Saturday's race is one I will never forget. I experienced so many emotions and challenges--and I feel I conquered them all.
We arrived super early as usual. I was so nervous. This was a big day for me. I was going to start in the Elite wave. I wasn't 100% convinced I belonged there although I had amazing friends giving me so much support and words of assurance. It was suddenly time to hop on a shuttle for Mackworth Island. The swim began on a island and we swam across Casco Bay to a beach in Portland Harbor. Very nice in theory. Very tricky in reality. I got in to warm up on the island and just did a few minutes of gentle swimming. I picked my head up to see if the pre-race meeting was underway yet and saw No One on the beach!? Woah. The current has pulled me way way down around the other side of the island. I fought to get to the shore and walked back! Crazy. I searched for Mark, Mary, Alina, Mike and any of my other friends to warn them. "The current is real! Take it seriously!"
It was time. We were to swim straight out and go through some buoys and then through the rest of the sets all the way to the beach. Ok, got it.
THE SWIM: I felt this surge of confidence come through my body as my wave walked over the timing chip mats. There were 13 of us. I was calm and ready to rock. I positioned myself next to a girl I know well and desperately want to beat and planned to draft from her. Off we go. We were in a pack. But I was right there. I felt awesome. No need to draft...I was side by side this girl and it felt good. Suddenly though, our group dispersed. There were a few arms near me but the whole group was spread out. Ok...I figured I knew who went ahead. Keep going Ange. Here's where it got interesting. I came upon the first buoy and fought like MAD to make the turn. The current was pulling me so hard. It was like swimming in an endless pool. Upstream in a river. I got so I was nearly around it and whoosh-I was under the frickin orange thing. I the current kept me there. The thing bobbed and flopped all around. I was totally trapped. I have been a swimmer since I was 8 yrs old and I have never feared for my life in the water like I did at that moment. I started to panic as I turned on my back and pushed the buoy off my face over and over again. I screamed for help from the kayaker but just then I got loose. Shit. I was so so scared and it took me a few minutes to mentally recover from that one. I finally got my head back in the game. I did worry about all the remaining swimmers however. I was really worried. I was sure someone else would have that happen. Little did I know....they were all on shore watching us struggle to make that turn and the race director changed the course. He said, "Well, this clearly isn't goign to work. Skip that section and head for the next set." Mark was livid I guess. He knew that meant our times were going to be slower and he was just watching out for me.
The girl I had planned to draft off was right there. I saw her the whole swim. Yeah! I was psyched. The rest of the swim was great. I did get a nasty cramp in my calf towards the end though. It locked up. I worried about that for the rest of the race. Time will tell.
I came otu of the water side by side my main competitor. First time I've Ever done that with her. I was so so excited. Good day so far. I heard my Mom and DAd, my kids, my dear friend Lexi and lots of other enthusiastic voices. I love racing. It's such a rush.
Mini Transition: Time to strip wetsuits, put goggles etc in a bag, don sneakers and run to the real transition spot. Yikes. That half mile was Looooong and Fast girl was looking Stroooooooong. Go me go!
Real Transition: All was good. I zipped along and headed off about 10 seconds behind.
Bike: Here's where things get fun. For the readers that is. Not so fun for this Mom turned triathlete. It was a city ride. I didn't know the course. But that's not unusual! I started off and right from the get go realized I was unsure about where to go. The roads weren't marked well in my opinion and there weren't enough volunteers. I can't coutn how many time I had to yell, "which way???" to cops directing traffic. Not good.
It was around mile 4 or 5 and I was in a neighborhood. Because of the frequent turns, I could not see fast girl. There as Nobody near me. Not a spectator, not a volunteer, not a poor soul watchign us whiz by out their window. I decided I should take a gel. I had it out in my hand when at the last minute I saw a small arrow pointing right.
I braked and at that moment I knew it was over. The bike stoppped hard and fast but I kept going. Straight over the bars. I screamed in fear.I could feel it all happening. I slammed down on the top of my head and rolled to the left. I have No idea how I came unclipped, no idea what happned to the bike. I was in the middle of the road stunned. I was so hurt. I was in such shock. I just sat there or was I laying? I'm not sure. I wimpered and cried for help. Nothing. No one was anywhere near me. I jusst looked at the blood on my body and figured, "it's over. All this excitement and this is how it's going to end? I hit my head! I might be dead! I definately can't ride. Wait...I can see ok. It hurts but I'm not dizzy. No one is going by me yet. Get up!!! Let's go and see what happens." I picked up my straw, my CO2 cartridge, my damn gel, and I don't know what else. I was so happy to see my bike was working and ready to rock again.
Off I went. I wanted some hugs though. I felt sorry for myself for a while and went pretty easy. My head was throbbing. I wanted to cry. I just sort of made pathetic "I hurt" noises. My friend Steve went by me and said, "Hey you ok?" I yelled, "I fell on my head!" Kind of funny now htat I think about it. Not the fall....the way I expected him to hear me and do anything.
So, on I biked. The course remained strange. Lots of potholes, construction, unmarked intersections with irritated policemen. Not good.
I also can't begin to tell you how disgusting my hands were. The bike was covered in HEED when I fell. I was so sticky. It's been a family joke since I was about 1 that I do NOT like sticky hands. My parents would have been proud. :-) Forget the whacked head! I was riding with sticky hands. Gotta find humor in these situations.
