Life has thrown a curveball at me…
Is it frustrating? … Yes!
Do I feel like quitting? … Yes!
But as the saying goes; “winners never quit and quitters never win!”
Santa Cruz 70.3 was a race where I had to take a different stance at the start line. I had two goals for this race:
- Get to the start line.
- Get to the finish line without aggravating my injures.
Injuries? What injuries?
During the month of August, I was sent out to Phoenix (Arizona) on a work-related assignment. I was there for 3 weeks and had the opportunity to train in a new location (and in the blistering heat too :-P). It was between 39 and 43 degrees C every day and it would drop to about 27-28 deg C at night. For my American friends, that’s about 110 deg F during the day and about 80 deg F at night.
I had no other choice but to train in the evenings as I was starting work between 4:45am and 5:15am every morning – and no, I wasn’t going to wake up at 2.30am to fit in my training before work 😉
It was a matter of balancing my work and training commitments during the 3 weeks in Phoenix. I paid special attention to my hydration and kept my sessions short (and sweet) to avoid heat exhaustion. I was travelling with my fiancé, Sibylle, and over the weekends we made it a point to do some training in between all the sightseeing! If you haven’t been to Arizona, I thoroughly recommend visiting. Below are some videos and photos from our weekend getaways!
Antelope Canyon & Lake Powell
During my second week in Phoenix, I met with an accident. I was riding west on Baseline Road when a car did a ‘left cross’ turn in front of me. Below is a schematic of how the accident unfolded.
I was riding pretty fast when the driver pulled out in front of me. It’s quite hard to describe what went through my head at that moment but what I do remember is screaming and trying to swerve right in order to avoid colliding. But going at 44kph/27mph (see speed profile below) I had absolutely no time or distance to avoid the collision. As I got closer to the car I remember embracing for the collision and before I knew it, I had hit the car on the passenger side of the front bonnet, flown across the bonnet and had landed on the other side of the car.
This may sound funny but the first thing I did was curse the driver for being reckless! I was in so much pain. My left leg was throbbing as if it was being stabbed multiple times by a butcher’s knife. My right wrist was numb after having landed on it and trying to move it was excruciating. I lay on the road and a witness who saw everything unfold came towards me and began talking to me and asking if I was ok. I was in too much pain to say anything but all I could do was nod my head to acknowledge that I’m alive, I’m breathing but I need serious help. The witness called the police and fire brigade who arrived within 5 minutes at the scene.
As the police began their investigation and analyzing the scene, the fire brigade arrived and promptly got me off the road by loading me on to a stretcher. I had to be lifted off the ground as my left leg could not bear any weight whatsoever. As I lay on the stretcher there were moments where I felt very dizzy and lightheaded but then a few mins later, I would feel ok again. I requested the fireman who was watching over me to incline the back rest so that I could sit up and take in some water. I had an energy bar in my back pocket of my cycling jersey and asked the fire brigade to open the packet so I could munch on it! Hey – the energy bar had some protein in it so I thought I might as well eat it to initiate the recovery process 😉 Jokes apart, eating the energy bar really helped me from going through those swings of being lightheaded. And drinking some cold water felt refreshing.
Whilst the police and fire brigade where writing their reports, the driver came up to me and apologized for causing the accident. I smiled and accepted the apology. In return, I apologized for cursing her when I landed after the crash!
I called Sibylle over the phone and slowly explained what happened. The first thing I said was “I just had an accident but everything is ok (and so is the bike 😝)”! Funnily enough our main discussion point was whether or not I should call an ambulance to take me to the hospital or if she would come to pick me up and then drive me to the hospital. For my European friends, the system in the US is a bit different. Calling an ambulance is an expensive line item to have on your medical bill! In Europe, all this would be covered for by your health insurance – not in the US. Well, the bill would be covered for by the health insurance but I would probably have to co-pay a certain amount. I still don’t fully understand the healthcare system here so please excuse my ignorance on this topic!
Eventually Sibylle arrived and I exchanged contact details with the driver who crashed into me. I also thanked the witness for staying until Sibylle arrived to ensure I would get home safely.
As Sibylle was driving me to the hospital, the only things going through my mind were:
- I hope I haven’t broken any bones …
- How the hell am I supposed to race at Santa Cruz in 2 weeks??!!??!!
At the hospital the nurses took some x-rays and confirmed that nothing had been broken – music to my ears! But I had severe bruising on my left leg and right wrist.
