Play with Fire, you will get burned.

Disclaimer: This may be as depressing to read as it is to write. But, hey, life doesn’t always go as planned. 

I am not a risk taker. You might not believe me, being a bike racer and all, but really, I’m not.

I rarely ever jaywalk. In fact, I was Crossing Guard of the Year in grade school. I am a Safety Representative at work and keep my First Aid/CPR card  up-to-date. I feel naked in a car without a seatbelt and will wait for what feels like eons at a red light when no one is around when I’m on my bike (alone.) I’m that girl no one invited to any high school shenanigans because of my rule-following reputation. Basically, I’m about as exciting as watching ice melt.

But, what is good about that, is that I stay safe. That’s why I haven’t mass-start raced since Walla Walla in April. It isn’t the most fun, but it is disciplined. I wish I had followed that instinct and stayed home Wednesday night.

Instead, I followed the bright lights of the Marymoor Velodrome to Redmond for some track racing. While track racing may sound dangerous, the Association has a very strict set of steps every racer must follow to be race eligible. In fact, I’d never seen women crash, only men. I was excited to see my friends and I know Kevin was excited to be out there too. He had done a lot of stuff to get my bike ready in the last couple of weeks, including retrofitting my disc wheel to be track compatible.  I want to get my upgrade this year, so I was hopeful to snag a couple of points before Ironman CDA.

The first race was a 6-lap point-a-lap. Only the first rider across the finish line each lap would get 1 point. The person with the most points wins. I was warned that the pace the week before had been fast, so I was preparing for a hard race. My friend Alexie from another team inched me out for the first point, but I carried my momentum forward and captured the next two points. A UW rider snatched the next two and I new I had to go all out to get the last one. I took advantage of someone else’s lead-out and I managed to sprint for the last point and the win. I felt great! Kevin was proud of me and I quickly felt like I had a shot at an omnium win. I suffered the usual ‘track hack’ but felt like it was a pretty easy win.

The next race planned was an 8-lap Win-and-Out. All riders race for 4 laps until they ring the lap bell. Then, the first person across the line is the winner. They are then ‘out’ and must leave the track. Then, everyone else races for second—the next person to cross the finish line and then leave … and so on—4 places deep.

We were on the 3rd lap, before the race really even started. To give you some perspective, each lap is .25 miles, so we were less than one mile in. Then, it happened. Some girl, FOR ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD REASON, loses complete control of the front-end of her bike and crashes out. It was like watching a horror movie in slow motion except, when the very scary part comes and you think something bad is going to happen to you, you can’t click the TV off.

Because the track is banked, all crashes slide downhill. I had a nanosecond to pray that I’d make it past her before she slid all the way down. But instead,  I rode straight into her, flipped over my own handlebars, slammed down on the unforgiving concrete with my face and the left side of my body, and rolled down the track onto the asphalt apron.

My very first thought was ‘NO! Ironman!’

I’m not kidding. I have had a one-track mind for months and this was proof of that. As I scooted on to the grass with my ears ringing and my shoulder throbbing, I prayed it was only bruising and road rash. I prayed I’d be up and walking in a matter of moments. I prayed that when the paramedic murmered ‘broken or separate shoulder,’ he really meant ‘dislocated,’ and he’d painfully pop it back into place in a few minutes. As I laid in the grass, I wanted to fall asleep. I don’t think it was because of any head injury, but because I had to escape the horror film I was so vividly living out. It was also my very first DNF.

I’m so thankful for my friends who came rushing to my aid with calm words, down jackets and soothing voices. Fairly quickly, and with their help, I was out of my skinsuit and into my skirt and workout shorts, slinged, and ‘walking’ to the car.

Friends Jess and Niels came to the hospital and helped keep me calm as the nurses and doctors poked me with a bunch of needles and administered a lot of very strong drugs. After x-rays, I was diagnosed with a sprained right knee and a separated left AC joint—the space that holds your collarbone to your shoulder.

This is what it should look like:

Example of a normal collarbone (not mine)

This is what mine looked like:

My collarbone, ready to float away!

