Friday, April 3, 2009

Tour of Tuscaloosa Racing

It has been a big week to say the least, and naturally some parts were spectacular, and some parts I could have gone my whole life and not felt I had missed them.

First, the update of what good events that happened most recently. I resolved, after taking a year off of significant racing, to see what I could get this old body to do on a bicycle if I focused. I joined a fantastic team of guys who also have my passion for bikes and racing, and also seem to have a similar issue with Jobs, children, etc. that gets smack dab in the way of this passion for bikes and racing. Steel City Cycling has been a load of fun, and our training rides have been quite productive and we have all seen some good improvement in our individual and team riding abilities much to the chagrin of other local clubs/teams. The Tour of Tuscaloosa was the first big race weekend of the season around here and we had a good group turn out for it. I was still racing category 5 because I didn't have enough starts in that category to upgrade to the next level where most of the team races. After pestering the local race USA Cycling guy to let me upgrade he said I needed 10 starts or to basically ride well enough to prove that I didn't belong in the cat 5 level. I arrived early on Saturday to warm up and try to perform well in 2 criterium races which when I registered was viewed as a bit odd. "Why are you some sort of glutton for punishment?" was what the lady said as I registered. I then went out on the course to warm up for a while in order to be hot for the start of the open class race.

About 20 of us toed the line for the race and the nice English lady yelled at us for a while about helmets and safety and then said GO! Off we went around the corner and immediately we were up to speed on a very sharp downhill.

We whipped across the back stretch and up the steep hill on the course. That was where the group began to split, and I just rode my normal tempo past the lead guys to see if they would follow. I gapped them slightly and then I looked back. They hadn't really responded, most likely because they didn't think that I would hold onto any gap so early into the race. They still had plenty of time to reel me back in when I got tired. Well, without the response, I stomped on the pedals and launched myself around the corner and left them. Looping past the start/finish line on this short loop course I had 100 yards on them. Then I dove down the hill again and nearly caught the motorcycle at 44 mph through a couple of gentle turns. By the time I hit the hill again I had a full 20 seconds on the group. I repeated this loop a couple more times and people began to yell that I had already put a minute into the rest of the group. From that point on I rode alone. In the end. I finished over a half a mile in front of the second place rider.

I then waited an hour and went up against the 35+ category 5 racers. I was pretty gassed from my earlier efforts and the dynamic of the race was slightly different as well. I couldn't get my tired legs to make my solo efforts stick, so I worked with 3 other guys to get a big break. They were fresher and stronger at that point and in the last few hundred yards a guy who had sat in the draft the whole ride launched a sprint for the finish line that I had no response for whatsoever. I came in 4th place. Anthony my other cat 5 compatriot came in in 9th place giving steel city it's best start to a season ever. We had a win and 2 top ten finishes in the first 2 hours of the season's racing.

The Cat 4 races didn't go quite as planned. The guys got to the line with 60+ other riders and when they came back around Bo wasn't with them and the field looked splintered all over. It turned out that Bo had come to grief in the first lap and had fractured his collar bone. Matt knotted his muscles into little balls of steel trying to avoid the wreck. The team's great start didn't get much better in the road race the next day.

The Road Race:

It was a gray 40 degree morning when we rolled out of Lake Lurlene. Anthony and I were in a group of about 60 riders that they divided into two groups to reduce the size. From what I could tell they then started the two groups at the same time so there were still 60 of us on the road together, and that made for some crowded racing. The race was safe and clean through the first 25 miles. In the last 5 miles the time came to make a move. The group hit a hill and bunched up. I began to press up along the left side of the group. There were only about 2-3 bikes in front of me before I was going to be clear of the field, and all of a sudden Disaster. The hole I had to work with closed. I think the guy in front of me was bumped by another antsy rider but It happened so quickly I will never know. His rear wheel came across my front as I was moving up into the gap I had and I was immediately thrown to the pavement flipping my bike high into the air. I heard the crunch and then felt several bike tires as they came crashing over me. I laid in the road in silence for what seemed like a fairly long time. I stumbled to my feet and thought seriously about getting back on the bike to finish the race. It's amazing what the body can do when it's pushed into its limits like that. I felt no pain. Before re-mounting the bike I leaned over to check my now aching shoulder. I touched my collarbone and felt chips and pieces grinding around under my fingertips. I had done it. I had turned a fantastic start to a race season into 6-8 weeks of recovery before I could get on a bike at all. That's when the pain hit. I crumpled into the back of the service vehicle and then again into the back of the ambulance for a quick ride to the hospital. They X-rayed my collar bone and I was told I had a good single break down the middle of the bone.

I got some pain killers and waited for Brenna to come and get me. The longer I waited the worse it got. When she arrived and I was discharged, I stood up just long enough to get into the wheelchair and the world went white with the pain. I have broken a load of things but that bone would shift around whenever I did anything at all. I nearly passed out from the pain. That was certainly not the kind of sensation I ever wanted to repeat. Unfortunately, I coudn't get into surgery to pin it back together until Wednesday, so I had the joy of feeling the bone grind and shift for the next two days. There were several times where I was in so much pain that I was sure I was going to throw up.

When I got into the surgery room I was cramping up from holding that arm in a very specific place for 3 days and they shot me up with Morphine directly to help me relax and it didn't even dent the pain. When I got out of surgery, they had actually found that it was broken in 4 places and I needed 2 plates and 7 screws to hold it all together. Perhaps that's why it was so painful...

I guess I will never make it through an airport screener without needing to be "wanded" again...

The most disappointing thing is that I won't be able to do ANYTHING for weeks. I lost a complete week of my life laying in bed drugged beyond belief. It has been two days since I got home and I still feel woozy. My Moab trip is gone, most of my vacation is gone since I know it's not looked upon well to take a bunch of time off from the office. I am flat out depressed right now and there's nothing I can do about it.

Oh well...time to suck it up and get back to the real world, and start thinking of what I am going to do about racing or other hobbies going forward.

I'll get a picture of the scars up sometime later...just for fun.


Anonymous said...

Brad - I'm Stephen's wife and just came off a 5-week injury. It's so tough being benched and I descended into anger and despair, becoming a b*** to live with (ask Stephen). But close to the end I started really using my time off to meditate on coming back stronger. I'm still not 100% yet but just wanted to give you some support. You have probably been injured before so you know the drill - it sucks but you will come back even stronger. Good'll be smokin' everyone in cat 4 before you know it.

connie said...

wow Brad! goodness. I certainly hope you a speedy recovery! Try to be a good patient :-) and by all means do the rehab! Every single exercise they give you....we are not as young as we used to be :-) sending lots of love and prayers your way!

Rick said...

Dude, sorry to hear... been there done that (as you know). It's all good, every serious rider has done the C-Bone... now it's just time to heal and get on with it!

Get down here for some fishing and beers, it'll take your mind of that beauty mark.