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