Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bike accident: the importance of helmets and checking your bike

"Until you have your first accident, you aren't a true cyclist."

I can't remember who told me this, but I guess I can now say I am a true cyclist (well, triathlete).

Tuesday night, I drove Alex and Justin to their triathlon practice as per summer routine.  Even though I had just completed my run workout (with my sweet fuel belt, see pic), I knew the team had an easier ride today with a big race coming up this weekend, so figured I could ride with them to loosen up my legs a bit (and get some extra outdoor riding experience in as well).

Let's just say I'm lucky I didn't damage my legs.

How my workout on Tuesday began: starting to run with my fuel belt to prep for Kona.  Never would have predicted my day would end in the hospital.

We rode in Fermilab for anyone familiar with biking in the area.  We made a quick bathroom stop, in which I first started to notice the ride-ending problem.  My right brake (the one that you would normally hit to slow yourself down while biking) wasn't working very well.  By the time I thought about options (turning around and not riding, or fixing it), the group was back and starting to roll out.

The next stop sign we approached, we rolled slowly through, so I figured my brakes were fine and it was just a fluke.  The next stop sign would be my last.

I always ride in the back of the group when I ride with the team as to not disrupt their workout and to be the sag "vehicle" in case anyone falls off.  From what I remember, we approached the stop sign and I must have realized my right hand brake wasn't working so hit my left one.  The left one slams on the brakes a lot harder and I am guessing I just wasn't ready.

The only reason I know that I for sure flipped over my handlebars was because of how sore my shoulders are today.  Because I was bringing up the rear, no one actually saw me flip.  I don't remember a lot of the night.

-I know I was taken by Kerri Izzo to the hospital (can't thank you enough) and taken care of by her and John until my mom and sister-in-law arrived.
-I remember being upset that my Garmin wristwatch (wedding gift from Ryan) was scratched
-I remember being asked how long into the ride this happened and repeatedly telling people, "11minutes in, look at my Garmin!"
-I remember pulling part of my tooth out of my lip in her car...don't know where it is.
-I remember looking at myself in the mirror of her car and crying, "Oh my gosh, my tooth is chipped, my parents spent thousands of dollars on dental work, they're gonna kill me.  And my cheek? Oh my gosh, they spent hundreds on dermatology, they're gonna be so upset." (side note: they weren't at all)
-I remember getting mad at the receptionist for not listening to me when I told her my Driver's License last name wasn't the same as my Insurance Card last name (I had to tell her like five times)
-I remember not being able to get a hold of my parents as they were at their Tuesday night Main Beach runs.  I called anyone who might be there with them to no avail.
-I remember not knowing where exactly Ryan was, but remembering he was out of town somewhere.

I am sure time went by SUPER slowly for everyone around me, but I felt time was going by SO quickly. Once my mom arrived, I burst into tears again and just kept apologizing.

I was taken in for a CT scan and was very concerned about getting my earrings (from Ryan) back. It's funny what you value when you aren't fully "there." I got an X-ray of my shoulder to rule out any breaks.

-left cheek cut, eye swelling
-5 or 8 sutures in left side of chin
-chipped teeth (2) on left side
-puffy lip
-cut up left shoulder
-cut up left elbow
-road rash surrounding left elbow and left shoulder
-sore shoulders from flipping

I probably sound crazy saying this, but I went to school (summer school) to teach on Wednesday.  My mom was so incredible and drove me to and from work.  All of the staff (my co-teacher, the summer school administrators and school nurse) were wonderful and told me to call them for anything--it truly reminds me how blessed I am to be teaching where I am.

One of my students rides his bike to school, without a helmet.  I spoke to all of the students (someone had to address the "elephant in the room") about the importance of wearing a helmet.  I pointed to my face and told them, "This happened while I was wearing a helmet. Notice where my helmet you see any scratches?  No.  Do you see why you should wear a helmet, no matter how dorky it seems?"  My specific student just looked down, ashamed of himself.  I talked to him and he feels bad for me and "gets" why he should wear a helmet.

