Warning: this post may contain one graphic image. It’s also very long. Settle in.
The fact that this post exists is a miracle in and of itself. I’m figuring out how to navigate typing with my dominant arm in a sling. In fact, I’m figuring out how to do everything with my dominant arm in a sling. I’m realizing how important thumbs are to overall life function and just how tricky ponytails can be with almost no range of motion in one arm. I’ve also learned my husband stinks at ponytails, too.
But all that being said, I need to say I am fine. My friend Shelly is fine. But there were some moments this weekend when we weren’t sure we would be fine. After ten years of road cycling, we finally had our big crash.
My thumbs, which aren’t fully operational, are tired of texting various versions of our story, so here it is in all it’s glory (or shame- you decide).
Each year Shelly and I raise money for the Huntsman Cancer Institute and ride the Little Red Riding Hood century bike ride with the Huntsman Hometown Heroes. Shelly’s mom passed away from cancer and so did my friend Marie, so it’s an extra special day for us.
As we were driving up to Logan Friday afternoon, we were both struck with a case of nerves. Shelly jokingly said she kinda wished we get hurt on the ride so we wouldn’t have to climb the big hill at mile 90. I thought it might be nice to get hurt enough so I wouldn’t have to run the Utah Valley Marathon the following week. WE WERE JOKING!!!!!!
Friday night was a blast. We laughed ourselves sick watching silly YouTube videos, dined on chicken wraps and ice cream and promptly passed out fast asleep. We woke up early to “waffle-up” for pre-race fuel and made our way to the start line. Then the jitters hit me hard.
I’m usually nervous for a race, but never this nervous for a bike ride. I thought it was because we’d only been out on our bikes once before. We are most definitely fair weather riders and the weather has been anything but fair. We saw our good friend Rick Ortenburger at the start and I shared my nervous sentiment. Suddenly we were off. 100 miles till we get our milkshakes!!
The first 12 miles were a little nerve wracking. It seemed there were so many more riders this year. The pack didn’t open up for quite awhile. A lot of women were riding 4 abreast. A big no-no. The course is open which means cars aren’t prohibited from driving the same roads we were riding. Two abreast or single-file is the rule. We got to the first rest stop, shed my jacket and we were back on our bikes.
The next 10 miles were a bit better. We found Rick at that stop and I gave him my jacket. Elfi, Rick’s wife and a Hometown Hero coach, was right behind us. We took this quick pic and got back on the road again.
Call this intuition. Call it a premonition. But I know this course and I told Shelly as we left the second rest stop that I was most nervous for these next few miles as they took us on a more busy road in an industrial business section of Logan. There’s always a lot of bike and car traffic and lots of debris on the road.
But we were feeling good and enjoying a gorgeous day. We were talking about how great we felt and how grateful we were for our health when “it” happened.
As we were riding, going about 17-18 mph on the road’s shoulder, Shelly hit a block of wood the size of a small brick, lost control of her bike and crashed into me. I veered right, ran into a tall curb and flew over the curb landing in a bed of large landscaping rocks. Here’s what I remember. I remember Shelly hitting me, me trying to get control, and then realizing, “This is happening” as I crashed into the curb. I landed on my right shoulder, mimimal skidding so minimal road rash. I couldn’t move and was yelling for help and crying. I couldn’t hear Shelly and didn’t know if she veered into traffic, if she was conscious or if she was okay. I laid there for what seemed to be 5 minutes, but Shelly says help came almost instantly.
A man showed up and asked if I could hold his hand. I could and I did. He just stayed there and said I would be fine. I said I couldn’t move. I heard Shelly’s voice and was instantly relieved. She sounded okay. She was talking to a woman who turned out to be the wife of the man helping me. They owned a business close by and had seen us crash. My eyes were closed the entire time, but apparently there was quite a crowd. Elfi had not been too far behind and saw us in the road. She didn’t stop because she felt she’d be in the way. I was so embarrassed (yes, embarrassed) that I’m glad she kept riding. No sense in ruining another’s ride.
The paramedics came. They asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I actually thought I could still finish the ride. Yep, that was a real thought. So did Shelly. So the paramedics tricked us into going to the hospital by telling each of us that the other HAD to go. Turns out it was a good idea, so no hard feelings guys. Thanks for making us do the right thing!
Shelly thought I would suspend our friendship after the crash, so she was relieved to hear me ask for her to be with me as we rode to the hospital. She called our husbands who reacted surprisingly well.
The next 5 hours were spent in Logan Regional Hospital. They let us share a room which kept us calm and in better spirits. I’ve never seen Shelly cry before, but we were both crying. Then laughing.
My prognosis: I have a Grade 3 AC separation. The AC connects the collarbone to the shoulder joint. Grade 3 means possible physical therapy, but no surgery. My right shoulder looked like there was a baseball under the skin. I was convinced I broke the collarbone, so it was good news to hear there was no break. I have to keep the shoulder elevated and immobilized for up to six weeks. Guess burpees and push ups are out for awhile (tiny blessings!). Some bad road rash, torn shorts and gloves and a newfound fear of wood was my souvenir.
Shelly’s prognosis: There is a hole in her elbow. The bone was showing, the gash was so deep. She had landed on her right side, too, and skidded along the road so her road rash is much worse. She left with stitches and a ripped jersey and a reinforced fear of needles. Five numbing shots to an open wound in an elbow will do that.
We called Rick and he was able to pick us up at the hospital and take us to our car. We love the Ortenburgers. They’d been so worried. I thought the paramedics and told them our injuries, but it wasn’t until I called for a ride that they really knew we were okay. I would have called sooner, but we were so happy he was there to pick us up.
The bad- I can’t run the Utah Valley Marathon next week. I know I said I wanted an “out” but not really. I was in great shape and really wanted to win the Master’s Divison. I am also most likely out for Ragnar the week after. I’m team captain. Yeah, this is gonna be fun news to break. I’m operating on the hope that I’m fitter than most and my healing will be quicker, but I’m not stupid enough to run a race with my ego. My long-term health is more important than a race or making other teammates happy.
The good- There’s a lot. I’m so grateful for Shelly. Without her I would have been a mental mess. We laughed so hard I thought I would break my collarbone after all! She felt so bad for hitting the debris, but it’s not her fault. I’m so thankful we were together. Not that I want her hurt, but I’m glad we went through all this as a pair. If anything bonds people together, it’s trauma. Although I really think we could have bonded just as well over milkshakes. She is truly one of the best friends I’ve ever had and I’m lucky to have her. The outcome could have been so much worse, so I’m relieved our injuries are what they are. We also realized how many good people there are in the world. The husband and wife who rushed out to help us also stored our bikes at their store until we were able to pick them up. I’m so glad he was there to hold my hand and keep me calm. The world is full of good people.
(Side note: both mine and Shelly’s helmets weren’t adjusted properly when we started the ride. We were able to adjust them just a few miles before the crash. Had we not fixed them, I’m positive we would have sustained serious head trauma. We both hit our heads hard and those helmets saved our bacon. WEAR YOUR HELMETS!!!!)
The best part? The nurse gave us matching slings!!! We even had matching gauze on our arms and legs. Twinners!!
The next day, Sunday, Shelly drove to my house and instead of doing our normal Sunday run, we took a very long walk. It was a bit sad looking, I’m sure. The walking wounded. We got lots of stares and a few curious people stopped to ask what happened. But it was good to get out into the sun, move our limping bodies and complain to the only other person who knows how truly awful it all was. If I could lift my arm, I would give her a huge hug.
By the way, Saturday was Shelly’s 51st birthday. I dare her to have a birthday more memorable!