The long post in which I tell you that I’ve decided to be a responsible adult and won’t be racing Ironman Florida next weekend:
First of all, I’m sorry for the lack of instagram updates post-bike crash, but the truth is there hasn’t been much of an update. You know how microwave minutes are the longest minutes? When you just stand there and watch, impatiently waiting for time to go faster, for something to change? That’s how the past couple weeks have felt. Just waiting and waiting for the extensive road rash to heal and the hematoma to shrink and the headache to go away. (Still waiting on all three, but doing significantly better!)
That sounds kind of dramatic when I write it out, so let me make it clear that this was by no means a serious, dramatic bike crash! It was just a dumb, unavoidable situation (a semi forced me off the road onto gravel and the bike slid right out) and I walked away in great shape overall. In fact, those first couple hours afterward, full of adrenaline and sheer denial and pretending like everything was totally fine? Those were nice. (The next few hours, however, were much less "nice.") I'd rate it about a 4/10 on the bike crash scale. The only problem is the rotten timing in relation to Ironman Florida. That said, I did have a concussion to the point where I couldn’t spell my address, and from a healing perspective, I’ve needed to remind myself to respect that.
As for Ironman Florida... I wanted this one. It was a short training cycle, yes. But I’ve been open water swimming better than ever before. On the bike, I’m holding higher watts and sustaining faster speeds than ever before. My run still isn’t back to “19:10 5K Ashley” level, but it’s definitely strong enough for an Ironman. I was fully anticipating a big PR at IMFL.
As I’ve gone back and forth with this decision, I’ve had those expectations in my head. “How could I *not* race when I’m swim-bike-running so well?” was basically the question I posed to Matt. The poor guy had been nicely playing the “I support whatever you decide” card on repeat, but finally teased in his response, “So, was that before or after the crash? Because right now, you’re limping.” 🤣 Touché. The reality is that these things (and the missed training that accompanies them) have an effect that you can’t just wish away. So then the realization set in that this wouldn’t be THE race... and yet, I still wanted to get out there and fight for a decent race anyway.
I’m the kind of person that likes hard things, for better or worse. I ran my first marathon with a fracture in my hip (that was stupid), I delivered my babies without any meds, I BQ’d in Boston with acute bronchitis, and I set my Ironman PR while puking throughout the day. For me, the decision to race Ironman Florida despite the high potential for bonus pain would actually feel easier than the decision to step away and not race. I hate feeling like a quitter, even though my rational side understands that’s not what this is.
I’m also the first person to say, “There’s always another race!” And most of the time, that’s true. But sometimes, we hope it isn’t. And we hope that maybe, just maybe, our body will be doing something else for the next two years. So there WON’T be another full Ironman for at least that long. There already wasn’t a full Ironman for the past two years because I was hoping the same. And this was meant to be a reset button of sorts, to wipe the slate clean after those couple years and start the clock again. And oh, that makes it that much harder to let go. These things are just silly races, of course, but sometimes they’re emotionally intertwined with other, bigger things in our lives.
Anyway, I’m sure you can see where this is going. (Well, I suppose I told you at the beginning of this post. 😉) The first "I might actually have to pull out" punch to the gut was feeling so uncomfortable just walking around Disneyland for a few hours, and realizing that twice as many hours of racing Ironman wouldn’t magically feel better in a week. Then I attempted an easy run (on day 10 post-crash), only to turn back after 1 mile because I felt awful, had a limp in my stride, had road rash dripping down my leg, and proceeded to have a worsened headache for the remainder of the night. But the moment that made me actually hop on the computer and book my "spectator" plane ticket (as opposed to keeping my earlier "racing" flight) was actually concussion-related. I had to make cookies yesterday afternoon, so I got out the ingredients... and then just stared at them. For the life of me, I could not recall my favorite recipe that I've had memorized for half my life. I had to look it up for the first time in 16 years. So just a little thing, but enough to make me recognize that my brain isn't fully healed yet, and certainly not ready to race 140.6 miles. I'll push through pain any day, but I kind of like my brain, so that was that. My ER doctor in Hawaii (an Ironman himself) had advised that I’d probably be able to run a few miles come race weekend, but "racing an Ironman is a different story." And he was right; it just wouldn’t be wise.
So, here I am, being a grown-up and pulling out of my dreamed-for race. It seems like another drop in the hat in a series of crappy race situations for the past couple years, but sometimes that is just how it goes. The really great thing is that I genuinely enjoy the training, so I don’t regret any of the hard work put into this race prep. It was fun!!! (Minus the freezing pool with a broken heater for an entire month.) And it was nice to feel like myself again. Hopefully I’ll bounce back quickly. 😊
For those of you heading to Ironman Florida, I’ll still be there!!! I still have friends racing and wouldn’t miss the opportunity to cheer. So please say hi! 🤗