Overall, I definitely have to say I was BLESSED.  No, no one ever wants to crash and no one would wish that upon anyone.  BUT, if I had to experience a crash, I was lucky to experience it in this way. I had wonderful, caring people around me to help me out.  I did not get a single scratch on my bike.  I only slightly scratched my Garmin and helmet.  And the best part?  I can use this as a lesson for my fellow triathletes (even my students!) and NOTHING on/in my legs got hurt:)

I decided to blog about this to for a few reasons.  First, I have a family wedding on Saturday and want to forewarn my family of how lovely I look.  Second, and most important, I feel like my crash can remind everyone of the importance of a few things.

1. Obviously, wear a freaking helmet.  I don't care how "uncool" it is: if you are alive after an unpredicted bike accident, that's pretty cool, right?

2. Don't overdo things. I didn't have a scheduled ride on Tuesday, but wanted to ride with the team to "get the junk out of my legs" after my run workout.  I figured extra practice couldn't hurt.  If I wasn't such an overachiever, I wouldn't be nursing my face right now.

3. ALWAYS check EVERYTHING on your bike before riding it.  I'm not sure if my bike was damaged via traveling (most likely the case) or because of a manufacturer defect (also a try possibility). My dad looked at my bike the day after and tried spinning it and noticed right away that my right brake does not engage at all.  Had I done that before riding, this all would have been avoided.  Lesson learned.

4. Focus on the positive.  Yes, I look like a monster right now.  Yes, I chipped a tooth after my parents shelled out thousands of $$ for braces.  BUT my legs, which have given me incredible things this year, are completely scratch free.  I have a few scrapes that will heal.  I only had a concussion and NO brain damage.  Things could have been SO much worse.

5.  Use bad experiences as life lessons.  If this can teach my students that wearing a helmet isn't "lame" and can really prevent injury, I will be a happy girl.  If this can remind my fellow triathletes to always check their bikes before riding, I will be a happy girl.  

This was a horrible experience that I would never wish upon my worst enemy, but I have to stay positive.  As much as I want to cry, I need to be brave and focus on the positives.  I won't lie, I feel like I've wanted to cry a million times since this happened.  It's hard not to feel sorry for yourself when something bad happens to you.  But if you can focus on the GOOD things you have going on (and there is ALWAYS something good going on in your life--you're alive!!!!), the healing process will come along much faster and smoother.  I get my sutures out on Monday and am ready to make the most of my training as I truly believe in utilizing the talents God gave you to the best of your ability.

Thank you for all of the well wishes.  And don't worry... I'll be back soon:)

***Pictures to come are a little graphic.  I put them here at the end for those who dislike blood/pain.

 The aftermath.
 Check out that lovely chipped tooth.
 My incredible husband drove home from Indy to see me at the hospital and drove back less than 12 hours later.  Somehow he managed to write me the most incredible note ever and get me food I could eat (not pictured: ice cream in freezer) since my lips were poofy and jaw hard to move.
 Day 2. Slight improvement.
Fixed tooth!!!! Thanks to the best in the biz!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Eagleman Recap: on the road to Kona (sorry in advance, this is long)

It all started as a joke.  “Hey Ry, how cool is it that our 1 year wedding anniversary is the same day as Kona?  How fun would it be to celebrate our 1 year in Hawaii?”

The joke now sets us up for the biggest race of our lives: Eagleman 70.3.  There are only a few 70.3s that qualify athletes for the World Championship Ironman race (Kona), and Eagleman happens to be one of them.  It also happened to be the Sunday after I got out of school, whereas the other two (St. Croix and Hawaii) were during the school year, so it seemed almost too good to be true. 

After talking about how we would train and if this was truly something we wanted to do, Ryan and I shelled out a couple hundred and signed up for this crazy event. 

A half Ironman (70.3) is a 1.2mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run.  I have competed in two 70.3s in my life, so I wasn’t in for a total shock….but those were right after college when I first started dating Ryan and really wanted to impress him.  Long story short, I kept getting injured from collegiate running and once Ryan started coaching me (after I “retired” from the team) and incorporating swimming and biking, I stopped getting injured.  It seemed silly to just waste that training so when Ryan signed up for Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3, I figured I might as well do it, too. 

