I had a nice first half of a three hour ride at Patapsco with Jon and Trevor, Timmy, James and Chris. Everything went pretty much to schedule until about the halfway point - I cruised pretty nice on downhills, worked decently up the non- and semi-technical uphills, and hike-a-biked up the really technical upward stuff. Unfortunately, I was undone by a hidden stump in a really easy part of the course, and that's where the ride writeup really starts.
We were tooling along at pretty high speed down a flat, smooth section of trail near Rockburn Elementary, off Landing Road I believe. I was keeping on Jon's wheel - he's a good guy to follow - and we went over a little whoop. Jon seemed unsettled but I didn't really think anything of it and seconds later, *after* going over the whoop and keeping my wheels on the ground, I was airborne. Turns out there was a 3" high, 3" wide stump right in the middle of this long sidewalk-smooth section of trail. It was really hard to see from the direction we were traveling, and when I hit it the front wheel went sideways quite unexpectedly, and I went airborne. Unfortunately for me, the stump was located on a slight turn, so a 6" diameter maple was able to jump in my path like Willie Mays catching a long fly ball, and snag me.
Thinking quickly, I decided to run into the tree face first, and then to slam my collarbone into the trunk as hard as possible, after which I would use my remaining momentum to knee the maple with all my might.
Okay fine, I didn't decide to do that stuff, momentum caused me to do all that, and do all that I did.
Apparently I made a pretty good noise when I hit, a combination of flesh-hitting-wood noise, and a collossal "oooomppppphhh."
It hurt about as bad as a really, really bad hit in rugby, the kind where you don't play for three weeks afterward just because you aren't right. I wasn't knocked out but the sickening sound of face-on-maple violence told me I had come pretty close.
The first thought through my mind was, "Dear God, I can't move my arm, not the collarbone, not the collarbone." So prevalent are broken collarbones among cyclists, and so destructive of one's season, that I was hoping and praying it would be a separated or dislocated shoulder instead. Maybe my values and logic skills aren't all they should be.
I was really stunned but popped right up. I wanted a standing 8 count, and didn't want the referee to come over and declare a TKO. I coulda been a contender, you know. I was pretty much out on my feet right then.
Everybody looped back, it was pretty clear I was hurtin' real bad, and I asked for a minute, noting that the bike seemed to be just fine. I went and walked back up the trail a ways and then walked back. I just wanted to be alone for a second, so I could really savor the agonizing pain in my back and arm. My face hurt and I wiped it with my glove, taking away a glovefull of blood. Nice. After that I came back, sat down in the leaves and tried to breathe. My mind was racing a wee bit due to the hurtin' and my back knotted up so I asked for somebody to step on it, or alternately to rub it. Trevor manned up, hopefully not in a Village People sort of way, and worked the spasm out of my upper back, on the shoulder blade, so I could get my right arm functioning a little bit. Doesn't appear to have broken the collarbone, the shoulder probably just tucked under me, and some upper back muscles probably tore or got severely strained.
After a bit of rubby rub (which Jon naturally videotaped, making me and Trevor look totally like teh affectionate ghey couple, based on the laughter), they asked if I could ride.
Sure! Why not. So we rode for 5 or 10 more minutes. I wasn't feeling very good at that point, no upper back power on the right side, couldn't heave up on the bars or brake real hard, couldn't keep a good grip. So when we stopped and they asked how I felt, and noted that Chris Nystrom would probably be cool with housing me while some guys rode for the cars, I opted for that. Basically I'm sure I could have ridden Rosaryville or some other non-technical course for another hour, but two climbs was out of the question.
So Chris and his lovely wife Mel vectored us in on the Nystrom Headquarters, and after a ten minute ride that only sucked moderately, they plied us with great coffee, water, Vitamin M [otrin], and ice. Mel said one of the funniest things I've heard in a long time, handing me a paper towel to damp up my knee and telling me very firmly, "There's NO bleeding in this house." I think she really meant it and the knee took heed, and stopped bleeding immediately.
After 45 minutes or an hour John and Timmy came back with cars and we left from there.
I have a couple takeaways from this. One is that you have to really be alert and expect to get bitten in the ass at the worst possible time on the MTB. I had a great flow going, we were moving fast - speeds probably approaching roadbike moderate-to-fast - and I was in a sort of relaxed zen state when it all went down. Maybe I needed to be a little more on edge, just a little tighter. I know one thing I certainly screwed up is I was only looking 20-30 feet ahead, and not following my usual far/close/far scanning pattern.
Another is that I ride with a good bunch of guys. They've always been patient with my fat, slowly-getting-faster butt, and there was no griping about having to cut the ride short (particularly from Trevor and James who did lose some ride time to take me down the bailout trail). Though this is the first time I've ridden with Chris other than in races I can't say enough good things about his role in the bailout.
The final butcher's bill is grim, but not terrible. My helmet has cracked foam on the inside - guess that's going in the garbage, thank goodness it is my sucky "B" helmet rather than my sucky "A" helmet. My ear and right cheek are cut up and bruised, about as bad as if I was punched really hard by a guy my own size. Some back muscles over my right shoulder blade feel torn and the front of my shoulder is bruised. My right knee is cut and bruised, left knee has a big cut, shallow but an inch wide and 5 inches long, with a hematoma the size of half a ping pong ball and some scraping on the outside of the joint. The tights are wrecked, and the meaty part of my right hand is either badly bruised pretty deep, or maybe there's a tiny busted bone. My money is on the bruise, we'll know tomorrow if the pain subsides from sharp to dull that it's a bruise. I'm a little concussed, colors were a little too bright and I was a tiny bit light sensitive for a while, but I didn't get knocked out or have the crazy pupils problem or memory problem you get with a big concussion. There's a bit of an all-over sore feeling, like you would get after a hard, high speed roadracing crash. And the weirdest thing is my sense of smell is working really well right now. Normally it's out of commission due to my nose having been busted up really good a number of times, but sometimes when I get a good hard smack in the face, my sense of smell comes back for a visit for a few days.
Here's what it looks like when I decide to make love to a tree:
And here's the Bitter End:
Bottom line: while maples are a lovely romantic tree to look at while you are out in the woods, I do not recommend attempting to play high speed airborne kissy-face with them. They may look like they want you to hug them, but if my results are representative, they are *very* not into it.