Apparently, separated is just as bad as broken. Delusional and drugged, I tried to think of ways to survive the mass start swim with my new impairment, refusing to let the dream die. Everyone around was kind enough to play along. I had endured enough trauma for one day. Jess and Niels were kind enough to stay until 11:30 pm or so and Kevin and I were finally free to leave the ER around 2:30 am.

The outpouring of support I’ve received in the last few days has been incredible. I really appreciate everyone’s thoughts and hopes for a better outcome. But, I can’t help but think that everyone believes that I’m a complete and total idiot. I mean, really?!!? If someone cared that much about Ironman, why in the world would they race at the track 10 days before the biggest race of their year, and really, of their entire triathlon career??!! I’m completely and utterly embarrassed. I poured my heart into training and will have nothing to show for it. I feel horrible for my training partners and my coach who have helped me get to such an amazing place—only for me to just throw it away. My heart aches for the sacrifices my husband has made, only for the pitiful payoff to be helping do everyday tasks I can no longer do on my own. Not making it to the start line is the ultimate failure.

I still plan on traveling to Coeur d’ Alene to cheer on my friends who did it right and will shine on race day. I can’t wait to watch all of them finish, whether it is in 9 hours or 16 hours and 59 minutes. I’m invested in their journeys too, and unlike me, they won’t disappoint.

People tell me how strong I am, how unbelievably resolved I can be, but I got to say, I can be incredibly fragile at times too. I don’t process failure well. I have to come up with a new game plan while I heal and before I completely fall apart.

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10 Responses to Play with Fire, you will get burned.

  1. sandrine says:

    Carly hang in there! It is hard but if anyone can come back it is you. Life is full of surprises and challenges and as long as you learn through this journey that is what matters. 🙂

  2. Kevin says:

    My payoff is being able to celebrate each of your triumphs with you. While your accomplishments on race day always make me proud, I truly relish being by your side to see the hard work and small incremental gains. From improving your swim times to attacking your stress fracture recovery and coming out of it an even stronger runner, I’ve been witness to inumerable successes in the recent months and am certain that there are many more to come. I know that you have been focused on IM CDA and are disappointed and sad now, but I hope that you don’t loose sight of your amazing accomplishments in getting to this point. Celebrate them! You are the most determined, hardworking and tough woman that I know. Whatever your goals, I’m here to support you as best I can.

  3. Awww Carly, don’t be so hard on yourself. It was a ACCIDENT. That means by some freaky shitty chance, a ding dong girl crashed in front of you, and unfortunately you ate her dust. Sucks. Hope you took a little piece of her out upon impact. GRRR. Take care of yourself for now, there is a new and better plan waiting for you, when you are all healed. 🙂 Thinking of ya doll.

    • carlsincharge says:

      Thanks Heather. I’m thinking about the Orangeman triathlon in the OC in September. Any thoughts?

  4. I am so sorry, Carly, I know what a massive disappointment it is. Please don’t keep beating yourself up about it, though – truly these things happen, it is the nature of the sport, we will always having crushing disappointments (illness, injury) that lead to a DNS or a DNF. If it were an ideal easy world where the path to speed and success were always smooth, there would be no point training and racing! It will be painful but wonderful cheering others on at the race, I’m glad you’re going even if there is an element of self-castigation – but there will be many more IM finishes – fast ones, too! – in your future…

    • carlsincharge says:

      Thanks so much for your support. I’m disappointed I didn’t get the chance to meet you in CDA this past weekend and hope you are feeling much better now. More lessons in patience and digging even deeper in my future.

  5. Best wishes for speedy and complete healing.

    I think a lot of people share my belief that because so many things can take an Ironman start or finish away that a hobbyist shouldn’t stop living life over an Ironman since the day can never be guaranteed anyhow. You participated in an event that historically showed low risk – seems a reasonable choice. I’m sorry it didn’t work out well.

    • carlsincharge says:

      Thanks for making me feel less crazy for track racing. People keep asking me if I’ll track race ever again. Are you kidding me? Of course I will!! I love it out there and I guess the joy it brings is worth the risk.

  6. amber dawn says:

    Your efforts training throughout this year will carry over to next season, and you will be faster and stronger than you may imagine!! Nothing will be in vain, and in this bizarre and crazy world, everything you’ve endured will be worthwhile. Big hugs to you, Carly!

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