Saturday, July 23, 2005

Race Report: J.F. Hurley Formula 1 Sprint Triathlon

swim: 375 meters
run: 1.9 miles
bike: 20 k
run: 1.9 miles
swim: 375 meters

Quick version: wiped out on my bike and got hurt but finished anyway: 2 hours 27 minutes by my watch.

Long version:

I was looking for a race that would fit into my schedule in late July or early Aug., and the format of this one in Salisbury NC sounded like a good idea for summer in the Carolinas. Set-Up runs both a North Carolina Triathlon Series and an Endurance Development Series which is less competitive--this was in the more serious series but I had focused on finding a good location and date and didn't think about that, since the first race I did was in South Carolina where there aren't separate series. When I checked a few days ago there were 8 women signed up in my age group: 50-54. It was about 2 1/2 hours drive from home so I decided to go up the night before and my husband went with me. I picked up my packet and we drove the bike course and then struggled to find a nice restaurant for dinner.

We had breakfast about 6:20 at a Waffle House--I had a very greasy omelette and one slice of wheat toast (because of diabetes I can't eat many carbs until the last hour before a race but my body is pretty well trained to burn fat). We got to the race site about 7 so I had plenty of time to set up and take a warmup swim before the 8 am start. I even ate a banana. The water was warmer than the pool I swim in and very murky. Before the start the organizer announced that each run was not 1.5 miles as advertised but 1.9 miles. I was in the fifth wave--all age group women. The start was from hanging onto a dock.

Because the first swim was half the distance of the first triathlon I did, I tried to push harder, but I got out of breath. I then settled in fairly comfortably, but I was a bit discouraged when the fastest swimmers in the next wave (3 minutes later) caught up to me at the turn buoy. I'm just a slow swimmer--seven months of coached swim practices with the masters group of the local swim team has gotten me only so far.

I put on my eyeglasses and socks and shoes on and headed out for the run. It was on a trail--fairly smooth though I felt a little hesitant on parts that were wet grass. It was all shaded, which was lovely, and three water stops. I felt good running and passed one person. However, I had been trying too hard to hydrate before the race for temperatures in the 80s even at 9 am and I was aware of needing to pee. I decided that while it wasn't pressing I didn't want to be worrying about it on the bike, so I stopped at a portapotty right by the entrance to transition. I then went into transition without running over the proper mat so I had to go back out again to run over the mat.

I changed shoes and put on my helmet. At the last minute I had bought a camelback, on the theory that it would be easier to drink the water I needed that way than from a waterbottle (I don't have aerobars). So I put that on and headed out on the bike. I thought the camelback worked well and it was more comfortable than I had expected. I also ate a large half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I felt good on the bike, which is relatively speaking my strongest leg, and passed about 6 people.

The bike course started and ended with the driveway to the park where the race was held, which had a speed bump. The race organizers had put a wooden ramp on the side of the speed bump where bikes approached in each direction, and going out I had felt comfortable going over it. Coming back in the driveway I was still going fairly fast, and when I went over the speed bump my bike started to go out of control on the other side. I oscillated back and forth for a terrible moment and then wiped out. Some people who had completed the race (the winning time was 1:09) were headed out the driveway for a run, and they immediately came up to me and asked me if I was ok. I had no idea. As the first pain subsided I though maybe I was, and stood up. I had road rash on my knee and shoulder, and clearly I had hurt muscles in my shoulder, but my knee felt fine other than the skin and the shoulder wasn't terrible.

My first thought lying on the ground once I realized I was in one piece was frustration that I came all this way to not finish. When I picked myself up I realized I might try to finish. My bike wouldn't roll-I had broken 13 spokes on the front wheel--but I was only maybe 200 or 300 yards from the bike finish. The people who had stopped to help me suggested taking off my bike shoes and walking in my socks--we tried putting my bike shoes in the empty water bottle cages and velcroing them to the top tube but in both cases they fell off almost immediately. I finally stuck them in the back waist of my tri-shorts. I lifted the front wheel of the bike and let it roll on the back wheel and walked to the bike finish. As I went past the medical vehicle I called out that I thought I was going to try to finish the race but could use some antibiotic ointment. Two overweight EMTs moved so slowly that I gave up and kept going. I was disappointed not to see my husband--he thought he had missed me and had left the bike finish.

