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The Ride of My Life

The Ride of My Life

The Ride of My Life

 

 

I had just gotten home from a week long shift as a flight nurse and was looking forward to the warmish spring weather my scheduled week off had in the forecast.  I was in the process of starting to train for a 120 mile gravel grinder (The Rattlesnake Rally) that I was going to ride in May.  My bike was in the shop getting some warranty work done, so first thing first, I called my favorite local bike shop, The Crazy Pedaler, to arrange a bike rental for me to train on for the week.

 

It was March 9th, 2018.  The sun was shining, the wind was blowing (as it always seems to do in Casper, WY), and I excitedly set out to go pick up my rental bike as soon as the girls’ nanny arrived.  Today was supposed to be her day off, but she graciously came in so that I could get some training miles under my belt before the big day.

 

I picked up my bike and drove back out to my house, where the pavement ends and the gravel begins.  My goal for the day was to ride about 50 miles, maintaining a pace around 14 mph.  I wanted to pull some hills and get a good feel for a longer ride on the gravel.  For those of you that have never had the opportunity to gravel grind, it is its own beast.  It is brutal, yet rewarding.  It looks easy, but is so difficult.  It gives most a sense of accomplishment for pushing through the suck of it all.  It is also a place I am very comfortable and tend to get in my “groove”.

 

I put on one of my favorite kits – the She Believed kit –, turned on my bike computer to send out my live track beacon, kissed the kiddos goodbye and set out for the ride of my life.  I noticed it was a little chilly as I started down my usual gravel grind route.  I was looking forward to getting moving so I could warm up a bit.  I had never been down Trapper Road, but knew it had some good hills on it, so I turned down that instead of going my usual way.

 

The ride was going fantastic.  I was getting into my zone and finding my pace with the wind at my front and side.  I pulled a low grade, but long hill and was starting to get that accomplished feeling you do when you kick gravel’s ass.  I stopped at the top of the hill for a snack and to take in the views.  I took a few selfies, took some random photos of the bike – all which I had planned on using on our social media pages later that evening.

 

 

Now it was time for the reward…a bit of downhill after the long climb.  I was starting to get a little chilly and was looking forward to getting going again………………………………….

 

Then it Happened

 

……………………………..Then I woke up.  I didn’t know where I was.  I travel a lot for biking, visiting friends and family, and work.  I literally did not know where I was.  I stood there, looking around, taking in my surroundings.  I definitely wasn’t in the desert of Southern Utah.  I definitely was not in or near the front range of Denver – both places I frequented often.  Then a gust of wind came up, almost blowing me unsteady.  I now knew where I was.  I was home, in Wyoming.  But where?  Where in Wyoming was I?  What was I doing out here in the cold and wind?  Why would I be out on a gravel road, just standing there?

 

Then, I looked down, I was wearing a cycling kit.  Oh, wait, I was biking.  Looking around I saw a bike.  It was not my bike.  Who was I biking with because that bike did not belong to me?  That’s definitely not my bike and where was my bike anyhow?  Oh my Gosh!  Had someone been involved in an accident?  The bike was in the ditch.  Where were they?  I started looking around, searching for them.  They must be injured. 

 

I figured if I was biking, someone must have received a live track beacon.  So, I got my phone out of my jersey pocket and texted the first person that came to mind.  He lived in Colorado, not Wyoming.  I asked him if he’d gotten a beacon from me.  He replied yes and asked if I had a flat or something, that I had been paused for quite a while now.  I told him no and then asked him where I was.  He told me exactly where I was.  I think he then asked if I was okay, but I have no recollection of my answer.  Then, I texted him again and asked him where I was (or I think this is how it went – I’m not quite sure).  At this point he knew something was seriously wrong.  Each time I texted him, I was repeating myself.  I was the dreaded 10 second Tom.

