Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Exercising" my Demons

Each of us have our personal demons. Things that chill us to the bone, things that creep into our dreams turning them into nightmares, things that can shake our confidence to the very core. We don't like to admit their presence or the power they hold over us, but we always know they are there. One of my demons, is a small stretch of pavement next to a grassy drainage ditch in front of a framers field with a couple of hourse grazing. For most that would be a fairly peaceful scene, but for me it is an image that haunts me. Why? I was healthy and in some of the best shape of my life and was about half way through a spectacular race to start of my 2010 triathlon racing season at Rev3 Knoxville. I had PRed the swim by several minutes, had a solid transition and actual got my wetsuit off in record time, and was mowing people down on the bike leg. 12 miles in and a grand total of 1 person had passed me and felt strong.

Then in an instant my race turning into something completely different. A narrow two lane country road on coming traffic, no shoulder, and a white pickup truck in the lane with the cyclists. I was annoyed by this but as I started closing in on the truck, but just then the driver comes up on a cyclist thinks about swerving out to pass but sees on coming traffic and hits the breaks hard. Suddenly I am on top of this truck with on coming traffic in the other lane and no room to the inside and I jumped out of the aerobars and jammed on the breaks and suddenly was flipping and supermanning onto the pavement. This patch of pavement. A patch of pavement I was fortunate to have been able to get up from an pedal away from. I finished the race, battered and bloody, and full of rage.
I saw my way to the finish and after the adreneline wore off.... The demons started finding there way into my head. "You know a few more degrees of rotation you would have broken your neck and been in a wheelchair the rest of your life." The ER nurse who said that didn't know her comment would stick with me like glue and visit me in my nightmares. You try and get back on the horse, you try to show a brave face to your friends and family, but that fear kept coming back again and again. I got back out there repaired my bike, raced again, even set an Iron Distance PR that season, but something was missing. Everytime I was in traffic, my nerves were shot. I had a flashback at Rev3 Quazzy when a van got into traffic with us and the brake lights flashed. I found myself visibly shaking and it took several minutes to get me composure back. I lost my nerve and even though I could hammer the bike safe inside n the trainer, when I went outside the demons would jump on my back and slow me down to a crawl.
But time heals all wounds or so they say. I returned to Knoxville in 2011 doing the Half Rev and survived, I built up my nerves to fly down the back side of Reicter Pass at over 50 MPH at IM Canada. I finally started to remember the thrill and joy riding and that feeling started to drown out the demons. So this year, it was finally time to send those demons on their way. I had to go back to the scene of the crime, do the same race, 2012 Rev3 Knoxville Olympic, and return those demons to where they came from. They didn't go without a fight. The sets of railroad tracks spooked me. However, about 12 miles in right before the HIM/Oly split and the aid station. I recognized where I was. I was coming up on that spot. A nondescript section of old broken road, a grassy ditch and a farmer's field with a couple horses. I acknowleded the demons there with a point and glided past, putting those demons behind me for good.
From there on I really felt energized and cranked up the effort, and finally was able to let it go. A weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I was able to ride harder outside than I had in two years and bested my Olympic distance PR from 2008 and my beat my Olympic distance time from the last two years by over 10 min.
Am I free of those demons, too soon to tell, but I am at peace with them. Enjoy the ride!


  1. Great to see you last weekend! and glad to see you back in the saddle and racing well!

  2. Congrats on the amazing PR - and overcoming those demons! It's all mental - but its so tough. But it's a fantastic feeling when you've overcome those challenges! Congrats again!!

  3. Well done! I'm sure it hasn't been pleasant, but you're better off now!