While a normal summer for me is filled with fun and training and racing, this summer has been filled with fun, but slightly less training and zero racing. I’ve not raced since my crash on April 20.
But that’s about to change.
This weekend, I’m racing my last triathlon of the season (and hopefully the first one I will finish for the season). I’m headed back to Williamsburg for the Kinetic Patriot’s Olympic tri. Initially I had planned to do the oly and the sprint this weekend, but on the advice of my coach and my PT, pulled back to only one race. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I chose the longer of the two races.
Okay, I actually chose the oly for two reasons.
I hate sprints. I don’t like going all out for an entire race.
I wanted the challenge. I needed something to force me to push my recovery.
About that recovery. How’s it going? Well, things are improving. My elbow hurts every single swim stroke, which is fun. It also hurts when I ride. Doesn’t hurt when I run though, so maybe the run won’t be the part of the race I hate the most this time. I’m working with a PT to rebuild strength and it’s pretty shocking how weak my upper body still is. Considering that when I first got out of my arm brace, I couldn’t do a single press up (not a push up, but just pressing my upper body away from the ground with my hips still on the ground), the fact that I can now support my weight on my arms is pretty amazing. Over the winter, I’m hoping to be able to do some strength work to really rebuild and rebalance.
The race will be interesting. I’m definitely nervous, though not particularly nervous about crashing. I feel like it was such a fluke to get hit by another cyclist that the odds of it happening again aren’t high. Am I going to be nervous at bike mount, which is always crowded, and will it likely freak me out when other racers come flying past me? Absolutely. (Though my swim has gotten slow enough that it may not be an issue.) But mostly, I’m just nervous if I can actually do this. Can I make it through the swim? Open water isn’t like swimming in a pool. Of course, I can always stop at a kayak if my arm needs a break. Will I be fast enough to make cutoffs?
The thing is, the race could go incredibly well. I’ve put in the training. No, I’m not going to be setting any new PRs, but I could have a solid race. But there are a lot of unknowns that definitely have me nervous.
But I want to show up. I want to see what happens. If I don’t finish, I don’t finish. I would like to not end up in an ambulance. But honestly, if I manage to cross the finish line under my power, it’s a win.
I have opened this window to type an update so many times over the summer. Crashing my bike and ending up on the injured list for the second year in a row definitely threw me for a loop (figuratively speaking – there was no looping in my crash, just a direct impact with the ground).
To recap my injuries, in addition to some abrasions that left some cute scars, I managed to fracture my elbow and permanently dislocate my collarbone at the sternum (I didn’t even know that was possible). I had surgery to remove gravel from my arm and prevent a bone infection. I still have some bone bruises and my elbow hurts about 75% of the time.
I’m not going to lie, recovery has been slow and mentally challenging. Rehabbing my hip labral tear was mentally much easier because there were things I could do. I could push myself and really work for that recovery. This has certainly been slow going. It took a while, but while I’m not back to my full weight lifting routine (and won’t be for quite a number of months), I’m back to swim/bike/run and recently swam my first mile since April.
But that’s not to say that the summer hasn’t been fabulous. I’ve had a lot of great adventures and I wouldn’t trade any of it.
As you may remember, I was aiming for 70.3 Ohio this summer. For the second time in a row, I had to drop out of a 70.3 due to injury. But for the second time in a row, I still went to the race to cheer and hang out with friends. And that was worth every second.
I got to hang out with a bunch of friends and cheer many of them through what proved to be a very tough race, both physically and emotionally. Instead of wishing I were out there, I was just glad I could still be part of the day.
I’m not going to lie, there were definitely moments where I thought “Perhaps I should register for another 70.3 next year.” But at this point, I think I’m committed to racing local next year, mostly Olympics. I want to make sure that I’m properly rehabbing my arm and my shoulder and not pushing just to make a distance.
I will, however, likely still go to some of the big races to cheer on friends and strangers. It’s so much fun to be part of a big race environment, whether or not I’m racing. I’m lucky to know so many awesome people.
So next up, I am finally getting a chance to race this year. I’ll be racing the Patriots Olympic the weekend after Labor Day. It’s not going to be pretty, and it’s probably going to hurt, but I need to get back out there. I don’t want to go a full year without racing if I can help it. And of course, once tri season is over, I’ll be out doing running races once again. And looking forward to the 2020 season (and beyond).
Disclaimer: I received a Strava Summit account in exchange for a review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.
