We stopped in Denver for a language exam that Anna needed for her New Zealand licensing. Weird, huh? A native english speaker has to take an english language exam to prove her fluency.
While she was taking the exam I got to swim in the Aurora Reservoir that was a pretty cool experience. Not because it was something spectacular but still a change from all the pool swims I had been doing. The same afternoon I rode up and down the Green Mountain just outside of Golden, Colorado. The downhill section from the tower was crazy fast and technical. I was hanging on to my brakes like a mad man only to notice that my brakes were not working properly anymore from all the heat the braking generated. I managed to stop somehow without crashing and took it easy for the rest of the way down. Then I repeated it again, 10 minute super-steep climbing (approx 600ft in 1 mile) and the DH style let-go-off-the-brakes section.
I was able to pack the bike up just before a torrential downpour struck us as we traveled up in the mountains on I-70. That storm nearly washed us back down the road. Literally.
We spent the next few days no where below 9000ft in elevation. We reserved a tent spot by Leadville, Colorado that was our base for 3 nights through the first few days of the week. We drove the one hour to Beaver Creek every day so I could swim, bike or run on the course.
During one of these trips Josiah Middaugh invited me for a ride on the course. There I met this really cool guy, John O'Neill, who let us stay at his apartment for the rest of our stay. It was a huge relief to know that we didn't have to drive all that much back and forth. On top of that his apartment was just outside of Nottingham Lake. How cool is that?!
My happiness, however, lasted only until race day. I knew I wasn't going to have a spectacular swim. Not only because I am still just learning how to swim efficiently but the effects of altitude usually wrecks havoc on someone who goes out too fast.
Found myself in a good spot, close to shore, at the starting line and for my luck no fast swimmers placed themselves around me (or unfortunately). I had a clean start without having to fight for position. I quickly eased into a rather mild pace but that also meant that I would swim the entire mile all by myself. I was OK with that as I knew the race will really start in the mountains.
Out of T1 I was eating up ground very fast. Passed a bunch of age groupers and not far up the hill many of the pros were coming back to me, too. I caught the group of Shonny Vanlandigham, who started 2 minutes up just before the long asphalt road on the climb. An age grouper went past me and I was hot on his wheels uphill when we started our descent. I didn't want to get caught by those I just passed uphill so I even pedaled downhill to gain more momentum. And that's when I crashed. Going into a curve I wasn't able to keep the bike on the gravel road. I had to straighten out the curve through the ditch but lost control over my bike and ended up flipping over my bike and I went down really hard. My first thought was: Not again! Although not even a year ago it wasn't my fault when the truck hit me almost head on this accident felt very similar. The difference here was that I felt everything. I didn't lose consciousness at all. I got up but that's when I felt the pain. I could not move my shoulder. My initial thought was that I just broke my clavicle and who knows what else. I sat back down so I could catch my breath while many of the athletes rode past me. Some would yell out an "Are you OK" but none has stopped. Sure thing, I was not laying there like a stick. Instead After a few minutes of very shallow but rather fast breaths I stood up, shook the dust off and tried to pick up my bike. I could only use my right arm and the right hand. I knew there was something wrong. This was not an average trip that we'd have while riding our bikes. I thought about ending the race right there but I figured I would just give it shot to see how it feels riding for a while. I slowly climbed back on the saddle and started riding downhill as careful as I could. I was holding my arm up tightly against my chest and steered with my right hand only. A course attendant asked me if I was alright and I said yes. I really wasn't. It wasn't much fun anymore but I decided to roll on. As the race went on without me I started to think about quitting even more. I would have loved to just call it good and blame it on the accident but I also knew that as long as I don't get hurt anymore it really didn't matter if I span a few more miles on the bike then the ran 6 more. In T2 they almost took me out of the race though. It was clear to the race officials that I was in a lot of pain. It took quite some time to convince one of the officials that I was more than capable of finishing this race even if it meant walking most of the run. The first hill on the course felt like eternity. I finally got to feel what some amateurs feel like when people fly past them on the run. I could not respond and I had to walk most of the way up. Then, starting the second hill, I finally started running. So I went for it and ran as hard as I could with only my right arm swinging while my left hand's thumb tucked under my racing jersey to help keep my arm in place. That was the only way I could run.
Of course, with the crash, light pedaling and walking I ended up finishing way behind the leaders but until the awards I was still hoping that I had ran my way up on the AG podium. 4th place finish in my AG meant no podium for the first time since XTERRA West (Las Vegas) but it ain't too bad after this crash.
I have a feeling this accident will take me out for a good amount of time measured in weeks or months and not just days. X-ray will be taken and we will see how bad really this crash really was.
After packing up our stuff we left John's apartment and headed over to Bob's Place for a post-race recovery. After consuming a few refreshing beers in the company of some of the fastest professionals that day Anna and I drove off with me co-piloting. Leaving behind Colorado was rather sad but the pain just got worse as the adrenaline and the alcohol started to wear off. The same night we made it to Wyoming and we spent a few hours at a rest area. The rest is boring stuff.