The core of being an endurance athlete, or really any type of dedicated athlete is the need to do your best. There is a lot of preparation that goes into any event and any number of factors that can result in an abrupt change of plans, adjustment to your pre-race timeline, and a consequent wave of terror when an unexpected issue comes into play. The goal would be to be prepared for all of these and have contingency plans to accommodate accordingly but regardless of planning things do go wrong. I’ve been lost on the way to races, caught in non-moving traffic, suffered flats on the start line, or even forgotten a key piece of gear upon arrival to the venue. Fortunately I’ve mostly steered clear of pre-race injuries or accidents but this round I wasn’t so lucky.
I had a minor crash earlier in the week; I was goofing off doing wheelies and toppling over backwards likely left a crack in my number eleven rib. After a morning of getting ready for the GoPro Mountain Games cross country event I was leaning forward over the bed in the van.....and sneezed. Anticlimactic as it was, it put me on the floor unable to move with pain. The way it was described to me, in that position – leaning forward with my weight on my elbows spreading the ribs out to their max was the perfect storm to apply pressure from the inside and result in a break.
It’s fairly anxiety inducing to not be able to commit to your pre-race routine as the plan is regimented to fit the timeline you have available. Wake up, wash up, eat food, prep equipment, social media, warm up, head to start line, none of these things really leave time for “break a rib.” There was just a little over an hour left before I was to begin my warmup. Frustration was a looming emotion, how time consuming it was to pull on clothes, how difficult it was to think through what I would need during the race, how I was going to warm up when I couldn't even swing my leg over the top tube, all on top of the regular concerns of where I would want my feed, did I want to carry a tube, and how much pressure I wanted in my tires.
I sacrificed my warm up to get dressed, warming up was a joke, I couldn't put any power into the pedals so I opted to spin to the start line. My plan was to get there and see how I was feeling as, well, why not. And once I was on the start line I figured I may as well start and once we started I figured I may as well race.
The start line in this venue is straight up the ski slope and the accompanying altitude made for a lot of immediate redlining. Ironically my soft pedal start kept me nicely in pace with the back end of the field and I just tagged along and even moved up in the field as I could. I stuck it out even though I likely shouldn’t have. I was told later that an untimely crash could have sent the broken rib into my lung causing more serious issues so it's fortunate I wasn't taking any big chances. I definitely lost the ability to use my hips to control the bike and by the end of the race a number of other body parts screamed in defense of being used to protect the broken bits. Regardless I finished the race, survived, and was back at it a few days later well wrapped in tape leaving with the knowledge that no matter what I know I can stick it out when the going gets rough.