What Happens After Falling Down? Getting Back Up.

It’s been just over two weeks since the Bloomington Crit where someone threw tacks on the race course resulting in lots of people crashing and damage to bodies and bikes. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and I wanted to wrap up the experience, or at least my thoughts on it.

After I crashed, after I walked out of the ER with luckily no broken bones, after I learned of the actions that led to the whole crash, after all of that, I felt numb. I couldn’t wrap my head around the why or what it meant. I was living in the middle of situation that people felt strongly about. News outlets were contacting me. It was weird.

The Low Point

The lowest point for me wasn’t the pain, it wasn’t my mangled road bike, the worst of it came when I started watching the reactions of the internet. While a lot of people were supportive and said kind or constructive things, others were just evil in my eyes. Here’s a glimpse into what I saw. I took a lot of screenshots. I don’t know why. It felt like this was important and I wanted to capture the whole thing.

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Reading that stuff hurt. I was sad to be reminded of how cruel the world I live in can be. It made me think about the hundreds of times a car passes me traveling over 50 miles per hour while I’m riding in the country. It was sad to be reminded that cyclist safety can be such an afterthought or even something funny to joke about.

I’m still pretty young, I’ve learned a lot in my thirty-two years, and I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned how easy it can be for any group to look at another group and make generalizations. It seems so easy for some non cyclists to look at cyclist and see annoyance stemming from things like slowing down their morning commute or a cyclist that blew a stop sign. Cyclists, like all people aren’t perfect. I’m sorry if a cyclist has annoyed you. I’m sorry you had to slow down and switch lanes to avoid me while we were both commuting to work. If I could influence one change from all of this it would be to remind non cyclist that we’re all people doing what we have to sometimes, what we enjoy when we can, and have a little more patience and understanding.

Getting Back Up

Thanks to my amazing wife for many things. She’s a wound care certified registered nurse, a real treat if you’re a cyclist with skin missing from hands, hips, knees and more. She tended to my wounds, dealt with me being a man baby with some of the pain, and kept positive throughout the whole thing. I find myself reminded how lucky I am to have her. I’ll spare you of pictures of all the injuries. My left hand was the worst of my injuries. Here’s a day of and current picture of it, it’s incredible how fast and well it has healed.

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The flip side of the negative comments were the positive outreach that swept over me day after day. I was reminded how big our cycling community is. My local cycling friends and teammates reached out with kindness, offering to mow my yard and other tasks while I healed. Dean and Paul from Axletree reached out from the Chicago area. That meant a lot. I’ve attended as many Axletree events as I’ve been able to manage in the past three or so years. Those folks are so awesome. They do so much advocacy, host amazing events that make people’s year, and are genuinely good people. I see those people a few times a year but they reached out the same weekend with words that helped and even offering to help fund the repair my road bike. The owners of my amazing local bike shop that have forever changed my life were there in more ways than I can list. Scott, one of the owners, was the first face I saw after picking myself up off the ground. He helped me walk back to my family. He carried my bike, helped sort out what was damaged in the crash, he did so much.

I’m tearing up just thinking about all of this. I’m surrounded by crazy awesome people. You know who you are, thank you from the truest part of my heart.

Luckily when I decided to start racing crits in 2014 I purchased bike racing insurance. In short, they paid for everything that was damaged. I’ll be building a replacement bike as soon as the Dura-Ace 9150 Di2 group becomes available because I’m a bike snob. Until then, I’m spending time on some bikes that have been collecting a bit of dust, my cyclocross bike and my fat bike. I climbed onto a bike for the first time last Thursday for 30 or so miles with my amazing teammates. It felt so good to get back out there. I was nervous, I was out of shape compared to where I was, but it was so good for me to pedal again. I rode cyclocross practice tonight and did really well. Things are going to be alright.

