Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rag-dolling off Mt Kearsarge

It was the last weekend before my pinnacle event of the season, the Mt Washington hillclimb race. I thought about doing the Tokeneke road race on Sunday. The year I established my personal best on Mt Washington, I did Tokeneke the Sunday before. But I didn't renew my USAC license this year. That meant $100+ net cost to race Tokeneke. Plus I've become quite risk adverse since learning of my low bone density after a 2010 mishap. So I bagged the race, decided to do something "safe" with high training value. I headed over to Mt Kearsarge less than an hour away for some high intensity repeats.

Parking at the Exit 9 carpool lot, it was 6 miles to the mountain. Perfect for a warmup. I no more than turned onto Keasarge Mtn Rd in Warner than I was greeted by three other riders coming down. One hollered out my name. Stop. What other wackos would be out this early? It was Bill D, Jose A, and Jason D. Jason is the current BUMPS challenge leader, and Bill is close behind in 2nd place. Awesome! Great minds think alike. They had parked up by the toll road base and rode down to town and were heading back up for a warmup. The real climb is inside the park on the toll road. Also joining us were Craig G and his wife from Alaska. All of us guys are racing Mt Washington in a week. Kind of had ourselves our own little BUMPS race. This was going to be way more fun than Tokeneke!

Interestingly, the state park is no longer collecting tolls for cyclists. Not sure when this changed, but I was at Miller State Park recently, and they charged me the $4 per person entry fee. Not going to question it. We all took off from the gate at about the same time. I went out kind of hard, but I was running my PowerTap, so I could keep lid on going much too hard. Jason started to pull away from me. We've demonstrated multiple times now that I pass him mid-climb in races. I was going out on Kearsarge a tad too hard, so he was probably going out a lot too hard. I trusted my power meter.

I also was hoping to redeem myself after an abysmal pair of 20 minute intervals on Wednesday. I sought two 350W efforts, got 333W in first, and only 313W for 10 minutes in second. That is just awful. I was obviously still tired from the 50 mile MTB ride on Sunday. Probably didn't help either that I ate a large Kielbasa sandwich moments before heading out on that ride. Company campus picnic, and I was too hungry to head out without some food.

About half way up, I caught Jason and started to put seconds on him. I had slowed down a little, so he probably slowed down quite a bit. I crested in 20:49 with a 342W average. That's more like it. I probably could have gone harder, but I wanted to do more than just one of these too. Jason was about 90 seconds back.  We waited for everybody to summit, socialized for a while, took photos with 50 mile visibility, then headed back down.

Summit shot, after first ascent. Jason, HJ and Bill.  Photo by Jose.

The others planned to go up only once and then do a 30 mile circuit. When I mentioned I was going up again, Jason wanted to work on his pacing and decided to go up again too. Bill reluctantly agreed. Bill was reluctant not for the climb, but it meant he would have to descend the frost heave pocked road one more time. Bill wrecked really bad in the Whites several years ago and has titanium in his face as a result. I was riding with Bill that day. He came very close to death.

Second time up I paced myself a little lower, thinking maybe I could do a negative split if I felt better in the upper half. This time Jason started out much more subdued. We rode together most of the way. I did notice his helmet shadow right under my bottom bracket on the drafty bits. Taking advantage...

I did this one at 331W in 21:35, only 11W and 36s slower. I was very happy with that, and clearly a negative split, as my average power was only ~320W at the half-way point. Jason did even better. Looking at his Strava data, he was only 1W and 4sec slower! That on tired legs after going out too hard on the first one. That just goes to show how important pacing is in these things. Funny thing is, Jason was running power too, and his meter was saying too much, but male hormones take over and ignore the quantitative data. Now he's going to be a force to reckon with on Mt Washington!

After dropping down again, the rest of the gang was done with the mountain. I still felt pretty good and at least wanted to do the lower steep mile one more time. The others were going to do a cool-down ride into town and back.

This time I went out really easy, sub-threshold to start. The steep mile went by so quickly, I figured why not just go all the way up again? A huge, fateful decision. I crested in 22:16 at 316W average. Big negative power split again. I figured this third 20+ minute effort is something I can hold for over an hour on Mt Washington. That would get in range of a PR finish if we have good weather. I was psyched.

I started to head down right away. Trees are sparse closer to the summit, so the road is a patchwork of sun and shadows. The road has many nasty frost heaves jutting up and sinking down. I hit a couple pretty hard on the first two descents, so I thought I knew where most of them were now.

