Matt Donahue

Monday, May 16, 2005

5 Stitches of Lodi Farm

This race report has been sitting in the draft hopper for weeks! (I am finally publishing on June 12) The race happened back in May, it's been several crazy weeks of travel, weddings and other events since then, all of which distracted me from putting this up, here it is.

My team mates Joe and Lee wrote great blogs about this event as well. Here is Joe's report which should give some more insight as we drove down together. Lee's report is here.

The day started with me waking up a bit late, good, since I'd be staying up all night! In a mistified haze I gathered the camping supplies - always a challenge for the first trip of the year, stuff from all over the house needed to be collected. The typical questions came up, I wonder if this flashlight has batteries? yuck, how long has THAT been in there? When Joe arrived to pick me up we conducted a massive bike rack reorganization on the roof of his car, after some metal shaping and other sundry attempts to fit all together, we were finally ready to depart.

We arrived later than expected due to incredible traffic on 395. Once at the race venue we met Lee, set up camp, registered and then and prepared for a short pre-ride.

The pre-ride showed conditions to be too dry, dusty in fact. But around 10 pm some thunderstorms came through and it rained enough to get rid of the dust but not create mud, so conditions were good.

I volunteered to start the race. Why? I just kinda felt like it, not sure exactly what came over me, but there it was. Even with running the lemans start and it being a night lap I beat my best pevious years' times at lodi getting back in under an hour at 57 mins. My training had paid off!

After Joe and Lee rode their laps we switched to doubles, and I started this lap at around 3:23. I was having a solid lap, passed several people which frankly surprised me, but in trying to avoid a slower rider on a steep downhill I crashed face first into a tree.

The impact knocked me off my bike and I heard several loud pops/crunches which immediately made me think I had sustained a bad neck injury. I pulled myself up- not off of the ground, but sort of off of the tree and evaluated. I turned my head, nodded, tried twisting around to look behind me and surprisingly all seemed in order other than a stinging/numb face and jaw and some dizzyness. I figured that was to be expected following such a collision. The bike looked ok too.

Several folks passed me asking if I was alright- I gave them the thumbs up and shortly jumped back on the bike. Since I was still a little dizzy I walked a steep downhill to a bridge, and as I recall, up the other side (I had ridden both of these on my first lap but felt it best to take it easy) The stinging was becoming more substantial at that point, as was a warmer more present ach in my jaw. Maybe a mile later I happened to look at my right leg, the side I crashed on, and noticed a good bit of blood dripping down leg, my shirt, and my arm. Looking for a bloodless part of my arm I wiped my face where it stung and throbbed the most- and got a solid smear of blood on my arm.

"Seems as though I have a face wound!" I thought. I caught up with a rider around that point. He kindly pulled over to let me pass, but I stopped too and asked "Could you do me a favor and look at my face?" A strange request at aproximately 4 AM in the middle of the woods. But context played a role, and he looked. I had most of my answer before he spoke based on his expression alone which was enough to know that things weren't exactly good- he said I had a pretty good "scrape" and "dude you are really bleeding." I said something like, "shit, thanks man!" and took off hoping that I would be able to finish.

Continuing on I was constantly evaluating my condition. Is it feeling worse? Am I going to faint? Is my jaw broken? But I felt good. Strangely the ache in my back that was there before the crash was long gone- perhaps the cracking and popping helped align things? And despite the aching stingy jaw and cheek, I felt OK. This was the point where I began to justify a second lap to myself... strange how this happens although overwhelming evidence points to not taking another lap. I finished that lap in an hour even. I lamely tried to go out for another lap, but the folks at the starting table informed me that I was done- "dude, you have a hole in your face! and you are really bleeding!" I protested once half heartedly, but knowing they were right I gave up and quickly went over to the ambulance.

I Woke the EMT who was asleep in his tent next to the Ambulance- as he roused himself I trotted over to the team camp to inform Joe that I was cut and that he should probably get ready to go out on a lap. He awoke fairly quickly, and knew something was wrong as I should not have been back yet. After a brief discussion, about what, I can't remember, I headed back to the Ambulance, the EMT was up and started working on me. He cleaned the wound in my face, the proper term being "irrigated" the wound.

He determined that it was a "deep laceration" and it would require stitches... Joe came over and saw the extent of what was going on and made ready to get me over to the hospital.

3 hours, most of which were just sitting in the ER waiting room, and 5 stiches later we returned. Joe rode another lap, and Lee had ridden one while we were gone. I had some beers and walked around in a daze watching the race and sharing my wound story.

Overall it was a great time. I wish I hadn't had the crash but the race was fun. A special thanks go to my team mates who were more than understanding about the team essentially dropping out after only one lap each. Initially I felt I had let them down, but their enthusiasm and great attitude convinced me that health and safety were the chief concerns, then fun, then racing. Lee's family was a great support crew. I was defintely pampered.

I got the stitches out about a week later, and the scar is minor. It will however serve as a reminder for years to come that speeding down narrow trails at 4 am is a dangerous pursuit!


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