August 26, 2009

IMLP 2009 race report

It’s been about a month now since the race and I’ve kind of let things slide recently and not kept on top of the blog. Most likely it has something to do with not having internet at home and also Blogger.com being blocked at work. No worries though, I finally have found some time to get my thoughts down on paper.

This race for me was something that all of us don’t want to have happen, but sometimes fate can rear its ugly head and make its own decisions for your day. To preface this race report, I felt like I was honestly in the best racing shape of my entire life (corny to say, I know, but I truly believed it) I had put all of my eggs into one basket and held off on racing a lot in 2009 in an effort to be ramped up and geared up for race day. I knew my running was RIGHT where it needed to be, I was swimming faster than I EVER have in practices and I was feeling like I was finally at peace with the bike. Some days it felt like rider and machine were one. Hills really weren’t as bad as I remembered them to be. I was extremely prepared and I was ready to race. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you want though, such is life. It’s all a series of experiences that you get to grow and learn from. My father came up to Placid with me again this time around and he has been a staple in my Ironman experiences. I truly enjoy the camaraderie and support he gives and I look forward to spending quality time with him on the ride there (we always have driven) and for the entire weekend. We made our way up on Friday morning and it came up on the trip to the ADK’s we were jokingly referring to our accommodations at the “Ritz”. Due to my lack of securing a reservation somewhere, we stayed again at the North Country Community College dorms. Hey, so sue me, it was a bed to sleep in and that’s all I was really concerned with.

Well, we arrived in the North Country about 3pm on Friday, went over to registration at the gym and got all that fun stuff taken care of. I tipped the scales at a whopping 163lbs, but I wasn’t too worried because I knew I was in good shape. I got an obligatory extra swim cap and had to actually ask for an extra one instead of stealing one like I’ve done the last three IM’s.

My dad and I were going to head out to dinner the night before the race with a friend from my high school that was really close to my sister. The plan was for Amy to come pick my dad and I up and show us a good place to eat since she lives in Saranac Lake. Amy drives up and 2 people pop out of the car and my sister Jenna had made a surprise visit to watch me race!! This was REALLY a surprise and was cool because the only person in my family that has seen me in an IM is my dad. I was floored.

All in all, everything else was pretty status quo and set for the race. We had dinner, I had a nice dark beer (I can’t even remember what I had) and the only variable was that I was getting a pair of race wheels delivered the night before the race at midnight. I was getting them on race morning and would have to swap over a cassette and computer magnet that morning. Not a big deal, I was going to get to the transition area at 5am when it opened and have all the tools I needed with me.

The wheels were sweet that I ended up using. My buddy John from Philly was originally going to come up and sign up for 2010, but got stuck on rotation in a hospital where he works and had to send the wheels up with someone else. They were a 2009 set of tubular Zipp 808’s complete with ceramic bearings and were wicked fast according to Mr. Hunter. I was stoked to use them as I’m a big fan of bike speed :o)

Race morning came and I was up and ready to roll. It’s funny the things you remember looking back on it. I remember always being so amped when I wake up and thinking that I have a lot to get done before getting in the water. I remember dad was slow to wake (hell, who wouldn’t be slow to get out of bed at 4am?!!?) but got up and we were at the T-area by 5:15am or so.

I got the wheels from my friend Sarah and in a flash, swapped cassette’s and magnets and adjusted the brakes and everything was good to go. Time was 6:15am now and I had filled all my bottles (went with one bottle on the bike and a Profile Design aerodrink) after the debacle of launching bottles off the back of the bike in Wisconsin last year, I wasn’t about to chance that again. I exited transition, found my dad, threw on my wetsuit and headed down to the water with Kim. She looked pretty shell shocked (as can be expected for your first IM) but I was just freaking giddy. This was my day to play and all I had to do was just get out there and have fun. I was smiling ear to ear and loving every minute of life. Things were good. I entered the water and we both split our ways. I headed over to the dock in Mirror Lake and trying to get a spot as close to the cable as possible. I had started in the same place in 2007 and even though it was physical there, this was the place to start. I held on for several minutes and made some fun jokes like I always do. “I found a warm spot!” is one of my favorites and gets everyone laughing. A guy that was at the NCCC dorms that I had met the day before was hanging on to the dock right next to me (I’m sorry I forgot your name…) and he had been to Kona before so I thought I was in the right place.

They shouted the 2 minute warning from the loud speakers and I made my way to the starting line about 5 feet from the dock. I looked to my right as I was treading water and noticed 2 familiar faces, Dana Woody and Bruce Gianniny. These are two friends that I swim with at the RAMS (Rochester Area Masters Swimmers) and are two incredibly gifted swimmers. Bruce and I kind of agreed to be blockers for Dana to keep her safe and wanted to draft off each other in the swim.

2.4 mile swim - 56:00 - 5th in the M25-29 AG/65th overall
The gun went off and it was the usual Ironman roughness of some physicality, but nothing too extreme. After about a minute I was in the clear and things were good. I was pretty relaxed and finding my stroke. Close to about 3 minutes into the swim, I was breathing to my left side and caught a glimpse of a familiar stroke to my left. It was precise and deliberate and I recognized it immediately as Bruce’s stroke. Perfect. He was on a roll and swimming fast and I quickly jumped on his feet to draft off of him.

