Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ouch. (Alternative title: Typing with one had sucks)

Saturday was probably one of the scariest days in my life, for both me and my parents and family.

Some backstory:

Saturday morning, I woke up like any other morning. I weighed myself and saw that I had lost another 3 pounds. Yay me! Afterwards, I kitted up, inflated my tires to the proper PSI, and rolled off to meet with my friends for a group ride.

The ride was pretty uneventful. We rode from CSUN to a market on Mulholland Dr, enjoying (suffering) up a few hills on the way there. I say suffering because there were a lot of faster climbers than me on the ride, and I was trying my damnedest to keep up. We rest at the market for a bit, then head out for the rest of the ride.

Everything was fine until we got to Wells Dr. We all climbed, but somehow I made it to the top off the hill first. At the top of the hill, I got into the drops and started my descent. As always, the wind felt amazing, and it was one of the best feelings in the world. Further along, I saw a few cars stopped at a stop sign. I started to slow down.

From here I don't remember much, or rather, anything.

I woke up on my back, staring at the sky, surrounded by other members of the SFVBC.

"Don't move, wait for the paramedics to arrive!"
"Is there anyone you want me to call?"

I woke up in a daze, thinking I was still dreaming. As my vision cleared, I realized this wasn't a dream. I was in a bike crash. I had been unconscious.

I felt blood dripping down my face. I couldn't breathe. Every breath hurt. I couldn't control my breathing, taking shallower and shallower breaths. I tried to sit up, but the enormous pain coming from my shoulder made me rethink that. I asked them to call Alannah first, but she didn't answer. Then I had them call my father, who also didn't answer.

Then the paramedics showed up.

They cut up my Fat Cyclist kit. They had to. I understand that. But damn, I loved that kit. It had so much sentimental value.

They asked me a lot of questions. I was able to answer all of them.

They stabilized my back and my neck, then hoisted me onto a gurney and into the ambulance. They told me where my bike would be stored, and off they took me to the nearest ER.

After numerous x-rays and cat scans, they rolled me into a room, and shortly after, my parents walked in.

With my neck in a brace, I didn't see them walk in, but I certainly heard them. Or rather, I heard them crying upon seeing me. Let's face it, I'm an ugly beast as is, and covered in blood, I'm probably much worse.

Hearing them cry, I started to. Which is a bad thing, because breathing was still painful. Crying just made it worse. I was able to supress it, and we chatted for a while before they switched with my grandparents. Later, I was wheeled off for more x-rays.

They took me back to my room, where Alannah and my mother were waiting for me. The doctor came in and told me that my ankle was fine, just sprained. I either had bruised or broken ribs, but the treatment for either was the same. Rest and pain meds. There was no swelling or bleeding in my brain. And finally, my shoulder was fine.

I didn't believe them with the shoulder thing for a second. When I tried to lift my arm at the accident site, I felt clicking in my shoulder, and it felt like the bone was moving rather than the arm. I told them that they were wrong, and there was something wrong with my shoulder. They brushed it off, and realizing that I was still in immense pain, despite all the morphine they had given me, they said I could either be discharged and go home, or I could be admitted and transferred to Kaiser. They gave me some time to decide.

Here are a few pictures from the ER.

After cleaning me up, they tried to have me walk around. I barely made it to the other side of the room before collapsing from the pain and nausea. Hell, I could barely sit up without being in tremendous pain.

After discussing it with my family, I decided to go to Kaiser. Once I was transferred by ambulance, they had me do more x-rays in different positions. The ER doctor told me that once my pain was manageable, I would be released from the ER. Since I wasn't looking forward to the hospital bills, I didn't mind so much. Eventually, the Er nurse handed me a stack of papers, saying I was free to go. Among the stacks of papers was my prescription for percocet, a note for my employer explaining I could be out from the office for a week, and explanations of what was going on in my body. They found that I had a separation of my AC joint, also known as a complete tear of some ligaments in my shoulder. That explained why my shoulder was in so much pain.

I went home, ate some chinese food, and went to bed.

I had spent almost 10 hours in the ER, and over that time and through the past few days, I realized a few things:

My family is amazing.
My fiancee is amazing.
I am amazingly lucky.

And most importantly, if I wasn't wearing a helmet, I would be dead. I would have never woken up from being unconscious. I would have left more than blood and skin at the bottom of that hill.

For the love of God, wear your f***ing helmets.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crashing is Fun

Of course, it really depends on what kind of crashing you are talking about.

Going downhill and your pedal hits a wall and you go over the side of the mountain? No, certainly not that one. Rest in peace, Wouter (One year anniversary of his tragic accident was yesterday).

Going uphill and your bike gets caught on some kid's musette bag? Definitely not talking about that.

Sprinting to the finish line and you crash into the barriers because you were looking down instead of looking where you were going? Ouch. No.

Crashing a party? YES. Crashing a marathon?

First, some backstory.

