I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t anxious about this race. I wanted to compete on this course once again, have tons of fun and also do awesome. Well at least that was the plan. I really felt that this crazy scenery suits me well and I had a great chance to really do well a second time around here. Last year I placed second and I was hungry once again for a challenge, I was looking forward riding next to an outrageous and fun crowd; it was supposed to be our another unforgettable trip…
Things were not written for me this way however this time around…
We woke up super early morning, at 3 am to be precise and started loading the car. This was a call we had to make knowing that it could be our only chance to pre-ride the course in the dry conditions. Now looking back and knowing what I know it seems like a pointless almost effort, but who can predict the future.
We made the best of what we got and started driving at 4:30 am after 3 hours of sleep. The tropical storm that was already hovering over Florida and dumping water in abnormal proportions just rudely followed us on our long 13 hour drive from Florida up to Richmond. We were somehow lucky to drop it in some part of South Carolina and had a little bit drier second portion of the drive. Most of the day however we were not even sure if the trails were going to be wet there already or if we will make it before it downpours over there also. The weather predictions were not positive and it showed 80% rain starting at 3PM. We estimated to get there at 4, maybe 5 PM. In reality we got to Richmond at 5:30 and besides grey skies it was not raining yet. Happily we unloaded the bikes and jumped onto the trail system. First thing that I noticed is that trails seemed to be more challenging from what I remembered from last year. I was not at ease at first but with time managed to get into the grove and start enjoying the ride on this technical course.
My husband and I cleared the full loop in no time and I remembered a lot of details on the track from last year. I had my favorite and those not so loved parts on this course. The moment we finished riding the wind picked up and it was starting to rain. Later on the rain was completely on and when it started coming down it didn’t stop, not for a day, not for a night; but it lasted for almost two days.
All this time we spent in the hotel room instead of biking, swimming, previewing the course and having fun out there…
The sun finally did come out, on Saturday after the race meeting… Race was going to be altered but we didn’t know exactly by how much… We knew we were going to race without a swim and in the wet conditions. After all it rained here for two days straight and the beautiful James River turned into raging, brown in color and angry rapids. Trails were saturated with water and it didn't dry out completely before the race start. Run part had been rerouted.
All I knew and felt was the hard blow to my head from the left side. Seems like all impact was focused on the head only… I never felt pain like this before. I had to tumble down the slippery rocks and hit more with a bare scull. It felt like my brain shifted to the right. It was an instant burn, pain, swelling and dizziness. I was pulled off the course by my husband who heard my scream from above and some other riders... I just remember looking back and seeing a bunch of racers trying to walk this section down and still falling and sliding with their bikes on the rocks. I saw one girl crash way above me; she fell to the right unlike me.
Few minutes later not sure how bad my state was I mounted my bike and kept on going. I was very out of it however and was biking slow. I crossed the bridge above and kind of didn’t care any longer that all the racers that I passed before now were going by me.
When I got to the steep ramp that was facing upwards I would not even consider riding it up at that point. There was a racer that was trying to walk it up and kept on sliding off because of lack of traction. The same was happening to me and thankfully he helped me pull my bike up when I was holding on the railing trying to make it up somehow. When I got to the top I slowly mounted my bike and was in front of aid station. I thought I would take some water and was still in my delusional not caring state, which never happened to me ever in any race before. I looked at the rescue people on the side and they just gave me the look and asked me if I was OK. I looked at them and told them that I didn’t thinks so and my race just like that was over. They looked me over, laid me down on the grass and called for ambulance. That was the end of my race. I had an overwhelming pain in my head and when I even imagined for a second having to do another lap of bike course and then still run for six miles I knew that it was not happening. At this point I didn’t know where my husband was, I was hoping he would be around there but apparently he biked other direction to the beginning of the second lap. He couldn’t have known that I stopped the race. Next time I was with him was in ER and this is not the best place to see your husband during your triathlon race.
At the end of the day I had four staples planted on my head and got a concussion. My rest of the body was covered with uncountable bruises and pains everywhere about which I was finding out more and more with passing time.
After the hospital visit and the staple treatment and pain medication I felt not too bad. My husband and I managed to hang with our Floridian friends at the award ceremony, chat with a legend Conrad Stoltz who could not race today due to his calf injury and his wife Liezel, get a word in with today’s winner Dan Hugo, which all of the above were a very pleasant and memorable experiences.
I didn’t feel totally as myself but I wasn’t in terrible pain. I was out of it in a way, with poor focus and feeling woozy and I remember I felt sensitive to light. But the reality didn’t start to kick in until few hours later when I was with my husband on our long way home.
With time I noticed all the scrapes on the left side of my body. I could not stand any more than moderate acoustics, my vision was slightly blurry. Reaching back to grab something from the back seat was a whole long and painful process with everything hurting more and more. On one of the stops I noticed that my whole hip got swollen and grew to the size of a monster pear with purple-green coloring. I was not even paying attention to it since all my focus was concentrated on the neck and head which I was trying to ice as much as I could. Neck started hurting even more and brain felt mushier with passing time.
Every little thing we do in our lives does matter however, it affects us and people around us directly and indirectly. It takes sometimes a lot of love and commitment to keep on going and to continue with our passions…