Thursday, August 25, 2016

It happens....

I headed down to Andrews University in Berrien Springs on Tuesday night. I wanted to get some trail riding in before my next race. Andrews is the closest trail...and it is challenging. I have ridden here a few times and I am always impressed by the nature of the course....DIFFICULT.

KC headed down to ride with me. He did a lap before I got there and warned me that it was fairly sketchy with washouts and some brutal drops. I don't know this trail very well, but I knew what he was talking about. There are some sections that make you "pucker". We planned to just ride and take it as it came. Slow and steady....

We started reaching the rough patches and I was realizing what he meant. There were a few deep ruts that could easily take someone out. They were generally right in the middle of the trail. No fault of anyone but mother nature. Her rains made this feel like a different trail than it was a month ago, the last time I rode it.

The pic above is the first downhill heading back south on the northernmost loop. The picture doesn't really do it justice....because this bastard is steep. The trail hugs the ridge and then dives down to a dry(ish) creek bed. There are a few things I need to point out on this pic.

1. Downhill (obvious)
2. Rut. Right in the middle
3. Harder to see is the hump on directly behind the rut. It takes a small dip before rising back up to the top of the bump where the rut is located
4. Skid marks. These are from riders coming thru after us.

Imagine bombing down that hill with some semblance of speed. Fast, but still dragging the brakes knowing that getting out of control is a bad idea. I went thru first and then heard a horrific sound behind me. When I looked back KC was down. I knew it wasn't good because he wasn't moving yet. I rushed back to him and he couldn't get a breath in. After a bit he asked me to roll him onto his back. He was able to get a breath in at that point and he asked me if help was coming. I was already dialing 911, knowing it wasn't a basic crash. It was clearly serious. To make things worse, we were 3 miles from the parking lot and not close to an access point. After a lot of conversation with the 911 operator KC was standing and ready to get out of the woods.

"The worst part was when they cut off my jersey" ~ KC

Campus security arrived and they headed towards a rendezvous point. The other guys that were assisting grabbed bikes and we headed out. I finally got to the hospital to check up on him. He was drugged up and eating ice chips. They had already done x-rays. They confirmed that he had a broken clavicle that would require surgery. He was ready to sleep so I headed home. In the morning he messaged me to let me know that they confirmed the clavicle break and that he also had 5 broken ribs. Honestly, glad it wasn't worst than that.

I didn't see it...but I can imagine that he got launched off of the hump and flew to the ground, landing on his shoulder. It happens quick. Unfortunately it is part of the sport of Mountain Biking. It was a scary moment for me on the outside...and I would imagine a HIGHLY scary moment for him on the inside. Thankfully he didn't get hurt more than he did.

When something like this happens it really gets your mind going. Scenarios start playing out in my head that have just become a friends reality. The whole thing is....this happens. I know numerous strong riders that have had these types of crashes happen. Another friend had a bad one a few years back. He rides more than anyone I know and just caught a lip wrong. Another friend got taken out by a slick root and bruised ribs earlier this year. Yet another got attacked by sand last week and it threw him down like a paper doll. I crashed and took out a friend a few years ago. But each and every one of these riders will get back on their bikes. They will move on. KC will be back and ready to ride. We dust ourselves off....but we still question this crazy sport we love. Because of our love of the ride we get back on our bikes and ride again. Our style might change. We will become more tentative on certain sections. We will completely skip others. We come back. I am looking forward to when KC is healed up so we can go ride again.

As a side note: It is a good idea to have an understanding of how to handle a major crash. I am not talking a bump or bruise....but a major crash where the person loses consciousness or has a major injury. Unfortunately this wasn't my first time....but because of my knowledge I knew what to do...and more importantly...what not to do. 

Do...remain calm.
Do NOT...move the injured person
Do...tell the person to breathe slow
Do NOT....Say "oh my god you are hurt"

These 2 things can be the difference between an injury and a paralyzed friend. I didn't know if he had twisted his neck or even broken his back. I didn't move him. I told him to relax and try to breathe deep. Only after he picked up his head did I ask if he wanted his helmet off. Only after he moved did I offer to help him....asking him what he wanted me to do for him. Calm. Panic doesn't help anyone. If I ran back to him and said "holy fuck punctured a lung" that really doesn't help the situation. He knew he was hurt. No reason to make him go into shock or worry about further injuries. If you are calm, it helps the injured person be calm. If you panic....mass hysteria happens. 

That is all for today. Ride safe. Keep the rubber side down.

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