Crash Therapy

The conversation in my head while riding Bull Run last weekend in Moab was dawdling along something like this: 

“I’m riding really well. I’m gonna try to keep it mellow, keep from redlining cause this is a long ride. But I’m kinda killin it, truth be told.” 

Then the other voice came on. “Don’t get uppity ya little snotbag.” 

“Yeah, I know. I won’t. But still…I’m kinda, you know, rad.”

“Oy vey.”

So then there was this rock, and it was a weird steep down-pointing affair that led into a little V-shaped mini-gully with an inappropriately placed root the size of my arm sitting in the middle of it at a jaunty angle. It was a puzzle wrapped inside an enigma. Weird noises emanated from my mouth region as my brain tried to—quickly—run through what a successful scenario might look like. 

Still cogitating, my front wheel greeted the root and decided to stay while the back wheel and the rest of me continued forward. Some mountain bike crashes happen so fast you’ve no idea what hit you. You’re riding, then you’re trussed up in a tree. Some mountain bike crashes—over the bars, or OTBs, in particular, always seem to happen in super slo-mo. 

“Oh Jesus, really? OTB? Are you kidding me right now? I haven’t had an OTB in what, ten years? Yup. It appears incontrovertible that I am, in fact, at this moment, going over the bars. Well shit. So much for I’m riding so good. Yes, yes, you told me so, prig voice. Happy?”

I did a full superman, landing on forearms and chest with a mighty WHUMP and a strangled “uuuuuuueeeummphGaaaa” accompanied by some sand and spit. I also dropped a really loud, emphatic F-bomb. My friend Anne came running back, unsure of what she’d find. 

“Your legs were at a funny angle, there in the dirt. It might’ve been bad” she said later.

Another rider was now approaching the Tiny Gully of Doom and Anne halted him before he plowed me like the writhing scorpion I was. We all got me to my feet and into some shade directly adjacent to The Menacing Obstacle. Turned out the guy who rolled up was an ER doctor, so he assisted in the evaluation. 

“Did you hit your head? Let me see your eyes. Tell me about this headache you speak of…” 

When a trip to the hospital had been ruled out, he gave me some Tylenol and ibuprofen and set off on his way. Up to this point, I’d had a few scraggly, anemic tears plop out. They were more about being scared and mad versus being in pain. You see, Anne and I had just signed up for an epic 7-day mountain bike stage race in Europe called the TransAlp in July. It is 308 miles and 57,000’ of climbing. Anne says it’s actually 59,000’. You have to convert from meters to feet, and math is hard. However, she has a PhD in it, so I guess that means it’s 59,000’ of climbing. My number is better though. But I digress. 

One of the first things that went through my mind, perhaps even while still falling toward the earth which as you’ll remember took about 38 minutes, was “Oh great. If I break my neck, I won’t be able to race the TransAlp. And I got the non-refundable kind of plane ticket cuz I’m cheap.” Plus, I was mad that the smug voice appeared to have won this round. 

So, with the ER doc back on his way, I looked up, made sure he was out of eye-and-earshot and commenced to sob. Head in hands, full-throated, torso wracking sobs. I stopped for a moment to tell Anne this wasn’t about my wounds. 

“I think I haven’t cried in like three years.” 

I hiccupped, laughed hysterically for a couple of beats, then went back at the waterworks. A parade of riders marched by, took stock of The Menacing Obstacle and neatly hopped, scooted, and floated over/around/beside it, and every time they did, I stopped my pathetic display just for the moment, then went right back to it as soon as they had ridden off into the sunset having triumphed over the Troll in The Gully of My Demise. 

On the long, dusty, dirty Gemini Bridges road out, I noted in my internal tirade regarding my idiocy that while I was wearing knee pads, I was not wearing the crisp new elbow pads that sat lonely and unloved back in the car. When my nicer voice was at last allowed to get a word in, it noted that I was in one piece and that it surely could have been worse. Plus, that outpouring of emo-sauce was probably the equivalent of 28 sessions of therapy so think of how much you saved? 

Now, to be sure, I’m not recommending an OTB crash as a form of therapy, but maybe if it happens, just roll with it, let that stuff out. Exorcize whilst you exercise. Everybody needs a good cry once in a while, right? However, next time I think I’ll try it on the couch while watching Ted Lasso. 

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    I’d look on the bright side. No broken bones, you got back up. Some are not so lucky. I overlapped wheels in a training race once and ended up in the ER with a collarbone broken clear through and splintered into a Y. It was too painful to get up, so I laid their blocking traffic into Honolulu.
    Interestingly, it was the day of a final exam in my girlfriend’s English 100 class. Half her students were not there for the exam on time but were straggling in late. One finally apologized and said “I’m sorry to be late, but there is this bicyclist splayed out all over the inbound lane of Kalanianaole Highway.”

    Then my girlfriend’s office phone rang from the hospital. She got a ride to the ER, where she found me getting fit into one of those broken-collarbone-slings. I was in a lot of pain, and saying to the docs and nurses “I confess, I confess. Just stop what you are doing with that torture device and I’ll sign a confession!”

    When one’s season is shot to hell and one is in pain, one has to find some humor in it.

    1. Maureen Gaffney says

      Yup, fer sure happy to be bruised, not broken. Your story is pretty funny–now that it sounds like it’s well in the rear-view!

    2. khal spencer says

      Hey, Maureen. I was glad to read you were not seriously injured. All the best to you!

  2. Hautacam says

    It’s amazing how much can go through your head between the start and end of a crash that lasts only a second or two. I once hit a speed bump — while
    cornering at speed — that launched me forward and sideways off the bike in a spiraling arc like a football, during which i pondered which side of my body I was going to land on, and how hard the impact was going to be, and whether the bike would land under or on top of me, and whether I was going to be able to continue on the way to work, and if so, how late I was going to be. No long-term damage but I could have used a good cathartic cry after that one.

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