Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Do Not Make Important Decisions

198 km into a 202 km permanent, my ride came to a sudden unexpected end. I had slowed and signaled to my two riding companions for the left turn ahead. The corner is tight, and I was taking the (left) turn wide and aiming for the far right side of the road. Sadly, the cyclist coming from the other direction was not taking such precaution. He came around his right-hand corner at high speed on aero-bars and was on his far left-hand side of the road, taking an arc directly through me. I was going slow already and braking hard, but his line was on a direct collision course. The impact was from my right and I fell hard on my left. Instantly I was on the ground and clutching my collarbone, with the realization that Green Mountain Double would go on without me the following weekend.

Up to this point, I had been having a great ride. The Redemption Rock Ride we were doing is a very challenging and hilly route that includes a climb to the top of Mt. Wachusett. This route is one that I have tweaked to near perfection to take in some lovely quiet roads and views on the way to and from Mt Wachusett, the highest point in Eastern Massachusetts. It is a popular destination for local cyclists, with a notable climb and magnificent views from the top.  The CRW's Climb to the Clouds is a favorite summer challenge for many local riders, and takes in a route that many folks seem to routinely follow to get out to the mountain. Naturally, I take very different, off-the-beaten-track roads to get there and back. It's music to my ears when someone says, "I've never been on this road, and I live a mile away." Back in the spring, I began working to turn this route into a 200km RUSA permanent. In April, a few friends joined me on Marathon Monday to ride the proposed route and get some info controls. We had a gorgeous day for riding, but there was still snow on the mountain road, so we passed on climbing all the way to the top. At the end of the day, one of the riders commented that it was the toughest 200km he had done, since his first 200km. I took that as an endorsement!

I later did a shorter version of the ride with a ...gasp... remote start, to check out an alternative road in the middle of the route and to get the info control at the top of the mountain. But it has been a busy spring, and I hadn't actually ridden the full route myself since it was approved as a permanent. So Sunday was the day. I've been working with Ride Studio Café on the Highpoints ride, and we decided to use this route as a training ride for folks planning to do Highpoints. It would be a good test of fitness, gearing, and proper tire pressure and width. Like the Highpoints route, it has some classic Massachusetts potlumped roads, a nice section of hardpack dirt, along with a wee bit of climbing, so riders should figure out if they might want lower gears or fatter tires.

We had a magnificent day. We split into two groups, with the "permanent" riders going off together. We had a good stiff headwind heading out, and lots and lots of climbing. Shortly after reaching the furthest outbound point, we stopped for a quick lunch at then headed around the backside of the mountain along a lovely stretch of hardpack dirt before approaching mountain road from the south. Once inside the park, we headed up to the top along the one way road, passing quite a few folks walking up.

At the top, we found loads of hikers who had climbed up along various trails, so we had lots of folks to cheer our arrival. The new tower seems to be a big hit. We stopped long enough for the obligatory photos and pressed on - enjoying the lovely smooth pavement on the descent.

The route back has some more great views, but what is truly amazing is all the descending. There is one more sharp climb to get over the Justice Hill ridge, and then it seems you just go down hill forever. And we had the elusive tailwind. The day was just perfect.


I was thinking about all my upcoming rides. Next weekend: Green Mountain Double Century - a 200 mile ride on dirt roads in Vermont - on the tandem.

It seems like my new fixie, the Café Loiterer, and my new All-Roads, the HoneyBees, have been getting all the attention this spring. The fixie had been christened on the fleche and would get an specially machined adapter for the hill climb gearing installed in a few days, so I could take it up Mt Washington next month at Newton's Revenge. I've had the All-Roads out on all sorts of dirt roads since I picked it up in early April. And I had planned for it to make appearances at the Gran Fundo, D2R2 and Kearsarge Klassic.

In fact this was the first time I'd had Tinkerbell (my coupled and geared Seven) out in a while. Tinkerbell was to get some more action on Highpoints, and had performed flawlessly on this ride. Both she and I were ready!

