Tuesday, July 29, 2008
One ugly eye and the other one ain't pretty either
The Three Sisters greeted us at the race course early on Saturday morning. I was ready. I have been eating right, doing the right amount of training, resting, and mental prepping to defend my title. It meant as much to me or more this year to defend it and win than last year and last year I was hungry for it....and you've got to be hungry for it to get to that mental place where you know you can...and do....
The night before the race wasn't the best rest and I woke up several times anxious and worried I didn't get enough. When you lay there half the night thinking about not sleeping and then hours pass, it wears on you. At the race course I got dressed and guess I must have been nervous, too, since I walked around with my shorts on backwards for a little while!
But I overcame the lack of sleep and what got me was something much worse and nothing I ever expected.
Solo Pit Area
Go Marines! Ed - my good friend came up to support me and I wanted to show support for his two sons serving right now: Glen and Paul Kocina
The race started off dry and it was perfect riding weather. As the race went on, the clouds started rolling in then the rain, thunder, rain, and hail.
The course turned into a wet, sticky, peanut butter mud pit and it didn't just cake up on your bike but it flung up everywhere. The layers of it on my body were thick and I did not have the time to clean up.
I was on a mission.
And the competition was excellent. Kelly was there at the beginning. It started off as a flash from last year but he cramped up. Then a newcomer from Australia pulled away from me. He was strong and I met the pace. There were a gang of those Australians - and they came for business....they were ready. I was too and it was a great race and a great course, despite the mud. Mountain bike racing is all about being diverse and able...and this course was a true test of the best.
Then as the hours ticked by I noticed my eyesight was getting blurry. It started getting worse and worse and after night fall it just kept getting worse. I was literally riding blind. I had the best lights (Niterider) in the world but nothing would help. When I pulled out, I had the lead with a cushion of about 30 minutes but I had to ride slow because I couldn't see anything.
I was literally riding blind. I was about 3 miles into a 12 mile lap and realized I had no brakes. I couldn't even ride with anyone. I couldn't see what was in front of me, and I knew there were roots but I couldn't see them. I was riding on chance and trying to remember what was where so I could avoid crashing but without my eyes, this decision was not something I could overcome. I couldn't beat it and there was nothing I could do about it. It was only almost 10 hours into the race and there were lots of night hours left. It was suicidal and I feared forever injuring and loosing sight, or worse, forever.
When I got to checkpoint 3 I had a hard time getting to it. I walked my bike over because I couldn't see to ride it and asked for water to wash my eyes out because I figured I just had mud in my eyes. I had to stop to get some help because I couldn't see and the volunteers tried to help and rinse my eyes by nothing she could do to help worked.
So we called for someone to take me to the medic. Here is one of the Adrenaline videos about it: Mud in the eye
The volunteers were incredible. They were there to help and so whatever it took and I am so thankful for that. I don't remember the woman's name that helped me at checkpoint 3 and I didn't get a good look (smile) but will someone please thank her for me?
This photo does not give the feelings of pain or depict the lack of sight, but it shows how my right eye compares with my "good" eye. I had to hold my eye open with my hand or it was shut. Not the eyes of an eagle.
So, I'm on the road to recovery and the eye is healing but still not right. It will be a few more days of drops, wash, and rest.
Just a quick note of big thanks to my friend Ed, mom Rose, Troy Laffey from Cannondale, MonaVie Cannondale, and Stewart of the 24 Hours of Adranaline and all his gang. Also big congrats to the MonaVieCannondale team for kicking some big booty. Mike Cotty of UK Cannondale was there, too. It is always great to see him and he did a great job finishing 2nd in his class. Thanks for the double decker bus! Joshua loves it but he dropped it on his foot tonight and realized it's no plastic toy!
Knowing that I was riding as good as I hoped, and I felt good, this was the most difficult decision I've made in a race. But, now I am even hungrier. I know I could have finished and possibly had the chance of winning. I just hope they have the World Solo Championship there again next year - I will be ready.
God Bless all the racers out there - if you even tried that race you are a winner.