I’m racing Chequamegon 40 for the fourth year this coming weekend, but doing so not on a race breed cross-country bike but rather my thirty pound fatbike because I sold my S-Works Epic last week. I’ve been planing on selling it at the end of the season, but after the crash I thought I’d list it early to help my odds of selling it before winter and I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to mange holding onto the handlebar for 40 miles at Chequamegon. I’m going to soak in the experience, enjoy the race a bit more in terms of taking it in verses killing myself trying to beat my goal time, take a picture or three and afterwards spend time around a fire with friends.

Looking back at what happen and whats in front of me, I’m optimistic, I’m happy, things are good.

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Frustrating & Sad End To My Season

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Photos by David Ford

This was it. I’d started my season of training in February and seven months later I was ready. All year I’ve been thinking about two races. The first being the Bloomington Criterium and the second being Chequamegon 40. This past Saturday I rolled up to the start line of the criterium, which happen to be the 2016 Illinois State Championship. I felt good in the hours leading up to the race and even better as the race went on. I was riding smart. I could stay with the attacks and sat in where it made sense. I stayed in between third and fifth conserving energy and watching for breaks that may stick. I was riding well physically and mentally. About 30 minutes into our 40 minute race we were going around turn six as we’d done so many times…

Then it happen.

At first I was confused. I knew what had happen, I was laying on the tarmac watching people run into me and my bike, hearing the horrible sound of carbon and metal scraping the ground at speed and bodies desperately looking for hope in chaos. In the apex of the turn at about 25 miles per hour my front tire went flat. I felt my tire not hold the angle and turn I’d asked it too. I knew in the split second before I hit the ground my front tire was flat and then I heard the rim hit the road followed by my body. I say I was confused because it didn’t feel real. I’ve crashed on the dirt plenty but until that moment, I’d never crashed on the road. I’ve thought about it, hoped I’d never know first hand what it was like, but I found my mind realizing that I was living in a moment, I’d spent so much time hoping to avoid. I couldn’t believe it happen.

When my front tire went flat, it didn’t feel normal or right. Something felt off. I walked to where my team was at, sat down and was trying to come to terms with what happen. My wife who is a nurse was tending to my wounds and my good friends that own my local bike shop were right there making sure I had everything I needed and was alright.

Then I heard about the tacks. People were finding tacks on the course. Handfuls of tacks. To be clear, my race was the third of the day on the course and no one from the previous races had any tacks or flat issues. The Sram neutral support found something like 15 tacks in tires from my race (cat 4), my teammate alone had three tacks in his rear tire. My rear tire still has a tack in it. To me the abundance of tacks in tires in the cat 4 race but none in tires from the previous hours of race course use makes it probable someone threw tacks on the course after the cat 5 race but before the cat 4 race.

14080026_10154064126592800_7329760069196203051_nPhoto by Tom Keller

This next image is a little graphic, sorry if it makes you squeamish. My hands are just one part of my body with skin missing now. My left hand is pretty bad. My elbows, my left hip, thigh, knee, shin, and both ankles. My right shoulder. My chin.

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Here’s a video of the crash. It happen so fast and from my perspective out of nowhere.

Video by Patrick Murphy

I still don’t know how I feel about all of this. I’m typing this with bandages all over my body and hands. My body is banged up, my bike is pretty bad, and my season is either over or will have a different ending than I would have had if someone hadn’t decided to throw tacks on the race course. A frustrating and sad end to my season.

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2016 Cobb Park Criterium

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I raced a back to back crit weekend with Glencoe Grand Prix and Cobb Park Criterium this weekend and had great fun. Glencoe was rainy but awesome while Cobb Park had beautiful weather. Both courses were fun and left me smiling! I’m enjoying racing crits more than any other kind of racing this year!

I took some pictures of the Mens Cat 3 race and the Women Pro 1/2/3 race before heading back home with my family. There’s about sixty pictures of people doing what they love.

I’m posting the pictures for free, enjoy them, if you could show some love to my blog when posting them on your social, I’d appreciate it.

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2015 Bloomington Criterium

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This weekend I raced in the third annual Bloomington Criterium. A big thank you to the race director Brandon Beehner, the volunteers, and all of the sponsors that made it happen!

