Being on the precipice of being a father has made me somewhat introspective. Dorothy was backing up some photos this week and ran across pictures from my bike accident. Looking at those pictures got me to thinking about the 3 years since my crash, the 1.5 years since I rode my bike and the 15 pounds I have gained since then.

March 2007: the start of what would be my last bike racing season. I was in an early season race in Seattle. Driving rain, cold, suffering, that was the order of the day. This was the season that I was going to graduate into Category 3 to a higher level of racing, but also a safer level of racing. I trained hard over the winter leading up to this, spending 4 hours on my bike every weekend day often watching movies in my basement in Boise because it was just too cold on the ground. I had spent a lot of time working the hills and I was my lightest weight since high school. I was ready. Forty miles into the race I’m, in fact, optimally positioned and going into the last .5 mile I was in the top 6-10 and as the final sprint is where I excel I was probably looking at a top 5+ easily.
We are now in the full sprint 100 yards from the finish, out of the saddle, 35+ MPH. Then… the guy in front of me lays his bike down.

Needless to say, in those wet conditions, in full sprint I hit the deck. I had been in very mild “skid-out” type crashes or “into the bushes” type crashes before, but nothing like this. I broke my helmet, tore up my bike, destroyed a racing jersey, separated my left AC joint, contused my ribs, and had a terrible amount of road rash. The pictures (for the strong of stomach) are below which show that since changing into my jeans (1-2 hours before) I bled through them from the one wound you can’t see in the pictures (on my left hip).

Dorothy was standing about 10 feet away when the crash occurred. She heard me cursing the pain and the other rider. There were about 5 others that hit the dirt. One of the other guys ended up with surgery to repair a tendon in his hand which was lacerated by the gears of another rider’s bike. A few other guys I knew came over and wanted me to sit down because I must have looked a mess and they were worried I was more hurt then I thought I was. Which later it turned out I was. On the way home I called the sports medicine fellow in my residency and she offered to call in some pain medication. I initially refused but about 15 minutes later when the pain started I called her back and requested some.

That was the worst pain I’ve had in my life. Showering when I got home was awful, trying to clean road rash like that on such a wide spread area of my body was excruciating. The worst pain though was my shoulder and ribs that first night when I awoke in the night and needed to use the restroom. I almost couldn’t get out of bed from the pain. It faded quickly over several days and I ended up only using about 10 of the pain pills. The damage was done though, I was racing bikes within 2 weeks but I was never the same. I was scared. You can’t be scared when you race bikes because to do well in the sprint you have to be willing to take risks. I finished out that season and had a few good results, but never had the fearlessness I had previously had. I remember one race in particular that we hit the last half mile, I was in the front, I was feeling strong and when the sprint started I just sat up because I got too afraid.

So I quit bike racing after that, but not because of the fear. Because I was about to graduate from residency, thinking about having a baby with my new wife, and knew that if I had been the guy with the lacerated tendon I wouldn’t be able to work to the full extent of my profession and I would lose money.

I think that had I trained biking over the next winter I would have been fine, from a fear stand-point, that next year. But this was the first time that I was forced to really face my mortality and I had to make the adult decision that a broken arm and loss of income probably wasn’t going to be worth the pleasure I got out of riding bikes. This is, however, part of what being an adult is. Besides maybe marrying Dorothy or going to medical school this was probably one of the first really adult decisions I ever made. I sacrificed what I wanted for what I needed to do to take care of my family. I foresee, of course, similar decisions to be made in the near term as we begin to raise our daughter.

Published in: on May 29, 2010 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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