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The ‘I got hit by a car during the race’ Rev 3 Knoxville Race Report

Given you’ve probably read the title of this post, you have a rough idea what happens at some point along the way in this story.  That means you also think you know how this story ends, but just for fun – let’s start at the beginning.  It’ll be kinda like one of those movies where you see a part of the ending at the beginning of the movie, but all the details get filled in along the way.

So with that…the beginning:

Pre-Race:

This was probably one of the easiest and calmest pre-race morning’s I’ve ever had.  The hotel was only a short half a mile or so walk from the start, so we just wandered over right after sunrise.  Given our bikes had been checked in the day prior, there wasn’t much to do besides plop down a few required transition items (bike shoes/helmet/running shoes/etc…) and fill up my water bottle.

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Since that took about 5-10 minutes in total, I had more than an hour to do..well..nothing.  So I first wandered down and checked out the Pro area – which was abuzz with activity: Cameras, Officials, Racers, Camera Crews, random people with small dogs…you name it.

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From there I went back to my little area, where Biggest Loser contestant Tara Costa was giving an interview with some media folk.

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Following that bit of entertainment, I visited with The Girl a bit near her transition area, but otherwise just did loops around transition saying Hi to a few people I knew – like Molly.

From there though, it was down to the river to get all ready to go for a dip in the river.

The Swim:

The swim at Knoxville was a river course that starts and ends at two different points.  You swim upstream for a short distance, before going back downstream again.  If you were doing the Olympic distance, you swam to the first red buoy before turning downstream, and if you were doing to the longer Half-Iron distance, you swam a bit further to a second red buoy before heading back downstream.

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The pro men went off at 7:45, followed by the pro women at 7:48AM.  Being in the Special-K ‘Elite Amateur’ division, we went off at 7:55AM, some 7 minutes later.  As you may remember, getting included in the ‘Elite’ division was something of an accident – but it would at least force me to swim harder than I might otherwise.

After the women were out, we were able to get into the water and get a nice little warm-up in.  The water temperature was 70*F, and felt quite warm – so I was pretty happy with that.

At 7:55AM everybody went to the line and off we went.  The group started out fast (as I expected of course) but quickly formed into a few smaller packs.  Given swimming is my weakest sport, my primary goal was to stay in any pack at all, and just push as hard as I could to hold on.

At the turn buoy I did the math and realized I was only about 45 seconds off the main leaders – pretty solid if you ask me…for me.  So I was feeling good.  I was hanging in a small group of 2-3 folks for a bit until we passed the start line again heading downstream, where I then decided to bridge to another small group of a few folks up ahead.  I was ever so pleased that I was able to successfully do that as well.  It helped that sighting for this race was about as dead simple as you can get.  A perfectly straight course along a river retaining wall made it easy.

By time I hit the last bridge, I knew the course had to have been short.  While I was pushing harder than any previous swim ever before…I hadn’t become an Olympic swimmer overnight (which is what a 19 minute swim time would be like).  Nonetheless, I was happy with my performance there and even happier to be out of the water.

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My T1 time was a bit slower than I would have liked.  I didn’t have time to practice the flying mount prior to the race weekend like I usually would, and elected not to try and save the 10-15 seconds without the practice I needed.

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From there the course does a 3-4 mile loop around downtown before heading out into the hills.  I was still behind the lead pack at this point, but that was OK.  My strengths are bike and run – especially climbing on the bike.  So I knew I’d be able to pick people off over the next 1hr 40ish minutes.

Here’s the last picture of me before heading out of town:

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From there we crossed over the river (you could still see the swim waves below you in the water) and out into the hills.

At this point it was just a game of reeling people in.  And I was indeed reeling people in, one at a time – either Pro Females or Elite Men.  I don’t believe I reeled in any Pro men.  That said, while my power output was pretty high and just a touch below race plan, my heart rate was strangely rather low.

But I was having quite a bit of fun on the course.  The course is a very technical – and fairly demanding course.  It’s one of the few courses I’ve raced on where having pre-ridden it would have helped a ton.  A local athlete who would ride the route regularly would have a multi-minute advantage over an out-of-towner.  Lots of tight twisting ascents and descents, and blind turns – all items requiring some amount of knowledge to race effectively.  I love those kinds of courses…and thus was really loving this course.

