Category Archives: June ’10

Learning to be left handed

Right when I got back on my bike I looked at my full-finger cycling gloves I had bought just two days earlier. Thank goodness for these. The synthetic leather hadn’t even torn. I could only imagine how bloody and scarred my fingers would have been in that wreck had I not been wearing these. But before I had even finished riding the forest hill loop this Sunday in the Xterra East Championships, my right thumb was swelling and weakening.

I was having trouble shifting gears and gripping the handlebar and the pain was becoming overwhelming. I thought, okay I probably just jammed it and its sprained. So I kept racing with no concern for my finger but rather placing priority on maintaining my position in the race.

Later that afternoon I went to CVS and bought a splint with moderate stability. My right thumb was twice the size of the left one.

On Tuesday I went out to train with the Endorphin Fitness triathlon team and began what was going to be a three week period of intense training to get me ready for 3 sports triathlon. But every pot hole I hit I would scream in agonizing pain. Later that day I worked at Chipotle and struggled to complete even the simplest tasks like counting  money or lifting a burrito or opening a bag. Before I realized the technique of scooping burritos with two hands, I had lifted one with the use of my opposable thumb only to watch the digit snap downward. The burrito slip out from my grip and smacked onto the table, squirting beans and rice all over the counter as I watched wondering what had just happened. I attempted to do the normal task again and watched my thumb snap out of place once more, same result.

I decided against racing in the Working Man’s Classic that night, feeling I should at least wait another day to decide.

I went to Huguenot flatwater on Wednesday morning to swim with the EF team. But after just a few hundred meters I could tell that my hand needed some more rest so I called it a day.

With my brace fully tightened, I hopped on my bike that night for the Working Man’s Classic and went out and raced in the Cat 1,2,3 race. I fought for a four man breakaway that seemed like it was going to succeed, making big pulls but in the end finished up around 15th for the night.


But come Thursday morning with my thumb swollen and a fabulous array of colors, I decided I might as well go to the doctor to hear some good news. I figured, I’ll go in, hear my ligament is just slightly torn and I’ll have an excuse to race tonight.

As the doctor at Ortho On Call felt my thumb, testing strength in different directions I thought, “Okay, this is good. She must not have seen anything wrong with the X-ray so she’s probably going to just locate which ligament I tore and give me a stronger brace.”

Instead I got, “Okay, I’m not going to cause you any more pain. I do know what’s wrong. But I have some bad news. Your thumb is broken.”

Xterra East Championship ’10

Without fail, every year, “I’m never doing an Xterra again.”

This year was no different. I crossed the line as the announcer said “Oooo, here comes what looks to be our dirtiest competitor yet.”

I was caked in mud, a combination of the dirt from my fall in Forest Hill Park and my own sweat. I had traversed the Championship course in 2:12:04, good enough for the 14th fastest amateur time and the fastest of the 20-24 age group. I inherited once again another obscure title of  East region 20-24 off-road triathlon champion to add to Off-road duathlon 20-24 national champion.

©2010 XTERRA.

The race started a little differently from years past. I have actually been swimming these past few months, placing extra focus on the leg that has previously been my weakest. So when I hit the 200m run stretch on Belle Isle mid-swim, I knew I was up with the leaders. But, when I hit the shore up-river and was ready to jump back into the water and head back to finish the swim, my left foot landed hard on a concealed rock.

Coach Tyler Johnson watched as I fell into the water only to pop up a few meters away screaming in agony, grabbing at my wounded foot. I quickly tried to ignore my foot, having several minutes before I would need to use it again. I focused on my form but the torn, flapping skin tickling the bottom of my foot was a disgusting reminder of the brutality of Xterra events.

By T1 I had forgotten about the ripped flesh and the swelling pain in my foot was soon overshadowed by anaerobic hammer-time on the mountain bike leg.

I reached Forest Hill Park and the man who carried the target I intended to chase flew by me, chanting courtesies along the way.

“Coming up on your left man.” “Next chance you get.” “Thanks bud, have a good race.” The well wishing were just as frustrating as the fact that he had caught me. But it was obvious he was on a different level than me today.

But in my frustration I hammered even harder, pushing the limits of my mountain biking ability. At my age, I do not have much disadvantage with swimming and running compared to the older guys but as shown this weekend, cycling strengthens greatly with age.

Knowing that one of the top amateur positions was slipping away from me, I began taking risks around turns and over obstacles. But my frustration back-fired as a I slipped to the outside of a fast left-hand turn. The loose scree slipped out from beneath my tires and I went down hard on my left leg, arm and my hands while trying to brace my fall.

I quickly mounted my bike and continued riding, even with the stunned, winded feeling, still questioning “What the hell just happened?” No time to answer that. The thought crossed my mind about my ability to finish the race, but I guess having a couple more competitors pass me ended that doubt.

As the ride went on I found my lines getting sketchier with fatigue and my hands were swelling and cramping. By the later miles of Northbank trail I was unable to move my right thumb to switch gears. I rolled into T2 leading my age group with a significant buffer and jumped out onto the run with ease and comfort. I caught 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 guys as the kilometers passed.

The brim of my hat lowered until I was in my own little masochistic world by the time I hit the Mayan Ruins, a ridiculously steep sketchy climb with railroad ties for stairs. I neared the top and my left leg twitched and began to give out. I thought “Not today buddy. Your holding through till the end.” In every off-road event I have competed in I have felt these cramps and seizures, signs of fatigue, but today I was going to tolerate no less of my body than the best. And I was going to demand the best of it.

©2010 XTERRA

At the top I picked my pace back up instantly and began to chase down more competitors, catching 6, 7, 8 guys. Pierre Martel, the 2009 Off-road duathlon national champion caught me and passed me and with a few words exchanged, I did everything I could to hang with him. He led me past 9, 10. But I did not have enough. He was going head to head against another man in his age group, fighting for the 2010 Maui Xterra World Championship spots. I crossed the finish line alone.

The day left me with a broken right thumb, a painful bruise and gash on the bottom of my left foot, quarter size blisters on both feet, a gnarly scrape on my left forearm, and one of only 35 spots for the 2010 Xterra World Championships in Maui, Hawaii.

I said it. I’m never doing another Xterra again. But last year it took over a week for me to begin imagining glory the next time I mounted my fat tires. And this year it took only minutes to begin contemplating the practicality of competing in Hawaii in October.

Its a lot of money to make it there. But money seems insignificant compared to the thousands of hours I had put in swimming, biking, and running to earn that qualifying spot. We’ll see.