Sep 6, 2011

Bike racing, crashing and judo

On Saturday, I was planning to go down to Fort Ord and race a couple of races at CCCX and then on Sunday, I was going to hurt myself doing the Esparto TT, but alas, the best laid plans of mice and men, yada, yada...

Fast forward though the waking up, getting together, driving and warm up drivel (it really doesn't get much different unless I'm hung over, and I wasn't) and we're full speed ahead on lap one in the E4 field at CCCX. The legs aren't feeling fantastic due to the hard training week and it being the last week of the block, but I'm not under any serious pressure here. Once around we go and on to the second lap. 

As we go around the sweeping right turn leading up the start/finish line the second time, I'm sitting somewhere near the middle of the pack, when all of a sudden the guy ahead of the guy in front of me (you follow?), who either didn't read this or just didn't make it down to the comments section, touches wheels and the next thing I know the guy in front of me goes down and I'm flying off my bike at 22.5 miles an hour (last recorded speed by Garmin) and landing splat on my back - mostly the right side of my back.

It's amazing that I was able to process things in order, and recall the order in which I processed them, but thoughts came into my mind in this order: 1. "Can I still catch on to the field?" Pain hits. 2. "Oh, that's not happening!" 3. "Hope nothing is broken, Everest Challenge is just around the corner." 

Once I realized I was in too much pain to get up and hop back on the bike, there really wasn't any rush in getting up. A tip I'd like to give all serious cyclists - because if you're out there enough, at some point you will crash - is that if you're not in any immediate danger where you are on the road and you know you've just hit the ground hard enough to be out of the race/ride, don't be too fast to jump up on your feet or make any jerky movements, you really have no place to rush. So I lay there for a few minutes assessing my injuries.

The rights side of my lower back and ass and my right elbow absorbed most of the impact. I moved my right leg with no pain that would have signaled serious injury in the pelvic region, my elbow on the other hand was throbbing and when the EMT guy arrived on the scene, I still wasn't sure if it was okay, but by the time he completely checked me out, the pain subsided and it turned out to be nothing at all, just minor scratches. My lower back (the part that didn't really hurt much after I landed), on the other hand, looked like a panda with rheumatoid arthritis had just taken a swing at me. I didn't even notice the damage until I got up and pealed back my bibs to ASSess the damage to my backside. 

I was also very fortunate that nothing on the bike was broken. A few marks on the saddle and the bar tape, but that's petty cosmetic stuff. And I broke off another clasp on my right Sidi, but luckily had a spare from the time I broke it falling into gravel at Panoche Valley, so that was a fairly easy fix as well. All in all, considering the impact, I feel pretty lucky to have walked away with only uncomfortable injuries as opposed to debilitating ones. The fall, however, took me out of the second race for the day, and I woke up so sore from it on Sunday that doing a TT was really the last thing on my mind, so I just started my rest week a bit early and let my body come back to normal.

This brings me to the last part of this blog post - judo. Actually, I never studied any judo - I just thought it sounded well in the blog title. A little deception for sake of artistry is a small price to pay - just ask David Copperfield - but I digress. 

I did, however, for a period of almost a dozen years (maybe more, I lose count) study various forms of martial arts. There isn't much that I can say can be taken from martial arts and applied to cycling, outside of maybe better reflexes and an expanded peripheral vision, but valid arguments can be made that those skills can be developed through any game where hitting or catching a ball with precision is necessary. What those other sports won't give you is the ability to fall down hard and walk away. Of course, if you happen to be a Pro Tour rider and reading my blog (first of all, I'm very flattered), martial arts can come in handy.

Alberto with a fist to the face. Two facial expressions worth noting, Alberto's and that of the camera guy behind him.

Many years of falling on the mats have paid many dividends over time. Luckily, I seldom hit asphalt, but I've crashed more than my fare share off a MTB and CX bikes (not to mention a million times I fell while skiing), without any serious injury (knock on wood as CX and ski seasons approach). The three key things that my body just knows to do from muscle memory/instinct is tuck the head, relax the rest of the body, and hit the ground with as much surface area of the body at the same time as possible to defuse impact. This isn't something I'm writing as a tip because you can know what to do, but until you've hit the mat in a proper way at least a thousand times, it doesn't really become instinct and you can't teach instinct - you have to develop it. Another thing I'll add in case you're wondering, hitting the mat in practice thousands of times doesn't make your ass any harder or the asphalt any softer, it still hurts like an SOB, but it does greatly improve your chances of walking away with no broken bones.

I've already told myself that if or when I have kids, before I suggest they seriously take up cycling, I'll make sure they have a few years of judo under their belt (that's a horrible pun, so let's just pretend that was unintentional). Maybe this is a good piece of advice for those of you with little ones running around to consider.

1 comment:

  1. Funny you mention Judo. I just happened to be at the Judo training with kids last week. First thing they teach is how to fall. They do not allow any sparring or advanced moves until you show that you can have controlled falls.