It seems I seldom have/make time to read, but am currently reading a book called, “Daring Greatly” written by Brene Brown. In it the author discusses being vulnerable - a word that still makes me cringe, and something we (or I) learned at an early age to avoid being at all costs. Yet, every time I write one of these stories, or even toe the line at a race, I feel I am being vulnerable to an extent - putting myself out there, testing my limits, sharing my thoughts and feelings. In the book she quotes a Leonard Cohen lyric from the song “Anthem”, which really resonated with me (I love quotes you know) . . .
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
I just love that.
Well - here’s me being vulnerable and sharing a few of my many ‘cracks’…
I hate hitting the ground. I also seldom use the word hate, but I really do hate getting hurt - especially doing dumb stuff. In fact, I go to great lengths to pay attention to avoid doing just that, because I can be somewhat clumsy - and I do (usually) learn through experience. I’m also not terribly superstitious, but it has been said that things happen in 3’s….
Number One. Backtrack to Yokohama. Amy and I met at the airport and took a shuttle bus to our hotel, which took about an hour. After a long day of traveling and a significant time-change - I was exhausted. We finally reached our destination, and while getting off the bus (which was filled with all these elite athletes including some Australian pros and Javier Gomez himself . . . ), I tripped down the stairs of the bus with my suitcase and crashed my left knee into the bus door, toppling down onto the road. Yep. Right on my kneecap. Gashed it. I was not impressed, at all. It really was more embarrassing and annoying than anything. It was swollen and hurt, but it was only superficial and (thankfully) would not affect the race. Fortunately, that was the only fall for the weekend, so it certainly could have been much worse. In fact, I wrote a whole story largely celebrating the fact that Amy and I managed to avoid hitting the ground. Well…
Number Two. I got home from Japan around midnight Sunday night. Monday night was the ‘local’ time trial my family puts on. It was a beautiful day - and I was pretty excited to meet up with my multisport and cycling friends and share some stories. My coach and I decided it would be good to ride for about an hour and do some intervals before the time trial, then do the time trial and follow it up with a brick run - a good solid training day to get back on track. The time came to get on my bike, and I was ‘slightly’ tired. In fact, it took some serious mental talk (maybe including a Rule #5 moment) to get myself off the couch and onto my bike. But - it was a beautiful day, and I love to ride my bike, and I knew I would feel better for doing it. Heading out I could not get over how weird it felt to be on my bike. After riding a tandem for the past few days, I felt really wobbly by myself. However, things seemed to get better as I kept going - I did my intervals, and was heading to the medical clinic where I work before the time trial when things started feeling ‘off’ again. Now, I had a flat on my rear wheel that I changed prior to Japan, and I never discovered what caused it, so my impression was that it was going flat again causing the unstable feeling. I was less than 1/4 mile from the clinic, so decided to just ride easy (as it was not completely flat, just low), and change it when I got there. I was turning into clinic drive from the highway when suddenly I found myself skidding along the asphalt. Just like that. Fortunately - I was not run over. Unfortunately, I broke the shifter from the end of my aerobar and had road rash all down my left arm and leg. But - no broken bones. I called Jeff who was just leaving the house, and asked him to bring my other bike for me. I got my chain back on, got back on my bike, limped my way to the clinic, showered and scrubbed the asphalt out of my wounds, put on some tegaderm, got back in my kit (which fortunately only had a small hole in the side), and showed up for the time trial trying like hell to pretend nothing had happened (of course, cyclists are pretty good at spotting road rash…).
I made it through the 12.6 mile time trial (not surprisingly it was not my finest effort), and even did a short brick run after. (For the record, none of this was the smartest decision, but I can be slightly stubborn, and I did notify my coach before said time trial, who advised me to eat ice cream and sent me a picture including beer and guacomole, and told me the the time trial might be therapeutic but I could skip the brick run if I wanted to - might I add I absolutely love my coach, she is awesome - thank you Suzanne Atkinson!). So - what caused my wipe-out? Probably a combination of many things. When I later checked the bike my front tire (not the rear after all) was low, and my back wheel was not secure. Bottom line - it happened, it sucks, but gotta just keep moving forward and deal with it (I will spare you the photographic evidence....).
As I really do not like making a fuss, I tried like crazy to pretend everything was ok at work the next few days. I wore long sleeves to cover my skinned up arm, and stood as much as I could. Road rash never happens in great places you know - it’s areas that you need to apply pressure - like your butt, or your forearm right where it rests in the aerobars. Of course. I also managed to continue my training - although it brought new meaning to making deposits in the ‘pain account’. And then it was time for my FAVORITE race weekend - Memphis in May.
