Day 3 of the Breck Epic was going well. Both Randy and I were feeling good and riding strong. When we started the hike-a-bike up French Pass we found ourselves ‘at home’ at 12,000 ft in the backcountry. While some of the riders from the flat lands were either struggling or in awe of the scenery we were moving at a good pace.
At the base of the climb I got a little motivation. As I looked down I noticed a huge heart shaped rock and then about a dozen smaller ones as I kept moving. Finding the heart shaped rocks has been happening since Axel died. But they appear at interesting times. They don’t appear when we actively look for them and they don’t appear when we are not open to seeing them.
I think of it as a lesson. To be open and aware in the moment but not expect certain things.
When we got to the top we had a steep, fast and rocky decent off the top. And this is where my memory stopped, for twenty minutes! I crashed on the descent while going around 30mph. I have never had a crash like this in the twenty years I have been mountain biking.
I got up and rode for twenty minutes…with no memory of it. When my memory came back all I could think of was Kalden and Axel. But it was fuzzy and I kept focusing on Axel. I could not remember what happened to him and kept thinking he was alive but that it didn’t seem right. It’s hard to explain and this all happened within minutes. A fuzzy dreamlike state where I could not process or remember much. I asked Randy, “Is Axel alive?” Randy is calm but I can tell he is nervous about my question. He says “no.” I remain calm and still keep trying to process it …but I can’t. “How did he die?” Randy does not answer. Then I looked at my bloody shoulder and ask Randy, “Did I crash?”
At this point a fellow racer Rich has stopped to help us. He’s a medic and he looks me over. At this point my memory and some clarity returns. I understand my life, where I am, and that I crashed. I am hiking now while Randy carries both our bikes. When the trail mellows I get on and ride. I am still fuzzy, time is unclear, and I have tingling in my hands. Rich, without question, sacrifices his race time to stay with us.
I reach Aid Station 2 where another medic evaluates me. I can remember his 3 words and he is comfortable that I am okay to get a car ride back and then decide whether I want to go to a hospital. The tingling is most likely because I am hyperventilating and I most likely don’t have a brain bleed. But nobody can be certain of this.
The entire hour long drive back to town I silently freak out. My tingling gets worse, I feel like it’s the end of the world…again.
My parents and another medic meets us in town. They all agree that I am probably fine but again since I lost my memory, cracked my helmet, and have other symptoms I could have something serious going on.
I go to the hospital.
I get the CT scan and get all my ‘road rash’ cleaned up. They do not see any brain bleed but say I have a concussion. My anxiety gets better. A few thousand dollars and hours well spent.
Randy was able to ride the rest of the race solo and had a good time finishing all stages except the one I crashed on. I was told to rest my brain and body for at least a week. I’m currently going on 2 weeks and just starting to have no daily symptoms. The brain is amazing and scary all at the same time.
Another lesson to appreciate what I have and try not to take things for granted… as they can be gone in an instant. I also try to keep it all in perspective. Yes, that was close and scary but I’m not going to give up mountain biking, or racing, or even the possibility of returning to the Breck Epic. Fear can’t win.
I still have unfinished business at the Breck Epic. Whether or not I go back and race it I’m glad I got to experience a piece of the race and confident I could race again. Minding my recent lesson – I’m open but we’ll see where this next year goes.