So at this point I knew that Santa Cruz 70.3 is not fully ruled out but there is a high chance that I’d have to take it steady during the race and not let my competitive-self get the better of me.
What Did I Do To Prepare For Santa Cruz 70.3 And How Did It Go?
The only thing I could do was to keep a positive mindset! The more I sulked and felt sorry for myself, the more it hurt. So why keep on hurting myself when I could use the spare time to work on other aspects of my triathlon training?
I definitely took it easy and light when it came to training. I took a week after the accident and did some test sessions. I felt ok but there was always a voice at the back of my head saying, “don’t push yourself yet!”. The toughest thing was to do exactly that! It’s easier said than done!
I spent time applying ice to my injuries and mainly focused on technical session in the pool (yes, I really need to work on my streamlining and leg kick) and riding/running lightly.
I got to Santa Cruz in much better shape than expected. My wrist had recovered well but I knew that 1.2 miles in the water may be too much. I also knew that the bike/run combo would cause discomfort on my leg. So here’s what I told myself… start the swim as if you were 100% fit and if there is ANY sign of discomfort in the wrist – back off! And the same applied with the bike/run.
The Fog Came To The Rescue!
I may sound selfish but I was really glad that the swim was shortened on race day. There was thick fog in the air and we couldn’t even see past the first buoy! So after the start being postponed a few times, the organizers finally decided to cut the swim short to 750m but kept the bike/run distances the same.
We were grouped at the start line in the same order as we would have been for the full distance swim but they only let us into the water one at a time to avoid over-congestion. The swim actually went very well for me as I had no discomfort whatsoever in my wrist and I swam 12:28 mins. I caught a lovely draft and stuck behind the swimmer who also happened to swim nice and straight!
Quickly through T1 and onto the bike!
Some Bumps and Rollers
The bike course was not fast to start with. There was turns in order to get out of the residential areas and then hit the main roads. A lot of the roads were bumpy on the way out and I was afraid of hurting my wrist whilst trying to hold on tightly to my handlebars. I made it safely on to the main road and off I went! It was the usual flow of actions for me on the bike; don’t push too hard too soon, drink my drink and eat my food! I kept it reasonably steady until the half way point but the return leg was harder due to a crosswind which had a headwind component to it. I was tempted to push a bit more but decided to be wise from previous experiences 😉 I was getting overtaken like crazy and it made me think if I was fading away. I looked down at my watch several times and saw I was on cue with my power output – so I stuck with it and tried hard to not let the overtaking cyclists get the better of me!
Oh Boy How The Tables Turned On The Run!
I got myself into T2 after a 2:40 bike split. Not fast but not slow. It’s what I was expecting so I was happy with that. But the minute I began running, which is where my strength lies and was hoping to run like a bullet, I felt the left leg give up on me. I can’t say I was in total discomfort but it felt like a few muscle strings were pulling and it was right in the center of my left thigh where I have the bruising. I had no other choice but to slow down to a jog but I was still optimistic that maybe after a bit of a ‘warm up’ I would be able to pick up the pace again.
About a few hundred meters into the run, there was a short steep incline which I used as a milestone to get over and then test picking up my pace. But to no avail ☹ My left leg was not going to budge from giving my grief. I took in a deep breath and prepared myself for a long 13 miles of jog/walk combinations to get me to the finish line. My heart sunk at this moment because I know I’m very capable of running strong for this distance. Watching myself being overtaken didn’t cheer me up either. I had to regain focus on jog where I could and walk when I had to.
It was one of my longest ever half marathons coming in at 2:06 hrs but I was glad to get to the finish lines. Can’t say I was happy or satisfied but I know I’m being hard on myself. I was hit by a car just 2 weeks ago and I couldn’t expect more from my body. But when I look at the metrics, I know I could have ran faster and ranked higher.
On my way back to transition to collect my bike, I did get a bit emotional because I reflected on how much training I had done over the winter and the substantial progress I had made until I got hit.
But I must take every moment as it comes and make the best of it.
It goes without saying that I need to take some time off to recover fully. Taking training lightly will be crucial to avoid aggravating my injuries. I’m seeing a physical therapist who is taking great care of me and ensuring I’m back on my feet and training hard like I was a month ago.
To conclude, I have to say I’m very lucky to be in the position that I currently am in. The crash could have been MUCH worse and I could have been somewhere else…
I’m thankful for the life that I have, the people that are supporting me in my ventures (or putting up with my craziness is what I should say 😝) and the opportunity that I have to race and partake in triathlons.
Stay safe, train smart and race hard!