Tag Archives: Bicycle racing

Nathan fall down and go boom

The day was January 19, 2012. It was two days until the first bike race of my life. I was excited. I was nervous. It occurs to me there’s a word for nervous-excited: anxious. The morning started like most others, with a bike ride, but it would not end like most others. Although since I’ve been riding more it’s certainly happening more. From the post title, it should be obvious by now that I fell on my bike. What separates this fall from others is the cause and severity.

It was 7:00 in the morning Thursday morning. The sun had not yet risen. My oatmeal breakfast was finished. I was dressed in my warmest cycling clothes and ready to go. I was simply waiting for enough sunlight so I wouldn’t have to bring my own artificial sources. It was exactly 7:10 when I started my journey. As I took off, I didn’t know where I was going. The previous night I had put on my criterium race cassette so several options were off the table. There would be no riding Mount Lemmon, nor would there be hill repeats, and because of the impending race I was only going to ride for about 3 or 4 hours at low power.

The first stop was at the University of Arizona where the race was being held. I rode the course several times to get a feel for it. I couldn’t take the corners at full speed because of the cars and traffic laws, but I left feeling much better about my chances. I took off from UA to the south thinking I’d take a 3:30 loop down towards Green Valley. Just as I was about to turn off, I decided to abort that mission because I didn’t have the right gearing for it and just ride out to Pistol Hill.

Pistol Hill is southwest of Tucson. Riding from my home, it’s about a 3 hour ride round-trip. Adding the approximately half hour for scouting, it’d be perfect. As I continued down Broadway, I was satisfied with my choice of routes. What I wasn’t satisfied with was my performance. I was sluggish. My quads were still sore from the ride the previous day. It was a great ride: I rode 90 miles with over 8000 feet of elevation gain doing what I call Mount Lemmon repeats. That’s right, I rode a little under 4000 feet up the mountain, turned and came down, then went up again. I thought of doing it three times, but it was a great workout doing only two repeats.

I made the turn from Broadway onto Old Spanish Trail. The traffic is lighter here. I decide that I’ll do a few sprints. About 5 or 6 efforts of 10-15 seconds long. As I passed the last stop light, I started the warm-up. Up until then, even though I had been riding over an hour, was just the warm-up for the warm-up. I up shifted a few gears, keeping the same cadence, and felt the life coming back to my legs. I was going approximately 20 miles per hour up a false flat of about 2% gradient.

The sight of a golden trunk waiting.
The smell of the engine coming to life.
The feel of the bumper caressing my right leg.
The sound of bike tires skidding over gravel.
The taste of adrenaline in my mouth.

broken left arm xray

The fracture is quite visible to even a non-expert.

As I passed through the intersection of Old Spanish Trail and Pedregal Drive, a mid-sized pickup truck was attempting to make the left turn from Pedregal onto Old Spanish. As per usual, I give the driver what I thought was ample room so that if he started to pull out I’d have enough time to get out of the way. I miscalculated how fast he was going to pull out. Luckily for me, he saw me at the last second and slammed on the brakes. My right leg made contact with the bumper and my right arm with the hood.

I managed to stay upright for a second or two, but ultimately hit the pavement. The result was a broken left olecranon of the ulna. Initially, I felt no pain on my right side, the side where the truck impacted me, at all. After a week, and now a few days off pain medication, I can feel where I was stuck in the leg. There was no bruising or anything on the right side at all, just where I hit the ground. And on the exterior, all I had was minor road rash.

I haven’t been on the bike in over a week now and can’t wait to start riding again. I see an orthopedic specialist on Wednesday to see if I need a cast or surgery. The emergency room doctor said I would almost certainly need a cast once the swelling went down and maybe need surgery because it seemed to him that it was slightly displaced.

So I’m a little bummed, but I have three good reasons: I was hit by a truck, I broke my arm, and I missed my first bike race.

I’ll feel a lot better when I can get back on the bike. Until then, keep on riding.

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