The last time I raced was in Chantilly, VA over a month ago. Being relatively close to where I live, I was able to drag my girlfriend there to watch me race for the first time. My parents were also able to make it, and I was excited to be able to ride my hardest for them all.
With decent training leading up to it and a good warmup before the start line, my legs felt good. From the start I was cautious of my efforts, but not afraid to follow moves I felt were important. If I wasn't at the front of the peloton or slightly off the front nursing a move, I kept toward the outside of the field. Experience with a Cat 4 field has this solidified in my racing style. Yet, as good as I felt, as cautious as I was being, nothing could be done to save me from experiencing the worst crash of my career.
|THIS is why a cyclist shaves his legs.|
In an uncontrollable moment my front wheel is pushed to my left beyond my balance by the rider in front of me while my rear is held in place by the rider behind - an unnatural twisting force that grapples my front wheel to dip to the left. My left hand lifts from its grasp of comfort and is extended in a frozen purgatory. My eyes scan between each pinpoint of information my mind is absorbing in its hyperactive state. I hear a my voice waver a panicked yell as I realize my painful fate is near . As far to the left of the field as I was, another rider is at a glance in my left peripheral and the instant I have to stabilize is now far gone. My only option is to brace for black impact.
I hit. My body groans again as the solid pavement I have just slammed into begins to rip and grind away my left side. I know that the best way for me to lessen the damage to my already fraying skin is to be released from my locked footing to my bicycle and roll. Immediately my left foot is released from under my bike by someone's own ill-fated position behind me having run over my bike. My eyes are sealed and after one roll I feel a stunning 1-2 jab to my right ribs and upper arm. These impacts revive another groan from my worsening condition and I roll over and over again to allow the mauling pavement to decide where I stop.
I am stranded - alone. I lie there writhing in sudden pain and panic while the adrenaline quickly numbs my senses to help me cope. My eyes open and although my agonized groaning has not stopped, my only other response to the panic I am feeling is to raise my head and slam it back down on the pavement that did this to me over and over - the adrenaline needs to work faster. My eyes close and open once more and my right hand gently presses against the tender ribs that were just run over by someone not unlike myself.
"How can I help you?" My groaning stops. I am not alone. From my left another sorry racer that has just ridden over me asks again, "What can I do?" I look up and reassure his panicked inquiry that there is nothing he can do for me. I blink and now see other riders sprawled out past him that have gone down with me - because of me. I close my eyes and slam my head back once more.
My breathing is sharp now and the first sensation of feeling I regain is a flap of skin that has folded off my right thumb that has just brushed the jersey on my side. I place my thumb into my mouth and bite off the skin and spit it out. This is no time for remorse. I know I have to now asses the damages and limit my losses. The pressure on my ribs rises to a crescendo and I groan once more. The other riders are regaining their bearings and are remounting their bikes to rejoin the circuit race before the field passes us once more.
I now realize two things. First, there is blood. Second, I feel no pain except the pressure on my side - my ribs are bruised but not broken. I sense the open skin on the side of my hip, left leg, knee and ankle, right hip and shoulder, forearms, knuckles, and fingers, but no pain.
I finally get up and pick my bike off the ground. I run the pedals through a stroke or two to make sure I did not lose more than what I can repair; myself. I know that I cannot continue the race and I begin my walk back along the outside of the race course to the start/finish. In my state of shock reluctantly accept a free ride back with a race medic. When he and I get back I see my girlfriend still watching the race as if I was still in it. My parents too... They all thought they must have just missed me passing by during the past few laps.
Their eyes scan the damage and I am profoundly grateful they are there to take my car and me home, and that I was not 4 hours away from home with only myself to drive. My girlfriend drove me as the adrenaline was wearing off and the pressures and pains began to creep into my consciousness. We search for proper bandages and make it back to my home with french bread pizza waiting for us.
|Bike and blood rag retrieved a few days later.|
After a week of training for a new position at work and another week helping open a new store I am able to ride again. The healing process was often painful, but it's over now.
Today, my knuckles and other skin have sealed and healed. My riding, subject to the schedule I now am without, is sporadic and hardly something I can call training. But I still get out and ride when I can. And that gives me hope that I can still realize dreams I have about this cycling thing.
(instagram: @johnnybrison) Thanks for reading.
Also, the guy that I watched win the race... I've beaten him before in sprints and I could have beaten him again. Next time.