed wetsuit was too small. I decided to do a little research online and on the site of the wetsuit I have been wearing, I found a nifty size chart along with recommendations for getting the right fit.
It’s not as simple as XS – XL. There are half sizes. Like a small, a small-medium, a medium, a medium-large, etc. Also, I read that if you have a longer torso and shorter legs (I’m sure it comes as a shocking surprise that I fit into this category) that you will want to size up so that you have enough give in the top to allow for easier arm movement.
It might go without saying but I might have been swimming in a wetsuit 1 1/2 sizes smaller than I needed, so I bought a new wetsuit that came in on Wednesday, pulled it on (fairly easy comparatively speaking), adjusted it a little, zipped that bad boy up, jumped in the pool, swam my fastest 1 mile swim yet and…
Let us all bow our heads and say a little prayer thanking God that I didn’t suffer a heart attack or stroke in the aforementioned wetsuit and that this one helps me karate chop the hell out of anyone that tries using me as a surfboard at TexasMan this Sunday. And hope I live to blog about it next week.