Technical Difficulties

I went down yesterday. It was bad. After 13 years with no deck time, my number got called, and in a big way. I’ll be okay. My mouth took the worst of it; if I’m lucky, I’ll end up with a scar that gives me some rakish charm, which would be a real improvement in my case.

A few words about the crash itself: I was descending Tuna Canyon road in Malibu. Of it I once wrote that Tuna was where parachute ripcords go for training. Several kilometers of Tuna are steep, in the 14 to 18 percent range. It is where the one-off Redbull Road Rage event was held, where a buddy of mine with a full-face helmet and motocross pads hit 60 mph. It’s a place where a single mistake can require a payment plan. There’s a point on the descent, a final switchback, after which the road goes much flatter; the pitch is more like four percent. This is the section of road I was in, well past everything any reasonable person would describe as dangerous. I was apexing a small bend in the road and suddenly hit a patch of road that didn’t offer the same grip is everything else.

My rear tire slid. And big time. It was the biggest slide I’ve ever ridden out on a road bike. The problem is or was that once I steered into the skid and stood the bike up, I was pointed 45 degrees to the road. I quickly chose to avoid the enormous (we’re talking the size of an office chair) tree stump. Unfortunately, my plan to keep the bike rolling for as long as possible didn’t really pan out; I hit a bump and went over the bar, pounding my face into the ground. I spent the next 9 hours at the ER, but at least got the care of a really ace plastic surgeon.

I bring all this up for a few reasons.

  1. Yes, we’re aware that there was actual news in the cycling world yesterday. I haven’t had much time to read, so I’m going to let Charles tackle it, at least initially, in his next Explainer column.
  2. I’m not sure how much posting I’ll get done in the next week. I’m going to be okay, but I’m on a liquid diet and Percoset, which is a detailed way of saying I’m not at my best.
  3. The oh-so-overdue jerseys are due here today. I’d promised everyone who’d had the patience to keep waiting all this time for their arrival that I’d ship them the day they arrived. I’m thinking I might need an extra day or two. Bending over isn’t what I’d call comfortable.

Thanks for reading.

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57 comments

  1. tinytim

    Going down sucks bad, and it sounds like you went down HARD. It’s tough being on a liquid diet while healing. Make sure to get enough calories, especially protein and vit. C. Hope you have a speedy recovery.

  2. michael ghitelman

    Very sorry. Be patient with your recovery. Everyone’s estimate of your repair time will be overly optimistic. But you will recover.
    I had a bad one about 16 months ago. Being a crash survivor changes one. In my case I access risk differently. I don’t always ride as fast as possible anymore.
    Time lost off the bike, (and work) is too high a price to pay if you’re not making a living from riding fast.
    Good luck.

  3. Les Borean

    The times the hair stood up on the back of my neck, the one time I met the pavement.
    It’s too much a part of the sport. We know that going in.

    Speedy recovery, dude. So sorry to hear of this. Don’t sweat keeping us abreast if you need to offload a while for healing. We’ll be here.

  4. Wsquared

    About 15 years since I spent the night in the hospital after a high speed face plant. Broken collar bone, concussion etc. no fun at all. Intimations of mortality. Maybe the best thing is the realization that you could have died, but managed to slip through the net again & ride another day.

    One thing that struck me about your crash. It often seems like the worst crashes happen not when I am white knuckling it and really focusing on a hazardous section, it’s other times that don’t seem nearly as challenging, so my head isn’t where it should be and my body is too relaxed, so I high side it, or don’t pick up on a little road hazard. As I get older, white knuckling is less frequent , but the mind wanders a bit more.

    Don’t feel guilty about hitting the demerol button.

  5. randomactsofcycling

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
    Thanks for taking the time to write to ‘us’ about it. At least your story was unpredictable. unlike the other ‘news’ of the day.

  6. dstan58

    It’s always the spot AFTER the tough spot that jumps up and bites you in the butt. Good to hear you’re mostly okay. Be nice to yourself and get well.

  7. PeterLeach

    Hi Padraig,
    like so many others here, I’m sorry to hear that you took a tumble, glad that you’re still about to talk about it and hope to hear that you’re soon back on your bike.
    Your personal news is a welcome change from the other news :-)

  8. Michael

    Heal quickly, Padraig. Go raibh biseach ort go luath! Don’t be too hard on yourself in your expectations for speed of recovery, and use this as an excuse to upgrade something on your bike.

    Wsquared has it right – most accidents happen when you are not expecting them. That’s why they are accidents! When I ran a house painting company, I read an article about worker accidents and they happened inordinately in the last hour of the work day, when the mind was wandering… It would be interesting to do a real study on bike accidents for average joes, not in races, and find out where and when they happen. Maybe one exists already.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for your kind words. I really appreciate all the comments.

      I can honestly say that the crash occurred not because of a loss of focus; I was dialed at that moment. I was in the midst of making a consistent radius turn and as I neared the apex, maybe just a hair past, the rear tire just broke free. Really frustrating because it was such a surprise.

