Monday, February 22, 2016

Another week of gloom 'n doom

This has become my least favorite week of the year — the week before we embark on our annual "big trip" in Alaska, whatever that may be. It's the week that encompasses the largest percentage of tedious packing, useless fretting, obsessive weather-checking, last-minute gear changes, and hefty helpings of moodiness. It's the week of spooning peanut butter into plastic baggies and packaging high-calorie trail mixes until I'm sick of everything— even though I haven't eaten any of it. It's the week of hoisting heavy boxes to the post office, quietly almost hoping I never see them again. I lay in bed at night and think, "this is one of my last nights in a warm bed for a while; I should enjoy this," but instead stare blankly at the ceiling, looping through mental checklists that would drive me mad if they weren't broken by bolts of dread.

Then morning comes, with rich California sunlight saturating another 65-degree day, and I've lost all interest in going outside. I tell myself I'm tapering, but really what I want to do is curl up in my 50-below sleeping bag on the floor of my apartment and close my eyes until this week goes away. Nervousness ferments in my stomach like bad vinegar, and I choke up at strange times. Today, after reaching into a drawer to grab socks, I randomly fished out a fuzzy pair that my mom sent to me while I was recovering from frostbite seven years ago. The emotion well burst open and I started to tear up over ... what? Warm socks? I want my mommy? There really was no reason, but I settled on pre-emptive yearning over the comforts we all must leave behind whenever we step out into the big, cold world.

On Saturday I loaded up my bike for what I figured would be the last shakedown ride. We hit the trails at Fremont Older, which this time of year are a strange combination of sticky, horse-stomped mud, gravel, and concrete-hard clay. As the bike bounced along, its strap-mounted front rack — which Beat planned to reinforce with epoxy but hadn't yet — slowly slipped downward. This was all happening beneath an enormous red bundle, and I didn't realize anything was amiss until I was descending the Seven Springs trail at high speed, where the rack nudged that millimeter too far and slammed into the front tire. The wheel stopped dead and the bike spun into a full cartwheel, pile-driving my body into the trail. It was one of those instances where I felt the G-force and saw the wall of dirt rapidly approaching my face, and had that split second to think that one thought that is always, "This will hurt a lot." At the very last millisecond I must have tucked, because I landed on my right shoulder, felt the bike drive into my right leg, and ended up on my back with the bike more or less on top of me. The impact knocked the wind out of me, and I laid there for a few seconds gasping until I could see something besides streaks of white on black.

My shoulder hurt fiercely, and my first thought was that I'd probably broken my collarbone or a similarly important bone. My second thought was that I needed to get off the trail fast, because I'd just gone around a blind corner, and another cyclist was sure to come and run me over soon. I managed to sit up and pull my bike off the trail, and after a few more minutes of shameless groaning, decided I could stand. Twilight was rapidly approaching and I didn't have lights, so I bungeed the bivy bundle to the rear rack and repositioned the empty front rack as best as I could, although I was terrified it was going to come down on the wheel again. I chose a quick exit from the park that was farther from home but only required a mile of dirt riding. Every bump sent sharp pain through my shoulder, and I couldn't steer well. I summoned all my strength to squeeze the brakes down a steep fire road, and once I'd reached the relative safety of pavement, I let the waterworks flow. If I'm going to tear up over socks this week, I'm certainly going to indulge in a good cry over my worst bike crash in years. But as I limped home, I realized that it wasn't so bad. I was, incredibly, uninjured. Sure, there were some painful scrapes and bruises, and I was sure to be sore tomorrow, but that was probably the worst of it.

The rack has now been thrice-reinforced, the bike has been polished and packed into a box, and I've been limping along, feeling like I've been in a car accident, but healing. On Sunday my shoulder actually felt quite a bit better; most pain migrated outward into my torso and neck. The helmet isn't cracked and I don't think I hit my head all that hard, but I did sustain some whiplash. My right leg is a patchwork of bruises and there's some road rash on my leg and arm. I'm far from thrilled about feeling this creaky one week out from a major endurance effort for which I already doubt my strength and fitness, but I feel lucky. I've had plenty of bumps and scrapes on my bike over the years, and an embarrassingly large number of running/hiking crashes — two that resulted in ligament tears. But I haven't experienced impact at speed like that in nearly five years. The last time it happened, my elbow ripped wide open, and it took months to recover from that injury. No, I got off very easy here. Perhaps it's fate, that after all this wheezing and crying and crashing, I'm still healthy enough to start the Iditarod this coming Sunday.

At least, so far. 

