A Full Face Incident...by T Spradley
Race #9 of the Midwest Fat Tire Series was the Kansas City Cup in Blue Springs Mo. Doug Chambers was in attendance along son Cameron and John Shank. Doug and I are very comparable in bike conditioning and skills, but he always seemed to stay one or two pedal cranks ahead of me. The KC cup was to be my first opportunity to race against him since he beat me at 12 Miles of Hell earlier this spring. I figured I would have to ride the ragged edge to beat him and I was prepared to do that.
When I pre-rode the course on Saturday evening, I noticed then it had lots of tree roots angled across the trail and numerous rocky technical sections. I made a comment after completing my pre-ride run that if the course got a little wet it could be very hazardous. Sometime during Sundays early morning darkness it rained. The roads going out to the course were glistening with the left over moisture, and a foreboding dampness permeated the air. I warmed up on the paved roads before test riding a short section of the course. Thirteen feet into the singletrack I was down, cursing some wet tree roots, and starting to dread the next 14 miles.
A short time later I sat on the start line watching each class scramble off towards the threatening wooded trails. My class, (40-49 year olds) took off two minutes after the previous class disappeared into the trees. We were fighting for position in the fields before entering the twisty wet woodlands. I decided the safest route was to go in behind the other riders and wait it out. Gerald Rau was leading with Doug on his rear wheel as we made the first turns of the trail. I was pacing a short distance behind them. Rau miss-cued on a tight turn allowing me and Doug to pass him. A few more yards down the trail and Doug went down at a creek crossing. This put me where I didn't really want to be; in first place and next to crash.
I spent the next 7 miles or so playing run-rabbit-run across the slippery rocks and tree roots. I had no idea how much of a lead I had built up or I might have slowed down. I had no idea what was about to come or I would have slowed down. Shortly after starting into the second 7 mile lap I went down. A slippery technical rock section caught me off guard and put a definite damper on my day I was moving a bit too fast and a rock ledge cutting across the trail took Sugar's tires right out from under us. The bike and I went down like a rodeo rider on a drunk horse. My left knee hit the sharp edged rocks and the momentum of the crash propelled me forward. The first real good look I got at anything was a large flat faced boulder 6 inches in front of my mouth and closing fast.
The boulder hit me just below my nose. Part of one tooth pushed the ejection button and left the scene at a high rate of speed. The one next to it had already been reinforced with a surgical steel pin several years before. It simply busted loose below the gum and folded itself backwards into my mouth. Of course the sharp broken edge and the boulder pinch flatted my upper lip putting a nice gash all the way through it. My chin had a deep inch or so gash cut in it. Blood was leaving my face almost as fast as the tooth did.
I laid there bleeding for a minute or two before I slowly got to my feet. I touched my face with my gloved hand then pulled it away, to see the extent of the blood loss. Breathing out blood spewed from my mouth onto everything in sight. I made a futile attempt to restrict the flow, but gave up. I collected my glasses and bike and started moving forward again. I crashed on the far end of the loop so I had a long walk out. I walked an eighth of a mile or so and the trail started to smooth out. I decided riding out would get me help faster so I gingerly remounted Sugar and pedaled off. Blood was still coming from my face at a steady rate covering my bike and legs. My gloves were sticking to my grips and bar ends. A mile marker passed by telling me there was less than a mile left to the end of the loop and medical attention.
I evidently suffered a slight head injury during the crash. As I pedaled towards the turn out point I realized no one in my class had passed me yet. My obviously damaged brain started thinking half mile or so to the turnout that means only 4 and ½ miles to the finish. Im not bleeding as fast as earlier and I am still in the lead. Even if one or two guys passed me I would still get good points for finishing. My face was pretty well numb by this point. My number plate, legs, and white bike were coated in red. As I approached the midway point, the corner Marshal's cheering trailed off as the sight of my battered bloody physique and red splattered white bike turned right into the last leg of the trail. Somehow I managed to ride quick through the smooth speed sections and pussy foot through the last two bad technical sections. I coasted across the finish line still in first place. I was getting the normal cheers and jubilations until I lifted my head and people saw the results of kissing a rock.
A couple of race officials came over to me as I was dismounting the bike. They asked are you okay? I mumbled, Did I win, if I did then I'm okay, but I really wasn't. I spent the awards presentation ceremony in the emergency room collecting about 18 stitches in my chin, inner and outer top lip. The dental work would require several visits over the following weeks. Doug told me I got a rousing applause, 24 points and a cool trophy.
Special thanks to the staff of St. Marys hospital in Blue Springs for the emergency room care that put me back together for the trip home. Dr. Bryce Loder of the Lindsborg Rural health clinic got the pleasure of trying to separate the stitches from my mustache. Fortunately my mustache is mostly gray and the stitches were mostly black making the job somewhat easier.
Extra special thanks to Dr Joelle Jeffers. Dr. J is the newest addition to the dental offices of Dr. Richard Penner in McPherson. Dr. J and I have had almost weekly rendezvous repairing broken and missing teeth. I think she has put about as much body putty and plastic in my mouth as my last truck needed, and I'm sure most of you remember how that looked. All was done with a lot less pain than taking them out was. I sleep through about half of the appointments. The missing teeth made a nice stream of water when I spit but I was sure getting tired of eating soft foods. If any of the rest of you face plant riders are in need of dental work I highly recommend paying Dr J a visit. Call me for the number its in my speed dial directory!
Last but not least, thanks to Larry VanDerWege and his little house of torture, aka the Physical Therapy department of Lindsborg Community Hospital. After a shoulder injury in Osborne (see Three Important Lessons later in this issue), Larry bent, stretched, exercised and electrically shocked the joint back into good enough shape to keep me on the circuit for a few more races. Besides learning that the tire part of the bike is supposed to stay on the bottom, the last few rides have taught me a great deal about the human anatomy and its healing process. While I am dropping names here I should mention Kimmy at my barbershop (785-227-2771). Keeping the hair out of my eyes doesn't seem to make me ride any better, but it does make it easier to see what I am about to hit next!