 

I then texted my ex-husband, asking him where the hell my Diverge was and how this other bike got there.  He told me I had rented the bike and my Diverge was broken.  I couldn’t have disagreed more because I had zero recollection of ever renting that bike.  He asked where I was, I had forgotten already (even though my best friend and partner in crime had already told me), so I was having a hard time telling him.  I just kept saying I was on a dirt road, but not sure which one.  Somehow, and I have NO idea how, I managed to get back on the damaged bike, reset my beacon recipients, and rode 0.2 miles.  That 0.2 miles probably saved my life (at least from the elements – it was 35-38 degrees and I was on a road traveled by very few cars).  The beacon sent to my ex and he was on his way to get me.

 

He arrived 2 hours later and I thanked him for getting to me so quickly.  I asked him where he had been to only be 5 minutes away.  Apparently he just kept having the same conversation with me over and over that it took him two hours to find me.  I don’t remember any of the ride back home.  I don’t remember the nanny leaving.  I don’t remember the kids being there.  I don’t remember him unloading my bike and bringing it in the house.  I vaguely remember getting undressed and my kids seeing my road rash and kissing my “owies”.  I don’t remember the multiple phone calls I made for repetitive conversations with friends.  I don’t remember really anything that day.

 Putting the Pieces Together

 

What I do remember is waking up the next day feeling like I had been hit by a car, but not knowing what happened.  It was soooo frustrating…all I knew is that I had crashed a rental bike.  I also remember getting super angry if there was any noise, or if the lights were too bright.  I remember crying for no reason.  Just sitting there crying.  And I remember the pain.  My shoulder and back were killing me.  Just excruciating pain, especially in my shoulder.  It was this pain that finally took me into the ER to get checked out.  Yes, I should have gone the night before – right after it happened, but my situation in life did not allow for that.  I lived in the country, I was unable to drive, and sometimes life just sucks.

 

Later on with with some help showing me how to log into my phone and turn on my bike computer, together we were able to conclude from my bike computer stats, heart rate monitor, and message/calls log that I was most likely knocked out for about 15-20 minutes.  My helmet had significant damage.  The entire inside foam was cracked through in several spots and I had bruising on my head as well.  Later on the neurologist told me I was lucky to be alive after looking the helmet over.

 

This was the ride of my life.  This was the day that literally changed my life forever; both personally and professionally.  It was my wake up call.  It was my super shitty blessing in disguise.  It was the door opening to my new future.

 

Fast Forward Six Weeks:

 

I stopped by the bike shop to pick up a few items and see how much damage I owed them for the bike.  Good news:  “Let’s call it even since you brought the bike back early”.  This made me laugh and cry at the same time.  Yes, I brought the bike back early, but not in one piece.

Bad news: The mechanic told me it was unlikely the damage to the bike was achievable at 23 miles per hour (this is what my bike computer had me clocked at when I suddenly stopped) – the  wheels were bent, the frame was bent, the shifters were internally shattered, the derailleur was broken/bent, and…….

…..there was white car paint on the bike frame.  My heart skipped a beat.  I got goose bumps.  I wanted to puke right there.  How the hell could someone hit me and run on a back road like that leaving me for dead?  How the f@*k do they sleep at night?  My world came spinning down around me.  The room felt like it was closing in on me. 

 

The next day I woke up and I was no longer mad.  My life had forever been changed, which is what I needed. 

Fall Down 9 Times, You Get Up 10

I raced in that gravel grinder – I don’t remember if it was before or after I found out I had been hit by a car/truck.  I was not able to race the 120 miles, but I was able to do the sprint option of 37 miles.  Weather was super crappy and I decided to ride my mountain bike instead of my gravel bike.  It was my first real ride since my neurologist released me to ride.  I got 3rd place.  Life is good.  Bikes are therapeutic. 

 

Cherish Life,

Eliza

Lover of Bikes, Lover of Life, Lover of Humans, Co-Owner SOLIDarity Cycling

The Day I Decided to Quit Making Excuses

The Day I Decided to Quit Making Excuses

For those of you that follow us or know us, you may have figured out that we have moved out of Wyoming and down to the Denver, CO area.  And, boy, what a change that has been. 

