Race report — with crashes!

Today was my first crash in a bike race! I’ve crashed before, but always on my own, because of black ice or failure to pay attention to the road. This evening I got the thing over that I was dreading — my first real bicycle race crash. And I’m fine — I’ve got a nasty-looking bump on my knee, some bruises on my hip, a few red marks on my elbow and calves, a sore ankle, and that’s the worst of it. Except for my bike, which has a broken front wheel. It now has a curve in it it didn’t have before. Fortunately Hobgoblin has some extra front wheels, so I’ll be able to ride again before I get a new wheel of my own.

I’ve done two races in the last three days, and neither race went particularly well. Sunday Hobgoblin and I drove up to Hartford to ride in the criterium there; it was a beautiful day, in the 70s and sunny, and I’d just come off a week of easy riding and should have been well rested, but I just couldn’t quite get into the spirit of racing. I’m not entirely sure what the problem was, but I think part of it is that I ate too much before the race — always a potential problem for me because I’m more afraid of eating too little than too much — and my stomach felt heavy the whole race. I also don’t think I warmed up enough, but it could also be that I simply wasn’t into racing that day and so didn’t have the energy to put into a proper warm-up.

At any rate, the race started off fast but manageable, and I hung on and felt okay for a while. My heart rate was high, but I remember that happening on this course last year; it’s a fast course, mostly flat, which means the pack keeps a fast pace the entire time, with no chance for a break. I was okay until the 14th lap (out of 20 laps total), when I fell back a bit — I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I might have grabbed the wrong wheel and started following someone who couldn’t hold on. So there was a gap between me and the field, and I started chasing. I chased the field for a lap but couldn’t quite catch on again, and finally I realized it wasn’t going to happen. I rode the last 5 laps on my own — pretty unusual for me, because I hate riding all on my own in a race.

That was a disappointment because I finished the race last year and thought I could finish it again. But it just wasn’t my day, for whatever reason.

The race tonight, though, was another story. I got in a good 40-minute warm-up and worked hard enough to feel my energy levels pick up — something that never happened on Sunday. When the race began I could feel that I was going to do pretty well; I had no trouble climbing the hill, my heart rate stayed at a good level (in the upper 160s and 170s on the hill), and I had a lot of energy.

There was one ominous moment, however, when a particularly unstable rider (I’d noticed him as potential trouble in earlier races) crashed seemingly out of nowhere, all on his own. He may have been bumped and I missed it, but it looked like he just fell over, for no reason. No one else went down, but the warning was there. Everything was fine after that until the very last lap. I was feeling great, getting ready to make a big effort to stay with the pack as they sped up the hill, when I saw some wobbling in front of me, heard some yelling, and then the next thing I knew I was heading straight toward two bicycles lying on their sides on the road. I skidded forward a little ways, but landing on the bicycles meant I didn’t end up with as much road rash as I would have gotten otherwise. I discovered I was lying on someone’s leg, so I jumped up immediately. I’m not sure how many others went down, but it was 6 or 7, and it quickly became clear that the unstable rider, the one who crashed all on his own earlier, was the cause. I stood for a moment watching him lying there on the road, feeling anger — he should have learned his lesson after the first crash and his stupidity caused a lot of pain and will cost everyone involved lots of money in bike repairs — but also pity — I would never want to be a cause of a crash and I feel badly for anyone who has to deal with the guilt.

People slowly got up and assessed the damage; someone helped me figure out what was wrong with my bike and someone else drove up in a van to transport injured people and bikes back to the start line. People were complaining about the sloppy rider and he, the poor kid, was apologizing profusely, offering to buy me a new wheel and offering to replace everyone else’s broken parts. He kept apologizing, even well after we’d recovered from the crash. Mostly people ignored him, probably because, like me, they didn’t know what to say. Crashing is a part of racing, and everyone out there takes the risk that they might injure themselves or their bike, so I would never take anyone up on the offer to pay for bike repairs, but I do hope that rider learns how to ride a bit better.

So — now that I’ve crashed I can stop worrying about when the first time will be. I imagine I’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but I’m planning on doing a long ride on Thursday, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be just fine by then.

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Race report — with crashes!

  1. I am glad you are all right! Yes, it surely had to come sooner or later–but I hope that unsteady rider goes and gets a lot steadier and stronger before he tries any such thing again. He had better just switch to triathlon, he will be less of a menace there!!!

  2. Pingback: I’m a … Sprinter?! « The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

  3. fiona

    I’m so sorry for your crash and your soreness, and so glad you are okay. By the way you’re a great storyteller!

  4. So sorry to hear you crashed – but as you say, you have your first crash behind you now. There’s something about removing THAT mystery that’s strangely comforting.

