I don't remember exactly what my bail out text to Les said from the junction of the West Jefferson Creek trail and the Colorado Trail, but when I close my eyes and relive the fifteen minutes I sat with my head in my hands before pushing 'send' I vividly see every letter of the last two words that ended the message:
Heartsick and hurting as I watched precious time slip away limping up Georgia Pass. In my most convincing inner voice, I was trying to tell myself to keep pushing, the pain will subside, keep going, it will be nothing in a few minutes.
"Keep moving. Walk it off. This does not hurt!" I yelled to the trees.
My voice cracked, "C'mon, Jill. C'mon!"
I threw my bike down in frustration and fury because, deep down, I knew this was not a pain that I could embrace and ignore for 400 more miles. This was equivalent to the pain of someone hitting the ball of my left foot with a ball-ping hammer while my toes were flexed. About two and a half hours earlier (I think) on the descent from Kenosha, I stuffed my front tire between two rocks with a small root bisecting them. The bike stopped and, subsequently, I did not. I caught myself in midflight over the bars with my right knee and managed to unclip my left foot and slam my first metatarsal into the sharpest, hardest rock on the entire Colorado Trail. I have an uncanny, natural talent for finding such stones it seems. Pain instantly shot through my foot and a loud stream of unmentionable adjectives followed.
My first counterattack on severe pain is to ignore it, bounce back up and get moving again. Adrenaline is normally my ally, but this was excruciating. I could barely touch it and could count my heartrate as it throbbed. I hoisted myself up, grabbed my bike, untwisted the cables and slowly moved forward. I lowered my head in stubbornness, and with the first few steps, I knew this one was going to be a bitch to ignore. I gingerly clipped back in.
Aaaaaurgh!!! Nope. I unclipped and used my arch and heel to descend the rest of the way to a creek. I really wanted to cry but I was too pissed off so I took my shoe off and wrapped my foot from the top of my arch to my toes with Coflex (a staple of any trip I go on).
"Now GO, Hueckman!" I yelled to any tree above me who would listen.
I began pushing up the rooted, rocky switchbacks. Any weight on the ball of my left foot each time I pronated hurt like a mother.....But I had a record to break....Ignore.....Push....Just....Keep pushing.....Try some Skrillex, some Disturbed, some Rhianna. Keep going. Get to treeline and see how it feels.
Tears came to my eyes more than once when I tried to move faster than the crippled turtle's pace I was rocking. Then the garbage thoughts came into my head as I looked down and saw I had lost more time than I thought. Hello self-doubt, hello "what are you doing out here?", hello "it didn't work for you last time", hello "you have no shot at the record anymore"......hello "you are letting everyone who believes in you and has helped you down" ......UGH! STOP.
So I did. I had just broken treeline and I set my bike down by the trail and walked a couple yards away and took off my pack. The wind was picking up and I put my baselayer and light down coat on. I ate a few Swedish fish and drank about half of my full water bottle. The garbage thoughts were quiet for a moment and I logically contemplated my options:
1) Camp right here and see how my foot felt after a few hours of being elevated. (I don't do painkillers, NSAIDS, etc of any sort (ever) so this was the best medicine it was getting since the trailside ice machine was not in service today) Problem: I am gunning for the record and making up 11+ hours by the time I got going was not possible. This was based on the assumption that the magical foot fairies were going to come and make my foot "all better." Um.....yeah right.
2) Push on in severe pain and legitimately risk doing further damage. Problem: Slooooooow pace and the fact that I need a healthy foot. Darn details.
3) Call it and bail down West Jefferson Creek trail (which I knew was all downhill) and wait for Les to get my sorry carcass. Problem: Facing the reality that I was not going to own the women's record this year.
This reality is what brought my hands to my chinstrap. I unbuckled it, a bit shaky and chucked my helmet as far up the trail as I could. I lowered my head into my hands and closed my eyes. The disappointment, letdown and sadness I felt at this moment was too deep for anger, tears or really any emotion and I just sat in complete silence and numbness. I prayed for some comfort and then, like a zombie, stood up, put on my pack and began pushing my bike toward my helmet and the West Jefferson Creek intersection. This is really the only time I could not feel my foot. Honestly, I couldn't feel anything. My experience was akin to someone hitting the pause button on all temporal and spatial sensations as I slowly moved closer to the intersection. I robotically picked up my helmet when I passed it with no reaction and continued on. I knew I was done, but I still had a few dozen more steps to the border of this vast land of complete numbness.
Then the text. Then the technical singletrack descent and the dirt road ride to the Jefferson Market to be picked up by Les. I chose this way because it was much closer to Aurora than Frisco.
CTR ITT 2012: Done. 17-somethingish hours. Didn't even make Georgia Pass. Unable to push through the pain of a completely unexpected crash. Welcome, Young Jedi, to bike racing. Some you win, some you lose. The unexpected can make you or break you.
MJ's words help me put it all in perspective over the last week of licking my wounds and getting ready to jump back in the ring:
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. ~ Michael Jordan