Wow. Where to start… This race report is going to be long. And tough. Kinda like the day. There was the good, the bad, and the ugly. Guess I’ll just keep it how the day played out, but we’ll start a bit before Sunday.
Since this was a ‘B’ race (secondary focus for the year) Mike and I basically trained through it. The week before was a bit easy training-wise just since there was so much to get done. But it was done (way too late on Friday) and Mike got off to work Friday while I worked a bit from home and got the car packed. At 1 I picked him up at work and we were on our way. I must say I was excited: I have only done one half, and it was very early in my tri career, and I had hopes for a PR. Mike was thinking there was a chance he could get a Kona spot, but wasn’t sure how likely it was. We were both excited to do a big race together. Yeah, I can even be a sappy girl about that. I was giggly and chatty on the ride, and he laughed at me. But it was an easy, uneventful drive up. We made it to my mom’s house in time for dinner and seeing a bunch of little-Kylie pics she had found while cleaning out the garage. An early night, and a relaxing morning got us on our way relaxed and ready to go.
After missing a lunch with my sis (stupid traffic on her way there and her work schedule) we made it to the expo, got registered, and got out T2 stuff dropped off. It was fun to get it all ready with him, and to play with yankz (faster shoelaces) in the parking lot. Then it was off to Guerneville where we met up with my step-grandparents, Dad, and bonus-mom Wendy. Since they live right on the river, we had another great place to stay with a swim in the river, a yummy dinner, and great company to get the bikes all set up. Then off to bed!
Up early, ate, and got to the race. Having 2 transition areas made it a bit interesting, but luckily we had figured out a plan for getting my car to the start — Wendy and my dad could each take a car, and in case they left early I had a spare key in my bike bag and they could just lock the keys in. That stress solved, I was able to really focus on the race instead of at all dealing with wondering how the day would play out.
It was my first time at a big race and in a bigger age group, so it was a bit intimidating. I did get to meet Beverly , which was great as I felt I already kinda know her. Then into the LOOOONG porta potty lines. But I made it through, and into the water on time. Gave the “I love you” sign to Mike, Wendy, and my dad, and my day started! Definitely in a washing machine — a few bumps and such, but I just remembered it’s just hard to see, and ignored it all and kept going. Only kicked a bit extra when hands stayed on my feet, instead of just bumping them. The swim started going up river, and I could feel a bit of the current. I just kept focusing on pulling, siting, and swimming steady. Got to the turn around (at last!) and had the “tailwind” of current helping me. The cruise back was much more pleasant. Oh, and I saw Mike’s wave passing under one of the bridges as I did, and thought good thoughts for his race. Got to the end of the swim, let some water into my wetsuit, and ready for a speedy transition.
Wetsuit off, bike shoes on, helmet on (after fixing it… the back had come a bit unattached), sunglasses on, stuff my wetsuit, helmet and goggles into a bag, grabbed the bike, and ran out to keep moving.
When I got on the bike, within a few miles I could tell it was going to be a good day. As I thought to myself at one point, I felt “smooth as buttah!” The first steep climb just helped me up, and the risers just weren’t as draining as I thought they could be. At 30 minutes my Garmin beeped at me and I took a swig of the super-concentrated carbo-pro mix. It went down pretty easy, and I just kept movin’. To my surprise, I was already at about 9 miles! WTF??? Um, that’s 18mph… I was hoping to be over 17! “Guess I’ll take it, I feel good.” And I just kept going. About mile 23 I heard “There’s mine!” in my favorite voice. I grinned, and saw Mike FLY past me (later learned it was at about 26 mph to my 19ish). As he screamed by, he called “Mine’s SPEEDY!…. AND I’M WINNING!!!” and at the end of that I could hear definite little boy excitement in his voice. “I KNOW! I’ve been looking for your age!” (we had our ages on our calves, so I could see when people in his wave, 32 minutes after mine, passed me.
I just kept it up. Drinking on the 30 minute beeps, pushing it so that I felt it might be just barely harder than I really should. Mike said to go there, and he thought I’d be able to pull off a good run still. So I trusted, and felt a bit of pain, but had fun and felt, well, smooth as buttah 😉 Up the biggest hill, with a “woohoo! YES!” at the top. I was ready for the cruise to T2. I ate a gel, felt great, and made the last few turns.
Think of the last thing you want to see in a race. I used to think the worst thing I personally could experience in a race is crashing or failing myself. But I was wrong. I come around a turn, and I see an ambulance. A firetruck. Police cars. AN AIRLIFT AMBULENCE. “Oh crap… that is horrible. I hope the racers are all ok. Is this going to be one of those things you read about on the forums and such, the story of a crash about 2 miles from the end of the bike loop?” I keep moving, knowing the best thing I can do is just get by and stay out of the way since the vehicles were on the far side of the road. I glance as I pass, and I see it is a racer in the telltale spandex. But wait. That spandex has orange sides on the shorts, LIKE MINE. That jersey is an orange tank, LIKE MINE. HOLY SHIT THAT HAIR IS LIKE MIKE’S HELMET HAIR. OMG. I think I screamed. I slammed on the brakes (forgetting they were new and strong ones and locked a wheel). Somehow remembered to look over my shoulder and see the path was clear before turning back, pedaling harder than I think I had during the race so far. Skidded to a stop in front of 3 paramedics walking away, calling “Is that Mike Donia????”
