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The Injury, Heartache, and Ironman that Wasn’t

It has been ages since I have written about triathlon training. As I look back through my posts, the last time I wrote about any of it was at the end of March. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you already know that there was a lot of training going on and that was part of the reason for my slack in writing. The training cycle had been rocky with illness and injury, but by April, I was feeling good and on track to tackle Ironman Lake Placid. It was not going to be an epic race for me, but I was confident that I could successfully get through the challenging course.

My prep race was Rev 3 Quassy 70.3. I was very excited to go back and tackle the “Beast of the East” as I knew the terrain and had prepared for the monster hills on the bike and run course. It took place the first weekend in June. My family and I headed for Connecticut the day before the race so I could get my bike checked in and prepare to wake up at the crack of dawn on race day. It was fairly uneventful, other than noticing a slow leak in my back tire tube, which I had changed by one of the bike mechanics there. I was so glad to have found that, because the last thing I needed was any drama on the bike!

On race day, my husband got up early with me and dropped me off at the start. I gave him some approximate times of when I thought I would be out of the water and off the bike, etc. It was perfect race day weather, cool, crisp with overcast skies. Oddly, I was not nervous at all about the race. In my mind, it was a well supported training day that would be a confidence booster and test run for my big event in Lake Placid at the end of July.

As I stood at the edge of the water waiting for my swim wave to start, there was the usual chatter and high energy of all the athletes around me as they discussed the difficulty of the course. I was feeling very peaceful and did my best to block out the noise. When the gun went off, I calmly entered the water to start the 1.2 mile swim. It was crowded at first, as the athletes around me settled into their swim paces. I felt great and spent the entire swim thinking about how grateful I was to be alive and healthy enough to be right where I was at that moment. It was the best open water swim I have ever experienced in a triathlon. It was not my fastest, by far, but the most enjoyable.

I exited the water, headed to my bike and quickly put my gear on and  got out of transition. The bike course is a beast, 4,000 feet of elevation over 56 miles, but I felt prepared. The first 20 miles went great, but then as I headed in to the longest climbs of the course, I felt my left hamstring tighten and began having a lot of pain in my left glute region. It was an old injury rearing it’s ugly head at the worst possible time. I trudged onward, shifting around on my bike to find the most comfortable position. The next 36 miles were a complete suffer fest and all I could do was watch the miles slowly tick away on my Garmin as I climbed hill after hill. I finished the bike course much slower than anticipated, but did not care, as I was just glad to be done.

As I was heading into transition, I saw my kids and husband cheering me on, which was a real boost for my spirit. I saw them again as I headed out on my run. Quassy is infamous in the triathlon community for the beastly bike course, but in my opinion, the run deserves equal accolade for it’s difficulty: 1,000 feet of elevation over 13.1 miles. My glute was on fire and my hamstring was extremely tight as I began my half marathon journey. I moved forward, one foot in front of the other, hoping that I would loosen up the further I ran. By mile 6, it was clear that was not going to happen, and I needed to somehow get the pain out of my mind to make it to the finish line. I began alternating walking and running for the next several miles. I watched my pace become slower and slower and slower, as I attempted to give myself little pep talks to get through it. At one point, I thought I should quit…”Maybe I’ll just take my timing chip off and pretend today didn’t happen.” Then, I envisioned my kids at the finish line. Of course, I could not quit. I started running again, slowly, but I was running… mile 11…mile 12… Finally, 13 miles! That is when I saw my family, my kids each grabbed one of my hands and we crossed the finish line together. It was such a relief for it to finally be over!

I hobbled to get my medal, but tried to smile just knowing that I was a finisher. However, I was injured and depression began to set in about having such a terrible event. Ironman Lake Placid was only 7 weeks away and I was facing another setback. Seven weeks before Ironman Mont Tremblant, I had been in the terrible bike accident that left me with a broken arm and several other injuries. I picked myself up after that and was determined to cross that finish line, which I did. This time was supposed to be different.

We returned home late Sunday night and I made an appointment first thing Monday morning to see my chiropractor. She is amazing and helped me through all of the injuries I had after the bike accident in 2015. She thought that I had a sprain/strain in my gluteus region and the hamstring was a separate strain. I was advised to lay off any running or biking, unless it was slow and on very flat terrain or on my trainer. I followed her orders and essentially took the week off, missing some key training once again. I was feeling a little better after the week of down time, but not 100%. She urged me to ease back into anything, once again, no hill workouts! This was difficult, as Ironman Lake Placid is extremely hilly, so what I needed to be doing, was precisely what I was not able to do. By the end of the second week of low key training, I was feeling 90% better.

However, just as I was ready to get back on track, I was faced with an overwhelming personal crisis and felt my world collapsing around me. At first, I thought I could bury myself deeply in the intensity of Ironman training and it would help me handle the situation better. After a week of attempting to do this, with zero success, I knew I had to make a very hard decision. I needed to pull out of the Ironman. All of my attention needed to be devoted elsewhere and getting “lost in training” was not possible.

I will say that within 24 hours of making the decision, I felt a huge sense of relief by letting it go. The entire reason I had signed up for this Ironman was to “do it right” after all that happened leading up to and on race day at Ironman Mont Tremblant. I am an Ironman finisher already and it did not make sense to drag an injured body and broken spirit across another 140.6 miles just to prove I could do it. I decided to go to the race, despite not competing and sherpa for my coach and volunteer on race day, which I did.  It turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in the world of triathlon.

Have you ever had to drop out of a race after spending a lot of training? Have you competed in a race, despite being injured?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Thank you for stopping by and look out for my next post on the Rewards of Volunteering.

 

 

 

Nancy Andres

Friday 4th of August 2017

Thanks Angela for being a power of example. It takes courage to finish as you did and also set a priority to deal with personal issues instead of going for the ironman. I don't race, but I've been in situations where it was unhealthy for me to continue on the same course I was on. My choice is to check in with myself at each crossroad, and then do what's best for my mind, body, and spirit at that moment. Sounds like you made that choice too. Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way. Nancy Andres @ www.colors4health.com

maraardelean

Tuesday 1st of August 2017

love to see such determination to run. I'm also training for a summer race with SportMe running app which calculates distance, time, pace and calories.

Kathryn @ Dancing to Running

Monday 31st of July 2017

The picture of you running with your kids is absolutely adorable. I love how their enthusiasm and spirit helped carry you across the finish line of a difficult race. Its difficult to be upset about something when they are clearly so proud of us.

Anna @ Pipers Run

Monday 31st of July 2017

So sorry to hear about your injury during that race. I've been so injured for 2 years that I so far behind my normal pace these days....but slowly getting stronger.

Farrah

Sunday 30th of July 2017

Thank you for sharing this! It sounds like you made the right call even if it was a really difficult decision to make! <3