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.
|After riding with Jen and my Pax.|
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…
|Wall art in Richmond. Some kind of message?|
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.
|Almost at T1|
|This little hill hurts!|
|Finally on the bike|
I was so happy to get on the bike. When I biked up to the first trail system I found out very quickly that everything was very wet, muddy, rocks were slimy and slippery and tunnels were flooded. Racers were crashing left and right. No later than a mile or two into it I had three guys just laying down scattered all around the trail. I asked them if they were fine and they looked dirty and not really happy. I had a decent ride besides the conditions I must say and was making great progress even with a train of very slow riders I did encounter on those first miles. I managed to get by numerous racers one by one with no issues and was very satisfied with my ride. It was not easy however, trails were very slick and sketchy. At some point on the steep rocky descend full of small baby heads and slight left turn I did my first endo. My front wheel slid out on one of the rocks and sent me flying over. Thankfully there was a lot of earth, trees and space around to make my fall manageable and I was able to unclip and save it.
|Craig Evans going down|
Later on I biked down thankfully in one piece but quite unsure if it was a good idea to even ride this long narrow wet and rocky decent into the flooded tunnel to exit the Forest Hills trail where Craig Evans crashed. I climbed the granite wall full of crazy sport loving people, crossed the wet rock gardens of the course with the cheers of the fans…The sirens where on, the people where shouting, the bear cans were placed on both sides of the garden as a landing strip for approaching riders. When I crossed the rocks one by one, the crowd cheered with an applause, I yelled to them back happily, and I heard a voice of my husband also shouting from the street above to add to the moment. It was definitely a highlight moment, I can’t explain why but I love riding with a super fun and supporting crowd around, it is an unexplainable joy and energy that I wish everyone could experience at least once…
And I was almost done with the worst part until the last drop. It was a drop on the plain rocks with wall made of boulders to the left holding the bridge, this ride down under the bridge would spill me out of the trail to the bridge above to the other side... It was a decent of 20-25 feet of wet, uneven rocks with no place for error; rock wall to one side and nothing (drop off to the right) and more boulders to bike over at the bottom.
|I'm not smiling. It's my pain face...|
I was some 7 miles into the bike leg of the race at that point and I looked down having what felt like a 50/50 chance of making it. I passed a mass of riders already and at that point I didn't have anyone in front. I wish I knew how wet this stone descend was, unfortunately I didn't and not too long into it I crashed badly...
My tire slid on the wet rocks, besides me aiming dead straight to the bottom of this scary section. It happened so quickly, there was no time to react, also at this section there was nowhere to go, and it was simply the worst place to crash.
|Still on the bike|
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 of 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…
|My doctor Alexandra was super awesome however...|
|Staples in the head are just not cool at all!|
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...
|To cheer me up, little talk with today's winner Dan Hugo!|
You can't tell but the staples are already there!
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.
|Made it to the finish line from ER.|
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.
|Smurfs and Me|
When time for the weekend finally come, we spend a good amount of time getting out to the park and just walking and enjoying the scenery.
We spent a lot quality time for which we didn’t have much of the time recently. The friends and support was incredible and I just can’t thank enough for all the kind words and gestures from all the great people I know. I even had my great friend and next door neighbor bring me some neat polish (of course) salts for a rejuvenating and healing bath.
|Natie created cute card for me...|
Almost a full week went by this way and I went back to work. All I can say is that every day that passed there was a noticeable improvement with how I felt. And I’m happy to say that today I’m ready to have my shiny jewelry removed from my scalp, I’m very looking forward that.
It had been ten days now since my crash and this might be the first day when I’m starting to feel like myself again. I didn’t have a chance to exercise yet, I dedicated all this time and energy for healing purposes only. Very shortly hopefully I will be able to start building up slowly my fitness and getting back to my routines…
|Part two to it... :-)|
But for most I wanted to thank once again everyone that supported me through all those tough times. Of course as usual I have to thank my husband for being there for me no matter what. He is the one that appears there in places just in the moments that I need him the most and he stays for all the way until it is all over and long after that.
I also need to acknowledge all the support from my local Bike Shop and sponsors. If not for the gear I was using and wearing things could have been way worst. Also I never healed so fast before in my entire life which I am going to accredit to the Garden’s of Life amazing products that I have been using. All the bruising and scrapes were gone within days…
And yes, I cracked/chipped my specialized helmet and had numerous dents in it. Yes I did cut my head open but at least I am here like one of my friends reminded me to tell the story. She said “Beata you are still here, some people don’t get that lucky”. This definitely is giving me a different perspective on what we are really doing as racers, triathletes, mountain bikers or any athletes for that reason. In everything we do, and for every little split second decision we make, there is a consequence. What we get out of it and if this is going to stop us from doing what we are doing or it will just be a speed bump on the road and we will keep moving strong forward it all depends on each of us individually.
|Only in Richmond|
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…