A year ago around 11:45am I lost control of my bike on a descent through switchbacks. I suffered a broken collar bone, collapsed lung, fractured ribs, and L1 burst fracture in my lower spine that has put me in a #wheelchair. One year later I swam through duck ? infested lake water training for a #paratriathlon and then rewarding myself with chicken fried steak and a side of bacon. #HappyAnniversary.
I crossed the finish line 343 days after my bicycle crash that left me paraplegic at the moment. It was also a week before my birthday, a fact I hadn’t really thought about until after the race.
I’m not even sure how to explain how it felt. Honestly, it there were a lot of mixed emotions.
A year ago today I was having an amazing year. My birthday lasted nearly a week with a picnic, 55-mile Velo Vino ride, a Calistoga spa, an airstream trailer, Jack Daniels smoked tri-tip, a ton of great friends, and of course, lil Pink. Then about 2 weeks later, everything changed. I made a goal to compete in the Santa Cruz 70.3 Ironman this year and get back on the horse.
I expected to be walking by then.
And I’m not.
And it is a bummer. I’m not one to go down the rat hole, especially in public, because I know what’s down that hole. A lot of grief and misery. I certainly don’t bottle it, nor condone bottling it up. Instead finding constructive ways to release that energy. For me sometimes that’s a conversation with a close friend and sometimes looks like getting out on my handbike. Having that freedom again to see the scenery with the wind in my face is fantastic therapy.
So there’s that.
Then there’s all the little things that made this mission tough. My handbike and racing chair arrived a week before the race. That crazy racing wheelchair you saw me cross the finish line on – it was my 4th time on that thing. My bike chain was too long, limiting my ability to go faster.
I hate being a rookie again.
Last year I had been training for most of the year with Golden Gate Triathlon Club & Trimore Fitness and had come a long way. I was ready to rock a 1.2 mile swim, 52 mile bike ride, & 13.2 mile half-marathon with confidence. Now I’m a rookie again. Learning how to swim differently, learning how to race a handbike, and learning how to run again except on wheels. I feel unsure, unstable. I feel like every part is a struggle again. I hate being a rookie again.
And all of you are going to say, ‘Take it easy on yourself, buddy. You crossed the finish line. That was the goal….’
And all of you are right.
What I know is this determination I have is a double-edged sword. It can drive one to accomplish big things. It can also drive one into a hole of ‘never enough.’ Honestly, that’s where I’ve been hanging out mentally the past week or so. I already know what you’re going to say. It’s completely true:
I raised a shit-ton of money and support – more than I asked for.
I crossed that finish line, just like I said I would.
I overcame huge obstacles to do it, like being stuck in a wheelchair.
I actually did 2 legs of a triathlon 2 weeks prior at the Oakland Tri.
I made a statement.
I turned this tragedy into something positive.
I met some great people along the way.
I’ve inspired my friends, family, community, tribe.
I’ve inspired a bunch of people I don’t even know in ways I don’t even know.
There’s a lot of lessons to unpack in all this. I think they’ll come out as individual posts.
What I know is this: It didn’t look pretty, it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to happen. But my eyes were on the prize = crossing the finish line. Couldn’t get your stroke rhythm in the swim? Just fucking get back to shore. Bike shifting is off? Fuck it. Keep stroking, you’re riding the beautiful California coast, dude, with a lot of other amazing athletes busting ass too. 4th time on this handcycle on a 9% grade hill? 5 strokes & 3-feet at a time. Just keep going. Cuss and grit your teeth all you want. Just cross the finish line.
No one asks your time, they just know you completed a triathlon.
Kinda like no one asks your college GPA, they just know you graduated.
Not many people can say that. Not many believe they can. But I know a secret. Anyone can. Anyone can if they just keeping going and keep their eyes on the prize. That applies to everything in life, btw.
** Next race is Sat, Sept 18 @ The Nautica Malibu Triathlon in SoCal. If you’re around, I’d love to see you out there! Details about getting there and parking are on their website. We start somewhere around 7am and I finish somewhere around 9am **
It’s has once again been a LONG time between official updates and I know that because I’m having the same confused conversation with a lot of people. So here’s a briefing of where we’re at in the journey and what is to come!
