Mt. Washington Hill Climb with Susanne Delaney
On race day I woke up at 5:00 am to the sound of pouring rain. It had rained most of the day before and into the morning hours. Would it rain the entire time on race day? Would the dirt section be a slip and slide? Would we even be able to race? I quickly checked Weather Underground which, to my surprise, showed the rain would end by 6 am. Believe it or not, it did stop right around 6 am.
We packed up and headed to the base of Mt. Washington. I had butterflies in my stomach; however, these butterflies filled me with excitement. I had experienced many sleepless nights leading up to this big event, wondering if I could do this, climb Mt. Washington. I stressed about the race day logistics – how it would all go down. Robin was right – “Don’t stress about the little things you cannot control, focus on the things you can control.” On race day morning I was surprisingly calm and focused. I was ready to take on this challenge.
I started training with Robin Farina on the weekend leading up to July 4th on a recommendation from a mutual cycling friend, April Joyce. April had recommended Robin to me during a Saturday morning shop ride. I am so glad April connected me with Robin – it was the beginning of a very positive coach/athlete experience for me. We didn’t have much time to get me ready but Robin determined, after a couple of rides and their data, that I had a solid base – I had been riding all winter and spring. Robin said she would get me race ready for Mt. Washington. During six weeks of workouts with several opportunities to speak to Robin by phone and/or Skype (when Robin was in France), I did the intervals, followed the plan, asked questions, and came to realize that I was on track to make this bucket list item a reality.
Here is a little background on me (I will try to keep this short) – I am a retired elite woman cyclist who raced for NEBC/Cycle Loft out of Burlington, MA, under the direction of U.S. National Track Champion Brooke O’Connor, from 2006 to 2010. I raced at a high level against pro and elite women during those 5 years, traveling up and down the East Coast competing in Criteriums, Road Races and Stage Races. I did well enough to secure several top 20 finishes in pro criteriums alongside Laura Van Gilder and many other very talented female racers. In September 2010, at the Boston Pro Crit, I was involved in a serious crash that sent two of us to hospitals. This was my second serious Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in less than 2 years (the previous one happened during a pile up at the Tour of Somerville in May of 2009, along with a second break to my left collarbone). After the crash and during my visit to a local Neurologist he said to me that if I continued bike racing and hit my head again, that I would very likely not recover. I had already planned to take a break from bike racing prior to this race, in September 2010, but it ended up being my last race, launching me into recovery and retirement.
Flash forward to March 23, 2012, bike commuting home from work. My husband had met me at work, and half way home, I was chased down and viciously attacked by a 90 pound pit bull. My husband managed to pull the dog’s jaws off of my lower left leg, and the police took over after that. I was taken by ambulance to the local hospital, released for a “dog bite,” and back in the ER less than 12 hours later with compartment syndrome, a dangerous condition which would have cost me my lower leg had I arrived 2 hours later. Three surgeries later and 3 weeks in the hospital, I had skin removed from my upper left thigh to skin graft the fasciotomy they had to do to release the swelling and blood from my lower leg due to the compartment syndrome. After leaving the hospital, I was cared for at my mother’s house by VNA nurses where I had to learn to walk again. The next two years were filled with PT appointments and recovery to get me back to “normal.” I didn’t gravitate back to cycling after the dog attack so once able, I turned to running. The bike was too traumatic for me as I did sustain PTSD from the attack. Running 5ks and 10ks led to half marathons and ended with a 20 miler; but running was not good to my body. My left leg was not 100% after the fasciotomy, as I have a large chunk of muscle missing and sustained 100% nerve damage (which I now believe to be more like 75%). At the end of April 2015, I was out doing an easy run on the local rail trail with my pregnant friend Erin (she convinced me to run on the trail, which I hate as I am clumsy). Immersed in our chatter, I tripped and went flying, ripping my left hamstring right off my pelvic bone. This led to major reattachment surgery and six weeks in a body brace, from my chest to my lower half, to prevent me from bending.
Training for and racing up Mt. Washington was more than just a goal for me, it was the return to my old self and coming back from some serious injuries. After retiring in 2010 I never lost my desire to compete but the injuries prevented me from training and competition. While I did do some running races, running wasn’t my passion - cycling has always been my thing, it fulfills me. I am happiest when riding my bike but also love the excitement and challenge of pushing myself and competing. Working with Robin has been such a positive journey for me. I texted her soon after completing the climb of Mt. Washington and sent her photos (see attached). The day after the race I texted her telling her I would like to continue working with her. I look forward to more adventures!