Alternate Title: Troy Lee Designs Saved My Life
The last MTB race of the 2018 season, my 14th race this season, my 73rd race since starting this racing gig, and my 80th blog post.
My first DNF.
My first DNF!
MY FIRST DNF!!!
Seriously, I ALWAYS finish:
- I once raced on the surface of the sun, but still, I finished.
- I taco’ed the wheel on my geared bike halfway into an 8 hour, and had to finish a race on my single speed (despite wobbly legs, a chugging heart, and an exhausted spirit), but still, I finished–oh, and because of it, I did the next 8 Hour entirely on my SS, and the next one…
- I sheared my rear derailleur in half, 10k into a nasty 80k race, and had to ride my pal’s full suspension (my first time on a full suss, AND the shock was set to 90 pounds less than me), but still, I finished.
- I taco’ed (a different wheel) and lost a shoe cleat in an argument with a tree (spoiler alert: the tree won) and finished a race with one shoe and a wobble that made the crowd gasp “Ouuugh!”, but still, I finished.
- I tacked-on my stumbling bike and body to darkened figures racing through Albion Hills in the middle of the night when BOTH my headlamps burned out, but still, I finished
- the last 24 Hours of Summer Solstice was cancelled due to rain WHILE I WAS ON COURSE, but still, I finished.
The list goes on.
72 races of rain, and snow, and exhaustion, and wind, and cramps, and everything the Gods of Cycling could throw at me (with a few catastrophic technicals here and there), but still, I finished every race I started.
My will to finish–my DRIVE to finish–is the one thing I can always rely on. I’ll never win, and I’ll never match the speed and agility and wickedness of the big kids, but whenever I clip in, I know that I will undoubtedly and most definitely NOT unclip until I FINISH.
On Saturday, October 13th, 2018, in the Substance Projects Sausage Suit ITT, at Dufferin County Forest, Team Colin DID NOT FINISH.
Instead, I found myself sitting with my patient family, in the emergency ward of the Headwaters (heh heh) Health Care Centre in Orangeville, ON, beside a little sick dude wearing Spiderman rain boots, and eating a bag of vending machine Hickory Sticks, waiting for the barf and dizziness of a concussion to formulate inside my skully (head and belly).
And yeah, vending machine chips. Do you know how small those bags are? There were like 50 sticks at most. Pfft. Stupid little vending machine bags…
Okay, cut to the end of the post. I’m fine. Well, not entirely fine, but given the circumstance, NOT FINISHING was the right move, and I don’t have a moment of regret or remorse.
Okay, so maybe I’m only adjacent to fine. DNF’ing stinks.
I feel so stupid. I wanted to do something BIG for my 80th blog. I was thinking maybe a cake, or a double shot of poutine. You know, something with frosting or gravy, or maybe dipped in chocolate. I didn’t think I’d spend my Oak and Pearl anniversary (Googled it) proving to a surgeon that my eyes could follow their finger.
Although given the last visit to my doctor, I was sort of relieved that I only had to WATCH their finger…
Anyway, here’s the story of how my first DNF came to be. Warning, you might need a tissue, because it could get teary.
DNF Report: Sausage Suit ITT. October 13, 2018. Dufferin County Forest.
I know eh, it’s already getting sad. It isn’t a Race Report.
The Sausage Suit ITT is a super chill end-of-season race that I look forward to every year. By the time the race rolls around in late October, I’m in end-of-summer shape, and at 30k, it’s sort-of sprintable. However, while the vibe is relaxed, and the crowd is awesome it’s no Lolly-gagger. The SSITT is tight and technical, and always hosts a menacing field of trail-bred locals and genuine legends from the wider scene.
And yes, people like me.
But it’s such a blast to rip. Chances to fill your lungs or rest your legs on course are few and far between, the trail is raw and wickedly cool, and it’s where the log-over reigns supreme. Uh oh, foreshadowing.
One of the best parts of the race is Team Van Go. They co-host the race with Substance Projects, and a portion of the proceeds help the club maintain the trails. In short, the SSITT is MTB heaven.
Wait, is this a story about my DNF, or is it a love letter to the SSITT?
Okay, back to the story.
The race started from the back of a trailer, and everyone seemed to just zip out of, but not me. Nope, I looked like a moose in a shoe box.
More foreshadowing? Perhaps…
Anyway, I was halfway through the first of two laps, when I came to benign looking log-over. “Easy peasy”, I thought, as I approached at speed, and popped my front wheel up and over. Somehow, even though 50 riders before me had cleared the log, I was launched LIKE A BLOODY ROCKET, and instantly found myself upside down, almost frozen, in mid-air, about to crash-land all six foot and two inches of my generous 250 pound body.
Was it poor weight distribution due to rubber legs and, um, bad form? Probably.
Was it bad form due to, um bad form? Probably that too.
Did I kick my rear wheel up too high or not enough? I honestly don’t know, but yes.
Maybe it was over-inflated tires? Hmm.
Or under-inflated tires? Hmm, again.
Or was it just a simple case of dumbassedry? Absolutely.
And so, while I was whizzing through the air, in a spandex-clad vignette worthy of Benny Hill, I had time to think–and react–so I tucked my arms against my body in order to avoid a break (or two). Unfortunately, caught in a levitating headstand, this meant I landed directly, and squarely, on the top of my head. I don’t think I have to tell you humans aren’t designed to land that way.
“Oof!”, and thank you for your loyal service Mr. Spinal Cord…
Seriously, my head didn’t scrub along the ground, and my body wasn’t bent, angled, or otherwise askew. I hit the ground completely and utterly upside down.
