Lets start with the good. This would be my first time attending this race, and first time seeing Chico in the daylight, and first time riding there. I always love riding in new places and this course was suppose to be very rough and technical. So I was looking forward to it and there would be some good competition with Chico locals Tim Olsen and Aaron Timmel as well as Mark Weir. But that's kind of where the "good" firsts stop. So now the full story...
I arrived nice and early and got checked in, suited up, and set off for my warm up. I would be racing "Orange" (Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc) since this course was suppose to be very rough, and it was an "All Mountain" race after all with the Super D later in the day (thank you for having both races on the same day!!!). I was really looking forward to racing this bike because it's just a ton of fun to ride. I proceeded up the first part of the course to warm up, which is a gradual climb up the North Rim Trail. This isn't so much a trail but more a wide swath of lava rock making for non-stop rough pedaling. It's relentless, but the bike was feeling awesome and just eating it up. I got just about to the top of the climb and it was about 20 minutes before the start so I decided to turn around and head back down. I pedaled a little ways and then had to coast over some rough, and when I tried to spin again there was no resistance like the chain was off. "Thats weird, I have a chain guide..." I looked down... the chain guide was BROKEN! "WHAT THE?!?! Uhhhh... OK..." I stood there in awe for a little bit trying to figure out what had happened and how. The bolt that attaches the top guide to the slider had pulled through the plastic backing... long story short it couldn't hold the chain on anymore. I unscrewed the remainder of that piece, pocketed it, and set off down the hill again to hopefully get there in time to fix it or switch bikes to "Red" (Santa Cruz Tallboy c). The only problem was that the trail was so rough that without a chain guide or derailleur, the chain kept coming off and getting lodged between the chain wheel and the chainguide plate. And when I say lodged, I mean really stuck! Where the cranks wouldn't turn anymore and I'd have to use a tool to pry enough of the chain out from in between the two pieces so that I could grab it and yank it out fully, hopefully not damaging the chain in the process! This happened four or five times before I finally made it down. By the time I got to the car I had only six minutes before the start of the race. I decided there wasn't enough time to fix Orange so I would just switch bikes. I only had one chain between the two bikes for reasons I don't want to get into, so that slowed me down. But I got that done, and was transferring the race number and the GPS over to Red... and then I heard the race start. Dang. I put Orange on the rack and locked it up and took off to the other side of the park and rolled across the start line three minutes late. The first time I've ever been late to a start.
So I was playing catch up. At least the North Rim Trail was wide so passing the whole field wouldn't be too difficult. As I motored up the climb I started to take inventory of what I had forgotten in the process of switching bikes. I hadn't washed this bike since the Annadel race the week before, plus a 50 mile ride on it during the week. The chain was dry, and I had no idea how much air was in the tires. All I knew was there was not enough air for these rough trails. Sure, it made the rough climb a bit smoother but once I got any speed up I was really having to be careful. I was even getting rim strikes on some of the square edged rocks on the climb! Hmmm... what else did I forget... Oh great! I forgot to take the spare tube off the frame of Orange and at least put it in my pocket... DOH! I had a CO2 can but that was it. So I had my super light XC set up which was already undesirable and now I was going to really have to work to protect the WTB Nano's with from the sharp rocks if I wanted to finish the race. Great. But it was all I had so I was giving it my best. I past by a steady stream of riders suffering up the volcanic formation, each of them searching desperately for a smooth line and at least a brief reprieve from the jostling. That made it easy for me to predict where they were going to go as I approached, but it also meant that I rarely got to take the smooth line. Oh well, the Tallboy c still soaked it up well. After about 20 minutes I had finally made it to the top and up to some of the faster Cat 1 riders, so that was a good sign that I was making up ground.
I turned down "B Trail" which is a hillside trail of pretty fun singletrack with switchbacks winding through bushes and trees down to the creek basin. There are rocks here too, but the trail did manage to have some smooth spots and a bit of flow. All of the corners were blind however as the foliage encroached on the trail and I had no idea what obstacles were coming up. There were a few pucker moments as I slid my hips back behind the saddle or pin-balled off some rocks but I was still having fun with it and just trying to be smooth and relaxed. I caught and passed one rider and was beginning to pull away when I entered an 'S' turn with a slight bit of banking. I spring off the first right hand bend and went into the left, shooting for an inside out drift into the little berm but my front tire folded over and I slid out. Instantly I was down on the left side... knee, hip, lower back, and shoulder impacts with a not so graceful reverse somersault in the bushes. "Alrighty then! That was out of nowhere!" were my thoughts but down to a more condensed, trail-side version of "WTF?!?!" I dusted myself off and pulled the bike out of the way, beat the brake lever back down where it belonged and began using my CO2 to fill up the tires so this didn't happen again. And to hopefully give a bit more protection from the rocks. After a couple minutes and four or five riders passed I set off again.