I’m a huge fan of tracking my workouts. I’d love to be one of those people who keeps a great training notebook, logging every workout in every detail. I’m not great at that. Every time I’ve tried, I end up not having the book with me when I want to write something down.
I tried the spreadsheet formula. That didn’t work either. I wasn’t motivated to get it done.
Enter the internet. By tracking my workouts online, I could enter data from anywhere, and if I wanted, I could make that information sharable so that my friends and training partners could see my workouts. It helped keep me accountable to myself and to others.
Strava is simple
I started using Strava in 2015. What I love the most about Strava is how incredibly easy it is to use. You can track all sorts of workouts – standard running, biking, and swimming, but you can also track other workouts – walking, yoga, weights, whatever you want. And you can enter as much or as little data as you want. Maybe you just want to log that you lifted weights for 30 minutes. You don’t need to put in the reps or the weights, just log that 30 minute data. Maybe you went on a 20 minute walk. You don’t know how far you went, but you want to log the walk. Other sites would push you to enter the pace or the distance. Strava lets you enter what you want.
Of course, I love data, so I love that I can import directly from my Garmin or from Zwift. And the best part is that I don’t have to actually do anything. Once I got direct import setup, when I finish a workout, it ports into Strava where I can check it out and analyze the info. I can customize it if I want by adding photos or comments, but I don’t have to.
I use also Strava to track the mileage on my shoes, which is an awesome feature, especially for someone who doesn’t run a steady number of miles every month. I set my current pair of shoes as my default, and Strava logs each run on those shoes (which I can go in and change if I wore something different). It helps me figure out when I need to think about breaking in a new pair.
Share what you want
Strava lets you be as public or as private as you want. You can put all of your information out there for anyone to see, you can have a purely private account, or you can be private and add friends who can see your workouts.
Personally, even though I’m a pretty open book, I do have my account set for friends only, just for safety. If you want to follow me, please feel free to request, and if you appear to not be an axe murderer, I’ll probably friend you back. And if you are an axe murderer, if you could just put that in your profile info to make it easier for me, I’d appreciate it.
One thing I do very much appreciate are the privacy zones. When you do a workout and track your distance by GPS, often times, you’re starting pretty close to your home or your work, and maybe you’re just not comfortable putting your exact location out there. Strava lets you set privacy zones up to 5/8ths of a mile from a specific address, and then any activity inside that zone won’t be shown.
When I agreed to do a review of Strava, I figured it would be very easy. After all, I’ve been using Strava for four years to track my running, biking, and swimming. It’s what I use to track my annual mileage goals.
Then I crashed my bike and was unable to train. No training = no workouts logged. (And the annual mileage goals also went out the window.)
But now that I’m getting back into the swing of things, I’m starting to track again. It’s certainly slow going (and I’m still not back in the pool or riding outdoors) but what I’m loving is being able to see the progress that I’m making. Sure, my speed and distance aren’t what they were, but I’m doing better than I was two weeks ago.
I can also look back and see where I was after recovering from surgery last year, which gives me an idea of how long this rebuild may take. And I can look further back and see that hey, maybe things aren’t so bad after all.
Strava tracks your best efforts, and it’s always a great feeling to log on after a bad run and see that hey, you just did your third best 5k effort as part of that run, or you ran a certain segment of your running route the fastest you’ve ever run it. I find these stats especially helpful on days where I feel like I’m not making progress. Maybe I don’t feel faster, but I’m certainly getting faster.
And the best part of all of this tracking is that in a few months, I’ll be able to look back to where I was and be proud of how far I’ve come. It’s so easy to look back at a previous race result and think “Oh, man, look at all the speed I’ve lost,” but by tracking my short little runs as I’m recovering, I have something solid to look back on as I track my recovery.
And you had better believe that when I finally get my bike back outside, I’m going to be shouting it from the rooftops and I expect all the Strava accolades to be coming my way.
On April 20, I was scheduled for my first triathlon of the year. (Yes, it has taken me a while to get all of these words out.) I’m not typically a fan of early season racing. I like to get in some good practice swims before I race. However, last year, I was registered for Rumpas in Bumpass as a warmup for Choo 70.3. Obviously, thanks to my labral tear, that was out, but the race company had an awesome deferral policy. That meant that this year, I had an already funded race entry for the race. Might as well show up, right? Right.
