When Good Guy Greg and I hit the woods, it was to the cheers of “Go North Carolina!” We had left the rest of the DC crew for some reason, and ended up riding with Dejay and Shanna. It wasn’t a real fast pace, but I wanted to ride a little quicker and enjoy the trail for a while before we started drinking at aid station number one (fifteen miles in.) That was a long way to go, so we thought we should hurry up and get there. I somehow passed Shana on a climb, and when we hit the downhill I started hauling ass like I usually do. A little way in, I took a turn too fast and rolled off the trail into the bushes. Whatever the hell I landed in had me itching like crazy, but it wore off a few minutes later. We rolled on and I tried to stay in control on the descents from then on.
We reached a long switchback climb, and for the sake of saving our legs we (and everyone else) decided to walk it. It just went on and on, and eventually we stopped for a breather. The rest of the crew rolled up behind us, and we made our own aid station.
Eventually we kicked ourselves out of there and started riding again on the smooth, rolling hills. No one was “racing” and we moved along at a fun pace. We rolled out of the woods into a neighborhood, and unofficial aid station number two was setup after only two miles.
I hadn’t had a drink at that point, since I was still a little shaken up from that first crash. While alcohol probably would’ve made me more focused, I decided that I would wait until the “real” aid station. Dumb decision, I know, but there was a big downhill up next that I wanted to shred.
I heard how fun it was from a lot of different people, and I started trying to figure out where I would jump in with the group. With everyone still enjoying their beverages, Cupcake took off and I decided to follow him down about a minute later. It was super fast downhill, and I tried to keep my hands off the brakes to see how hard I could push it. I eventually caught up with him, and I saw him slow down for something. When I got closer, I noticed a small banked turn that went into a rock garden. I adjusted my speed, and prepared for the tiny turn.
“I got this”, I said to myself.
Except I didn’t. When I began the turn to the right to line up with the little rock garden, my front tire rolled off the rim and my bike started to throw me down. It felt like I was falling in slow motion, and my face was heading right towards a big rock sticking up in the middle of the pile. I turned my head to the left so I wouldn’t mess up my pretty face, and I felt my shoulder hit the rock with all of my 225 pounds behind it.
And I heard a loud “crack.”
Shit, that hurt.
I was really shaken up, but I somehow still had the presence of mind to grab my bike and move it off the trail. I checked my crabon fork for damage (as well as the rest of my bike), and satisfied that everything was okay I checked myself. My collarbone was intact, and I couldn’t find any other broken bones right away. A few scrapes, some quick bruising on my leg, and a painful as hell shoulder joint were all I could find.
That was way too much though.
Now I had to try to fix my flat so I could keep going.
Good Guy Greg rolled up soon after, and asked if I was okay. I told him I was, but the look of panic on his face told me he thought I was full of shit. He helped me put a tube in my tire (the sealant was gone), and while we were working the rest of the gang starting rolling by. Everyone tried to make sure I was okay, and I kept telling them I was. “Don’t worry”, I said, “I’ll catch up.”
We were there a long, long time. I was really shaken up, and my shoulder was getting worse. I was sure it was separated (later confirmed by my doctor), but there was no way I would quit that early. As I got ready to roll again, the official security/course sweeper Chewie rolled up in disbelief.
“There’s no way I should’ve caught you this early.”
“I’m okay, just a little crash.”
Instead of sweeping me off the course, he told me that a mechanical issue was okay, and that if I get going I would be allowed to finish. We took off, and as painful as it was I was happy to be riding again.
It wasn’t long before we rolled up on another unofficial aid station, so I had a chance to rest for a few minutes. I tried to drink some beer, but nothing tasted good. I was nauseous, in a shitload of pain, and wondering if I could ride thirty more miles. Just then, Chewie rolled up again.
I used that as motivation and we got the hell outta there.
We took off through another neighborhood. Riding on the pavement wasn’t too bad, but I was dreading getting on the trail again. We had a little fun with the serious racers on their way back (yes, they were getting close to finishing), and our little party on wheels was having a great time.
We crossed a busy highway, rolled down another street, and made our way up a gravel climb. We said “Fuck this shit”, pulled over, and started unofficial aid station number four.
We handed off beer to the racers on their way back, caused some crashes, and one guy even shot people in the ass with rocks out of his slingshot. I was hurting worse as the day went on, but at least the fun we were having numbed the pain a little bit.
The sad news? We weren’t even halfway through the course.
The other sad news? I’m not gonna finish this shit until Monday.
See y’all then.