Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Racing - Crash, Or Learning How To Suffer

So, last night was supposed to be a test, a test of the 170s, my pedal stroke, my willingness to push the pain threshold during hard efforts.

And, by my reckoning, things went well in those areas. I had a less than ideal warm-up, but my legs had that swollen "I'm ready for an effort" feel. Usually when I get that feeling I do an effort or two to shed some of the fluids in my legs (or that's what it feels like anyway), to get some fast feelings in my legs, but last night I contented myself with just loosening up a touch.

The race started off at a much easier pace than prior weeks, but things ramped up quickly. Although I found myself at the back every now and then, I tried to respond to all the field surges. Sometimes t took me a few seconds to convince my body that it could make another dig, but each time it responded willingly, readily.

Worried about cramps, I drank some icy Gatorade, but as the race progressed, I swapped bottles so that the plain water sat in my primary spot. I'd stopped worrying about cramping, started thinking about keeping blood in my legs, not processing sugar and electrolytes.

That boded well for me.

Over the weeks I've watched the one regular woman in the A race, a Kenda rider. She sometimes gets gapped a bit, but at the end of the night, she seems to be there, night after night. I figured she'd be a good wheel to follow because she obviously paces herself better than I do. Although she waved me by after she couldn't quite close a gap, my idea seemed to work okay - my efforts seemed a bit more consistent when I gauged them off of her. Even when I closed that particular gap, she'd been pulling for a bit, so I had plenty of reserves to finish the job for her.

The promoters had decided to add 5 more minutes to the race this week, so I felt a bit anxious about making the distance. At some point I started listening for the "5 laps to go" to come out.

Finally it did, or to be precise, someone announced it on a bullhorn.

With the relatively compact field, maybe 25 or so riders left, I didn't immediately move up. But I knew that with the short, 1/2 mile laps, the finish sneaks up on you quickly, kind of like it does on the track.

So with two laps to go, the bullhorn telling us that semi-magical number (I'd say the bell is a bit more magical, no offense to the number two), I moved up a bit. We approached the line, expecting the bell, but instead we heard, emphatically, "TWO laps to go, TWO laps to go!"

Apparently the lap cards (I never saw them myself) and verbal cues didn't match.

Somewhat balked by this unexpected turn of events, everyone backed off a touch. I floundered tactically, unsure on how to read the race, but I knew that moving up on the last lap could be nigh impossible. So, on the short backstretch, I burned one of my maybe three matches I had left in my quiver (I need at least two more to handle a sprint).

I moved relatively hard up the outside of the field (no finessing at all), slotting into perhaps 4th wheel. Everyone seemed okay with the status quo so we hit the line, one lap to go, in that order.

That's when things started to go bit awry.

A guy moved up on the right, trying to lead out his teammate, and we swept into the second turn as he did that. The rider at the front of affairs, Aidan, one of the local leg-breaking pros, went to the right curb, maintaining pace. Another guy sat to his left, working hard. I sat on the left rider's wheel.

And the leadout teammate, moving up on the right side, found himself boxed in. With the riders not really moving relative to each other, the tactical scenario seemed clear to me. In such a static moment, riders would have to wait until the next tactical situation before making a move. That 'next situation' could be a number of things - one rider eases out of the way, there's a surge, or, mostly likely, we'd hit the last turn and there'd naturally be some gaps.

I felt fine with this because I was sitting second wheel, and I planned on making my next move after the last turn.

However, the leadout rider had yet another option, one that I didn't think about - he changed the tactical situation prematurely. Initially he jabbed his elbow a number of times into the guy to his left (whose wheel I sat on), jerking the bike sideways a little each time. To that rider's credit, he maintained his position, at some point giving a somewhat bewildered glance at the elbow jabber.

Then Elbow Jabber yelled at Aidan. I didn't catch what he said, but according to someone just behind this little event, he said something like, "If you don't get out of the way, I'm going around you."