I had mixed feelings going into the race. I was so thankful that the weather was supposed to be nice. Was I prepared? Yes and no. I hadn’t done any OWS swimming, and I hadn’t ridden my bike outside yet. But I had put in the work and I was excited to start the season and see some friends at the start line.
Race morning was gorgeous. All the rain had cleared the area and things looked amazing. I was feeling good. I got everything setup in transition and hung out with friends as we waited for race start. I wedged myself into my wetsuit. It felt good. I hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I figured things would be fine. I didn’t have an issue with wetsuits.
I got in the water early and tried to get used to the cold. It was in the mid-60’s. Not awesome, but not too bad. Two men’s waves went off, then it was our turn. Racing! Yay!
I struggled to get comfortable. Why? Probably the cold and the fact that every year, my first OWS of the year sucks. I need to remember this. Future self, do some practice swims before racing! So I got myself into a spiral and realized I had two options. I could quit or I could figure out how to get out of my wetsuit and keep going. So I pulled up at a jet ski and took off my wetsuit in the water. It was not easy and I was gasping from the cold. But once it was off, I was going to finish this race. I am way too stubborn to quit, and I was pretty proud of myself for getting through a really bad moment.(Ominous music continues.) With the pause and the lack of the wetsuit, I was now behind the pack, but not too far off. There were plenty of swimmers around me, and by the time I finished, I was coming out with the first wave of sprint swimmers as well (they had a shorter swim course, naturally).
The trek to transition was through ankle deep mud. Do not recommend.
At transition, I ran into another girl I had met earlier, so I shared my foot rinse water bottle with her, got geared up, wished the girl luck, and headed out.
(This part is harder to write than I thought it would be.)
The race was a two loop course for the Olympic racers and single loop for the sprinters. There was a slight straightaway, then you joined the loop with a lefthand turn.
I made the turn and merged in, found a solid spot on the right, but there were racers flying past me on the left, both sprinters and olympic athletes starting their second loop. There were definitely people riding in groups, not necessarily in packs, but just situational things where riders were riding a few across and not really following the rules. That can just happen racing. Unfortunately, those rules exist for a reason.
I was barely a mile in when I heard yelling behind me. I shifted farther to the right, as I had been riding about a foot out to stay out of the gravel and junk on the side of the road. That was the wrong choice, as the guy coming up behind me was attempting to pass on the right.
(Yes, this is a complete rule violation. However, because I’m not sure what was all going on around me, I suspect there was a cluster of riders to the left as well and he made the best decision he had in a bad situation. He didn’t know I was going to also try to get out of the way by shifting right. I’m choosing to believe this was just an unfortunate situation and not a blatant attempt to flaunt the rules.)
The other cyclist hit me. Thankfully, I wasn’t going super fast. I flew over my handlebars. I landed first on my left forearm, then the rest of my body crashed to the ground. My head bounced off the ground. That was probably the scariest moment. Heads aren’t supposed to bounce off of things.
I never lost consciousness and instead sat up pretty much right away. My left side hurt and I knew I was bleeding, but I could move my hands and my feet, and these all seemed like good things. I could see straight and my head didn’t hurt.
Some amazing spectators came running over to me, and I wish I knew who they were so that I could properly thank them. They made me focus on them and kept telling me to not look at my left side. This freaked me out. “Are there any bones sticking out?” I wasn’t in a ton of pain, but had this vision of something sticking out of my arm. I also pretty quickly asked if my bike was okay. As any cyclist would.
Mostly, I was just scared. I was sitting in the middle of the race course bleeding and it took a while for medical get to me. In reality, it was less than five minutes, but it felt like forever. I was able to stand, and cradling my left arm, I climbed into a cart and was taken to a waiting ambulance where they checked me over. I was freezing cold since I was wet and they kept piling me with blankets so I stopped shivering. They didn’t seem terribly worried, which was insanely reassuring. I needed to be seen by a doctor, but things weren’t dire.
I convinced them to put my bike into the ambulance and had someone retrieve my backpack (with my phone and ID inside) from transition and went to the hospital. No sirens, so it was a long trip. I chatted with the EMT and found out how he got into the gig. Mostly I think I was trying to distract myself.
At the hospital, things didn’t seem like too big of a deal. They helped me out of my wet kit and into a hospital gown which was awesome. Being cold was the worst part of all of it. My head was fine. I got taken for x-rays and was really hoping my shoulder and collarbone weren’t broken. I didn’t want to deal with pins. And they were fine! My elbow was less fine, and more worryingly, there was a whole bunch of gravel in my arm.
