Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Invincible Idiot

Last Thursday I wrote a post describing the final, long bike ride I would complete before the Cool Breeze Century Ride. I posted pictures of the Pacific Coast Highway, and shared with certainty my intent to ride all 90 miles along the coast.

And then Thursday night, 36 hours before ‘pedals up’, I got into a bike accident. More specifically, I caused a bike accident.

Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth. -Mike Tyson
The details: Thursday night I got out of work with just enough daylight left to take to the park for a quick hill workout. I planned to scale the 600ft climb three times on my bike to get some quality quad-shredding in. The loop that includes this hill traces the park and the LA Zoo right alongside the road and is just over 5.5 miles. I normally ride it in about 18 mins and 30 seconds.

Well, on Thursday I wanted to push myself a little faster. I hit the road around 6:30pm and logged the first go ‘round in 19 mins. A good warm up. I blasted out the second loop in 18:17. A nice increase despite some protests from my legs.

I set out to do the third loop in under 18 minutes. Why not? What’s the harm in pushing a little harder … she asked herself about 2 minutes before the crash.

See, along this loop there are multiple stop signs. And to the invincible idiot riding a bike around them, they are just suggestions. Yes, I was being one of the arrogant, annoying LA bikers who cruises along with only a shrug toward safety and the law.

About one mile into the final loop, I raced around a corner at 25mph. I was grinding and smiling. I saw a stop sign ahead at the four-way intersection. I figured I would just ride through it with the cars that were going straight, in the same direction I was.

I took a gamble that the timing would be right.

It was not.

Sort of what the accident looked like...minus the mountains, mountain bike, flying off cliffs and sunshine

About 10 feet in front of the sign, I saw the car. It was in the opposite lane, heading toward me. It turned left, crossing my lane, as it headed into the parking lot to my right.

I grabbed my brakes hard. Fishtailed. I knew it was too late just moments before I slammed into the hood and bumper of the car. Over it I went! 25mph to 4mph in 6 seconds. My garmin confirmed it. And the 15 other cars at the stop sign also bore witness.

I went tumbling, lost my bike (unclipped somehow) in the process, and scratched up a poor, unsuspecting teenager’s car. It was admittedly and clearly my fault.

But I was very lucky. I got up, a little in shock, and checked myself out. No major cuts, road rash or bones sticking out. I looked fine. Though I hit my head, my helmet protected me. I got my bike. Looked basically untouched. The bar plug popped out, but I popped it back in.

The driver emerged, and a cop joined us. But she didn’t want to exchange insurance info (despite my insistence) and the cop said as long as there was no damage or injury we could do whatever we want.

So I bid her a better evening, got on my bike, and kept riding. 10 minutes later I got back to my car, called my friends and (at Chris’s urging) went to the ER – checked out clean, no broken bones or concussion.

Suffice to say the experience left me a little surprised and sore. So I chose to skip PCH on Saturday and bike closer to home. The whiplash from the smackdown, plus some rib bruising, cut short my 90 mile ride to just 40 miles. But I was okay with that – I brought this on myself.

In the past week I’ve dealt with some lingering rib pain, but little else. I was able to run 21 miles Sunday and 13.5 miles Tuesday. In fact, this accident has allowed me to get back in touch with my running roots and routes a little more than normal.

I can’t swim yet, but will hit the pool next week. I’ll get back on the bike for one last pre-century ride tomorrow morning, just to make sure I can still stay balanced and safe on two wheels. I can, of course. It’s a mental workout.

And what lesson do I learn from the crash? Slow down. Don’t be an idiot. My boss's advice?
"Maybe you should take some time off working out. Go home and eat a pie.
Yes, I walked away relatively unscathed. Yes, it could have – should have – been much worse. I think I’ve spent my get-out-of-jail-free card. I can’t count on any more of those. Safety is going to take a front seat for a while, perhaps at the sacrifice of some speed.

Here’s hoping all goes smoothly this weekend and I return to LA with a few pictures of beautiful Santa Barbara/Summerland/Goleta.

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