Another Year, Another Crash.

Don't you hate that feeling when you slam your hip, shoulder, and head into the pavement in rapid succession and then grind your flesh off as you slide across the tarmac? 
Yeah, me too.
Tuesday's crit was going well enough. I rode around with the D and C riders, pacing dropped riders around the loop and generally trying to stay out of their race. It was fun and didn't require a lot of energy to do. Hopefully I helped some of them.
When the combined A/B race kicked off, we had a pretty large group by our standards. Kaladi and Beaded Stream were well represented, and the race was characterized by constant attacks and counter-attacks. Other than bridging a couple gaps that looked dangerous, I mostly sat in. Breaks were never allowed much of a lead and usually were pulled back within a couple laps. I was just watching and conserving energy.
It had rained earlier in the day, but the roads were dry and I thought for a second we would be spared. Twenty minutes in, a light drizzle started. The roads weren't what I would call slick, but over the next ten minutes they darkened considerably. We were just starting to kick up a little water with our tires when it happened. I had rotated towards the back of the pack from the middle as Kaladi riders moved forward to shut down a Beaded Stream move. We hit the lowest turn on the course, which is also the fastest. We typically hit that turn at around 30 MPH (give or take), depending on how hard we're pushing it. It's an open 90 degree turn with plenty of space to run a group three-wide through at speed.
I let a little gap open up before the turn to give the guys ahead of me some space, figuring I could close it easily before the exit and be set up for the grade to the start/finish line. What I didn't expect was for the pack to slow dramatically in the corner.
I tapped my brakes, which was enough to cause my bike to fishtail violently on the wet pavement. I probably made it worse by doubling down on the braking, completely eliminating any slim chance of remaining upright. I panicked in that split second, faced with a swerving bike and rapidly closing on a row of backs. I knew what was coming next.
I went down hard. Intense pain shot through my right hip as it cannon-balled into the road. My ribs and shoulder were next, creating a broader platform for me to slide on. My helmet was the last part to join the party, the back cracking in an impressive manner. All that kept it together was the outer aero shell. A regular helmet would have likely split more significantly.
I didn't lose consciousness. I slid to a stop on the grass alongside of the road. I emitted an involuntary series of wheezy grunts for a while. I remember gripping the chain link fence with my fingers, as if that was the only thing that would keep me from siding anymore. All I could focus on was the intense pain from my hip. The skin, ribs, and back hadn't registered yet. My teammate, Rose, stopped and stayed with me, which couldn't have been easy to deal with considering the noises I was making.
Eventually the wheeze-grunts subsided and I found a position on the grass that wasn't quite so painful. A doctor in the pack stopped and did a quick evaluation. He said my hip was likely not broken given the range of motion I had. The collarbone was intact. I was relieved to hear there was still hope for me.
Eventually I got to my feet. I tried to walk up to the start/finish using my bike for support. Five steps later I decided that wasn't going to happen. The race director drove down and picked me up for the 50 yard trip to my car. Another competitor walked my bike up. I winced and flinched as I took my cycling shoes off and put my walking shoes on. Racking the bikes on top of my car elicited a similar response. I was in no hurry to leave, and hobbled around to prevent my entire body from seizing up. I figured I'd wait until the morning to go to the doctor, so I would have a greater range of services available if required.
The race director restarted the race, giving the rest of the gang some extra laps to compensate for the ones I robbed them of. I watched them, sore and envious. When the race ended and the riders mostly cleared the course, I eased myself into my car and drove the two miles home. When I arrived, it took considerable effort to extract my battered body from the car and pull the bikes down. I climbed the stairs, told one of the kids to close the garage door so I wouldn't have to traverse any more steps than necessary.
I told the wife we were headed to the ER. I had to know just how bad it was.
I changed into some loose-fitting clothing which promptly stuck to my road rash. I was beyond caring. I downed some vitamin M before she drove me to the hospital, and we sat in the waiting room as kid after kid with the sniffles jumped past us into triage. Gotcha. Kids trump broken old men. I was fine sitting immobile in the chair, playing with my iPhone and not causing myself any additional pain. Eventually I was placed in a room, and told to strip down and put on a hospital gown, which also promptly stuck to the road rash. Evaluations and x-rays eventually confirmed my bones were more or less intact. A low-dose morphine pill and some other muscle relaxant were provided to take the edge off of the soft tissue damage. They gave me some really big Tegaderm patches to take home, which will likely find their way into my first aid kit for the future. I used smaller ones I had on hand for the worst of it. Follow up with your normal doc in a couple days and try not to fall down so much.
So, for the second time this year, I'm faced with an unexpected break in my riding schedule at the worst possible time. Who knows if this will be as bad as the plague? A little over a year ago I broke my collarbone, ending any possibility of participating in the Tour of Anchorage. This year looks to be the same. If I can't ride, I'll just help out as much as I can.
The next few days will decide it for me. Right now I don't think there's a chance, but you never know. I won't be competitive, but I still want to race- especially the Kulis Crit. I love the course and the racing discipline. The fault was nobody's but my own. I was feeling good, and certainly shouldn't have been tail-gunning at that point. My actions caused it, and I'm grateful I didn't cause anyone else to go down. Usually wet carbon wheels don't lock up that fast. Usually they don't lock up at all- especially when lightly tapped. I'll file that one away as a lesson learned.
Lately I've been learning things the hard way.


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