Six weeks ago, Meredith Kessler was descending down a hill around 40 mph when a cyclist crashed in front of her. She followed him to the ground, breaking part of her spine as a result.
After the crash, the multiple Ironman champion struggled to get out of bed, feeling like something was pulling at her ribs. “When you get an injury like that, everything around it seems to say, ‘What the heck happened?’” Kessler says. “When I breathe I can feel it, but now it’s way better than it was.”
She tried swimming but it proved to be too painful, so she replaced pool time with physical therapy for three weeks. She kept running, however, thinking she was just dealing with some torn ligaments. An MRI revealed that she had broken her T9 vertebrae. “I remember finding out about the break after a 16-mile run, and I said to my doctor, ‘How is I that I can run 16 miles hard and not swim?’” Kessler says.
Kessler says the crash definitely changed her goals. “I had three trips planned—one to Los Angeles for [coach] Matt [Dixon’s] camp, one to Ohio to train in the Midwest humidity for 10 days, and one to Kona for a week for a traincation with my husband,” Kessler says. “All those got blown away when I crashed. Your priorities and your goals change. You go from, ‘I’m going to ride five hours’ to ‘Today I’d like to make it an hour on the trainer and swim one lap.’ That was the first two weeks.”
Prior to the crash, Kessler had a lot of long workouts in the bank, and she’s hoping that “all those 8K swims I did will still be in my arms.” Her pal Linsey Corbin assures, “She will be fine. I’ll bet money right here that she’ll come out with Leanda Cave and Kelly Williamson.”
Just in time for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship this Sunday, Kessler says she’s started to get her speed back, although she knows her “fifth gear” might not be as fast as it was pre-crash. Add in an incredibly competitive field, a difficult course and extreme heat, and it will be one tough race.
“This is warmer conditions for me coming from San Francisco, but this is a good race to parlay into Kona with the heat,” Kessler says. “The bike and the run are really solid, it’s a really honest race and not a fast course. These are the best girls in the world—you’re only going to have this opportunity once a year to race these girls all in one place.”
For more from the 2012 Ironman World Championship 70.3, visit Triathlete.com/Vegas2012.