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Posts Tagged ‘bike crash’

Saturday October 18th, 12:00, Paguera-Mallorca.

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My last Half-Distance (1.9 Swim, 90 Bike, 21.1 Run) was in Cologne early September 2013. I decided then to take a break for half a year. I am not sure I would recommend it. I lost a lot of endurance, muscular mass and gained weight on top of feeling less happy with my life. Getting back at it had not been easy either with some injuries and bike crashes. So, October 16th in Mallorca was for me a symbol of coming back and I was race hungry.

My goal time was 4:45. I crossed the finish line in 5:15. Sometimes, things do not go to plan…This race has been humbling.

But first things first. A late start, on a cracking day. Sunny, hot, no wind, no waves, warm water, no wet suit. Perfect! The gun goes off. A good beach start, with nearly 50m of dolphin jumps exactly as trained. Perfect! The water: ridiculously clear. This is not racing, this is snorkeling! Perfect! I swim relatively easy as usual and get out after 1.9km  in 35.12. This is 1 minute slower than expected. But within the time plan. A quick casual high five with my daughter (while leaving the German competition behind 🙂 and a dash to transition.1395158_10153238453411679_1849690160603102546_n

Summary: A good start in the race overall. I exit in 32nd place with 60 other competitor in the category M40-44.

A very long transition (literally – the transition zone was 285m and the way to it around 400m) where unbelievable bikes were racked. And on to a tough technical course in the heat (29 degrees). I knew this would not go well as I had scored an auto-goal in the transition zone before the race even started.

My special pump for the discwheel (Lezyne and usually reliable) shoots off the valves after 5 bar of pressure. No way to put anymore air. Going into the race with a half-inflated wheel is not only going to cost me a few minutes but also increase the risk of sliding in the curves or worse getting the tyre out of its rim.

ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER ONE: CHECK ALL YOUR MATERIAL BEFORE THE RACE.

The first 15km feel like a nightmare, out of breath, heart rate constantly in the red while being passed by competitors, my mind set on the wheel issue. Am I going to make it?  The mindset thankfully changes in the first long descent. Cool air, time to hydrate, heart rate going down. I will get this distance done, this is the European Championship and I wear for the first time the Swiss jersey in an official ITU/ETU. Mantra Number 4: Get to the finish line, no matter what (or quit only on a stretcher)20x30-CHPC1713

KM25: What is this noise in my front fork? Oh no! the front tire is rubbing against the top of the fork!!!. I stop quickly to check for dirt stuck between the tire and the fork…nothing really. I get on the bike again and the tire keeps rubbing. Darn, what is going on today! – I will find out after the race that the mechanic (former pro cyclist) who serviced my bike before the race had mounted the rear tyre in the front. So the thin narrow tyre was in the back (bad for grip) and the thick large tyre was in the front, hence rubbing against the fork.

ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER TWO: SEE ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER ONE. Norman Stadler would confirm this (the famous “too much glue” episode).

20x30-CHPE0502Deflating the front tyre is out of question. I cannot ride a bike with front and back tyre deflated: this would be suicide in fast curves and downhills. I am telling myself that friction will cease once the “excess” rubber will be rubbed of the tyre (which happened in the second hour of the bike race).

KM30: Confusion between traffic, police & volunteers. All agitating arms. Me and 2 other cyclistS take a right turn, right into the party city of Magaluff. Once in traffic, we knew FOR SURE we had taken a wrong turn and lost a few precious minutes. Not a great bike leg so far… (especially when I took a wrong turn again at km 65 after a police man indicated to the athlete in front of me to take a deviation, I followed him but it turned out the cyclist was not a competitor and diligently taken out of the race road….)

ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER THREE: GO FOR A RECO RIDE PRIOR TO RACE DAY.

20x30-CHPD2166The worst mistake comes at km 50, just after the second long climb when I was sure to have taken 3 bottles at the aid station: 1 water, 1 coke and 1 iso-drink. I shower myself with the water, throw the bottle away, want to grab the iso bottle in the back, fumble for a few seconds, look back… the bottle cage is empty!!!! and the coke bottle in the front has max 2.5dl. … this is what I would have for the next 25km… a huge rookie mistake that nearly costed my to bonk completely on the run afterwards (I bonked but not completely)

ROOKE MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR: FOCUS ON YOUR NUTRITION PLAN.

