Monday, May 9, 2011

Annual Crash Post

When I was a young man, my mottos were "drive fast, take chances" and "live fast, die young" and "NO FUTURE." Those of you who know me well can attest that I am understating how recklessly I lived the early part of my life.

I have been thinking a lot about crashing recently. Maybe it is my recent 39th birthday that has me feeling my mortality.

In my mind, 2011 has become the year of the crash. There have been a inordinate number of crashes just in my immediate circle of friends (listed in no particular order and I am sure that I am leaving someone out in my haste).

Kyle Smith (Embrocation Cycling Journal): Skipped a gear at Wells Ave while sprinting and busted up his beautiful face, knocked out at least one tooth and broke his scapula. Currently back on the bike, expects to be racing soon. Reconstructive surgery appears to have restored da kylah to his previous splendor.

Chris Bailey (Pedro's...er...Svelte...er...Luxe Wheelworks): Jammed drivetrain while sprinting. Broken collarbone. Recovering.

Cary Fridrich (ECJ): Took an SUV to the face while riding on Beacon St in Somerville. Knocked 1/4 of his teeth out, broken jaw, various other injuries. Back on the bike, able to ride for a little over an hour at a time.

Mat Weatley (Cambridge Bicycle): Crashed at the Quabbin Road Race. Severe bruising and soreness. Bike broken. Not currently riding.

Dave Chui (RideStudioCafe): Crashed at Wompatuck last week. Road rash. Racing already.

Oscar Jiminez (RSC) : Crashed in training. Road Rash. Racing (well) with impressive bandages.

Donny Green (CB [as of this morning]): Hit a mailbox after flatting at Sterling. Not injured, all fired up to race more.

Emily Curly (Blue Steel Cyclery) (more acquaintance than friend, but I have a high level of respect for her, so she gets included): Crashed in the Rick Newhouse Criterium. Took a free lap and got back in the race to finish 5th and in the lead group (surely making Paul proud).

Adding gravity to the local crashes is the news that Wouter Weylandt crashed and died during a descent in today's stage of the Giro d'Italia. While I never heard of WW before this morning, my thoughts go out to his family and friends.

As with the post last year, I am not sure of my point. Crashing is an inherent risk in the sport. While there appears to be a crash in every race, this doesn't need to be the case.

A few years ago, someone told me that if you become scared of crashing, your racing career is essentially over. Fear and respect are two different things. Having a healthy level of respect and consideration for the wellbeing of your fellow racers does not diminish your own courage.

Enough preaching, let's race bikes now.

Be safe.





9 comments:

Adam Myerson said...

Also the crash at Marblehead. Someone hit a stone post with their face, no?

RMM said...

Adam,

I would have included the Marblehead crash, but I limited my list to people who I know personally.

plum said...

The last time I ever rode with reckless abandon was warmups at Gloucester in 2008. I bit it really hard in the sweeping grass section and drilled my head; 2nd worst in my small portfolio of concussions. And that was it. I've never been the same on a bike since. It changes you. Better or worse I suppose. You become more aware of where your limit is. But unfortunately, too aware. It's a little angel (or devil it seems) perched on your shoulder, invading your subconscious, regularly reminding you of your own mortality. The misfortunes of others, at least for me, don't play into it. It needs to be uniquely my experience to make this kind of impression. As I suspect is the case for most. The moment you lose that sense of immortality, you are up against it for perpetuity battling guys who haven't. I think anyway.

You can get over it, I think - there are ways - but having hit my head enough times now, it's more a question of should I get over it; is it worth regaining that courage, crashing again & dealing with the cumulative effects of yet another head injury. It's different for me since sport is not my livelihood. But even if it was, I think we all have more to contribute to this world than to give our lives riding a bike. Everyone I've met and admired in this community over the few years I've really been plugged into it - it's so little about the riding the bike part.

Steve said...

Planted my face on a hard dirt section at a 'cross race last year. Concussion and my brain leaked a little (don't like to use the "H" word). Been racing road again but still not feeling warm and fuzzy about 'cross for this year (tho it's very early and there's time). I'm pretty sure that if I race 'cross this year that I will be picking and choosing my races and that I will generally be avoiding some of the races with "features" that put me on edge.

RMM said...

Steve/Plum:

Strangely, I am more freaked out by field sprints than by cyclocross races. In fact, I wasn't even thinking about cross when I wrote this.

SHopengarten said...

Adam/Rmm:

Alex Dossin was the guy who went down at Marblehead, broken jaw, recovering from what I understand.

Will be ok eventually.

Ian said...

I think the hardest thing to deal with physiologically is the graphic nature of bike injuries. I am not sure that we get hurt all that much more then other amateur athletes, but when we do it is sudden, violent and visible.

If you got 500 amateur guys, with many over the age of 30, out for a day long flag football or basketball tournament similar to a bike race I would guarantee that a significant number would blow out knees, shoulders or whatever, in ways that would eventually require surgery and rehab. But, when the injuries happen there is nothing to see, just someone limping or being helped off the field, it is only when they go to the ER later that they know what happened. I sometimes play in a weekly flag football game in the fall with some other weekend warriors and over the years there have been blown ACLs, dislocated shoulders and more hamstring problems then I can remember, but no one thinks of this as an unsafe activity.

Also, if you are competitive runner and do 50 miles a week the chances that you are going to get surgery eventually are near 100%, but there will never be a dramatic moment, just a slow increase in pain over months or years.

Michael said...

Ian,

Good Points. I am glad that you wrote what you did because all the crashing had me considering giving up bicycle racing and switching over to competitive badminton.

Cary said...

I am up to a long ride of 1:45 since the accident. Contrary to some of the comments, I kept thinking about how much safer CX is than road riding/racing while reading your post. Fear is interesting. After I broke my wrist and elbow at GMSR it took me 6 months on the bike to go 50mph down descents again, but it came back. Again now, I'm riding and not afraid, but also not fearless. Will it come back completely or are we all just getting old? For me it doesn't matter either way, I will always be comfortable doing what I do best on the 'cross course. Maybe this will be your chance to beat up on an out of shape Mantis in September...but I hope not!
BTW, you are riding well. Props. Hope you are excited to work for Donny. His watts blow yours (and mine) away.