Not even a minute into my descent, going fast, I nailed a pointy frost heave in a shadow. Both hands lost grip of the bar. In a blink of an eye, I knew I was f'd. I was off the road, where the side drops precipitously to the right. It happened so fast. Don't know how I became disconnect from bike, as I have Speedplay pedals that require 30 degree rotation. But there I was, an instant of oh shit, heading for trees and rocks at 26mph. It's amazing how much goes through your mind in those few thousandths of a second.

I impacted the ground. Because of the steep bank, it took forever to slow down. I had time to think about how badly my body was going to break when I hit a tree.  Other than initial impact, I managed to rag-doll through the trees and hit none of them. I came to a rest upside down. I was way off the road, and my first thought was how was anybody going to know I was down here. Then I started to move things. I could still feel my body. My spinal cord wasn't severed. Legs worked. Neck didn't hurt. I righted myself. I was trembling mightily with adrenaline. I stood up. I wondered if I was so hopped up on adrenaline that I couldn't feel what was broken yet. I knew my left wrist hurt really bad, and my left calf was so knotted up I couldn't straighten my leg.

I had mud and weeds packed in everywhere. Most of my helmet holes were packed with debris. I was scraped and banged up, but not bleeding anywhere. Wow, I dodged a bullet big time.

Up on the road, I started looking for my bike. I couldn't find it! Did somebody come by and take it when I was down in the weeds? It actually went further than I did. It was just off the pavement but buried in deep weeds.

You know how when a car goes off the highway into the brush, it leaves a clear path where everything gets mowed down? Well, that is exactly what my body did going into the woods. Wish I had a camera to capture it. I also realized from my trajectory, I just missed a four foot tall 6"x6" wooden reflector post where I went into the woods. Like by inches.

The adrenaline started wearing off. My wrist felt awful. Pretty sure I was feeling stuff moving around in there. The forearm bones were fine. My calf was charlied up to point of having to hobble. The descent was going to suck. Hundreds of bumps to avoid with possibly broken wrist. No way could I have walked it.

I suffered through it. My thumb, index and middle fingers kinda worked, so I could at least work the front brake. The ulnar side of my hand was messed up.  Surprisingly, the other guys were just back to the cars as I reached the toll booth area. One of them said "you went all the way up again, didn't you!" I just looked at them, then pointed to my green and black stained jersey. Bill didn't really want to hear about it. I could understand that.

They gave me a lift back to my car parked by the highway. I drove straight to an urgent care center to get my wrist x-ray'd.  The tech said something didn't look right with the ulnar side carpal bones. An orthopedist needs to review the x-rays. I may have something like this going on. In the mean time, I'm splinted up. Moderate swelling, not much pain as long as I don't move my wrist. Extreme pain is result of trying to do anything normal. Typing is tolerable.

Hopefully I'll still be able to use my hand next weekend and the calf charlie works out. I bagged running the last couple months so I could focus on one event, the Washington hillclimb. Sucks to have something like this happen so close.

Ironically, in numerous places, like almost every hillclimb description on my website, I warn riders about frost heaves on the descent. As recently as this week, I put this up for Kearsarge specifically.   I finally got bitten by one of these bastards. This was by far my worst bike crash. So easily could have resulted in far more severe injuries. I feel unlucky the crash happened, but very fortunate to have escaped with relatively minor injuries.  Stay tuned...


Curt lavoie said...

Sorry to hear about your crash Doug. I'm glad it was not much worse.I lost my grip on cx ride with Bob T a few years back on a dirt road. I almost broke my neck. I refuse to ride drops now unless it's quite smooth.

Fritz Fay said...

So sorry to hear about this Doug. Glad it wasn't worse, and I hope you heal up fast. Take care.

Bill said...

Damn Doug I was looking forward to riding with you 2 weekends in a row at the rockpile and D2 heal up!

Bill said...

Damn Doug I was looking forward to riding with you 2 weekends in a row at the rockpile and D2 heal up!

gewilli said...

wishing you a speedy and uncomplicated recovery Doug

Anonymous said...

I broke the triquetrum a few years ago. It required a cast after a couple days with a splint after the swelling went down. It's typically caused by trying to brace yourself with your hands during a crash. I was in the cast for 9 weeks but was able to ride the whole time. Mt Washington should be feasible but I think D2R2 may not be in the cards if indeed you broke the triquetrum.

rick is! said...

dude, sorry! fingers crossed and heal fast.

Cathy said...

Scary story, Doug. Glad that it wasn't worse. Fingers crossed for a positive diagnosis and quick healing on the wrist.

Mr. Quindazzi said...

Sorry about your misadventure Doug. If you are going to try and gut out D2R2, I'd be happy to lend you a Softride Stem. There is a weight penalty, but it not only takes the sting out of washboards and frost heaves, but keeps the bars from being yanked from your hands. In any case best of luck on Washington- I'll be the last rider up I think.