Ironmate

When I first starting date Rich, I was forewarned of the lifestyle of a triathlete, and especially one of an Ironman. It was, “He will never be around, triathlons come first, it’s only swim, bike, run,” etc. His training never really bothered me. I know what it’s like to love your sport, want to give it your all, and spend your free time living and breathing it. I was very supportive of his long training days, and didn’t quite realize how many hours it was or how it actually effected our relationship until he pointed it out.

As a runner, even training for a marathon, I can be done training on Saturday by 11am. In Ironman training, he usually got home around 4:30 or 5:00 on a Saturday. I guess I was so used to doing things on my own, I didn’t realize how much time we were spending apart and how much he was training.

If you’ve been reading for a while or you know me in real life, I am insanely type-A about my training. Well, I did the same thing with his training. I encouraged every workout, asked about the results, showed him how a change in diet made him feel better, etc. His training was SOLID. I knew all his efforts were going to pay off.

I think I was just as excited for Ironman Wisconsin as Rich was. I planned tons of surprises for him: custom cheer shirts, cards, videos, and pictures from loved ones and lots of post race treats.IMG_6432 IMG_8645We had a blast in Madison. It’s a super cool town and is very pedestrian friendly (i.e. great for my runs). I loved seeing all of the athletes around town and seeing what all really goes into training and prepping for this race. Driving the bike course, doing several practice swims, buying extra food, CO2 cartridges, spare tubes, and the IMWI gear were just a few things on the to do list before the race.

We sat down on Saturday afternoon and really planned out his goals and where we expected him to be with his times and where I would be to cheer him on. I had absolutely no doubt in his abilities, and knew it would all come down to the run, which is the only place I could give him advice (I ran the course on Saturday). He was ready.IMG_8733We were up bright and early race morning to get the special needs bags dropped off, check on the bike, and get ready for the swim. As we waited for the swim to start and I said my goodbyes, I knew it would be a long day. I started to tear up. Months of preparation, excitement for the day, and genuine admiration and love for this man just built up.IMG_8745I watched the swim start and knew I had an hour (gave me time to setup with some of the finish surprises) to get back to the condo and back to T1 to see him transition from the swim to the bike.IMG_6455 IMG_6457IMG_8747I caught him twice. He and Katie were out of the water at the same time and hit T1 at the same time. He had a great swim, coming under his goal by 1 minute with a 1:09. He was able to see me on the bike as he headed out for the 112 mile ride.IMG_6468 IMG_6469I rode with some of our ATL friends to the first spot on the course that we were going to cheer (around mile 32, I think). We were some of the first spectators to arrive, and the volunteer was very adamant about us moving half way down the hill so that the athletes could see the cones, the gravel, and the turn. So we moved down a bit and were ready when the elites came through. I was prepared with my signs and cowbell! I got lots of laughs, smiles, comments and even a few high fives while I was out there.ย 10682214_300336453489374_4702107794077155930_o 1547937_300336393489380_8578188322526769749_oI saw Katie come by and saw no sign of Rich. I started to worry. He should’ve been right behind her. I’m not sure how much time had passed, but I finally saw him and he pulled off. He said he had a flat earlier, and if anyone has a extra bike lever to bring it with me to the next cheer spot. I told him I would, even though I was quite confused because I didn’t know what this was, and that I would see him in about 10 miles.

I let the rest of the group (they had already left to cheer on their athlete) know what had happened, told them what Rich said, and I moved to the next spot. I was a bit frantic because I was worried about his tire and worried that he was frazzled and not having the ride he wanted.

Again, at the next spot, I saw Katie go by. I expected Rich to come by about 45-50 minutes after I last saw him. An hour went by. Then an hour and fifteen minutes. His times weren’t updating on the Ironman site but everyone else that we knew racing was updating correctly. I was really freaking out. I didn’t think I had missed him, so I stopped one of the tech trucks (that helps the athletes with any issues) and described Rich and said he should’ve been here by now and asked if they had seen him. Nada.

Several of the ATL crew was trying to keep me calm (the bike course was easy to spectate so they were popping over to the next area and stopped to see what was going on) but it wasn’t really working. I just knew something was off.

Within a few minutes, a van pulls up and I see Rich teary eyed, with a make-shift sling, his shoulder a mess, and his jersey all torn. I lost it. Straight hysterics. He said he was okay, and the van drivers/medics said they were taking him to the medical stop which was at a church about 10 miles away.IMG_8751THANK GOODNESS for our friends that were there spectating. One of them, Lauren, kept me calm and drove my car to the church to meet him. From there, we dropped her back near downtown and the exchange areas and I took Rich to the ER.

