Day 3

I woke up today and it’s raining. And I’m glad. We were supposed to leave for the Blackhills of South Dakota today for a week of camping, hiking, biking (I was trying to negotiate bringing my bike) and sightseeing. The kids were very excited.

Following the crash Tuesday I am far too hurt to go anywhere. Walking is difficult. With injuries to my right hip and left knee I don’t even have the luxury of a “good side”. My dressings need to be changed everyday, and the vast areas of road rash are still oozing. I need to take antibiotics 4x a day to avoid infection. The stitiches above my eye need to come out Tuesday and the ones in my hip later next week. Maybe Friday. I have a great looking shiner, which would make it awkward for Paul to be seen with me in public. Not that I can drive or anything, or have even been outside since Tuesday night. I refuse to fill the prescription for Tylenol 3s. I don’t like the way they make me feel high. Crashing sucks, hard.

The race was going very well, the weather was perfect and the course was dry. My friend Scott had come to race for the first time and other friends came to watch. Scott is very strong, and an excellent bike handler. I knew he would do well, maybe even win. All of us were having a great time, trying to outsmart, out maneuver and outride each other. The group itself was 13 I think. A smaller group of us were working together in our own race it seemed.

It came to the last lap and the race had been pretty tame up to that point, so I knew this was going to be a very fast finish. And it was. Phil, a racer from Alter Ego, kicked up the speed immediately with a monster sprint, the rest of us close at his wheel. Next Scott jumped to the front, with Dave behind him, me next, then Blake. I think this is how it went. We got to the second corner, the tighter, harder one of the two on this course, and as we screamed around it I heard something. Something not good. Metal on pavement. I didn’t know who’s bike was making that terrible noise, but it turns out it was likely mine. Turning tight corners fast requires a very specific technique, and some practice. You never pedal through a corner, you keep your inside pedal up until it’s safe to do so. You do that because going around the corner the bike is tilted in at an angle. The faster you are going, the sharper the angle. Part of the trick is knowing when to stop pedaling, and when to start. I have done this corner many times. It is tight, yes, but I know what line to take, and I know when to start and stop pedaling. So this was a surprise. The pavement on the corner is uneven, so perhaps my pedal came down at some perfect raised spot. A one in a million fluke. Or perhaps we were going faster than normal, making the regular timing on the corner irrelevant. Apparently there is video of the crash. One day I will watch it to maybe try to determine what went so terribly wrong.

Note: According to Scott’s GPS data, we went into that corner at 47 km/h. He remembers his bike skidding. Perhaps that was what happened with me as well, no pedal on the pavement until the bike was already on its way down.

I remember feeling so shocked as I went down, complete and utter surprise. I couldn’t believe it was happening, and I knew it was going to hurt. I hit the ground on my right side just as Blake, who was behind me came crashing down on my back and then rolled over my head. Then that awful “what the fuck just happened?” silence. I was on my back and couldn’t move. Didn’t want to move. My hip was on fire. Almost immediately Blake was there, he may have taken my helmet and glasses of, or maybe they were already off. He took my head in his hands and started talking. I don’t remember much of the conversation, but I was happy he was there. And concerned about him, and anyone else who may have crashed since we were so near the front. I wondered why he was holding my head. I was scared. And embarrassed.

People started running over, and as soon as they came into my line of vision I could see their expression change. The looks on their faces told me I did not look very good. This scared me more. Then some discussion and speculation as to the nature of my injuries. Didn’t want to hear, please stop. The medic came running over and his expression was the same as the others, and someone suggested calling an ambulance. He agreed that was a good idea. An ambulance? Really? Ok, that’s kind of cool, I’ve never been in an ambulance before.

After what seemed like an eternity the firetruck arrived. We joked about them sending the “special” firetruck full of the calendar guys. Sadly, they were all dressed from what I could see, and not the sweaty, shirtless, soot covered variety. They asked me what day it was, where I was and so on. My favorite question was “what did you hit?” Ummmm… the road? Apparently there was some confusion as to whether there was a car involved. They also seemed to be under the impression that I was on a leisurely cruise through the park on my bike when another biker happened to fall on me. Seriously? I will cut them some slack though since I was lying on my back and my race numbers weren’t visible. They poked and measured and moved me in ways I didn’t want to be moved until the ambulance showed up. Then the paramedics took over. The same barrage of questions. Jeez, don’t these guys talk to each other? But they were nice, and calm.

