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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


Pre-crash. Photo by Michael Jones.

Post-race. Not lovin' life. Photo by Matthew LaSala



15 Responses to “Who Invited the Clock Cleaner?”

  1. Matt Haughey says:

    That downhill singletrack before the u-turn was nuts and I both loved it and hated it. It was fun to flow downhill and over those humps, but I could tell if I was just a couple inches off the narrow line, bad shit was going to happen and I warned everyone on my team that raced later in the day to cool it a bit there. I spent half the race chasing a guy ahead of me on a mountain bike and he could haul ass through that section while I had to pull back about 10% of max speed and it kind of drove me crazy (I caught him and passed on the run-up and sand sections later).

    I hate singletrack on cross bikes, give me wide open euro-style courses any day.

  2. UltraRob says:

    Glad you’re Ok. I almost always crash on easy sections or trying too hard. I went down today and have been meaning to look at my helmet but don’t want to go out to the car. I know I plowed some ground with it though.

    Last time I cracked a helmet I didn’t look at it until the next day when I was trying to figure out why I had a sore bump on my head. That time I don’t remember hitting my head but sure enough there was a dent a crack.

  3. LindaJ says:

    That’s some scary shit. Glad it wasn’t worse and thanks for the lessons! Rest up and heal.

  4. erikv says:

    Yup! Stay calm. Relax. That’s the best thing for sure! I’m glad you’re not seriously injured. This was just, um, character building.

  5. Guy says:

    WooHoo way to go for it! But you are right youn can and will someday pay the price, but man that feeling in between is awesome! So gld to hear that you are on the mend and will return to once agian teeter on that fine line, whilst I will still be paying the price for my time in the go for it Vortex! See you next week

  6. Tori says:

    I went down hard this weekend, too lady, @Rapha/Focus on pavement. I’ve got the major hip limp and the matching right side road rash.
    Fortunately, I had no intentions of getting to the podium when I went down. You’re a winner in my heart!

    Glad you’re ok and your head isn’t too spun. We’ve got the first crash of the season out of the way, now carry on, sister.

  7. Brandee Dudzic says:

    I fell in that same spot on my last lap. I ended up at an urgent care Sunday evening because I thought my wrist was broken. (Its not, thank god. Just a bad sprain.)
    I dont even really remember falling, it happened so fast. I just remember sort of feeling groggy…..I was on my back, my bike was on top of me, and I was in a blackberry bush. Some girl with a green submarine kit pulled me out of the bramble….
    That was by far my worst crash yet. The first 3 laps I walked down that section (I think you saw me walk it) but lap #4 I was getting gutsy so I tried to ride it.
    Wrong Answer Brandee.

    • snarkypants says:

      Oh no! Brandee – I heard people talking about the bramble incident. I’m sorry that was you.
      I think when I passed you I said, “Good job staying safe!”
      Whoops! :)
      But, your crash goes back to the need to push on boundaries a little in order to expand them. I think it’s ok that you went for it, it just didn’t work out quite the way you’d hoped. And you’re not too badly hurt, thank god!
      What’s the prognosis for the wrist sprain?

  8. chr15 says:

    The pain will go away but the lessons learned will stay longer, well probably to the end of this season ;)

    How many times have we entered that last lap/last mile to think that maybe just maybe we can acheive something here. A podium, a PB, a finish, you feel good, and that extra adrenaline shot of excitement and anticiptation really turns you on. All of a sudden that excitement gets the beter of you and you push a little too far… uncharted territory and you blow.

    I’m sure you were totally rocking it out there Heidi! and knowing you you’ll use this and come back stronger! A stray branch, a rut, a rock who knows maybe there was nothing you could do.

    Glad you were nothing more than winded and bruised.

  9. Jim says:

    Did you pull a Joey?
    Sometimes if you rail, you fail.
    But you gotta rail.

  10. Thanks for this post. I’m doing the Oakridge Fat 55 on Saturday and I’ve been freaking myself out over some new hard sections they added. Your advice calmed me right down. Seeing what happened to you for not following your own advice is a powerful reenforcing lesson too.
    I’m glad you’re on the mend.
    Keep healing and get back to it.

  11. dad says:

    Hmmm should I not show this to mom? Nahhh once a patriot always tough! go do sliding practice in the mud. It’l get you ready faster.

  12. Bob K. says:

    Glad you’re still in one piece. If you wanna slow down for a minute and get a ber and a taco, let me know.
    Love, Bob

  13. Jim d. says:

    I know I am late to the party, but you are just plain cool. Keep digging.