    Got to meet Hobgoblin, but missed you on Sunday. Maybe some other time.

    Meanwhile, take care of yourself. I’m glad the crash wasn’t worse and that your bike is (relatively) ok.

  5. Sorry to hear about your crash, and coming up against the novice! I hope that he sorts himself out and that you don’t feel too sore today.

  6. I’m always amazed by your courage, Dorothy. I’m so glad this wasn’t any worse and I hope you don’t feel too bad today. Take care of yourself!

  7. Sorry for your crash and glad you’re not badly hurt. When I read this I was wondering whether you’re able to focus completely on the race in that kind of situation or whether your mind wanders to all kinds of other things (including the blog). Anyway, good luck for the recovery. I’m sure you’ll be giving the novice a wide berth in future.

  8. 1st crash and you already crash like a PRO…well done and glad you are ok.

  9. Your post title made me laugh though I am sorry it was you who crashed especially since the race was going so well too. I am glad you are ok. Since you’ve crashed are you going to worry about crashing again? Or does this just get all worry out of the way because you came out ok?

  10. TJ

    Yikes, Dorothy! So glad you are okay. And how brave of you to get right back up and back at it. Good luck Thursday!

  11. Ouch–how scary. At least it sounds as though your bruises are fairly minor. I’d hate to be the guy that caused the pile up!

  12. Goodness Dorothy! You’re a brave woman. I like the way you think about this crash — now you’ve done it, and gotten it out of the way. I suppose this must be a part of bike racing but, still, how scary! It sounds like you’re on the mend, which is great, and also like the racing is going well. xo, L

  13. Uh-oh, now I’m going to have to worry about both you AND Hobs crashing every week. Well, as you say, glad you got that first one over with anyway and that it wasn’t too bad. Hope you really are feeling only a little sore today, and let’s not have a second one, okay?

  14. Your headline was great. After all, we all watch races for the crashes, right?
    I’m sorry you fell, and glad you didn’t suffer unduly. I feel bad for the guy who “fell over for no reason”. I’m getting to the age where I sometimes fall down. At least I can still deduce the reason: I’m a clumsy oaf, and that’s why I would never have the courage to race bikes like you

  15. Wow! I’m glad you’re okay. You’re right, now that it has finally happened, you’ll be a little less stressed about the possibility of being involved in a pile-up.

    I wish it hadn’t happened at all, though!

  16. Jenny — oh, you are right! Perhaps I’ll suggest it to him …

    Fiona — thank you for the very nice compliment! It made me very happy :)

    Suitcaseofcourage — thanks for stopping by and commenting! Yes, next time we’re at a race together let’s make sure to say hi. And yeah, I am kind of relieved to have the first crash over.

    Charlotteotter — thank you, and I wasn’t all that sore the next day — I’ll be feeling the bruises for a while, but I’m aware that it could have been much worse!

    Litlove — thank you! Is it courage or stupidity? I’m not sure … I do feel better, thanks!

    Pete — I’m going to try to stay out of the novice’s way, that’s for sure. Actually I do find my mind wandering during the race sometimes; now and then I’ll catch myself composing a blog post about the race in my head — not what I should be doing at the moment of course!

    Josh — thank you! It would have been cooler if I could have done a little roll and landed on my feet, but I thought I did okay … :)

    Stefanie — I’m sure I’ll worry about crashing again, although the group ride I did today helped me gain my confidence back. It does help to know, though, that crashing isn’t too terribly bad.

    TJ — thanks! The ride today ended up being wonderful — just what I needed, in fact.

    Danielle — I’d hate to be him too. I’m wondering if he’ll show up next time … I wouldn’t want to, if it were me.

    Bloglily — yeah, it is a part of racing, unfortunately, but one I try not to think about too much — that would be paralyzing. So I’ll just have to resign myself to the risk … thanks for your kind words!

    Emily — I’ll do my best to fulfill your wishes and not have a second crash — believe me I will!

    Weeping Sore — age was probably an issue with the unstable rider, although it’s a matter of youth and not maturity — he’s reckless and unexperienced. Age will take care of that, of course, until age causes its own set of problems!

    Chartroose — thank you! Yeah, now I don’t have to wonder what it feels like to fling myself on the road and other people’s bikes and bodies!

  17. Congratulations on your first real crash. Hopefully your second is a long way off. It is interesting how certain people emanate their danger in such a visible manner. I had my bike taken out from under me by one such person. They didn’t even realize what they had done (and it took two mistakes to make it happen.) Fortunately, only one rider behind me rode over the top of me and my bike. We banged things into place (on the bike, not me) and rode to the next stop to get the bike fixed and pick sand out of my flesh (in that order, of course). I was torqued that he rode off clueless but, as you said, we always know a crash could come at any moment.

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