A Fine Mess

by klassman

Last weekend we tackled Raleigh.  It was a reprise — of sorts — of the 2013 Raleigh campaign.  Dana had organized everything and the whole tribe was waiting when I got home around 12.30 for our noon departure to the land of the pines.

Again, we celebrated Esme’s birthday with her pal Ava and Ava’s warm, generous, funny and talented family, the Roark’s of Raleigh.  Like last year, we had a lovely dinner with Esme’s godmother and our dear friend Anna.  We also hit up the Char Grill on the way out of town for cheeseburgers.  However, this year was all sorts of different.  Let me recount a few of the ways.

  1. Dana’s family were not able to attend and witness firsthand her awesomeness.
  2. The Roark’s hosted the entire tribe for a sleepover the night before the race and then entertained the kids throughout the long race day.  This was a godsend.  Also, we decided that in the future only one of us can do day long races at a time.  It is simply too much to foist the tribe on anyone for that length of time.  Besides, what if something were to go wrong and keep us from picking up the tribe after the race?  FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING
  3. It was not Dana’s first triathlon.  By her account, she didn’t do nearly the level of preparation and wasn’t ready.  In 2013, she soared through the whole day with nary a problem.  In 2014, she started with a mild panic and probably would have been happy to get off her bike somewhere in the hills of Holly Springs.
  4. It wasn’t as hot as 2013.
  5. It was a day with more wind.
  6. I started the race with seven runs under my belt — that is, for all of March, April and May I had run seven times and only two were more than 30 minutes.  My swim training was in a good to very good spot and cycling was somewhere in between with nearly all of March lost to a calf injury but steady work for 6-8 weeks pre-race.  I also raced for the first time without socks — and the last time.
  7. I rode without Aaron’s deep front wheel, my back wheel cover or his long tail helmet.  I did ride with a new Giro Air Attack, hockey helmet style, modified aero helmet and liked it a great deal.  It vents far better than I expected.
  8. I rode significantly slower this year over the same course.  In fact it was nearly 15 minutes slower.  Wind, poor execution on the hills, the fact that I left both of my bottles in the hotel and didn’t bring them to T1, who knows?  I rode more slowly.  On the upside, I really liked riding with the Garmin 500 and the feedback it provided.  It told me when to let someone go early in the ride because it would have been possible to ride 250-270 watts at his pace, but my target was 230-235 so I let him go.
  9. I was not absent for Dana’s finish.  I walked up the course 1200 meters and texted to the tribe so that they would be waiting at the finish line for her.  Then after snapping a few photos (to follow) in front of the historic state capitol building, I ran ahead and met her at the chute.  She is amazing.  I could say more, but why?  She is amazing.
  10. Unlike last year, I did not race out of my mind and turn in a result that was both awesome and surprising.  Recall last year I set a personal record at this distance by nearly 20 minutes and qualified for the World Championships via a roll down slot.  This year, I was about on track with projections coming in at 5:15, finished 48th in my age group and didn’t tear up the course so much as make my way around it in a workmanlike way.  Following the advice of my physical therapist, I followed a run/walk plan for the last leg of the race — running about 20-25 minutes and then walking 90 seconds to two minutes to regain composure and really make sure my form was spot on.
  11. For the first time in nearly two dozen races, I went straight to the medical tent at the end of the race.  More on that below.

I swam about two and a half minutes faster than in 2013.  However, last year I was second out of the water in my age group and this year 4th — actually 6th.  I think that I out swam two guys who made it to the timing mat ahead of me.

As I put my hands down, following my last stroke, on the boat ramp and prepared to stand up I took a kick to the side of the head that made me see stars, spun me around and deposited me in a few inches of water on my neoprene padded bum.  The best I can tell is that as I took one last look up to judge my final strokes, the guy in front of me to the left was standing up.  He must have stood upright, and paused to get his bearings.  Meanwhile, I swam up two strokes and got right in the danger zone.  I took his foot directly onto my left ear.

As a kid I worked on farms.  Mostly on one farm — Olson Acres.  Rarely did I work with the animals but it was standard advice not to mess around behind the horses or the cows.  I’m not saying this other guy is a horse, but he sure kicked like one.

At any rate, the next thing I recall is a race official person making his way across the boat ramp and through the water to get to my aid.  He was saying something to me or asking me something.  I didn’t hear it.  Without thinking — had I been thinking this would have been the wrong decision — I ran away from him, out of the water and to the furthest point along the line of volunteers stripping wetsuits.  While my head hurt, especially the ear, it wasn’t until about an hour later I realized I couldn’t hear out of my left ear.  Someone passed me who had been trailing close but not necessarily drafting for quite a while.  I looked up and thought — don’t be an asshat: Be quiet or wish him well.  He came by with a smile and warned me that at the bottom of a little hill coming up were a rough railroad crossing.  I had to ask him to repeat it twice and then thanked him as he sped off.

I reached up and found scabby, granular bits of dried blood in my ear that felt like sand.  But, without dizziness, double vision or vomiting, I just plowed on thinking that if something went wrong I’d pull over and wait for an official sag wagon.

After the race, the medical team assessed me and diagnosed earwax blocking the canal and holding in water.  They were very serious about concussion related symptoms and unanimous that I didn’t have one which was a huge relief because it was only then I that I thought about it and realized that I stayed out on the course nearly five hours with a head injury.  Stupid.

It was only the day before that Josephine had been pushed down in a scrum at the start of an Ironkids race.  She had been so excited to participate and within moments she was being trampled.  She emerged with scraped hands and a massive gray and purple goose egg bruise in the center of her forehead.  Within 24 hours I had just reviewed all that medical science has to offer via the Internet on concussions and their effects.

Status — Josephine is doing well.  She tried out for the school talent show on Monday and is scheduled to ride her unicycle while playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the recorder.  Yesterday she started with the diving team at the local pool and looked graceful and comfortable.  As for me, I have a persistent ringing in my left ear and a horrible, nerves on edge attitude.  I have a headache.

On Monday the ENT said the inside of my ear looked like a meatball.  It definitely wasn’t wax — the blockage was due to skin and other tissue that has dislodged.  He said that all the skin on the ear canal was missing and that he didn’t think I broke the eardrum but wouldn’t know until the swelling and other possibly infection related swelling went down.  I’m on a painkiller, a steroid and a antibiotic.  Oh, and it is possible that I have a hairline fracture in my head or jaw but since the treatment is simply rest that the x-ray would not be worth doing.  Yesterday afternoon I shut my mouth all the way for the first time since Sunday.