Disaster in the Desert! Arizona 70.3

To bring the curtain down on my season I was heading to Tempe, Arizona, for one final 70.3. It’s been such a long season and I was feeling it. Most people have had their off season and started training for 2020, whilst I’m heading for my 4th race in 3 1/2 months.

It’s been brutal and my body was creaking all over. Niggles are becoming more apparent and my calf’s feel like they may explode at any moment. I did everything I could do protect them and look after my body for one last push.

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Pre Race Massage 🙂

All I wanted was one last awesome performance as I have surprised myself at every race this year. Could this be the race to top off a fantastic year? While I had one eye on the off season and a break I was feeling in great shape, assuming my body help up of course.

Going in to a race it’s important to have a clear mind and focus on running your best race and what will be will be. However, this time I had goals and so as a result was feeling the pressure! I was totally focussed as for the first time this season I had no distraction (work, travel and coaching etc) in the build up.

What were my targets:

1) World Championships 2020 in New Zealand – I had been so close in Whistler but I was determined to get the spot here. It’s a smaller field and no Ironman athletes as they are in Kona!

2) A course PB – while not that important to me, a flat bike and run should lead to a quick time.

3) AWA Gold – even an average performance should secure me All World Athlete Gold status for 2020 – top 1% in the world.

4) A podium – one of my goals is to podium 70.3. My time at Lake Placid (a brutally hilly course) would have got me 1st, 4th, 5th, 4th, 5th over the last 5 years in Arizona. A podium would also put the worlds slot in my own hands!

No pressure then!

But back to Arizona. I booked this race such a long time ago and in the lead up I was struggling to remember why. I usually choose races for their location or a scenic course. While I was excited to go to Arizona it’s hardly a bucket list location and the course is in the city with a three loop bike course. To top it off it would be hot and Vancouver is now cold and wet! Not my idea of fun.

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Shops even have misters!!

The week before had been set aside to arrive in peak shape. This didn’t quite go to plan as I couldn’t run, I had some pain and didn’t want to make it worse. Then 4 days out I was stuck down with a fever and swollen glands in my throat. This knocked me out but I made my early flight Friday morning hoping I would feel better by race day.

Side note – flew via Salt Lake City and the scenery is unbelievable!

Arizona, well Tempe I guess, I’m not a huge fan of. The only thing I found out is it has the second largest university in the US, 60,000 students.

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‘A mountain’ in the background – Arizona State University

Beyond that its just a massive campus filled with student bars and restaurants. No one I spoke to could provide me with fun things to do.

Saturday I went for a little explore on the bike to look for some of the red rock Arizona is famous for and found a giant cactus.

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Unfortunately, straight after this I got a puncture which probably isn’t surprising but you live and learn. I also found out that my spare tube was too small for my race wheels! Ooops, but better than during a race I guess. So I had a few km walk home with my bike. Luckily about half way home some competitors driving the course took pity and picked me up. Triathletes are such a friendly bunch.

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This took me through to race day morning.

While still not quite 100% my primary concerns were my calf and whether my energy levels had recovered post fever but I was ready to give it everything.

It was a beautiful sunrise and for the swim they started 1 athlete every 5 seconds which seemed a bit excessive. It led to a very stress free swim as I swam alone nearly the whole way. I was testing breathing every other stroke to improve my oxygen intake and sighting. I also actively kicked at each buoy as kicking is something I need to develop.  I felt pretty good throughout which either means the technique works or I was too focused on technique and not enough on swimming fast!

Hardly anyone came past me so I came out thinking I had had a good swim before the long run to T1. My calf actually felt ok, sore but I felt I may be able to run well despite the pain. One thing I never understand though is people go so hard in the race and then just jog/walk in transition, its very weird.

We hadn’t been allowed to put our shoes on the bike, some rule they introduced that no one had heard before. So shoes and helmet on and off I set.

The bike course here is crazy, 3 laps in downtown Tempe. 10 u-turns per lap and a lot of corners. It also quickly became clear the roads were very bumpy. This was hiding a vibration in the bike that I couldn’t figure out. I spent a while trying to identify the source as I past through my first u-turn and numerous corners.

I eventually stopped to figure it out. There was a bulge in my rear tyre rubbing against the bike and starting to wear through the tyre. I moved the wheel back which isn’t ideal but a quick fix and was on my way. The rubbing had caused a flat spot which I could feel on every rotation, in addition to the bumpy road!

It took my legs a while to get going again but overall I was feeling pretty good and moving up nicely. 3 more u-turns done and I was returning across a bridge downhill to a right hand turn. I had no one to follow and was actively riding the course aggressively but the corner was a lot tighter than I predicted. I was heading straight for the central barrier, an 8 inch concrete pavement.

I knew there was nothing I could do. I had time to think ‘Oh Shit’ and may have also said it. I also quickly thought it’s easy, just bunny hop it like the pros do in the Tour de France.  I am no where near that level and didn’t even try, but a nice thought. I was probably braking but I was ready for the impact knowing this would hurt!

I don’t know exactly what happened next but I hit the deck on my hip and my helmet took a big hit. I finished stationary on my back, with my whole left side in a lot of pain.

