Podium & Pain: Karma or coincidence?

My wife is blaming it all on me trying to cram too much into a single week, but a lot of things happened this week for sure which may or may not have led to me getting injured yesterday at a bike race.

The week began with getting the 2011 taxes done and filed on Monday. The next day, a lot of faculty committee work came due from a committee I serve on and chair - Constitution and Nominating Committee. We had elections for a presidential search committee and needed to organize elections for 3 faculty committees to hold (the rest will be at the May meeting). I had also been working off and on since September to update wording in the By-Laws of the Simpson College Faculty Handbook to update words, clarify things and include vocabulary for our new curriculum. It took the final weekend to get it all worded correctly, organized and ready to go to present as a proposal. And I had to organize a trip to Texas for the coming week (book tickets, car, etc...).

In short - I was spent after combining all the student recitals, organizing the May Term Opera Scenes list, doing the taxes, getting the committee work done, bike racing/training, and getting my own underclassmen students ready for the spring studio recital. I was at a banquet on Wednesday night to be inducted as one of the faculty members into Epsilon Sigma along with a list of students and some alumni. When I walked out to my car in the music building parking lot, I found this...

Broken Light and scratches...

Somebody had clipped my right rear corner on the Element which broke the tail light and scratched the plastic panels. The student had left a message on my cell and he walked out of the music building to tell me. I appreciated that. I bought a new tail light and installed it Friday morning ($201). The plastic panels ordered and installed will total up to $507. So all in all, a $708 parking lot scratch on my my car. His car has a dent in it at as well. Friday morning was spent getting the tail light and estimates on the panel repair.

Throw in a banquet at my house on Thursday night for the Indianola Federated Music Club and the high school student scholarship winners, a fund raiser last weekend, and the Des Moines Metro Opera 40th Anniversary Ruby Ball on Friday night - I was probably tired and drained, but woke up on Saturday morning at 5:30 am after 6 hours of sleep to drive over to Omaha for Saturday's bike race...

This bike race was unique for the Pyscowpath Series in Nebraska. It was a stage race starting in the morning with a Time Trial at Lewis & Clark Monumnet Park in Council Bluffs where we all went off solo with gaps of 1 or 2 minutes between us to race one on one against the clock. After finishing, we packed everything up and went over to Tranquility Park in Omaha for the traditional Cross Country mountain bike race. Our times would be combined from the 2 races and you had to do both races to be able to win.

I got to Lewis & Clark about 50 minutes before my 9:02 time slot, registered, warmed-up, used the facilities and got dressed warmly (long bibs and arm warmers as it was chilly). I rode at a pace that pegged my heart rate high, but tried to keep from blowing up on all of the climbs in hopes my time would be respectable, but also leave me with some legs for the afternoon race at Tranquility. The dirt was in perfect condition, the trail was more than fun - it was incredible. I've got to get over there to ride as the climbs and descents are some of the best around. I ended up winning my age category at the TT by 1:30 which was a nice gap to have going into the XC race. I packed up, stopped at Jason's Deli for a turkey sandwich and headed over to Tranquility Park. I had time to kill, so I napped for an hour in the Element listening to Wagner live from the Met (Siegried).

After my nap, I used the facilities, got dressed in warmer gear (short bibs and sleeves), hydrated, got the bike ready and did some warm-up. Turnout for the race looked to be really good as temps in the low 60's with sunshine made for perfect racing conditions. There were about 7 of us there from the Des Moines area (Cam and Julie; Ryan and Cheryl, Jeff and Tom, and myself) that had made the drive over to Nebraska. They staggered the categories for the start and I took off in about the 5th group called "40 and over" (I'm over on the left side to set up for the first right turn.

40 and over CAT 2 Start

I tried to tuck in behind the youngsters in that group for the long flat opening section against the wind. The legs started to open up and feel better after the morning's efforts as we hit the climbs. We were told at the starting line that there was a turn 1/2 way through the lap that said Cat 3's were to go one way, and Cat 1's, 2's and Marathoners were to go another way. They said there would be a course marshall at that corner to help everyone out. I was leading a big group all bunched up and when we got to that sign, there was no course marshall and I had my head buried down cranking out the climb and missed the correct turn. Everyone else behind me went the other way and after about 200 yards, I figured out I had turned the wrong direction. So I turned around and rode back up the hill to the sign, read it and got on the right trail.

I had been leading my age category, but now the guy I had to beat - Jerry Hoff who beat me at the previous Nebraska race by 2:18 - was in front of me and out of sight. Even though I was up 1:30 on him after the morning's TT, my goal was to close that 2:18 gap from the previous race. I knew I had plenty of race left, so I went about beginning the process of making up for the lost time due to my mistake of going the wrong way.

