New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... - Lyn­ley Ward

Mul­ti­ple in­juries weren’t go­ing to stop Iron­man James

In the ter­ri­fy­ing in­stant James Udy’s bike was shunted from be­hind and sent him sail­ing through the air, the vet­eran iron­man knew it wasn’t a car that had struck him.

Just a third of the way into a 115km cy­cle-train­ing run in Fe­bru­ary this year, the Wark­worth triath­lete had started pow­er­ing up a hill north of Te Hana on State High­way 1 when the freak ac­ci­dent hap­pened.

“It was just a thud and the next minute I was fly­ing through the air,” he says about the ac­ci­dent, which saw him land on the road. “I couldn’t move my shoul­der and I knew I had bro­ken some­thing.”

As James (47) looked up, he no­ticed a rogue spar swing­ing from a boat that was be­ing towed on the back of a trailer. For­tu­nately, his state-of-the-art Pinarello rac­ing bike took the brunt of the im­pact, but the force of the mast’s blow was so strong, his clip-on shoes were ripped from his feet.

As the ath­lete landed awk­wardly on the rough ag­gre­gate, his shoul­der and ribs snapped. James’ $7000 bike, which was snared by the mast, was now around 100m down the road. In the dis­tance, he watched more calamity un­fold as ve­hi­cles crashed while try­ing to avoid the un­teth­ered ob­struc­tion.

”It was all in slow mo­tion, at slow speed,” he tells. “Two cars col­lided, then sec­onds af­ter a mo­tor­cy­clist saw the ac­ci­dent and slid off his bike.”

A mo­torist stopped to help the stricken cy­clist and called emer­gency ser­vices.

“The in­juries were quite bad but I wasn’t in too much pain,” says the triath­lete. “I was only do­ing 20km/h up a hill so

I was go­ing at low speed. The car tow­ing the boat must have clipped me driv­ing past and I caught a glimpse of the mast fall­ing off the trailer.”

Taken along with the in­jured mo­tor­cy­clist to Whangarei Hospi­tal, James un­der­went CT scans and X-rays to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of his in­juries.

Spe­cial­ists con­firmed he had four cracked ribs and a bro­ken shoul­der, but es­caped any se­ri­ous head or in­ter­nal wounds.

With his in­juries threat­en­ing to scup­per plans to com­pete in the Taupo Iron­man race the fol­low­ing month, James rested for a cou­ple of weeks be­fore get­ting back on his bike. He was de­ter­mined to con­tinue his quest to hold the high­est num­ber of fin­ishes on track.

“I was ad­vised do­ing the iron­man would be too painful and not rec­om­mended, but

I was go­ing for my 24th fin­ish,” ex­plains James.

With a re­place­ment bike and on the back of a suc­cess­ful 2km test swim, he de­fied his spe­cial­ist and headed to Taupo to “give it a crack”.

But the gru­elling event proved too much, he ad­mits. “I got 27km into the run and looked at my watch. I still had 15km to go and was get­ting slower and slower.”

De­spite push­ing his body, he knew af­ter 14 hours rac­ing he wouldn’t make the 17-hour cut-off limit. With­draw­ing from the race, James gave up on clos­ing in on the 33-race fin­ish record he aims to hold in the next 10 years.

Now fully healed, he is pre­par­ing for next year’s race, though he hasn’t taken his new bike on the high­way yet.

It’s the first ma­jor road smash the New Zealand Iron­man Hall of Famer has been in­volved in through­out his 25 years in the sport. Af­ter a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, charges against the driver were not laid.

James re­mem­bers be­ing

cap­ti­vated by the gru­elling en­durance races in his early twen­ties, want­ing to make some­thing of his life.

“I crossed the fin­ish line and said I would never do one of these again,” he re­calls, un­der the im­pres­sion it was an ex­pe­ri­ence he wouldn’t re­peat.

De­spite the dec­la­ra­tion, he was train­ing within six months and has been hooked ever since, even trav­el­ling overseas to com­pete in the famed Hawai­ian Iron­man in 2014.

“It’s not un­til you do the sport that you re­alise what you can do push­ing your­self to the sport­ing chal­lenge,” he ex­plains.

“Not many peo­ple can get hit like I did, break bones and take on an Iron­man like I did!”

Right: James’ man­gled bike at the ac­ci­dent scene on State High­way 1. Far right: Ex­it­ing the swim at this year’s Iron­man New Zealand. Be­low: Fin­ish­ing in Hawaii 2014.

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