Often after work, I get on my bike and ride some mountain trails. Although summer is waning, there are still a few hours of daylight remaining.
On Friday, I rode up to West Mag. I could tell pretty quickly that I wasn’t mentally into it. Some days I ride the trail, other days it feels like it’s riding me. I couldn’t focus. My mind was everywhere but on the ride. I even warned myself to go slower, that I was going to wreck. So I went slower. At a point where I could break off and ride back to town, I didn’t. I thought that if I continued, I’d eventually find my groove. It was just below the surface.
And I did find it. And it felt good.
A few minutes later, the groove was gone. I slowed down again. I don’t remember if I came to a full stop or whether I was just riding very slowly. It was at a corner in the trail that had a view of the mountains to the northwest. I wobbled. I lost my balance. Unfortunately this was right next to a mining prospect hole, filled with jagged rocks and fireweed, about 8 feet deep and 8 feet wide.
This is where the slow motion starts. It’s even slower because I was barely moving when I crashed.
First the front tire goes over the lip of the hole. At this point I am thinking OH SHIT… this is not going to have a good outcome. This is going to hurt. I think about whether it would be better to ditch the bike and fall on my own. A glance at the jagged rocks all around, I decide the bike should be sacrificed to the rocks and that I’ll use the bike to break my fall. So I hang on to the handlebars and ride it straight down into the hole.
The front wheel finds the bottom of the hole, but I keep going, over the handlebars, flung at the opposite side of the hole. My hands and arms can’t get up soon enough to brace for impact. I see the ground approaching, realize my face is going to make impact. I see the front edge of my helmet hit first, followed by my nose, mouth, chin and chest.
The first thing I discover is that I’m not able to breathe. I try taking breaths, but they are tiny. I notice I’m making a grunting sound as I try to breathe. After about ten tries, my breathing resumes. I was almost already standing when I made impact. I find my footing and stand up the rest of the way. I make a quick check of my condition. Nothing seems broken, just scrapes. My nose hurts, my teeth hurt, I brush the dirt from my lips. I turn around and look at the bike at my feet, half-buried in the fireweed.
There is no easy way out of the hole, so I stay put and try to relax and rest a little. I gaze at the other side of the hole, near the lip, to see how exactly I got into this mess. No clues. I’m angry at the idiot who put the trail right next to the hole. Probably some mountain biker with a small dick who wanted the trail to be more thrilling and dangerous. I’m angry at myself for riding when I didn’t feel up to it.
I start to think about ways to get myself and my bike out of the hole. I realize the bike will have to go first. I discover it is still in one piece, so I push it up the side of the hole and out over the top. Then I take a slightly different route where I can grab a hold of a tree. Once out of the hole, I think about getting out to the nearest road, which fortunately is only about a 100 yards away. It turns out the front wheel is bent and locks against the brake. I undo the quick release on the brake and the wheel spins freely. I think about the hill I have to ride down to get home and decide I can do it with the one remaining brake.
It’s a slow ride home in the gathering darkness. Once home, the only thing I can think about is taking a shower and going to bed.
It’s the next morning, and I’m stiff and sore, but think it could have been a lot worse. Some areas of my face are swollen, especially the inside of my nose. My sternum is pretty sore and realize that it took the brunt of the fall. I decide to continue with my plans to attend NedFest, a two-day music festival here in town. I was okay.
The third morning after the crash, I wake-up and as I get out of bed, something in my sternum goes pop and there are some crunching sounds and it feels like my chest is splitting open. Lots of pain and I slowly faint.
As I slowly return to consciousness, I wonder how I could have felt reasonably well for two days, and now I feel like I’ve been in another crash. Over the next two hours I weigh a myriad of options, which includes going to the ER, calling a neighbor, or doing nothing. I don’t have insurance, so I think of the less expensive alternatives. Once some ibuprofen goes into effect, I try sitting in the car to see if I am able to drive. It’s not too painful as long as I don’t have to turn around and look behind me. I think I can make a 35 minute drive to Boulder.
I call my doctor’s office and tell them what happened. They find an opening in the schedule for an hour later, and then have me talk to a nurse to make sure I’m okay to drive. I get down there, they run tests and send me off to the hospital for x-rays. Nothing serious is wrong. They assume it’s just a sprain in my cartilage that joins my ribs with my sternum and perhaps a mild concussion.
So here I am, unable to make sudden movements, or burp, or take a deep breath, with a bad headache. And I wonder how long this pain will last. And I wonder if I should give up mountain biking. The latter seems more difficult than the pain.