Monday, May 5, 2008

SMACK! Down!

I keep telling myself that tomorrow I quit mainlining black-tar heroin. Well, tomorrow is going to have to wait a few more days.

I skipped RATL on Saturday because rain was pouring on my drive down to Munroe Falls and racing a crit, with forty-five 90-degree turns, looked way too dicey.

I elected instead to wait a day and do Sunday's nice, safe Bull Run Farms Road Race -- four "mostly flat" laps around an 11.2-mile loop half an hour north of Cincy, on desert-dry roads under a brilliant, beautiful sun.

Therein lies the irony: One minute and 31 seconds into the safe and sunny race, I was scraping myself off the pavement. Again.

The whole day on Sunday got off to a stressful start when my teammate/driver Gary and I realized when we got to Matt O's neighborhood (15 minutes late) to pick him up that neither of us knew where he lives and neither of us had him in our phone's address book. We eventually solved that by waking Rick, our non-racing teammate, way too early in the morning.

When we finally arrived at the race, , we were about 40 minutes from the scheduled start. It looked like we'd pulled in to Buckeye Lake. Cars filled a big farm field, and hundreds of racers were there. This would wind up being one of the biggest races I've been in -- even the women's field had to have close to 30 entrants, instead of the usual 10-12.

We changed, grabbed bikes and got into the registration line, where a girl was typing entrants' registration data into a laptop, and we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, after about 10 minutes, there was a great jolt of progress: We moved up one place in line! There were about 15 riders ahead of us. And half an hour til the start. And the P/1/2/3 field was already closed out. Word was that the 3s and 4s were close to full.

The start got delayed by 30 minutes to accomodate the throngs, so even though we got no warmup, that part of the story had a happy ending. And our race had a happy beginning. For the first 10 or 11 seconds, anyway.

After that, it became evident that this simple four-corner circuit would wind up being very technical and congested. The 12-foot-wide lane had no shoulder on the right, but it did have a lot of busted-up pavement there. On the left was double yellow, and the ref emphasized that the yellow-line rule would be strictly enforced. So our field of 55 or 60 riders was squeezing through an 8-foot-wide funnel from the get-go. That's an interesting dynamic for a race featuring some of the biggest purses of the year so far ($750 for the Cat 4s, about $2,000 each for the 1/2/3 and 3s).

After half a mile of sketchiness, we hit the first turn, 90 degrees to the right, and the hammering started. Immediately, we hit 28-30 mph and stayed there. We SBR guys were near the front, so there wasn't much braking when we hit the 2nd right-hand 90. That's when I saw a flash of discombobulation ahead of me and heard Gary shout a warning.

Now, you might know by now that those dreams that seem to go on for hours actually last only a few seconds. The human brain can process so much more information instantaneously than we realize or can react to.

That's sort of what happened here. I was 4 feet off Gary's wheel and was standing to sprint out of the turn when I heard him shout: "CONE!"

This is not why:

It probably took 1/10th of a second for my brain to figure out what he said and another 10th of a second to figure out what that meant as he swerved. In all, I had about as much time to react as a major-league hitter has to size up a fastball and swing. I swung and missed.

But I didn't miss the cone. It appeared in front of me in a flash when Gary swerved to avoid it. I tried to swerve to its left. But I just clipped the edge of its base.

That was enough. I went airborne.

Again, the microflash seemed to last a minute. I rolled to a seated position and defenselessly looked over my shoulder at the bikes splitting around me, hoping no one hit me. They didn't.

I stood up, cussing, just as my tire popped with a gunshot crack. More cussing. Someone apologized, saying she warned the sheriff's deputy not to put the cone there and that it was on our side of the line and all that. But it was over.

I caught a ride back to the start-finish, where I bitched about the cone placement and asked for a refund. But the purse holders just shrugged helplessly.

Turns out I was the first and by far the most fortunate wreck of the day. As the 1/2/3 field approached the same corner I wrecked on in that race's 2nd lap, two guys bumped and one went left of the yellow line. He got hit by a car and was hauled away in an ambulance. The 1/2/3 field, the 3s and the 4s were all stopped because of the closed road, but the 5s and women were still racing far behind, on their first lap. That's when a woman racer crashed and needed an anbulance.

After 30 minutes or so of everyone standing around, the promoter cancelled the race. I got my refund after all.

My elbow was bleeding and my legs were banged up and my left shin was really swollen. I cleaned up my road rash, got some ice for my leg and lay around while my teammates got a ride in.

Then, on the really long car ride home, it kind of stiffened and swelled. As long as I was sitting still, it was OK. But then when we got back to Matt's house and I got out of the car, the motion of lifting my leg out of the car made me think for a second that I might black out from the pain. Same thing when I got back in the car. Repeat at Gary's.

The leg had a sharply angular bulge in the front. That, coupled with the pain, was getting me a bit paranoid. So as I drove up Carnegie, I decided to stop at the ER at University Hospitals.

The ER doc thought it looked broken and ordered X-rays. I couldn't sit down because the pain was too intense every time I sat down or stood up again. (Wah wah!)

Then I got some non-narcotic anti-pain/inflammatory injection and a tetanus shot. It took about 15 min. for the pain shot to kick in. After that, it was fine.I lucked out: I was in and out in less than two hours.

I took today off work (wah wah!) 'cause the doc told me to stay off my feet as much as possible and keep it iced and elevated.

Now the road rash on my hip and inner thigh (saddle rash?) is probably more annoying than the giant shin contusion. But it's all definitely bearable.

No riding for 5-7 days -- or more if it still hurts, he said.

The bike is a little f--ed up -- tape destroyed, scraped-up shift/brake lever (now matches the left one) and the front wheel was knocked out of true. But nothing major there, either.

And I really lucked out: I always, always race w/ gloves on, just in case I wreck. Digging asphalt, sand and gravel out of your knuckles and palms really sucks. I forgot to pack gloves yesterday. But my hands never hit the pavement.

In all, I am fortunate, especially compared to the two folks whom the meat wagon hauled away. And for the first time in my life, I can put a tape measure around my calf and it measures as big around as one of Dave Steiner's.

I just hope ibuprofen tabs do as well as that shot I got. I'm all out of black tar and Oxycontin, and the doc says I have to stay off my feet. Can't score more. Oh, well. All my veins are collapsing anyway.

- JN


JC Sell said...

Man - That sucks!! Sorry. Now you will have tons of time to blog! Get better soon!

Ray Huang said...

I should be saying, sorry about that dude and hope you get better, but i cannot stop laughing at the Steiner reference!! Oh-hope you feel better soon!!

Anonymous said...

Ouch, you must have been hurting bad to go to the UH ER (disclaimer: I work for UH, but not in the ER), considering that it took a direct order from my manager for me to go down there for my needlestick a few months ago. Glad you're doing OK, but I guess you won't be interested in a ride tomorrow morning. If you change your mind let me know; I'll swing my peloton past your place on the way out! (Posted anonymously because I do like my job!)

Rick said...

Hey Jimmy....I didn't feel any good Karma that day (plus I had my boy) so maybe it was a good thing I didn't make the trek down there. I hope you get better soon. I'm starting to think you need to start dressing like a Keirin racer. (they race in Velodromes in protective gear due to the daily wreaks).