If I'd heard that, I'd have a clue as to what would happen next.

I didn't hear the actual words, though, because I'd been trying to keep aware of any movement up the left side (apparently there was a surge coming up), trying to figure out if the guy in front of me was about to blow, stuff like that.

Suddenly, Elbow Jabber swerved left a few feet, swept out my front wheel from under me, and the next thing I knew I was slamming my helmet into the ground, a guy slammed into me, and I was tumbling on the pavement. I saw at least one guy go down on the right, and I also saw guys that made it past me.

Then, for a brief moment, it was still.

I think I'm the one that broke the silence because I started screaming in pain as both my calves cramped. I couldn't straighten my legs, I couldn't lift myself up, and my legs hurt.

I lay back, resigned to the pain bath, but at some point someone asked if they could help, and I screamed (I think I was screaming) to straighten my legs. The helpful soul did, and my cramps subsided.

At some point I broke down and started crying.

A couple racers showed up, EMTs by trade (who knew?). Then the Kenda girl was there, looking intently into my eyes, speaking in a firm, low tone. I immediately got the feeling she knew what was what, and I started answering her questions as best I could.

To my surprise, I learned later that she's an ER resident. Whatever, she started checking my neck, shoulder, collarbone. She gingerly moved my shoulder, which hurt, but the movement gave me hope that things would be okay. Then, when the ambulance arrived (don't believe a racer that claims he doesn't need an ambulance if he doesn't get up right away), she told the crew what she found.

She also recommended that I go to the UCONN Medical something in Farmington, since that was closer to home.

I got lifted onto a stretcher and floated into the ambulance (you know how the wheels fold up under the stretcher - feels like they levitate you into the ambulance if you're the one on the stretcher). The EMT in there did a few tricks to help deal with my calves - ends up he's a triathlete, so he knew how to stretch my legs.

He commented on my helmet as the back part was smashed. He told me that if the Kenda girl (i.e. doctor) wasn't there to say that my head and neck appeared okay, he'd have put me on a backboard based on the extensive damage to the helmet.

We chatted a bit and I learned that a hospital elsewhere was being evacuated due to fire, and that as soon as they dropped me off, they were heading down there. I felt lucky that they still had ambulances up our way.

Once at the Medical Center I waited until first SOC arrived, then the missus and Mrs SOC (neither of the missuses were at the race that night). We talked about the crash, the vehicle logistics (four cars, three drivers), commented on how busy it was there, and the hospital staff's good, positive attitude.

On the vehicle logistics, I have to mention that last week one of SOC's teammates pulled up to me at a light and asked how he could get a car like my blue one, the fun, fast one. We laughed, told him, and we drove off - I even let him in front of me when the road narrowed.

Well last night he drove my car to the hospital. So you can add, "Get someone to crash the owner in a bike race and then offer to help by driving said car."

Also, that same evening, we all realized that I'd never given SOC a ride in the same car. Well, he drove it to our house. After the missus ran back and showed him how to shift it into reverse.

I realized this was all just a big plot to get a chance to drive the car. I hope you guys enjoed it :)

Anyways, back at the hospital, at some point a pretty blonde woman rolled me away to get some x-rays. When standing in front of the target thing for the x-ray (I didn't want to lie down because it hurt so much to get up or down), I'd keep closing my eyes in pain. She asked me to keep my eyes open to avoid getting dizzy and falling over. So, my head tilting down, teeth showing through my grimace, I complied, opening my eyes.

And found myself staring at her chest.

I noticed her tan in that area, various different freckles, the intact collarbone... Um, I better stop there. Let's just say that I didn't get dizzy and I didn't fall over. And when I realized what I was doing, I tried to look elsewhere.

I told the missus this on the way home - the tech probably thought I was a total scuzball for staring with my wife just down the hall. Or not, because she didn't make me assume contorted positions with my arm for the x-rays, like "Okay, scuzzball, now I need you to reach your arm up and around your head.. can't do it? Lemme help you."