 Working, running a business, and riding bikes as a single mom

We’ve gone from being able to drive 15 miles in 15 minutes to driving 3-5 miles in 15 minutes.  From watching for deer, antelope, and horses to watching out for cars running red lights or slamming on their brakes.  From 35 acres surrounded by miles and miles of endless gravel roads to a third floor apartment overlooking city streets.  From jumping on my bike right at the house for a gravel grinding adventure to trying to figure out which street to cross to find a paved path.  From saying, “Hey, you got the kids this weekend?  I’m headed south for a few days to go mountain biking” to “Sorry, I can’t. I don’t have anyone to watch the girls.”

 

So, yeah, here I am… a single mom living in a 2 bedroom apartment with my 2 amazing daughters.  It’s cramped and we don’t have a yard.  Their dad is in Wyoming and isn’t there to take over child care at a moment’s notice (and they miss him too and act out sometimes because of it, which makes the apartment feel that much smaller).  Hmmm, what to do?  I know!  I’ll start throwing myself a pity party.  Everyone loves a good party, right?

 How to do the things you love as a single mom

Ha!  Well, that went over like a stinky fart in church.  Do you know how much energy it takes to be mad, disgruntled, and feeling like nothing is ever going your way?  If not, it takes a HELL OF A LOT of energy to keep the pity party going.  And, I was tired already, I definitely was not willing to expend even more energy on pitying myself.

 

I get home from work 14 hours after leaving my house for my 12 hour shift and think, “man, it would be nice to get up and go for a ride tomorrow.”  But, I only have a babysitter for the days I work.  So, I’m either at work or with the kids.  I was going CRAZY.  I was getting grumpy.  I was getting short with my kids.  I mean, my bike is my lifeline.  It is my therapist.  It’s where I daydream and solve problems.  It’s where I fall in love and make friends.  It’s my happy place, and I needed to get back to that happy place ASAP.

 

So, I used money I didn’t really need to spend and hired a gal to come watch my tiniest human on Tuesday mornings while her sister is in school so I could jump on the bike path and ride quickly to the downtown REI and back.  It’s about a 27 mile round trip ride.  Pretty perfect for a quickie if you ask me.  I started calling my ride $40 Tuesdays.  And, I also started noticing the bank account take note of my $40 Tuesdays.  Ugh……back to feeling like I’d never get to ride again. 

 Getting creative being a single mom and still riding bikes with a Burley Bike Trailer

Then, it dawned on me…how many $40 Tuesdays would it take to buy a bike trailer?  Then I could pull the tiny human!!!  Wow, what a fantastic idea (okay, okay, I admit it…maybe I was so involved in re-entry to my pity party that someone else may have nudged me to get a bike trailer – oh, thank you “someone else” – you know who you are).  I started putting the $40 and a little extra aside, looked for the trailer to go on sale, and viola, I became the proud owner of the Burley Designs Bee bike trailer!  My little one was STOKED when she found out what it was for.

 Burley Bee Bike Trailer

We got the trailer on a Wednesday night.  After dropping my oldest daughter off at school on Thursday we drove home in a rush to put the trailer together.  My youngest daughter coached me to “hurry up mamma” the entire time.  We (meaning me) finally got it put together – in fact it was super simple -- and hitched it to the bike.  We set out for our first big adventure with toys and snacks packed too.  We didn’t make it to REI that day, but we did make it 20.5 miles.  She didn’t quit talking the entire ride.  She was in awe at how fast she was going and all of the things she could see.  We both finished the ride with huge grins on our faces.  Me, because I got to ride my bike without sacrificing limited time with my kiddo (or money), and I got a killer workout on the flats.  Her, because she got to experience a new adventure, see where momma goes when she leaves with her bike, and hang out with mamma who’s normally gone for so many hours per day.  But the best part, was that we got to adventure together and we both finished the adventure with full and happy hearts.

 

Bikes are great ways to see Denver...and any city. Now go ride your damn bike.

