allow me to step up on my soapbox for a bit here …
with less than 1 month to go before ironman florida, I’m a hot mess. seems lately that every time I turn around, I read about another person going down on their bikes and just like that, in a blink of an eye, they are out of commission for a while, with a broken clavicle, busted ribs, and the list of fractures and injuries go on. welcome to my current nightmare.
some of you may recall last year as I was preparing for my first iron distance race, I had a few close calls. like this: thanks to the stupid owl watching ladies, read story HERE. and then a month after that when I was at rainbow river celebrating my b-day, I slipped on an algae infested boat ramp and went BOOM on my already compromised left hip. I remember thinking that I should wrap myself in bubble wrap for the next 2 months because obviously there were all kinds of outside forces doing their best to make sure I did not show up for my big race. Which brings me to today, I keep seeing and hearing all kinds of examples of cycling accidents lately and I know you can’t go thru life thinking like that something bad is going to happen but when you keep getting these little timely reminders, you can’t help it. This post focuses more on other cyclists as perils and not as much emphasis on the animal encounters, although I’ve had my share of those too.
Case in point, Tuesday night on our normal, evening, usual, vanilla, uneventful, no big deal ride at Flatwoods (our local stomping ground), a deer ran out in front of us as we were going about 24mph and the 2nd guy in the pace line went down hard. There were 5 of us riding, which is a small group compared to what it can sometimes morph into, so thankfully, everyone else was able to save it and walk away unscathed. I may have walked away unscathed physically but my mind is not so unscathed as I cannot stop thinking about it and how it could have easily been any one of us that night. I’ve had several
counseling sessions conversations with the J-man about my fear and he is great about not allowing me to focus on the negatives. My fear is not unfounded, this fear of mine is deep rooted and for real. click HERE to see this blog post for more info about when we hit a hog head on at this same park while doing about 24mph. And, it was 3 weeks before I was to run the Boston marathon in 2008 …once again, I dodged a bullet, even though I landed hard on my left hip and was bruised and scrapped up, I was able to walk away without any broken bones. I also want to point out that it isn’t just animals darting out that scare me but also the abundance of oblivious, earphone wearing cyclists, runners, walkers and roller bladders that frequent this same park. They will u-turn right in front of you without even looking behind them so you have to cycle defensively, much like driving defensively. I truly believe that I am safer riding on the street with cars than I am at this park with no car traffic allowed. I’ve said this for years and the more accidents I see and personally experience there, the more I find myself not wanting to ride there. I also find myself not trusting other cyclist, especially the one’s who feel that it’s perfectly fine and their god given right to just join in your ride without the courtesy of asking if it is okay to join you. Sometimes, the j-man and i will go out with a specific goal (average speed) in mind and it gets totally screwed up because some jackwagon has to butt into our ride and once it’s his turn to take the lead, he (always a he and never a she) disrespects the pace we’ve been maintaining, and decides it’s time to go 30mph or way to slow. It bugs the shit out of me that I can’t ride with the j-man alone anymore b/c there is always someone out there that feels the need to suck our wheel. I started writing this post on Friday so now I have some more examples to add from our ride this weekend at flatwoods. I think we made it about 10 miles before doe boy triathlete on his guru decided he needed to join in. thankfully, the j-man and I are privy to a little strategy on how to get rid of these wheel sucking pests, without having to mess up the ride we set out to do. here is how we do it: there is a section of the park where you can either continue on the 7 mile loop or go straight and head towards the road or parking lot/restroom area so we just go straight and can always count on the offender to continue on the loop … see ya sucker! The other incident was these 2 rather large (not muscular large) guys riding side by side at about 15mph max. we had already passed them a couple of times when all of sudden they decide it would be a great idea to join us. WRONG! I immediately stood up and pedaled ahead and got up right next to the j-man to see if they got the message I was sending but apparently not since they were still there so I turned around and said, “get off my wheel man, I don’t want anyone behind me.” He started mouthing off something but I didn’t hear him which is a good thing because I’m not shy and I won’t back down. I don’t feel bad about my behavior at all and if I came of as a bitch, too bad. Here are these two guys who clearly are not used to riding in a paceline and I didn’t feel comfortable riding with them.
another case in point: a few months ago, the j-man and I were riding with a friend of ours who we ride with on a regular basis, so we all are familiar with each others tendencies on the bike. sure enough, some dude gets on us who we’ve seen before but clearly know that he is not super experienced. I like to describe these riders as being all over the place; not steady riders. As we cycle thru our paceline, this dude (who I have since nicknamed Stinky) is now in the second spot. Our friend is leading and he flicks his elbow to indicate, he is coming off the front and now it was Stinky’s turn to lead. Well, stinky doesn’t “get” this elbow flick and he starts following the lead guy over to the left and his front wheel touches the back wheel of the guy coming off the front . Stinky goes down hard and takes out the J-man who is behind him. I was behind the j-man and narrowly missed this guys bike as it was still moving across the path. My heart was in my throat as I was thinking, here we go again, another novice taking us out b/c they are oblivious and don’t understand how a paceline works. Thankfully, I was able to keep the rubber side up and not eat it like I have other times before. Bottom line is, when you ride with people you aren’t familiar with or who lack proper biking etiquette and skills, you are taking a big chance.
my friend Heidi at Tri Angel recently wrote up a great post similar to this one and I think she did a great job of expressing the disdain we have for uninvited guests. I second every single word Heidi wrote in her blog post: http://heidileeaustin.blogspot.com/2011/07/leeches-stay-away.html
I think if I weren’t so close to doing ironman florida, I wouldn’t be as on edge as I am now but I just don’t think it is necessary at this point to take any chances. I know there are no guarantees, but at least I can try my best to minimize the risks as much as I possibly can within reason.
as for anyone’s feelings getting hurt because of my edginess and lack of friendliness when riding lately, I’m looking out for myself right now and for that, I make no apologies.
be careful out there people, it’s a mad-mad world!
much love, peace out and stay off my freakin’ wheel!