But for GMDC, Fear Rothar and I had planned to ride the tandem. Fear Rothar has done GMDC a couple of times with the RSC endurance team, and Dena and I rode GMDC in a sane fashion last year. When Dena had to bail on me due to her impending motherhood, Fear Rothar and I decided this would be a fun event to do on tandem.  Our tandem is perfect for it, with the plush tires and low gears. Plus we revel in taking on a ride that folks just don't think is good for a tandem! So this was to be our big tandem ride for the year.

And I was feeling fit...

So as I lay in the road, with one foot still clipped to the pedals, I let out a few choice words for my fate. I felt the bone snap as I hit the ground. I reached for my collarbone and could feel the grinding of the shattered bone. I've broken a collarbone before. I knew exactly what was up.

For a split second I thought I could get up and ride the final 4km. I'm a randonneur, dammit! Finish the ride!

But within seconds it was very obvious that this was not going to be possible. Drew and Dan helped get me out of the road and onto the grassy triangle.

Drew called his wife Geneen to come rescue us. Dan got the contact details from the wrong way cyclist. Geneen arrived and took us back to RSC, where Rob and Ariela took great care of me. We used an inner tube to create a makeshift figure eight to try and relieve some of the grinding. A pack of ice to the shoulder and then a ride over to Mt Auburn Hospital followed with Rob looking after me, as a customer, Beth, drove us over.  Fear Rothar met us at the hospital.

A picture is worth a thousand words... 

So, apologies for those looking for Fear Rothar's Dirty Kanza report. He had it 80% written when he got the call. It's still on the way. But it may be a delayed a few more days. He's been looking after me.

I got some good painkillers at the ER, and instructions to follow up with my orthopedic doctor. The next day, I was given the option of surgery. I said "yes" before the doctor had completed the sentence. When I broke my other collarbone 16 years ago, I was not offered this option, even though I begged. I had pain for about 6 weeks, and couldn't move my arm for 8 weeks. Then when given permission to move, it took another 4 to get range of motion back. I really don't understand why doctors consider this acceptable! I had to have help with everything. They all talk about how collarbones just come back together and heal, but honestly I don't think anyone who says this has endured the torture. 

The first time it was on the right side and I am right handed. In fact, I am so right handed that I had to buy an electric toothbrush because I couldn't even brush my teeth with my left hand. Fear Rothar was hopeless trying to help me wash my hair. I had to go into a salon a couple of times a week. Showering was not much better. I had to buy shoes with velcro closures, and elastic waist pants and button up shirts. At least it was winter, so I just missed out on some hit and miss chance of x-c skiing, but it was brutally cold that year, and whenever I'd try to go for walks, I would get chilled and I would shiver and the bones would just grind. There weren't strong enough pain pills to deal with this. All these memories came flooding back, and I didn't care about the risks of infection or general anesthesia or scars or lumps or anything. Just put the plate and screws in and let me move my arm please. 

The instructions that came with the painkillers said "Do not make important decisions." Well, so far, it seems that I made the right important decision in opting for this surgery. I am now able to tie my shoes, and dress myself. I still am wearing button up shirts, but I am moving about almost like a normal person. I can't braid a ponytail yet, but can do two pigtails!

I'm hoping to get on the back of the tandem at some point. It was heartbreaking last weekend to send Fear Rothar off to ride GMDC on his single bike with the RSC endurance lads. I really didn't want him to miss out on the adventure, so I insisted he go. We'll just do some other ride on tandem this year instead. 

BTW, I had to give Fear Rothar the combination to the chair lock so he could help me for a while. So his DK200 report and the details on the new bike are still incomplete, but as soon as I can manage it, I will lock him back into the chair so those posts get done.


  1. AWWWW wishing you a speedy recovery!!

  2. Pamela! Uggggg!! I hate that you had the accident!!!!!!! What a bummer!! I had a bad spill on Mammoth last year going fast and I somehow didn't break anything - but it just takes a bad fall (that's what I've learned). I'm glad you got the surgery and concur with the analysis. I think anything that can help the bones mend would be important - especially as you are really an elite athlete - Sending good things your way. I had some foot surgery and am out for six weeks myself (to correct an old injury) - but am busy knitting and sewing. Hang in there!!!! You'll be able to ride in August it sounds like (tandem!) if not before. Other Pam in California.

