Hillary had a good bike
ride but not great. She didn’t feel quite right. Something
felt funny in her hip. It ached. It had been for some time.
She had what she called a mediocre race in Kona in 2003, going
11:01:57. In Kona, that is a time to be proud of. But Biscay
came home wanting to go faster. So, she did the only thing
you can do when you are an Ironman athlete and you want to
go faster: She entered another race. This time it was Ironman
New Zealand, and it was today.
Hillary is a good enough
athlete to sense something was really, really wrong. She knew
this was not normal. Her father is a physician and she knows
a thing or too about medicine herself. She could tell this
just wasn’t right.
But Hillary Biscay did
not get to where she is by giving up when things hurt. This
woman is machined from hardened steel, and you can see it
in her face, hear it in her voice. She is tough on a genetic
level. An elite college swimmer, veteran Ironman. She is a
So Biscay kept on moving.
Even though her hip was broken she kept moving.
Now, let’s talk about two things here:
First- there are broken
hips, and then there are broken hips. X-rays at the hospital
in New Zealand revealed that Hillary Biscay’s hip was
broken bad. Not just a little nagging stress fracture, but
a full-blown, show up bigtime on the X-ray crack that even
you or I could spot on the film. It was the type of injury
you sustain from an auto racing accident, a parachuting accident
or other life-threatening trauma. In short, she was fuct.
The crack was big.
Secondly, I want you to
think about an injury like a broken hip. Your hip is one of
the bigger bones in your body, and it is right in the middle
of your body. So when it goes, it goes in a big way. And you
feel it to your very core. A structural and excruciating kind
of pain that causes you to instantaneously abandon any athletic
ambitions and fear for your very life because you think you
are breaking in half at the spine. Picture that for a minute:
You’re driving through an intersection, a car runs the
red light and broadsides you at full speed. Your door buckles
and pins you against the passenger door, breaking your hip.
Now, get out of your car
and run a marathon.
And that is what Hillary
Biscay was doing. And she wasn’t giving up.
Hillary kept moving, limping
prominently now. It was the drunken stumble of someone intoxicated
by pain. The crowd saw it, and they went quiet. She had five
miles to go.
Biscay eventually went
to her knees. But she did not stop. She crawled. Two miles.
Do you know how long it
takes to crawl two miles? Hillary Biscay does. The crowd went
nuts. It was an incredible spectacle. The spectacle of determination
and suffering. The pornographic, voyeuristic beauty and horror
of seeing someone unswervingly follow their ambition- no matter
the cost. That was Hillary in New Zealand.
Eventually Hillary Biscay
caused such a stir by crawling along the run course at Ironman
that an official stopped to see what was going on. The official
told her that crawling was not allowed and she would be disqualified
and removed from the course in an ambulance, delivered to
the hospital where she belonged.
The crowd shouted down
the official. They yelled threats and insults at the official.
Hillary Biscay had stopped for a moment under orders from
the official and was sitting there. She told the official
she would continue. She argued that crawling was allowed (it
is) and that she would continue any way she saw fit.
And she did.
The official played his final card. He told her that an official
can remove any athlete from the event for medical reasons
at their discretion, and that their decision is final (it
Finally, and somewhat tragically,
an ambulance arrived and Biscay was forced to get into it.
And that is where Hillary
Biscay’s day ended.
I already told you about
the X-rays. The crack in her hip was big. When she was ejected
from the race and placed in an ambulance under protest she
had a little over three mile to go. And she wasn’t about
to give up.
Now I’ll be the first
to tell you, I would have bagged it. The reason I am alive
today is because I know how to pick my battles. And I know
a battle that I either cannot win, or is too costly to win.
So if I had been on Hillary’s hip I would have climbed
in the ambulance after the bike and asked for my blankie.
That is why they have the
race every year, so if one year you blow it (or it blows you)
you can fill out that damn form and just come back and do
it all over again.
Hillary knew that. But
she was made of something just a bit different that you or
I looked for something
in Hillary that would explain this. She was quite a pleasant
person, good conversationalist, good sense of humor, had a
normal relationship with her boyfriend and was very well adjusted.
She seemed utterly normal. No history of failed relationships,
no unfulfilled longing or low self esteem issues that drive
so many people to stupid ambitions in an attempt to “prove
something”. She didn’t have any of that. She was
just a tough athlete from California. A badass. And this is
what she did. So she tried to do it.
I wish I were more like
Hillary Biscay. I wish I was that tough, but I know I’m
not. The words “give up” are not in her vocabulary.
Now, you can say what you
want about this whole thing. And I hear you- it is pretty
stupid to crawl two miles on a broken hip in Ironman when
you could just bag it and come back next year.
I asked Hillary about that
the next morning at breakfast, “Girl, why didn’t
you just bag it and decide to come back next year?”
said as she leaned her crutches against the side of the table
and propped her leg up on another restaurant chair, “You
never know if there will be a next year…”