Kerry Martin

About Kerry Martin

PhD student in Exercise Physiology, combining work and play by competing in triathlons. Mostly trying to improve as an athlete, but always trying to have fun along the way.

Time Trials and Tribulations

I sat in the middle of the crosswalk, holding the back of my head, confused as to what just happened. People around me were talking but I couldn’t pay attention to what anyone was saying. As I saw blood now streaming onto my leg from the back of my head, my first thought was: “I guess I’m not going to get to run tonight”.

Minutes before, fresh off my muscle physiology exam, I was walking back to my car to go home for an evening run. I was excited. It was a nice evening, I finished my last class of my PhD program, and I wanted to go enjoy the nice weather while pushing some intervals track. As I was crossing the most dangerous intersection in Greensboro (in the crosswalk, with the “walk” light on), a vehicle struck me from my back right, sending me up and over the front corner of their car. I barely remember getting hit, but distinctly remember landing almost exclusively on my sacrum, catching a little bit of the weight with my elbows, and whipping the rest of my momentum through my head onto the asphalt.

Since there has not yet been a settlement, I will not go into much more detail. I’m about a week after the accident and still dealing with concussion symptoms and a broken sacrum. Needless to day, I’m not racing for a bit. Hell, I still can’t really bend over much.

I didn’t want to have to write another blog about being injured. In fact, it was supposed to be some triumph story from the last injury blog. Well, okay, I actually did have a good build from my last injury, which is the good part. The bad part is I only really got to race one triathlon since that accident.

But rather than an injury blog about ‘moving forward’, I’ll still do a short recap blog.  During major injuries, I find it is better to reflect on past experiences for confidence, rather than the uncertain future.

After my injury last year, I put in a ton of hours on the indoor trainer. I did a lot of Zwift racing, intense workouts, and recovery rides all from my home. It wasn’t what I pictured as glorious, but in the early stages of my recovery, it was really helpful to have my space. I was strong. I set a new FTP by a sizeable margin, even at a lighter weight than I used to be. Once I introduced running back, my focus was set on speed, and it sure came easier than I thought.

I did the Frosty 50k relay with a fast group of guys (12.5k each), and even managed to PR my 10k time and sustain it the rest of the 2.5km. I had a bit of plantar fasciitis after this race, but I was able to run through most of it. I shifted focus back to cycling for a bit and did a number of criteriums (just to accumulate race experience and get out of Cat 5 – not really to win), but still managed to be competitive in a number of them.

In April, I did the Riverlights TT triathlon in Wilmington. It was a 20km bike TT, a 1000m swim tt, and a 5km run TT, all separated by ~40 min. I loved this format. I am a big fan of ‘non-traditional’ multisport races – they allow you to try new things and come up with new strategies, rather than the standard formulas.

Of the triathletes, I had the fastest bike time, which is rare for me (one guy beat me but only did the bike, not the triathlon). I had been aggressive on the bike. I had sprinted out of every corner and really didn’t let off. I was worried about how that would affect my swim and run, but I just wanted to focus on one thing at a time.

They got to the swim start before I even had a chance to warm up so I went in “cold”. My legs were already vaguely wanting to cramp but I just sucked it up and went hard. I definitely held my own, only really losing time to the overall winner, who is a fantastic swimmer. Otherwise I had a fairly good swim, especially for my training.

My legs getting out felt exceptionally bad but I didn’t have much choice. They got started with the 5k a little early too, so I only got a 2 minute warmup and a couple of strides, which felt… bad. I just decided to give it whatever I had left. I caught and passed the race leader, but due to the timing system, I didn’t know how much of a gap he had on me in the standings. I knew a couple of guys were close to me in time, and they were literally right behind me from the start of the 5K. One of the guys (who usually beats me) made an early pass at the one mile mark and started stringing the race out. I could tell I overcooked the first mile at ~5:30, but I thought “whatever, just keep going as hard as you can in each moment until you get to the finish”. It was a reckless mentality but it paid off. I finished the 5K in 18:08 [on gravel]. Not my fastest 5K, but faster than I thought given the efforts I put in already.

