Race Report: Beaver Lake Sprint Tri 2010

Date: Aug. 21, 2010

Location: Beaver Lake Park, Sammamish, WA

Photo Gallery: Flickr.com set

Total time: 1:59:56, OA: 309/362, AG: 17/19 (Clydesdale)

Swim: 9:15 262/383

T1: 3:28

Bike: 1:00:00 337/383

T2: 2:12

Run: 45:01 323/381

This is my second time. I love this race because it is so close to our house and has excellent scenery to distract me from the pains of racing. This time the wife and boys came along to volunteer at the race. They were in charge of setting up the food area and making sure all the food items were well stocked. Boy #1 had a part-time job as my personal photographer as well.
The morning of the race was kind of cold (about 47 degrees) but the lake was around 75! That made for a great scene on the lake with the mist hanging over the water. The boys helped me set up my transition area with my bike, jersey, and shoes.
The swim was a lot of fun, actually. The water was warm enough that I really didn't need my wetsuit, although I did wear it for added buoyancy. I had my best 400 meter swim time ever (9:12). I got out of the water in a very good mood and set out on the bike course.
The bike route took us out of Beaver Lake Park, DOWN Duthie Hill Rd (dropping about 420 feet in 1 mile), along Fall City Rd (Highway 202), and then back up Issaquah-Fall City Rd. That big hill is a long and hard staircase climb back up the 400+ feet back to the lake. I have done this particular climb several times before, most recently about 6 weeks earlier during the Flying Wheels Century, so I know how high it is and when the hill stops. There is a section near the top that drops down quite a ways before climbing back up even higher as you get back to Duthie Hill Rd. This is where my problems began. I was going waaaaay too fast coming into a turn (I missed the 20 MPH turn warning sign) and completely misjudged a turn. I came into it too fast and in the wrong position. I hit my brakes as hard as I could, skidded off the road, hit a rock retaining wall and flipped over into the gravel, landing on my head and then my bottom.
Immediately another rider was next to me checking me out, asking questions, and helping. After about 15 minutes of “collecting myself” I got up, dusted myself off, adjusted my bent front brake, pulled some rocks out of my helmet, and got back on my bike. That other racer stayed with me the entire time. I wish I had looked at his race number so I could have thanked him later but I didn't and never saw him again. Since I was already at the top of the big hill I rode slowly back to the transition area at the park.
As I entered the park, one of the race officials said, “You must be the guy that flipped over. Are you OK?” I said yes and then continued on to my spot. Without even thinking I took off my bike shoes and helmet, put on my running shoes, stretched my neck a bit, and then went out on the run. The thought of not finishing the race didn’t even cross my mind.
The first mile of the run was very painful and slow (12+ minute pace). Just after the 1 mile mark I was passed by a barefoot guy that was pushing 80. I found out later that he was indeed 80 and finished the race. He passed me and gave words of encouragement. A few minutes later something inexplicable happened: my cramps went away, my neck loosened up, and I was able to increase my pace to 9 minute miles. As I passed Mr. Barefoot he cheered me on. Unbelievably I finished the 4.3 mile run only 2 minutes slower than the last time I ran it. Considering how sore I was that night I have no idea how I even ran 1 mile, let alone over 4.
Aftermath: I didn’t go to the ER but my doctor did check me out. The next day I had spine, neck, and head x-rays which came out clean (i.e no broken bones). I had no concussion, no broken bones, no cuts, only bruises and sore muscles. Since I finished the race it was hard to tell which muscles were sore from normal racing and which ones were sore from the crash. My right knee had a huge bruise swollen to about the size of a grapefruit on the left side of my knee cap. Based on the impact marks and my estimated speed (about 25-30 MPH) the doctor said that my helmet had definitely saved my life and had at least saved me from a fractured skull.
Recovery: The night after the crash it was very hard to sleep. I had a lot of time to think about what had happened. The events of the crash played back in my mind over and over and over. Why did I think I could make that tight turn going so fast? How did I miss that 20MPH sign? Did I use my brakes the right way? Could I have missed that rock? The words of my Red Cross CPR/First Aid instructor kept coming to mind, “If you come across a person who you suspect has a spinal injury, do not let them get up. Have them remain still on the ground while you stabilize their head and neck until paramedics arrive.” I didn’t do that. I got up and finished my race. I should have stayed there and waited for help to arrive but I was too stubborn. I risked my life for a stupid race without thinking about the impact on my family. Eventually I got to sleep but I didn’t rest well until after my x-ray results came back. I got that call on the morning of August, 26th, my birthday. And what a fabulous birthday present it was, too! (negative for spinal fractures)
So my racing season for 2010 was over. With a couple of weeks I was doing much better and even completed a couple of short runs (20-25 minutes each). I did physical therapy with a great doctor to make sure that my neck muscles healed properly and quickly. My bike only needed minor repairs and was back in service within a week. Will I race again? Yes. Will I be more careful from now on when it comes to turns? ABSOLUTELY.