I was hoping that this post would be an encouraging tale of how hard work pays off, about the excitement of taking my first podium, and about the decision to upgrade to Expert. Instead, it will be an introspective post about dealing with injury. As a group, cyclists are no strangers to injury. It is part of the sport. Hopefully it is a minor part, but eventually we all have at least a small brush with it.
After a fun packed day of trail building, I ventured out on a fun ride with my husband Jim and my teammate Soso. It was supposed to be a quick ride packed with some fun roots, a great view and some smooth steep descending. The route is one of my go-to routes when I want something short but engaging. Everything was going along great and I was discussing my goal of a weekly ride on the trail because it plays to my weaknesses but gives back with an extraordinary amount of fun. As we began a wonderfully steep root filled climb, I broke one of the top mountain bike rules: DON’T LOOK WHERE YOU DON’T WANT TO GO! I was passing by a small upturned tree/washout that someone had stuffed full of cut logs and I was pondering the reasoning behind it when suddenly I was in it. Oops.
It was one of those classic low speed falls, but the landing was so awkward. I knew right away what had happened. Jim and Soso asked if I was okay and I calmly responded, “I dislocated my shoulder.” There was no mistaking it. I couldn’t move it. I couldn’t put weight on it to get myself out of the pit. Jim held me upright as Soso carefully extracted my bike from under me. My training as a wilderness first responder only put one thing in my head: relocation was gonna hurt. Soso pulled out her handy wilderness first aid book and it told us about a magical technique for reduction. Below the scene of the fall was a log over a small creek. It was the perfect locations for the Stimson technique. I wandered down there and hung my arm over the edge. Without weight it went right back in. It was such a relief that I didn’t even think before lifting my arm up in celebration. Oops again. It went right back out. After an extra minute and some weight, it was back in for the second time. This time I carefully cradled the arm and started the hike out while Jim and Soso struggled with the extra bike. When we got to the road, I carefully propped my arm on my knee and rolled out on the bike. After a few phone calls, ice and ibuprofen, the realization of what happened started to sink in. I certainly would not be racing the Coast Hills Classic the following day, and my plans for upcoming months started shifting in my mind.
I am still waiting to get the full picture of my recovery. The x-ray showed that nothing was broken and that our reduction was successful. I am in a sling for the week and waiting for a more detailed exam once the swelling goes down. The next step will either be physical therapy or an MRI to see if anything was torn. But for now I wait.
I use cycling to keep me sane. I tend to think of it as a healthy addiction; but like any addiction, coming down is hell. My calendar was bursting with weekend plans and training rides. I was going to seek my revenge on the Cream Puff. My social life is integrated with cycling. Now what? I have enough work from my PhD program to fill the time, but what I need is something to balance that out. I need something equally as demanding to give me an outlet.
I am trying to find the grace to accept this injury. I am trying not to dwell on lost training, social rides or races. I am trying to accept this as I would accept any cycling challenge. I am trying to see this as nothing more than another technical feature, that with time, courage and the right approach I will master. After I master it I will be stronger, better and more confident to master the next challenge. So I am making my own skills clinic of how to accept injury. Please wish me the patience to see it though so I don’t get impatient and dislocate it again! Here’s to a full recovery and a quick return to the bike!