“Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.”
– Groucho Marx
It was raining decently when I left on a planned 119 mile training ride on my Centurion road bike. Seven miles in, I hit some railroad tracks at just slightly the wrong angle. My tire went left and I went straight. I landed directly on my hip, yelling out loud upon impact, “I knew that was going to happen!”
That spill left quite a nice welt on my hip for months after. Now, for an injury like that, you have two options: turn around and go home and call it a day or keep going. I kept going with the knowledge that it did not hurt as long as I stayed moving. As soon as I stopped pedaling, it would begin to seize up and become extremely painful. For some other crashes, I was not as lucky.
In 2014, I was planning something big. I was going to do the 190 mile Kent, OH, to Falconer, NY, ride again in reverse by myself at a much faster pace than my friends and I had finished it previously. I trained hard, doing century rides every chance I got leading up to the ride. I was ready to go and feeling great.
The day before the big trip, I biked into school, same as always. I took a longer route and did a light spin to give my legs a rest before the big day. Coming down a slight hill, I hit a patch of mud and crashed to the pavement, skidding along it with my chin. In hindsight, one should realize that skidding across pretty much anything other than velvet with your chin is not the best strategy. I remember picking up my bike and riding the rest of the way to school, not knowing how bad the injury was, right hand draped gently over the handlebars.
My thoughts were racing, trying to diagnose the injury and determine if it was good enough to go the following day. I planned out different ways I could make it work. If it was just badly bruised, I would ice it all day and wrap it up before I left. If it was broken in any way, perhaps I could still ride with a cast on. As long as your fingers work to grab the brakes and hit the shifters, you’re good to go… or so I thought.
I got to school early in order to run a scheduled experiment. I ran animals one handed with a makeshift splint/ice pack combo tied precariously to my right wrist. I worked steadily like this for a few hours before my lab mate came in to attend to me and noted that we should probably wash out the scrapes, just in case. She also noted that when I texted her, I could have put in a bit more urgency rather than saying ‘come by whenever you get a second.’ We paid a visit to the department secretary to ask for some peroxide and she immediately told me my wrist was broken–she could tell by the way I was holding it.
An annoyingly lengthy day at both the campus infirmary and then the orthopedic doctor resulted in the news that I had a fractured wrist and wouldn’t be able to do the ride the following day. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to ride for several weeks. There goes my “I’ll just ride with a cast” idea. Amateur.
Now, here is the first distinction between me and real cyclists. I make no claim to being a real cyclist: I merely pretend just enough to get me by. Within the bell curve, I’m probably slightly above average in terms of skill and dedication. But take someone like Steven Abraham from Great Britain who tried to break the Highest Annual Mileage Record (HAM’R) set by Tom Goodwin in 1939 and recently broken by Kurt Searvogel in 2016. Steven would get hit by a moped during one of his attempts, breaking his ankle. He was up and on a recumbent bike riding 100 miles a day pedaling with one leg within 10 days. Those dudes are the 1% of the the 1% and I’m not even a full standard deviation away from the mean when it comes to cycling.
A fractured wrist was enough to keep me off the bike for a good period of time. To keep from getting upset at myself for “being lazy,” I constantly had to remind myself that riding through significant pain would garner zero actual gains. Given that I had to have others help with certain aspects of my research projects for several days after the injury, biking did not seem like a very wise thing to do.
Despite my lack of manliness, if you will, by not risking further injury and staying off the bike for a while and walking the six miles to school instead, I could not wait to get back on.
I remember after D’s big accident (check back soon for a post about his near-death crash), he texted me the exact number of days it had been since the crash when he got back on the bike.
I may be only a partial standard deviation from the mean in terms of biking prowess and dedication, but I am certainly dedicated. I got back on the bike as soon as possible.
I would then attempt to salvage the lost summer by attempting the ride from Ohio to New York anyway and would come up short because of a balding tire, a dying phone, and a strained calf.