Number Three. So - there is just no way to hide road rash in a tri suit. Period. I was just praying for a non-wetsuit swim Saturday morning - and that was granted. I figured the worst part of the race would be getting through the swim without anyone crashing into my left side . . . and that worked out too. Sweet. Through transition, onto my favorite part of the race - the bike. Just as I am mounting my bike something hits me hard from behind . . . and just like that I am on the ground. Again. Right foot and right palm bloody from the asphalt. Again. Someone had run into me from behind - OK, not much I could do, get on my bike to go, but something was wrong. Rear wheel was off. Usually I can deal with setbacks pretty calmly and keep my composure - but I can’t say that I did very well this go-round. Something about so recently hitting the ground, hurting like crazy already, then going down again, plus a bike mechanical on top of it - well, it was a bit much. However, I was able to get the bike sorted, and try again. Headed out on the course, shifted gears - to find that the bike shifted all the way into my hardest gear, and stayed. Right. There. I tried multiple times throughout the race to shift gears - with the same result, nothing. So, what could I do? I rode it. Good thing I like to mash gears. I just had to laugh. Especially at the turn arounds, heading back up hill - standing and mashing, just trying to make the best of the situation. And - I made it through. And - I made it through the run. And - everything hurt. But that finish line sure was an accomplishment!
Sunday morning. My five year old son, Sebastian, asks me before the race, “Mama, do you think you can ride your bike today without falling down?”. Sounded good to me, and I promised him I would try. The swim - wetsuit legal. Yep. And I wore one. Might have been the toughest part of the race, putting that thing on. But I did - and I made it through the swim.
Thanks to Josh Jacobs of Bike Peddlar, my bike was back in working order, and I was very thankful to him every time I switched gears on that ride. And I knew the run was really going to hurt, so I just rode as hard as I could - ‘cause I really do love to ride my bike, despite everything. And - I managed NOT to fall off.
Headed out on the run - a solid 30 seconds slower than my ideal pace . . . but I was running. I figure every race has about 3 goals: 1) an exceeds all expectations, everything-goes-right, best-case-scenario goal 2) a more realistic, ideal, training-pays-off goal and 3) an “I’m just gonna be happy to finish”, rule #5, make the best of it goal. Well - today was a #3 type of day. I focused on all the run form tips from my coach and from the great Bobby McGee. I thought about all the things I said to Amy last week in Yokohama, encouraging her on. I gave thumbs up to my fellow racers out there digging deep and testing their limits.
At the turn around I caught sight of my friend and competition - Kate. Interesting thing about Kate - I see that girl everywhere. I’ll be at a random race on the other side of the country, and she will be there. In the pre-dawn darkness before the start of the Vuelta Puerto Rico I look over, and there she is. Be it a triathlon or a bike race - I end up racing with her all over the place. So - she started before me in the race, and she was running strong, but I could tell she was digging deep too. I would feel a little better and reel her in, then she would feel better and pull away again. At the 5 mile mark she really picked it up and I thought, “Oh geez, she is going to sprint this last mile” - so I tried to pick it up a little, and kept her in sight. We reached that long grassy levee to the finish, and I finally catch up with her. A number of thoughts raced through my mind . . . “We could run in together, that would be pretty cool”, “I don’t really think I have it in me to beat her across the levee”, “I think she has more left to give, she should go for it” . . . and so, that’s what I told her. Something along the lines of - ‘you’ve got this. go for it. just across the levee. give it what you have left’. - probably not exactly, but that was the gist of it. And - she did. And, I couldn’t stay with her. But - it was a beautiful thing to see. We’ve all been there - testing our limits, and being able to find that extra strength to push past what we think we can do - it was so, so awesome. So, I watched Kate race across that levee and I continued to push myself with whatever I had left. I took in the crowds, the announcer, Elvis, my kids cheering me on - and I was so incredibly happy to be right where I was, in that moment, back where my triathlon story began.
After the race we all congratulated each other on surviving a tough race, then gradually dispersed, but a few minutes later Kate came back over to me. She said, “I just have to give you one more hug. I just got my results, and that was my fastest run - ever”. Well, I have to tell you, every night before my kids go to bed I ask them what the best part of their day was. I can tell you right now, in a weekend full of great memories, THAT was the best part of my weekend.
So, I am now battered, bruised, and sore all over. If misfortune does indeed come in 3’s hopefully I have that out of the way for a while - make that a VERY LONG while. I will confess I stopped on the way home, and I bought ice cream. And I enjoyed every bite (except the couple Jeff managed to sneak). And - that’s the story of a few of my cracks. I hope the light shines through . . . or, better yet, I hope it shines some light for someone else.
“And now you know the rest of the story”
Thanks for reading.