“Yeah… are you the girlfriend? He’s ok.” The airbulance people were calm, and let me know that he was ok. That he was going in the ambulance, and not in the helicopter. That he was scrapped up and bruised, but ok. Again, ok. And that I should keep going, and that he had asked for my dad. I said I could find my dad faster, and they said good, and I took off again. I just went. Didn’t think, but there were definitely tears sliding out under the sunglasses. I still can’t get the image out of my face of him on the stretcher as I passed, just laying there. How his jersey was folded, the arm over his eyes as he faced the other way. I think keeping going and not going to him was one of the hardest things I’ve done. But I knew it is what he would have wanted. He was in good hands, he knew who to ask for. I could make sure my dad got to him, and that was about it. So I pedaled. A race official came up next to me, asked if it was me. Said he was ok, maybe a broken collar bone. Some road rash. And that I should keep going, he wanted me to, and that they’d make sure he knew I’d go to him if he wanted.
I saw my mom point at me as I got to the school, and could tell she didn’t know it was me. I figured it was because they were still waiting for Mike. I was right, and later found out she was using me as the example of what he’d look like. “Hi Mom…” In the narrow bike path, I just went to the transition, grabbed my shoes, and was back on the course so that I could talk to them without being in the way. As I jogged, I saw my Dad. “Dad… Mike crashed. He’s being taken to a hospital. Will you go with him?” I have no idea what he answered, but it was something of concern. “Please just go with him!” and he said he would. I told my mom and Wendy as I passed them, and told them to talk to Dad.
And I ran. A few panic attacks. But I kept moving. Up hills, down hills, around people. Up the biggest hill, I tell a girl why I’m stressed, seeing my boyfriend ready for an ambulance ride, and where. And she asks “the one hit by a car?” UM WHAT?? She felt horrible, as I struggled to breathe and sty stay with my mantra: just keep moving. I was only getting closer to being back to him, and he’d be proud I finished. I vaguely knew I was close to breaking the time he told me I could beat, that I wasn’t sure I believed. Saw faces I knew, hear cheers. It just didn’t feel real. Just didn’t really care. People in my age group passed me, and I passed them. I just wanted to be done. I wasn’t there mentally. I now know that focus can be broken, what it feels like to be running a race that you are no longer mentally in. I just kept moving. I knew that they’d know more once I was back, and that by just moving I’d be back the fastest. I remember it being hot. I remember taking a pic with an I love you sign because all I could think of was that Mike wasn’t running with me, and that I wouldn’t see him at some point on the out and back. But I kept going, and I got it done. And then I finished. I sprinted the end, I knew I’d get info and be done and it couldn’t hurt that much because it would be over, and I wouldn’t even think of it.
And I was done, and somehow got sponges on my head and shoulders and water in my hand and my mom there, telling me where Mike was, and that he was in xray. Mom and I kept busy waiting for more info, checking at medical. Finding Mike’s bike at info. Yes, getting my results so I could tell Mike when I saw him that I did it. The medical tent was great (actually the same guy who helped me at full Vineman last year), and another guy who called my mom with each update he got. My dad let us know that Mike was out of xray, and someone told me he had no broken bones. I got cleaned up a bit, and by the time the car was repacked with all the bikes and gear Mike was being discharged and my mom could lead me to where Dad and Wendy had him, getting fed. We made it, and I got the hug I’d needed for over 13 miles. To see with my own eyes that he is ok.
We said goodbyes to my family, and started the long drive home. Mike wrapped in gauze and bruised and sore, but in good spirits and knowing he’d be more sore in the morning. He talked with me all the way home, and promised that he’ll never let me pass him like that again. And that he’d never do it again. And that he is proud of me.
Of course we weren’t done for the day. Leaving the restaurant my check engine light comes on, and the car decides if we are in slow traffic it will stall. After it did so the third time right by my mom’s, we stop. Of course pulling off the highway to make the turn to where Mom’s car boyfriend was so he could see what was going on, the light went off and everything felt normal again. So he checked it, gave the car a clean bill of health, and we were back on our way home.
On that long drive I got to hear Mike’s story, the parts that were missing in my mind. Yes, it was a car. He was biking along, still right in the thick of things for his age group (just behind the 2 leading bikers who had passed him, but who he thought he’d be able to outrun. He made the same left where I saw him, and was moving along the straight away. A car was in the lane next to the bike lane, over to the left, having also just gone through that controlled (by the race and police) intersection. There was a bit of a gap between Mike and the next bike, and the car puts on its right blinker as if it is going to turn into the condos he was passing. It moves into the bike lane, so he moves left to go by as he was moving about 26mph and faster than the car. All of a sudden, the car pulled back left to make a uturn, and Mike thought “You’ve got to be kidding” as he had no time to do anything but fly over the car, getting thrown to the other lane of traffic, and skid to a stop. As he lay in the road, he could hear the driver getting yelled at by all the spectators, and an MD (who was racing) stopped and helped him until the rest of the help arrived. Oh, and the bike is done, as is his aero helmet, and the zipp disc and 808. But the driver should be covering that expensive part of his mistake. Looking at the bike it seems ok, but on closer inspection you can see flakes of carbon that you can lift on the top tube, and a hole through the disc. And we looked at results later, and the guy with him on the bike won the age group — and yes, Mike and I think he could have gone faster on the run. Guess we’ll still have to look to Kona at IM KY.
Tonight he is sitting next to me. Road rashed, bruised, and sore. But he is here with me, and ok other than that. And he loves me, and is proud of me.
Oh, and I did great — I PR’ed by about 1 hr 24 minutes. Granted, my last half IM was early in my tri-life, but I’ll take it:
swim: 39:30ish (mixed with T1 in official results)
Previous PR was in 2004 at Caliman: swim 42:50, T1 8:48, bike 3:56:17, T2 6:52, run 2:26:28, for a total 7:18:40. My open half marathon PR had been 2:01:33 from a week after the Caliman half IM. So yeah, I’m pleased with how I did. Choosing to listen and keep racing was hard. Very hard. I’ve never had 13 miles be so long, or unimportant in the moment. And now… I have a boy to comfort and hug.