September 1, 2014

Tri Rock (It happens everyday, today was my day)

I once passed out in a bar in Amsterdam. The details of that are a different story. I was really embarrassed and was lamenting to one of locals that was sitting up in the front. (It was a really small bar/coffee shop so everyone easily saw what I had happened. The bartender bringing me a 5 gallon bucket to vomit in didn't help. I never did, by the way). Anyhow, the local just smiled and said "It happens every night, and tonight was your night".

A similar thing can be said of my race at TriRock Austin - "It happens every day, and today was your day". My training hadn't been going all that great. I'd had some injuries to deal with, namely in my lower back. It had cut short more than a few training runs and I was concerned it would affect me during my race. This wasn't an "A" race for me. I was racing this jut because it's downtown, at a good time, and it was my first triathlon. So, if it didn't go well, it wasn't a big deal. I didn't need to risk prolonged injury for a good finish here.

I felt pretty good about the race going into it. However, about 1,000 meters into the swim, my back really started hurting. I knew it could be a long day and I needed to be cognizant of it throughout the race. I also kept telling myself there was no shame in DFN-ing due to injury, although that was a tough conversation to have.

I got on the bike and getting into aero position, I could really feel the pain. I needed to take it easy, just go as hard as is comfortable. The bike course is a loop course, three loops for Olympic distance and two sprint. I was finishing my second loop, nearing the split where you either turn in to head toward transition or go straight to complete another loop. As I was going straight, I could feel there was another bike to my left, just off my back wheel. I was between he and the turn into transition. I maintained my line and headed for my third loop. It was then that I heard an indecipherable yell very close to me and then felt the brunt of a wheel then handlebars in my hip. This a$$ho** just ran into me! 

I was able to recover, largely due I think to the fact that he hit me and not my bike. However, since my body took all of the impact, specifically my hip, it jarred my back even more. I was now in serious pain. The shock of the (near) crash and shooting pain that I was now experiencing was enough to deal with. By the time I got my wits about me again, I was essentially past an ideal place to bail. I had a to keep going. I made the decision I would finish the third loop and asses how things were once I got to transition.

Rolling into transition, I was in a lot of pain. I decided I would go out for the run and just see how things go. I really wanted to finish, and also knew that it wasn't worth it if meant my injury getting significantly worse. The run was a three loop course. I normally hate the loop courses, though this time it was my friend. I started out and it was rough going. A lot of start and stop (run and walk) and I thought at least if I kept making forward progress, that was a good thing.

There was a lot of construction around the run course area so it had been altered from years past. A big stretch took place down a sidewalk around the events and performing arts center. I was nearing a turn around a side of the building where this would cross the entrance to the parking garage. I was in pain and was walking a bit, letting the pain subside a bit before I started running again. I was contemplating bailing out of the run. To DNF and live to fight another day. Wrestling with it, I seriously considered it as an option.

Turning the corner, there was a small group of people, maybe three or four sitting by the sidewalk, cheering people on. As I came around the corner, walking, one of the spectators noticed my tri kit. I was wearing the same tri kit I wore for the Ironman and had the logo for 'Team Marsh' as I was being coached by coach and professional triathlete Brandon Marsh (link). A woman, who I would later learn was professional triathlete Natasha Van Der Merwe who finished 3rd in Challenge Atlantic City, called out to me "You're walking, Brandon wouldn't like that". I knew immediately that her comment was good natured and meant to be motivating, and I took it as such. I started to run and turned around to her to give as much of a smile as I could muster, which probably looked more like a smirk. Of course, this meant I wasn't paying attention to where I was going. 

As I was enjoying my exchange with her, my toe found a lip in the pavement. Down. I. Went. Knee, then shoulder, then head all hit the pavement. It took me a moment of lying on the ground to comprehend what had just happened. Interestingly, my first thought after realizing what had just happened was, "well I've got to finish now". I'm not sure where that thought came from. Maybe it was grit and determination. Maybe it was stubbornness. Maybe it was comfort that I'd now have a visible excuse to go slow and hobble in. Maybe it was that may race pictures were going to be awesome; bloody finisher's photo = epic.

I think it was all of them. Natasha immediately ran over to check on my, apologizing profusely. I laughed, said it was OK and announced my intention to finish. An official called a paramedic over to check me out. He looked me over and asked me repeatedly if I was sure I wanted to keep going. I was now realizing I was bleeding from my knee, shoulder, and head. I was determined. "Patch me up" I said. He proceeded to wrap my head in gauze. I'm still thinking that he didn't have his scissors on him because he put a ridiculously large amount of gauze around my head. "I'm glad I wore this hat to cover this," I said. It was the first race since my first TriRock that I'd worn a hat on the run. After getting patched up, I posed for a picture with Natasha, and then started on my way. I still had two loops to go.

I hobbled and grudged through the remaining two loops, getting lots of encouragement from the crowd. Running, walking, soaking it all in. More than ever, I was looking for the race photographers. These pics were going to be awesome. Eventually I crossed the finish line, bloody and battered. I got a shout out from the announcer; something about how great it was to still finish despite adversity. I once again found myself in the medical tent where I received three stitches. Made for a great story and good pictures. 

Me and Natasha Van Der Merwe

Snitches get stitches... And so do those who don't pay attention during the run of a triathlon.

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