Ground up by gravel

I'm disappointed. I'm embarrassed. I'm super sore. But not necessarily in that order.

Some Friday postings take a bit of thought to come up with. However, today's offering literally slammed its way into existence pretty quickly.

It all has to do with my participation in last Saturday's Northwoods Gravel Grind. As most of you probably recall, I was looking forward to the annual Rangeley competition, pedaling my way over a rugged 50-mile course through the western mountains of Maine.

Yes, that's me in the emergency room.

It was a perfect day for racing against nearly 150 other cyclists, with temperatures in the 60s. Much of the ride felt familiar, with this being my second time in the event. There were short sections of paved roads, but mostly it was two-track, trail, and a ton of gravel. My pace was strong; I actually was having a great time and getting into a consistent rhythm. Until I hit the 22-mile mark. And hit is just what I did.

Despite wishing to not relive the horror of what transpired, I feel duty-bound to give you the whole enchilada.

Rounding a slightly uphill right-hand curve, I found myself atop a deep descent. While it would have been a piece of cake had it been pavement, such was not the case out in the middle of nowhere. Without even trying, I began picking up speed as I headed downhill. As it turned out, way too much. Suddenly, my body and my bike started to shake uncontrollably as I barreled into a series of chatter bumps. That, combined with loose gravel, spelled doom for this 68-year-old bicyclist. Before I could even exclaim, "Oh, shoot," I was getting up close and personal with a very hard road surface.

Wrapped around the frame of my cyclocross machine, I somersaulted down the rest of the hill without losing consciousness. Not knowing, at first, how badly I was hurt, I did realize one thing. My race was over.

After picking myself — and the bike — up, I assessed the damage. I noticed right away that I was dripping blood from several areas. As for my Specialized, the handlebars weren't straight and my chain was jammed. With no witnesses to my unfortunate folly, I attempted to fix my ride, knowing I was only a mile or so from a manned checkpoint. But the chain wouldn't budge; made more difficult because I only had the use of one hand.

A short time later, two other cyclists cruised by me and then quickly turned around — taking note of my grave situation. They tried their best with the stubborn chain, even removing the rear wheel, but without success. After making sure I was reasonably fine, they rode off and said they would alert the nearby volunteers to my predicament. And I began walking in the same direction ... with my broken bike. No way was I leaving it behind.

In relatively quick succession, I was taken by pickup to the checkpoint, examined and partially bandaged by a ski patrol dude, and driven by van four miles to the nearest "real" road and to the starting point of the race. An ambulance was waiting, but I refused treatment, deciding to take myself to the emergency department at the Farmington hospital — nearly 40 miles away. Ultimately, wanting to be closer to home, I ended up continuing on to the ER at MaineGeneral in Augusta. Once there, I was joined by my wife, which brought reassuring comfort.

So how messed up was I? One could easily conclude that my own self — and not my bike, thank goodness — took the brunt of the punishment. I have bruising everywhere, even in places you wouldn't think possible. Road rash is decorating most of my body, especially my knees. And, the coup de grace involves two fingers on my right hand. Both received stitches, as the tip of the middle one was nearly ripped off.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm disappointed because I didn't complete the race. Being off my bike for two-to-three weeks, I will miss the Maine Senior Games and Cadillac Challenge, which is another disappointment. I'm embarrassed because it happened and I should have been more mindful of the situation. And the super sore part? Obviously, that isn't much fun.

I'll just have to be more careful at next year's Northwoods Gravel Grind.

93 views2 comments