Sunday Bloody Sunday

2010 St. Anthony’s Olympic Tri Report
We signed up for the St Anthony’ tri last winter because John wanted to get an Olympic and Half Ironman distance in before the Big race in June. I have always heard that St Anthony’s was a good early race and we have some friends in Tampa we could stay with so it seemed like a perfect fit. We drove down Friday and Saturday morning went to the expo for packet pick up and to drop off our bikes. Everything was well organized and very smooth. I have next to zero experience swimming in the ocean so we decided to do a short pre-race swim. While we were putting on our wetsuits a very familiar looking man with piercing blue eyes was standing 5 feet from me and he stripped down into a speedo and headed into the water. I later found out that it was Craig Alexander and he was nice enough to take a picture with me after the swim. As for the swim itself, we had heard that the expected water and wind conditions for the morning were to be a tough swim out to the first turn and an easy swim on the way back in. In our practice swim we found the opposite to be the case. The swim out was a bit choppy but not bad but the swim back in was hard and very difficult to stay on course. I felt less nervous about the swim but knew it was going to be tough and promised myself I would not beat myself up over the time.
We packed our transition bags, had a light pasta dinner and got a decent nights sleep. In the morning we headed down to transition and got ready for our race. I had an energy bar in the car and then another one in transition. My swim wave was almost 40 minutes after the start of the race so I knew I would need a little more in my stomach. We headed over to the swim start where I had a gel and wished I had brought a bottle of water. Luckily, they had cups of water there but in the future I will bring a disposable water bottle. We met up with Melissa, BJ and Nancy and got our wetsuits on. BJ’s swim was first, then John’s, Melissa’s, mine and then Nancy’s. The wind was picking up and I was starting to get a bit nervous. My wave started and the usual nerves and panic set in but I kept swimming and tried to relax. I felt like I was struggling a little but concentrated on moving forward. As I rounded the first turn the wind started to really pick up and the waves doubled in size. I worked on getting a rhythm with the waves and on this part of the swim the waves were pushing us forward so I tried not to freak as I continually got picked up and slammed back down. I kept thinking about how the last turn was supposed to be the easiest part so I couldn’t wait to round that last yellow buoy. Well, that was a big fat lie!! The last leg was the worst, I felt like I was flailing and rolling more than swimming but continued to try to swim and focused on moving forward. There were people calling for help and one guy who just stopped 20 ft from the stairs and refused to continue swimming despite his nephew yelling at him that he was almost done. I crawled up those stairs and was happy the worst swim of my life was over. I ran into transition looked at my watch and saw 45 minutes. Not what I had hoped by any stretch of the imagination but I was fine with it given the conditions and my inexperience in swimming in the ocean. After the race we found out that the last 6 or 7 waves had a shorter swim because they stopped the race and pulled the buoys in closer.
I grabbed my bike and was off. I knew the course was going to be flat so I was psyched to have a good bike leg. My plan to was go as hard as I could and not worry about the run too much. I started pedaling and was immediately slammed by a wall of wind. WTF??? Someone told me it wouldn’t be that windy on the bike. Another liar. Alright, I will just do the best I can. I started getting passed a lot but after a couple of miles I was actually passing some people. Around mile 8 I was approaching an intersection and the cop was paying attention to the cars while behind him a man just started walking across the street right in front of me. I yelled and swerved around him and a guy behind me told me I should have just hit him. My reply was “Well, then I would have wrecked” (foreshadowing here!!). We rounded the next corner and I swear the hand of God pressed down on me and slammed me down to 8mph. The wind was incredible! I quickly downshifted and the wind subsided. The ride up to this point was very strange. One minute you were cruising at 17-19mph and then next the wind would just crush you or try to blow you sideways. It made me very nervous but I kept on pedaling. At around mile 12 or so we started riding alongside the golf course and there were signs everywhere to warn us of speed bumps. I slowed and watched the riders in front of me go around the speed bump on the right. I followed and maneuvered too far to the right, ended up in the gutter and when I tried to get back on the road I hit a one inch lip that I couldn’t correct for and bam I was on the ground. I felt my head hit and immediately saw blood everywhere. My first thought was F***! My race is over. Second thought was of Keri and her head injury. I got up and an old man in a golf cart asked if I needed help. Another cyclist stopped to help me and got me a towel. I started to think about how to get help and get off the course but soon realized nothing felt too bad. I was most worried about my bleeding head and the Good Samaritan cyclist told me my head didn’t look that bad but maybe I would need some stitches. The old man had a band aid which we slapped on my head and once I checked out my bike I asked “Am I crazy to finish?” – the cyclist said “You’re asking me? I say go ahead”. So, I did. I was already upset about ending my bike ride the previous weekend with a broken cleat and I was not going to stop if I still felt OK.
The next couple of miles were very slow as I tried to calm my nerves and get comfortable again. I went over every other speed bump in the middle. I felt so stupid. My split second decision was a poor one. Never again. My shoulder looked like a blazing sun and I knew I was a bloody mess but I only had a few more miles to go. I alternated between aero and holding onto the bars since I was still feeling skittish. My shoulder and elbow didn’t feel great with all that maneuvering but I made it through. I scrambled into transition, grabbed my running shoes and headed out.
My left arm started feeling heavy so I just tried to find a comfortable position and shuffled along. The run was nice and flat and went though some neighborhoods with lots of people cheering us on. Tons of people were yelling “Go Team” since this was a HUGE Team in Training race. I kept thinking “Hey what about the bloody girl who is still out here? How about a cheer for her???” I tried not to dwell on the previous events and just get through this. The run went pretty fast and I was able to pass a bunch of people along the way and especially on the last 0.2 miles to the finish. I got my medal, got rid of my chip and all I wanted was a beer. The photographer wanted to take my picture and I said “Look at me?” Do you really think I want a picture of this?” The chip taker asked what happened and directed me to medical. John arrived just as I sat down to have my injuries evaluated. They cleaned my wounds and started wrapping me up as I explained what happened to John. Medical suggested a suture or two for the cut above my eye and about that time Melissa (my savior!!) arrived with a full beer. It was the best beer ever! We went to the beer tent and relaxed for a few minutes. John talked to our friends from Tampa about possible places to get stitches and all the urgent care places said to go to the ER. Well, that was the last place I wanted to go. I asked John how bad it was and he said it looked small to him so I decided to skip it. Once I got home and showered and looked at all my wounds I was happy it wasn’t worse. My injuries consisted of a 1 cm cut above my left eye, abrasions to my left cheek and scalp. A huge abrasion on my left shoulder, multiple minor cuts and scrapes on both hands, wrists and palms. A large abrasion on my left thigh and multiple scrapes on my left knee. The next evening my left elbow was black and blue and swollen and I had a bit of a black eye. I was stiff as hell and wasn’t moving very fast. Today I feel better and I am more worried about my elbow than anything else. I am signed up for the Beast of the East Half Ironman this Sunday and I am planning on doing it if I can. I am just not sure how well I can swim right now. The bike and run should be OK just might be a bit uncomfortable.
Final Impressions: Overall, it was a good race, lots of support, well organized and good course. My final time was 3:42:25. Not what I had hoped for but decent considering the circumstances. I would do this race again but I will make sure I go over the speed bumps!!

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