Ironman Dispatch: Ker-SPLAT

I have christened my Ironman training with a bike crash!

Two Saturdays ago, I was riding on Route 9W, the road city cyclists can take from the George Washington Bridge all the way through New York State. My plan was far less ambitious. I was just riding from my apartment, up the West Side Highway, over the GW, and then enough out-and-back on 9W to total 55-60 miles.

The “out” portion took me past Piermont, through Grandview and almost to Nyack. As I was riding back, I came to a rare intersection with a stoplight. The light was red and no cars were coming. Two cars on my side of the road were stopped. I decided to slow down and pedal through.

Except there was a patch of gravel in the space between one car and the curb, and it was deep enough to cause my wheel to lose grip and spin out.

Like any fall, it was both immediate and endless. Before I knew it I was on the ground, and yet I had enough time to think, Oh no, I’m wobbling. Oh crap, I’m not going to make it through this. Here I go. I’m going down!

Splat.

I can’t remember how I got unclipped, or how my bike was positioned in relation to my body. All I know is that I leapt up and immediately grabbed my bike, afraid the cars would run me over with the (now green) light. One driver stared blankly at me; the other rolled down his window and asked if I was okay. I glanced down and found no major pain, bleeding, or broken bones, so I waved him off and they drove on while I pulled over to the grass to collect myself.

Heart pounding from the shock (and efforts to maintain a cool exterior after wiping out in front of strangers), I checked myself over first. There was road rash all over my left leg and right elbow, but otherwise not too bad. Then I looked down at my bike.

The front wheel was turned 90 degrees and the left handlebar was wedged UNDER the top tube.

I grabbed the tube and pushed on the handlebar edge. Nothing.

I set the bike against the stoplight pole and pushed some more. Nope.

The effort got progressively more Herculean. I tried with my feet, with my hands. It wouldn’t budge. I tried pulling on the top tube, just enough that it might flex and I could pop the handlebar with the other hand. Still nothing. I was panting, and now covered with sweat along with blood and gravel.

I remember hearing about some study that found that shouting curse words is a constructive release of emotion compared to other activities. Or maybe it was just Facebook clickbait. In any case, nobody was coming, so I laid into it. Like the dad in A Christmas Story, I wove a tapestry of obscenities that may still be hanging in space over the swamps of Jersey.

“PIECE OF SH{_}T!” Yank. “SON OF A LYING TOOTHLESS B{_}TCH!” Pull. “DON’T F[_}CK WITH ME, YOU PATHETIC PILE OF–” Struggle, heave, go cross-eyed.

Finally, with one foot on the top tube, both hands on the handlebars, and a resounding shout of “MOTHERF{_____}CKER!!!!” I pried it free.

I let out one more exultant “F{_}CK!” for good measure. Just in time, as a cyclist came whizzing through three seconds later.

Now it was just a matter of getting home. I had another 13 miles or so until I reached Manhattan, and any train that could return me to my doorstep. I wheeled my bike back on to 9W and hopped on. The handlebars were still crooked.

Glancing around to make sure no cars were coming, I took off and started to pedal. Hmmm….gears turning smoothly. Wheel is okay. I can still steer even though the handlebars are off. Can I make it?

An hour or so later I did, just with a killer shoulder ache from my crooked stance. I texted my beau to request a shower beer and a pat on the head for the return home, and descended to the A train for the 90 minute ride home.

“How long was the ride?” a stranger asked me as I was eating my last Honey Stinger waffle.

“Fifty-five miles.”

“What?!” he gasped. “That’s crazy! I only go, like, ten or fifteen! Fifty-five? You’re nuts.”

I just nodded. “I know.”

Sadly, my blood sugar was atrocious post-ride….something around 256 once I got back. I ate that waffle on the train without bolusing, which was dumb because often BG will spike after endurance events (because the body is still spitting out glucose etc. for muscle uptake, even though activity has stopped). Plus, the physiological stress of skidding across the road and wrestling with my bike couldn’t have helped. So close to a shower beer, and yet so far! (Spoiler alert: I drank it anyway. Bad diabetic.)

It’s far from the worse bike crash I’ve ever had, but it certainly wasn’t fun. That said, I knew it was coming, and many other triathletes on Facebook echoed that sentiment. Up next: tipping over because I can’t unclip in time. And butt chafing. I still have those two things to look forward to. Until now, I have some more scars to add to the collection!

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I am training for Ironman Wisconsin as part of team Riding on Insulin. This terrific nonprofit runs diabetes camps for children and adults alike, providing both practical experience and hope. I’d love it if you supported my fundraising efforts here: https://www.classy.org/fundraise?fcid=350567

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4 thoughts on “Ironman Dispatch: Ker-SPLAT

  1. Yikes! At least you didn’t break your glasses. I can totally relate to trying to keep cool in front of strangers I just wiped out in front of.

    Oh, and a couple of years ago, I changed out my racing seat for a regular, old, padded seat. My butt thanks me every time I ride, and it hasn’t slowed me down much.

  2. Ouch!
    Do rest assured, it is an empirical finding that swearing is not only a constructive release of emotions, but helps ease physical pain. You got that part right!

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