It hasn’t been by choice that I did not race a triathlon in 2019. The year started out strong with a training camp in Tucson. But perhaps there was an omen in that experience. While climbing Mt. Lemmon the temps dropped and the jackets we wore began to feel insufficient. On the way down the mountain we froze into locked positions on the bike and the neck problems I’d experienced over four days of camp turned serious.
On the way down a fear of crashing took hold. I pulled over to recover some feeling in my arms and my wife followed suit. We stood there a bit panicked at the prospect of riding more in that cold. When a gap in traffic appeared we eased onto the road and braked our way down the slope. The cyclometer still showed 26 mph.
At that moment a wasp flew at my face and stuck in the chin strap of my helmet. I felt a slight buzz and then a sharp sting as the insect tried to wrest itself free in the high wind. Two days later after arriving home from the camp my chin swelled up and my throat felt thick. Some ice took the swelling down but the incident scared me. You never know how your body is going to react to a bee sting from some place you’ve never been.
We kept training through April and chose to run a 10K in at the Morton Arboretum to prepare for the upcoming tri-season. The race finished in driving snow. That was the last time this year I’d make it to the starting line of a competition.
The weird luck on the bike picked up again in May when I was riding on an incline approaching I-88 west of our home. Two cars were parked flush on the side of the white line next to the road. Some guy was trying to get roadside assistance for his broken-down GTO and stepped out from behind his wife’s tall white SUV right in my path when I was approaching. The front tire of my Specialized Venge struck him flush in the back. The force of the collision popped the tube and bent the bike wheel. I wound up lying on the road with what felt like a broken wrist.
A few weeks later after the wrist had recovered some, but not much, I was playing Sherpa for my wife’s half-Ironman in Madison and went for a trot during her bike segment. I ran on the dirt path toward downtown. On the way back my toe caught on a root while rounding a tree and I fell face-side-first in the dirt. My body also landed on my sore wrist. The hand was bloody as was my face, and covered with dirt to boot.
Three weeks later a new problem cropped up with a sore tooth in my mouth. The root canal work took four separate tries with a real pro but the swelling in my face kept getting worse. And was it ever painful. I was exhausted for weeks from the stress of it all. The oral surgeon finally sat me down in the chair and said, without a hint of humor, “This tooth needs to come out or you could die.”
Such are the vagaries of second-rate dentistry…a few years back when I was self-insured or something I visited a dentist that did some bad work and it damn near killed me.
That scenario with the bad tooth took about seven weeks to take place. I wound up on heavy antibiotics and pain meds. Still, I was scheduled to race an Olympic triathlon in Lake Zurich and went to pick up my packet the day before. I stood at the Finish Line to take a pre-race photo because I hoped to make it there. But that afternoon the dentist called to tell me to be careful during treatment with anti-biotics. I couldn’t afford to stress my body much more.
It would all be for naught anyway. A storm blew in overnight and the entire race was canceled due to lightning and heavy rain. I turned my sights to September but logistically, those races were washed out as a cold month turned rainy as well. So here I sit in November without having done a triathlon all year. Even my plan to get certified as a triathlon coach got nixed when the organization holding the training lost my digital application. They called the week before and said “Hey, you’re in…” but it was too late. We’d made other plans.
The entire year was sort of a bust. I was signed up or in the queue to do no less than four different races. None of them happened. But oh well.
There’s a Turkey Trot in four weeks and a half-marathon after that. I’m not going to plan anything or hold my breath given the weird year of 2019. That said, I did some of the strongest cycling I’ve done in years using my newly converted Felt tri-bike. A cycling buddy warned me not to fix the thing up because he insists it could fall apart like a piece of old birch wood. But that’s the only thing that held together in terms of planning this year.
That’s one of the tarsnakes of life. You can never predict what kind of year you’ll have until you have it. Then all you can do is look back at the tracks of where you’ve been and try to make sense of it all.