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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Killer Cars

Foolish is he who assumes the person in front of him knows his direction and won't change course in an instant. Especially when said person is driving a PT Cruiser and has tonnage on you. Such was my foolishness on Saturday when I t-boned a PT Cruiser on my bike while riding through the San Clemente pier bowl.

I will begin by saying that I am okay, aside from a few stitches in the chin, various bruises, and a banged up knee (prognosis is still out on this one), but it definitely shook me up. With the force of the impact, I am extremely fortunate not to have injured my neck or back, and that my previously injured shoulder was not aggravated.

It was supposed to be a long workout, with a four hour bike ride followed by a half hour run, break, then a 3,000 yard open water swim. Instead it became a 20 minute ride followed by a day laying on my ass appropriately watching "I Shouldn't be Alive". I planned on riding from North Beach (San Clemente) through the pier bowl and on through San Onofre, Pendleton, and beyond.

Just a note about the "bike route" through the San Clemente pier bowl. I understand why they divert bike traffic through there, as PCH is too narrow and crowded for cyclists, but it is not a safe alternative. San Clemente West of the 5 is highly populated with little or no shoulder, and many blind intersections and distracted drivers. It is also the only way to get from San Clemente to San Onofre on bike, which is very popular. This makes for a very dangerous recipe.

About half way through the bike route I came up behind a PT Cruiser with a driver who appeared uncertain to say the least. I cautiously kept my distance as I thought he would park or turn, and I wanted to avoid the very situation I was about to get into. We came upon an intersection and he slowed and rolled through, appearing confident that he was going to go straight. I caught up at the intersection and committed to following him through (on the right in the bike lane). About 3/4 of the way through, he stopped abruptly and turned right, creating a nice little obstacle in front of me.

Unfortunately, I didn't have ET with me, or a front basket to put him in, so I had no power to fly my bike over the car to safety. Thus I did the next best thing, which was to brake as hard as I could. This sent my rear wheel into the air, forcing me to back off the brakes, lest I put my head between the bike and the car; an undesirable option. So I began to turn with the car, accepting the inevitability of a collision and inability to slow my velocity. The best option became to minimize the speed of the impact and avoid t-boning the car. I would imagine the sight of my bike coming to an immediate and complete stop whilst I proceeded airborne through the intersection would have been a fine spectacle to those surrounding witnesses, but I preferred an outcome a bit less deadly.

The impact itself is a blur, but I remember hitting the car at about a 60 degree angle, with my left leg absorbing most of the impact. At some point I became unclipped from my pedals as I rolled off the front of the car and onto the road. I immediately felt the pain in my leg as bystanders came along to help. One angel of a woman was very calm and helpful (a former sheriff I believe), and stayed with my as the paramedics came. At the time I was sure I was fine and nothing was wrong with me, but adrenaline is a hell of a thing. Long story short, the police took our statements, paramedics cleared me to be driven home by my wife, and we all went home.

I wasn't even aware that I had hit my chin, but when I got home I was able to see the gash and it was clear I needed stitches. We went to the ER, got the stitches, got my head and leg checked out and again was cleared to go.

At the ER, signing my life away for a few stitches and a tetanus shot
Fortunately too the bike sustained minimal damage, which is surprising. On a visual check it appeared that the rear wheel was out of true, and the rear derailleur was bent, but no frame damage. Today I took the bike to Bike Religion in Dana Point to get it checked out and spend what I thought would be hundreds of dollars on a new wheel and derailleur. Upon visual inspection the shop clerk told me it might be fixable, and since I bought the bike there, they would include that as part of my lifetime free tune up package. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one. Regardless, the guys at Bike Religion are pros and I highly recommend them for their knowledge and excellent service.

I am a bit concerned with how quickly I can get back to training. As it is now, I can barely stand and support myself on my left leg. While it may be mostly muscular injury, I need to go see my doctor to check it out for sure. With my first triathlon in a month, I am hopeful that I can get back, but it is necessary to practice the principles I set in the beginning, which is to practice humility, be accepting of my shortcomings, and be patient.  Training injury and stress free requires that any existing injuries heal, lest they be aggravated. It is discouraging to say the least, but I've been through worse challenges before and am experienced enough to get through them and become stronger for it.

This incident demonstrates how I believe God's will works in our lives. It would be naive and arrogant of me to say that God somehow prevented this accident from being a lot worse, as bad things happen all the time to people who pray for more desirable outcomes. Despite our best efforts, no matter how hard we pray we are still subject to the free will of people. Simply I ask that I be given the strength and foresight to do His will in my life. I believe that in my will I would have been more aggressive and selfish in this situation, speeding through the stop sign without any regard for the other car, and thus the accident would have been worse. In His will I was more cautious, and thus hobbled away. That is why I thank God.

Which brings me to the next point, which is how to practice God's will going forward. In my life fear exists without His will. Thus I could choose to hang up the cleats and give up on this all together. This is how I used to live. One of the main reasons I am doing this is because I am afraid to do it. I've learned that instead of telling God how big my storm is, I have to tell the storm how big my God is. I've found that through His will the fears have been conquered despite these minor setbacks. Am I going to let fear or injury dictate how my life should be led? Nope. You bet I will be back on the road as soon as possible (depending on doctor's orders), albeit with a more cautious eye toward the actions of others.