It has been nearly two weeks since my big crash in the Northwoods Gravel Grind. My scabs are getting smaller. My bruises are slowly fading away. And the stitches in my two fingers are coming out today. Still no riding on a real bicycle, but I have pedaled my Schwinn stationary machine every day. While it's no fun tearing off one's skin in the middle of nowhere, it wasn't a total washout.
I've always said one of the benefits of riding a bike is having the opportunity to make friends. And that was definitely one of the brighter moments for me at the Rangeley race.
Working at the bike shop facilitated a connection with someone also planning to participate in the annual event. I ended up phoning this stranger, we chatted a bit, and then we agreed to meet at the starting point. Part of the conversation — because we had never ridden together — involved wishing not to hold each other up in our drive for the finish line.
As arranged, I met Colin the next morning, along with his wife and two dogs. Being relatively new to the sport of cycling, he sought my advice on a few topics. But my main message was to just enjoy the day and have fun.
So off we went with nearly 150 other cyclists, Colin and I learning more about each other as we cruised along the trails and gravel roads, slicing our way through the forested terrain of western Maine. However, sticking to our pledge not to impede the other's progress, I was soon left in the wake of this speedster from Mount Vernon. And that was OK. After all, I reasoned, Colin was 24 years my junior.
Not knowing about my unfortunate spill, he called later to find out how I'd done. Reaching me during my long stay at the emergency room, I recounted all the sorry details.
Anyway, Colin and I have been in touch quite often since that day. And yes, the accident was a huge pain ... literally speaking. But I have a new friend, who happens to enjoy riding a bike, and I'm looking forward to going on another pedal or two with him.
It's obvious that I didn't complete the Northwoods Gravel Grind. The "official" race results tell a different story.
A few days after the event, those who participated received — by way of email — standings in all the various divisions. There were 16 competitors in the 50-mile Co-Ed Fondo ride, the category I selected. Two riders took top honors, with the identical time of three hours and 30 minutes. Just two seconds behind, capturing third place, was Patrick Gabrion. Yes, me. How the heck did that happen?
In retrospect, I would have been happy with dead last ... if it meant I'd gone slower, been more careful, and finished the whole darn course. But it's a little late for that kind of wishful thinking.