Crash in slow-mo

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.

14 thoughts on “Crash in slow-mo

  1. With a little more closure int he conclusion, this would be a great piece for Cyclist or Biking magazines, or some other. You should consider submitting it for publication.

    I recognize it’s personal and intense, but it conveys so much so well. Even if you don’t share with the world, I’m glad you shared with me (us).

  2. I agree with Dan. Sorry to hear and really glad it turned out as well as it did (so far).

    “I thought that if I continued, I’d eventually find my groove. It was just below the surface.”

    A lot of this I could actually feel as you described, but the above really resonates with me.

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