18 comments:

  1. I crash at speed all the time. I once braked inappropriately and swerved at high speed right into a cholla cactus. I got (sort of) lucky: basically only a hurt knee, and face/arms/legs full of brittle cactus spines. It's a small price to pay for the adventures though.

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    1. Ugh, I disagree. Crashing is the worst. Although I'm really not a gravity sports enthusiast. I mostly tolerate the downhill part of cycling; I live for the climbs. :)

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  2. Anonymous8:10 AM

    Here's some videos from 45.4214° N its -25oC up here today, with tomorrow expected to be 4oC with 10mm of rain then 15cm of snow as the temperature drops down to -15oC again. Tough winter, lots of rain, snow, warm then really really cold.

    gatineau park pink lake stairs - https://youtu.be/-SNfJz8L-MU
    pink lake good fast downhill pure ice and fast- https://youtu.be/1fAy8hjISoc
    part of pink lake trail - https://youtu.be/CeHG8KKVGQk
    snowshoe trail - https://youtu.be/g78tD3IyQ9E
    snowshoe trail - https://youtu.be/PGayKqct2xU
    snowshoe good fast run https://youtu.be/4MGKM1kVFRk

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  3. Ouch! Damn, Jill, you really know how to put an exclamation mark on your tapering! A silver lining: You found out about the rack before you were on the ITI.

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    1. That's true. It was a hard lesson that I think might have hurt less in Alaska, though. :P

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  4. Good luck Jill: you are quite an amazonian! Remember you now have a comfortable mountain home you can recoup in when you return from Alaska: hopefully without frostbite.

    gfh

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    1. I know. When I'm stressed the way I am this week, I daydream about just skipping Alaska and going straight to Boulder.

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  5. Good luck Jill and Beat! I'm sure it will be an adventure, no matter the conditions. On to Nome!!!

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    1. That goes without saying! I was thinking about it today, and it would be interesting if the route to McGrath was massively snowed in, and it became another 2009 or 2012-like push fest. It would be a huge challenge and learning experience for another year when I might actually be ready to go on to Nome. ;-)

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  6. What happens to the boxes you never see again?

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    1. In my experience with some of Beat's missed boxes, about 60 percent are returned to sender. Some of them show up months later. I suspect the ones that aren't returned are either thrown in the trash or opened and distributed to others. Either way, each one is about $30-$40 worth of groceries with $18 shipping, so in the scheme of this stuff, it's not a huge investment.

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  7. Very scary accident! I also don't trust the Thule straps completely but never used it on the fork. Hope you heal soon - icing is the preferred method in Alaska ;) don't they have convenience stores with peanut butter cups and gummy bears along the Iditarod highway? Best luck to both of you!

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    1. Thanks! There are village stores, but convenience foods cost 3 to 5 times what they do in California.

      Last year in Shaktoolik I was almost entirely out of food, and the village store shelves were bare. A bunch of mushers bought up absolutely all of the candy bars, cookies, and chips, but I was able to make do with a few random things such as ramen noodles, long-expired root beer, very strange tasting mini-muffins, a surprisingly fresh and $4 orange, and these cups of instant mac n cheese. The mac 'n cheese holds especially fond memories. If I see them again, I will buy them in a heartbeat.

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  8. OMG! You did a huge "face-plant" pile-drive crash a week before your HUMONGOUS ride! SO very glad you're ok...wow were you LUCKY! I echo what Eric said (about finding the problem here rather during the ITI). Even tho it may have hurt less up there, you'd then be trying to fix it out in the field with limited resources (and quite possibly extreme cold, when you need to keep your hands covered). Be safe up there (both you and Beat) and know you'll have a LOT of SPOT followers! Good luck to the both of you...(this isn't movie biz, so I WON'T say "break a leg"). That you're doing this (again!) still blows my mind! You are BOTH such animals!!! Go kick Alaska's butt!!

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  9. Phew, talk about dodging a bullet.

    I don't think too much before the coming impact, so for me falls (usually while running) are about waiting out that first shock of pain to see what the damage is going to be. I hate that feeling -- not the pain, but the wondering if/how long I'm not going to be able to have more fun!

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  10. Anonymous1:09 AM

    Oh crikey, I'm glad you're ok or at least it wasn't worse. Good luck too you both for the Iditarod.

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  11. Anonymous9:33 AM

    FYI - There is no doubt when you break your collarbone. The pain is one of the most intense pains I've ever experienced. The Tour de France cyclists who scream in pain when they have a bad crash and break their collarbone are for real. I'm very glad you didn't break yours - I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Good luck.

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  12. Look on the bright side...sounds like you're getting better at crashing ;)

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