How it all went down...

I worked last weekend on the Medic truck and by Saturday night, I could feel the burn of a sore throat looming on the horizon.  Sunday morning, my ear hurt and I couldn’t swallow so to Walgreens I went. By the time I left for Placid on Tuesday, I was having a hard time breathing and was coughing up a ton of mucous.  Travelling through the mountains was nothing shy of painful, I felt like my left ear was going to rupture. I started a vigorous routine of rinsing, Zicam, Dayquil and was leaning on my puffer pretty hard.  Walking up the twelve steps to the top level of the Wilmington house was painful and I was super short of breath. I locked in and locked on in every attempt to rid myself of my lung plague before the 9th.


I have a saying.  If something messed up is going to happen, it will happen to me. IT DID..  


While not feeling great and finding myself generally exhausted from fighting a virus, I was angry that I had made it this far without having gotten sick in months.  Such is the peril of working around sick patients, I guess.


My Mom and Dad said that if I chose not to participate in the 70.3 because I was sick, they were ok with it and they were sure that “everyone would understand”.  “I’m ok, Mom. I didn’t travel all the way up here to not do this because of a cold”. “Whatever you decided, Dad and I will have your back”. “I love you, Mommy.  Thank you.” “We love you too, Tracy.”


I rested all day on Wednesday and tried to purge the demon mucus from my lungs.  Thursday, Michael made me an amazing breakfast, we had our coffee and I went to walk to clear my head and see how my lungs felt.  I was winded easily, but I figured a few more days and I will be good to go. Sometime after lunch, I meandered my way to where I keep my equipment in the house and walked up to the living room to get on the trainer to spin a bit.


I got the side eye from Mike.  “You need to take it easy”. “I’ll be good”.  


FAMOUS LAST WORDS.


About 45 mins into me spinning, I was leaning down on my bars and felt the bike move.  Weird. Maybe it is sliding on the hardwood floor, I thought. I kept spinning. I felt it move again, looked down at my blocks and instantly realized the BACK of the bike was moving not the front.  A split second later, with no time to react, the entire bike slid out from under me, listing me up and to the left. My left side came crashing down onto the hardwood chair that was pushed up against the wall with nowhere to go.  I slammed onto the chair, which then promptly bounced up and fell over and on top of me while still attached to the bike. Michael came running over, trying to free me from being bound up in the trainer and chair but he couldn’t move me without me screaming in pain.  

I laid on the floor for what seemed an eternity, Michael was able to get my boots off and started slowly sliding everything away from me.  I couldn’t move without feeling like a knife was in my side and I knew immediately something was terribly wrong. I rolled to my left side, laid there and caught my breath then when I could, rolled to my belly and tried to stand up without vomiting.  After a few more minutes, I was able to get to the couch with some help and packed my left flank and back with ice. “Michael, how bad is my bike?” (For the love of all things holy, I know) “I could care less about the bike, do you need to go to the ER?”  “No, please check on my bike. I’m pretty sure it’s really messed up.” About 20 minutes later, Michael came in and said “Yup, the skewer is bent and the bad news is...so is your back tire.” Well, SHIT.


The messed up thing here is this: I knew how bad I was hurt and in all actuality, if any other person other than me presented like this to a Medic at that time, they would have been treated and taken to the hospital.  But, nope. Not ME. Like a complete jackass I was worried about my stupid bike. Then I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to compete on Sunday. Again. Well, SHIT.


When I was able to move a bit and the advil started to kick in, I called Placid Planet Bikes (a Specialized dealer) explained to them what happened and asked if I could please bring my bike in to have them assess the damage.  She clearly heard how upset I was and said to come right in. We made the trip into the village, I tried to get out of the car and I genuinely couldn’t. After a few minutes, Mike was able to help me out of the car and we walked my banged up little monster into Placid Planet.  


The woman who greeted us was the same woman who had answered my call.  She first asked if I was ok, because she said she could hear how upset I was, then ushered me to the back of the building so they could look at my bike.  They worked to fix it, but most importantly, helped to calm me down a bit. What a great group of people they are and I was super appreciative. We left with my girl patched up and ready to go on Sunday.  Me, however not so much.


