Rider Down (but not out): DH MTB Crash
After 17 years of riding, it finally happened. On a trail I had ridden before, at Thunder Mountain Bike Park, I crashed off a small jump and injured myself. Badly.
Thank God for full face helmets. Thank God it wasn’t worse.
It was the first day of my vacation–after a year of no vacations, and the weather was a perfect 80 degrees, dry, not a cloud in the sky. I took my son for a day of mother-son fun before he headed off to camp for 2 weeks. We took a run together and then he joined his lesson, and I was on my own for a couple of hours.
A little foreshadowing: this vacation time was largely unplanned. I had no solid plan for this week, other than a ton of cycling. I made the decision to book a bike and lesson for my son just a couple days before–but….I had some hesitation. I feared he would get hurt (not me), and felt unsure and uncommitted about even going, even though I love downhilling and bought my new full suspension mountain bike with Thunder Mountain in mind. I felt a bit displaced and distracted, almost outside of myself mentally on this trip (and in all things lately). Almost like I was only half there.
Fast forward, my first run solo and I hit the trails. I rode trails I had in the past, “blue squares,” nothing crazy. I usually stop and regroup with whomever I’m riding with, but this wasn’t necessary being alone….and my impatient nature urged me to keep on. I hit Chin Strap, a moderate jump trail–which meant you could jump or just pop gently over the feature. I’m more of a popper than jumper, but I can deal with a bit of air. I’m not certain what happened, I think my speed was greater than I realized and a jump came on faster than expected. And I bit it. I remember seeing my entire bike over my head, I think I’d hit the ground at that point.
I knew immediately I was done for the day but unsure of how done. I scampered off the trail and pulled my bike off too, as another rider soared past me. I was hurt, a little confused, I hadn’t yet taken stock of my injuries but knew I had to get off that trail before I caused another crash. I managed to get back on the bike and roll down to where the trail intersected an access road. I found a safe place and sat down to figure out how hurt I was.
My shoulder had taken the brunt of the fall and all I knew was it hurt and wasn’t working right, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to test it much. I felt a grinding and popping at the tip of my shoulder, which I later learned was my broken bones moving around.
A man on an ATV riding up the access road stopped and asked if I was ok. I answered honestly. “I’m not sure yet.” I asked how tough the rest of the trail was, he advised I take the access road down. “Will it bring me to the lodge?” Yes. I decided for the path of least resistance.
I collected myself and started walking my bike down the mountain. I felt nauseous. Bike patrol stopped me and asked if I had gone down on Gronk (my favorite trail there). Nope, that wasn’t me. They offered to call a buggy to get me down. I have skied the mountain enough to know I could be at the lodge in 5 minutes if I just kept going. Plus I’m stubborn as hell. “Nope, I’m good.” I kept heading down the rocky, washed out access road, walking my bike. The nausea persisted, but I felt capable to get myself off the mountain under my own power. I started to feel pain in my chest while breathing.
I got to the car and was exhausted. I texted my gf. My son had another 45 minutes to his lesson. My shoulder was a mess. I managed to load my bike into my car with one arm. I waited for his lesson to wrap up, collected him, and then drove myself a hour home to our local hospital’s ER.
X-rays, a quick exam, and a Motrin and I was sent home with a sling and diagnosis: Comminuted displaced distal right clavicle fracture, AC separation, and non-displaced right fourth rib fracture. See the orthopedic folks on Monday to assess if surgery is needed. The nausea was from the pain of the trauma, not a head injury. That was good news. I knew I was badly hurt, but never in severe pain, which may have been masked by adrenaline. Apparently my pulse and blood pressure was uncharacteristically high at the hospital.
UPDATE: Surgery is not needed.* I’m staying in the sling, keeping the joint immobile. The broken rib hurts the most. I have a bunch of other abrasions, bumps and bruises that have blossomed in the 2 days since the accident. I have to sleep upright. I can’t drive. I can’t put my sling on myself. I can get MOST of my clothing on myself. I expect most of this to get better soon.
(*at this time. Reassessment in 4 weeks).
I am so grateful that this wasn’t much worse, as it easily could have been. I love cycling but it’s got it’s dangers, even for experienced riders.
So I’m off the bike for a while. More to come with thoughts of this unplanned break, and updates of my progress. Thanks for reading, and always wear a helmet!