Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dream come true and a little nightmare

My view this morning as the race began

Today I drove wheel support as Mark rode in the Utah State Championship road race in Coalville. This is one race, the Chalk Creek Classic, that Mark has never won. The course begins at the high school and goes gradually uphill to a turn around point - and back to the high school - a total of 47 miles. Not enough hills or length to really separate the peloton and it usually ends up being a crazy sprint at the finish. Last year there was a crash on the last corner because the group was so big going around a tight corner. 

This year they decided to have the Masters 40+ do two laps making it a 96 mile race. The first lap had two riders out front with the peloton about 30-50 seconds behind them. As we came up to the start line to begin the second lap the group caught the leaders and a few riders - including Mark surged forward. I made a brief pit stop and then rejoined the riders. The surge of energy from the front was doing it's damage as riders were strung out and some were spit out the back. The course joins the main road after a few miles and I had yet to catch the main group. After about 6 miles I could see them ahead. I could also see a pack of riders (in a different category) coming towards me. I was going slow because I had riders in front of me and when some unusual movement in the oncoming group caught my eye and I slowed a little more. Two riders bumped each other and suddenly riders were going down everywhere with one bike on the ground heading into my lane in front of my car. I slammed on my brakes and heard at least a wheel under my front bumper - nothing under the tire. I jumped out of the car as many of the riders were getting back on their bikes - except for two. One was close to my car and a little behind me and one on the opposite shoulder of the road. I had no phone coverage so I flagged down a pickup truck apporaching the crash and they called 911. There were a few other cars who stopped that were behind the peloton and there were people by each of the men still on the road. The one in the middle of the road was moaning but awake. His nose was bleeding and he had other blood on his face as well as road rash - he couldn't really move and someone speculated that he had some broken ribs. I went to the other guy who was worse off. Two people were which him. He was convulsing with his eyes rolled back in his head. Blood was dripping from the corner of his mouth and his jersey was torn revealing a compound fracture of the clavicle. I ran back to my car to get a blanket that someone asked for. I ended up going down the road to get traffic and other groups of cyclists coming into the area to slow down. The "shoulder" guy began yelling, swearing and trying to get up. A few people held him down and talked to him as a police car arrived from my direction. I was glad there were other people there. Two EMT's came upon the accident and helped until the ambulances came. Eventually the road cleared, I talked with the police about what happened and agreed to meet them after the race to fill out some paperwork.

As I got back in my car to find the Masters - hoping no one had a flat while I was gone - I began to sob. Too many what ifs'. What if I had not seen the movement and slowed even more... 
I have driven wheel support many, many times and the possibility of a rider in front of me going down and me not being able to stop has haunted me more than once. It's a reminder to stay aware, keep my distance and do all I can to protect the riders. Images flashed through my mind of what Mark must have looked like lying on the pavement after his crash and how appreciative I was for those who stopped and helped him. I took a deep breath and got under control. I still had a job to do... the race was not over.

A few miles down the road I passed four riders - including Mark - heading the other way. The official on the motorcycle who was following them signaled to me that I should turn around and follow them too - which meant that they had a good lead over the rest of the group. Wahoo! The official told me they had missed me and I explained what happened. He told me that these four had a two minute lead. I knew, by who was in the group, that we would not see the peloton again. Double Wahoo!

The four worked together until a few miles from the finish line - this is usually where the jockeying begins - the one who leads into the finish rarely wins... sprint too early and you may run out of gas... wait too long and you're history. They took the corner fast but under control and I was able to see Mark sprint past the leader and up the short steep hill to the finish, another racer tried to sprint past him but Mark ended up winning by about 10ft. Awesome!

Still smiling after 97 miles! 2012 State Road Race Champion!
The sun was bright and the day was hot. 
I pulled the car to the side of the road past the finish line near a tree. 
I popped the trunk and opened the back door so the riders could get their wheels. The officer from the accident approached me with paperwork to fill out. I retrieved the requested information from the car and took the clipboard to the grass under the tree. My hand was shaking and it was hard to write... and I began to sob again... great heaving sobs that just poured from me. My shoulders, back and neck were tight and began aching - as if it had been my accident

Much to process. Lots of feelings.
 Gratitude I didn't kill or hurt anyone. 
It could have been so much worse.
I'm so thankful for the still small voice and that I heeded it so quickly.
So many tender mercies to be thankful for. 

I felt so much joy in Mark's accomplishment.
This has been a long time in coming and he has worked very hard for it. 

I hurt for those who were injured. 
So many feelings from times past rushing back today. 

And now I move forward and not back.

Fear or faith?
Accidents happen
God does have a plan
He is aware of me.

I think I need a nap... 
and maybe some yoga...


MZ said...

You're amazing in so many ways! I'm so blessed to be married forever to you!! I know this accomplishment is ours since I couldn't have done it without your amazing support going on 30 years now!

Amy said...

What a crazy experience. I'm so glad you and Dad were both okay. Way to go, Dad and way to go, Mom, for all your support!

Johnson party of 3 said...

Karen.. we were one of the trucks going the other way from you.. we were so scared that they had been hit by a car.. So glad it wasn't and glad you were with the race, watching out for the bikers.. it was horrible to see the guys down.. i hope they are all okay, I ended up bringing one of the guys down in my truck that had broken ribs that didn't want to wait for the ambulance, and his bike was ruined... But congrats to your husband!!