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.
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).
Thanks Dan! The conclusion is weak because there might be more to the story, since it’s on-going. When I’m feeling a little better, I want to get a picture of that hole.
Precisely. Once you have the last bit of the story, though…
oh my god! Randy! I cant believe you didnt get to a doctor sooner. How scary! ~snuggles~
Ha Ha! I could say the same about you! I hope you are feeling better. *big hugs*
Yeah, I guess you could… ~blush~
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.
Yeah, I feel really lucky because there are so many ways it could have been worse.
Oh my god. I’m glad you’re alright…at least, mostly alright.
And I do hope you flesh this out a little bit more. Beautifully written.
Thanks, Jane. 🙂
Well, I mentioned it in the e-mail, but, I’ll say it again; get better. We’re both thinking of you.
Thanks. I’m feeling better, but not up for the drive on Thursday. I hope you have a wonderful birthday! 🙂
No worries and thanx. I’d just rather you get better for further adventures :D. We’ll see you for your par-tay.
Ouch — I’m sorry you are all banged up. I’m glad it is nothing serious, though.