About 7 minutes into the race, I pulled along side Bruce and we swam side by side for a while. I was in a giddy and goofy mood enough that immediately I dove underwater and looked straight at Bruce and waved. He looked directly at me and I saw lots of bubbles come out of his mouth and I knew he got a kick out of it. I surfaced and smiled to myself. I know we all try to go as fast as we can sometimes, but there is nothing wrong with having fun too! I truly believe that. I figured I could spare a few seconds and besides, how many times do you get to swim side by side in an Ironman with someone that you train with regularly?! It was great.

I kept by Bruce and I knew he would be gearing for a great swim split, so I could kind of pace off him. We made the turn, no worries and headed back to shore. As we were about 100m from the beach on loop one, I noticed the clock and it was a 27:XX and that meant that a 55:XX might be possible. How sweet would that be? I saw Bruce about 2 body lengths ahead and as I stood up and sprinted thru the timing mat, turned left and patted him on the back as I ran by and dove back in. I think I might have said, “Good swim, keep it up!” or some other similar words of encouragement.

Lap 2 was uneventful, Bruce took off and I tried to hold on. Dana was nowhere in sight. As I was about 100m from the shore I tried to look at the red LED clock they have set up with a running time to get a hint of where I was. I was seeing a 55:XX and I knew I might be able to sneak out under 56. I started sprinting when it got pretty high up there and apparently my chip crossed at 56:00. Why couldn’t I have been a second faster? Haha! I just wanted to break 56. It was still a 13 second PR from IM Wisconsin, so I was happy.

I entered the wetsuit strip and began yelling for my friend Doug Mauro who I knew was volunteering. I found him, got out of the wetsuit in a jiffy and was running the ¼ mile to the transition tent. I saw Bruce about 15 feet ahead of me and ran to catch him. We ran arm in arm for a few seconds and I congratulated him on a great swim. We were working the crowd and honestly this was the coolest thing in the world for me. I mean, you race with friends yes, but how often do you get to race, literally, side by side with them. This was the high point of my day!

Transition 1 - 4:19
Nothing special here, just flew in, grabbed my stuff and on the way out, I heard someone yell, “Travis!” and I turned around to see Bruce looking at me and he yelled out, “good luck!” I told him the same and went out to grab my bike and ride.

Bike - approximately 61 miles out of 112 and DNF
I was ready to roll, the only thing was about 3 miles in, I looked down and my odometer was reading 0.03miles for total mileage for the day. Looks like that wouldn’t be working for the day. No worries, I’d seen this happen before and it seemed to work out pretty well! I was rolling with the punches.

I was feeling good and going along, the out and back on the first loop was fun, I saw Joe Meyers a few seconds back and saw a lot of people I knew. I was going quick and split thru the first loop in 2:45. Doing the math in my head this was a little fast (20.3mph average) but I was feeling like I hadn’t biked at all and papa bear wasn’t even that bad to climb. I was having the day I’d wanted. I blew thru town, saw many people I knew and headed out for loop 2. I was taking salt and accidentally ripped off my race number from my belt and while riding, I reattached it via safety pin. I was proud of myself. Jason Frank passed me about a mile later and he was a guy that was 3 minutes ahead of me in 2007 and I knew who he was. I introduced myself as the guy who was next to him on the podium that year and he said he remembered me. I don’t know if he did or not, but it was cool.

All hell broke loose after that. I passed Jason by again and was blazing towards the descent. They just repaved the road and it made it SUPER fast. I was going like a bat out of hell and I wanted that great race too. At about the steepest part of the descent my front wheel started to wobble a tad. I immediately went from my aerobars to my brake hoods for balance and braced my knees on the top tube to help calm the wobble. I was going fast. I tried to brake lightly at first and the wobble kept on getting worse and worse. I was scared shitless and the last thing I remember was that I thought to myself, “oh shit, I’m going to lose it…and I’m going fast. This will not end well…”

I woke up in an ambulance and it took me a few seconds to get my bearings. I thought I had a dream and I couldn’t figure out why I was where I was. The paramedics were great and they told me that I’d been in an accident and to just lay back because we were going to the hospital. I was asking a lot of questions as they were cutting my jersey off like, “hey this is my favorite jersey” and “please don’t cut my heart rate monitor chest strap, it’s expensive” also “but I have a marathon to run” and “can we put the bike in here? Those wheels are really nice and they aren’t even mine!” They told me my bike would be in transition waiting for me and I then took off my HRM chest strap myself. I looked at my hand and realized there was a lot of blood and at that point just laid back and let them do their job. I arrived in Elizabethtown Community Hospital and they x-rayed me, said I had a broken collarbone and then gave me a phone to call someone to come get me. My emergency contact for the race was my dad and I had put my own cell number down and given the phone to him race morning. I called and called and there was no answer. I left what would be some pretty ridiculous messages “I don’t know where I am, but I had a bike crash and I’m okay, just a broken collarbone. Can you come get me please?” but my dad never got them because my phone was on vibrate and he never felt it ring… My sister luckily got a message (I remembered her number by heart luckily) and they came to pick me up.

