American professional triathlete Mary Beth Ellis was injured in a bike accident on Sept. 9 in Cozumel. Despite severe injuries and the resulting surgery, Ellis is working toward a goal of making it to the start line at the 2013 Ironman World Championship start line. She will be providing updates on her progress exclusively to Triathlete.com. See update No. 2, along with two videos, below.
Triathlon is a different kind of sport. And, as I battle back from my crash and surgery to race, I’ve been thinking about a race I did in 2008 at Escape from Alcatraz that taught me the value of perseverance. I was winning the race and having an amazing day—until I crashed. The television coverage was hard to watch. One minute I was sprinting out of the saddle up a hill. Then, I was suddenly falling to the pavement with my pedal ripped out of the crank. My dream of winning that legendary race that day was over.
Banged up and devastated, I watched the entire women’s field pass me by from the side of the road. An hour later, I was able to find a mechanic to force my pedal back onto the de-threaded crank. I had a choice: I could ride in self-pity back to my hotel or I could keep going and finish the race. In a lot of sports, there wouldn’t be a second thought. Hit the showers. Game over. But, triathlon is a different kind of sport.
I decided to keep going and finished the race with the middle of the amateur field. As I was coming in T2, my fellow women professionals were crossing the finish line. I ran with the inspiring age-group athletes and was in awe of their spirit and determination. I learned that day that in triathlon, you finish what you start.
So, as I look forward to the daunting road from an operating room in Vail, Colo. to the starting line at Dig Me Beach in Kona, I want to finish what I started so many months ago—not just for me and my family, but for all those who have endured much worse to get there.
My training is slowly improving. In addition, I have made strides with my Howard Head physical therapy team and I am finally seeing some improvement in my arm mobility and strength. Despite all the positive strides, I had a small setback as some irritation on my suture knots forced me out of the pool for 48 hours. However, Dr. Millett fit me into his schedule at the Steadman Clinic in Vail to ensure that there was no infection and get my final check-up post-surgery.
We leave for Kona in four days.
Please help more athletes stay in the game by supporting the nation’s biggest and oldest non-profit for sports injury research, a cause I’ve become very passionate about over the past couple of weeks, the Steadman Philippon Research Institute. Anything helps, please check out my page here.