But with those tight turns on 1.5 lane roads also came increased risks – there were a number of places on the course I thought to myself ‘If a car came around this corner and there were a group of racers, someone would be hit’.  So I was somewhat relieved to have made it past all those blind areas and out onto a fairly main clearly marked two lane road, headed back towards town.

It was now around mile 22 that I had a nice straightaway that was sorta gradually downhill.  Up ahead was an un-monitored intersection where the main road I was on didn’t stop, but a cross road had stop-signs on either side.  You can see it in the satellite picture below:

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I saw the car up ahead as I was right about where the ‘Me’ text is above.  He was off to my right and at the stop sign stationary right below the yellow arrow above.  Given a trickle of bikes was still heading outbound (opposite direction) on the road, I figured he had seen everyone and was just simply waiting for me to pass.

I was wrong.

Approximately two to three seconds prior to me arriving at the intersection he decided to pull out into it the street in front of me.

As an aside, just to point out how long two or three seconds is, go ahead and count it in your head.  Now try to imagine stopping from a speed of 20.9MPH to zero in that same time frame…with no warning.  Now also remember that I’m on a time-trial bike, meaning it takes an extra .5 to 1.0 second of reaction time to get back to the brakes to use them.

During that 2.0 seconds I thought about a lot of things.  Some out loud.  Most of which were primarily four letter swear words.  I tried to reason/yell at the car during this time period – as if that would help the situation.  Strangely it didn’t.  I need to work on that.

Timeline

(With my Garmin Edge 500 set to recording at 1-second intervals, the whole thing is recorded one second at a time)

While I made good some progress in slowing down to 14.2MPH, that didn’t stop me from making contact about 2.0 seconds later.  My front tire stopped dead in it’s tracks as I hit the car’s front left panel and left wheel – causing my front carbon fiber wheel to immediately crumple and crack and  the tube to actually roll off the wheel.

Within a split second of that I felt my right calf instantly cramp up in the biggest cramp I’ve ever felt.  And this was all in the 1/10th of a second before I departed my bike.  I believe I also set a speaking record for the most swear words emitted in a 1/10th of a second.  My mind then raced to my now occurring ejection from the bike.

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(Re-enactment)

Would I clear the car?  Would I land on the hood?  Was he still going forward?  Would I get run over?  Why on earth did I have to get the mother of all cramps now?

It didn’t take long for those answers to come.  Enough of the speed had been absorbed that I didn’t quite have the velocity to completely clear the hood.  Given that lack of speed, gravity took over and I came back down onto the hood and continued to roll down in front of the car into a little ball.

Now more things hurt.  Really, just about everything kinda hurt at that moment.  But…at least the car had stopped, and I had stopped flying.

Once you’re huddled up in a little ball you decide that moving anything seems like a bad idea.  You’ve already determined that your level of pain is ‘X’.  If I moved, that might mean it becomes ‘X + Y’.  And I didn’t like the idea of ‘Y’.  So I stayed where I was…partially under the edge of his front bumper.

A short bit later the older gentleman came out of his car.  He was saying something about ‘Are you ok?’, and I don’t really think I gave him a clear answer.  A few moments later another racer stopped to ask if I was OK, and to pray for me.  In the end a few people would stop by, put their hands on my shoulders and pray for me.

A few minutes later (but longer than I expected to be honest) – an ambulance showed up.  Followed by a fire truck.  And then some motorcycle police, a race support vehicle, a USAT official, and then I think some other police came along too.

Once they arrived I was a bit more interested in leaving the front of his car.  I did actually at this point try and get the driver to take a picture using his cell phone camera – but he declined saying he didn’t know how to use it.  So sorry…no pics!

The medic crews asked me a slew of questions…of which upon thinking about later in the day, I actually answered some wrong (like day of week, I answered Saturday and it was Sunday).  They then wanted (well…somewhat required actually) me to go with them for a ride to the hospital.  I might have declined that.  And they might have not been terribly happy about that.  The police then asked a slew of questions before officially determining he (the driver) was at fault.

Around this time I was standing up.  And while I was in a fair bit of pain, primarily in my legs and knee…I kinda really wanted to finish.  The question was would I have to walk the bike in (which is legal under USAT rules) or could I ride it in?