Since that day, Thursday has become our traditional bike with mamma in the trailer day.  We both look forward to it.  She can now make it all 27 miles and really enjoys our “lunch date” at the Starbucks in the downtown Denver REI.  We also hang out and play at Confluence Park and just get a little extra alone time on Thursdays – it’s pretty amazing!

 

Me?  Well, pity party has ended and even though we miss the country life, our new life in Denver is pretty rad.  The urban street art we see on our rides is amazing.  The city landscape can be pretty cool as well.  There is so much to do.  Our apartment is cozy and the kids love having a pool and hot tub.  There is so much ethnicity and good food to go along with that. My kids are not afraid of people that are different and I’m watching them want to help those in need (all on their own, with no encouragement).  Our balcony has turned into a comfortable spot to sit with friends and have drinks or talk.  All of the neighbors know the girls and the girls know all of the neighbors’ dogs’ names ;-).  So, nah, Denver isn’t so bad.  In fact, it’s pretty magical…if you just look around – looking around on a bike seems to help change the perspective too. 

 

Not making excuses and solving the problem allows you to take time to look around and be in your moment.  What is your #nomoreexcuses moment?

Eliza

Lover of Bikes, Lover of Life, Lover of Humans in My Life, and Co-Founder of SOLIDarity Cycling.

Concussion Awareness and the Brain Injury Alliance of Wyoming

Concussion Awareness and the Brain Injury Alliance of Wyoming

  According the CDC, "

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States. TBIs contribute to about 30% of all injury deaths. Every day, 153 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI." At Solidarity Cycling, we have had our own brush with concussions and TBI. Our co-founder and CEO, Eliza Russell, recently experienced a severe concussion during a crash while riding on a gravel road outside Casper, WY during preparation for a 130 mile gravel race that she will not participate in. She doesn't remember the actual crash, but looking at her Strava statistics during this particular ride, her speed shows her going from 24 mph to 0 instantaneously. And her head was one of the first things to hit the ground. She estimates she lost conscience for about 15 minutes.

Solidarity Cycling womens cycling clothing

  Eliza was wearing a helmet from Lumos at the time of her crash. Fast forward almost 6 weeks later, and Eliza is still feeling the effects of her crash and subsequent concussion. Headaches, short-term memory loss, emotional distress, and many other debilitating effects that continue to linger. Only recently was she allowed to drive, and she has trouble looking at a computer screen for any length of time. She was recently given the go-ahead to ride a stationary bike for short periods of time, but experienced a set-back in her recovery. It's beyond frustrating for someone who just wants to ride and be outside. So we want something positive to come from this incident to bring more awareness to concussions, and hopefully raise some money at the same time.

See image below which is Eliza's Lumos Helmet post crash.

Lumos helmet after crash

  We are calling it "Miles for Eliza". Those of us in the Solidarity family are partnering with the Brain Injury Alliance of Wyoming (BIAW) to build more awareness about identifying concussions, but also ways to improve your odds of avoiding a concussion and what to do if you or someone you know suspects they have a concussion. So, we are picking up Eliza's training miles where she can't from today through the end of May. We have set up a donation page with BIAW with a fundraising goal of $3000 so anyone can make even a small donation that can make a huge impact for someone else.

Our donation page can be found HERE

  We also encourage everyone to join us on our Instagram page and follow along, or even contribute your own image while putting in your own #Miles4Eliza by writing on a card, your arm, your jersey with #Miles4Eliza or #MilesforEliza and #ConcussionAwareness written on it to help spread the message for more concussion awareness, and also to raise more money. And if you have questions about concussions please just ask. And, always, wear your helmet whenever you or one of your kids is riding their bike. Even an innocent crash at low speed can cause a concussion, and kids are more susceptible to TBI than adults are.

Once again, DONATE HERE, or go to http://bit.ly/Miles4Eliza

Sincerely,

Eric Graham (CMO), and all of our amazing ambassadors who are rallying behind this cause. Special thanks to Stacy Frazer for organizing this amazing fundraising opportunity.