Fear and Self Loathing in Hayesville, NC

Beast of the East Race Report – May 2010
Since my bike accident last week at St. Anthony’s I was very worried about my ability to swim and bike at the Beast of the East Half Ironman. My left elbow was very bruised and at WNS I felt like there was a barbell tied around my bicep. I was able to swim around 600 m that night but 1.2 miles was going to be a big chore. I was also concerned about my bike leg since Thur night brick was a bit painful, not to mention I was feeling very nervous on the bike. My left arm still felt very weak so I bought an elbow and wrist brace and hoped for the best.
We spent Saturday night at a friend’s house on Lake Hartwell thinking it would at least be closer to Hiawasee than Atlanta. Little did we know that the route would consist of dark, foggy and winding roads. John was driving super fast to get there in time so my nervousness was ratcheted up a few notches while I was picturing us crashing on the way to the race. Finally, we made it there, picked up our numbers and setup at the Get Fit transition rack with Chris Green, Mike Delang, Peggy Dwyer and Lindsey Doyle. I put on my wetsuit and my first concern was that it was rubbing on my shoulder abrasion when I rotated my arms. I hoped the water would act as a lubricant and the cold water would numb the pain. Into the water we went and hey this was going pretty well. I swam great for the first half, really felt like I was working well and efficiently even though the pack was pulling a way from me. No pain in my shoulder and I was still feeling good. I reached the turn around at the pumping station at 24 min and thought I was going to have a decent enough swim. Well, then the wind turned and started whipping up the lake. Also, the rescue boats started circling and creating more waves. It was harder to swim well and stay on track but the finish was getting closer. I popped out of the water around 49 to 50 minutes with only a few people left in the water.
I got into transition and Lindsey was still there and Peggy was right behind me. I had to put a new bandage on my shoulder, put on a wrist guard and elbow brace – not normal T1 stuff – then headed to the bathroom and then onto the bike course.
The beginning of the bike had 5 speed bumps (ahh!!) but thankfully they were small not like the speed “humps” at St. Anthony’s. I turned the first corner and got slammed by the wind. At this point, I was seriously considering bailing. I was feeling really nervous about the bike. The anticipation of the “beast” and the wind did not help my nerves. I then almost missed a turn when I was following they guy ahead of me. At this point, Peggy caught up to me and told me to just try a little bit longer and see how thing went. I soldiered on and soon lost sight of Peggy. I just couldn’t calm my nerves. Every piece of loose gravel and every gust of wind were just waiting to send me to the pavement. I found myself braking on hills I would never have braked on in the past. I suppose I have some sort of “post traumatic bike crash affliction” but I was still pedaling albeit very slowly. I knew the “beast” was supposed to be around mile 10-12 so when I found myself going up a small incline at mile 10.3 I figured OK, here it comes. Well, the incline ended and leveled off and I looked at the mountain off to the horizon and figured it was up ahead. I then went up another hill that made me pedal hard but still wasn’t horrible and shortly I came to the top and was greeted at a water stop. They said congratulations on conquering the beast. “That was the beast???” OK! It was nothing compared to a lap of Highland Pkwy or the Six Flags route hills. I was beginning to feel a little better but I was still skittish. The downhills had lots of crazy S turns littered with gravel that just freaked me out so I continued braking. The crazy wind made me scared to get aero so I was putting a lot of pressure on my wrist and it was beginning to throb. I dropped my chain at one point, not sure how. Just down shifting and off it popped. Got chased by a small dog, laughed as I passed “Peckerwood Lane” (seriously?!) and got asked to say hello to a small girl in a truck going by me. Best of all I was told I was looking really good on my bike. My response was “You have to look good if you are going to be this slow”. At mile 28 I started to really be in pain and debated about stopping. I knew I could finish the bike and get myself through the run (Sweetwater 50K taught me that) but thought about how much more pain my arm would be in and if it was worth possibly making things worse. I decided to stop around mile 32.
At the next intersection, one volunteer grabbed my bike and another drove me back to the start. Both of which were older men who flirted with me big time. One of them was the guy who told me how good I looked earlier in the race.
Flirting aside, I was pretty upset since I have never quit a race but tried to convince myself that this was just training and I had a century ride coming up. Plus, there was lots more training before Coeur D’Alene and it was better to be healthy then to finish a training race no matter how much pain I was in. Sure, this all sounds like it makes sense but it’s still hard to watch everyone else still going while you know you got driven back to the finish. I got back to my car, cleaned up and changed and waited for everyone else to finish. The nice part was that I was able to take pictures of everyone.
I went to the doctor today to make sure nothing was seriously wrong with my arm since it was seeming so slow to heal. The doctor took X-rays and nothing was broken or torn. I just have a really bad bruise in my elbow that is bleeding into my forearm and combined with the inflammation is weakening the muscle. I am lucky I didn’t break anything and should be good as new in another week or two. I am still a little messed up mentally but hope to get my bike confidence back soon. I’ve got that century staring me down on Saturday.
As far as races go, it was a pretty course, with nice volunteers and good food afterwards. My only complaint is that they took down the finish line and timer before everyone finished. They claimed it was because of the wind but it was windy all day and it’s kind of demoralizing to run up to lady with a stopwatch as your big finish. Other than that I would like to return and kick that beast’s ass next year!

 

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