I was essentially done with B Trail and soon made the turn onto a rocky (are you surprised?) fire road. This road had a slight descent to it so I kept the power down and passed a few riders back right away. Then the road just... ended... at a big, deep creek. It was maybe about 30 feet wide, I'm not sure. There were some people sitting there, I guess course marshals, and I asked "Am I suppose to cross here??" "Yeah, just go straight across." I couldn't even see a trail on the other side, but I shouldered the bike and waded in the crotch-high, COLD (refreshing?), water and climbed over the fallen tree on the other bank to discover the trail on the other side. This next section was the second main climb of the course heading up a steep fire road for about a mile and a half. I put it in "diesel mode" and powered on up without any issue and made a few more passes before turning down the next singletrack. This next part of the course was pretty fun and had a lot of flow. It was a traverse on rolling terrain and didn't have the constant smattering of rocks but clumps here and there to jump over or power through. The fun eventually ended at a hike-a-bike up a really loose trail. This was some serious hiking at times requiring a hand down on the rocks to actually climb, or crawl, up them with the bike on my back. I'm not sure how long it lasted, but it was too long and I was happy when it was over! Rolling back down the trail it was more of the gradual descent and fun singletrack which got more and more rocky as I went down. I couldn't see anyone else ahead or behind so I was just trying to be smooth and make it to the end. The last few features of the trail are some pretty fun rock walls to navigate, which I handled just fine and then the trail suddenly spat me out onto a road. All I saw was a chalk arrow on the ground... so I went that way... which was the right choice and around the next corner was the finish. 1hr and 19min was my time, about 9 minutes back from the winner, Tim Olson. Actually I'm pretty satisfied with that considering my late start, not knowing the trails, crash and trial-side maintenance. That put me 4th in the Pro All Mountain standings... not bad!
I had a few hours before the Super D race which would wrap up the All Mountain stages so I grabbed some fruit, a Hammer Bar, and tanked a bunch of water... it was getting HOT! I confirmed with the race organizer that I didn't need to run the same equipment for the Super D so I started trying to fix the chainguide on the Tallboy LTc. After about a half hour and some strategically placed Gorilla Tape I had it working again! Sweet! I knew it was going to be faster, safer (can those terms go together?), and much more fun, to ride Orange on the Super D. I rode it around for a half hour or so and confirmed that my hillbilly fix was good enough to get me down the hill once more.
The Super D start couldn't come soon enough... it was HOT! And there was no wind and really no shade at the top staging area either. We would start with 1 minute gaps... 10 seconds to go... 5... I tried to track stand and clip in, lost my balance, oops! 2... 1... GO! Pedal Pedal Pedal!!! Left foot still not clipped in... cross the ditch... water bar jump! Woohoo! Ok now the left foot's finally clipped in! A few more sweeping turns to drift and I was heading into the singletrack again.
More pedaling... all out! I'm feeling good and REALLY happy to be riding Orange... it's just eating up the trail! I come to an intersection that I recognize from the XC race where we turned right. There are some guys standing there who are just looking at me and not signalling or doing anything. I'm glad someone told me in advance that I'm suppose to go straight here, but I was still unsure. I went by, and they weren't yelling at me that I was going the wrong way, so I charged ahead. Still feeling fast but smooth, I came around a knoll and could see on the other side the next rider ahead that I was catching. He was maybe 15 seconds ahead as I approached a "G-out" turn. There were multiple lines going into the dip so I stayed left on the high line and dragged the brakes as I began to turn right, looking at the rock face on the other side of the dip which I would have to power up and I couldn't see a clean line. But I had to release the brakes to keep momentum so I just was going to aim for the only line I saw. Still turning I released the brakes and as I got to the bottom of the dip, my front wheel hit a rock that moved, or slipped over one, and then hit something solid. SUPERMAN!!! I went head first into the rocks on the other side, but I kept my head up and my elbows and forearms took the main hit. Followed by my left thigh and knee. Lying prone on the ground, I hear a thud and look over to my right to watch my bike cartwheel out of sight down below. "Wow... Ow...." I pause for a second to allow any pain to materialize that would tell me I shouldn't move... nothing... good. So I push myself up. Everything works... check! The left thigh and left arm are aching pretty good as I stagger off the trail to retrieve the bike. After pulling it back up onto the trail, a quick look over and it survived without hardly a scratch! Sweet! Time to ride!
I come to two more of these "G-out" features but I approach a little slower and get through just fine. There's some pretty gnarly stuff on this trail like the "toilet bowl" which is almost a rock wall on the left side that you have to hit with enough momentum to carry you around or you'll fall off. I hadn't seen it before and I didn't have clear line of sight to it on the approach so I walked it. After the crash I just decided that riding this trail at my race pace wasn't smart without knowing it. My left arm was aching pretty badly but I could still shift and brake fine so I didn't think much of it. I just cruised the rest of the course and had a good time on Orange.
I finished the Super D in 6th for the Pro All Mountain category but that was just 16th overall. There's some fast Cat 1 locals which just proves trail knowledge is superior to everything! I wound up 5th for the Pro All Mountain and considering everything that happened... I'm pretty happy with my times.
