“You okay, bud?” Jeff asked as I rode up to him.
“I’m not sure I didn’t just break my wrist.”
It began well. We’d ridden the same course a week ago. Last week, I was feeling the weakness from three weeks off the bike and lingering bronchitis. This week, I was riding strong. A climb that took 12 minutes last week took 10 yesterday. I cleaned a few sections for the first time, and was rocking the descents as well as I ever rock descents. And then I’m lying on my side in the small stream I’d just crossed, thinking that the water should feel colder than it does, trying to decide if the sound I’d heard was a bone in my wrist breaking or my helmet hitting a rock.
It was only the second time I’d ridden this trail, and last week I’d nailed the stream crossing. Nailed it this time too, but I was going faster and didn’t look far enough ahead. The trail immediately turns downhill and right, and I ended up high in the corner. Over-correcting, I focused on the stream bed and fall right into it, my right hand reaching out instinctively for the rock that’s going to break my fall.
I hung out in the stream for what? Thirty seconds? A minute? I can move my hand okay, but it’s sore. Probably not broken. My head is absolutely clear, so no brain injury. Disentangling from the bike, I stand up. The bike seems okay too. I walk out to level ground, get back on and pedal. I can’t put much weight on my right hand, so the ride for me is over. I’m thinking about losing time off the bike and losing fitness that’s so damn hard to get back. I’m thinking about the work I need to do in Pat’s nascent bakery. I’m thinking about the set I’m supposed to build for the video shoot I’m supposed to be the talent for on Tuesday. And I’m thinking about how rightly pissed Pat is going to be and all these right things are running up against the fact that I fucking love mountain biking and that there’s no way I’m going to stop doing that and instead I’m going to turn this injury, like every other one I’ve ever had, into a lesson that makes me better at riding while somehow taking into account that the risks I take affect other people too.
“Are you okay to ride?”
Jeff’s looking at me, talking to me, assessing me, and I’m back in the moment. It’s still a fantastic, cool, green May afternoon. Jeff points out that the way back to the cars is a three mile ride up the hill on 317 and down Weller’s Bridge. I assess myself again. Head is clear. I’m not shocky. That’s not just wishful thinking.
“Yeah, I’m good.”
We ride up the hill, Jeff making conversation all the way. In retrospect, I know he’s talking to engage me, to get a sense of my state of mind, to be sure I can handle the coming descents. And I know I can. It hurts to move my fingers to shift, but I can do it. I find a position where I can hold my right hand and put weight on it, and I can use the brake.
Back at the parking lot, I need Jeff to put the bike in the car and to remove my left glove.
“Are you okay to drive?”
“Let me know how you’re doing.”
I’m doing fine. In retrospect, I’d ride yesterday’s ride a little differently if I could, but I wouldn’t take it back if I couldn’t.