To see the man that you love, the one that is so incredibly full of life and laughter 99.9% of the time in so much pain and so quiet was heart breaking. I cried for him. He was attempting to be so strong and held it in and it just hurt me to watch. I wanted to take it all away, change the day, still be cheering, and not have him broken or hurt.

I learned that about two turns after he saw me, he hit gravel (on another turn) and basically had the option to wreck with other bikes or hit a cone. He hit the cone and the bike came to a stop and he flipped over (Side note- we later learned there were a LOT of bike accidents on this course and I learned that the bike lever had nothing to do with this accident).

The doc in the ER took great care of him. Lots of pain meds, fluids, and a few x-rays later and we got the diagnoses. While we had thought it was just dislocated and they were just going to pop it back into place (they would’ve knocked him out first), we were wrong. Broken collar bone. Four hours later in the ER and we wound up with pain med prescriptions, an arm sling, and instructions to see an orthopedic doctor when we got home.IMG_8752 IMG_8753We left the hospital, finally grabbed food, and picked up his post race treat (still much deserved-for weeks all he talked about was chocolate chip cookies post race). We had to get his transition bags and bike and he still wanted to see some of the finish line. I openly admitted I wouldn’t have been a big enough person to hang out at the finish, but again, that’s the type of person he is.ย IMG_8756IMG_8754We had a lot of time to talk post accident. I kept putting myself in his shoes. If I had trained for THAT many hours, spent THAT kind of money on a race, and KNEW what I was capable of, I would want a re-do. But Rich is different. Before the race, he had already said that this was his last full Ironman for a while. He wanted to do shorter distances so that we could have more time together (yes, he’s that great). I insisted that if he wanted a redo in 2015, I fully supported it. He said no. He meant what he said. He said if he hadn’t already completed 2 Ironmans, it would be different.

To fast forward….the last week started out really tough, but has gotten a lot better. ย The Rich I know has slowly come back, and the moaning and groaning from the pain has stopped. There really is nothing worse than seeing someone you love in so much pain and there is nothing you can do. We saw two different doctors and they had 2 different opinions. We trust the second one more, and he suggested we meet with his partner (a surgeon) to discuss options.

So, yesterday we met with the surgeon. Just as we had expected, Rich needs surgery. The pictures are quite shocking, and the doctor is actually surprised the bone hasn’t come through the skin yet.IMG_8811Based on where the break is, a plate will need to be put in.IMG_8810The surgery needed to be scheduled asap, so Dr.Myers (the surgeon we met with), is making room for Rich next Wednesday. The recovery time in a sling is 4-5 weeks, and is actually a faster recovery than without the surgery. He should be able to do leg weights and start running within a few weeks, but swimming and biking are out for at least twelve weeks.

Again, Rich has handled it all really well. The one good thing about it all, is I’ve been through it (to a degree). I can help him through the post surgery and recovery and I know what it’s like to mourn the loss of your sport. The other upside is he can spend some time on the pavement with me once he gets the go ahead to run again. ย ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m incredibly proud of him. He’s held his head high, stayed positive, and is looking forward to 2015. I’m lucky to call him my boyfriend, my best friend, and his ironmate…even if he didn’t get his three-peat in Wisconsin. ย The journey of the Ironman and his triathlon training didn’t hurt us, it actually made us closer and stronger.ย We will get through the surgery and he will be back to training in no time.

Have you trained for a race and ended up with a DNF? Know anyone that has broken their collar bone? Is your significant other an athlete? If so, are you just as invested in their success as you are your own?ย 

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Elizabeth

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19 Comments

  • Glad to hear Rich is doing well (and is such an awesome guy about the whole thing)!! I can only imagine the feeling of working so hard for something only to not get the chance to complete it for reasons out of your control. Huge props to him for being such a great sport about the whole thing. It’s terribly cute that he wants to change his future racing distance to spend more time with you!! You are an awesome fan!! It’s true how important splits are to supporters. Bryan got all nervous during my 50k because my last lap was slower than the first 2 and he was worried I was hurt in the woods. I guess next time I should warn him when I’m going to slow down.

    Any chance you make Rich into a runner? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • This made me cry ๐Ÿ™ My heart breaks for him, but it is amazing to hear how good his attitude is about it all. Also <3 your kind words about him. I am so happy for you both.

  • Wow! What a story! I simply cannot imagine training that hard and having that happen. Great job supporting him, and great write-up. I plan on doing Ironman Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) for my 50th state marathon, and first Ironman. So I love reading race reports and seeing what goes into an Ironman. I have marathons down and know what to expect, but am so intimidated by the thought of an Ironman. It will be 5 years or more until Idaho, but I am starting my mental preparation now.

  • You are seriously the best, and I’m so happy you and Rich found each other. I agree with Corey, this whole story breaks my heart. Praying for a smooth surgery and speed recovery!! xoxo

  • Oh man, it broke my heart to learn of his accident on IG. So scary and I can’t even fathom the disappointment after all of those training hours. Very happy to hear Rich is getting back to his old wonderful self. All the best with the surgery and recovery.