The last mistake…and it starts to be embarrassing, is related to the tail of my aero helmet. It can be opened for better airflow in the heat or closed to retain warmth when cold. Guess what? yes, indeed the lid under the tail of the helmet was closed. My aero helmet had also become a pressure cooker.

ROOKE MISTAKE NUMBER FIVE: SEE ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER ONE.

Having said all that, I was still very happy with my bike fitness on this 860m elevation course. Most inclines were not more than 3% so it was like riding in the wind. Total distance on my Garmin Edge 90.2km in 2:44 against a planned time of 2:35. So I was now 11 minutes behind my time plan + 3 minutes due to long transition time. Goal time was now out of the window. BUT glad also that no major technical issues happened, it could have gone horribly wrong with that rubbing front tire and a deflated back tire in descends.

Again 600m of transition before starting a long, long half-marathon

The course was not only 22km long it also was very hot AND it had 250m elevation! What a hard course for everyone. The stupid mistake with the closed aero helmet had as consequence that I overheated and I now looked like an overcooked lobster. (A supporting friend said he had never seen me glowing like that…) I did not have much in the tank, cramped, etc..but got it through and was very happy to finish this EU-Championship as an official Swiss Age Grouper. I passed Nicki, my racing buddy for this ETU on the 3rd loop of the race and she was having a ball. We chatted for a bit, I was then sure she was going to have a great finish and although I was tempted to slow down and talk for a bit more I pushed myself back in that 5-ish min/km shuffle of mine. There was nothing more I could do. I finished with my worst half-marathon time ever in 1:49 (- but believe it or not it was the 16th fastest run split in my age group, crazy!!!). I ended overall 22nd out of 57 in my Age Group. 183rd  out of 880 overall (+ 100 who did not finish on that day! obviously I was not the only one with issues). 20x30-CHPG0835

I had never raced with such a density of good athletes!!! Many racked bikes of had a World Championship- Kona-Hawaii sticker on, or Mt-Tremblant (half distance world championship) bottles, bags etc…so happy to have been part of it all. Challenge organised a great race and this whole Championship in this small town with the heat felt like a”Mini-Kona”.

I take away many learnings and as a total fan of Challenge races. But the biggest learning for me is finally understanding what Chris McCormack  had said in an interview last year in Challenge Roth, Germany. He said “as many Age Groupers are not racing for the podium the only thing that counts for them is to beat their PR. They are therefore entering flat, fast courses and shy away from the challenges triathlon offers. Ironman-WTC has recognised this and is planning more and more standard flat races across the world. As an ambassador of Challenge and course advisor I hope we can avoid to do the same as Ironman”. In my case, I felt so happy and proud of myself despite my 2nd worst time at the half distance in 8 races. I found it very rewarding to cross the finishline. This is what triathlon is about, get to the finish line, no matter what. Loved it here and hope to be back in the coming years.20x30-CHPF0341

Cheers everyone and go race.
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Had we known that we would ride in a 35 degree furnace, battle head wind for 60km and for Joel to crash into a car 100m before the end of the ride, would we have started riding on that foggy Monday at 07:30, the 9th of May from Saas-Fee to the Grimselpass? Probably not, but that’s what an adventure is about, I guess (and that’s why I do not understand people reading the last pages of a book before actually starting to read it).

I had been thinking to ride to the Grimsel Pass for the past three years.  Joel – a training partner and founder member of our Windmill Warriors Triathlon Club – and I could not have picked a better day to do this ride.  It all started the evening before, with some serious carb/protein-loading with our families in front of the chalet. Joel, is a Masterchef when it comes to marinating meat and BBQing. We limited our beer consumption and went up to bed fairly early.

