Five years ago, Coupeville’s Christina Bromme was run over by a truck. Last weekend, she ran across the finish line of the Whidbey Island Triathlon.
Completing the triathlon was one in a long list of achievements Bromme has accomplished since the accident.
“I am lucky to live in a healthy body,” Bromme said. “Even though the accident threw a kink into the road, I kept focusing on the sport that I liked.”
That sport is triathlons.
Bromme has always been active. Growing up in Germany, she was into dancing, then transitioned to rhythmic gymnastics during her university years.
She picked up running at 17 to pass tests for her studies to become a physical education teacher.
Bromme, now 60, competed in her first 45K, a traditional cross country race in Germany, at 20. Many races followed, including marathons and two ultras.
In 2007, Bromme’s daughter qualified for the Kona (Hawaii) Ironman, the most prestigious triathlon and home of the world championships.
The Ironman includes a 2.4-mile rough-water swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile (marathon) run.
“My husband and I went there to cheer her on,” she said. “It was an amazing event; we decided we wanted to try.”
The Brommes developed a training plan and eight months later in June 2008, they competed in Ironman Boise. The Boise race totaled 70.3 miles, half the distance of the Kona event.
“It didn’t go too well since I ended up hypothermic and in the ER,” she said, “but I came back the next year and won my age group.”
Little did she know that she would, again, need to rise from a hospital bed to compete.
Hit while training
In May 2014, Bromme was on a training bike ride on Bakken Road in Greenbank when she was hit by a left-turning truck and pinned under the vehicle.
She suffered a skull fracture, broken nose, concussion and jawbone fracture.
She was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and eventually went through four surgeries. Her final dental work was completed this spring.
“It’s been an ordeal, and I am learning that after trauma the body reacts in various ways and it does seem like things changed for me,” Bromme said.
After the bed rest, Bromme found it a challenge to simply move around her home.
“I focused on the little things I was allowed to do, like walking the dog, slowly,” she said. “But I also realized that the more I moved, the better I felt and the more energy I regained.”
In August, three months after the accident, she asked her doctor if she could resume training for an Ironman in November.
“The doctor chuckled and said, ‘Do it; a happy person heals faster.’ And I did.”
She completed Ironman Arizona just six months after the accident.
“It was emotional, it was hard, but I was able to do it and it gave me a good portion of confidence.”
That was her second time competing in Arizona. She participated in her first full Ironman there in 2012.
Takes on Ironman
After doing the 70.3 events, including national and world championships, she said she would never do a full Ironman because its seemed “totally crazy.”
That vow lasted four years until the first trip to Arizona.
After the accident, qualifying for Kona was a motivator.
“The thought of Kona was in the very back of my mind since this is the pinnacle of a triathlete’s career, but I knew it was almost impossible since, at my age, one has to win the age group (of a qualifying event).”
That happened when Bromme topped her division at the 2017 Ironman Canada.
Competing at Kona was difficult.
“The temperature and the winds on the bike make it the ultimate challenge,” she said. “During the race I was thinking that this is it: Ironman is crazy and the training requires so much discipline and is so time consuming, I am done.
“A week later I planned again: Ironman Arizona for this fall.”
Events like the Whidbey Island Triathlon keep her sharp.
The island race is a sprint triathlon (half-mile swim, 19-5-mile bike ride and a 3.8-mile run).
Though the distances are much shorter, sprint triathlons are difficult too, Bromme said, “because you just go faster.”
Bromme reached her goal of completing the Whidbey Island Triathlon in under two hours, finishing first in her classification.
“Triathlons are fun,” she said. “It is said the long distances change a person, and I think they do in many different ways.
“I enjoy being fit, being basically healthy — I was told I healed relatively fast because I was so fit when the accident happened.”
“We get to compete with the pros,” she added. “Always cool.”
Another benefit of the sport, she said, is meeting “amazing people that deal with bigger challenges than I did.”
Still, going from being crushed by a wayward truck to competing at a national-class pace is special in its own right.