My elbow after the crash. I thought this was the worst damage.

My elbow after the crash. I thought this was the worst damage,

Small Crash Big Effect

I had gone around the curve at least a hundred times. It’s the best part of my regular evening ride – a left hand 90-degree bend that launches into a nearly mile-long downhill. Leaning the bike over and rocketing through the turn had always been sheer joy. Until the front tire found an unseen pile of gravel.

I was on the ground faster than you can say Waterford – the 23-year old steel bike I was riding in late September of last year. It was dusk, maybe a little later. As I approached the turn I saw car headlights approaching from the other direction. There was no doubt the car and I would arrive at the turn at the same time – something that rarely happened on this rural road. I sighed, realizing I would have to give up my aggressive approach and just get around the bend.

The light on my bike is a good one – more than enough to see the road in front of me – but not as bright as the car’s headlights. As I slowed and veered to the right to give the vehicle room, I was blinded for just a moment by the headlights. The front wheel found an unseen patch of gravel and washed out. Something about the angle drove my body straight into the pavement.

It might have been better if I slid for a bit instead of augering my shoulder into the pavement. Yes, I would have had road rash – but as I write this seven months later, I’m sure it would have been better.

My first thought was broken collarbone. Nope. All good. Lots of blood and road rash on my elbow, and the most amazing pain in my left hip. As far as I know, my head did not hit the pavement. My helmet was in good shape.

My trusty Waterford Bicycle

My trusty Waterford bicycle

As it turned out, there were actually TWO cars coming. The one that “caused” the crash drove on, but the second vehicle stopped. A nice, elderly lady offered to call for help. In fact she seemed insistent. Although a bit dazed, I determined that both the bike and I would be able complete the 6 miles back to the YMCA where I could shower and return to work – which I did. (You may know that I’m a TV news anchor, and I do the 11 pm news. This ride is my regular jaunt between the 6 pm and 11 pm newscasts.)

The newscast went on without incident and my co-workers were barely aware of my incident. Yet now, I am still suffering the effects. It makes me wonder how pro racers suffer the amazing crashes we see on NBC Sports Channel and come back in a few weeks or even continue the very next day in the various tours and classics.

X-rays showed no broken bones in my hip – which, after a few days was clearly the most damaged body part. Touching the bruised area or attempting to sleep on my left side sent white-hot searing pain though my body. Easily nine on a scale of ten. Yet the doctors said it would just “take time.”

The crash was on September 25. As I write this in early April, the weather is warming and the sun is setting later and later. It’s almost time to resume that evening 20-miler. The road rash on the elbow is long gone. The sore shoulder is healed, but there is still a spot about the size of a quarter on my hip, which if touched can send that pain coursing through my body.

I only rode sparingly through the fall. The winter months were reserved for the trainer.  Sadly we have had a snowy and cold spring here in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. But it’s time to start riding outdoors again. I’m anxious to resume my beloved warm-weather routine on that route. That means it’s time to face that curve again.

Will I take the aggressive angle I enjoyed for years? Or, will I sit up and search constantly for the mysterious pile of gravel? Will sitting up be enough or will I only find enjoyment from the thrill of pushing it in the turn?

Strava's look at my nightly ride in summer. A nice 20 miler.

Strava’s look at my nightly ride in summer. A nice 20 miler.

In the months since the crash our first grandson was born.  Our youngest son was married in a beautiful ceremony.  Things that are REALLY important in life have happened and dominated daily living.  Yet,  thoughts from the crash invade my mind almost daily.  Another crash like that could ruin an entire season of riding. Yet, what is the value of riding but not enjoying?  Isn’t there that constant question about being alive but not really living?

So many questions. So many months of mind-games and reliving that instant. A relatively small crash compared to what others have suffered, with cars, scraped wheels in the group or other unfathomable bicycle misfortune.  Maybe I should consider myself lucky.

I guess it’s time to get out of my own head and back on the bike.

John doesn’t crash very often — but the last time he wrote about it was epic.  Click here to read about the failure of his Ultegra Crank that sent him flying with the pedal still attached to his shoe.