Sigh. Another Saturday afternoon on the couch nursing a boo-boo. Someone added a new mountain biking obstacle—a bridge of logs lined up perpendicular to the trail, maybe seven feet long. The bridge doesn’t actually span anything, the only purpose is to have fun. Like a rumble-strip on steroids. In the future, as I ride my bike over it, I envision singing out Aaaaaaah. “Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah!” I think a log is missing. Where I would lay the second to last log, there’s a gap.
My ride today already kind of sucked. I chose some lousy lines. I bailed on obstacles I’ve ridden in the past. I fell on a flat section because I turned too sharply and jack-knifed my bike. By the time I hit the bridge, my mojo already evaporated. My confidence vanished. I rode it too slowly, too cautious. My front wheel settled into that gap, and my rear wheel lifted. I hit the fulcrum point on my front wheel where everything balanced perfectly. Time stopped. My brain began a casual observation. Hmmm. Something exciting is going to happen now, I can’t wait to see what.
My wheel popped up out of the gap, fell fifteen inches to the ground, and landed just beyond the fulcrum. Slowly, my nose-wheelie washed over, I dropped over my handlebars, and I landed squarely on my right shoulder. I always land on my right shoulder.
“Hey dad, you OK?” Eli caught the action out of the corner of his eye as he followed the trail around a bend. “That was the quietest crash I ever heard.”
I got back on my bike and started riding. “Oh crap, I’m hurt.” My most common injury is a shoulder subluxation. This is a partial dislocation. My shoulder pops out of joint but then snaps back into place. I don’t need to mess around with all that painful manipulation, grabbing a tree, twisting this way and that, trying to get the joint to slide into the socket, but the damage is still done. Everything is stretched and torn and swells internally for six weeks or so making it painful to raise my arm.
The first subluxation happened in high school track. A string of frigid, icy days had us running the upstairs halls of the school. The squared-off corners made negotiating turns tricky. Coach Dunston was curious how running in the halls affected our speed; he had us sprint timed laps. As I rounded the third corner, I stumbled and fell headlong into a row of lockers. My shoulder (right shoulder) squarely hit the lock apparatus. Because it was 1980 and I was seventeen, I never went to the doctor. I just suffered and complained through the pain every time I tried to drive the family stick-shift. At some point over the next few weeks, each member of my family told me “Oh, you’re all right.”
Since then, my sloppy shoulder joint, weakened by the initial injury, subluxed again and again. Lifting weights at Holiday Spa, boogie boarding big surf in North Carolina, falling off a log I was tight roping in Peru, and mountain biking, countless times mountain biking. Yesterday as I did my morning pushups, I realized that my shoulder finally stopped hurting from the last time I fell off my bike six or seven weeks ago.
Based on a fall I took eighteen months ago, mountain biking should be tolerable by Tuesday or Wednesday. In the meantime, I’ve got the couch to ride plus any activity I can do with one arm. Not exactly how I planned to spend my three-day weekend, but all things considered, this could be worse.