a German on Team USA

There Is A First Time For Everything …

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There Is A First Time For Everything …

There is a first time for everything … A first time for wiping out  with my bike during a race … A first time for a race DNF (did not finish). Yep, the last two weekends have not been too kind to me. But first things first …

Brewhouse Triathlon, Duluth, MN, August 1, 2015 

I normally race the Olympic distance at Brewhouse, but this year with just one week to go to the National Triathlon Championships, I decided to do the sprint distance instead.  I started in the first wave and after a petty decent 0.5-mile swim, I exited the water as the second woman. I love swimming in Island Lake Reservoir; the water is so clear, and with the tannins coloring it orange, it has some kind of mysterious feel to it as you get into deeper waters, and you seem to look down into black nothingness. However, the water level was rather low, and I had been worried about the quite rocky beach we had to run over; but the organizers had placed a rug over the rocks at the exit and I hit the exit chute perfectly with the rug under my feet right away.

It-s a small worldT1 went quick and smooth – practice works! – and bike in hand off I went, passed the mount line, one foot on the clipped in shoe, swung my leg over, other foot on its clipped in shoe, and getting up to speed before slipping into the shoes. However, I never got to slipping into my shoes. I do not know what happened and how it happened, I just know that at one moment I was riding along just fine and in the next moment, my wheels seem to come out from underneath me. My wheels were going to the left and I was falling to the right. I rolled over my right shoulder, my helmet hit the pavement, and I heard the gasp of the volunteers standing close by controlling traffic. One came running “Are you OK? Are you OK?” “I’m fine!” I looked over my right hand side and shoulder, no bleeding, no road rashes, just a small scratch on my elbow, nothing hurts … OK, let’s adjust the helmet and keep going! I twiddled what seemed to be for ever on the adjustment roller of my helmet to get it to fit snug on my head again, and the leaned over to adjust my pedals, shoes still in them, to step on and move on. That’s when I realized that my chain had jumped off and was stuck between pedal and chain ring. After some fiddling with it, it finally was back on and I could get going. I stepped on my bike, got up to speed, slipped my feet into the shoes, but … Something was wrong, why could I not move faster than 17 to 18 mph? I should have easily been able to reach 22 mph on this stretch of the course. The breaks were rubbing! I could easily open the front break while riding, but it did not solve the problem. I could not reach the back break without stepping off the bike. So, stop, step off the bike, open the back break … I first wasted some time by trying to use the fine tune  screw to adjust the break instead of just opening the break and continue. What a waste of time!

Finally I was back on the bike and was going again! However, in the meantime three or four women of my wave had passed me. I pushed hard to catch up with them again. I got closer but I couldn’t re-pass any of them. Counting the women that came towards me before I reach the turn around of the out and back course, I determined that I was in fifth place within my wave.

At the entrance into T2 the backwheel of my bike bounced of a fold in the rug that was laid out to cover a rough patch and it almost bounced out of my hand, but in the last moment I could regain control and run on.

Out on the run, I heard Brian Bich yelling at me how much time the two runners ahead of me had on me. After a long time struggling with the run, it finally felt good again. I had coach’s instruction to push it on the run, and that I did. Pretty soon I ran up on and passed her. Fortunately for me, unfortunately for her, she could not keep up with me and fell back. After that I did not see another woman athlete ahead of me until shortly before the finish line, too late to still be able to catch up with her. Maybe if the course had been just a tad longer? She ended up crossing the finish line 10 seconds ahead of me in third place.

One of the cracks in my helmet.

One of the cracks in my helmet.

Overall, I was very pleased with my race, other than the wipe out on my bike. I ended up fourth overall, first Master, first in my age group, and I established a new age group record. I would like to think that without the wipe out, I would have been in contention for second place overall.

Post race inspection showed some scratches on my right elbow, on my spine where my suit’s zipper must have rubbed,and on top of my right foot, but no major road rashes.  My left Achilles’ tendon was getting slightly sore, but I expected some soreness after my wipe out. It seemed that my helmet had taken the worst of it, it was cracked from the impact with the road.

In hindsight I probably should have taken the sore Achilles’ tendon more seriously, but … well … hindsight is 20/20!

USA Triathlon National Championships, Milwaukee, WI, August 8, 2015 

The day after Brewhouse, I was slightly sore in my neck, my right hip, and around my left Achilles’ tendon. I must have fallen onto my right side, rolled over my back, knocked my helmet on the pavement, and hit my left ankle on something.

The bike portion of the scheduled time trial brick for Tuesday went quite well, but I did not complete the run portion because my Achilles still felt slightly bruised, and I did not want to risk it, after all, Nationals in Milwaukee, WI were coming up on Saturday.

My transition spot! (photo: Neil King)

My transition spot! (photo: Neil King)

On Wednesday morning, Neil King and I hit the road for Milwaukee. It was the third year in a row that Nationals were in Milwaukee, and by now Neil and I had developed a certain routine, which included a short easy run after arriving at our hotel, to stretch the legs after the long drive. It also gave me a chance to test my ankle. And to my relieve the Achilles’ tendon did not complain. I even included some accelerations to race pace and some 5-sec. sprints, and no problems. Transition practice on a parking lot near the race site on Thursday also went well, so did the race site test swim, and the pre-race primer run on Friday. I was looking forward to Saturday’s race. I felt good!