After I got to the bottom I rolled up to Mark Weir who didn't actually ask "How'd it go?" because he already knew the answer by looking at me all covered in dirt and blood. I just replied to his silent expression with "Ow!" He took one look at my elbow and said, "Yeah that's gonna need some work... you go ahead and ride down to the park and I'll check with the guys at the finish here to see about the race medic." He seemed to be moving with a sense of urgency so I rolled down to the park where the main venue was set up and asked some staff there if they had any medical staff. Everyone who looked at my elbow seemed to respond the same way, with a startled retraction of body language, scrunched up face and an "Ooooo!" I couldn't really see it, just that there seemed to be a flap of skin.
I won't just post the picture here, but here's a link to the photo showing the fresh wound. So if you get grossed out you don't have to look: Fresh Wound
So with everyone's responses and Mark asking me if I needed to sit down a few times, I decided it was a good idea to not do my usual "clean it up and put some super glue on it" fix and actually go to a doctor. I headed down to the Immediate Care Clinic in downtown Chico and walked on up to the front counter. The lady asked me a number of questions for a few minutes before finally asking me what I was there for and I said "Well... (looking at my elbow) I have this big gash on my elbow that probably needs some work... looks pretty deep." She gave me a surprised look... "Are you bleeding?!" "Yep." "Oh... most people normally make a big deal out of that! We'll get you back here right away!" About 30 seconds later my name was called and I was taken back where nurse Pat cleaned me up.
Clean up pic 1
Clean up pic 2
Clean up pic 3
Then Dr. David came in and went to work. Starting off with the Novocain... nice. I was laid out prone with my left arm out on a shelf, and he was sitting on a chair like he was working at a desk. He started off with more cleaning... this time with a firm foam pad.... and then he moved onto a brush. It still wasn't getting it all because it went so deep so he meticulously began cutting out pieces of rock, dirt, leaves, and twigs. He was having to dig so far down in there and kept commenting about how I really shoved SO much debris into my arm! At one point he came across a vein that was nipped and "leaking" a bit so he clamped it and pulled it out so he could tie it off. I looked over and saw a the vein sticking out of my arm and about bent over backwards as I watched him tie it off. That was cool! Unfortunately my phone was on the other side of the room so I couldn't take any pictures or video.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this was my first time getting stitches... officially.
The Dr. kept digging and cutting until he went down to the elbow bone where he began to get concerned. He could still see debris down there but he was worried that it might have gotten into the joint capsule which would mean Orthopedic surgery. Basically he was saying it was more than he could do there and he told me to go to the hospital. So they wrapped me up and off I went. Though I didn't go to the Hospital just a few blocks away in Chico... I decided that if I was going to need Ortho surgery I wanted to be closer to home. It wasn't hurting too badly so I figured I could withstand the 2hr drive back down to the Sacramento area. About 15 minutes into the drive the Novocain wore off and I was regretting that decision. I continued on with clinched teeth and such a tight grip on the wheel with my right hand that I was surprised I didn't leave finger imprints. I finally ended up at the UC Davis Med Center ER, and I don't think I yelled at traffic or stop lights too much.
I walked in the ER door in a pain haze, trying to keep it together. The security guard asked if I needed a doctor... I nodded... and he motioned me on through into the check in room. I wasn't there long before being moved to one of the trauma rooms where I put on a hospital gown that actually had full coverage! Not! I was trying to keep a good attitude and joked with the nurses a bit as my way of coping. But I think that downplayed to them the level of pain that I was in, so I waited....
Over the intercom... "Attention, we have a 911 pediatric arriving via air in 10 minutes." Aww man. I hate to hear that. Kids don't belong in the hospital. I knew that the ER resources might be diverted to that but I didn't mind. All I had was just an elbow booboo. But man this hurts like hell! Jen had arrived not long after that and was keeping me in good company. But after a while she could tell that it was all I could do to keep it together so she wrangled the nurse who procured some pain meds... nice! Much better! Wife of the year again!
After a while they took xrays and confirmed there were no breaks and no metal contaminants. Then the Orthopedic surgeon came in and did the test to see if the joint capsule had been punctured. This was the worst! He injected 35ml of saline into my elbow joint... slowly... the pressure and pain just kept increasing as I went into some serious mind over matter deep breathing. Jen about passed out. When it was done I looked over and she was white as a ghost! I offered her the crackers I had on my other side but she declined :-). The good news was that the saline he injected didn't leak out anywhere so I didn't need any further joint surgery. Awesome.
A plastic surgeon came down to check out my wound. He was part of a team that was reattaching some guy's finger in the OR and had heard about the work I needed. It was complicated and interesting to him so he wanted to work on me instead. He took a bunch of pictures of it and went back up to consult with his team before coming back down to begin the lace-up. He went to work, using some crazy cutting needles and different types of thread, first trying internal stitching and then moving to closing up the big cut. He was impressed with his work, and Jen said it looked a lot better too. I'll take it!
Stitched up pic
We finally made it home at 3am after being up for about 23 hours. And we just about slept all day Sunday. I ended up with quite the story after going to a race "just for fun" that didn't really matter. But it keeps life interesting I guess! I'm off any "moving" bike for a little while via Dr.'s orders so hopefully it doesn't set me back too much and I can still finish out the Sierra Cup Series and race Marathon Nationals. But we'll see...