Crashing Out

Crashing Out

Crashing out is a terrifying thing to experience, but it's something that every racer, at some point in their career will experience.  I'd heard the stories, read about the pros' trials and tribulations in returning from crashes and comforted friends and teammates who suffered ill fortune and broken bones.  I've even tasted the bitter pill of defeat before: A couple  years ago I released a podcast in which I described the ignominy of DNFing a race.  Almost 2 years to the day I last DNFed a race, I did it again, but this time it was something a little bit different.

This time I crashed out, or more specifically, I WAS crashed out.

And this time, my season crashed out with it.  You can see in the video below the sequence of events that put me on the sidelines for 3 months:

Everything happened in the blink of an eye.  Described by others (and of course the handlebar mounted camera), the two guys in front of me went down, I was slingshotted over the bars and onto the pavement, piledriving my right shoulder into the tarmac like I'd been the target of The Undertaker's wrath.  The subsequent pileup behind left about a dozen riders on the ground.

In a moment of blinding, white hot pain, I knew that at the very least my collarbone was in two pieces.  Sitting on the side of the road I began making calculations as to my time to return.  4 weeks and on the trainer.  8 weeks to being back on the road.  A month and a half of hard training, I could be ready by mid to late July.  A trip in an ambulance and a visit to the trauma center revealed three breaks in my collarbone, three broken ribs, a shoulder blade broken into several pieces, a punctured and collapsed lung and a concussion.

As Bill Paxton has said: “Game over man, GAME OVER!

Collarbone scarMy collarbone was fixed the next day with a plate and a baker's dozen screws.  The collapsed lung has managed to reinflate and time will heal all the rest of the broken bones.  Prognosis? 4-6 weeks until I can ride the trainer and back on the road in 10-12 weeks.

Maybe two or three races before the season winds down…

Unfortunately, until that time, I'm in a state of limbo.  It's hard to put into words the crushing disappointment of knowing that I'll be unable to ride a bike outside for the majority of the cycling season.  It's just as hard to know that my teammates will be racing on Saturdays and Sundays, and I won't be able to help them win.  it's a crushing mental blow to someone who moves for a living, moves in my free time and seeks out the rush of adrenaline that can only be found in a pack of 50 riders, elbow to elbow, hurtling down the road at 27 miles per hour.

Therein lies the rub.  The thrill is laced with danger, and the glowing promise of glory always comes with the shadowy spectre of defeat and injury lurking just behind.  It's a high stakes game, and rolling snake eyes has consequences.  I choose to accept the risk.  In this case, the dice rolled against me and I was the one who lost.  However the other 50 or so times I've toed a start line, I've come out clean and safe.  The 50,000 miles or more I've logged in the past years have resulted in 2 previous crashes that required a trip to the ER, and neither was for more than flesh wounds.  This is the first time I've been forced out of work or off the bike by injury.  And it's crushing, both physically and mentally.

I will be back in the saddle.  I'll be back in the peloton.  I'll certainly pin a number on again.  I'll be choosy about the races I enter, for certain; it's not worth dealing with poor bike handling from racers I don't know, and honestly, the social aspect of racing means I'd rather race with people I do know.  These things are certainties.

What is not certain is how I'll deal with 3 months of sitting inside, watching the world ride by me as I recovery from the injuries I sustained in my second race of the season.  I could scream that it's not fair, but it would be hypocritical.

I accepted the risk, and I rolled snake eyes.


About the Author:

After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science/Pharmacology, I continued my education with a doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College. As I progressed through my education, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in the lab to my own daily workouts and goals. At the time, I was following some of the principles of traditional coaching and getting mediocre results. Frustrated, I realized that if I could apply all my physiology, chemistry, nutrition and training knowledge, I could “build a better mousetrap” not just for my own training, but for other athletes. With this goal in mind, I started Tailwind Coaching, to help cyclists [with busy lives and limited training time] become stronger, faster, fitter and healthier. And while I may not be a ex-ProTour rider, an Olympic Coach or even a prolific race winner, I am something that most coaches are not: a regular guy just like you who has a job, a family and a desire to be a stronger cyclist.