After some minor adjustments the front wheel still seemed to roll despite it’s cracks, and everything else still mostly functional.  Surely I could limp it in at 10MPH or so.

So, after some 20 minutes of paperwork (police reports, signing medical waivers, and a USAT official to boot), I was off bumbling under my own power again…very…very…slowly.  Not so much because I was scared of riding – but because if my bike instantly collapsed I didn’t want it to hurt too much when I crashed.  So I kept it at grandma-slow-speeds.  I was getting passed by all sorts of folks…you know, like kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk.

But…eventually I finished the bike leg – in a blistering 1hrs and 34 minutes.  You can see me limping it in here, with the blood still streaming down my leg:

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The Run:

I soon found out what’s even more painful than riding a bike while gimp-ass: Trying to get off a bike while gimp-ass.  That hurt a lot.

But I got my bike all stored away in the transition area and started to run out of transition and onto the run course…the wrong way.  Soon I was corrected and back under my own power.

The first few hundred yards of the run there was a lot of ‘ouches’ being emitted.   You can see my look of displeasure here:

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But, I was actually making good speed, and my form wasn’t horrendous per se:

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The first mile I was keeping it largely sub-6 – but the pain was starting to rise, mostly as a function of harder pounding on my (bleeding) left knee.  So I slowed down…to a brief walk for about a minute.

When walking, it didn’t hurt…so logically I tried running again – slowly.  I was able to get up to about a 6:30 pace before it started hurting again.  So I quite simply kept it at this pace and kept on chugging.

It’s about this time – on Mothers day – that my Mom and Dad are getting calls  at 6:30AM Pacific Time from the race director explaining that I was hit by a car and being taken to the hospital.  Unfortunately, they didn’t initially get the part that I was mostly fine and continuing on.  So there were a lot of frantic calls being made that Mother’s Day morning.  Luckily, Bruce – the friend who flew us down and took all these great pictures – happened to see me limp by a few minutes later and was able to re-assure them that I was at least still alive.  Sorry Mom!

Miles 3 & 4 I was able to ease it down into a 6:15ish pace without the pain increasing – so I just kept it there.  From a running perspective, I was actually feeling pretty darn good.  But then again, having a 30 minute break (including the easy ride back) certainly would have made life easier.

Mile 5 & 6 were pretty much the same, I slowed a bit to the mid 6-20’s, but kept it fairly even.  I was most curious as to exactly what my final run time would be – as I was tracking pretty close to a sub-40 minute 10K.

The problem was when I increased speed dramatically…it hurt again too much, so I just had to keep it steady…even in the final hill towards the finish line. 

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No sprint towards the finish line…but I did finish!  And as for that run time?

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A 39:37, 10K.  Pretty damn sweet.  Woot! 

But, it would be shortly after this point that The Girl (my girlfriend) would be silently (or otherwise) cherishing the fact that she managed a multi-minute victory over my time.

And I did also end up in last place in the elite division – except for the people that DNF’d.  But no DNF for me, thank you very much.  It would have been just too easy to simply call it a day after the crash.  But I paid my $180 and if I could finish, I would finish.  Some folks have it way worse, the least I could do it just finish – walking or otherwise.

As for how I’m doing now?  Umm…it hurts a lot.  Frayed Laces commented a while back after she was hit by a car that it’s not the day of that hurts, but the next day.  I’ve spent virtually all of today (Monday) either in the hospital, or on the phone with everyone on the planet trying to get me or my bike fixed.  It’s a lot of work, but so much better than the alternatives.  More on that later…

But for now – I’m feeling pretty lucky.  Lots of folks get hit by cars and have it way worse. At the end of the day if all I end up with his a busted bike and a dorked up knee…that’s a pretty lucky strike.

62 Comments

  1. Bo

    Wow, crazy weekend. Glad you got to finish, and hope you feel better soon.

    If you are laying around and bored tomorrow, post a quick reply regarding how to make that graph with the 500.

    Reply
  2. SSB

    Wow. That sucks. Hope you start to feel better. That's a damn fast 10k for having been hit by the car.

    Reply
  3. Glad you're ok and finished. A great read though...

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  4. Wow like BO said, crazy weekend. Hope your OK, and your front wheel also ...

    Vincent

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  5. Wow. Incredibly brave or stupid, I'm not sure which....I had a very similar crash a ways back while training....and went to the hospital. It's amazing how much can go through your head in those couple of seconds.

