There’s a joke in the cycling community — there are two types of cyclists in the world, those who have crashed and those who are going to crash. Yesterday at Challenge Atlantic City, I fell into the former category. The race week started off really well. We had a big group of athletes racing, a gorgeous house on the beach and the weather kept getting cooler and less humid each day making for ideal racing conditions. Plus, I was incredibly excited to race a Challenge Family event. I think its really important to have diversity in the market and I want to see Challenge be successful in the United States — competition is always a good thing. Plus I would be wearing bib number 179 in honor of Jon Blais.
Race morning was mild with low humidity. We headed out to the Bader Filed transition area and swim start at about 4:30 a.m. When we got to transition an announcement was made that the water temperature was 80 degrees so it would be a “wetsuit optional” swim. The adjacent inter coastal water way is shallow and tidal and the tides themselves can cause large temperature shifts. While the water was in the low seventies just the day before, the tides on race day drove the temperature up to 80 degrees on race morning. I actually like non-wetsuit swims and despite my complete lack of swim training over the past three months due to shoulder problems, I was excited for the swim. Once in the water I noticed a very swift current. The first 1000 yards of the swim was incredibly fast but once you reach the turn around buoy you had about 2000 yards into a fast moving current. This part of the swim was proper hard. It was like swimming in an endless pool. While the current made the swim feel super long, I was excited that my shoulder wasn’t giving me problems — no pain whatsoever (perhaps it was the miracle of swimming in super salty water). Once out of the swim, I sped through T1 and was off on the bike.
As I started pedaling I notice two things. First, I had legs. I mean I really had legs, they felt good, they were turning over well and all the sluggishness and heaviness of the past week was gone. Second my Garmin 500 was not working. At 22 mph it was showing a heart rate of 58 bpm with 72 watts. Yeah, that was not right. I tried to ignore the strange numbers and settle into the bike. Unfortunately that didn’t last. At about mile 4 of the bike I hit some very deep rumble strips and was thrown head first over the guard rail and down an embankment on the Atlantic City Expressway (let’s note this was all user error, I wasn’t paying attention to the pavement when I should have been — it happens to all of us, sometimes the consequences are worse than others). My beautiful Argon E-118 stayed on the pavement while I vaulted down the hill (Shaun still hasn’t let me look at the bike but tells me there’s some serious damage to the fork). Going over the guardrail my right knee struck it very had resulting in a deep four inch gash on my lower quad just above the knee. I then flipped over head first and landed on my right shoulder, hip and back. Once I landed I made the mistake of looking at my knee — first thought can I still ride? — and was shocked. Not a good sight. Almost immediately I heard people screaming to call 911 and another athlete hopped over the guardrail to sit with me. Athlete number 301, Monika Hill, stayed with me and comforted me until emergency response arrived. I was in pain and in shock and was terrified and I don’t know what I would have done without her. I cannot thank her enough, she is exactly what makes the triathlon community so fantastic. Once the EMTs and the New Jersey State troopers arrived they covered up my leg (at this point I couldn’t see the gash itself, just the blood everywhere), a very cute state trooper called Shaun for me, who was working in transition, and they worked out how to get me out off of the hill and into the ambulance. One of the EMTs just wanted to fireman carry me and I was not a fan of that. Finally they decided to roll me onto a soft stretch and carry me up the hill. I was doing pretty well up to that point but once I was in the ambulance, the adrenaline started to wear off and the pain got pretty bad. I spent the ambulance ride shaking and trying not to cry.
At the hospital they started an IV for fluids and morphine. Shaun arrived soon after and the look on his face when he saw me made me so very sad. I knew he could see how bad my knee and leg were and he looked absolutely devastated. He wanted to take a before picture of the leg, but I wouldn’t let him. Both the doctor and the nurse who attended to me were awesome. They numbed me up, cleaned out the gash and then worked some stitching magic to close up what had been a very deep and very jagged cut. The doctor used mattress stitches to close it up, which were kind of cool to watch. In addition because the cut was so deep, the doctor could see that I had missed slicing the tendons in my knee — it was even better than a MRI. While the knee was swollen and there was some damage to the quads and the quad tendon, nothing was torn or cut. Once I was stitched up, they wanted me to get hip, knee and ankle X-rays (in addition to the knee fun I have a nasty ankle sprain and a lovely hip bruise) but I couldn’t go for X-rays until I took a pregnancy test. So, for the first time in my life, I used a bed pan. I think that if I wasn’t in so much pain it would have been a traumatic experience, but in light of everything that had happened, it didn’t seem like a big deal. The X-rays came back negative and after about 5 hours in the hospital, I was finally discharged. At that point I was most proud that I had convinced the hospital to let me keep my Coeur Sports kit on rather than cutting it off.
Once released from the hospital, Shaun brought me back to our beach house, helped me clean up and pack and waited for my parents. While Shaun’s Subaru WRX is a lovely rally car, it does not make for a good transport vehicle for someone who can’t bend her leg. My parents have a SUV so they drove down, picked me up and brought me home to Connecticut last night. After a painful and fitful night of sleep, I’m left to contemplate what’s next. While my shoulder felt great swimming, I know there are still underlying issues. On top of that I know have knee issues and a sprained ankle. I’m going in to see the orthopedic doctor tomorrow. Hopefully my recent arthrogram will shed some light on the shoulder and let me know what’s possible for the remainder of this year. I really want to be able to race in Florida in November just to prove to myself what I can do on a day when I have really good legs.