Nobody knew what the final placings were, so there was about 10 minutes of us speculating and chatting at the end of the race. Then someone came and pointed “1, 2, and 3” at people around me, but not me. I was a little bummed – I felt suspiciously good. Then I found out they had trouble with my timing chip. Once they correctly located my chip number (which got mixed up pre-race), my name popped up in 2nd place. I was very happy about that. It felt like things were going right. I even pushed myself past what I thought was capable given my ‘untested’ fitness. I mean, I hardly raced last year so it had been quite awhile!

That’s what makes my current situation tough. I knew I was fit and I was ready to use that fitness for some races! I put in months of long, hard work. At the time, I enjoyed the challenge of building myself back, but it’s more fun to be fit. And now, I sit here, knowing that I’ll have to do it again. I know I can do it again, but this time seems different; partially because I just did it and I know how hard it will be, and partially because this time isn’t my fault – I went from a great fitness level to hospitalized all because of an inattentive driver.

I plan on posting again by the end of the year to hopefully have the real triumph story, but as of now, the path there is unclear. It’s hard to know exactly how long it will take before I can even think about training again, but I know it’s out there. Call it resiliency or call it stubborn, I will keep fighting my way back.

Titanium-man

clavicle2018 wasn’t the year I was expecting. This year, I had two bike crashes and some complicated injuries as a result. The first crash brought about an inflamed (possibly torn?) hip labrum and a broken rib. The second crash was even worse, and resulted in a broken clavicle requiring surgery and 3 broken vertebrae. Both crashes seemed like flukes, but in an instant, my plans, training, and goals all drastically changed.

In times of an injury or forced time off, it’s too easy to feel like you’re falling behind. I’ve been there before; I think many athletes have. I didn’t want to let myself go down that rabbit hole again. I could have written a whole blog post on what I went through for each injury. Being forced out of the sport for most of the year, I’ve learned a lot. In some ways have a new appreciation of triathlon. I thought about sharing this new view in a blog post, but it didn’t feel organic. I realized that everyone has their own views, goals, and desires for sport, and to share my ‘enlightened’ view felt too preachy.

Instead, I want to extend gratitude for all those in the sport who helped me in ways I couldn’t have planned on. I instinctively wanted to retreat and not acknowledge triathlon. After all, it’s hard watching people achieve your goals. But after discussions with other TMS-IOS athletes, employees at Inside Out Sports, my coach (Dave, of Triangle Multisport), and the kind folks at FS Series, I realized that almost everyone had stories like mine. No one wants to get injured; but the reality of it is if you do the sport long enough, crashes and injuries happen. Time doesn’t stop moving – injuries heal, training resumes, fitness comes back, and everything will work out. The most experienced and successful triathletes I know have all gone through a time like this, and hearing their stories (some a lot worse than mine) gave me confidence that I will be just fine.

And so, I look forward to next year. I am looking forward to having fun getting back into the sport and training with such a good group of teammates and being back in the triathlon community.

Battle at Buckhorn – a new favorite local race

2017 has been a tough year for my racing/training. A running injury and bike crash in April really slowed down my training this year. I spent most of the summer swimming way more than I ever though I would, and lots of ‘junk’ bike miles. My base was good, but I wouldn’t really say I was in any sort of racing or competitive shape for the majority of this year.

Before Buckhorn, I had just gotten back into racing again, with the Washington Triathlon (er, duathlon?) and doing a draft-legal collegiate triathlon two weeks before (in which I broke my toe running into the water yet completed the whole thing). Both races were pretty mediocre, and felt worse than some of my interval sessions. I could tell progress was being made and I figured Buckhorn would be a good motivator to keep the progress going.

Rather than walking through each leg like all of my other race reports, I’ll keep it simple. I had a decent performance; not as great as I’ve done last year, but I felt like I was getting fitness back.  The water temperature was perfect, with really flat, still water. The bike course is my favorite kind of course – at least hilly enough to cause some separation, but comfortable enough that any ability of rider can enjoy the course. This year there was a good bit of wind, but it wasn’t really enough to bother me, except when the wind swept up the smells from the cow pastures. The run course is a simple, two-loop course, which I actually enjoy. For those who enjoy racing, this allows you to see where your competition is at, which helps with motivation. Even for those who don’t like competing, having a ‘dense’ course full of people makes the race more fun, in my opinion.

