This report is about a month delayed from the race. There’s a reason for that: I didn’t feel like writing it. The experience was kind of shitty and I haven’t been eager to relive it. But the month that followed would be out of context without it, so here goes.
I wanted a good day out of BikeJam the way all experienced racers say you’re not supposed to. It was the “I need a good finish for the upgrade points” kind of way. And after a string of difficult races with lackluster results, I was looking for a bit of validation, too. In retrospect, all the makings of a miniature disaster were laid out in front of me like the ingredients for a big cake of don’t-eat-that-you-fat-slob. (The great thing about this analogy is that my diet really is terrible. And I would eat the cake.) It could have been great and exactly what I’d hoped for, but what were the chances of that happening? Self-awareness is probably a skill I could work on.
Since I arrived to the race a little late, I skipped the trainer and did a few laps up a hill behind the course with a teammate. I’ve never been big on warming up, but was recently convinced to at least try it for a little while. Whether or not it made a difference I’ve got no idea: I lined up, started the race, got the first few efforts out of the way and it all felt like business as usual. In fact, by time time the race settled in to it’s rhythm I felt pretty good. It was a welcome change of pace (see what I did there?) from the searing pain and empty lungs that characterized the previous few weeks.
During races that have been problems for me, the first sign of trouble is sliding back in the field. It’s usually followed by an internal monologue about the number of times that [hill, turn, or other painful course feature] has to be repeated or quiet pleading to let the attacks subside. Then comes the deal making: “at least do 3 more laps,” or “just close this gap, if there’s another you can let it go.” There’s always cursing about the guys inflicting all the pain. It’s a great little party of 1. Needless to say, when I caught myself giving up a few positions about halfway through, I was eager to move back towards the front of the race.
I was worried about getting caught in the yo-yo of the back of the field and playing crack-the-whip with the nearly-broken guys that were hanging on by the skins of their teeth. If getting dropped is an airborne transmitted condition, I wasn’t about to have anything to do with it.
And this is where I should note something important: local racers whose memories haven’t been wiped clean by repeated impacts with the asphalt and and an unhealthy number of interval sessions call this race Bike Slam. Dramatic crashes are the norm. On the day of the 2012 event, people were still talking about the last year’s crash in the women’s field that appeared to involve a hand grenade. The 2011 master’s open wreck involving an unnamed local celebrity and an alarming proximity to the barriers became the stuff of folklore that still gets repeated every 5th group ride or so. It’s not the place to get anxious. So that’s what I did. D’uh.
I slotted in behind my teammate, Pierce, and suggested that we make up a few spots. We surfed up and entered the roundabout, then switched directions for the left hand turn coming out of it. I stood on the pedals and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. Somehow I got crossed up and took myself out. Awesome. Fortunately, there was only 1 other casualty and he immediately rejoined the race. I coasted to the pit, changed my flat tire, and tried to pretend nothing happened. Half a lap later, I realized something was seriously wrong with the bike: the pit mechanic took a look, pointed out the broken seat stay, and I called it a day. Well, sort of. I moved on to address the road rash and increasingly uncomfortable pain in my wrist.
The rest of the day passed in a blur: I watched The Dirt Field win the women’s pro race in absolutely dominating fashion, then went to the Johns Hopkins emergency room to visit her teammate who had crashed out of the same race and suffered a broken wrist. By the time we reached home at 7 that night, my wrist pain had become too great to ignore and I made my way to the local emergency room. The verdict: two broken bones in my wrist, the scaphoid and the radial styloid process.
The last month has been a bit of a challenge. Initially, I did not deal well with a hiatus from racing and the prospect of several weeks on the trainer. I’m still not happy with it. But broken down in to little steps, it has been more managable. I’ve moved off the trainer – back outdoors to rides with my friends – and things are definitely knitting themselves together in the cast. The broken frame is sitting on a shelf still broken, where it will stay for quite a while, but everything else is slowly finding it’s way back to order. In a few hours, I’ll head over to Arlington Hospital Center for a follow-up appointment. With any luck, I’ll walk out free of my cast and on to a brace.
Besides, the family of whatever little animal died in it will appreciate the chance to give the body a proper burial.