  3. Best wishes for a speedy recovery! We haven't met, but I've enjoyed reading your ride reports and looking at your routes; I'll have to do some of them when I make it further east. And your name occasionally pops up on the Strava leader board for some ride segments out in my neck of the woods. Perhaps we'll meet at D2R2 later this summer.

  4. When I visited the doctor today to get the stitches out, I commented about how much better it was this time around and how I wish I'd had the option before. He told me that the plates have gotten thinner and better in recent years and that they are offering the surgical option now far more than in the past - and not just for clavicles! But he also really emphasized that I should not fall on it while it's healing! Then he suggested riding on a bike path rather than the road. I told him bike paths were far more risky!

  5. heartfelt wishes for a speedy and thorough recovery....you add so much!

  6. Feel for you! Had a crash this winter when a cyclist turned into me without warning but lucked out with just road rash. The plates stay in, huh? Anyway, cool how you handled this setback. You've got a big heart. Jim Duncan

    1. The plate may be removed after a year or so. The doc says that with me being a pixie, the plate will be quite noticeable once the swelling subsides, and that removal is much less traumatic. We'll see when the time comes. I don't have he opportunity to wear strapless gowns much!

    2. From the perspective of a broken ankle, the consensus was take the hardwear out.....if affects bone strength, as the metal takes the weight and bone diminishes over time. Also, once the hardwear was out, there was no more pain and recovery was complete and no problems or pain after many years. The removal surgery is a quick and easy recovery...recommend.

  7. Crikey! Vey impressed at how you deal with such an injury. Go you!

  8. That looks painful.
    when I broke my elbow bone a very long time ago, I had plaster cast on for weeks or months.
    Technology has really improved!

  9. Wishing you a speedy recovery, and I hope you'll be back to full fixie pixie power in short order.

  10. I'm so glad that you only picked up this relatively minor injury. The surgeon did a nice job with your hardware. Mine clavicle repair (also done at Mt. Auburn) looks like the work of a blind carpenter.

    Funny story related to your doc's suggestion to stay on paths: I rode the GMD this weekend, passing the ditch where I broke my clavicle in October. Had a great safe ride. Monday I'm pedaling down Mass Ave in Boston when a person w/ dog steps out into the bike lane. I'm going 20mph w/ a green light, and really don't want to run over that dog, so it's an endo stop/crash for me. All is well, but damn, people can be foolish!

  11. Aww RR! I am so sorry! Wishing you a speedy return to full health and feistiness!
    (From your west coast "mom")

  12. It is amazing how fast things can happen, or not, careful rider or not. I'm sorry you are dealing with this. I hope the surgery speeds your recovery and you get in some of your planned adventures this summer.

  13. Oh no, so close to the finish! Would the cyclist who hit you be considered 'at fault' if you were cars?
    I always hope hope hope I never have a crash and hurt myself(knock on wood!). I'm on a bit of forced time out myself and waiting for surgery so missing out on my plans and could keep me out most of the summer.
    So surgery is now an option for broken collar bones?! Sheesh, I wish that had been an option when my collar bone broke in a car accident. It was awful, just as you described, never healed well, messed up my alignment and I have pain to this day. At the time doctors insisted it would heal fine on it's own, alignment not important etc. I begged for surgery, but was told it wasn't done. I researched a few years back and found the tide had changed, that in the UK at least it was recommended to pin collarbones as if left alone broken collar bones caused significant chronic pain, posture, arm nerve/circulation and alignment issues.
    Get well soon, and rest, recover and fly again!

  14. I hear you on the no surgery option not being an option. Like you, that experience was the most agonizing I've ever been through and I vowed that if it happens again I'm not gonna take no for an answer!

    Wishing for you to have a speedy recovery!

  15. "The fixie ... would get an specially machined adapter for the hill climb gearing installed"

    Tell us more! What is this?

    (Hope you are healing up.)