We started to ride with a 26km long descent from Saas-Fee (1800m) to Visp (500) before taking a right turn and started a 65km climb towards the Grimselpass (2164m). The climb was gentle at first along the river Rhone. We passed Brig and were surprised how fast the temperature was rising. It was 11 in Saas-Fee, 15 in Visp and already 23 in Brig. The first “hills” showed up after Brig. Quads were warmed up by then to tackle the first serious climb until Bellwald. 800 m elevation gain in 16km. Joel was quite surprised to hear, that this was the “easy” part of the climb. From then on his requests for short stops increased 🙂 . The real deal started after Oberwald. There is even a sign warning cyclists of the 1000m upcoming climb averaging at 7.6%. It is long and it is quite hard but the view is breathtaking and seeing for the first time from a “saddle perspective” the famous switchbacks of  the Grimsel were very rewarding.

And because every ride has its loads of surprises, we suddenly encountered, crossing the road, the first trains constructed to pass the Furka Pass (same road as the Grimsel).

We manages those switchbacks without problems and finally arrived to the Pass after riding for 4 hours and 1800m of elevation gain. It was a perfect day to be up there. No violent winds, no snow, nearly no clouds. Just Perfect. We quickly ate something before moving to our main activity of the day: photo-shooting.

Now that the battery of my camera was empty, we could get back on the saddle and ride down. Joel acquired his downhill riding skills in The Netherlands. Going down the Grimsel was slightly out of his zone of comfort, but after training twice down from Saas-Fee to Visp he managed pretty well (although it took him a while to unclasp his hands from the drops afterwards).

We thought we had done the hardest bit, but the weather decided otherwise. The wind picked-up together with the heat and every km we rode down we faced more heat and more wind. We ended up in the valley with the watch registering 35 degrees in the shade. I believe we each drank about 3 liters for the 6h45min ride. It was thougher than expected, especially for my fellow riders who challenged a car in the last 100m before our arrival to the bus station in Visp. Joel does not know exactly what happened. I was in the front, unclipping my shoes when I heard a metallic thump about 80m behind me. I hoped for the best but feared the worst. And yes, it came out to be the worst. Joel on the ground with a bruised shoulder. But the car was bruised too! A good dent in the side door and a broken mirror. Joel 1 – Car 1.

I have a bit of a reputation back where I train in The Netherlands. “They” call me the Swiss Assassin, because I provoked a fall of 2 fellow bikers by braking in front of the group without (a lot of clear) advance warnings. I just would like to clearly state, that Joel decided to take on this car on his own free will. Namaste.

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Last August, while still walking with a brace on my left knee and 2 crutches, I decided that I would not replace my “feu” hybrid Canyon bike (hybrid = road bike fitted with a tri-bar and 2-3 other accessories to do triathlon) with a new hybrid bike but to indulge in luxury and to buy 2 specific bikes. Reasons are multiple. Change regularly position to keep the body far away from the injury zone. Take the bike that is most adapted to the course. Get an aero position that is a true aero position with a seat post at 75 degrees at least, different cranks, be able to race different race types without having to modify the bike every time, etc, etc..

I wrote in my 19th August 2009 post “Cannondale Hi-Mod Synapse 2010 ordered” that I would wait to be in the US in 2010 to get a cool, small, local US time trial brands. Well, I think I found a cool, small, local time trial brand but not from the US but from New Zealand. I saw this Avanti Chrono 2.0 model 2009 in a shop in Wanaka and eyed it for 2 weeks. The third week I dared to enter the shop to look at the price tag. Upsy Daisy, a bit steep!  I start talking to Scott the guy in charge of the Outside Sports cycling shop, he tells me to be ready to get the price down as he want to sell this 2009 model. To make a long story short, I take it for 4 test rides and after changing the length of the stem and made zillions of small adjustments I decide to actually acquire this silent, slippery black stallion together with a slick Grammo Bike Case and a few accessories like a double Profile Design Bottle cage for the seat post.

Why did I buy it? Well, first the size and the geometry is good for me. Second, the components are first class (apart from the 53 Ultegra Crank, which I will change over time). The other components are great, the full carbon Oval aero bar with Dura Ace shifter. The incredible ADT front fork, the Quartz Tektro brake BEHIND the front fork, the all internal cables, the ZERO wheels manufactured by Zipp, the Dura Ace Derailleur. The first time I saw an Avanti bike was in Noosa but I thought it was an Italian brand until I got to New Zealand. I have now done 250km with this racing machine on the Queen K. Highway of the Big Island in  Hawaii and I have never been so fast. It must be the bike.

