Thursday, May 15, 2008

what are the chances???

It looked innocent enough from this end. Colin and I were doing an early (to him) morning ride in the beautiful Wissahickon . . when . . .about 3 minutes into the trail, I came upon this sight:

Another log rollover thingy, or so I thought, a lot like several others that would be coming up on the same trail. This was a new one I had not seen before. All of the rollovers they had put in on this trail, as well as the jumps further down closer to the Inn, could be rolled over, or jumped over, depending on how aggressive you were feeling that day.

You know I told Mike once that one of the things that separated the expert racers from the sports is that the experts did not need to pre-ride a course before the race. “That’s not necessarily true,” he said, “it’s still really helpful to pre-ride at least the beginning and end of the lap.”

What I meant to say was that more experienced riders do not need to slow down over unfamiliar terrain. They have faith that whatever the race promoters throw at them, they can handle without having to dismount. When we were beginners we used to come upon something tricky and stop, analyze, practice VERRRY SLOWLY, then analyze and practice some more. We spent half the ride trying something again and again. These days it is such a pleasure to just ride over or through just about anything that comes my way, well, almost.

So Wednesday morning, I was feeling good. I was getting ready for Mike’s 70-mile epic Rocktober Challenge, and was just going to take it easy and ride with Colin, who of course is super-strong but not a mountain biker. I can catch him on the technical bits.

So there it was. Colin was in front of me. He avoided the jump. Later he said he looked back it at from the other side and thought to himself, “Andrea will probably go over that, maybe I should tell her that it a steep drop-off.”

Andrea does ride over it, thinking my wheel would just glide over another mound of log and mud. So I did not lift my front wheel as I would if I were jumping it. I rolled . . .then my front wheel dropped, fast. My instincts told me not to hit my breaks. I remember thinking, crap, this is not what I expected but I’m going to make it…but then . . . wham, I endo-ed, hard, and landed squarely on my head, slam. Shit, I thought, as I felt crushing pain in my head and neck, if I walk away from this one I am going to be happy. Then the second impact hit my right shoulder. That hurt. The pain knocked the wind out of me. All I could think of was it was going to be hard to catch Colin when I finally picked my sorry ass up and found my bike.

I jumped to my feet. It hurt so much that I had scared myself, and Colin rode back up the trail towards me as I dusted myself off and shook my head, trying to get my bearings.
“I’m all right”, I said.
“you sure?”
“yeah, let’s go.”

So we kept going. I was out in front and Colin said later that I had an adrenalin rush from the fall because he had a hard time keeping up with me. Now that was because he was still warming up and he had just eaten ten pancakes, but whatever, I was moving. The pain in my shoulder was intense, and I thought maybe I should stop, but it was a beautiful morning and I was determined to get a ride in before work. But as I would pull up the front wheel to clear rocks there was an increasingly sharp pain in my shoulder.
“This really hurts!” I called back to him,
“we should stop then, we can go back.”
“I’m fine.”
“you are holding your right arm totally different than your left.”
“that’s because it hurts to use it,” I said, pedaling slower now and attempting to drink from my water bottle with the right arm. I could not reach the water bottle without crushing pain. Fuck. For the first time I thought I may have hurt myself bad enough to jeopardize the camping trip and race this weekend. I had just persuaded Max, with his broken collarbone, to come with me. I had procured a camping site next to VisitPA and it was going to be FUN. But mostly I just did not want to stop riding. It was a beautiful morning, about 60 degrees and rising to 74.

So we kept riding, and my shoulder got worse and worse. Finally 25 minutes had gone by and we stopped. I was torn but the pain was ridiculous and I needed to ride back. I made him promise to keep going; I did not need an escort back to my place. I also did not need the guilt of ruining his ride. He made me agree to ride back on Forbidden Drive instead of the trail. I did, riding with only my left arm, my right dangling at my side. I rode for 10 minutes and came to a downed, big tree running all the way across the drive. I would have to lift the Yeti over it. So I casually picked it up as usual and cried out in pain. damn, I really f’ed this thing up. I knew then that I would not be doing a 70 mile race on Saturday. I clumsily lifted it over with my left arm and kept riding, deciding to take the trail for the last half mile to avoid the traffic on Ridge Pike. I started up the gravel climb with one arm. I had to walk up the golf course hill, I could not muscle the bike like that. I remounted at the top, and in a minute I came upon the log that had been my demise, this time from the other side.

There, lying on the trail where I had not so gracefully landed, was my pink Motorola razor. It rang. No shit. I picked up the phone, it was none other than brother Colin.
“you are going to kill me,” he said, “ but I broke my chain and I can’t find the universal joint.”
“does this mean you need a ride?”
“ok, but I’m not home yet, and my car is in the shop, so I am driving the red F250. Where are you?”
“right where I left you.”

Wow, what a great ride it had been for the two of us.

I rode home, which meant I had ridden for 50 minutes after the fall so my shoulder was good and pissed off; I tried to take off my jersey but could not, so I changed into shorts and found a map of the Wiss and figured out how to get to him via car. He drove back, and on the truck ride home I called Dr. Todd Schwartz, orthopaedist extraordinaire and teammate. He said he could squeeze me in in an hour.

Colin drove. Todd said I was probably just bruised, but they would take x-rays just I case. Funny thing was I had just talked to Todd on Monday about Max, who sustained a bad crash 3 weeks earlier. Leaping off a rock jump. On the same stretch of trail.

The xrays showed a break on the tip of the collarbone. My heart sank. No riding outside for 4 weeks. No racing for 6 weeks. When I thought I needed to take some time off last week, this was not what I had in mind. I had never broken a bone in my life. I've never even had a cavity!

I could sit here and bitterly complain about my shitty luck (more on that later) but you have to laugh at the whole thing. Max gets a mountain bike and tries to relive his motocross days by riding really fast up to a jump and then leaping off, getting as much air as he can. He forgets to lift the front wheel on the last go-around, lands on his shoulder, and shatters his clavicle in 3 places, a very bad break. 3 weeks later I ride over a jump and endo because I don’t lift my front wheel, not expecting a sharp drop. So if I had jumped my log, I would have had no trouble. If Max had rolled down his jump, he would have had no trouble. The moral of the story?

Step 1: Look at the damn thing before you ride it, especially if it’s a mere mile from your house. You'll know when to jump and when to roll.

Step 2: If you don't do Step 1 above, lift your dang front wheel, just in case.

And lastly, with all of the extra time I have now that I am not driving to races and doing 6-hour rides, I can stop and marvel at the beautiful irony that life occasionally throws my way.

I mean I could not make this stuff up, you’d never believe me.

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