Who Invited the Clock Cleaner?
I fell off my bike.
And not in the normal cyclocross way like what happened last year at Hood River where you pop up right away and everything is cool – closer to the big, mean scary way that happened last year on the road. This shit happens, this is what we do. It’s normal.
Still, goddamit that hurts.
For the record, I’m fine. I am missing skin on left shin, knee, and thigh as well as right hip and elbow. I’m also a little scraped up around the ribs and solar plexus where I landed on… something. My hip hurts more than anything and I’ve got a beautiful limp for the moment, but the scariest injury is probably a slight knock to my little head. I don’t remember much about crashing and didn’t think to check my helmet until I woke up in the morning with a rager of a headache. (I know, I know, I’m being careful.)
I still don’t know how or why I crashed, but it happened in the middle of a rippin’ singletrack descent. The computer file shows my speed around 20mph. I was flying (for a cross race). I had half a lap to go, was feeling great, and was dead-set chasing down third place. I remember just before the crash coming through a loose corner and thinking, “You’re taking too many risks.” Should have listened to that voice I guess.
The bottom line is, I went over the front to the right, landed on hip and hit my solar plexus on the bike, bounced forward a little and tagged the head (my helmet is slightly dented) then flipped somehow to land on the left side of the trail. When I stopped moving, I couldn’t breathe because of the solar plexus blow so I started panicking a little. I pulled my bike off the trail so I wouldn’t kill anyone else and laid still, gasping. I haven’t taken a solar plexus blow like that in 20 years – I forgot how terrifying it is. When Steph came through a few seconds later, she asked if I was ok and I asked her to tell someone to send a medic. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to get up by myself.
I did, of course.
After a while on the ground (a few seconds, a minute? Time gets funny when you crash.) I started to be able to breathe again so I stood up and looked around. Then I started walking down the hill toward the hairpin turn at the bottom – the course marshal was running toward me, asking me if I needed a medic.
“I think I can ride.”
Both levers were mashed in and I wasn’t sure the bike would roll, but it did. So I finished.
There is nothing very spectacular about the crash aside from the myriad lessons hidden within:
- I was feeling good heading into the bell lap. This was the first time that had ever happened – I’m usually gassed because I’ve gone out too hard. I finally had gotten the formula right and I got excited. Lesson: it’s ok to get excited, but for godsakes stay calm. STAY CALM.
- Ride smart. I did not need to ride that section through the woods very fast. My strategy should have been to clear all technical sections safely, then use the power sections to close the gap.
- Ride within your means. Because I was excited, I probably rode outside my means. Sometimes you have to test your boundaries in order to expand them but doing it in the 5th lap of a race that you have worked hard to stay on the front of probably isn’t the best time. This goes back to riding smart.
- Contrary to all the lessons above, sometimes it’s ok to fucking go for it but you might pay a price. Be prepared.
What I love about cyclocross is that you have to make all these decisions and choices while you’re lung is coming out of your chest and your heart is about to blow the fuck up. It’s hard. Sometimes we make the wrong decisions. I like to think that every time I learn a hard lesson like this, it will help me race smarter later.
That crash could have been much worse – I’m lucky to have all my bones and ligaments (and the rest of my season) intact.
Also, a huge thank you to Steph for slowing to check on me and then spreading the word that I’d gone down. Thanks also to the amazing women in the field, all of whom called out to me as they passed to make sure I was ok.
We were having a great race that day – lots of changes in the lead, lots of healthy battle. I’m excited for the season, honored to be racing with you all, happy to be mostly unbroken and on my way back.
Thanks for the love.