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  6. That has to be a gimp-ass 10K PR!

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  7. Wow that sucks. Glad you are somewhat ok and nothing is broken.

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  8. Wow, way to finish! I'm impressed, both with your resolve and your 10k finishing time after being hit by a car. I'm suprised they let you carry on.

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  9. Well its good to hear your alright. The fact that there was an un-supervised intersection on the course, means the race director is in a whole lotta trouble. Not acceptable from their perspective.

    Glad you were able to turn it around and rock a solid 10k (and a mega fast swim!), given any circumstances, let alone being hit by a car.

    Reply
  10. Kim

    Holy shit. I am in both shock and awe about what happened. So glad you are mostly okay, but so frigging scary! You're pretty much a rockstar for getting back into the race and pulling out a 10k pace some of us only dream for. Get well!

    Reply
  11. Kim

    OMG I can't believe you continued on with the race after getting hit by a car!!!!!!!!!!! Hardcore!
    (And incidentally, reading this on a different computer, I'm getting white background, not gray...can read just fine.)

    Reply
  12. Great post! Hope that your injuries, particularly the knee, are not worse than you first thought. Take it slow and get everything thoroughly checked out. Better to have some down time now than to risk long term problems developing. It is shocking that this could happen, although even the Pro's have been hit by cars during races.

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  13. Crazy that there was an unsupervised intersection in a race of this size. But so glad you are ok! Way to HTFU!

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  14. You ROCK for finishing so strong!

    Don't you wonder what some of the excuses were from the DNF'ers! lol! Oh I got a cramp or my head hurt.

    I'm sure it goes without saying but make sure you give yourself some extra recovery time so you don't strain anything.

    Glad you are alright!

    Reply
  15. That was an amazing effort. sub 40 min 10k!!!! After an accident! Congrats on pushing on when most people would not even think twice about stopping after the accident.

    Reply
  16. Wow. Glad you're OK! Hope the bike and knee get better soon!

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  17. SO glad you are OK. I too noticed some spots on course where it could have gotten scary with a car pulling out, I'm so sorry you were a victim of one of them. I hope your injuries turn out to not be too serious and that you aren't too sore today!

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  18. Congratulations!... or something like that. I don't know anyone else who would FINISH their race after getting hit by a car. Just... astonishing.

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  19. Glad you're ok for the most part, wow!! Kudos to you for gutting it out and finishing!

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  20. Ray - First off, very happy you are okay and still have such a great attitude after the accident.

    Dude you are one tough SOB to continue on after taking a header over the hood of a car. I would have taken my ambulance ride home. I am in awe!

    Besides getting damn near squashed what were your overall impressions of the the Rev3 race? I assume you were not thrilled with the traffic control portion but how about the rest?

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  21. dude, way to HTFU.

    most would have called it a day.

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  22. First, I can't believe there was an unmanned intersection on the course! Second... Wow! So glad you're OK.

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  23. I am so sorry to hear about the accident but damn you are tough! I hope you heal soon and that you can get th bike fixed!

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  24. Wes

    First off, just dayum that you got hit by a car. That sux no matter who what or where!

    Second, you are THE real tri stud HTFU athlete for finishing the race, that is just un-freakin-real.

    Third, my 310XT said the distance for the halfrev swim was spot on. Therefore, I think you ARE an Olympic swimmer!

    and finally, it was nice to meet you at transition on Saturday, even if I did surprise you a bit.

    Rock on!

    Reply
  25. Chris

    Glad your're ok. I read about your guardrail accident a few days ago and could not believe I was now reading about this accident...wow. Congrats on the finish!

    Reply
  26. JF

    ipWow! That's all I can say! Way to finish the race, and so sorry to hear about the accident. Glad you are ok! Maybe I need that guy to hit me so I can easily do a 6:15 pace in my races! lol

    Reply
  27. Wow, glad you are ok. From the schematic, the driver looks a little small to be driving. You should look into that! :)

    Lesser is more - Non-closed courses suck! But, that's the reality in the US. Don't know if there are any rules about closing off intersections.

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  28. That is hardcore racing.
    It would have been interesting to see how you faired had you not gotten hit!!

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  29. wow... thats is insane... glad things werent more serious... wat to HTFU and keep going! i cant believe they would have an unsupervised intersection especially on the bike course! WTF?!?!?!