I don’t remember leaving that hospital; they just bandaged me up, gave me a sling for my left arm and sent me on my way. I have no idea what time I left, but I know that when we picked up my bike from transition, it was dark and most of my friends had already finished. It was bittersweet to see them and I was really out of it. I spent the night at Amy’s place in Saranac Lake and I accidentally dropped my phone into the toilet at her place. It never dried out and that’s why I didn’t get a lot of messages. If you left a message and I never responded, the reason I didn’t call you back is I never got the message! I also lost all of my phone numbers, so if you are reading this and have my number, please call or text me your name and number so I have it! :o) My sister drove me home the next day and my father followed. Every bump in the road was painful as the sling didn’t really restrict too much. We stopped at a McDonalds in Watertown, NY for lunch and I looked pretty bad. While waiting in line, this guy behind us was looking at me really funny, so my sister told him that I cut myself shaving. It was great. Even in my drugged up and painful state, I still explained that I was in a bike accident and was going like 50+mph downhill. He asked if it was a motorcycle accident, I repeated bicycle and I still think he thought I was joking. Oh well.

I have absolutely no recollection of the crash at all, which is probably a good thing. I honestly have no idea how fast I was going when the side gust that came and caused the speed wobble in my front wheel hit. My good friend and training partner Joe Meyers had a max speed of 68.1 mph there that day and with the freshly paved descent and wicked fast wheels I was riding on, it was probably similar to Joe. I have absolutely no memory from thinking I was going to lose it, until waking up in the ambulance.

Aftermath
I went into surgery at Strong Memorial Hospital on Wednesday (thank you Mary Eggers for pulling whatever strings you did…) and now have a plate and 6 screws in my left collarbone. I have a large nasty scar that reaches my back and a LOT of road rash. I estimated that about 15% of my body was covered in road rash after the crash. It kind of made it hard to sleep because it didn’t all immediately scab over and I was sticking to the sheets for a long time. I don’t think I have actually slept thru the night since the accident because of pain or just rolling over and hitting something. But hey, such is life...

It’s now a month after the accident and all of the road rash has healed (mostly). I have been restricted from anything really with my left arm for about the next 8 weeks although I have been cleared to run as of about a week ago. It’s just weird to go from exercise every day to couch potato in a flash. The realization that I have is that I am truly lucky to be alive. The hill that I crashed on had oncoming traffic to my left and a river to my right (I would’ve had to have slid thru a cable and steel guardrail…but since I was unconscious, that might have gotten nasty) I’m truly lucky to be alive. My gear and equipment is all really jacked up, but that can be replaced. The funny thing was that the race wheels I was borrowing, only had a scuff on one of the decals and that was it! I was REALLY happy to not have to replace those for John. But this was a learning experience and I’m just happy to still be breathing at this point. There is a nasty thread HERE from Slowtwitch.com that explains some other peoples view of what happened. I have to immensely thank Bob Stocks for putting his race on hold to pull me off to the side of the road so no one else hit me or I didn’t cause any more accidents. Thank you to everyone who sent gifts, dropped a card in the mail, or called to ask how I’ve been doing. I really can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to have the support that you all have given me. I’m really just overwhelmed with it all. I spent a few weeks living at my parents house immediately following my surgery and they took care of me which I am ever grateful of. I’m back to my own apartment as of about 2 weeks ago and have returned to work full time too around then. Things are back to normal it seems for an ordinary human being (I can do all the normal daily activities of life) but not to normal for me yet. It’s going to be a long hard road to recovery, but I’ll be back soon enough, don’t you worry. The good thing is, I WILL be back. Honestly, if this broken collarbone and some road raash is all I have to deal with, in the grand scheme of things, it's not that bad. It could've been MUCH worse, I know.

Cheers and sorry to make this so long friends. Thanks for reading though. Also, thank you to anyone who wrote a card, made a special effort to call/text, dropped off or mailed a gift. It seriously means so much and put me in the right mindset. Thank you all. But for now, take care and I’ll see you out there soon! (I’ll be the one volunteering for the remainder of the 2009 season!) :o)

3 comments:

Molly said...

I happened to ride by you not long after you crashed, you were off to the side of the road and 1 or 2 racers had stopped. I don't even know how anyone could come to a stop there because it was without a doubt the absolute fastest section of the descent. I am so glad to hear that there is no permanent damage and hope you heal quick.

Kona Shelley said...

Kind of strange how we forget things during crashes. I remembered seeing an ambulance out there. Sorry your race did not go as expected, but you are alive and will be able to do many IM's i'm sure!

Tim said...

Glad you're okay man. Now that that's out of the way. You're not going to to have to sell your snowshoes to pay for a new bike/helmet/shoes/jersey will you? I mean you might need those if you actually show up to a 6 Hour Snowshoe race this year. I hear good things about them and how doing them with your friends on a relay team is one of the truly great pleasures in life. Second only to maybe a really nice MLT, where the muton is nice and lean.