  • I trained for a sub 3:00 marathon last winter and spring, to take place in April in New Jersey. After Ragnar Trail Atlanta (3 weeks before my race) something inside of my hip/glute felt tight, but I was pretty much in the taper for the marathon so I figured it would heal in the last 3 weeks.

    I was in the best shape of my life before the race, and I was on pace to run well under 3 hours. At mile 13 I started having weird sensations deep in my glute. At mile 15 it periodically felt like I was being hit with a tazer in my glute. At mile 17 it felt like lightning hit me, and I collapsed. The diagnosis later was piriformis syndrome, which is really nothing compared to a broken bone or any other type of structural damage.

    It was devastating to have to pull out. I wallowed in self pity for about 6 hours, and then chalked it up to experience. Live and learn, and develop stronger glutes, abs, lower back, and hip flexors. I can relate to having a DNF after you’ve invested so much time and energy, but after the initial grief, I practically felt relief that I could rest and recuperate. I hope Rich feels the same way.

    I race triathlons, but only up to 70.3 so far, half iron distance. I am always very thankful whenever I make it off of the bike with no major issues.

  • I love this post!! It’s so cool to read someone else’s experience as an #ironmate since this is the first time I really have been one. I’m so sorry his day didn’t turn out according to plan, but good that it wasn’t his first ironman… I can’t imagine how much harder THAT might have been to deal with. You are such a fabulous girlfriend and he’s lucky to have you!!! I can relate to all your feelings on the first part of the day. I was so emotional all day and on the verge of tears with pride. So cheesy isn’t it?! Well it’s his turn next year. Although maybe I’ll hire you as my ironmate anyway!! I had a bit of a struggle with the training time suck… I think you probably handled it better than me ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Poor Rich! Yes, my husband broke his collar bone on a bike ride about 2 years ago. He thought he’d heal up just fine, but after consulting with a surgeon, it was clear he needed to have it plated. Caring for him after the surgery was pretty okay, and he was back on the bike trainer in 4 or 5 days (sitting up/no pressure of course).

    Getting it plated is scary but it’s the best option for athletes. Also, I would STRONGLY recommend PT. My husband is just a cyclist (no weights/running/other stuff), and his strength and flexibility on the side where he broke his collarbone has decreased a lot.

  • Wow! I’m truly impressed by his attitude and outlook through such an ordeal. Like you I cannot imagine spending a year + of blood, sweat and tears only to have this result. But the most important thing is that he is on the mend. Also, it sounds like you are a rockstar sherpa!

  • Oh my gosh. While of course I’m thankful it wasn’t worse (clearly this was a serious accident that could have killed or maimed Rich!), I can’t even comprehend what this must feel like – so much going into a race, and so much disappointment to finish like that. Tough guy.

  • Oh my, what a day! I’m so sorry he had this terrible accident. I think one reason he is handling it so well is YOU! Yes, he might not be able to run,swim,bike as much but the alternative (spend time with you) sounds pretty good, don’t you think? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Wow… what a crazy story! I was trying to follow you on twitter that day and I knew some ironman racers there… so I was shocked to see you update on twitter about Rich. He has a great attitude about it all.. if it were me, I’d still be crying!

  • I HATE how that happened to him – but I LOVE you relationship with him. And I love the attitude he has had about it. And how cute are you with all your little fun surprises!!

  • I feel so bad for Rich. I’ve felt that pain of training so hard for something and having a specific goal, knowing I could achieve it, and then having it all fall apart. Only with an IM, it’s more than 3x worse from 3x the training & time, etc. The upshot is, he will be home on your long run days to cook you breakfast when you return & pour your ice baths ๐Ÿ™‚ I look forward to meeting him…!

    • Ok so if he doesn’t have the cooking skills, now he has a TON of time to learn ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I need to bring you a Seattle Christmas ornament, right?

  • You are awesome and he’s so lucky to have you and your support! My husband is a runner too and I love that we both “get it.” I could relate to this on several levels, but most recently my husband ran LeHigh Valley in an attempt to BQ and run a sub 3:10. He had the best training cycle he’s ever had and was ready and things went really wrong mid-race. There was a time when we were checking with the medical team and really worried, it brought me to tears at one point. It really is devastating to see someone you love in pain. I hope his surgery and recovery go well!

  • My heart broke for Rich earlier this month when I heard what happened. It is just devastating to train that hard for that long and have something out of your control not allow you to finish. True character shows through in the worst of times, and Rich is clearly a fighter and so positive! I’m glad he had you there with him for support. Thinking of you both and hope the surgery went well.

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