Coming off of two draft-legal races in Florida, I went into Richmond ready to race hard. Since my pro card qualification from last year has expired, I need to re-earn it, and so a podium spot here was square in my crosshairs.
Ten minutes into the race, as I was lying on the pavement and watching the clouds, I began to question whether that podium spot was drifting away with them. I had somehow crashed and fallen off my bike, alone, less than 30 seconds out of transition. Someone above me stretched out a hand: “Do you want some help up?” I couldn’t remember if “outside assistance” expressly meant disqualification, so I rolled around on the thought, lumbered up, and looked around. I was bleeding, but didn’t seem to be broken. My bike looked mostly unharmed, and plenty of athletes were still behind me in transition. So I decided to soft pedal for a while. Then another athlete flew by me at a good clip, so I dug in and got on his wheel.
Shaken and cringing from the crash, I didn’t last long. Admitting that you’re hurting is very tough for a competitive athlete, and so after a few hard pulls and a botched 180-degree turn, when he went hard I dropped off. I could have yelled at him that I was fading, or told him I couldn’t pull as long as we had decided – 20 seconds each. We could have worked together and caught the lead group, but instead I quietly burned out trying to mitigate all of my crash-related issues, and we rode most of the course alone.
I finished in 11th overall (and in need of some major medical tent support), but the leaders were minutes ahead and never within reach. For me, the race was another lesson that communication is essential to the bike leg of a draft-legal race. Even when you need to just say, “I’m banged up, I need a break.”
Since then, it’s been a lesson on recovery. The scrapes and bruises healed, but my wrist and knee are still giving me issues. It’s the scary part of the sport that I so far have relegated to the back of my mind: one good slip and your season could be in jeopardy. I’m not anywhere near calling my season – and hope to be up and racing again within a few weeks – but I’ve taken time off running and cycling, and it has let me focus on swimming almost every day, and emphasized more aerobic fitness than usual to keep in shape.
As always, injuries and setbacks make returning to racing and competing all the sweeter! Can’t wait to be back in action before long.