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bathtub le memont 026

That’s it. We have left Vienna behind us. We land at Geneva Airport and go to the rental cars. We get a fancy Peugeot 807 family van. Thanks goodness, the little ones like the metallic blue colour of the car and their new comfy seats. The journey to Jura can start.

We arrive at the farmhouse (1000m) close to le Russey. It is a hot summer day. Sweating, tired of the 10 hour journey and in need of a relaxation of some sort, the owner of the farm suggests we take a hot bath! We are surprised, as we know there is no heating system in the house.

bathtub le memont 027But we soon discover a weird composition of early century laundry water heater, a set of pipes and a large tub standing in the field. We do need a few minutes to understand the mechanism and then, follow to the letter all instructions. 30 minutes later, hot water fills the bath, we add a few twigs of fresh mint growing a few yards away and we experience the most invigorating bath of our lives. The kids do not show any surprise, as if this tub in the middle of the fields was the most usual thing in the world.

As of today, open air bathing every day!

By the way, 75 days after my accident, I can at last stand without the help of crutches. I am miles away from being able to perform a 100m sprint and my body mass index is not the best anymore, but I can at least limp my way forward…

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x-rayDr. Susanne Bach, our wonderful house doctor calls me back in the evening of June 8th. She confirms that I can be transferred to the private clinic of Döbling and that Dr. Andreas Janousek accepts to operate me. It is very good news. I know, that from now on I will be in trusted hands. Janousek is among others a medical team member of the National Austrian Ski team and a very skilled knee surgeon.

The following day at 13h00 a Red Cross Ambulance takes me to Döbling. The hospital staff is fantastic and up to its reputation. I am transferred in a private room. Everything is done to make me feel like in a hotel.

I feel safe and wait for the doctors to tell me what will be next. Dr. Janousek  tells it to me straight in the face. It is a severe injury, he can only operate in 10 days due to the commotion and the wounds. The rehab is going to last for an eternity…plus a little bit. At least I know. And I am grateful for the straightforward talk.

The waiting starts. I get bored, nailed in my bed, but at the same time, I feel so weak and empty that there is nothing I can do. The first visits: Michael Roberts and his son bring a PlayStation2!!!, Susanne and Maria, Isa, Manon, Zoe, Gerhard, Joanne, Daniel, Eva, etc… all come to get some news and bring some news. The pain get less and I am now only a few days before surgery. I start to get very anxious. It is the first time in my life that someone is going to cut me open.

Dr.Janousek assures me that he has put an A-Team together, the anesthetist tries to re-assure me. But all-in-all, I hate the idea to have a tube shoved down my throat for helping  me breathing and I hate the idea of letting other take control over my body and open it up. But when the day comes, I get very quiet. I don’t realise that I am already gone. I wake up 7 hours after the injection. The drugs are very powerful, but I still feel the pain. I feel terrible in the recovery room and the following 60 hours are among the worst in my life. I am drugged up to the brim, I want to avoid any more painkillers but when the pain comes I immediately press on the button and get some more shoved into my veins. The morale is very low although all went perfectly well. The x-rays show a perfect reconstructed knee. It was done with 7 screws, 1 tibial plate and the equivalent of 4 fingers of bone masses taken from the hip. (The hip scar is the most painful). The pains starts to fade after the third day. It is now June 21st. 2 weeks have passed since the crash. Gerhard, Joanna & Daniel come to visit me. We decide to have coffee on the terrace of my room. Gerhard help me get on my foot and slowly, with the crutches, I manage for the first time in 15 days to get out, feel the fresh air and watch the sun. I am staying in the hospital until the 28th. During this period, Isa, Manon & Zoe visit me every day. It is the best moral support for me. They paint, pin their art against the walls of my room, they sit together with me in the bed, they walk along the corridor with me, they have dinner with me. It is very touching.

DSC_001828th of June is a day to remember. I am leaving the hospital and the wonderful team that took care of me. Isabel has come to pick me up. I am in the car going home! A full length cast is on my left leg for another 3 weeks, than an orthosis for 3 weeks and then I can start walking again!!!

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