An ‘X’ for Xterra – How not to do it!

Author mtbguy    Category Xterra     Tags

xterra startSaturday saw my first ‘B Race’ of the year from a triathlon point of view – Xterra Grabouw. I’d had some chronic health issues over the last few years, so every time I’ve ever competed at the event I’ve suffered, and never done anything near of what I believe I’m capable of. But, I’m in a great place health-wise now.

My swim is better than it’s ever been, and still on the rise, even though swimming is my weakest discipline. I’m feeling better on the bike than I ever had too, which says a lot because cycling has always been my strength. The run has been on the back-burner, but the little running I have done has felt good. I don’t feel fast, but I felt like I had a good rhythm, which is more important for a tough course like Xterra.

All-in-all I felt really good going into the race. I even thought to myself “what could possible go wrong”, which lead my mind to jump to the tricky MTB course, and I’ve mostly been on the road bike, so my technical skills may have been a tad rusty. The thought “I’m going to have a really good day” went through my mind so many times that week, not because I was trying to convince myself of it, but because I truly felt great.

My first challenge of the day was avoiding the debris of broken glass on the N2 caused by a beer truck losing its load. There was glass everywhere and cars were rerouted onto the grass to avoid the glass, but we were all still riding over it. I knew that a puncture in more than one tyre would leave me stranded and would spell an end to my day, but I was fortunate enough to get through unscaved, which was just a prelude to what was to follow.

During bike racking I took my watch out of my bag, and half my strap broke. I didn’t want to lose the watch on the course, so I decided not to use it, and to race blind. I knew that the MTB course is where I’d really miss it. Time and distance provide me with good markers to manage my effort and progress. But I didn’t have it and standing at the swim start I’d come to peace with that.

I felt pretty good to start with on the swim. I felt like my rhythm was good, and I was sighting more regularly, and therefore my line was pretty straight. As I started to warm up I started to feel even better. It was feeling hard, yet controlled and comfortable, which is where I wanted to be.

Then came the swim exit. I always swim until I feel my hand touch the ground. I could see people around me standing, but I kept swimming. Then I felt something on my hand and popped up. The water seemed to even deepen slightly, so I did three dolphin dives, swam some more, and then stood up again, and in knee-high water started to power-walk through the water. Suddenly I felt a thud on my left foot. I’ve kicked my foot before, and this felt different, this felt more damaging. I lifted my foot out of the water, under-side facing down, didn’t see any blood, and thought “I think I might be OK”, more in hope I think.

I continued to push to the shore and actually fell over another rock, also underwater and not visible, which actually caused me to lose my balance. This was more of a trip than a kick of the rock. Once I was out the water and slightly hobbling I paused momentarily, but didn’t look underneath my foot. I now know that subconsciously I was procrastinating my assessment of the damage – I think deep down I knew it was bad. I said to myself “I’ll assess it when I get to my bike”. When I got there I lifted and twisted my foot. The underside of my left toe was completely lacerated and there was a gaping hole in it – I immediately thought “This is going to need stitches”, but then “No, just get on your bike”, followed by “But I’m going to lose so much blood, and this could get infected”. I decided to run and find a medic.

I clearly watch too many movies, because I was looking for a guy with a ‘+’ sign on his chest. Anyway, I run up to the announcer, tapped him on the left shoulder, rudely cutting him off mid-sentence, and belted out “Where do I find a medic”. He then announced “we need a medic in transition, a medic in transition”, after which I did a slow 360° spin to see if I could see anybody running towards me…as if it could happen that quickly, right? The announcer then pointed me to where the medical tent was and I ran over.

The doctor said that it needed stitches, but if I really wanted to continue that he could freeze the toe to stop the bleeding. At this point I’d accepted that this had happened, and really just wanted to sort my foot out and get on the repair path so I can race properly again. I said to the doctor, that I’m not a pro, and that I do it because I enjoy it, and even if I could grit my teeth through the MTB ride, it wouldn’t have been enjoyable, not to mention what a nightmare the run could be. I told himthat my day was done and to stitch me up. In went the anaesthetic, followed by 8 stitched, and I was soon walking around the race village and actually quiet enjoying myself.

When I returned to transition I saw my bike – It was the only bike in transition. It looked like a dog waiting for its walk. But it was the only dog not getting its walk that day.

It was a great event put on by the Stillwater Sports team – I was just unlucky. The bottom line is that in the event of something like this happening, there was a doctor at hand to attend to my needs. Jaco (the doctor) was great. He always gave me options. I can see he understands how important races are to athletes.

It’s now down to a quick recovery this week, and then I need to be on my bike with the Argus two weeks away. Then the focus is Ironman 70.3 in Durban in mid-June, with other triathlons in between to test the body. Hopefully my bad luck is behind me.


Sean Tait




Comments are closed.

Latest tweets

  • Loading tweets...

Recent Posts