Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Head Bone’s (Still) Connected to the Collar Bone

They’re funny things, Accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.

I was thinking earlier this week how much I was looking forward to Ironman Canada. My favourite event ever: great swim, spectacular bike ride, relatively easy run and lots of enthusiastic spectators. And I was ready for it. With my biking in the best shape it has ever been and my running and swimming finally coming back after a long sabbatical I was all set to enjoy the race from beginning to end. Besides, after DNFs in my last two major races I could use a success; I could use a break, I remember thinking.

Be careful what you wish for, goes the saying.

This past weekend with the race three weeks out, I decided I might benefit from one last century ride, and I decided to do it on the Muskoka 70.3 course near Huntsville. It is terrain I know very well having driven on the highways all my life ( we have a cottage close by) and having done the Muskoka Chase many times. I parked my car at Robinson’s General Store In Dorset, about half way around the 78 km loop part of the course, intending to do the loop twice.

I was having my best ride in months. Sparkling cool, calm morning air, smooth road and a responsive bicycle. There are times when there is nowhere else I would rather be. Coming down a hill at a decent speed on South Portage Road, something – a pothole, rock, gremlin - grabbed the aerobars out of my hands. In a split second my bike shot into the soft sand at the side of the road, bucked wildly like an unbroken stallion and threw me over the handlebars onto the pavement. I hit with my chest, head and finally my knees, which acted as brakes, dragging along the road behind me until I skidded to a stop. I didn’t lose consciousness but was pretty frazzled.

My left shoulder had taken the brunt of my unscheduled aterrissage; the same shoulder that I injured in another fall two years ago. Now it throbbed and burned, sending streamers of pain through the rest of my body. Like most cyclists, naturally my first thought was for my bike: to get it off the road, where it lay impotently waiting to be run over by the next pickup truck that happened over the brow of the hill. If you had been watching from the sidelines you would have seen me staggering around like a drunken sailor kicking water bottles into the ditch and frantically dragging the frame of my P2 out of harm’s way, all the time voicing imprecations of outrage and pain.

As luck would have it, I was cartographically about as far away from my parked car as could be, and I had to pedal nearly 35 km to get back to it. The ride back was not the most fun I’ve ever had but was ultimately bearable. At Robinson’s I bought some ibuprofen. Walking across the parking lot to my car with road-burned legs and a deformed shoulder, clutching my box of Advil I must have looked pretty awful. Several people asked me if I was all right, and one very kind lady reached into her car and gave me a bottle of naturopathic pills to take with me. I was able to drive to Huntsville Memorial Hospital using all of my one good arm and the thumb from my bad one.

While I was waiting in Emergency the pain was present and insistent, but somehow not as bad as it had been two years ago with my separated shoulder. I fully expected that the doctor would smilingly tell me to take anti-inflammatories, ice the injury and it would all be OK in a few weeks. I began to feel badly for taking the time of the emergency room staff with my minor trauma. It came as a shock therefore when they informed me that my left clavicle was broken, (although after looking at the X-ray I agree with the diagnosis;  the two halves of my collarbone look like they are in different time zones). If I had been entertaining any hopeful thoughts of still being able race in Ironman, this was the end.

They gave me the CD with my X-ray on it, and I had to tell them what I was going to do with it, who I was going to show it to. What did they think I was going to do? Post it on my Blog?

So, for me the season is over: an enforced rest from swimming, biking, running and anything else athletic. Ironman is off the calendar for this year. I expect we will travel to Penticton anyway as the plane tickets and accommodations are all arranged. I can make it a vacation, cheer for the triathletes and take some time to consider the future.

As a postscript there is one point I want to make. I have always worn a helmet when I ride a bike – I wouldn’t feel dressed without it - and the tumble this weekend pointed up the value. There is a dent in the left side of my helmet where my head hit the pavement; this dent would have been in my skull if not for the helmet’s protection. As it is, my head doesn’t even have a mark on it – at least not one that wasn’t there before.

Anyone who rides a bicycle without a helmet does not deserve to own a head.