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My Bloomington Cycle & Fitness teammates and I worked well together in both the cat 4/5 and the cat 3/4 races. I had a lot of fun. My best of the day was a 9th in the cat 4/5 race.

My amazing wife and I took a few (180) pictures of the races. Click the link to see them all!

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Tour Of St. Louis Saturday Crit

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Last weekend I raced in my first crit of 2015 at the Tour of St. Louis Omnium Saturday race. It was a beautiful spring day to race bikes. When the whistle blew I joined two teammates and about fifty others in the cat 4 race. I spent the race mixing it up with the different teams and people. It was a lot of fun. I went for a preme (lap prizes that happen mid race) and came up second, I tried to lead a teammate out for the finish but we came up short. Would I change anything, no. The excitement and intensity of the racing is enough for me, coupled with the team strategy it’s a lot of fun. Racing for the joy of racing, I don’t think it gets any better.

Crits are a weird thing for me personally, I came from a background of speed skating before I ever raced a bike and a criterium is the only form of cycling that draws out the same excitement as short track speed skating did. The downside is crashes are a part of the sport. In MTB racing every crash I’ve ever had is because of a mistake I made. In crits, that’s not the case. You can find yourself sliding on asphalt at 30 miles per hour without ever having made a mistake. Someone fifteen riders ahead of you makes a mistake and you can pay for it. Bodily injury is the real worry, but being out thousands in equipment isn’t fun either. That said I really enjoy crits for the positive aspects they provide. For me, I had to come to terms with the real possibility that I’m going to crash, and my bike is probably going to be damaged. Obviously that’s not fun, but it’s the price of admission if you’re honest. I gained a lot of peace of mind from coming to terms with that. That and good health and bicycle racing insurance :)IMG_2782

IMG_8969_matthew_2 Photo by: Dan Singer Photography/Design

tour of st louis crit heartrate Full Race Data

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2014 Bloomington Criterium

20140823_174902_IMG_2320This weekend I raced in the second annual Bloomington Criterium. This year the event was made the Illinois state championship criterium. I love that Bloomington Normal has a local triathlon race, mountain bike race, cyclocross race, and a criterium! Just thinking about the local awesomeness makes me smile. A big thank you to the race director Brandon Beehner, the volunteers, and all of the sponsors that made it happen!

20140823_161007_IMG_1834When I watched last years local crit from the sideline I was hooked. The speed and tactics made it look like a lot of fun!  Earlier this year I did my first criterium to get my feet wet before the local crit. As I’m new to racing crits I went into the state championship in category 5, something I previously tried to be moved out of but USA Cycling has strict rules about new crit racers. My Bloomington Cycle & Fitness teammates and I worked well together and we had a large presence in my races and most other races as well. In my Cat 5 race, I went into the last lap in fourth behind a very strong teammate and after he pulled me up half of the climb on the back straight I jumped off the front and laid it all on the line. No point to hold anything back, and when I finished my sprint at the finish line, I found I was alone and in first place. It felt amazing. I was and still am a bit shocked. I have to thank my teammates for working for me in the race and helping me be in the shape I am in, Scott & Caryn from Bloomington Cycle & Fitness for being awesome and taking care of everything bike related I need, and especially my wife for allowing me to spend probably too much time on a bike.

My amazing wife and I took a few (164) pictures of the races. Click the link to see them all!

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2014 Morton Criterium

20140628_093655_IMG_0512This weekend I raced at the 2014 Morton Criterium. It was my first crit and I had a lot of fun! It was a completely different animal than the mountain bike races or cyclocross races I’ve done in the past. I’m really happy with my race. I raced in the cat 5 race as this was my first crit. I was in the action for the majority of the race sitting in second or third. My numbers were an average of 25.1 mph for the 30 minute race and a top speed of 33.4. My full Garmin data is here. A big thanks to my teammates for the advice and help with the preparation and Bloomington Cycle & Fitness for making sure my Tarmac was in tip-top shape! I’m looking forward to the next crit!

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