  9. naisan

    My thoughts are with you for a fast recovery, and yes: no matter how good the rider, how focused the attention, or how safe the road, the unpredictible can, and will, happen.

    Fret not though: when I see facial scars on a rider, I feel a certain kinship, a fraternity of experience writ large, and a man who got up again. I wear mine proudly.

  10. TucsonMTB

    Ouch! Way too familiar . . .

    Sounds a lot like the slow flat that got me in what would have been the last relatively high speed turn returning home from an afternoon in the desert.

    The good news is that it is not likely to happen again for a long time, maybe never . . . fingers crossed.

    Here’s hoping for a speedy, not too painful recovery, sir!

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  12. Randall

    I fell the other day in a similarly surprising way, and briefly wondered if I should find a new hobby. Thanks for sharing, I hope you heal quickly and don’t feel like the only one!

    I’d would also give a bump to the people who recommended lots of vitamins!

  13. Gummee!

    I don’t have any front teeth (hence the name) because of an ‘over the bars’ crash. Hope things heal quickly. As much as its a cliche, ya gotta get back on the horse that threw ya ASAP. DAMHIK

  14. Full Monte

    Your cycling angel was with you. You are alive and typing. Home, sore yet resting. Healing surrounded by your family, and held up by friends and strangers alike. Can’t say enough about cycling angels; mine is ever watchful and patient. She held me through a nasty crash last year that broke my sacrum (just like Andy), and kept me upright as I ground my way home in agony. We can’t see them, but they’re along on every ride.

    Be well, Patrick. Your energy is now best used for healing both body and spirit, for a crash like that hurts the mind even worse than the body. Doubt, fear. A replaying movie of the accident. It’s a process. Lance commentary can wait. Jerseys can wait. Now sleep. Dream of holding your angel’s wheel.

  15. Robert

    Patrick–

    Sorry to read of this, and I echo the good thoughts and prayers put up by others before me. You will heal, and many of us have hit the deck and wondered how in the heck did I survive that?…but you did (as did I, in 2010), and I have to say the day you get back in the saddle is humbling, thankful, and so worth it.

    Be well.

    –Bob

  16. MattS

    Grimace….I am really sorry to hear about your crash and subsequent faceplant, Padraig. However, I am very happy to see that your brain is as sound as ever. I wish you a full and speedy recovery, comrade.

  17. Jeff D

    Oh yeah, Tuna Canyon, scary stuff. Sounds pretty similar to my loss-of-traction event descending the Col du Cucheron back in 2004. As I recall, you helped load me into the sag wagon for a trip to the ER in Grenoble. I assume some friends were there for you at Tuna. I have a bottle of Justin Cab waiting to help ease the psyche once you’re off the meds.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Jeff D: Gads. I still recall that day. The sound of you fishtailing in the gravel behind me still knots up my stomach. I did have friends around for me. Guys you know and respect; I was really lucky. I look forward to opening the bottle with you once I’m more comfortable showing off my rakish charm. Right now, I haz an uglee.

  18. AG

    I know The Tuna well, both up and down. Riding up is not exactly legal and flying down is not exactly safe. It’s a dance with the devil both ways, which is why it’s one of my favorite Sunday morning rides. Wishing you a fast recovery, and hopefully I’ll have the honor of being passed by you on the way down Tuna sometime very soon.

  19. Les Borean

    Heard your interview on the -Outspoken- podcast, in which you talk about striving to be “relevant” in your writing. Can’t get any more relevanter to cyclists than writing about a good crash!

    I had asked a fellow from work why he never capitalized on his Viet Nam experience as a gun ship pilot to become a ‘copter pilot in civilian life. Said he, “Helicopter is like a bicycle; most of the time you go along just fine; but eventually you crash”.

    Ouch! At least you weren’t in a helicopter.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for your many kind words. I really appreciate all the support, even if I’m not quite ready to get back on the bike. I figure I have to be back to solid food before I’m allowed to do a bike ride. Arbitrary, but my line in the sand.

  20. Joe

    Patrick, the post gave me some nice flashbacks to this past March. Coming back in on a solo training ride, I was half paying attention to some train tracks I’d crossed dozens of times before. This time, wheel got hung up, over I went and landed hard on my elbow, breaking the end of my humerus into seven pieces.

    Thankfully, I had some good samaritans stop and dial 911. Couple days in the hospital waiting for the surgery, 5 hours in the OR, 4 plates and 16 screws later and I can now safely say I have “an elbow guy” for a doctor.

    Look at it this way, the liquid diet is a great way to improve that Watts per KG ratio.

  21. christoph

    less riding for you possibly translates to more to read for “us”? just kidding, wishing you a speedy and full recovery!

  22. Paul

    Good luck on the recovery. (sorry, would have wished you well sooner but I was trying to block out worrying about accidents until after a century on Sunday)

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