Been wondering when this would be my own issue. My hourglass emptied this morning. Riding in the mountains of North Carolina is an entirely different beast than riding in northern California. There’s wet, for one thing. Slimy roots, greasy mud, sloggy sand, constant creek crossings, moss and algae on the rock faces. This last one took me out today – in a big way. Garmin Connect says 22.4 mph at point of impact (near as I can estimate from their half-assed metrics). I’m not entirely sure the details. Must have been glorious though. I was out for at least 45 seconds, I guess……
Humping through the woods picking up speed on fleet feet, for me, feels like being an ensign on the Enterprise when you punch the console for warp speed. The periphery blurs a bit but, back to my reality, my eyes search frantically for the right line through the chaos of rocks, drops, roots. Most of these trails are first or second runs for me, so it’s a lot of chance and trusting my instinct. I drop off a root ball and crest a corner too fast and run into a staggered mud pit. You can’t brake into the mud holes (I’d heard about Butter Gap….). So I pump up onto the high side of a rock face, hoping to ride the high line and drop back on to the trail. Instead I find myself buried in the crease created by the bottom of said rock and the low (smart) line, twisted up in the bars and top tube of my bike.
“My God, It’s Full of Stars”
Part of my brain knew what happened. This part is screaming at me and mad as hell. Kicking the bike off me I slide further down the trail, covered in mud. Fuck! Fuck this. Damn it! Shorts ripped, blood dripping, vision blurry.
It took me a minute to realize I had a gap in my time. Took even longer for my calm mind to overtake and tell me it’s ok. Mud and blood, tomorrow will be bruised. Helmet is probably screwed (it is). But I’m ok, the bike needs a new hanger, but seems otherwise ok. What begins to worry me are the tendrils of something from the back of my brain shooting into my conscious mind. Grasping, yelling, cursing. Small instances, fragments, pulsing with the blood in my temple. I had to sit down, put my head in my hands between my knees. Felt sick. Been a long time since that part of my brain was allowed purchase behind my eyes – must’ve been shook loose. I could see myself watching myself from a distance, but could hear that other self yelling. Incoherent, static.
Instinct took over I guess. Shut off the higher brain functions and walk 1.5 miles back up to the top, coast back home. Control my breathing but every few breaths is this damn demon boiling my blood without my permission, poking me in the side with a needle. I’m sweating buckets by the time I get to pavement, despite minimal peddling and a heavy head wind. I keep shaking my head, as a reflex – trying to gain some traction for my frontal lobe.
My helmet is for sure worthless. Nice dent in the side. I straight up KO’ed myself on the trail. But at 34 it’s my first concussion, despite the 9 surgeries I’ve had, and countless poor choices I’ve survived while mobbing through the trails that I will be forever in love with.
Will I have crazy dreams tonight? Will that demon be chained back up in the darkest recess when I greet the day tomorrow?
“Every bastard to pass through the grinder, can just laugh at the mania of his own nerves.”
Monday will be the day. I’ll take the smart line. With a shiny new helmet. Tonight is Rye and a face that says “This Means War”. Anything less would be shit.