When the little birdies fluttering around my head stopped, I dusted myself, checked to see that nothing was broken…on my bike (phew, it was all right), and clipped in. Yes, I had to finish my lap. I was 9k in, with 6k to go, and I was only nursing a bit of a sore neck and a very bruised ego (seriously, a dude actually rode around my prone body–don’t worry, he asked if I was okay, and when I answered “yep”, he continued), so I got on my bike, steadied my nerves, and hit it hard (although not as hard as before…).
It was equal parts adrenaline and stupidity (lots and lots of stupidity), but I finished the lap.
As I made it to the bottom of a short climb that led out of the valley and up to the START/FINISH. I was on the fence about whether I needed to rest after the spill. On one hand, I felt fine (honest), but on the other hand, the spill was so epic, and there HAD to be some physical consequence. I dismounted to fill my water bottle, and WHAM, wake me up before you go go, the whoozey hit me. I took a knee, and immediately realized I had to call the race.
It was a tough decision.
It was also the right decision.
End of DNF Report.
I have to be honest. When I wrote this, I actually choked up. What, I’m delicate. It’s only racing, after all, right? Well, not for me.
Substance Projects hires awesome medical staff, and I guess I was looking a little pale, or maybe a bit bruised, or maybe it was the swelling and slight bit of blood on my face, but the medic (and my wife and kids–aw man, why did they have to see me like that) escorted me to their tent. I didn’t look that bad, but still. While examining me, they noticed a huge welt on my head, and it was growing by the second–but that’s not the bad part. The bad part is that it perfectly matched the ding in my helmet. My eyes were tracking well, my spine didn’t have any tenderness, and I wasn’t acting inappropriately (well, no more than usual), but looking at my helmet and the pulsating pile of brains expanding at the top of my head, there was no doubt I was either really really lucky (like, really), or a concussion was imminent and just hadn’t fully cussed.
“Get thee to a hospital” they said (or maybe the Drama teacher in me just heard it that way).
At the emergency room, the doctor was equally concerned with the ding, however, given the time lapse between my attempt at self-manned flight, and the visit, I was most likely in the clear, and the diagnoses was–AT WORSE–a Grade 1 Concussion.
I cannot tell you how great it felt to hear that. I was still a bit cheesed about the Hickory Sticks, but the news made it all better.
And then it actually got better. When we paid for parking, it was only $6.50. The last time I paid for parking at a hospital in Toronto, it was also $6.50…per minute.
And that’s the story of the time I started my favourite race of the season, crashed oh-so-epically, and ate 17 Hickory Sticks, while coveting an oh-so-adorbs pair of Spiderman rain boots.
I’d do a race report, but, well, sad face.
Although, if you want a cool Race Report, my Team Van Go pal, Tyler wrote a great blog post. Check it out. Tyler is a TVG veteran, and he’s totally my guy. I started the race with him, Johnny, and Andy (NOTE: they are lightening fast and I did not ride with or finish with them).
That helmet tho… I have to talk about my helmet. The universe was looking out for me because I wasn’t just wearing a helmet, I was wearing a NEW helmet.
Two days before the race, quite by accident, I noticed a few cracks in my old helmet (only 2 years old, free of accidents). I went to my LBS that evening (Cycle Solutions, on Kingston Road in Toronto) and bought a beautiful new Troy Lee Designs melon cover.
Honestly, I think it may have saved me from a fate far worse than the low lying headache and limited screen time of this week.
The universe spoke to me, and I’m glad I heard when it said “Colin, you need a new helmet”.
Maybe I’m over reacting (I do that). Maybe I’m vicariously experiencing the pain of a few pals who have experienced some pretty devastating crashes this season (hope you’re on the mend Tom and Mike). Maybe lots of things. All I know is that I took a nasty tumble, and got to go home that night to snuggle with my kids. I felt my body shudder as I landed, and the back of my neck (the part of my body that took the brunt of the compression) is totally fine–a testament to the great design of that beautiful helmet.
It’s a Troy Lee Designs A1 (with Mips), and even though it cost me $4 per minute before the accident, I’m going to my shop this week to buy another.
I even wrote a letter to the folks at Troy Lee to thank them–seriously, when a product saves your life, you send a thank you note (and because good manners never go out of style–thanks mom).
And guess what? Troy Lee liked my message, and they offered to send me a replacement lid FOR FREE. They don’t have a crash return policy, but for some reason, they have a Being Awesome policy, and for that I am forever grateful.
They already had my business FOR LIFE, and now they have my friendship. I don’t want to belabour the point, but I can not explain how I’m not injured, and I can only assume it’s because of that beautiful bean cover.
Also, not gonna lie, I’m totally crushing on the folks at Troy Lee Designs.
The Team Colin ethos has never had to decide between a DO NOT FINISH, and the hospital, but sometimes there’s a fine line between and drive and stupidity. It was my first DNF, and it would have been foolish if I didn’t take it.
Sometimes, the universe can only go so far. It gave me an extra bit of protection, but I guess I was bound to take that dive. I’m just glad I did so with the right gear.
And really, it’s only one DNF. I’ve got 72 (im)perfectly finished races under my belt, and a whole bunch more to come…
What’s your take on the day? What’s your favourite race of the season? Anything to add? Anything else to say? Comment here, check out the Team Colin Facebook page, or fire a message at: TeamColinBlog@yahoo.com
And don’t forget my Call for Submissions. It’d be awesome to feature some other words here.
Finally, here’s a few other pics from the race. Oggie made it out (look at that sweeeet whip); Brian the Marin rep (he totally told me to put that in) did his first race ever and shredded; and yeah, my beautiful kids hugging a tree (forget a crash, THEY make me swoon).
And check out the Cycling Elements (yeah, that’s a link) pit area. These folks are dialled. For my last solo 8 Hour, I had a chair and a pump in my pit. Look at the spread they had for a 30k rip! Totally joining their team…