And by “do it, too” I apparently meant race hard and just miss qualifying for Kona by 9 seconds. 

Yep.  9 freaking seconds.  I know I’ve blogged about this before, so I won’t waste your time, but after that day I did decide I’d qualify for Kona at some point in my life….and most certainly not by completing a full Ironman.  Watching Ryan complete Ironman Wisconsin a few years ago was not a fun experience.  Granted, he did not train for it at all, but still seeing him struggle really made me upset and I decided an Ironman was just not in the cards for me. 

Flash forward a few years and here we are.  Attempting to qualify for not just any Ironman.  Kona.  The World Championships Ironman.

Are we crazy?  Maybe.  I like to think of us as ambitious and dedicated rather than crazy.  Now our coach, that’s another story.  While he himself is perfectly sane, his workouts can only be described as crazy.  BUT, they work(ed).

Ryan and I started training for Eagleman the second week of January.  This gave us 5 months of quality training before heading into the taper.  Those 5 weeks were truly the most brutal 5 weeks of my life.  I remember being at LifeTime one night to lead the Run Club and being asked if I was okay….that’s how “out of it” I looked after completing my hard swim workout at the end of week 3 of hard weeks.

Bill (coach) structures our training by weeks: Hard, Harder, Hardest, Recovery. I have never looked forward to a Recovery Week until I started working with Bill.  My U of I ½ marathon PR came at the tail end of a recovery week, so it goes to show that his training cycles really do work well.

Alright, getting into the actual race…

Ryan and I flew out Friday night and arrived in our Baltimore hotel around 1am on Saturday.  We met up with college friends/teammates Melissa and Arjun for a fun run around the Ravens and Orioles stadiums before heading for a fantastic brunch with them and their adorable 9-month-old daughter, Tarala.  It was so much fun catching up with them and I can’t help but think how lucky we are that our sport helps us connect with old friends so frequently.

We picked Ryan’s dad up and headed to Cambridge, MD, the site of the race.  We spent quite a bit of time getting our bikes ready before taking them out for a quick spin.  We racked our bikes (many longer races have you leave your bikes overnight, which is actually kind of nice as we didn’t have to deal with the hassle of our bikes this morning or last night) and headed out for dinner.

 Personalized bike slot!
 Darn right!
The important part of this picture: the beers were by Maui Brewing Company...get it, Kona, Maui??

Being huge seafood fanatics, we had to try Ocean Odyssey…okay, it might have helped that they had a large selection of Craft Beers and Bison Burgers (my pre-race ritual), but their seafood was pretty darn good, too.  And wouldn’t you know…right next door was a Dairy Queen.  We got some dipped cones before making the trek to our hotel. 

We arrived at our hotel in Salisbury, MD, just as the Hawks game got started.  Perfect.  Ryan’s dad actually made friends with all of the lacrosse players and their families who were here for a huge tournament (one of his new friends actually texted him to see how our races went, too!!).  When the Hawks gave up a goal with less than 10 seconds left in the game, Ryan and I decided we really needed to focus on our sleep.  It’s not like it was the 7th game and our race was kind of really important.

We woke up Sunday morning at 4:40am to GREAT news that the Hawks won.  If that isn’t a sign that today’s going to be a good day, I don’t know what is.  We grabbed some breakfast and headed to the race site. 

WOW was it muddy.  We were happy that it had rained 6inches on Saturday as that cooled the water enough to have the race be wetsuit legal, but it created QUITE the mess.

After pumping our tires and setting up our transition area, we headed back to our rental van to hang out as we had over 2 hours until we would actually start racing.  While hanging out in the van, ironically (now) Ryan and I began talking about how much we didn’t want to race and how we never get these kinds of nerves before running races.  We joked about this after the race as we clearly were confident in what we knew we needed to do in order to qualify…all we needed to do was execute the race exactly as planned.  No big deal, right?

The pro’s took off at 6:45am….and Ryan’s wave began at 8:30am, mine at 8:35am.  Dead freaking last.  At least it allowed me the opportunity to pass some people for once on the swim, which is always a successful day in my mind!

