I was right on target, feeling great, and having the race of my life. Adrenaline was pumping through my body and I was excited to get off of the bike in T2 and throw down an awesome run. Then, with less than seven miles to go on the bike, I shifted down going up a short steep roller and felt my chain jump and kept pedaling, only to watch it fall off between my crank and my frame. I jump of off my bike and ran to the side of the road and tried to put my chain back on, but I could not get it out. The chain was stuck and I could not pull it out. My thoughts of “Don’t panic, stay calm, you can fix this,” very rapidly dissipated and gave way to tears and thoughts of “It is over, you are out of this race, you aren't going to win.” I tried so hard not to cry because I knew it was not going to help the situation, but once I realized I was unable to fix the mechanical on my own I came undone.
I sat helpless on the side of the road, bawling, watching literally hundreds of people ride by. I knew I could not be far from the turnaround and I finally yelled out to a random rider to send someone. Minute after painful minute went by before a race official on a moped pulled over to me to make sure I was alright. Of course, his first concern was whether or not I was injured. Through the sobs I told him my chain was stuck in my crank and I could not get it out; he then radioed for a mechanic and tried his best to console me. At some point the medic pulled over, but the official told them I was fine and they departed. As it became apparent that the arrival of the mechanic was not imminent, the officials started working to free the chain. One held my bike down, and the other yanked my chain free. All things go, but my crank was not turning.
At one point during the ordeal I contemplated dropping out, taking a DNF instead of whatever result would be attached to my name after losing so much time. I would not defend my title and my winning streak was over, but it would be so anticlimactic to ride the sag wagon back with my broken down bike. I resolved to finish the race and I professed it out loud through my tears to the officials, “I am going to finish this damn race.” One gave me a hug before they motored away and I took off with my bike, running it up the hills and jumping on it to roll down. I can only imagine what all the other competitors were thinking as they flew by me. I finally made it to the last turn around where a volunteer was running toward me; I told them I was fine, I was going to finish the race. With tears streaming down my face, I rolled my bike around the cones. Moments later a moped came into sight, it was the mechanic. I signaled that I needed help, as if it was not already obvious.
He quickly found my Quarq magnet caught in my rear derailleur, which is why I could not turn my crank. I felt a strange sense of relief as he spun my rear wheel. He looked at me and said, “It works, you won’t have power, but it works.” I felt so stupid for not seeing the magnet in the rear derailleur, and for still having it on there in the first place since it was no longer required with the new firmware. “It is over. I won last year. It is over,” I cried. He then pointed to my legs and exclaimed, “You are a runner. Look at you, you are a runner. Now go!” He gave me a hug, helped me onto my bike and sent me on my way. I had no idea how much time I had lost, but at that point I did not care.
I was not fueled by a competitive fire as I came into T2, but instead I was driven by my passion to run and race against myself and the clock. So I threw on my shoes and off I went. The course was crowded at that point and I was passing a lot of people; but that did not matter. I did not pay too much attention to the time or my splits, I just ran. I had tears in my eyes as I crossed the finish line. These were not the same tears of joy I cried last year when I won, but instead these tears were expressing all the mixed contrast of emotions I was feeling-disappointment, anger, sadness, pride. My tears confused the volunteers and medical team at the finish line, because yes I was in pain, but not the pain that needs a medic.
At first I felt so devastated I thought I would never get over the disappointment. I felt like I had failed. But over the subsequent 24 hours, after replaying all of the “what ifs” and shedding many tears, the pain began to fade. I realized it was not productive to dwell on the “what ifs,” especially since I have an Ironman to train for. I also felt proud of the fact that I kept racing and I did not give up. I had put so much pressure on myself going into this race; I did not want to fail. While I did not come away with the result I had wanted and trained for, I certainly did not fail. Instead I learned many valuable lessons. One of which is to not put so much pressure on myself because anything (sh*t) can happen during any given race, even the World Championships, and the only thing that matters is how I deal with it and move forward.
I was having the race of my life and even though this is not reflected in the results I do not need a race result to validate my fitness and my preparedness to execute on race day. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so onward and upwards. I have another World Championship in four weeks.