Worst. Birthday. Race. Ever.

All I remember is seeing him switch the girl in front of me and then I was riding straight into her ribs.  The next thing I remember is asking the paramedics if I needed stitches…three times because I hate needles.

I really thought the stars were aligned in my favour at the HoRa Run Bike Run in Boekend last Sunday. It was the perfect temperature, I got a good spot in transition, and even the knee pain I was having that week seemed to have loosened after warming up. The cherry on top was that it was birthday so I was feeling extra ambitions and happy.

Lap 1, 5km run (photo courtesy: comerun2me.nl)

With lessons learned from my last duathlon, I was focused on getting a good position on the first run.  Right off the line one girl (pictured above) charged after the front men and immediately opened a gap of 10 seconds.  When I noticed she was starting to fade at about 3kms, I held the pace steady and then accelerated when I past her so she wasn’t hot on my heels. I struggled in the last 800m but I stayed in front with a 10 second gap and clocked a 5km PB.

Beginning of the bike (photo courtesy: comerun2me.nl)

Transition went smoothly and, since drafting was allowed, I quickly hopped on someone’s wheel.  I wanted to stay out of the crosswind but I had dug deep in the run and my legs were feeling it.  Our twosome grew into about 6 and, although I was struggling on the technical parts of the course, as a group we had settled into a nice tempo. With about 7km’s to go, I was sitting 3rd wheel, waiting for my turn to roll through when it happened.

All of a sudden the guy leading switched the girl in front of me.  Both of them went down and before I knew it I was riding straight for the girl’s ribs.  That’s when I blacked out.

My memory only starts again in the ambulance when I was adamantly asking the paramedic if I need stitches, as if my fear of needles was enough to reboot my brain.  I asked him three times.  Then I persistently asked if it was my fault.  The paramedic reassured me it wasn’t and explained what caused the crash.  It was news to me.  At that time, I had no idea at the time what had happened at all.   As he explained, bits and pieces came back to me but I still don’t remember anything from after hitting the girl to sitting in the ambulance. After being treated by the paramedics a police van drove me back to race headquarters. I was definitely high on adrenaline because I was joking to the police officer that sitting in the back made me feel like I had been arrested.

The huge crack and, ya, that’s blood.

Survival mode kicked in when I entered the registration area and I made a bee-line for my phone, got warm clothes, and something to eat before sitting down with another medic. As she continued to clean my smaller wounds with what felt like razor-blade disinfectant, I opened something to eat.  As I put food in my mouth, I winced from the pain.  My teeth had gone through my bottom lip, my lips were grazed and swollen, and I had roasties above my lips, on my cheeks and my nose.  Even then I still thought I was ok, reassuring people that “it’s just part of racing.”

Ouch.

Day two.

I was finally picked up and we were on our way home but my friend said he had to make a quick stop to say hello to someone.  Finally left alone, I pulled down the sun visor in the car to examine my wounds.  “Oh my God.”  Let me tell you, ignorance is bliss. I looked like the bride of Frankenstein with a lip job gone wrong. It only got worse when I got home and had to scrub everything clean, and worse still when the adrenaline wore off and I began to feel a creeping stiffness all over, paired with a wicked headache thanks to a concussion.

After all the drama was over, the boys where I lived surprised me with cakes (yes, two!) to celebrate my birthday.  Pain killers came in two forms that night:  homemade carrot cake with creme fraiche frosting and homemade apple cake with hand-whipped cream.

It took a thousand little bites and a hour, but the cake was amazing!

12 responses to “Worst. Birthday. Race. Ever.

  1. Wow, scary pic’s..even now without the blood.
    And no: it wasn’t your fault. The guy falling was riding second behind me and touched my rear wheel.
    Next year don’t worry about the other fast-running girl: she was a duo-contestant. You were by far the leading solo-woman!!
    Good luck!

  2. Hi Sarah,
    Wow, it was your birthday? I’m the girl whose ribs you ran into 😉
    But oh no, absolutely no hard feelings!! I’m glad you’re okay, or at least almost okay…
    Also, I can help you solve this puzzle of what happened.

    First there was Theo (the hero who stayed with you until the paramedics came), who was in front and driving a nice straight line. Behind Theo there was Ton P., then me, followed by you.
    It was Ton who, with his front wheel, collided into Theo’s rear wheel.
    I saw it, cursed and next thing, went down, all this in one second!
    I don’t remember seeing you fall off course, because the moment one realises what happens, everybody was down on the ground.
    Luckely I could get up immediately and took my phone to call for help.
    At that point, you were lying on the ground.
    Because I could still move and my bike was okay, I cycled back in opposite direction to warn the other bikers who were heading our way, also because you were lying there blocking the road :-))
    Ton P. was taken to the emergency room in Venlo and broke his elbow into three and also some little bone in his hand. His doctor told him to stay of his bike for three months!
    I got away without the broken bones. I mainly took the fall on my right side, having a serious bruised leg and both my arms will get some free of charge skin renewal. And just like you, after the adrenaline left my system, I felt like some train ran over me and my back, shoulders and neck felt terrible the next morning.

    I wish you all the best and hopefully some really nice duathlon’s ahead. By the way, you were going strong!

    Greetz, Margot
    Venlo

    • Thanks for filling in the blanks! It’s weird not remembering what happened. I’m glad you are ok, sorry I ran over you, but like you said it was all in one second. I’m glad you were there to help and that you are also on the mend. Next year will be a different story! Thanks again, so much.

  3. I’m SO glad to hear that you are ok!!! But…so sorry that you spent your birthday nursing major “owies”. Face bruises look so gross for a while but thankfully they heal quickly too!!! Look at it this way, it will be a birthday that you will remember 🙂

  4. Sarah.oh my sack. this is like the time that silly woman hit you in constanstia but about a million times worst….hope you are recovering well. miss you heaps. come back already

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