Right at this very moment I sit on an airplane to Canada. There is a ton of excitement but also a hint of disappointment. This trip has been planned for quite some time and I’ve spent months preparing for it. I signed up for the BC Stage Race, which many of you know is an awesome 7 day mountain bike race, and decided to make it a focus for racing this year. Unfortunately things aren’t guaranteed and there can be kinks in the plans. On my birthday two weeks before the race I was out with a bunch of friends on a downhill trail clearing table tops and ended up getting too much air and casing my face into another table top. I actually don’t remember anything after leaving my house with my friend Missy until the next morning. The stories I’ve heard from all my friends about my short term memory, not really being coherent, and even forgetting who my roommate was terrifying! Two years ago at the Pisgah Enduro I took a very similar fall and got a concussion then too. I’m sure you all know math well but that’s two in two years. Concussions are serious as most of you have probably heard of the awful stories from football players in the NFL. The first concussion that I got I brushed off and the next day resumed normal life and acted as if it never happened, and actually within a few days was on a plane headed to Colorado with my DST friends for a great week of nonstop biking and beer drinking. This spiraled out of control and I suffered from this for months. I was in denial of actually being seriously hurt, because there was no blood or broken bones to physically stop me and make me rest. Instead I found myself having poor short term memory that left me frustrated and angry at everyone and everything. My work, school, and day-to-day life took a downfall.
My attitude in many ways gets me far in life. I’m driven with every fiber of my body to do as well as I can in everything which helps me in working fulltime, going to grad school, and racing my bike all at the same time. However, it does blind me in many ways and one of them is seeing when it is better to take a time out and that sometimes my plan is not going to work out and that is ok.
This time I woke up at my parents’ house cuddled up with Dale, my redbone coonhound, the morning after the accident with what seemed to be the biggest hangover of my life. What happened? How did I end up here? This can’t be good. My mom in frustration from answering these questions for hours on end throughout the night already without knowing that I had actually snapped out of it brushed me off and told me to go to sleep. Which in turn made me panic and led to a very long moment of trying to really remember what happened. I had no idea and it left me with tears and real questions like what is today? How long have I been at my parents’ house? Why is my jaw in excruciating pain and my mouth filled with bloody ulcers? Within those moments I knew a bike was part of this pain.
Bikes bring me more than enjoyment in life. Bikes introduce me to lifetime friendships, hours of laughter, new places, and endless adventures. The downfall is it is a dangerous sport and the harder you ride the harder you fall. With this fall I knew I had to take it seriously. The last concussion left me in a daze for months because I didn’t take care of myself. This time I slept for days and avoided work, school, and Facebook for the rest of the week. The hardest part in the recovery was sitting down with my friend Steve Rider, who is a neurologist, in his office after hours and realizing I could no longer participate in the BC Bike Race. There was no way I could go to the race and take it easy, and I was not allowed to ride a bike for two weeks leading up to the BC Bike Race.
Luckily everything really does work out for the better. I sit here now on a plane returning home from volunteering at the BC Bike Race and having literally the time of my life. I helped out with Bike transportation where we loaded six hundred bikes on and off semis every day. It required 5am wake up calls but by 7:30 I was usually able to go ride my bike. One day I even got to help out with Media team and drive a Mitsibushi star galaxy van around, hang out with the hilarious Rocky Mountain man Tippey, and cheer on the racers with Sam while he played the Trombone. The week of volunteering was filled with beautiful scenic ferry rides, new friendships, great trail riding, lots of swimming, cheering racers and friends on, some of the best outside sleeping under the stars I’ve ever experienced, and a new appreciation for the hard work behind the scenes of bike races.
The last few days I even got to meet up with Daniel and Shaggy and ride a ton of trails that the race doesn’t cover. We rode a ton of double black diamond trails that I was very cautious on to not wreck which led me to walking when I double thought something. Which if you know me you know that’s a big step to protecting my noggin! After the race Thomas Turner even joined us and we had a great ride in Whistler riding some of the most root filled, rockiest, tight single track I rode all week. On top of it all there was berries, bears, scenic views, and water falls to fill up the rest of the ride.
There’s no way to put in words just how good of time was had volunteering at the BC stage race. It would probably take a book to fill up all the good times that were had and the new appreciation I have developed for what it takes to put on a mountain bike race. The BC stage race is a must to put on your bucket list even if you go and volunteer. The places the bike race take you to are beautiful and they really highlight all the places in British Columbia, Canada. I’m lucky to be able to go back next year and hopefully race my heart out, and even luckier that I have for the most part taken care of myself this time and am feeling normal and ready to get back at it soon.
A big thanks to all my friends and family for being there through a tough time and helping out with the recovery. My short term has gotten tremendously better and I’m able to ride my bike with caution and no jumping. Also a huge thanks to the BC Bike Race for letting me come hang out and help for a week and I can’t wait to be there next year.