Ironman Journey Part 4

Ironman Hawaii 2012 “Trouble in Paradise”

Full of emotion I had accomplished one of the greatest dreams as a Triathlete. Qualifying to the Ironman WorldChampionships in Hawaii. Unfortunately, the race in Zurich left me with a stress fracture in one of my toes. This meant that I coludn’t run enough to get to Hawaii. I did the best I could to get to Kona without running well. Four days before the race I got hit by a car at broad daylight. At the hospital they told me it was not a fracture, but it was obvious that I had a serious injury in my ankle. Finally, I decided to race whatever it takes. It would be a battle to death to cross the finish line in those conditions. The things that I experienced during those days in Hawaii changed my life in many ways and determined the way I would face problems that would come ahead.

I could write a book with everything that happened to me in the 10 days I was in Kona. Only now that I am in Chile and have told what happened to my family is that I have decided to share my story with you.

The arrival:

Without a doubt a very long and exhausting trip. It took around 29 hours of travel. I was welcome with great hospitality by our beloved “Rolando”, the famous Chilean who escorted Cristián Bustos to the finish line the year he came in second place.

The first days together with Juan Carlos Meza, Francisco and José González we coordinated to train and spend time together. On Friday with the arrival of Daniel Labarca and Edgardo Opazo with Marcela Salas, the team scheduled training together at the Energy Lab and Hawii.

The incident:

On Tuesday 9 we left to ride with Juan Carlos around 11:30 AM. It was 50K ride on the Queen K highway. Around 20K, I approach an intersection with a traffic light. It had a green light, so I continue through the intersection. At that moment I see a vehicle that without respecting its red light starts a turn crossing my track. I do not have time to avoid the impact. I only manage to turn to my right so that the blow is from the side and not from the front. My bike crawls on the pavement and hits the bottom of the vehicle. My left foot hits the car hard. This cannot be true!!! Four days before the race I got ran over !!! I spend a couple of seconds trying to react. I try to assess my injuries within my shock. I immediately feel a strong pain in my left ankle. I hobble up, look at my bike and notice that the front wheel is a mess. The seat turned completely forward. I pick the bike as I can from the frame and I get off the road. The driver approaches me a thousand times apologizing and offering to call the Police and an Ambulance. A feeling of anger and impotence takes over me. Several cyclists approach me to offer help. Seconds later I notice Juan Carlos who approaches me with a face of disbelief for what happened. The paramedics and the police arrive. In a few minutes Daniel also arrives. My ankle swells quickly and I begin to suspect the worst. In the Hospital I get x-rays. It is not a fracture, but a serious edema of soft tissues. The doctor suggests that I apply ice and raise my foot as much as possible within the days that remain before the race. He leaves the decision to run or not to me. I leave the hospital on crutches and with morale on the floor. Back in the house Daniel buys me the medicines and Juan Carlos accompanies me. Francisco and José also come to see me and give their support. That day was the Parade of Nations. In the evening everyone gets together to eat and they ask me to join them At the meal Edgardo checks my ankle and suggests that I go swimming the next day. On

Wednesday morning I go to the pool where in a more controlled environment I can try the foot. To my surprise, Craig Alexander and Luke Mackenzie are training. After a while, Lindsey Corbin, Faris Al Sultan and Michael Lovato appear. I get in the water and I feel that the foot feels ok without kicking too much. After a while I get out and managed to share a couple of words with Alexander. A photographer from Lava Magazine is taking pictures of the Pro. When she finishes she asks me to take one with “Crowie” … Of course I’ll take one out but then you’ll take me one with him … Alexander was very cool. He gave me advice and comforted me by giving me words of encouragement. That same day I go to the Expo to meet Chrissie Wellington. He was also very nice giving me words of support and showing me her scars from the accident that she had the year 2011. With all that, the idea of racing begins to grow inside me. In Cep Compression stand, the guys can not believe my bad luck and they give me medical compression products to recover faster. In the afternoon I arrived at the house and Daniel had got me a front training wheel. All this touches my heart. If I can ride, maybe I can complete the distance and then walk the Marathon … On Thursday I leave the crutches, I swim and I notice that the foot is better. For Friday morning I have to make a decision and go out to try the bike. I do a short ride to see how it feels. It does not bother me so much if I do not stand on the pedals. That same morning I take the bike to the mechanic to change the seat and make a general check. When I return the mechanic informs me that the bike has 2 cracks on the frame, but believes that it will hold … At that point I know there is nothing else to do and give myself to God. In the afternoon I do the Bike Check in and prepare for race morning.

The race:

I organize according to my reality. The important thing is to avoid contact in the water as much as possible. I am a good swimmer, if I take good position at the start maybe I managed to get rid of the mass of punches and kicking. I position myself at the front line, but after a while I notice that everyone wants to get ahead so my plan does not work well. I move to the left and notice Edgardo. We give ourselves a very strong handshake and wish us luck. The cannon goes off and the fight for the square meter begins. Impossible to take off and I must fight for my space during the first 1000 meters. My ankle suffers with swipes and excessive movements that I make. Before the first turn I manage to pace a rhythm that allows me to swim calmly. When I reach the dock I stand with difficulty and climb limping to the transition area. I’ve already gone through a critical phase.

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I take things with ease. I put on a compression sock and shoes before getting on the bike. I know it was the best option given my situation. Cycling goes on normally. 4K before arriving at Hawii turnaorund a hellish wind begins. Holding on to the bike is hard. I play with the small chain to not generate excessive pressure on the ankle. On the way back the fatigue and the heat begin to affect me. As if I have no problems, the seat tilts down. I decide to slow down, I remember that my goal is to finish.

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On T2 there is not much else to do. Running shoes, sunscreen and Vaseline. I start running. The foot does not bother so much. I’m slow but calmed. The important thing is to get to the finish line. Managed to jog 14K. Then I combine jogging with walking.

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Getting to 30K feels endless. The sunset at Energy Lab is a gift for all the suffering I have had up to that moment. Night comes and stories are shared with other unfortunate people who continue to fight to reach the finish line. There are sections of deep darkness, you can only see the white line painted on the highway. It is very devastating. Worse than what one sees in the Ironman videos when they show the last competitors arriving. Only the people at the aid stations manage to break the agony, with their music, dances and jokes. A woman on a bicycle crosses me and says “I know this is the worst part”. The end is close but it is so difficult to move forward … Every aid station is a curse it forces me to stop my limping jog that I struggle so hard to keep. There is very little left, I almost reach Palani where the road goes down. Stop no more, I have to continue until the end.I

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I hear through the speakers the names of those who are arriving. I enter Alli Drive and listen to my Chilean friends scream. Franci and José run beside me on the last part before entering the carpet, other Chileans join the escort, shouting and screaming. I can not control myself and I cry inconsolably. The emotion kills me … I walk on the carpet and hear my name and the ovation of the people. I cross the finish line with a jump that almost broke my ankle. I made it! I twisted the hand of fate

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I want to thank Daniel, Edgardo, Marcela, Juan Carlos, Francisco and José González. When something like this happens to you away from the family is very complicated. I never felt alone and they always gave me the love and support I needed.

The easiest thing after the accident was to abandon the race. I am a fighter and I have always believed that the mind is the most important thing to race an Ironman. It’s been several days and I’m still emotional to remember everything that happened. I still can not fully absorb everything. I’m leaving Kona happy because I feel like I’m a winner. I know I will have my payback with the island.

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