How down I could be.
An appealing part of triathlon is the variety of the training. Get bored with swimming lap after lap, after just-a-black-line-below-you lap? No problem; go for a run. Get burned out on the run? No worries; hop on your bike. The combinations of mixing the events together are endless and all of it helps make you faster in the other sports. That's why this past Sunday, during the last week before the Boston Marathon, I didn't hesitate to join in a super-short triathlon. Swim 400 yards, bike 3 miles, and run one mile; no problem and no harm.
Think again. Kismet came to kick my butt.
After exiting the water , I grabbed my bike with shoes attached to the pedals, ran through transition, and threw myself onto the saddle while rolling. It's a little maneuver called a flying bike mount. I've done it 100 times in training and racing and never suffered more than a bruise on my butt.
Not so with flying bike mount number 101.
This time I missed the pedal with my bare right foot and the big toe slammed into the pavement; getting dragged across jagged concrete before stopping.
Yeah, it hurt, but the feeling was more numbness than acute pain. At that moment I thought all I did was stub it, and even though it was bleeding, it looked no worse than a scratch and a cracked toenail. Unconcerned, I put on my cycling shoes and pedaled away. Although the numbness turned into a throbbing pain it wasn't enough to stop me from transitioning to run and trotting the course to the finish line.
Moments afterward the numbness turned to sharp pain and hours later, sharp pain became, "CRAP, that hurts!," pain.
The next day I hobbled myself in and out of an X-ray room and awaited the orthopaedic surgeon.
"A compound fracture; bad one too," he said pointing to my toe bone on the computer screen, "See that?," putting his finger on a thin, gray line horizontally crossing the bone. "That's where the bone pushed through the nail and broke the skin. It's an 'open air' fracture. You came pretty close to tearing half your toe off."
"Maybe you won't get arthritis." Maybe? His words floated through the room but that one word, "arthritis," hung in the air.
He asked how it happened and I told him about the swim, and the jumping on the bike, and the run, and blood, and yadda, yadda, yadda. The more I talked the more incredulous he looked at me. "And you jump on your bike like that for what?," he asked.
"To save time. The time in transition counts against you. It's important to get on your bike as fast as you can," I answered.
"About how much time do you save?"
"Dunno, 10 seconds, maybe 15."
"And if you fall off your bike or break your toe does that save you time?"
*BLINK* *BLINK* A sarcastically couched, rhetorical question. Impressed, I'm left speechless.
"I assume you won't be at next week's triathlon, Doc?"
"That's a safe bet," shaking his head in disbelief.
So there you have it. One week before the greatest marathon on earth, I break a toe. For six weeks, minimum, I'll be on the sidelines. Maybe a little swimming and cycling in the meantime but, no running.
It sure changes my big plans for the weekend, maybe the season, and perhaps I should be angry and petulant but honestly, I'm accepting the circumstances. Maybe some good will come from this and all will be fine. In fact, it's already begun. First, I learned that I will be invited to run Boston next year. The Boston Marathon's policy is to not deffer invitational entries but when and organization I helped in 2007 read my Facebook and Twitter posts they, unsolicited by me, appealed on my behalf and secured my slot to next year's race. Must be the karma? And second, I will be on hand as my son attempts to break eight minutes in a one-mile race this weekend and I'll be in the audience for his performance as Captain Hook in Peter Pan.
Yes, I'm disappointed I won't meet up with Twitter friends and bloggie peeps who have supported me through my training and yes, I'm disappointed I won't put all of the training to use or most importantly, honor my sister-in-law, who passed away from a stroke, by wearing red, her favorite color, and running in her name.
Admittedly, I was in a funk after meeting with the surgeon. That was until I began receiving your emails, Twitter messages, and phone calls from all over the globe; sympathizing, empathizing, and encouraging. Exemplary of their sentiment is this message from friend, and professional triathlete, Brooke Davison, "Brian! So sorry. What horrible timing. And yet as we know, most times adversity opens up new doors (if we remain open to possibility.) Hugs."
And here I am, with open arms and open heart for Brooke's possibilities.
How down I could be, but how optimistic I am.