Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Crashed Helmet

I started this blog while I was on a layoff from biking due to a bad crash at PIR where I landed on my head and suffered a hip hematoma the size of a volleyball. 21 days off the bike and I was playing catchup fitness-wise for the rest of the year.

Now, I write again after crashing at PIR again. This time I landed on my shoulder, not my head, so I actually remember the series of events in full color. Basically, long story short, I was in the Monday PIR 1/2/3 masters field two mondays ago and on the final lap, some guys got excited on the backstretch and all shifted left towards the paralleling concrete wall separating the course from the infield. I happened to be next to the wall; everyone wanted to be where I was, and one guy got a little too excited and came down on me and put me into the wall.

Getting up off the ground, I immediately noticed my left pinky finger was screwed up. Turns out that I must have caught it in the fence topping the wall. I had what is called a boutonniere deformity when a tendon across the top of the middle finger segment is ruptured. Other injuries include a sprained shoulder, several patches of road rash, and what looked like a sever cut in the webbing between my left pinky and ring finger from the fence. A teammate and another rider in the field who happened to be an ER doctor (I found out later that this person was no less than OBRA's very own Mike Murray; thanks!) helped me back to the start/finish to get cleaned up.

Anyway, now I am recovering and back on my bike, but this incident makes me think a bit about risk and why I am in this sport in the first place. It makes no rational sense to keep with a sport where I keep on getting injured. I risk my work and I risk my health. All this BS crap about how I am keeping my weight down and keeping healthy and physically fit is just that: crap. It's a rationalization. As my boss pointed out when I showed up on Tuesday all bandaged up, I can just as easily keep fit by going to the gym, or just riding to ride.

So why do I keep racing? There really is an answer, but it's not a rational answer and I have trouble putting it into words. It is similar to the reason why I ride in the first place.

Some people ride because they are looking for something. They are looking for a fun way to exercise. They are looking for a vacation from their brain. They are looking for an experience. But I don't work that way. 

Exercise, to me, is a chore, anyway you put it, on the bike or off. I can take a vacation from my brain by reading a book in a coffee shop much more effectively than all the rigamarole that goes with cycling. I can get "an experience" by going for a walk. And I do all that on many an occasion for those very reasons. These are all rational reasons to ride a bike, and I can't say I adopt any of them. I ride and race now, and I have always ridden because I love to ride. It is an unconditional and unrational love. I don't love it because it makes me fit, though it's a benefit. I don't love it because of what it does to my mental state. I just love it. It's just as unrational as the love I have for my wife.

It's not so much about the big things, about the big epic rides or the big risks and rewards in a race.

It's about the little things.

A gray sky and sputtering drizzle with a backpack on. Swooping through a sharp corner. The brief flash of the finish line at 40mph. Squeezing water out of your gloves. Sitting on a stationary, spinning wheel, 4 inches away from yours. Coffee and conversation with teammates. Looking at the sharp lines of your road bike sitting in the garage. The steady grinding rhythm of your body up a long hill.

When I crash, there is a period of time where I am desolate. Pain, bandages, limitations in my movements. Showers and basic hygiene are a bitch. Equipment has to be repaired or replaced. But never is there a time when I think of giving up this sport. It's irrational, of course. Don't know why.