The first person there was another athlete from the other side of the course who stopped. Another example of triathlons sportsmanship. He was quickly replaced by two policeman. I was sure I must have broken something but appeared to be able to move everything although my hip and back were hurting. Maybe silly but I was also sad as I assumed my tri suit and bike were probably in worse shape and don’t recover as well.

The policeman waited till it was clear I wasn’t dying before commenting he was impressed with how far I had slid. I was at least 10m from where I hit the curb. I assume some was airborne but the rest had been my left side.

I was asked if I wanted medical assistance or to go to hospital. Hospital sounded like a bad idea but assistance would be great. By the time they arrived I was sat up and knew I was mostly OK but my left side had taken a battering. Amazingly my RaceSkin trisuit had survived almost completely intact which had saved my skin.

After a roadside check they offered to take me to the medical tent or I could continue. I considered continuing but knew my goals were out of reach and I didn’t really fancy a long painful ride when I almost certainly wasn’t going to be able to have a quick run. I hate to quit and it’s my first DNF but it was time to call it a day and get help.

While I was receiving medical assistance another rider very nearly joined me. He skidded, slid and his back wheel even hit the barrier but he managed to hold it together. The official and a police officer then started marking the corner and waving to slow down. While I take full responsibility for my race and I took that corner too fast I do feel the corner should have been flagged. Maybe as the course just has so many corners they can’t all be manned with people slowing you down. I heard a number of other people crashed throughout the course as well.

I was driven back to the medical tent where a team set on me. I was washed down with water and my arm cleaned and bandaged. The general consensus was I had avoided the worst of the road rash as my suit had survived and I could move so nothing was broken.

I filled out some paper work and one of the team offered to help me out. In theory transition check out was closed till 1 but it was 9 and I had no intention of hanging around till then. Luckily my bike was already out so only needed my bags. The medical lady came with me and held my bike while I snuck past a rather dozy volunteer, grabbed my stuff and escaped. The grazes and medical blanket probably helped!

I found a spot in the shade to sort my kit and thanked the lady for her help. This event was probably the most disorganised Ironman event I have done in terms race day planning, race pack, post race food and a while most the volunteers were great a lot didn’t look interested which is unusual (but they volunteered so we could race, so I cant be too critical).

However, I can have absolutely no complaints about the support I received. I have never had an injury before during a race and everyone was super friendly and did everything they could to help and make me feel better. 5* service.

While I was sorting myself out a group of people came past mentioning it looked like it had been a big crash. One of them had been pulled out the swim after coughing blood and the rest were supporting. They asked if I had anyone here, I said no and I was going to head back to my hotel. Instantly they said I should join them as they had beers and food. Part of me wanted to hide in a corner but also it would be a long day alone. By the time I said yes they had already picked up my bike and stuff and weren’t taking no for an answer.

This was awesome and much needed as had some nice people to just hang with for a bit and relax. Grapes, beer and people to talk to really raised my spirits. We went to watch at another corner, very similar to my crash, and this was an absolute death trap. Again downhill off a bridge with a right turn although not as sharp. Cyclists were flying round and they had decided to put a pedestrian crossing here rather than further along the straight. The volunteers were doing their best but its a miracle there wasn’t a major crash.

I eventually took myself home as I was exhausted. The early start without the adrenaline of racing is super hard work. After a lie down I tried to get up and my hip was seizing up big time, but I really wanted to rest. Over the next day the hip loosened up and the only longer term concern is my shoulder which hurts under load but time will tell whether its anything major.

I don’t like to be a negative Nelly so there are positives. I am not broken which I think is a miracle. I didn’t have to stress my calf. My bike appears ok, some superficial damage but the core structure appears to be fine. It’s now my off season and I get to rest!

This wasn’t how I hoped my season would end and now my off season is likely to be more recovery than doing other hobbies, but that’s ok.

So what happened to my goals:

  1. Worlds – well obviously I didn’t qualify but looking at the results I’m not certain  I would have and who knows if my leg would have held up.
  2. 70.3 PB – not important to me
  3. AWA Gold – This is probably the most disappointing as will miss out and be silver again. Doesn’t mean much but would have been nice.
  4. 70.3 Podium – not confident I would have got one and this season it would have been a surprise.

So now I rest and reflect before moving on to 2020.

2019 –  5km PB, 1st North Shore Sprint Tri, 6th at European Champs and pre qualified for 2020, 8th at Whistler, 9th at Lake Placid (with a sub 1 30 run), DNF Arizona. I would have taken that at the beginning of the year for sure, except maybe the DNF ;).

So what might 2020 have in store….

Well to start I am finally taking the step up to Ironman in St George, Utah, in May. I then head to the home of Ironman, The Big Island – Hawaii, for a 70.3 in June. The rest is to be planned but the summer may have a swimming focus with the Kits Challenge (6km) and the Bay Challenge (9.8km across the Bay of Vancouver avoiding killer whales). Without worlds the end of my year is empty so might head back for the Isle of Wight tri or maybe a destination Ironman depending on whether I enjoy the first one! Or we see what coach says and whether I like that plan 😉

This also ends my participation in the 25-29 age group as next year I get old :(.

As the sun sets on my 2019 triathlon season it is time to enjoy a break and rest both my body and brain!

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Categories Triathlon

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