Ouch! Tulip trauma

by | Apr 11, 2006

I broke a couple of ribs on Saturday, and I’m sitting in bed with my laptop, nursing my bones and my sore throat (from riding in the rain? I doubt it. Self pity? A virus? Is it just possible that it’s none of my business?)

sanjeev.jpgIt was my second Tulip Pedal, an annual fundraise for the Skagit Valley emergency medical service. I met my friend Sanjeev Narang and a number of his friends in La Conner, and we set out for a leisurely 20-mile ride at about 11 a.m. The first ten miles were a breeze (literally. We had quite a headwind.) I spun in low gear at about 100-110 rpm, and my heart rate rarely got up to zone 2.

We paused to walk the fields and have a bite of lunch at Tulip Town (be forewarned; the site crashed both Safari and Firefox on my Mac). That’s Heather and Jennie and me in one of the endless fields of tulips.

Molly Gordon, Bad Princess in Tulip Field, 2006By the time we left, it had started to rain, and the wind had picked up considerably. I was on a light road bike, and at 120 pounds soaking wet, I was getting blown about. I decided this was no time to dawdle, so I picked up the pace and pulled away from the group.

About three miles into the second half of the ride, the route took a turn for the worse. (Eeuw. Can you believe that pun?) The road bed was uneven, full of cracks and patches, and the shoulder was about 1/4 inch below grade. The lip between the roadbed and the shoulder had a slippery asphalt seam. I think the wind blew me against the lip, but I can’t swear to it. The next thing I knew I was flying into the road and landed on my left side.

I’ve broken ribs in a bicycle crash once before, and I didn’t think I’d done it this time. The first time, I was much more shaken up, and I recall feeling that sensations from my rib cage were cloaked in cotton wool. My impression was that endorphins (Thank you, Jesus!) had kicked in and were protecting me from immediate sensory feedback.

This time felt different, or so I thought. Perhaps it’s just that I wasn’t nearly as frightened. The first crash happened in my first season riding with the “big kids,” and I fell at the approach to a narrow, highly trafficked bridge in a 45 mph zone. Scary. This weekend, I had the road to myself, and perhaps due to the slippery pavement, I really didn’t think I had hit as hard. Anyway, I re-seated my chain, checked the bike over, and rode the final 7 miles to my car.
The body is truly an amazing thing. The ride after the fall was not too painful, and I was able to put my bike on the rack without any more pain than I might have expected from a bruise. This pleasant state of affairs continued throughout my 90 minute drive and 30 minute ferry ride home and on into the evening. But oh, the next morning was another story.

With my first breath on Sunday morning I heard and felt the “pop-pop” of at least one broken rib. On went the brace and the ice pack. Out came the pain killers. And then I got a head cold. A dry cough and a sneeze really light up your synapses when your ribs are broken.