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The Finish I Never Found

With every triumph, I suppose there exists the inevitable tribulation. When I decided to add the Race the River Sprint triathlon into my schedule, my purpose revolved solely around supporting a local race. I didn't need to wake up at 0300 to drive to Coeur d'Alene, I didn't need to prepare for Ironman 70.3 Canada by racing a small sprint triathlon, I didn't even need the excitement that comes with crossing the finish line. Yet I realized, when lying flat on my back at the intersection of Front and 6th streets, how much I felt deprived of the opportunity to cross it.

I blame no one. Perhaps much of the blame belongs on me for taking the risk of racing even a small event the weekend before a race I've invested in so much more time and money. While I have not had the opportunity to confront the volunteer who communicated (or didn't) with the driver of the truck that entered my path as I flew down Front Street at what must have been at least 25mph on my brand new BMC Timemachine, I look back at each replay in my head and think neither of them must have seen me. Ironically, though, a bystander did. My bike was bright yellow, after all. Yet at the end of the day, none of these details matter.

Swerving to miss the truck that essentially stopped in the middle of the road, my back wheel fish-tailing with the distress of having to stop so suddenly when flying so mightily, successfully missing the volunteer but then riding up onto the sidewalk, I rode myself right into the brick building with what I later learned had a steel door. My right base bar took the impact with the door, snapping in half; my Giro Air Attack Shield helmet managed to preserve my head by cracking upon impact with the brick wall. Unfortunately, I continue to loathe the laws of physics that didn't spare me; the whiplash can't quite be ignored even six days after the incident left me flat on my back with a neck so sore I felt afraid to move anything.

Yet that's all I could think to do when a calm bystander rushed over to assess me, and the distraught exclamations from the volunteer serenaded me in the background. Completely baffled, I realized I'd remained conscious, could answer questions, and most importantly, move my fingers and toes. Though it might seem trivial, or ridiculous, to some, when the man presiding over me asked if he could pray for me, I felt an instant calm. At this point, his query allowed me to shift my focus on talking to my God, too. I figured if I let everyone else do their jobs to call the EMT and race support, then I could manage to focus on breathing.

Hearing the whirring of race wheels in the background disturbed me. I so confidently entered this race and had predicted crossing the finish line with what I had hoped would translate into a personal best. I regretted thinking I could take for granted the opportunity to race through a city and rely on others to keep the course safe. In hindsight, this interaction with a motorist that resulted in my crash was actually the third instance I had had to negotiate hairy traffic situations in this short race alone. That means, in less than 15 miles, I had had to pass two cars stopped at an intersection, without anyone to signal them as to an oncoming cyclist whose course required I turn left around them; I had to swerve wide to the right coming back from Higgins Point when a truck hauling a boat passed cyclists on his side of the road only to encroach significantly into my lane to make his pass; and finally, my luck ran out in a single second of impact when I swerved one last time only to hit a wall.

As much aerobic pain as can be experienced racing a sprint triathlon, I would have gladly embraced it over the way I felt lying on a hospital bed in the ER. Everything had stiffened immediately, and my muscles guarded so heavily against me moving my head that even the MRI that showed I had not fractured anything couldn't convince them to settle down. What made the three hours in the hospital worse was knowing how good the finish line food must have tasted when my doctor, nurses, nursing assistants, x-ray technician, MRI technician, and my transporters to said imaging couldn't even give me a goddamn sandwich. After the two hour mark, I thought perhaps a glass of water would at least allow me to fill my gurgling belly, but in case I had caused more damage to my brain that a helmet couldn't prevent, I was to wait until the radiologist confirmed my negative findings before I could devour a measily glass of water.

Bryan hauled my poor Timemachine back to Morgan, who met him at his shop on Argonne on his day off to take in the dilapidated beauty he had sent me home with just four days prior. I can't imagine the look on his face to see his work of art come back looking so miserably disfigured. I felt ashamed. I called Steve Sparks of Elements Massage in an effort to see about scheduling a massage the next day, hoping I could mitigate the tension that developed over the course of just three short hours. He graciously worked to get me into the Wandermere location with my regular therapist, Kyla, first thing the next morning.

So much healing has occurred as I sit here in Whistler, thinking about everyone who has worked to support me. I appreciate the reception I received almost immediately from Isaac Mann and Curt Dupois, the two race directors for RtR. I even had the opportunity to talk to the calm and prayerful bystander who stayed with me throughout the entire ordeal, ensuring my safety until race personnel could transport me back to transition to find Bryan. While I had no intentions of posting my ordeal on Facebook, it seems the inquiries of friends and family as to my wellbeing made it inevitable that I relay how incredibly fortunate I really do feel. I broke no bones, tore no ligaments, and though my melon may have rattled a bit, I don't think I'm any more weird or crazy than people described me before the incident.

My optimism to race this Sunday in Whistler only seemed unclear up until Wednesday. I have sought the help of many and made rest a priority as I embrace the chance to at least cross the liquid start line of Alta Lake. What remains unclear, however, is how (if at all) I'll manage to find the finish line. My level of experience racing the long course distance of triathlon seems to offer me no reassurance that I will finish this time. That startles me tremendously. All I know is what transpires will be, and what will be, I will accept.


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