I spent the next two days in and out of the tub, soaking in epsom salt.  Damn, I was miserable.


This was nothing shy of a bad idea.   


Sunday morning at 03:00, the alarm goes off.  I meander my way to the tub, make it as hot as I can tolerate it and dump in epsom.  I get dressed and head up for breakfast and coffee, Michael and Mel are already on it.  We pack up all my gear and take the 20 minute ride to the village and I have my way with the radio and my playlist.  “This is ME” comes on and it is turned up as loud as is tolerable and we all sing. It makes me happy. For a few minutes at least, I forgot how miserable I was and tried to enjoy the process of having my tribe with me as I geared up for this test of mental and physical endurance.


I laid out all of my equipment and wiped down my wet bike.  It was so damn cold, the air hurt to breathe. I laid everything out in order of use, put my wetsuit on grabbed my “morning bag” for whatever I needed to wear to keep me warm before I got into the water and headed down the carpet to a quarter mile to the beach.  


Everything burned, my lungs, my nose and with that...my back and side were unbearable.  I turned in my gear, walked over to Mel and Michael said my “I love you’s” and walked to the tent.  I hear the announcer say “This is the coldest start to an Ironman LP in history. It is 31 degrees out right now” WONDERFUL.  I waited for my wave and watched the pros walk through the entrance and disappear into the fog. Time to find my happy place….


A girl walked past me, frantically looking down and moving her way through the crowd.  I asked “Are you ok?” She looks up and stares up at me, visibly upset. “I’m beside myself, I lost my goggles, have you seen them?”  “No, I haven’t” “Oh my God, I don’t know what to do.” I said, “If you cannot find them, please come back and find me” An older gentleman turned slowly and shook his head, “that sucks”  “Yes, yes it does”


About 5 minutes later, she came back and said.  “I’m screwed, I can’t find them and they don’t have any extras”.  


Now, let me go back.  On Thursday’s check in before I fell we went down to the lake so I could take a picture of the Ironman rock.  (I know I am a freak with the pictures but it’s my thing) while standing there a little whirlwind of a woman comes down the path with a purpose.  She immediately starts up conversation (My kinda girl) and asks if Michael is doing the Ironman (She saw his tattoo) “No, She is” she giggles, we giggled, and we all talked.  She gave me some pointers, I helped her zip up her wet suit and showed her the easy way to do a surfers loop with the strap. As it turns out… She is an Ironman. Several times over, starting the sport at the age of 50 after her babies were all grown up.  She qualified for KONA….MORE THAN ONCE. This woman, of small stature was a legit badass and personified what being a triathlete was all about. She is a ROCK STAR. She left me with some positive reinforcement and a word of advice about the swim: people will swim over you, crawl over you, kick you in the face and head. Be smart about it, shove an extra set of goggles in your wetsuit to protect yourself and your ability to finish the race.  “That is fantastic advice, Thank you” SHe made my day, she made Michael’s, we took her picture to prove to her kids that she was in fact going for a swim, wished her good luck on Sunday and left with a smile on our faces.


“What do I do?” This young girl says to me.  “Here, Take my extra set” I reached into my wet suit and pulled out the goggles I had because of advice offered to me and handed them to her.  “Wait. WHAT? Are You serious?” “Yes, absolutely” “Oh My God, How can I get them back to you after the race?” “Don’t worry about it, just go out there and have fun and do right by me and finish”  She hugged me and I hugged her back and she hurried back to her group. The old guy standing next to me, turned slowly and smiled. He knuckled me up and said “I’m super proud of you, that was an amazing thing you just did”  “Thank you.”


It was now my waves turn to get into the water and I did exactly how I was trained.  I gave myself space, paid attention to who was around me and started my breast stroke to get myself to where I needed to be so I didn’t get trampled in the water and began my free style swim.  I had one of the best swims of my life. I felt strong, I moved past people and I wasn’t fatigued. I exited the water to hear Mel and Michael screaming “GO T!!!!” I smiled.  It made my heart happy. The swim after all, has always been my weak suit.


