Monday, August 19, 2013

take this broken wing

well, I crashed.

I was done with all that, had moved beyond, had already paid the admission price with previous spills.  knew what to look out for, knew to be vigilant and careful and observant and gently responsive.
and then came a descent, a right hand turn, some disguised gravel, a skid and overcorrection, and there I was, lying on the tarmac, still clipped in, my left side screaming underneath me, hearing myself say, shit, shit, shit, shit.

I've ridden close to 40,000 miles on my road bike(s), and by now, I know better.
I've broken my collarbone, chipped my shoulder, broken three ribs:  I know better.
I don't know how this really happened, but it did.

so, they helped me unclip from my bike, and took my helmet off and unloaded my back pockets of the jacket, banana, shot blocks and gu's.  they pumped an air splint around my left arm and loaded me in an ambulance and gave me zofran to ease my nausea.  and took me to the emergency room.
next came an overload of questions, x-rays, people in scrubs with ID's and beepers and that weird voice-thing, and the decision that I should be admitted.  my broken scapula, five broken ribs, and separated shoulder were causing my body enough grief that it was determined unsafe to send me home.


last time I crashed wasn't so bad.
this was worse.

somewhere along the way during those first few hours I heard someone say "your cycling season is over," and those words have been met by some fierce internal resistance by this woman.  yes, this accident happened four weeks before Lotoja, the event I work toward all season, scheduled september 7th this year.  I wasn't going to allow "can't do it" into my brain for a while, and even today, have trouble really incorporating that reality.
I'll be back on my bike by then...  I could at least ride for a while, go as far as I could . . .  
okay, not very realistic.  but heck, there's a lot of season left after Lotoja comes and goes.  september stretches on for weeks, and then october's the best riding month of all, and even november often offers a dozen great days of chilly air and clear blue skies.

today I sit in a place of acknowledging the incredible, immeasurable amount of pleasure cycling has given me, and giving tremendous thanks for the worlds opened up to me through the sport.  I love the me who blossomed on a bike saddle.
but I don't ever want to go through this again.  I hurt.  I look in the mirror and see someone I don't know.  nine days out, I am uncomfortable most all of the time and I can barely use my left arm.  I can walk--thank you, God--but most household tasks (never mind work related tasks) are difficult, draining, or impossible.  the good news is that each day brings improvement (as I told my biking buddy andy, improvements are incremental and imperceptible yet indisputable), and I'm confident that eventually, I will be fine.  memories will fade, and this time of intense anguish will soften around the edges and become something less than what it's been.

today I'm grateful I can use both hands to type.  I'm grateful my balance has returned and my intestinal system is returning to normal.  I'm grateful I have more energy today than yesterday.  I'm grateful what little road rash I had has faded, that no stitches were required, and that my helmet did its job perfectly.  I'm grateful for john being there that morning to take charge and support me, and for nursing me through those first cruddy days and on through to now.  I'm grateful for family and friends who have helped, comforted, empathized, loved.  I'm grateful for my mom, who has shown extraordinary restraint and wisdom by not shrieking at me "have you finally learned your lesson??  are you finally going to stop doing this?"
for the truth is that I've shrieked at myself enough during these past nine days.  and it doesn't do a whole lot of good.

in summary, crashing stinks.
and when I say I don't ever want to go through this again, I mean it.
but neither do I want to give up the joy, the swooping, the thrill, the satisfaction, the powerful gifts that cycling has given me.
so today I'll heal.  I'll focus on breathing deeply, being gentle, being grateful for all the good within and surrounding me.
someday in the not-too-distant future I'm sure I'll swing my leg over the bike and get back on the saddle.  I'll be cautious, I'll be vigilant.  I'll watch out for cars and bumps and gravel.  my first swoops will be mild, but I'm certain I will swoop.

because I love to swoop.

(take these broken wings, and learn to fly again, learn to live so free . . .  --lyrics, mr. mister, 1985)


Unknown said...

Hi Susan!

HAL turned me on to your blog and I love it. Read a bunch on posts that refer to your love of "swooping" and the feelings it instills. I'm not familiar with the term and would like to read a more technical description of the "swoop". Is it speed, downhill, uphill, carving a turn, leaning at a minimum angle, or some combination of characteristics? How do I know when I "swoop"?

Have FUN and recover FAST!

TJ Tyrrell

susan said...

hi tj, and thanks for reading! technical is hard for me, but I guess I'd say it is a descent with a gentle turn or two that you glide through, and you know you've swooped when you feel pure joy brush your skin.
recovery is s l o w but at least recognizable.
thanks again and go try a swoop somewhere :)