I had planned for AZ RockíníRoll weekend to be a training weekend. Since this Ironman bike course is a 3 loop affair, I decided to ride one loop of this ride last Saturday the 13th, and run the Rock and Roll Arizona 1/2 Marathon (RNR) on the 14th. These distances are all within my training schedule which I have been managing quite well. I am very healthy and adapting my body to these new training schemes.
However... I made it back from AZ with another life experience. Please get comfortable for a long story now.... My training partner Megan and I got in late Friday night to Scottsdale. So we decided to sleep in a bit and then headed off to the RNR expo early Saturday morning. It was a massive expo. It was quite an affair. There were just tons of people and vendors.
After Megan and I were done with the expo, we headed off to ride one 40 mile loop of the IM course. So we headed off to the Tempe Beach Park, where the Transition area of the IM will be at. It was still cold around upper 40's with some blustery winds. I had to bundle up because it was chilly! However, I could tell we weren't alone in our undertaking though. There were several cars with triathlon and road bikes attached to them. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the undertaking that IM brought out in me so I told Megan, "I can't believe that I am doing this."
So we made it out on the bike course by around 12:30 p.m. The little loop through Tempe is very flat and it is not very difficult to navigate at all. There were a couple of nice landmarks to spot to let you know that you are on course, like a drive in movie theatre, and scenic desert vistas. Spotting Highway 87 was a little more difficult, because it isn't marked as highway 87, but we made it out OK. This part of the ride is pleasant, very gentle or no inclines that were really noticeable at all. The desert scenery reminded me of my summers that I had spent in Twentynine Palms when I was younger. Bike-wise, I did not notice anything really difficult to ride. It was not until I reached the turnaround point towards Shea Ave that we noticed any inclines that required much effort. This was probably the only part of the course that I used my small chainring up front.
We made it to Shea Ave (the mile 20 turnaround point), tried to take a couple of pictures and then headed home. Megan was getting a little tired by now; this was one of her longest bike rides for her. She did not sign up for IMAZ. So we fought the wind together and I waited for her when the wind picked up more and trudged through the rest of the bike home. It was definitely a lot colder now.
At mile 33 of our 40 mile journey. I mis-navigated one of the turns on Alma School Road. I took us down a road that didn't look familiar and into this rural country kind of road with only 4 homes on it. Several dogs were barking wildly at us from their front yards, including 2 mongrel looking mutts. They didn't look very friendly and even worse they were unleashed. Megan and I tried to make a beeline out of there to avoid a confrontation with them.
Unfortunately, the dogs gave chase to us and I was trying to ride quickly past them. Both dogs encircled me and one dog came at me from 11 o'clock nipping at my front wheel. This dog then ran directly in front of my left wheel. I hit this dog and immediately lost control of everything. I cased the deck really hard on my left side. I heard this disgusting screech as my helmeted head slid across the tarmac at least 10 feet. I was probably riding close to 18 mph. I emerged dazed and noticed immediate sharp pain in my left shoulder. Fortunately my crash scared off the dogs enough to leave me alone. Megan put on her bravest face for me and asked me if I was okay. I knew I wasn't and I suspected something pretty bad. I got up wincing in pain and made sure that my brand new bike was still operational. I still need to get it checked out by the bike shop. So I got up and straightened out my brake hoods and rode the last 7 miles thinking about the last time I had a bad bike wreck. This was right after my dad passed away 2 1/2 years ago.
My wreck put me in this weird vulnerable state of mind. Thoughts about not being to compete in IMAZ popped immediately into my head. I thought that I might have to consider dropping out in order to heal and rehab properly. The drive and passion that makes me want to complete an IM is so much of a quest of spiritual truth to me right now.
I so want to complete this race, too, because it is right before my 5 year cancer remission date. For those of you that may not know this about me, I am now a 4 year Stage III, testicular cancer survivor. Five years of remission is the benchmark when I will be considered cured. Nevertheless, I discovered endurance sports as a coping tool for me and to prove to myself that I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to.
We got back to Megan's mother's house limping in. Hellene, Megan's mom, gave me a range of motion assessment. Hellene, is a physical therapist, she didn't suspect any fractures but deep tissue bruising/ contusions. She lifted my arm up with great pain, and I noticed some popping noises. She gave me a massage to help some of the swelling go down, and I prayed that I should be okay to run the half marathon the next morning.
I awoke the next morning in a world of hurt, my shoulder ached really badly. I also had a nice contusion on my left elbow, knee and hip. But I decided to lace up my running shoes and give it go. It was painfully cold and hard to catch my breath that morning. It was a frigid 27 degrees when I woke up. So grimacing in pain throughout the whole RNR halfmarathon, I told Megan , "I guess this is what Ironman training is all about." I could not use my arm at all and it caused me to breathe rather shallow because of the pain.
Irregardless, I wanted to run well and I seriously ran headfirst into a gut check moment. Megan had to keep reminding me to keep a positive mental focus. I didn't drive all the way to Phoenix to have my training plans ruined by an accident. The miles seemed to click by like a slow dripping faucet.
Around mile 9, I met Nadine, from Lakewood. She had a 2:00 flat time estimate on the back of her shirt. She thought she was running a little behind pace so I encouraged her to keep running and hope for the best.
I had this really nice conversation with Nadine. I told her about my accident, training for Ironman, and my cancer survivorship. However the more I ran, the more it hurt. Towards the end of the race, I couldn't even lift up my left hand above my waist to check my time on my stopwatch. At one point I asked her if she could hold a water bottle for me while I reached for a different one.
We ran in together and I raised my one good arm with my injured wing tucked into my side. I ran a decent 2:00:38, despite all the pain I felt. After we finished running, she gave me a celebratory hug that squeezed my bad shoulder. I felt alive, but dazed and thinking to myself what did I just do? Nadine called me, "her little angel." I got back home late Sunday night, still hurting and not able to use my left arm very much. On Monday I visited my chiropractor and he did not want to treat me any further. Preliminary x-rays revealed a fracture. He wanted me to call my physician. I felt despondent and had to grieve for a moment.
So then on Tuesday I had additional x-rays done at my Primary Care physician's office and received visual confirmation of what I feared, a partial fracture of the left clavicle at the distal end of the bone. However this doc told me that it didn't look too bad.
So later on this afternoon, I had an urgent consult with my new orthopedist, Dr. Whiting. He gave me an incredulous look when I told him that I ran a half- marathon with my fractured clavicle. The office workers called me a "Crazy Man, not an Iron Man". This gave me a chuckle. He fitted me with a figure 8 brace that should hold my clavicle in place for now and allow it to heal properly. The good news is that he expects me to recover enough in 6 weeks to begin swimming again. I told him my training timetable and he thinks that I should be able to do IMAZ!
However, I can't even go to work now, due to the nature of the clients that I work with at my hospital. I will go stir crazy!! In the meantime I will have to try alternative low impact ways to maintain my fitness like aqua jogging, and stationary bike training.