I remember Crowie stating something like “you learn something about yourself after every race” shortly after he won this years ironman race for the second year in a row. It is the unknown and sometimes unexpected that I learn the most from. The night before this years Xterra World Championship race the Xterra staff announced that last years first place overall winner, Ruben Ruzafa had crashed on the practice course earlier that day. He has suffered something like 40 stitches and was out of commission for this years race.
Racing has risks. Off-Road racing may increase those risks a bit more. That is what I love about it. I have never felt more prepared for a race as I did for this race . . . I have never not raced for so long to just focus on training for a single race or felt like I had got my taper and race nutrition more dialed. As much as I could visualize a perfect race the risk of the unexpected is always present.
Race day rolled around and I felt really relaxed. I was in good spirits. I felt good and ready to race! I cut out drinking coffee (or taking any caffeine) for a little over a week and I have been sleeping so good the last few nights and naps. The clear warm water put me at easy and I had a really good swim. I started off of the back and moved up throughout both laps of the swim. I could pick and choose who I wanted to draft and move up to a new group without having to go anaerobic.
The master swimming is working. I felt like I was just easing into the day with the last few yards of the swim. As we exited the water I ran out right next to Damian Gonzolas and Adam Wirth. I knew who these guys were and I was pretty stoked to exit the water next to them knowing that my RPE for the swim was lower that it had been at any race all year.
I had my shoes already on my bike popped it off the rack and grabbed my helmet and glasses as I ran up the hill out of transition. For this race I added two new things to my T1 exit. I usually do not wear gloves but I put some over my grips and I also strapped my GPS across my spare tube. It was clockwork. I used the road on the way out to to the trails to get my gloves and GPS on and settle in for the climb ahead. It felt like my entire race was playing out exactly as I had gone over in my mind again and again.
The persistent pace that I was pushing during the swim became my steady effort I was putting into the bike. I felt like I really had nailed my taper and was feeling like I had stored energy just waiting to let it play out. I was riding with Fred Smith up the first few climbs and we were passing people but I felt like I was just easing into the ride. I didnt know the course but I did know that the biggest climb “neds peak” was at about mile 14 of the bike leg and I was going to be ready for it.
As we came to the fist few rollers I dropped down one fire road section and the unexpected did happen. We had started a decent down a double track lava rock filled road and there was only one competitor about half way down the hill on the right hand side of the double track. I came riding down on the left side going significantly faster than him. I tried to do the right thing and yell “on your left”. At this point he was about 100 yards ahead of me. As I said on your left he jumped the double track into the left side. . . It was happening in slow motion and has been playing in my head all day. I couldnt just hit the brakes because we were floating on rock on top of rock and before I knew it my front tire was already a few feet from his rear tire. I remember screaming three times…”on your left, on your LEFT, ON YOUR LEFT!!”. The more I screamed the more this guy looked over his right shoulder and turned left pushing me right over the edge. bad.
I broke my helmet in two places and my body danced across the lava rocks but my left hip took the blunt of the impact. I really cant remember the last time I crashed this hard on the bike if ever this hard. Interestingly enough, I got to check out my GPS watch download and I was moving at 25.4 mph at the time I came to a complete stop. I was in shock and throwing up. I couldnt feel my left leg at all I guess just in total shock. The guy who pushed me off ran over to the side and started saying something to me and that is when I realized he was speaking Portuguese or something. Maybe left means right? I started throwing up and then he was gone.
I didn’t really know what do for a while to be honest. I thought I broke my hip and I was just jacked. At first I could not move. My GPS shows me wandering around for about 20min before I tried to ride down the hill thinking there was an aid station at the bottom. I dont know why I thought that there was one? wishful thinking! A few people called ahead for help and before I knew it there was a quad rolling up to try and take me away. By this time I was limping around and using my bike as a crutch. By this time the reality of the situation and the race came back into my mind. I want to finish. I just want to finish I told them. I did not care how long it took. I wanted to see the rest of the course, run on the black stand beach, through the spooky forest and into the finishing shoot with the flags from all the countries lining the finish. I just wanted to finish.
I tried to walk using my bike before a truck picked me up and took me into the medical tent. I went through a range of emotions and I understand it could have been much worse. Nothing broken except my dreams and pride. Ha! Seriously, my left side is tore up from the lava rocks and my hip looks like I am hiding a grape fruit under the skin but no broken bones. I am so lucky I had a helmet on and a concussion and a stiff neck is better than any of them being broken. I am bummed and embarrassed as I have never had more people asking me about a race before and really didnt know how bad I wanted to race until it was taken away. I thought about what this must have been like for Ruben. He is much better, got hurt much worse and has many more people watching him. I am sure his desire to finish what he started was burning pretty hard.
I did get to see Monique cross the finish line. That was awesome. I didnt have Worlds on my radar at the beginning of the year and it was not even in Monique solar system. To watch her knock out Vision Quest a half ironman and finish at Worlds was the unexpected I like to see.
She as always makes me realize how lucky I am. Stoked. Sorry for the bummer post. . . I guess we cant ride up Haleakala or do to many exploring missions outside but this is not a bad place to get some rest and try to recover. Thanks for all of the txt messages and good wishes friends. I am pretty lucky to have such good friends too and hope to get out and play with you all again soon!