Triathlete plans to compete in Show-Me State Games despite back injury

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | 6:17 p.m. CDT; updated 11:00 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 24, 2011

COLUMBIA — All athletes eventually get injured. But sometimes they hurt themselves while shopping, too.

Deb Hartley, 57, was trying out rental bicycles in a bike shop's parking lot when she suddenly hit a crack in the ground and was thrown at least 5 feet forward and flipped over a retaining wall, dropping 10 feet onto her back.

Despite suffering a bruised bone and a disc that is protruding onto her spinal cord, Hartley still plans to compete in the Show-Me State Games on Sunday afternoon.

Hartley, from Columbia, is taking part in the 55-60 age bracket in the triathlon event. She was looking to temporarily replace her mountain bike with a road bike, which is more appropriate for the event.

"I know the difference between a Mongoose and a Trek," Hartley said with a laugh.

It has been 25 years since Hartley competed in a triathlon. She was excited when she first hopped on the bike at the rental shop two weeks ago; it was much faster and more efficient than hers.

"I was like a 10-year-old, zooming around like a bumble bee," she said.

After being thrown from her bike, Hartley stayed on the ground for seven minutes before attempting to move because nobody witnessed the incident.

Hartley works in the medical field as a marketing representative for Advanced Radiology, a diagnostics facility, and knew she had to be careful when she started moving.

"First, I wiggled my toes, then my legs, and eventually managed to stand up and stumble back to the shop," she said. Hartley said once she was at the shop, the employees were nice and helpful.

Hartley said she sees pain everyday but is thankful she didn't suffer more serious injuries.

She has eased her way back into training and said she occasionally gets "zings" in her back but the pain is bearable. She said on a scale of 10, her pain went from 9 to 4 recently, and she only experiences intense pain when she transitions to the different exercises while training.

Hartley said a friend in the medical field told her it was safe to proceed with her training as long as she could handle the pain. She said back injuries are always relative because people can have blown discs and be fine but sometimes smaller discs in the wrong place can cause a lot of pain.

Hartley said she joined the Columbia Multisport Club to get back into training and hopes to continue with the healthy lifestyle she's always had. Because of her injuries, Hartley has a new goal just to finish the race because of her injuries, but she has a positive attitude.

"You just have to laugh and have fun," she said.

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