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  30. maybe i should send you my high-viz vest... it's hideously bright for open courses

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  31. Anonymous

    Yeah, old people in cars are a serious problem out on the roads. I've had a friend killed by one.

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  32. Ugh! It is a worthy accomplishment to finish - but just make sure that if something similar happens again (which hopefully it will not!), you don't feel obligated to finish - esp. if you have hit your head!

    (Favorite movie of type you are describing: "Crashup on Interstate 5" - check it out!)

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  33. Amazing. I am glad you are okay.

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  34. I’m glad that you are ok.
    Excellent job!!

    Thanks for your updates. If you are ever in NJ south let me know and lunch is on me.

    Reply
  35. Wow, wow.... In my opinion there should be no uncontrolled intersections along a bike course. They should have had a volunteer out there. I'm glad to hear you are doing okay and that you were able to finish the race. Since the police determined that he was at fault hopefully you'll be able to get your bike repairs or replacement parts covered.

    Reply
  36. Oh my goodness. This has to be my favorite race report ever. Simply incredible that you kept your body and bike together long enough to finish the race. And I LOVED the re-enactment!

    Glad you're mostly OK now. Good luck with the healing and pain management.

    Reply
  37. Wow - what an adventure. I am very glad to hear that your story telling and humor seem to be intact and hope that both you and your bike will be back to 100% soon.

    And a sub 40 minute 10k after all that? - awesome!

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  38. dan

    dude, thats pretty BA that you still finshed.

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  39. Ray ~

    I work for Rev3 and all of us (especially Charlie Patten who owns the race) have been talking about you and have been so concerned. Thank you for honoring the day and the Rev3 Knoxville race by bringing your amazing attitude to the day. We are all so sorry to know what you have been through and apologize that it happened on "our watch".

    On a separate note, as a professional triathlete I applaud and respect people with an attitude like yours. Tough stuff to get through whatever adversity is thrown at them - no excuses, no regrets. YOU are tough stuff.
    Cheers to you, my friend.

    Heal well and I look forward to meeting you at a future Rev3 event!

    xoxox!

    Reply
  40. DUDE! That sucks about getting hit by a car. But you are awesome for getting back on your feet and finishing. I bet if you would have stopped, you would have been even MORE sore today (well, maybe).

    And I think the swim was 0.9miles, does that make it more realistic for your swim time?

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  41. Very impressive. Great spirit indeed for having finished the race, Strong especially after that car accident. You inspire me all the time.

    Get well soon and congratulations for a great race!

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  42. WHAT!?? Oy, I'm glad you're ok Ray.

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  43. tim

    HTFU=Ray

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  44. Holy Crap!!! Scary stuff!!! So glad to hear that you did not have any broken bones or internal injuries. The fact that you cracked out a sub 40 min. 10K when you kept on stating that you were "slowing up" and "keeping a steady pace" is frickin' amazing.

    Can I revel with The Girl that I have had a few Olympic distance races that have been faster than your Rev3 finish?

    Take care and heal for a few days.

    Reply
  45. I'm sorry that you got hit by a car but now I am sort of excited to see some of the ins and outs of USAT's insurance. I know if anyone is going to uncover the details...it's Rainmaker.

    Take care of yourself and make sure to fully recover so you don't get any long term issues resulting from your knee slamming into the ground.

    Death before DNF...I think that is just a saying, don't take it so literally.

    Reply
  46. Jen

    Sheesh, you thought you had to break your race report into parts to make it more epic? That was more drama than an episode of "One Life To Live" (or, in your mother's case, "All My Children")!

    You, sir, are an animal. (HTFU)^2

    So glad to hear that you're okay, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the bike.

    Reply
  47. That is an amazing story! Hopefully something like it never happens again, but if it does... maybe this tool could help in the re-telling! link to springwise.com

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  48. Hardcore for all the wrong reasons! Thank heavens you got away with what you did...time to go bike shopping maybe?

    Reply
  49. Sorry about the crash, but congratulations on finishing the race and laying it down in the 10K.

    It would be interesting to see a graph of your swim performance. I'm betting the course was on as an earlier poster noted, but the fact that it was ~75% downstream made it vary fast. For example, a 3km/hr current would have given you a free 50M each minute after passing the start line on the way down river. Looks like about half the race was after passing the starting line on the way down river, so could have easily saved you a couple of minutes.