And then you hear a bloodcurdling scream.

Anyway, she was very nice, got the x-rays. I even got an extra when she initially found no broken bones, and I had to lay down because and then I had to raise my arm and...


Anyway, she had me wheeled back to the crew waiting in the hallway.

The doc set me up with loads of Tegaderm, other wound supplies, some extremely potent painkiller (I took one when a nurse fed it to me, but to be honest only the road rash felt any better), and a prescription for Percocet. Since I'm afraid of those drugs I read about in addiction type articles I've been trying to stick with just Advil.

However, when I was reduced to tears after a 20 minute walk from the bathroom (a 20 foot walk, and it would have taken me twice as long if I hadn't been leaning so hard on the missus), the equally teary missus made me take some.

After a solid night's rest, and some naps today, I have a bit more mental clarity.

Seems that I can't lift my right arm. Okay, technically I can't move my upper arm in any direction, elbow down is fine. The arm is straightforward, my shoulder is hurt. Nothing broken but apparently some tissue damage. I'm typing with one hand (using the right for just the shift key), but if it was just that arm, I'd be reasonably mobile.

But I hurt my legs too. Specifically the ability to lift them.

This latter problem is more worrisome to me because I can't even pick up my foot off the ground. I can shuffle-walk by leaning one way or another and swinging my over an inch or so. Then, after I catch my breath, I repeat the process.

I'm using a broom as a cane, but I'm all leftie so it doesn't work that well. Meaning, normally if your right leg is hurt, you use the cane on the right side (the cane replaces the leg). But with my right arm also hurt, I have to use the cane (or broom) with my left arm. Ugh.

Re-creating the accident, looking at the impacts and damage on my body, I figure this is what happened:

- With my bike swept out from right to left, the bike's front wheel went left, bike leaned right, dumping me off the bike over the right side.
- I instinctively tucked my head (thanks Mom and Dad for insisting I take Judo), landing on my right forearm, right shoulder, and the back of my head.
- My body stopped much quicker than my still-airborne legs, so my head ended up between my knees, the backs of my legs facing the rest of the now-panicking field.
- Some poor victim slammed into my right hamstring, leaving a perfect imprint of a tire on the back of my leg. I think it was Jeff of IRS Medic, because I saw him standing with road rash like he'd done a Superman slide on the pavement.
- The impact on my leg rolled me over on my left side, scraping up my left shoulder, then, as I tumbled onto my right side, slid me on my right thigh, ankle, and probably my whatever else little bumps and scrapes I have.
- I ended up on my side and my calves cramped.

The least offensive picture. 700c23 clincher? Or 700x21 tubular?

I want to thank Doug, Matt, and Rebecca for their help at the scene. The guy in the ambulance that helped me with my calves. And all the friendly and helpful staff at the UCONN Health Center in Farmington.

Thanks, too, to SOC and Mrs SOC for their help and support (literally, since I can't walk unaided) until the wee hours of the morning. SOC lent his support and got me in and out of the car, drove my precious blue car home. Then they stayed until past 2 AM, helping the missus dress my wounds. They only left when all the remaining wounds were under my shorts.

And, finally, I have to thank the missus for all her care and love. As I'm virtually immobile, she's done everything from litter to DSL to getting the laptop to everything else that a walking person takes for granted.

Now to sleep. I hope that things get better quickly.


Anonymous said...

Great to hear you're ok. That was a scary crash.

gizzo said...

damn dude...

really sucks to hear; i wish my best during your recovery

From Head to Toe said...

Dude, wishing you a speedy recovery.

Rishabh Phukan said...

Hey Aki!

I ran over with the first aid kit yesterday and didn't want to get in the way when the Kenda racer was tending to you. Figured you'd rather see her face when you were in pain, than mine anyway!