I came up to the carpet, started peeling off the layers and attempted to jog down to transition.  Michael ran alongside me yelling that I did great on my swim and like an affirmation of all my training was finally coming together I carried on determined to get to my bike and keep moving.  I couldn’t catch my breath, it hurt to inhale.


I got changed, got on my bike and headed out for the 56 mile course.  My left side hurt so bad I couldn’t get comfortable on the bike and holy shit was it cold.  It had only climbed up to 35 at this point and with wet hair and minimal clothing this was going to be a challenge.  For the most part, I kept good time until I hit mile 25 and something started to change. I felt like I had a grapefruit on my left upper quadrant, I was nauseous and couldn’t catch my breath.  I tried to stand up by felt like a knife was tearing through my flank when I did. Something was wrong. I came to mile 35 and finally decided to make a pit stop to use the bathroom. I couldn’t stand up straight.  A NY State Trooper offered to hold my bike for me, I thanked him when I was done and carried on trying to figure out how to get around this terrible pain I was in. Never in a million years did I think I was putting myself in harms way, but somehow I knew I was going to time out as I didn’t have the strength to push any harder.  


Mile 46.4.


The van pulls over and I knew I had timed out.  “You are not going to make the time cut off, you can finish if you want but we need your chip”  The Trooper who had been rooting me on for the last 5 miles stopped when I did. I unclipped and said, “No.  I’m done. I need to get back to my family.” The Trooper exited his car and said “You fought until the very end, I am proud of you” “Thank you, Sir.  I am actually proud of myself too.”

I rode back in the van with other athletes, some who got pulled because of equipment failure that was unable to be fixed, some because they were injured and others that this brutal course just ate up whole.  One of the riders stated that there were “dozens” of athletes who tapped out at the first “aid station” in Keene due to the cold. I thought to myself, I at least made it close to the end.


I came back into town, grabbed my items from transition and began the process of exiting the area.  I was met by my tribe and was so damn happy to see them with smiles waiting for me. I was happier to know how proud of me they were, I literally tried my hardest but today was just not my day.  “I’ll get it next time, this was fantastic learning experience”


We made our way through the mountains, back to the house and I went back to the tub.  See, here is where I knew I was really in trouble. I couldn’t get out of the tub without feeling like I was going to vomit.  I couldn’t expand my chest wall to take a breath, I couldn’t cough and I couldn’t lift my left arm at all. At dinner, I was crazy uncomfortable and getting more so every minute that passed by.  Then, the crushing chest pain, shortness of breath, left shoulder pain, nausea and sweating.


OH NO.  NO. NO. NO. NO. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.


But it was.


Mel and Mike packed me up in the car and we headed to Saranac’s ER.  I was taken right in and evaluated. EKG, ok. IV, Aspirin, Toradol, IV Fluids, Zofran.  Physical assessment. Diffuse left upper quadrant pain, radiating to my left shoulder. “We need to get you to CT scan right away and take a look at your Spleen”.  Off I went.


To hear a Doctor talking about traumatic injuries while on the job is one thing, but to have it be you a Medic on the receiving end is something completely different.  It turns out, I significantly underestimated how badly I was hurt. I had bruised my Spleen and left lung in my fall on Thursday. The Doctor informed me that the Bike was not only really bad news, but the run may very well have been catastrophic as my already swollen spleen could have ruptured.   He gave me a look, and a list of things I needed to keep an eye out for and if they appeared to come right back in.


We were up for a solid 24 hours that day.  Longest day. EVER.


I spent most of the day in bed Monday, resting enough to be able to make the 6 hour ride home.  We came home today and here I sit. In bed. Resting. I am thankful that things didn’t turn out worse and that given time, I will heal and be able to start training again in a few weeks.  My body may be bruised but my ego and most importantly, my spirit is not. I have learned so much to this point about me, the real me, what makes me keep getting back up and trying despite my body’s best efforts to force me to quit.  Mostly, I have learned that there are so many good people out there who love and support me in everything I do. For that reason, I will pick myself up, dust myself off, get back on that damn bike and work harder to earn the title “Ironman”.


Stay safe out there and be good to each other ~ T



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