Checking out the competition with Cheryl Zitur. (photo: Craig Peterson)

Checking out the competition with Cheryl Zitur.             (photo: Craig Peterson)

As with most races, especially big ones, the next morning came way too early. Hearing Jerry MacNeil as one of the announcers this morning made me almost feel like home. Luckily I was in wave 8 (start time 8:28 a.m.) out of 17 (start time 10:12 a.m.), i.e., I only had to wait for one hour after transition closed. Luckily, my ‘sherpas’, Lisa and Craig Peterson, were by my side by then, because I had totally underestimated the time it would take to get to the bag drop and back to the start, I ended up just leaving my stuff with them.

OK, where is the turning buoy? (photo: Craig Peterson)

OK, where is the turning buoy? (photo: Craig Peterson)

The water temp on race morning was 66ºF (3º warmer than the day before during the test swim), a little bit colder than last year but still fine for a brisk wetsuit swim. However, I still felt that the swim was harder or longer than the previous year. It seemed that especially the first turn buoy just did not want to come closer, contrary, it seemed to move farther away. After 24:26 minutes I climbed out of the water in 17th spot. By that time I was surrounded by a pack of women from the wave ahead of me, and there was quite a traffic jam at the exit ramp.

Transition went quite smoothly, I had the third fastest T1 time in my age group and started the bike leg in 12th place.

Strong on the bike course. (photo: Craig Peterson)

Looking strong on the bike course. (photo: Craig Peterson)

Getting ready for the dismount. (photo: Craig Peterson)

Getting ready for the dismount. (photo: Craig Peterson)

The bike portions went really well, and I felt really good on the bike. It seemed that the bike work we did over the winter and in preparation for this race paid off. Mentally it also helped having raced on this course the previous two years, it felt familiar. Pushing on the down hills, I reached speeds of up to 40 mph, what fun! I ended up with the 14th fastest bike time in my age group (1:08:26) and entered T2 in 9th place. I heard Lisa yell at me that I was in the top 10, but did not know at what place exactly. I was one of the first on my rack section to transition to the run.

Almost ready to run. (photo: Craig Peterson)

Almost ready to run. (photo: Craig Peterson)

Once again I had the third fastest transition time on my age group. I guess I cannot complain about my transitions. Practice definitely pays off. For T1, I was within 8 sec of the leader, for T2, I missed the leader by only 2 seconds.

Starting the run strong. (photo: Craig Peterson)

Starting the run strong. (photo: Craig Peterson)

The run started out really well, I felt really good. Within the first half mile of the run I had passed two women of my age group, meaning, I was at least in 7th place at this point. Around mile 1 a woman next to me suddenly said: “Thank you!”
“For what?”
“For pacing me. Don’t worry, I’m not in your age group, I’m younger.”
Shortly after that we passed a woman who was in the yoga child’s pose on the lawn at the side of the route. In passing I asked, “Are you OK?”
“Yes, I’m just stretching my back.”
I thought, “I just wish I could stretch my Achilles’ tendon like this.” It already started tightening up on me. About half a mile later it was so tight that I pulled over to try to stretch it out, but to no avail. With ever step it felt like the tendon will pop at any moment. I tried to walk for a while, but every time I started running again, the same thing. I finally decided to DNF, I did not want to risk more serious injury. It was a really hard decision, especially since I was racing so well, and I was on my way to my best ever finish at Nationals. But, I knew it was the right thing to do, after all ITU Worlds in Chicago was coming up in six weeks, and I did not want to risk a DNS (did not start) for that race.

I hobbled the half mile back to the finish area, went to the medical tent, got some ice, and consulted with the MD at the tent. He checked the tendon and determined that it was intact, and I had prevented further damage by quitting in time. I was amazingly calm, considering that I just DNF’d a competition for the first time in my life, that I just had to give up on possibly the best ever finish at Nationals so far, and that I had developed acute Achilles tendinitis in my left Achilles’ tendon, a tendon that is notorious for a long healing time. There was nothing else I could do, but to get the swelling down, give the tendon some rest, and then start to rehab it, hoping that I would be ready to race again for Worlds in September.

Mark Allen congratulating Neil King to his second place finish. (photo: Neil King)

Mark Allen congratulating Neil King to his second place finish. (photo: Neil King)

Neil king had better luck than I, he raced to second place in his age group! Congratulations! It did not hit me until later this evening, when I went to the awards ceremony with Neil, that I had been on my way to a top ten finish in my age group. I could have been one of the women of my age group standing on the stage …

My "participation medal".

My “participation medal”.

The next morning I was limping around the race site to cheer on Craig Peterson during his sprint race. I was chatting with him along the finishing chute after he had just finished the race,when a volunteer came up to me handing me a finisher medal to put around his neck, neither of us knowing that he already had a medal in his hand. After refusing the medal the previous day because I had not finished the race, I now still ended up with a medal. Since it does not say ‘finisher’ on the medal, I just call it my ‘participation medal’. 🙂 But maybe I should hold it like James Harrison who supposedly did not let his son keep a participation trophy, because trophies should be earned and not just been given for showing up. But that is a whole different discussion by itself …

Finally, I cannot forget to mention that the weekend ended in St. Paul with yummy wood fired pizza at Punch Pizza and great ice cream from Izzy’s!



Author: seecktri

an Exercise Science professor at Bemidji State University who spends most of her time working, swimming, cycling, and running; a German on Team USA Triathlon who nevertheless cheers for Team Germany for anything sport

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