Saturday, April 13, 2013

Near Miss

I have taken a spill on my bicycle more than a few times.  It comes with the territory.  The crashes I can remember (so the bigger ones) in order:

Fall 2004 - On WM campus I was coming back from a ride and moseying along frat row when (sans helmet, because I didn't think it was "cool" to wear one back then) I noticed some dirt on the bottom of my downtube.  I reached down to wipe it off but my hand strayed too far up and got stuck in between the [moving] tire and the frame.  Acting like an emergency brake and with most of my weight on the front of the bike due to my forward reach I catapulted over the handlebars, slamming my face into the ground.  It took the majority of the impact.  I was taken in an ambulance to the hospital, where I received stitches (lots) but luckily no head trauma occurred.  That call to mom once I departed the hospital left me feeling ashamed; having to tell her I hadn't been wearing my helmet.  Stupid. The silver lining was it gave me a perfect halloween costume (Two Face) as one side of my face was perfectly untouched and the other obliterated. Of note; I believe these pictures were within an hour or two of getting back from the hospital.  Over the next few days it got MUCH worse as the swelling increased and the "leaking" from the wounds became apparent.  Gross.  People told me I had great "make up" on Halloween...I wish!

Unknown, but sometime in 2004 or 2005 - On a training ride some friends and I were doing our standard weekend loop (think Spencer/Cramer) when, at about 2/3 of the way through the ride we got to a slight downhill section that was very fast.  I was riding my sweet Zipp 303s that I had received as a present and was on the right side of the road with one guy to my left and one guy behind.  A small-ish dog started barking and we all looked to our right to see it chasing towards us; it was taking an amazingly perceptive angle and as opposed to getting behind and chasing it was basically anticipating where we'd be and "leading" us.  Pretty amazing.  Usually when dogs go after cyclist they kind of run up and then run beside you yapping to their heart's content.  I've never been "attacked."  This dog, however, had a more nefarious plan.  It barked and barked and - at full speed - carried on straight; ending up right in front of my front wheel.  I, unable to change direction with a ditch on my right and a friend on my left, slammed into the dog and tumbled onto the ground at a relatively high rate of speed.  I rolled off the road into the ditch and watched as the dog yipped and barked over to a house on the left, where a woman held out her arms to it and went back inside. Needless to say, I was extremely angry.  I love dogs, but I absolutely abhorred that particular dog.  I got up, painfully, and was able to (out of necessity, since we were in VERY rural Virginia and I had no one to call as we didn't have cell-phones) finish the ride at a much slower pace and in a decent amount of pain.  Luckily, just some nasty road rash and bruising.  No broken bike parts or body parts.

Spring 2005 - I was racing at Johns Hopkins and was about halfway through the road race when, in the middle of the pack and on the far right (so basically on the shoulder of the road) when the rider in front of me swerved off the road but then, instead of waiting to get back on, immediately got back on the road without thinking about the fact that his detour had dramatically slowed him.  His rear wheel impacted my front wheel and I went down right away, in the middle of a 40-50 racer pack at 25mph.  At least 2 or 3 guys hit my bike and continued on, one guy hit me and kept going and another guy ran into me and fell over, at which point he got up and continued.  I, however, did NOT continue.  I had some pretty rad road rash (see the alliteration there?) and had lost the desire to be in a pack for the time being.  The guy in front of me that had caused the crash (I believe he went to Lynchburg College; I STILL remember that and what he was wearing) carried on, likely oblivious as to what he'd caused.

Spring 2007 - After not racing much my Junior year I did a bunch of weekends of racing again my senior year.  One of the bigger races was to be an multi-conference race up in Philly.  I was in good shape (albeit racing C's) and wanted to win the criterium.  Now, before I continue, I should mention that schools develop "reputations" for their riding skills over time.  During my four years, the WORST school, by FAR, was App State.  Their riders, on the whole, seemed abysmal and pack awareness and riding skill.  A sweeping generalization, obviously, but not far off.  So, in this race I started off further towards the back than I wanted but by halfway through (or so) had made my way back up to the middle/front.  The finishing straight was a very flat, fast stretch that went under a big gate; it was pretty cool.  Now, at some point, inexplicably, an App State rider - with no one to his left - swerved right (I was sitting on his hip), causing my front wheel to turn and me to go skidding along the ground.  He got up and continued on but my bike was messed up and I had to stop.  Luckily this accident was limited to a rather nice bump on my shin where it hit my chainring (I know because of the grease stains it left) and some road rash on my hip, wrist and elbow.

I didn't ride my bike for a little over a year and fortunately experienced no bike mishaps for quite some time.

July 2010 - Riding on the booty loop I was nearing the top of the hill on Queens and I noticed an SUV approaching the road from a side road.  Thinking (logically) she would see me (it was day time) I didn't do anything weird.  Unfortunately, she did not and started to turn right onto the road I was currently occupying (a small part of the right lane, anyway).  I put my hand out on her hood (literally) and she essentially "shoved" me over to the left.  Luckily we were both going pretty slow and my injuries were minor other than some road rash (I actually still have a quarter-sized scar on my left hip) and messed up clothing and bike parts (which she paid for).  She gave me a ride home and was very sorry (I may have gotten a little blood on her leather seats on purpose).