My heart sank when I saw that it was you who wasn't getting up. Glad to see that you're doing relatively well. I learned a new rule from MJ, which goes along the lines of, "If you're on the ground for 10 mins and you don't get up, you're getting in an ambulance."

A nice addition to the 5 second rule, don't you think?

In any event, Trent got to drive your whip to the hospital, and I got to tail him so I could drop him home. I was trying to call dibs on your car, but realized it was a manual. I was pretty sad!

I don't think they'd have let me drive it anyway. Oh well...

Heal fast, friend.

The Cycling Chronicles said...

Very sorry to hear about your mishap at the crit! I wish you a speedy recovery. Ummmm, any chance I can drive your car someday?

AmD said...

Wow, I had no idea the crash was that bad. I feel a little bad about being so flippant on facebook. Heal up fast. Funny how the people that cause the crash rarely get caught up in it. Sad when someone can do something so stupid and then others have to pay the price.

Sean said...

hey aki - yikes. its scary when people dont act in a logical way.. you should really chat with that leadout guy and/or his teammates. Aiden's pretty quick so its likely he might not have been able to take the speed up too much anyways. those kind of attitudes and dumb*ss moves makes me wary of riding those 'tuesday evening world champions' races..

You'll be glad to know that gimbels hasnt changed much. i rode with Mark on sunday and there was the typical mahem of "missed" lights, stops, etc, and i was nearly crashed by some fred who could ride in a straight line but not in a corner. he seemed to not want anyone to pass him. just before the first sprint area, i came up on him and said 'on right' and he freaked out, cut me off, then swerved left into the dirt on the other lane .. and thats when I decided it wasnt worth it and sat up..

anywho - be well. if you want to try a hike or something, let me know. I'm Mr Mom these days so maybe we can meet up.

feel better aki -


Wayne said...

Heal up Aki...

And welcome to the club no one wants to be in...

John K. said...

Aki,what can one say other than it's too bad some people treat these training races like they're Tues night worlds and end up doing stupid things.It shouldn't have happened at all and especially tough that riders got hurt. Hope you heal well and hope to see you in the spring at Bethel.

Rebecca H. said...

Oh, I'm very sorry! I hope you heal quickly and get your mobility back soon.

Kim said...

Chris gave us a report and directed me to your blog.

It disheartens me to hear about the crash, your injuries, and how it went down.

My thoughts are with you on a speedy recovery. I am sorry to hear that you will miss the track championships. I was hoping to see you up there this weekend.

Healing thoughts,

Anonymous said...


we are sorry to hear about this accident. Tuesday night is a training night, not a boxing match!!
we are praying for your speedy recovery both physically and emotionally.
team mullaly
laura, katie, kelse

bigCrank said...

sorry to hear of the crash, hope you feel better. i got a play by play from a teamate. from reading SOC and solobreakaway blogs, one thing you might have done wrong was to mess up in the final sprint when already lapped.
hey, not promoting agressive riding of others, but my motto is when racing for nothing (soc's blog), i go for nothing in the sprint. why risk it; protocol is get outta the way of those guys/teams that lapped the field.

heal well...

Eddy A. said...

Glad you're o.k. Aki. Most would have focused on tearing into the guy who caused the crash, but not you. Your good character shines through on this one.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you managed to write up the accident so well while in such pain. Feel better, rest, and take those painkillers when you need them. Sounds like some kitten therapy is in order here.

YaniCan said...

Read about your crash on SOC's blog. I'm glad you seem to be in good spirits and wish you a speedy recovery!

Brian said...

Sucks to hear...heal fast.

slowroadie said...

I'm totally surprised you crashed. I figured, with your sixth racing sense and all, you would have sniffed the trouble brewing. Sorry it happened to you.

I wonder if a-hole, I mean, Mr. Elbow, even knows he caused the crash.

I'll echo what others have said and hope you heal fast. Rest and enjoy the Percocet ;-)