It’s been a rather eventful month since the Grand Junction Off-road, a period that kicked off with me doing a pile-driver into the concrete-hard single track of Joe’s Ridge at 25mph.
It started out as a nice ride. I was excited to end the year’s endurance campaign – that culminated with a less-than-stellar finish at the Grand Junction Off-road – and get back to my “endurbro” roots. I was over-enjoying the combination of peak fitness and being reunited with my Pivot 429 Trail, that had been gathering dust while I put the miles in on my Mach 4 leading up to the GJOR, and I attacked the blue-groove single track at 18rd with a vengeance. It was two days after the race, which I would later come to find, thanks to reading Joe Friel’s Cyclist’s Training Bible, is specifically the most likely time to get injured. With my buddy Dan in tow, I set out on one of my favorite counter-clockwise loops in the North Fruita Desert: up Down Uppity, West on Chutes and Ladders, and over to the Joe’s/Mojoes duo (AKA Hojoes). I blazed up the first two segments of the route and turned it up to 11 on the way down Joe’s. Coming off the ridgeline to a sweeping right hand corner I felt the sickening sensation of both tires simultaneously losing traction. In an instant, I was down. I didn’t really slide, instead, I wadded into the trail: an instantaneous deceleration akin to pitching a raw meatball at a wall.
I was gasping for air for the better part of a minute and simultaneously wondering what kind of irreparable damage I’d just done. It was almost a year to the day that I’d separated my shoulder in Whistler on day one, run one of that trip. And here I was, 72 hours away from another trip to Whistler, all knackered up. With my breath restored, I did the usually “joint checking, shoulder rolling, pressing here and there,” self-physical to inspect the bodily harm. It wasn’t good; I knew I’d done my ribs in.
With assistance from several friends – who happened to be up there for our local CBB shop ride – I stridered my sad, disheveled bike down the trail and loaded up in a buddy’s truck. He brought me to the parking lot where Sparky was waiting, also ready to go home after her own unplanned get-off. With few words exchanged, we loaded up and started heading home. The bumpy, washboarded road made the ride nearly unbearable. Even worse was any cause of acceleration or deceleration: stop signs, turns, etc. As we got closer to town, it became harder and harder to breathe. A trip to the ER was no longer a wait and see affair.
A note on that. How much does it suck that when you’re, for lack of a better term, FUCKED-UP, that you have to think about how much a trip to the ER is gonna cost? I have insurance, but an ER trip is a costly endeavor anyway, and with belabored breathing involved, I knew at the very least that I’d be dropping a couple thousand bucks out of the blue. Fun!
I’ll spare you the details, but in a nutshell, I had a collapsed lung and broken rib (EDIT: I've come to find out I actually broke two ribs, very clearly, in an x-ray done today) – a really lovely, comfortable combination. Unequipped to handle a pneumothorax, the docs at our local Fruita ER facility had me ambulanced (is that a word?) to Grand Junction. I spent the next few days holed up in St. Mary’s hospital, subjected to repeated imaging to check the little air-bubble buddy that had taken residence in my torso. Those days were tough and very painful, even for this veteran of severe injuries.
A few more lazy days of bed rest and then I got back to work. After about ten days of inactivity I was jonesing to move, so I carefully boarded my road bike. Mounting, dismounting, getting out of the saddle, and turning weren’t so fun, but when I was riding in a straight line I was surprisingly comfortable. Not really “comfortable” but it was no worse than normal and was way better than how I felt after walking for very long.
In the following weeks I rode my skinny-tired steed more than I think I ever had before. I managed to clock about 150 miles a week for a few weeks, alternating between the rolling farm roads north of town and out to the Utah border and doing seated hill repeats up the Colorado National Monument.
About this time I also sought chiropractic help at the suggestion of my friend Dee Tidwell. I started having weekly sessions with John Blaha at Feel Good Fruita. These sessions definitely accelerated my recovery and gave sweet relief to my out-of-whack body. Additionally, he tamed an inflamed IT band that was giving me a helluva time and making the flexion of my right knee unbearable.
Just under four weeks from the accident, Sparky and I sought escape from the sky-rocketing temperatures and headed to Winter Park to visit my family and put in a nice block of training. I tested the water a little bit and did a little trail riding in the St. Louis Creek area, but despite no problems climbing the trail, the descent down Zoom triggered some un-ignorable soreness. I sent Sparky on her way; she was antsy to acclimate to altitude and get in some true mountain riding ahead of the Crested Butte Fat Tire 40 (at that point one week away). I explored some dirt roads around Fraser and jumped on the Fraser-Granby gravel bike path. Bummed that I couldn’t shred, I still had a blast just being on my trusty mountain bike again. The following day, I logged 50 miles on the road bike, riding from my parent’s home, through Granby, and part way up HWY 125. It was nice to be in the cooler mountain temps, but I can’t say I recommend riding on HWY 40. There were one-too-many closer-than-comfortable passes by RVs and boat-hauling trucks.
Last week, at about four and a half weeks out from my injury, I finally felt mostly back to normal and was able to comfortably ride trails again. Sparky and I hit up a Turkey Flats – a cool, green oasis at 9k’ just an hour away from GJ, one night after work. A couple days later I was off to Snowmass for work. While there I barely got off my bike, giddy to be back and even giddier to have a brand new Pivot Switchblade to acquaint myself with. By the last few lift runs of the weekend I can report that I felt almost back up to pre-accident speed and close to being at one with the new ride.
Tomorrow, Sparky and I head to the interior of BC for the Trans BC - a six-day backcountry enduro. We’ll try to post updates when we have internet access.