May 2011 - A week or so after White Lake Half I was on a training ride with Fletch and Carrie up north (we were in the middle of nowhere) and I was in the middle of doing a threshold interval on the front.  We were approaching a left turn that was pretty fast and I didn't notice until about 20' from the road we were turning onto that it had recently been "repaved." Repaving out in the boonies consists of laying down tar and then dropping gravel over it.  From afar, however, it "looks" like regular pavement.  At about 25-27mph with my bike slightly leaned to the left and the wheel turning left I hit the road and my wheels IMMEDIATELY slid out from under me.  I didn't even have time to take my hands off the bars and my left hand, still gripping the bullhorn, slammed into the ground in a fist and took almost ALL of the impact.  I slid for a little bit before coming to a stop and luckily neither of the two behind me crashed.  I was in a lot of pain and looked at my left hand/knuckles and noticed I could see white and red.  I tried straightening my fingers and they "popped" into place and I immediately knew something was quite wrong.  I raised my hand above my head because looking at it made me almost faint and waited on the ambulance... Nothing like a little tendon damage!

May 2012 - Exactly one year later TO THE WEEKEND I was finishing a ride solo on West Boulevard.  Traveling in the right lane I was on the downhill leading into the uphill before Clanton (so was going in excess of 30mph) when a tinted out Crown Vic passed me and got in front of me.  At the bottom of this hill there is a road on the right and a bus station.  The driver started slowing but had no turn signal on so I assumed (we all know what THAT does) it was turning right but was failing to signal so I moved to the left (again, I'm going almost the same speed as the car at this point and am about 20-30' behind) to pass as they were turning.  Much to my dismay, the driver slowed further and turned left (there was no road on the left and they were in the right lane of a four lane road - two lanes each direction) planning to make a U-Turn in the middle of West Blvd.  I grabbed the brakes, skidding and turning further and slammed into the rear left quarter panel of the car.  I hit and fell immediately but wasn't in a great deal of pain.  The driver got out (keep in mind I'm on West and the car is an old Crown Vic with very dark tint so I have NO idea who is about to get out of this car) and a lady emerges asking me if I'm alright and that she "didn't see me" (as an aside, why do people think that's an excuse??) and that she was sorry.  I asked her to wait while I moved to the sidewalk and "assessed" myself (and my very new S5).  I could see no damage on the bike and couldn't feel any damage to myself so just went home.  Only upon showering did I discover a pretty deep gash in my chin that I knew needed stitches so I drove myself to Urgent Care.

Now, all of these stories are told for the purpose of illustrating that I've had my fair share of close calls.  Riding the bike a good bit from 2003-2007 and 2010-2013, first as a "roadie" then as a "triathlete" I've had lots of near misses and some not so near misses.  Riding in groups, by myself, in races, crits, triathlons, time trials, climbing, descending, etc lends one a fair amount of experience.  There are times when this experience and the "instinct" it provides come shining through like a practical miracle.

Today I was riding with world-renowned triathlon phenom Jenny "Tri Cougar" Leiser.  We had done a modified version of Spencer Cramer and were coming back on East Blvd when I asked if she wanted to turn left and go watch a little bit of the ongoing Dilworth Crit races.  She agreed so we turned left onto a side street (Lennox maybe?).  At some point on this street I wasn't paying close enough attention and was gripping the bars somewhat loosely while looking to my left at a family that was having a gathering in their front yard. My front wheel hit a very pronounced pothole or dip or something and it jarred the front end mightily.  My hands lost their grip on the bars and I swerved to the left, my left foot coming unclipped and slamming onto the ground and skidding as I continued to swerve.  My hands desparately re-gripped the bars wherever they could and my chest came down on the armpads.  Somehow, and I honestly have no idea how, with my left foot skidding and body bent over the front of the bike, I stayed upright.  That is honestly the closest call I have ever had.  It would've been both a bad and extremely embarrassing crash.  I would've went down, most likely onto my face by the way my trajectory was unfolding.  I would've went down right in front of the family (which would've been nice for the sure to be following medical trip).  I would've went down right in front of Jenny, likely taking her down with me.  But, after a loud skidding and a very loud "Holy SH*T!" I got back in a normal position and came to a slow stop with the family looking at me (sorry).  Jenny came to a stop as well and we both exclaimed how neither of us had ANY idea how a crash didn't just happen.  I cut my thumb I re-gripped my bars so hard in an awkward way.  The adrenaline rush was absolutely insane and we stopped for a couple of minutes while I took the time to re-group.

I have zero doubt in my mind that my years of cycling were the reason I stayed upright.  Sooooooo many triathletes take for granted the "situational awareness" that comes with riding in groups and outdoors.  I can think of several accidents that friends have had that I think could have been avoided (or lessened) if they had more riding experience.  Obviously, with riding experience comes accidents, but it also begets that sort of "instinct" that nothing else can provide.  I am extremely thankful that I did not go down and can't say enough how much I hate to hear of athletes doing all of their riding indoors.  I mean, kudos to them for gutting it out and GTWD but there is just that "something" that group riding and experience gives you that helps you out in those rare situations.

Anyway, I felt strongly enough about it and felt the need to tell SOMEONE other than Jenny about the experience.  I can't believe I didn't bite it. Seriously.

1 comment:

Clyde said...

Dude. You made me a believer in helments. Ouch.
Clyde in Portsmouth