When I bought my bike, determined to give triathlons a go, they told me it would happen.
“It’s not if you’re going to fall,” they said, “it’s when.”
I just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly, or so hard.
One Sunday morning, I treated myself to a two-hour solo ride. A beautiful morning, I couldn’t wait to see the sun rise over the water and feel the breeze on my face. An experienced runner, but this would only be my fourth ride; I still had no idea what I was doing.
I wore uncoordinated outfits.
I smiled and looked gleefully happy.
I wore underwear with bike shorts.
Halfway through the first of four loops, I heard my car key fall and hit the ground. I squeezed the brakes. My bike stopped fast and, in a manner of seconds, threw me into the air and over the handlebars. I landed on my chin.
It happened. My first crash.
Here’s what people said:
1. “It happens to all of us.”
On three previous rides, I avoided eye contact with serious cyclists, who rode by in silence, sending a wave of wind and intimidation my way. I kept my head down and tried not to kill myself.
Those were the guys who rushed to my side when I went down.
One man helped me up and said how sorry he was, while another put the chain back on my bike. All assured me they’d been there: disoriented, shaking, and bloody. A few inspected my chin, cringed appropriately, and told me I didn’t look half bad.
“You did it up right,” one said, with a look of respect in his eyes.
The lone woman in the group walked me to the bathroom, despite my assurances that I was okay. She got me clean and bandaged, before letting me ride back to my car alone. I’m forever grateful to her.
Next time, I won’t avoid eye contact. I’ll say, “thank you” instead.
2. “How’s the bike?”
Not a scratch on her. She’s tougher than I am.
3. “Did anyone get your crash on video?”
My friends wanted something they could circulate online. They’re great that way.
4. “Looks like fun.”
My hands, knees, and pelvic area suffered from bruises and road rash. I went to the emergency room for stitches in my chin and spent two days with ice packs on my neck.
Not exactly the poster child for triathlon training. Friends and family decided their sedentary habits and lifelong relationship with donuts seemed way more fun than injuries.
5. “How embarrassing.”
I’ve tripped when wearing high heels or while going barefoot.
I have been known to dance. In public.
I’ve written about losing bladder control while pregnant.
So no, I was not embarrassed when I flew off my bike and crashed into the ground. I shook from head to toe and tears fell down my face because of adrenaline and fear of serious damage – to me and my bike.
But I haven’t been embarrassed for years. Which is good news, because otherwise I would never make it out of bed every day.
6. “Is this whole triathlon thing really necessary?”
On my way to the hospital, I thought about yoga, and how I’d practiced for years without injury or incident. Yoga never caused posterior shin splints (running), dizziness (swimming), or mild head trauma (bicycling.)
Instead, yoga gave me the ability to enjoy multiple orgasms in a variety of poses.
Yoga was a giver.
So why was I training for triathlons?
Swimming, cycling, and running challenges me. I set difficult, but not unreachable, goals and feel a sense of accomplishment crossing the finish line. I meet runners and triathletes who believe in themselves, and we support each other through long training sessions. Rides and runs make me feel more alive than Downward Dog.
And orgasms are still good.
So yes, the whole triathlon thing? Quite necessary.
7. “Why doesn’t this emergency room have an open bar?”
To be fair, I’m the one who asked this question. Several times.
I never got a good answer.
8. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
When word hit the streets that I went down, hard, I could almost hear my friends and family getting online to research worst-case scenarios. They looked up symptoms and confronted me with quotes from www.youaregoingtodie.com.
They asked about headaches and pupil dilation. Did I lose consciousness? Was I suffering from nausea and confusion? They quizzed me to see if I remembered my puppy’s name from 1975 and my silence led to a diagnosis of imminent death.
That’s why I needed an open bar.
9. “You think that’s bad, listen to what happened to me.”
This is a relief, really, and a reminder that no matter what, someone, somewhere has been through worse – and lived to tell about it.
One of my friends crashed, dislocating her shoulder and cracking her helmet, with a mile left to go in her first Ironman race. Another flipped over a pothole in New York City and cracked three ribs. Several tumbled into other cyclists during a race, wiping everyone out.
I could live with five boo-boos and three stitches.
10. “Get back out there.”
If we think hard enough, we can come up with excuses to stop anything. There are real risks associated with inaction and for me, quitting wasn’t an option. Within a week, I was back on my bike. Bruised and battered, yes, but not broken. When we make mistakes, we learn from them and hopefully make fewer the next time around.
For example, I know how to brake, how to fall, and how to go commando when wearing bike shorts.
I still look gleefully happy, though.