Monday, August 20, 2012

Nine Weeks Later

I've fallen off my bike a fair number of times.

In 2007, I crashed at the Albany Crit, Martinez Crit, Santa Cruz Crit, and Land Park Crit. Four races in a row, and I went down in all of them. I was sitting top 10 in all of them, too. Somewhere, there's a picture of me sprinting in Santa Cruz with blood streaming down my leg.

But I've never broken a bone.

And before this season, I'd never raced a mountain bike.

I broke both streaks this year.

Most Nebraska readers have heard the story by now: Ponca State Park. Lots of climbing. Three weeks after being shamed into racing the cat 2 field in my first-ever mountain bike race and finishing in the middle of the pack, I registered for the same field at Ponca. I'd never even ridden there before. I was riding my brand-new Trek Superfly 100 for only the second time.

It started to rain right before my field started to race. The new bike came equipped with 29 * 2.0 rubber, but every single person who looked at my bike before the race said, "Those are skinny tires."

The race consisted of three laps around a course that ran through thickly forested bluffs along the Missouri River. At the top of a ridge line stood a narrow wooden pedestrian bridge spanning a shallow but steep-sided wash. On the first lap, the painted wood was reasonably tacky. After another half-hour of rain, it was slick as snot, and when I hit the bridge at speed on the second lap, I wasn't thinking about my line. I was chasing for second place. My front wheel slid at a sharp 90-degree angle to the right, slamming my entire body weight and momentum onto the back of my left hand. The shifter and brake lever exploded.

And my some bones in my hand snapped like dry twigs.

Comminuted fracture of the fifth metacarpal and phalanges.
I knew it was broken right away, so I shouldered by bike and started walking out of the woods. I walked for 5 minutes before anyone passed me, so I think I crashed myself off the podium. I still don't know whether I was angrier about losing the race or breaking my hand.

It hurt, but it wasn't unbearable. I waited at the first road crossing I reached, about 500 yards down trail. April Eyberg gave me some ice as I waited for someone to come pick me up.  Roxy tells me I was downright chipper when she reached me.

Jeremy Cook was the first familiar face I saw when I got back to registration. He snapped this image:

Amy Collison and Mikayla Rhone volunteered to drive me the 90 minutes back to Omaha. Amy thought my refusal to lose my mind was amusing:

It was obvious how badly I screwed up when I looked at my hands side by side:

I wore a brace for four weeks and spent the next four weeks waiting for my strength to come back. I was able to grip the bar well enough to ride a road bike by week five, but not with enough hand strength to ride safely in a group. Hitting a bump while riding with my hands in the drops just about killed me, so riding the mountain bike was out of the question.

I tried to stay involved with bike racing; I helped feed my teammates at the Nebraska state road race championships, and I marshaled a corner at yesterday's Papillion Twilight Criterium. But my own road season ended during a mountain bike race.

Today, Abbey and I rode a loop at Swanson, marking my first attempt to handle the mountain bike. My hand was fine, so I'll resume real training tomorrow.

'Cross awaits.

1 comment:

  1. Of course, there is always speed skating...AND it's a great family sport. No hands, as long as you stay on your feet.