I had first gotten wind of a "crash the marathon" event on twitter. Someone I follow mentioned that they were training for dog tags at the marathon race. I didn't know what they were talking about, but dog tags instead of a medal sounds pretty cool. So I investigated some more. I later found and saw that they do a yearly "Crash the LA Marathon" bike race and some ungodly hour the morning of the Marathon, when the roads are closed to cars so that the marathon course can be set up. I thought it was a cool idea, followed @wolfpackhustle on twitter and left it at that.

As the days drew closer and closer to that fateful Sunday, I started seeing more and more twitter posts about the race. I started getting excited about it, but I didn't think I could afford an entrance fee for a bike race like this. Then I checked the website.

Entrance was free.

The Friday before the race, I signed up.

The next day, I went on the usual Saturday morning ride discussing with my fellow riders my plans for the following day. That evening, Alannah and I went to pick up my race packet. Once we got home, she went to sleep, because after dropping me off at the meeting point she would go straight to work. On a Sunday. Yeah, it sucked for her, but they needed her to go in, because she is the best hardware technician they have (Hi, Alannah!). Anyway, while she slept, I prepped and inspected my bike, and charged my bike lights.

On March 18th, Alannah and I woke up at 2:45 AM, got dressed, loaded her car with my gear, and we set off for Tang's Donuts.

That was a very cold morning. Thinking it would rain, I purchased full-fingered gloves the day before, since it was raining at the time of said purchase. It didn't rain, but I was still happy at my investment of full-fingered gloves because it was FREAKING COLD. I had a vest, arm warmers, and gloves. The only cold-weather gear I brought with me. They didn't help much to protect from the cold, but I figured it would be OK once we started rolling.

Around 3:30, one of the organizers called out asking for some volunteers to ride ahead with him and block off some of the intersections to prevent any cheating. Knowing that I had no chance of winning the thing, I volunteered. A few others joined me, and we rode on ahead.

A few minutes later, as we rolled on, a large group of cyclists passed us. We then heard someone yell out, "The race is on!"

Needless to say, we all took off.

I was feeling pretty good. I was with a strong group, I was avoiding stupid kids on fixies who only knew how to slow down by skidding.

Remember, kids! Brakes are for smart people!

Anyway, we kept on riding, and then all of a sudden, we were back where we had started. Apparently, there was a false start. And so, everyone regrouped and got ready to start all over again.

This time I was somewhere near the back, so I made no effort to get good positioning. And then, the race started again. For reals, this time.

Braking at higher speeds (and with slicker roads) than I was used to, it was certainly a scary experience. If anything, it improved my bike handling. As the faster riders built their significant lead over the peons (such as myself) I started riding with a group of people going a super cruise-y 12 MPH. I stuck with them because one of the cyclists had a giant speaker, and was bumping music. It was awesome. Cruising through downtown LA, music blaring, and not a car in sight. A cyclist's dream. Rodeo Drive was abandoned. No people, no cars.

Eventually, I remembered that we had to clear off the route within a certain time frame so that the Marathon could start, so I sped away from them. I eventually came upon 2 cyclists who had a flat, but no air. Having brought my frame pump, I lent it to them, and they were able to get sufficient air in their tire to allow them to finish the ride. Yay karma! I would need it, too.

As we got closer to the Veteran's hospital, there was a left turn going into it that is a bit of a climb. As I was turning left, I had sufficient momentum to pass the riders ahead of me. I called out "On your right!" because that was the path I had available to me, and proceeded to go between a cyclist and sidewalk.

Then the cyclist swerved into me. So I bumped him with my shoulder. He was able to correct himself, and we both rolled on. Later, I apologized to him, and he removed an earbud from his ear and said, "What?"


If you are in a bike race, don't be that guy. Please. Something really bad could have happened, and it could have been avoided.


We chatted for a while, and then I rolled off ahead of him.

Before the sun started coming up, I reached the finish line, and a crowd of at least 500 cyclists was already there. I wasn't first, but I wasn't last, either. At the finish line, I heard about some horrible things that did happen during the ride, like a stupid kid on a fixie skidded into another cyclist mid-turn and ended the race for both of them.

Or how a cyclist dropped his water bottle, bent down to pick it up, and was then struck on the head by another cyclist.

Or how someone crashed their head through a van's rear window.

A bicycle is a vehicle, kids. Be careful when riding one and obey all traffic signals and laws. They exist for a reason. You wear a seatbelt when you are in a car, so wear a helmet when you ride. It's that simple.

Anyway, my phone was dying as I called Alannah from the Santa Monica Pier. She was still at work, and unable to come pick me up, so I proceeded to ride to her office building after asking a police officer how to get to a specific street. That was a neat ride, too. Very few cars on the road as I rolled into her building's courtyard. She had just about finished up her work, and we proceeded to load up her car with my gear as we headed to breakfast.

All in all, a great day, and we were able to catch the winner of the LA Marathon crossing the finish line back at her house on TV.

Questions, comments, cheap shots? Lemme know.