Friday Group Ride #497

Friday Group Ride #497

How many is too many setbacks? That’s not this week’s question. It’s just on my mind.

It was a chill ride, just me and C on the local trails. Not hammering. Just rolling around.

We were on our way out again, picking up that one last fun trail before the bridge and the meadow and the roll home. He said something over his shoulder and pointed. I looked, said, “What?,” and looked back, then the log was there. I’ve cleared this log before. It’s not particularly big. There’s a notch in it that you can just about roll through if you’re careful. I had enough time to see the notch and think, “Nah, I’ll go over the high point.”

Then I was in the air, suddenly aware that I’d mistimed my front wheel and was probably going over the bars. For a nano-second I thought I could save it. That probably cost me the chance to get my hands out in front of me. Time slowed down as I hit the ground, shoulder first, and heard a distinct click. “Broken collarbone,” flashed across my mind as my rib cage compressed with the impact and expanded again. Then I was flat on my back.

C said, “Are you ok?,” and I said, “No.” I didn’t feel panicked. I hurt, but I felt I calm. I knew where I was and what had happened. The sun shone bright through the trees, and the beauty of it penetrated the blossoming pain. After a minute C helped me up and I rode home with one hand on the bars.

The front steps were sun warm, so I sat there for a minute thinking about what I needed to do next. Call the doctor (this is no time for the emergency room), clean myself up, tell my wife. The sun felt nice. I lingered. The dominoes were already tumbling. I didn’t feel a need to rush.

At first the doc was confident of a shoulder separation. He drummed and pressed along my clavicle and only found the focus of pain up high, by the joint. Reading the x-ray he said, “I was wrong. Your intuition was right. Broken collarbone.” Lucky me. Curiously though, no lollipop.

2020 has been a real killjoy so far. I had the flu. Then I had it again (the other strain). Then my brother died. Then I had Covid 19 (mildly). Now this. In between, I’ve thrown myself at running and riding, trying to use the silver lining of this tragic pandemic for something I can feel good about. But how many setbacks is too many setbacks?

A day later my mood is ok. Fall down four times, get up five. My friends have rallied around. They love me, despite myself.

This week’s Group Ride asks, not how sorry I should feel for myself (I’m on it), but rather how do you deal with setbacks? What are the mental secrets? Are you the sort that forces themselves back ahead of schedule, or are you a good patient, following advice and waiting patiently? I have resolved to enjoy the pain, to feel it and swallow it, and let it drive me. I have resolved, actually, not to feel sorry for myself. But I’m eager to hear how you deal with these sorts of things.

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  1. matt hunt

    “You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, questions?”

    Matt Damon, as Mark Watnay, in The Martian.

    1. Jeff vdD

      I’m fortunate not to have faced many setbacks, and certainly not in rapid succession. My personality is steady, upbeat, onward … best I can do is hope that’d be the resources I’d need.

      Let pain of all sorts recede on whatever pace suits you at the time. I had the good fortune of attending a Helen Wyman CX clinic a few years back. “Always move forward,” she coached. On the bike, on foot, always move forward. As I see it, “forward” includes recovery–we don’t train at max every day.

  2. Alanm9

    If you’re talking bike crash setbacks, the key for me has been knowing that the body will heal. I’ve broken three ribs, a shoulder blade, a clavicle, and had a punctured lung, but knowing others have come back from far worse has put it in perspective. Plus, I have a cool Xray showing the titanium plate and nine screws in my shoulder.

    1. David B

      We must be twins separated at birth. Did your emergency room people also say that they has never seen a broken scapula?

    2. Author

      I didn’t go to the emergency room. I did two video appointments and then went to my doctor’s office for x-rays.

      When I did have a video call with the orthopedic surgeon he said I was the third broken clavicle this week. He may have yawned.

      My whole shoulder and upper chest is purple now, trending green.

      But I just about have the knack of brushing my teeth left handed.

  3. Stephen Barner

    First, sorry to hear about your brother. I can only assume that he died before his time and, having experienced this myself, that leaves a hole that cannot be patched over as when one loses a parent to old age.
    The real bummer with your accident is that it happened at the beginning of the season, instantly evaporating a ton of this year’s plans and goals. I’m lucky that in over 50 years of riding I’ve only broken bones in one crash, and that was over 10 years ago when I was T-boned by a driver who ran a red light. A couple of the other crashes have been bad, but I don’t think I broke anything, and even that last one didn’t keep me off the bike for more than a few days, as it resulted in three broken ribs. Riding a bike was about the only thing that didn’t result in pain.
    Cycling is all about working through pain and I have a solid, look forward attitude, but pain from injury serves two evolutionary functions; it protects the area so that it can heal, and it should also teach us to modify our behavior so we don’t get hurt again. I am at a loss as to why we glorify athletes who continually risk life and limb in pursuit of a sports goal; I think we should value wisdom over excitement. I appreciate the stories of racers who have been injured in a big race and have (sometimes literally) gritted their teeth and worked through the pain to finish, but that’s adrenaline working not someone who crashes and when they finally heal do the same damn thing again.
    Accidents should teach us lessons that we put to practice. I’ve seen enough riders go down in groups to adjust my own behavior, giving at least a wheel’s extra space than what I once did, increasing my awareness and, increasingly, avoiding groups of inexperienced riders altogether. I still take descents fast, but my caution and braking on these increases a bit every year. When I’m out on the trails, I avoid things that I’m not confident that I can get over without falling. I don’t find the riding any less rewarding or fun. I love watching Danny MacAskill’s skill, but I trust that he knows where his boundaries lie in the moment and stays within them. When you’re constantly at the edge, you will eventually fall off. If you go back to the same place afterwards, it should come as no surprise when you fall off again. Accidents help us learn where this edge lies and can give us the gift of wisdom and experience in the process. It’s up to us to embrace and implement that gift in a way that helps us to grow.

  4. James Fitzgerald

    It all depends on the type of setback. I’ll reduce it to two types.
    An example of the first type is when I was dealing with significant back issues many years ago. After many months of therapy I finally had an MRI done. I met with my doctor and he said, “I have good news, you have a ruptured disc!” I said, “How is that good news?” ” Because we can FIX that.” he said. And they did. I listened to stories about obsessed racers that had gone back to training too early and had not recovered too well. I decided to be wise and be patient. .The perspective was to invest a relatively short time to quality recovery for a better long term result.
    What qualifies this as the first type of setback is that it is temporary and fixable. I can deal with that.
    The second type of setback would be something permanent, something that does strike fear into me, So like Stephen Barner mentions in his comment, on those awesome alpine descents I love so, I hold back a little bit from the edge.
    I’d prefer not to find out how I’d deal with this second type of setback.

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