I figured I was out of the running. It was not my day. But I'd finish come hell or high water.
I got to the turn around and there she was. Fast girl. She was RIGHT THERE!! Alright, back in the game. What if I hand't fallen!! ugh. that annoyed me. I grabbed a water bottle from the volunteer and tried to wash up. I poured it over my hands and aero bars. Much better.
I had about 13 miles left. I decided to start working. I started seeing more of my competition closing the gap. A few more minutes on that road and I would really have been in trouble. I was happy to see some buddies go by...Mike, then Mary and I knew Mark would be right along. Should I tell him? I decided not to. I didn't want to make him worry. THere he was. I smiled and he screamed Good luck stuff and that was that. I later learned that he saw my blood. But, he also saw my smile so he was ok with that.
Towards the end of the bike I was passed by a woman Pro. She's from ME but has moved to CO to focus on Triathlons. She young and fast. That's ok. I held on. We conquered a big steep hill wihtout too much ado. Another friend was at the top of that and I saw him do an open mouth double take when he saw my road rashes.
Ok, bike is done. One more thing to conquer and then I can cry. I kind of wanted to cry.
I was so so careful coming into T2. I always slip getting off my bike. I didn't this time for once. Enough blood for one day. There was a lady there who had on a blue shirt (later learned she worked in the med tent) who asked me if I was ok. First one to ask. I thanked her and said yes.
No time to stop.
I felt great heading out of T2. There was music playing and tons of people around. I flew around the corner went for it. 5.7 miles. For the first time in a race this summer I felt good on the run. Perhaps my easy bike helped me! Remember that Ange. My stomach wasn't sick and I could breath pretty well!
I came upon my parents and kids. Before I even got there I could see worry in Mom's eyes and heard her say, "I know you're hurt Ange, you're ok, be tough, it's ok." Oh man, I almost cried. How did she know? Steve. My friend I saw on the bike right after my fall had told them. He had said, "Ange is hurt. She' s ok but she's banged up so just know that." Dad followed me up the hill and asked more questions. "You really ok? Shoulder? Head?" Yup-yup-smile-I'm great-can't let on now.
The run was solid. Mile 1 6:51. Ok, that's good. I saw the young Pro right there. Mile 2- 6:24. Cool. Was it a realy mile? Had no reason to doubt it so I chose to believe the clock. I missed the rest of the mile markers but I was gaining on the young Pro. I kept the same pace. I would pour it on later if I had to. I saw some other competitors coming at me. But, I was ahead. They are fast runners but not That much faster than me. I had 3+ miles to go. I could hold on. I continued to gain on the girl in front of me. I don't know where fast girl went. Somehow I missed her on the run. Oh well...next time. I was focusing on this new one. I had a plan. I would "hide" behind her until about .5 to go. She didn't know I was there. At that point, I would hear and see the crowd and I'd go for it. I knew I had her. And then, Ahhh She turned around!! Darn. She stepped up the pace. Some guy caught up to me and said, "You're going to get her right? You aren't running around here with all that blood for nothing are you? " I loved that.
You know, I dug deep. I did really work it but I just couldnt' get her. I was feeling the emotions of the day seep up. I hit the finish line with a smile...proud of my day. And then, I let it out. Two friends were at the end of that shoot and after saying, good job they saw the wounds. One of them grabbed me and I screamed in pain. Poor guy. He didn't know. He hurried me to the med tent where I spent a long time getting cleaned up and looked over. It all hurt so so bad. I was in big time pain. Just touchign my shoulder made me squirm in agony. My friend stayed with me and I was thankful for that.
While sitting there, I also felt so bad I wasn't at the line to cheer on my friends. But, I did see Mary finish strong. I saw Mike cruise in and I even saw Mark crank out a good race. People were watching for me and telling me when they were coming.
As the afternoon wore on, I felt sick and dizzy. I couldn't focus on a conversation. I went back to the tent where they had a big conversation with me about concussions. I had landed on my head after all. I had to lay there for a while. I didn't want Mom and Dad to know so they snuck out to get Mark. I wanted to hang out and have fun with all my friends but it was a bit tricky feeling that way. I just wanted to hide in a dark quiet corner.
I have seriously deep road rashes on my arm and shoulder. My legs is all scratched and I have bruise on my face that makes it hurt to eat. My shoulder is so swollen. I can move it more than before but not well adn it doesn't feel good. You see, 2 yrs ago I crashed and tore the rotator cuff on the other shoulder. Surgery followed and it was not good. I can't go through that again. I'm scared. I woke up Sunday feeling like I got run over by a truck. My entire upper body hurt so so bad. I just layed in bed and cried and cried and cried. I hadn't really let it out yet. I have worked so hard this summer, well, all year. The season is going well. My big race is in 18 days. Life is full of curve balls though. I will get through this. I am feeling damn lucky to be alive. Honestly, the feeling of smashing on my head was truly frightening. While sitting on that road, I just kept moving my head back and forth in disbelief. Waiting to see if I was still me. Am I thinking clearly? Is it all over from here. I almost quit the sport. My kid's lives flashed through my brain. It scared me. It scared me to the core. I will never forget that feeling.
In the end, it was a good race. Not sure how but I'll take it.
I placed 5th for women....3 of them ahead of me were pros I think. Fast girl was less than 2 minutes ahead of me. If only......
I will always remember this race. I proved to myself that I can race hard when put in a situation and I can hammer on when faced with challenges.
What a day.