The legs felt good and I kept pushing. I had the feeling that they were not going to give out on me which spurred me on to open it up. I passed a lot of people and was careful not to get stuck behind somebody where I have the tendency to settle in at a "comfortable pace". I made sure not to settle in behind anyone for more than a few turns this time around. The Tranquility trail is pretty wide open and not filled with all the tight turns and speed deflators of many singletrack courses. You can really let it all out on this course and after all the gravel road riding, bike path training - this fit my pain cave perfectly as I kept pushing and making my way back to the leader in my age category. I finally saw him at the end of lap 1 and realized, by my counting, he was about 30 or so seconds ahead of me. I kept pushing to close that gap and by the middle of lap 2, I was not far behind him at all. Maybe 10-15 seconds. I kept closing that gap and grunting out the short roller climbs...

Tranquilty Grunt Rollers

I turned on the final 1/2 lap pace where I lay it all on the line and push with whatever is left. I was also riding very smooth making no mistakes. At this point, I was about 5 seconds behind the leader and knew I had the race won because of my TT score. Still, I got greedy - and here was my mistake. I knew coming out of the final section of woods that we had lots of open and flat space for sprinting to the finish line. My legs felt good and I felt there was a good sustained sprint in there. Jerry was a just a few seconds ahead of me and as I rounded a right hand turn that went right over a jump (18" - 2' high), I made a tactical mistake of how to ride over that. I didn't slow enough to ride over it and absorb it, and I didn't lift the front wheel going over it to take it like a jump. I went over it with the kind of speed to jump it, but with the technique to absorb it. By the time I put the front wheel down, my rear wheel was way over my head and an endo (end over end) was in full bloom. I was going fast and this was going to hurt....

Head smacked, shoulder smacked, and in my flying through the air I noticed my bike way up in the air behind me about to crash down on top of me. Everything slid to a stop and it hurt like a SOB! I did a quick assessment. Everything could move. That was good and I am very fortunate. The wind was knocked out of me, my shoulder hurt like you wouldn't believe, and in spite of the severe head strike (broke my helmet), I did not feel concussed. No dizziness, no blurred vision, no headache, no confusion, no nausea (I've had plenty of concussions and usually know from mild to more severe). I had tucked and rolled and took the brunt of the hit on the right shoulder. I picked up the bike, straightened the handlebars and noticed the chain had fallen off. I got the chain back on and hopped on the bike. I was determined to win this dang thing. My seat post had somehow sunk in the crash, so I was sitting a few inches lower on the bike, but I ground out the final segment to the line and finished 54 seconds behind Jerry. And I was in pain. And I now felt my chipped teeth. I must have bitten them together when my head hit the ground and my front left tooth and the one below it are chipped and will require immediate repair. Right thigh really hurt, shoulder was screaming at me, etc... .

I got some help from one of the race directors and a nurse. They suggested X-Rays at Methodist Hospital as the nurse felt the shoulder, clavicle and ribs needed a picture. The shoulder did not appear to be separated and thankfully, there was nothing sticking up like a collarbone and the shoulders had symmetry. I was able to turn my head in full motion to the right and to the left - which was good. Discussion began on how I was going to get home. I said there were 3 other cars from Des Moines and extra drivers and I would talk to all of them about my predicament.

I managed to load up my bike, got changed into my shorts and a warmer shirt. The leg was bothering me the most as I'm pretty sure a deep bruise on the right thigh is what happened. There were a couple of contusions on my head, face and behind my left knee. The nurse cleaned all of that up for me.

I did manage to win the hard fought race and have all of the battle scars to prove it. My 1:30 time gap of the TT combined with my 54 second deficit at the XC race put me ahead by 36 seconds to win the day...

Top Podium Spot at Tranquility

The hardware...

Snagged 1st!!!

Psycowpath Medal front

Here is a short video that a rider, Karl Kenoyer, took during the Tranquility XC race and posted. You get a good idea of what the course was like and what it is like to pass during an XC race. This course was very open which made passing a lot easier than the usual XC race course. Plus he has a little endo crash which he caught on film. He follows me from about minute 3:34 in the video until he passes me at about minute mark 4:30 in this video (I'm in the Bike Iowa uniform):

By the time I got home, everything had stiffened up - especially my neck and my head. The neck is probably like a whiplash. It really hurts. The leg and shoulder were iced and I began taking Ibuprofen for inflammation. It hurts to swallow and yawn. Forget about laughing, coughing and singing without pain. Ouch. Getting in and out of bed, and the car is difficult. All in all - I am very fortunate and will heal up fine. The teeth need immediate attention as the chips are sharp and I don't want them to be damaged further.

Tara is very upset with me as this brings up all sorts of issues. Responsibility and the risk I am taking in racing bikes. I do crash from time to time, and she claims my crash was based on the busy week. I'm not so sure as I ride very smooth and within control, but I just made a tactical mistake near the end of the race - based more on greed of trying to actually sprint pass and win it outright that caused me to not make an accurate risk assessment of that particular bump. I have fallen before - and like all falls I will assess this one for a long time and try to learn from it for the future. Again, with regard to a head or neck injury - I feel very fortunate in the outcome of this crash. It could have been a lot worse under the same circumstance. The next few days of stiffness and healing will give me plenty of pause to think it all through..

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