Saturday, October 07, 2006

How the mighty have fallen

(literally and figuratively)
So, yesterday I was buzzing over the awesome spin class, and the crazy speedy(by my "now" standards) run off. I was ready to smoke this tri! Today, I am not.
My easy bike ride with P turned into a ride with the Bike Expert Friends when they texted us at "An Inconvenient Truth" (good movie) last night. I was pretty amped about riding with them again, and was glad that P would have some people who actually know what they're doing. But it all went (literally) downhill from there.
P and I rode down the hill to the swim shop to check out wetsuits. I haven't ridden the new bike (man it needs a name, but right now, if you can't say something nice...) "seriously" downhill before and I was a little nervous. I was agitated the whole way down. Uncomfortable, riding brakes, etc etc. Just not feeling it. We then met up with Bike Expert Friends, who suggested we ride back up the hill and down the other side. I was a little nervous- last time I rode uphill with one of them, I really sucked, but the uphill was OK. I was too nervous to get out of the saddle though, so stayed in the whole way up. Then came downhill. I hate it. I'm so nervous. I just hate it, though I thought I was improving. Seriously, I even hate RUNNING downhill, I'm that much of a freakin' control freak. I let everyone go ahead and worked on gradually easing off the brakes. Apart from some w*nker accelerating up the hill on my side of the centre line, it was OK, most of the way. Then we neared the bottom. I ended up leading, but asking Bike Expert #1 to take over, as I don't like traffic much either. The bottom of this hill requires a sharp left turn (we drive on the left) at a somewhat busyish intersection- you keep going down and hit another intersection, then a roundabout in reasonably quick succession. It's a lot of fun for someone who's not me! So, Bike Expert #1 was leading, and I was following her. And then I realised I wasn't "following" her, so much as rapidly gaining on her as I sped up coming towards the corner. I gripped my brakes a bit more and then screamed, "I can't stop!!"
Then I lost control, crossed two lanes of traffic (in front of a car going the other way to that I intended) and rammed my front wheel on the kerb.

Then I fell.

It wasn't a bad fall. The bike's fine (ish) and I'm fine apart from a couple of minor bruises and shattered confidence. I don't know why it's affected me so badly. I've fallen before, though not for awhile, and not clipped in (not that that makes a difference, by the time I hit the ground, I was unclipped- I think "panic" mode includes unclipping for me) and more importantly, not in traffic or going fast downhill. My falls have never involved a severe loss of control, and have never involved doing things I'm nervous about. We walked to the local bike shop to by a new tire (could have done a temporary fix, but I needed a new one and it's not far off) and then continued on our way. P and I stayed on the (windy as all heck) flats and it was fine. Gears were a little bit dodgy, but so long as I stayed in my big ring, I felt OK! Then we headed up a small rise. I rode up well, stayed strong and got my gears sorted in time to get down the other side with minimum panicking. Until I heard my front tire start chugga chugging. I decided to pull over at the top, but as I neared the top of the rise, my tire made my mind up for me, and I heard a loud PSSSSHT. I expleted, not for the first time and stopped. No biggie, we changed the tire and started to laugh about the day we'd had (there'd been another drama when we lost one of our party for ten minutes or so). Then, clipped in and started heading down the other side.

Except I didn't. My legs didn't pedal and I toppled. The typical topple, that I somehow managed to avoid my first and second times with the clips. Picked up, decided I was walking (again) and headed on.

All I can say is that I made it home in one piece. But I had minor panic attacks and dribbles of tears at most of the traffic lights. My HR was elevated and I couldn't be bothered moving my bike, so I cruised along at an embarrassingly low cadence in a stupidly high gear. P and I walked the hill home (he was riding a beast of a slow bike and, having grown up somewhere very flat, had never ridden uphill on a road bike until today- legend for getting UP our hill the first time!!) where we replenished our blood sugar with tea and chocolate biscuits. 4 hours since we'd left, and we'd done under 40k of actual riding!

At this point, I have some thanks (I'd like to thank the academy...) The woman with the station wagon who offered to drive me home, post crash. P and the experts were great. They were encouraging, and made sure I didn't feel stupid. They told me I handled the crash well, and repeatedly reinforced how proud they were of me for getting back on (etc etc).. Platitudes, maybe. I'm still embarrassed, but grateful.
No thanks to the dude in the white car who freaked me out pre-crash, and to the woman in the bike shop who reluctantly changed the tire and did it wrong (pinch flat).

But here's the problem. I'm still shaken. P and I drove out to Naenae to drive the bike and run courses for next week. Every time we rounded a tight corner, I felt my chest tighten and my HR quicken. Every time we neared traffic lights, I worried about stopping on time and not falling. In a car! I could feel myself riding, and I was freaked. I flashback to the first crash all the time, and worry.

Unlike my other crashes, I can't take a lesson from it. The first crash (a couple of years ago- first ride since I was about 8) I learnt "don't try to ride up proper kerbs, even if they look like driveways". This crash? I learned "yeah, I don't ride well downhill" and "don't ride nervous." Great. But somehow, don't ride up the kerb is an easier rule to apply to my rides than don't ride nervous.

I'm deliberately posting now, while I'm still feeling it. I'm hoping that tomorrow will be a new day. I probably won't ride. Maybe inside. But I kinda want to run. I will be back in the saddle. I'm glad to have had another crash to remind me that sh*t happens, crashes happen, and I can get back up, with just a bruised elbow and a dented ego. But I'm kinda scared, and yesterday I wasn't and I wish I could go back.


Wes said...

I think the mantra is: if you own a car, you are going to wreck. Got bike: You are going to fall off. From what I have leared about you in the short time I have been following your blog is you should be laughing! You NEED a few more battle scars (in OK places :-) Set your spirit free! I think IronWil went through these same things on her bike... Not naming your bike when you don't have anything nice to say is a stroke of genius! Brilliant!!

Jodi said...

I know just how you feel. I crashed after getting run off the road this summer and it's been an uphill battle getting comfortable in traffic. Find some very nice, safe, low traffic roads to travel for awhile. Keep it flat. When you get your confidence up, then work on hills and more technical stuff. The main think that will make you crash is a lack of confidence in your cycling ability.

Glad you're ok. You'll get through this and be smoking bike courses in no time!


JohnnyTri said...

Glad your ok. Yea, riding at times in traffic can be hectic as most drivers dont seem to really care about you out there. I crashed one time in a turn, like you, wasnt good too fast and just tipped over and the bike slid out. A few cuts, scrapes but was ok. Took longer to get confidence back in that dang turn but it came back, like yours will too! You can do it!
Like Jodi says, find a less populated area and you'll be back in no time! We Believe.