Right from the start, I was getting knocked around.  The one thing that I really have going for me in the swim is that I am really particular about swimming the shortest route.  I spot the buoy and make the most direct and shortest route to it.  Let’s be honest…who wants to ever swim/bike/run farther than they have to in a race situation?  Anyway, I started my swim on the inside (it was a water start) so got a little pushed around in the beginning before finding my groove and—in my mind—began flying.  Ryan had told me that there are sometimes jellyfish in the water, which I didn’t remember until probably ¾ of the way through when I hit something that freaked me out.  Neither one of us got stung, but I was a little scared after touching it!

I came out of the water with a girl named Jessica Crate (I met her after the race).  She was the only girl in my age group not wearing a wetsuit, so she stood out to me for that reason and because she was wearing a PowerBar Team Elite uniform….so I knew she was going to be good.  When I exited the water on her heels, I was pretty excited since I knew she had to be a pretty good triathlete (looking her up after the race, I saw that my prediction was correct). 

I quickly took off my suit, changed into my bike shoes and plowed through the muddy mess to hop on my bike for 56 miles of fun.

Swim time: 41:47….26th out of the water.

I started training with power this year, so knew the “number” I should be hitting….which would have been great had my Garmin bike watch actually worked.  14 minutes into the bike, it froze.  I tried turning it off and on and started to get worried until I remembered that I’m a math teacher….

I used my wrist Garmin as it split every 5 miles.  I knew to be in contention for the one coveted Kona slot, I had to bike around 22mph and run a 1:25ish 13.1miles at the end.  I started doing the math and realized I should be biking low-13’s for my 5mile split in order to average at least 22mph.

This was truly the only solution I could come up with and really was frustrating.  I do believe I’m capable of biking faster than what my split shows, but had no idea of how fast I was ever going since my Garmin decided to die.  While I felt like I was constantly pushing hard, I know there were a few times I wasn’t, specifically going into the wind and when changing out my waterbottles.  Long story short, I keep one bottle in between my aero bars and two behind my seat and struggled a bit rearranging them when I’d empty one.  I had one bottle of just Gatorade, one bottle of Gatorade plus three PowerGels and one bottle of Gatorade plus three PowerGels with caffeine.  I knew what to take and when to take it, but just struggled moving the bottles around and this truly could have cost me my slot to Kona.

I started the bike in 26th place and ended the bike in 6th place.  My split put me 4th in my age group, which is something I have to be proud of as it was always SUCH a weakness of mine before training with Bill (and doing workouts in our “dungeon” with Ryan).

Bike time: 2:35:08 (21.66mph average....21.88 for the first half, 21.44 second half)

My favorite part!  I started the run with a lady spotting me and telling me, “Slow down girl, you’re gonna burn yourself out!”  I just smiled and ran past as she helped fuel my already growing fire.  My run splits were ridiculous .  I seriously don’t know how I did it.
6:22, 6:14, 6:31, 6:37, 6:43, 6:45, 6:44, 6:51, 6:53, 7:00 (yeah, we’ll get to that), 6:56, 6:42, 6:28

Honestly, the first three miles really felt the easiest.  Part of that was probably because it was not too sunny at that point.  The run course was an out and back, which was so awesome for me as it gave me the chance to see my competition.

Ryan’s dad yelled to me that the girl he thought was in first, Jessica, was 1minute and 40seconds ahead of me.  So, I had 80some minutes to make up 100seconds.  Bring it on.

At about mile 4, I saw Ryan and Jen Harrison and was SO excited.  I also was able to see Jessica in her PowerBar uniform, so knew it was now doable.  Jessica is a phenomenal runner.  She’s run a 1:19 half and 17:xx 5ks, so clearly this was going to be a battle (though at the time of the race, I was able to identify her as a good runner based on her stride and form).

I’m used to being able to rely on my run to pass girls at the end as generally, when you’re a good swimmer and a good biker, running is your weaker of the three disciplines.  Not with Jessica.  I really was worried until I started creeping up around mile 5.5.  Just before the turnaround at 6.5miles, I flew by her and prayed she wouldn’t come with.