This past weekend was not my first race. My coach suggested doing the Oakland Triathlon as an opportunity to do a dry run. It was also a good opportunity to do an open water swim because to date I’ve been in the pool. I desperately need to get into the ocean more.
It was a good break-in for my new wetsuit! ROKA has sponsored me in-so-much as providing me one of their high-end models that I’ve actually ALWAYS wanted.
To complicate matters, I haven’t received my handbike or racing wheelchair (the racing chair is for the run) because of manufacturing delays due to the Olympics. So I BORP, the non-profit in Berekeley that offers handcycling where I train, once again brought me a handbike to the Oakland Tri where there were 3 other BORP teams competing as relays. So in the end I did a swim and bike. It felt good. I identified what I need to work on and my strengths. Oh and uh, I officially competed 10 months after my accident.
Tonight I’m in Los Angeles and on my way to San Diego tomorrow to attend the Challenged Athlete Foundation Paratriathlon camp at UCSD. I drove with a number of stops along the way to break up the journey.
My racing chair and handbike arrived direct to San Diego today. The good news is we FINALLY have my GEAR!! The bad news is that we have to put it together right at the camp. I don’t have time to get it tune it up or get it right before training. That’s actually a big deal that worries me.
The camp goes Thursday to Sunday and then it’s back to the Bay Area.
Then the 14th of August is the Tri Santa Cruz race!! The race starts at 7:45am for paratriathletes like myself. More information about parking and whatnot is here: http://www.finishlineproduction.com/events/triathlon/TriSantaCruz
There is SO much more I have to write about and share. Sept 17th is the Malibu Nautica Triathlon and there’s information to share there too. However, I need to get some shuteye because I’m driving tomorrow and it’s the first day the camp!
But this is it. We’re in it. The money has been raised. The money has been spent. Now it’s up to the DOING of it all. Thank you for your support – in ALL it’s forms. Words of encouragement, crashing for a night, monetary, etc, etc. It’s happening and I wouldn’t be doing it without this community, this tribe: #teambalucas
about Balucas | my story
Hi, I’m Rob Balucas. 2015 was a shaping up to be a breakout year for me. My business, a boutique creative agency, was on track to grow by 12% annually and double-digits for the third year in a row. I had proven that I could live in San Francisco, a goal I accomplished 3 years ago.
Personally I took up triathlon. I was never considered an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. But I saw triathlon as something to conquer knowing that the secret to such a feat was simply getting out there, putting in the time and training consistently. I liked to say triathlon keeps me sexy, sane, and out of trouble.
my injury | paraplegic at the moment
Then September 5, 2015 – the weekend prior to the race – on a routine training bicycle ride, things took a drastic change. I lost control of my bike on downhill switch backs, crossed over the oncoming lane and went over the side of a hill. At first, we thought I had just a broken collar bone and I’d be back in a month.
Turns out that I had a broken collar bone, several cracked ribs, a 70% collapsed lung, and worst of all a L1 burst fracture in the lumbar spine. The very next day after my fall, the doctors performed a spinal fusion. It has left me paralyzed in a wheelchair without any feeling or control of my legs.
Through months of intense rehab, I’ve regained sensation that began at the nipple line up and now starts around my waist and up. Whether I’ll walk again is up in the air according to the doctors. However, I believe it is a matter of healing, belief, giving the body what it needs, giving the mind what it needs, and time.
the rally | paratriathlon
From the moment after my surgery, I set a goal to race in Santa Cruz in 2016. Now I have an opportunity to achieve that goal, albeit a little different than I originally envisioned.
There’s a slim possibility that, if I raise funds to get the equipment to race in time, I could qualify to race in the Paratriathlon National Championships during that very race in August at Tri Santa Cruz.
the why | to continue to inspire
Really my campaign is not just to race Paratriathlon.
It’s to build an inspirational story. A story of comeback less than one year after a devastating and life-changing injury.
A story that proves life is something you choose to create, not something you are a victim to.