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  50. Anonymous

    I love your site and this story was, as always, compelling reading but I feel like someone needs to be the contrarian...continuing on with the race and not going to the hospital was flat out dumb.

    A crash pulse of 15 mph is more than enough to result in internal injuries which could present without symptoms, not to mention the potential for head injuries.

    The history of medicine is chock full of people who felt fine after an accident and were dead by nightfall.

    Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but God gave us ambulances, CAT scans, and ER nurses for a reason -- so we would use them.

    (And I'm surprised that Revolution 3 let you continue -- had you ended up with serious injuries, or worse, or even not, I would think the liability exposure would be huge.)

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  51. Glad to hear you are OK! I passed you on the bike probably mere minutes after you were hit and honestly, you didn't look good. Way to HTFU and finish the race. If you were swimming next to someone with red/purple goggles - it was me!

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  52. Glad you survived as well as you did. What an amazing race report! Simply amazing!

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  53. Thank you very much

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  54. I am so very sorry to learn of what happened to you this past weekend. It's amazing that you were able to finish. That took some serious guts, my friend. From the sound of your most recent post, it looks like you are slowly on your way to recovery. Take good care of that knee of yours. I'm looking forward to following more of your adventures (but hopefully none that are car vs. triathlete).

    Reply
  55. Wow. First I find out I wasn't the only one to be involved in an incident with a car during the race and then I find out I wasn't the only crazy person to get up and finish after being hit by a car. Good to hear you are doing OK. And great job running a sub 40min 10k after all that.
    At least you didn't have to worry about scaring small children during the run as I did (I landed on my face and hands and looked like the living dead)

    Reply
  56. Glad to see you made it out of that crash! Nice finish! It doesn't matter where you finished. You are strong for finishing after a crash!

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  57. What kind of car hit you? I saw someone get hit as I was heading out on the Half bike course and stopped to have someone call 911 because I was worried the person driving the car might not have had a cell phone. I was thinking about whoever it was and praying that they were ok, but figured I'd do more good getting help than standing around. Big hugs and so glad you are ok. And cannot believe you continued the race. Nice job rockstar!

    Reply
  58. Anonymous

    I'm really surprised you hopped back on a carbon bike after an impact and rode it. I'd be concerned about the frame/fork being compromised.

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  59. OMG, so sorry to hear you got hit by a car!!!

    I'm so glad you weren't seriously injured. Kudos to you for hanging in there and finishing. I would be thrilled to run a sub-40 10K even on my best days!

    Reply
  60. Alin Popovici

    Last week during the Miami Nice Triathlon my bike segment included hitting head on @ 21mph a guy fixing his ******* bike in the middle of the road... just like in the movies, I flew over the bars and rolled on the the pavement. I'm not sure why I didn't see him when I 1st looked up, but it felt like only seconds had passed until I looked again and there he was 3 ft in front of me. I know I shouldn't have taken my eyes off the road but c'mon...is the middle of the lane a good place to pump your tire?

    biking is not my thing :) last time I had a flat in the exact same spot and it took 15 minutes to fix - of course well away from the road not like this idiot. This time I was lucky, just some road rash, swollen ankle, etc. and it took me only 1-2 mins to recover, straighten stuff on the bike and continue. An eventful ride... just the way I like it :) I did finish the run 10k in 1:08 but hey, this was also under 95F Florida sun.

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  61. Dang...thats rough. I live in Knoxville and this just shows you how bad some of our drivers are. I'm impressed that under the bike and body circumstances you were able to finish. I heard a rumor that Rev3 will be coming back to Knoxville, think you might come back and take a shot at it beginning completely healthy. I hope to do it next year, and maybe even get the chance to meet the best tri reviewer I've read.

    Reply
  62. OMG!! I am just now reading this a year later. I was actually at that race - I live in TN and I came through the intersection as they were trying to get you. I recall the car and the ambulance. Seeing all that scared the crap out of me. I cannot believe you finished the RACE!! Holy cow Rainmaker!!

    Needless to say, my bike time really sucked because I was pretty shaken after that - it's ok, I'm slow anyway. But wow. I had no idea it was you...and I'm glad you're ok now.

    Reply

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