They decided to put me on the back board as a precaution. My back and neck felt fine, everything else felt like shit. The move from ground to board was not fun. None of what happened next was fun. Just hurt, and lots of it.

I had managed to open a gash in my head above my right eye, probably from my helmet or glasses, which was bleeding profusely. I only discovered this later, at the hospital, when I went to take the elastic out of my hair and found my hair a solid mass of caked blood. No wonder everyone was so concerned about my head.

But it was my hip I was most concerned about. It felt wrong. The paramedics said it might be dislocated. Maybe fractured. I didn’t want to look. Turned out I had taken the skin off down to the bone.

People kept asking who they should call. I didn’t know what to say. Paul was on holidays at the cabin with the boys, this being my “solo” week of the summer. Before he left he told me not to crash at the race, that I would be no fun on the holiday. He was joking, of course. But I didn’t want to tell him. He would be worried, frustrated, angry. Not at me, but the situation. He tolerates my riding and racing, but it worries him too. I have been trying to change this, and this would not help.

So, instead, I wanted my Mom. Doesn’t matter how old you are, when you are hurt, you want your Mom. I knew she would come and she would make me feel better. When we arrived at the hospital she was waiting. When I think about how I must have looked, I feel so bad for her. Your daughter strapped to a board in a neckbrace, oxygen tubes, bleeding out the head. Nice. I told her it looked worse than it was. Then I remember telling her that the paramedic standing with me looked exactly like Alberto Contador.

She stayed with me that night as they x-rayed, scrubbed, stitched and gave me 5 doses of morphine, some Percoset, and Gravol for nausea. They checked my blood, my blood pressure, my temperature and gave me fluids and antibiotics through an IV. Mom is a retired nurse, and unlike most people is completely in her element in a hospital. She was a great help to the poor nurse who drew the short straw and had to scrub the road off me, and later to the doctor who did my stitches. When the ordeal was finished, I had been scrubbed from head to toe and stitched in 2 places. It was probably the worst night of my life. As far as pain, think childbirth, but without the nice baby part at the end.

After a remarkably good sleep, I woke up to being moved into the hallway. I had been sleeping in the suture room, and someone else actually had the nerve to require stitches. So into the hallway I went. Once the doctor determined I was well enough, they helped me to the bathroom, which was about 2 feet from the foot of my bed and took 10 minutes to get to. And then another 10 minutes to get back. At that point they decided it was time for me to go, and as I was explaining I had no clothes or shoes, the very nice orderly who had admired my pedicure and “cyclists legs” gently escortd me to the front door, saying I could keep the hospital gowns I was wearing. He put me on a bench outside and told me if I was feeling sick or dizzy to come let them know.

I know…

I had called my Mom to come and pick me up as soon as they had started talking about letting me go, but I knew she was about 15 minutes away. And she’d probably park in the parking lot. So I gingerly made my way back inside, shoeless, black eye, hair still matted with blood, and asked the nice ladies at reception to use the phone. They looked confused. I didn’t care.

There was a stunned silence as I called Mom and explained the situation. She said they would be right there. I went back outside to the bench, where an older woman with a walker was now sitting, talking to her son. I could feel them looking at me, all too aware of what I looked like. It took everything I had not to laugh. Then they really would have thought I was crazy.

Finally my parents came, trying to hide the outrage they felt as I exchanged pleasantries with the woman with the walker.

My grandmother died when I was 2, so I never knew her. Dad tells us that she always said it takes 3 days to heal from anything. Or at least to get past the worst of it. Today is day 3 and I still feel pretty rough. But grandmother bore 10 children so I figure she knew something about healing.

The body will heal, the head will follow. The bike will likely be put out to pasture.

That’s all for now. I needed to write this down while it was fresh, but it’s time to lie down now.

Ride hard. Ride safe. And one final thought: