A few weekends ago I was in a pretty gnarly bike crash. We were about 15 miles in when we saw our first aid station. In typical fashion, I wasn’t going to stop. There was a cyclist up ahead of me who looked like she was going to stop. She rode a little to the right, looking back at the people holding signs for “Aid Station.” She wavered a little to the left. I realized she didn’t seem to know where she was going, so I went over to the left to pass her. I’m going about 20 miles an hour at this point; all of a sudden she takes a sharp left in front of me. At the speed I was going and the distance between us two I had two choices: A.) Crash into her – taking both of us and our bikes out. B.) Slam on my brakes and try to take the fall myself.
I took option B. I squeezed my disc brakes and they immediately responded. My bike slammed to a halt, meanwhile, gravity launched me into the air. At this point, I don’t recall how I fell. Jared saw both my arms spread in front of me like some kind of Wonder Woman. I do know this: the left of side of my body is banged up so I landed (must have) directly on my shoulder, skidded a little and somehow, my bike avoided all of it. Thank the bike gods. I was afraid of causing a pile up so I stood up immediately and started grabbing my water bottles that had been launched from my bike as well.
I picked up my bike as everyone stared. The chick who caused it all stood and stared: “Are you okay?” As I walked away, the only thing I could think to say was, “You need to watch where you’re going.” Jared came running up to me, shaking: “Do you need help? Do you want me to get your bike?” Looking at his trembling hands, I told him I had it. I leaned my bike against the fence and started walking toward a lady – I wasn’t really thinking straight. There was a lot of commotion. Jared was freaking out. The lady didn’t have many bandaids and at this point I started to feel nauseous. I sat my backpack down and went to the toilet. The nausea went away and then I realized that I got blood all over the handle. I wiped that down and then realized my side was gashed open.
I was led to the paramedics’ tent. One volunteer grabbed me a bag of ice for my shoulder after I told her that I jammed it pretty good on the pavement. As I sat there and the cute paramedic dressed my wounds, several women came up to me to ask what happened. The bike mechanics had Thunder and were giving him a safety inspection. I was most worried about my bike and not the gushing wounds or shoulder.
Once I got the okay and the clearance for my bike, I told Jared that I just needed a wee break and we could start again. I also told him that if wanted to go ahead, he could. He just sat in his Wonder Woman outfit and offered to help in any way he could. This lady asked if I wanted Advil and I sure as shit took her up on her offer. After the paramedic finished dressing the wounds, he asked if there was anything else he could do or get me and I said, “whiskey.” He said, “not in this bag.” I had a banana and then we were on our way. I had another 85 miles to go.
I don’t know if this makes me strong for continuing with the ride. But I measure it to be pride. I’m way too prideful to admit defeat or pain. I’m sure I got that from my parents. I don’t think I was babied as a kid. I distinctly remember if something was bothering me and I’d cry to my mom or dad, they’d say, “Are you bleeding?” Most of the time I wasn’t bleeding. When I was bleeding, I was told to wash it off and put Neosporin and a bandaid on it. There wasn’t much empathy. Normally it was my fault if something gnarly happened to me. I learned the hard and painful way to “quit crying” and “toughen up.” It’s probably why I can’t empathize with others. I didn’t experience it as a child and as an adult, I definitely need a good reason to cry.
When I hit the ground, I could just hear my parents when I was younger: “Get up,” “get out of the way,” “pick up your stuff,” “you have no reason to cry,” “you’re fine.” I wanted to cry. I sucked it back and carried on.
Even though I haven’t spoken to my father in a couple of years, I could hear him saying, “you have to finish this ride.” I don’t think parents realize how much of an impact they have on their children’s lives as they get older.
As I stood up and grabbed my bike from the mechanic, he asked if I was really going to ride the rest of the route. I responded as if there was no other option: “Uh..yes.”
I called my mom because they were going to cheer us on at the finish line. Originally, I figured we’d cross the finish line around 12 ro 12:30. I didn’t want them worried, but inevitably, I worried her by telling the story. I started off the call with, “So, this girl cut me off…” And then I think, “…and I fell, so we’re going to be later than I thought…”
Throughout the ride, there was a slew of texts from my mom, Vanessa, and Dean – all checking on me. They eventually started texting Jared just to double check. The adrenaline kept me pumping up until mile 85 and then I let my arm dangle. I could no longer use it to hold myself up. I right-handed it for the rest of the time. The dirt and bumpy roads were no help.
We finally crossed the line around 2pm, much later than I wanted.
We drank. And drank some more.