Yesterday I competed in the first round of the French Cup with the Pruneaux's. It was a very cold day - maybe about 45 degrees F but at least the rain had stopped just before the race.
The 4.4km course consisted of rolling terrain and some tight turns. Eighteen laps totaling 80km should take us about two hours. But my race ended only after 45 minutes. Just as i was putting my hand back on the bars after taking a bite to eat, I was sideswiped like a perfect 7-10 split, giving its "bedposts" nickname a whole new meaning as i smacked the pavement in a tuck/cover fetal position. They say that people become religious just before they think they're going to die, but not me. Instead of thinking, "Holy S_ _ _" my thoughts were more like, "F_ _ _ ME! As i hung out in the fetal position, bodies and bikes piled on top of me like a roller derby. The screams of terror combined with the screeching sound of metal sliding on pavement was just awful.
When I thought it was over, I waited an extra five seconds with my head covered - just in case. Well, good thing i did that because there was a second wave of carnage upon me! (I learned this little five second rule from a Freshman year teacher in University. Since most of the other students who were attending school in NYC were not from NY, he taught us to wait five seconds AFTER the light turns green before crossing. I'm sure he saved a few lives in addition to mine yesterday. How did i apply it to bike crashes? I don't know. My mind is not quite normal i guess.)
I stood up and took a few seconds to assess the damage. Torn jersey, shoe covers, knickers, socks - oops, should check the helmet. Missing skin: ankle, knee, elbows, butt cheek. Painful areas: shoulder, ankle, knee, ego. I was ready to continue but my bike was not. A girl's handlebar lever was weaved into my wheel. A mechanic finally untangled it so I went to get on the bike only to find that one side of the handlebars was hanging out with my front wheel. Game over.
As i looked around me at the few women still on the ground writhing in pain, I wondered how this happened, hoping that i didn't somehow cause it. I found out later from a few witnesses that a girl on the left side of the peloton lost her balance when she threw her arm warmers to the side of the road, causing her to swerve into the girl to her side taking them both out. And as they were crashing to the ground, I was swept off my bike in the process.
After changing into civilian attire, I headed back out to cheer on the mates. Three were left in the dwindling peloton that was chasing a lead group of five. Soon after the five crossed the finish line with Cyclo-Cross superstar Laurence Leboucher leading the bunch, the peloton came into view. But about 50 meters before the finish, the Pruneaux's got their final blow of the day. Two more Prunes went down in a spectacular sprint.
I just happened to be standing there so I took a photo of the carnage not knowing which racers were involved. Within a second I noticed two of them were my teammates! One was OK physically. I quickly fixed her injured bike - straightened the brakes, put chain on but left the twisted shift lever as is - and gave her a push to the finish. But the other gal was in serious pain, on the ground grabbing her hip. I tried to relax her in my best non-French, repeating the phrase "tranquil" as i did that stupid yoga gesture where you get someone to relax their breathing by taking deep breaths. Surprisingly it seemed to work. They took her away to hospital for X-rays but thankfully they think she is fine.
A friend recently asked me when was the last time i cried. I had no idea - maybe it's the "forget pain" thing. But i now have a definitive answer. It was yesterday. I was in some random train station in France - feeling tired, dejected, in pain and hungry (the French cannot imagine that all foods don't need to be served with some form of dairy.) As i sat down on the ground somewhat hidden from the hordes of people, I held a pity party for myself.
But just as the party started, a random guy walked by, lifted his sunglasses and u-turned back towards me. He seemingly wanted to make small talk but since he spoke no English and my pity party by invitation only, I sent him on his way. His gesture was kind which postponed the party by two minutes. But then the eyes welled and a couple of tears escaped. It seems bad timing was the theme of the day because just as the salty dropltes hit the corner of my lips, the whole Belgian Chocolade Jacques Pro Cycling Team sat down across from my party. They all took turns checking out the gal traveling with the flash bike bag that only team members would posess.
Once in Paris, i stood on the impossibly long taxi line still obsessing about my crap day. I had two choices: I could either have a pity party all the way home or i could change my attitude (which is a lot easier than changing the situation!) So i danced - for 37 minutes on the taxi line - to the new tunes on my iPod. I recently told my mom that i cannot have a social life because of my lack of "going out" clothes. Her response to me was that I never cared what other people think - why start now. Dance, dance, dance.
My penultimate train was from paris to brussels - 1 1/2 hrs. And on that train, equipped with a new attitude adjustment, something amazing happened. The guy who sat across from me bought me wine and chips! It's amazing how something as trivial as an attitude can completely turn everything around. Tipsy and full, I was then able to handle the rest of the trip (one train and a taxi) with strength and dignity.
That night, I was barely able to sleep due to the pain. I heard it's even worse the second day! Just can't wait!