The most painful part were the muscles in my left shoulder and up into my neck. They still hurt today. But nothing was bad. They asked me if I wanted any pain meds and I said no. They insisted on Tylenol, so I took that.
I refused to look at the wound in my arm. I decided I didn’t want to know. The PA came in a number of times to irrigate my arm to work to get the gravel out. And apparently, they were able to get a lot of it out. But when I went back for more x-rays, it wasn’t enough and I needed surgery to get the gravel out and possibly a bone chip.
I was pretty chill through all of this. I wasn’t even concerned when they were pushing two kinds of IV antibiotics. This seems fine. My brain is weird. When they said surgery, I was like “Okay, let’s do this.” The whole time, I really was thinking about how lucky I was. I bounced my head off the ground and I was fine. This injury was relatively minor.
So off to surgery it was. Thankfully, it was just rocks and no bone chip. But I woke up with a brace on my arm, an appointment with an ortho for the following week, and prescriptions for even more heavy antibiotics. The worst part was that when I woke up, I was so hungry. I was given a soda and crackers, but I had a brace on one arm and an IV in the other so I couldn’t get food to my mouth. It was an incredibly cruel moment. Generally though, I felt good and was ready to break out.
The final verdict is a broken elbow, serious road rash on my left shoulder and quad, some very colorful bruising and a gross wound on my left elbow that is going to leave a sweet scar.
Two weeks out and healing is going as expected. I start up PT on my arm this week and will be getting a new brace. My doctor told me that recovery is probably around 8 weeks, so I’ll be back out there soon enough. But of course, this means that my comeback season isn’t happening this year. I won’t be trained up for 70.3 Ohio, so Sherpa Shark will be back as a spectator (and thank goodness I bought the insurance). I was registered for four more local races with Kinetic Multisports (the group that runs Rumpus) and because of my crash, they deferred my next two races til next year, have offered to defer my September races (though I hope to be back by then) and offered me a free entry into next year’s Rumpus. I think I won’t be taking them up on the last offer – crash aside, I need OWS practice before I race, so no more early season races for me.
In general, I feel really really lucky. This could have been a lot worse. Yes, I have moments of being annoyed by the situation, disappointed that I’m going to have to rebuild my fitness AGAIN (all I’ve been able to do since the race is walk and some lower body strength work), but I’m okay. Of all my limbs to injure, my left arm is probably best, since I’m right handed. I can still type (and am encouraged to to help keep my shoulder loose). It’s awkward and I still hurt, but my recovery is going to be easy compared to what it could be.
I have to say that one thing this made me realize is how amazing my friends are. Liz dropped everything to drive down to the hospital, sat there all day, talked to my surgeon, and stayed the night with me. Kim and Jon drove a stupid distance from their house on a Sunday to go retrieve my car from Fredericksburg. And so many others sent offers of help, meals, or well wishes. It definitely made me feel loved.
“Disclaimer: I received an annual Strava Summit subscription and Strava merchandise to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”
I’m quite behind on blog posts. As those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter know, I crashed my bike in my last race. I’m still working on the race report from that day. It’s a more emotional process than I thought it would be.
In sum: I’m fine, my bike is fine, my race season is not fine. The next couple of months are going to be all about rehab and recovery, but I’ve been here before and I know I can do it.
However, one of the big issues in coming back from injury is motivation. I can’t really bike, I’m not allowed to swim, and running is right out. I can walk, however, so the BibRave Strava Run/Walk Streak is perfectly timed.
(Note, I’m currently putting Strava through its paces and will be doing a review later in the summer.)
“But Megan! You’re anti-streaking!” And this is true. In general, I don’t like run streaks. I think they encourage people to push through injury or illness just to keep up the streak. That said, I think a limited-time streak (a month, for example) can be a good thing. And I think a walk streak is a great idea. Obviously, if you have a lower body injury, a walk streak is maybe not a great idea. But right now, as I’m dealing with a broken elbow, I think a walk streak is exactly what I need.
Right now, I have zero training mojo. None. Mostly because I’m not allowed to do anything. But getting out and moving every day (or walking on the treadmill) is something I can do. It doesn’t have to be fast, and it doesn’t have to be far. But I’m giving it a shot.
Anyone want to go on a walk streak with me through the month of May? To officially join: