Time Trials and Tribulations

Posted on by Kerry Martin

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.

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