"It's almost over."
Famous last words. I let my focus slip from the task at hand to the approaching finish of the race. As I flew down the final straightaway through the woods a thought flashed through my head like a flashing red beacon in the dark night: “the rock drop.” In my pinned, exhausted state I hadn’t thought through what I was going to do on my final time over the technical feature. I glanced quickly up the hill and behind me. Again, I could see a rider, but couldn’t tell the gender.
I thought fast. I had never taken the go-around. I knew it was slower, but I didn’t know how much. It had never occurred to me to practice it because it had never occurred to me that I wouldn’t take the drop. And in that moment, with my entire body shaking and my energy levels in the red, I had the split-second thought that maybe it wasn’t a good idea- but I pushed it out of my mind as I rounded the final corner and my two second clock started ticking.
I spotted the entrance line. I zeroed in on it, focused… and missed. The next thing I knew I was flying through the air and smashing down violently on the big sharp rocks. My left shoulder came out of its socket and all I could feel was rock on bone as the right side of my pelvis took most of the impact. Without thinking, I got up, relocated my shoulder back into place, somehow found my bike, got back on, and finished the race. “Shit! I’m okay! That was crazy!” That thought lasted about three minutes into my cooldown, and I pedaled straight over to the paramedics as the searing pain in my right hip and abdomen shot through me like an arrow and my right side of my abdomen swelled up like I had suddenly become quite pregnant. I knew the consequences of tearing up your guts on rocks and I spent the next few hours hanging out with the medics getting poked, prodded, and squeezed with a blood pressure cuff as I waited out the possibility of internal abdominal bleeding.
When it seemed likely that I was in the clear for major internal damage, I slowly returned to the condo. I could barely move and I was lucky that I had my extremely patient boyfriend there to help with incredibly complex tasks like walking up stairs, getting out of my race kit and into the horizontal position. The next day, when I was sure that my injuries to my hip and pelvic area were just major soft tissue and bone bruising, I decided to go for an easy walk. It was only then that I realized that the painful clunking and shifting of my left shoulder, post-dislocation, was going to become the real problem.
The physical therapist side of me kicked in and I realized that while the pelvic injuries would fade with time, the shoulder injury might be worse than I had anticipated. The gravity of my situation set in and I would spend the next few days and weeks evaluating what went wrong, thinking about options, and accepting my consequences. I will go into surgery on October 2nd to repair my torn shoulder. It will be a long, slow, and painful rehabilitation- six weeks in a sling and months before I can get back on a bike- but I am lucky. It is the off-season now, and I will be able to race again in the spring. It could be much worse.