I took off my helmet and changed shoes and headed out on the second run, and it didn't feel badly. I was aware my shoulder was hurt, but I wasn't aggravating it by running. I was a bit shaken by stress and pain and ran even more slowly than usual, but I didn't feel badly about that--my only goal was to finish. The second run was the same course as the first. The kids handing out water saw my bleeding knee and were concerned about me. It was only oozing--the blood didn't reach my sock. I started crying coming into the run finish, but it was mostly feeling alone.

I ran back into transition and took off my shoes and it wasn't easy to put on my swim cap. I was aware that my shoulder might hurt too much when I started the second swim, but I had now invested a lot in trying to finish. As I went into the water I said to someone supervising the dock that I had wiped out on the bike and hurt my shoulder and didn't know if I would be able to swim. I just meant that I might have to turn back, but my husband says she told a paddle boat to accompany me. Lifting my arm didn't hurt that much, but pulling hurt a lot. I tried breast stroke and it was the same problem. So I tried swimming with one arm only, the sore arm bent at my waist. That felt comfortable. I've done one arm drills in swim practice, but in this case I didn't try to rotate both ways but rather swam somewhat on my side. I got into a comfortable rhythm, and I actually enjoyed the swim more than I did the first swim. I didn't hurry, just found what worked for me and I could keep up. My only problem was my goggles fogged up and I had a hard time seeing the swim finish. By that point I had two paddle boats accompanying me and they told me which way to head. When I got to the finish I told the volunteer helping me up onto a wooden ramp not to touch my right arm.

The group at the swim finish cheered for me and there was someone manning the finish line, but no longer an announcer. I had assumed the cut-off time for the race was 2 1/2 hours (actually it was listed on the web site as two hours) and so I was very happy to look at my watch and see I had finished in under 2 1/2 hours. I wasn't even last; there was someone still swimming when I finished.

My husband half carried my bike to the car and I went back to the EMT vehicle. They said they had run out of antibiotic ointment, and I refused their suggestion of disinfecting it with alcohol. We had planned to go back to our hotel so I could shower and I had some antibiotic ointment there. The EMT moved my arm through a range of motion and none of it hurt much, so I figured nothing was broken. The trick is that it doesn't hurt much when someone moves it for me but it hurts a lot when it has to lift its own weight.

I showered and changed and we got in the car to drive home with a bag of ice to put on my shoulder. I didn't notice until we made a pit stop that my forehead was bruised--apparently I hit hard enough that my helmet raised a bruise on my head. We stopped for lunch at Carolina Barbecue in Spartanburg and a man working in the kitchen (the only African-American there) saw that there was blood on my knee (I had washed it up but it was still oozing a little). He brought me a wet washcloth to wipe it off with and a giant bandaid. We had a good lunch and the waitress gave me a fresh bag of ice for my shoulder. As I left I looked through the kitchen window and said to the man: "God bless you--the kindness of strangers means a lot." He said "God bless you, sister."

By the time we got close to home I had decided to go to the urgent care center near my home. They cleaned up my road rash some (with a sponge--ouch!). The doctor said I should have an x-ray because sometimes a shoulder can be mildly dislocated and it only shows up on an x-ray. I thought they were just making money off me, but the x-ray showed separation of the A-C joint between the collarbone and the shoulder. It apparently wasn't very severe--the doctor thought I could just wear a sling for a couple of weeks but when I started asking about when I could go back to swimming he suggested seeing an orthopedist.

So I'm home with my arm in a sling. Anyone have experience with shoulder separation and know whether I can run in a few days, and bike if it doesn't hurt? I don't know how quickly I will be able to get an appointment with the orthopedist. My first problem is how am I going to wash my hair when it hurts so much to raise my arm, but I will put that off until tomorrow. My husband dropped my bike off at the bike shop but didn't learn much except that with that many broken spokes they felt I needed a new wheel.

I'm glad I finished--it gives me something to feel good about instead of feeling disappointment. But I certainly hope that I'm not laid up too long. If I can't exercise I'm going to have to go on a really restricted diet to control my blood sugar.

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