Whether Annecy Daggett, the 2021 winner of the women's division in the Smiley Sprint Triathlon, could win again Sunday is not the point.
It's this: She'll start the race, and she'll finish it. And that's extraordinary, because only nine months ago, a car struck the Columbia University master's student from Winston-Salem and threw her from her bicycle while she rode with triathlon club teammates in New York. The accident, which she doesn't remember, left her with two plates and 10 screws in her left leg.
"It's never been a question of 'if I'll get back to it,' she says of competing in triathlons. "It's always been a question of 'when I'll get back to it.'"
Besides the hardware, the accident left Daggett with plenty of resolve.
"I want do an Ironman," she says. "That's always been a goal of mine, growing up watching my dad race Ironmans.
"But after this accident, particularly, I want to do it even more."
Annecy Daggett is the subject of today's Runners Q&A, a portion of which is published here for all readers.
RS: The last nine months have been quite the ordeal for you. How are you?
Daggett: "I'm still dealing with the aftermath of it. It's been a really long road to get back to where I am, and I still have a long way to go to get back to where I was before the accident.
"It's affected so many different areas of my life. Not just physically, but I had to take some time off from school, so I'm graduating a little bit later. And I'm still making up classwork and things like that. It's still having quite an effect on my life and can still feel kind of overwhelming at times."
Family: Mother, Cynthia; father, David; sister, Emmaline, 22; brother, Riley, 21.
Education: Will complete a master's degree in mental health counseling at Columbia University in New York City in October; bachelor of science in psychology at William & Mary; graduate of Reynolds High School.
RS: The accident took place on Oct. 22, 2022. How much do you remember about it?
Daggett: "I don't remember the accident at all. What I know is just from what I've been told. I was riding with two teammates: What I've been told from them and the police report.
"I was riding along the 9W, which is a very popular road for cyclists. It was Saturday morning; lots of cyclists were out. I was riding with two teammates, and a car coming in the opposite direction was making a (left) turn and turned right into me.
"From what I've been told, I was flown into a pole and then hit the ground. But I don't remember it. So I don't know exactly what happened.
"(The driver) stopped, and his wife was in the car with him. And I forget exactly her job, but she does something in the medical field. So she got out of the car and helped me. And there was another car that had a doctor in it, and they stopped and were helping me on the scene. The driver didn't face any charges that I know of. But he stopped, and his insurance has been covering my medical bills."
RS: What injuries did you sustain?
Daggett: "I shattered the top of my tibia. Right below the kneecap, the top of that bone had multiple breaks in it. And where they put in the plates and the screws.
"It was mainly just the leg, fortunately. I did have a concussion, but they weren't too worried about that. I was wearing a helmet; it probably saved my life. But other than the broken bones in my leg, it was just some bruising and scraping."
RS: To compete in a triathlon, you have to be able to swim and cycle and run. How have you put yourself in a position to even think about doing this triathlon?
Daggett: "It's never been a question of 'if I'll get back to it.' It's always been a question of 'when I'll get back to it.'
“When I was in the hospital, one of the doctors gave me an estimate: 'Oh, you'll be able to run, hopefully, in about nine months.' And in my head, I'm doing the calculations. 'Oh, you know what's in nine months? Smiley.' Then and there, I set that as my goal. I want to get back and do Smiley, even if it means I'm walking the run.
“I wasn't doing any swimming, biking or running from October until about mid-January. But when I got cleared by my doctor to get back into the pool, I started swimming with my club triathlon team here at Columbia. I started out once a week but built up to swimming two to three times a week and just doing that consistently.
Hi runners, thanks for checking out this free, abbreviated Runners Q&A featuring Annecy Daggett!
Premium subscribers to RunningShorts.org received our full conversation early this morning, including more about:
• Daggett's recovery and rehabilitation.
• Getting back on her bike.
• Her goals beyond Sunday's race.
• Her parents' influence on her athletic pursuits.
• Her takeaways from these nine months.
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“And then the bike took a little longer because of the stiffness in my knee. It took a while to even be able to pedal all the way around on a bike. I started indoors, just practicing, getting the movement back in my knee so I could even pedal all the way around. … I started doing some short rides in Central Park (in April) and have just been building it up as I go.
“I started out jogging a minute and walking a minute for 10 minutes at a time at physical therapy (on a treadmill, in March). And then I've just been working it up. Last weekend, I ran a 5K without walking. That was really exciting for me; it's the first time I had done that.”
RS: You're a past winner, but what is competing in this year's Smiley Sprint Triathlon all about?
Daggett: "It's hard because I'm such a competitive person. But I know I can't go out there and win the race this year. That's just not feasible.
"The big thing is I want to finish it. I'm just so excited to be able to be out there and race again. I really want to see how fast I can do the swim and the bike. My swim and my bike right now, I'm feeling really good and my training has been fast.
"I really want to try to go hard on the swim and the bike, see what I'm able to do, and then just try to make it through the run."