I saw her at the turnaround and she was starting to fade back a little, which made me confident but still scared.  I knew I’d have to stay sub-7, preferably sub-6:45, if I was going to win this thing. 

I also got really scared at mile 5.5 when I saw another female wearing a bib that clearly put her in my age group.  I thought, “there’s NO freaking way.”  Except that there was.  I looked up results and saw she swam TEN MINUTES FASTER than me.  And biked about the same.  Jeeeeez.  But, again going with the “good swimmers and bikers aren’t the best of runners” philosophy, I kept plowing on in hopes of catching her.

I passed a guy in Ryan’s age group and he decided to run just a few steps ahead of me (after repassing me) for the next three miles, which was great until we hit a 7:00 mile.  That is NOT happening if I want to go to Kona.

With one mile to go (sound familiar? As in my first ½ Ironman experience?!), I had her in striking distance and decided to go by her fast so that I wouldn’t get repassed again like I had a few years back, which ultimately cost me my Kona slot then.

After I passed her, I went back to my 6:45 pace only to find that she was just about to repass me!  She did, and I did the only thing I could think to do: pray.  I know it sounds super cheesy, but it truly is what I did.  And just like that, I was around her again, running for a Kona slot. 

I saw Ryan and his dad and they put even more fear in me.  This would be why I ended my half Ironman half marathon in a 6:28.  It was SUCH a sigh of relief to be done with the race.

I finished a mere 50 seconds ahead of Jessica, who then qualified for the World Championships 70.3 in Vegas, which is pretty darn cool as well.  I’m very thankful to have raced someone of her caliber today as she pushed me to my potential and we had a fun (despite being stressful!) battle.  I’m already looking forward to seeing her rock the 70.3 Champs.

Run time: 43:42/44:11 for 1:27:53 (6:42/mile), 1st in my age group.

Overall finish: 4:48:14.

We knew I’d have to be around 4:45 to win my age group and with the swim being long (over a quarter mile long!), I can’t complain with my time.

As soon as I found Ryan and his dad, I immediately asked if Ryan had won his age group.  He told me he did and I just jumped into his arms.  Having eyed down every single female on the run, I was 99% confident that I also had won.

On our walk back to the van to get our phones to look for my results, we happened to bump into ANDY POTTS.  You know, the guy who represented the US in the Olympics for triathlon.  No big deal.  HE was super excited for US for qualifying for Kona—how cool is that?  We told him we’d get another picture with him after we all dominated at KonaJ

When we got back to the van, my phone had exploded with texts and facebook messages from friends and family, reminding me just how blessed and lucky I really am.  All of these people were cheering for me, tracking me, following each discipline to see how I was doing because they knew how important this race was to me.

Awards took FOREVER to actually get going, but signing that check to solidify that we would be celebrating our one-year anniversary in Kona by recovering from the World Championship Ironman made everything worth it.

I have to really thank SO many people for support throughout this journey.  This goes without saying, but God really has big things in store for me and I am so lucky He chose this race to show me that.  Ryan, my biggest supporter and cheerleader throughout this process, I would not have even thought about ever trying to make it to Kona without you.  My parents, right behind Ryan in the support/cheerleader department, got me into running and being competitive at such a young age and I am so grateful to have grown up with a fun running background….thanks to Nic and Kristina for pushing me to my limits in everything any one of us does.  Coach Bill—without you, truly none of this would have been possible.  You completely killed us on each and every hard workout, but look where it got us.  I am so glad we trusted you, believed in you and found you (shout out to Lauren for Nic’s surprise party where we met Bill!).  I could go on forever, but without the aforementioned people I really would not be where I am today: recapping the most incredible race of my life.

Here’s to another crazy intense 4 months of training.  Happy following!

 Top 5 females 25-29
 Kona bound!
 AWESOME trophy!
Just hanging out with the overall pro winner, Andy Potts. No big deal.
 After awards, we drove 3 hours to Atlantic City to see the shore and have fun....
 ....this happened to be the only non-smoking room left, and our reservations were for non-smoking... I think we got a pretty good deal.
We came home (after a very delayed flight) to a decorated house! We are SO blessed!
 Happy 30th anniversary/thanks for your help with our to Kona on us! :)