I will always remember the Banana Split Festival of 2013 for one reason: The day it all went wrong.
Former Wilmington News Journal reporter Andrea Chaffin — now Andrea Chaffin McKinney and the editor of our sister paper, The Madison Press — and I were judging the festival’s master chef competition, along with Wilmington Mayor Randy Riley and Miss Ohio.
At the time, I was in the midst of training for my first half Ironman triathlon, a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. It’s 70.3 miles of pure crazy.
Needing to put more time in the saddle before the July 13 race, I hopped in my truck after the competition and headed toward the Little Miami Scenic Trail, the scene of the crime.
My gullet was full of bananas, ice cream and more bananas. It was certainly a diet antithetical to the one I should have been consuming as a person heading out for a ride, one that should have been packed with protein and plenty of water.
My Grandma Thaxton, a teacher, gave me a special book when I started school to keep all of my report cards in through the years. She probably wished that at the end of each grade I would tuck in my folded cards with good marks written on them and pride in my heart.
Yeah, the A-plus marks and pride never happened, but I did religiously tuck them away each quarter, and the book has actually become quite a source of laughter for me as an adult, and fodder for an entire column some day.
Looking back on the Banana Split Festival of 2013, I’m reminded of one of the notes Miss Lewine, my kindergarten teacher, penned on one of my report cards: “Lora feels the rules are for everyone else but her.”
I must’ve been channeling my inner kindergartner that day because, in addition to a bad diet, I also didn’t follow the rules about slowly increasing your mileage with each training session.
I had only ridden a comfortable 20 miles on the bike, and was eager to increase my mileage as close to 50 as possible. I made it to 30 that day. With each mile, I kept telling myself that I was feeling good and one more mile wouldn’t hurt.
I was wrong.
Between bad nutrition and pushing myself too hard too fast, I injured the back of my right knee. It was so bad I had to take the next Monday off of work just to stay home and ice it.
The pain from my injury subsided significantly, and a few days later, I rode about 24 miles from Wilmington to Midland on U.S. Route 68.
The knee started hurting again, not as badly, though, and I was able to run without any problems.
This left me with a hard decision to make: Whether to race or not. The half Ironman was on my 38th birthday, I’d already dropped the non-refundable nearly 300 bucks to enter the race, made hotel reservations in Muncie and told everyone I was doing this.
I decided to race. While I wasn’t thrilled about possibly having a DNF (did not finish) by my name, at least I would do what I could and have a great time in the process.
The swim was fun, I cried for several miles on the bike, the run was OK, and with five minutes left to go before the cutoff, I finished that beast of a race. What a birthday gift.
My right knee was shot, though, and, after not getting better on its own, I went to the chiropractor and physical therapy. I started healing — then my left knee had problems.
Turns out, I had a torn meniscus.
I had surgery on it in April. They clipped the torn part of the meniscus, removed a floating piece of cartilage and, while they were in there, reshaped my knee cap.
I’m writing about this now because a couple weeks ago was the one-year anniversary of my half Ironman — and the one-year mark of me having not trained.
The road to recovery has been difficult, and I did my first official training run last week. I felt like “me” again.
Because I am an optimist, my hope is to do a very short triathlon at the end of August, a 250-yard swim, a seven-mile bike and a two-mile run.
Moreover, because I am a person who learns from her mistakes, I will also make sure to follow a regular training plan — “the rules” — and not push it at the end.
As I look back at the notes from teachers in those old report cards, I noticed that my “favorite activity” in kindergarten was “Having a great time!”
That’s still true, but I’ve learned that accomplishing that goal means correcting some of those other observations from the teacher notes from grade school. To have a great time, I need to remember that the rules do, indeed, apply to me, too.
Lora Abernathy is the editor of the Wilmington News Journal. She can be reached at 937-382-2574 or on Twitter @AbernathyLora.