All said and done, I was happy with my performance, continued to progress my racing fitness, and had a bit of fun doing so. I plan to make this race a regular occurrence – with the perfect water and air-temperature, it was a fun day to be out with other TMS-IOS teammates and other fast guys and girls! If you find yourself waffling about whether or not to do this race, you can hold me to it when I say you won’t regret it.*

*weather and injuries permitting.

Finally Racing Raleigh

Being a graduate student, I have always avoided Ironman branded races due to the high price tag. Every June for the past three years, I have seen Ironman Raleigh 70.3 roll through my training grounds, but had never signed up for the race. This year, I decided to go for it. I wanted to see how I could do on my home turf.

Race morning came and the taper left me not as confident as I had wanted. I was having knee pain that seemed to be on-going, I was having trouble sleeping, and none of my workouts felt “good”. My goals were 1. Not DNF and 2. Get to the finish line quickly. I didn’t want to commit to any time goals, although I had rough ballpark figures in my head. As my wave stood ready to go, I felt too calm. Was I even ready to race? Was my head in the right place?

Swim: The water was not wetsuit legal at >80 degrees Fahrenheit. Since I started at 8:12 (fourth-to-last wave), I had many waves ahead of me, which meant many people to swim through. The most notable detail of the swim, however, was the choppy water. Having swam in Jordan Lake many times before in training, I was surprised to see such conditions. The chop was enough to cause my goggles to leak and straps to get knocked off on multiple occasions. As things went from “great” to “okay” to “not fun”, I decided to just try and manage through the rest of the swim and not stress about it. I got out, looked at my time, and I knew it wasn’t a great start to my theoretical time goals. Desired time: ~30-31 minutes. Actual time: 37:36. Thankfully, I still felt good.

Bike: This was going to be the area I knew I’d be most comfortable with. I have ridden on these roads many times, since I used to live right along the course. I knew that it would be a fast start, with more hills towards the end. It’s not a flat course, but it’s also not what I would consider a hard course. I had a specific race strategy, including wattage, nutrition, hydration, and when to put in efforts, and it went perfectly. I personally love most of this course, yet congestion continued to be an issue for me (yet it was nice constantly having people around for motivation). Official split: 2:31:29. This was almost exactly what I was planning on, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough for me to retain my run legs. I could tell it was getting hot. It was time to start focusing on the hardest part of the race.

Run: I hit the run course smoothly, and kept telling myself “jog, jog, jog… go slow… ease into this half marathon!”. Having ran most of this course before in local half marathons, I knew Hillsborough St. would take its toll with a slight rise and no shade. Knowing it was probably hotter than I thought it was, I started going slower through aid stations after the third mile, grabbing ice, sponges, and anything that would keep me comfortable as a precautionary measure. After about 6 miles I began walking through the aid stations, adding about 20-30 seconds per mile, but I didn’t want to pay the price late in the second lap for neglecting nutrition and hydration. Coming down Fayetteville St. the first time was great, as I got to see people I knew again, including my coach, which always helps during a race!

I started the second lap and immediately noticed that the weather was starting to really affect everyone around me. It was affecting me too, but I was still running at a good pace. I was motivated to start picking up the pace, but now running back up Hillsborough St., I could feel the cumulative fatigue. I knew this lap was about finding that limit, and staying there. I needed to continue walking through most aid stations, but in my mind, the race ended at the far end of Hillsborough St; Once I got there, I knew there was only about 5K to go, slightly down hill. I knew I was going to make it, I started feeling better, my stride was opening up, I was running quickly again, and yet I kept having to back off and recover from getting too ahead of myself. Coming down Fayetteville for the last time, I was elated. I had completed the race with no major issues, which was my main goal. My final run split was 1:36:24.

Total time: 4:49:30

It was a good feeling finishing my second 70.3. My main regret was waiting until the fourth year to sign up for this race. This was one of my favorite races to date! Hats off to the volunteers for being the unsung heroes of this race. Every aid station was full of volunteers who seemed to understand what you want as a racer (because let’s face it, some other races have volunteers who don’t know how to hand off bike bottles, fill up the cups too much, or only hand you one cold sponge instead of the three that you really want!). Additionally, I owe my family, friends, coach, and fellow racers a huge “thank you!” for helping me have a great race. Now it’s time for some recovery and return to shorter, faster racing!