Monday, May 26, 2014

Team Ninja Big Bear Camp + The Story Of Seven Stitches

Team Ninja Big Bear Camp!! 

I had a feeling something like this would happen -- things have been going swimmingly with training and preparation for the BC Bike Race so of course, there would be some kind of wrench in the spokes. And honestly, if you're going to have a violent crash, it's best to do it with your friends around, both for the stories and for their help. 

Day 1 - 

My "salad," topped with bacon cheeseburger and ham
We're up here at Big Bear for Team Ninja Training Camp which for me comes hot on the heels of BC Bike Race dress rehearsal week. Read: I'm pretty tired. Our first day was kind of a wash for me -- I have never been so happy to sit in the back of the train and just go for an easy spin. Altitude acclimation plus over 25K' climbing the week before had me in a pretty docile state of mind and body. We covered some super fun singletrack, front and back and then hit up Big Belly Deli for delicious eats in the sun. A great day. Except for my altitude headache but when I woke up the morning of Day 2, I was a new woman.

Day 2 -

With my headache totally gone and my legs feeling inexplicably fresh, I couldn't wait to get up and pre ride the 25 mile course for the Kenda Cup next weekend. I have never raced at Big Bear before but everyone seems to love it up here so I was looking forward to seeing it. However, it turns out that the course is over half fireroads and you just ride right by all the delicious single track through the pine trees. By the time we finally hit the singletrack, I was probably a little over-excited.

Women of Team Ninja: Heidi, Paula, Me, Lisa and Regina
... Hmmm. We're missing one. 
Skyline is a fantastic trail with a ton of flow and it effectively erased my frustration at riding climb after climb of gravel. Amazing to be in our group of Ninjas flying around corners, pumping rollers and all just a bike length away from each other's wheel. Where is the GoPro when you need it?! Awesome ride with Henry, Richard, Lisa, Derek and our newest Ninja, Michelle!!! That is until ...

The Crash

The "home stretch" of the race course is a technical descent down Pirates, Fall Line and Fern. Or something like that. We regrouped at the top of the final climb (yup .... fireroad) and I remember feeling giddy that we were finally going to do some mountain biking. I went off the front with gusto and flew down the trail, making up for lost time both from the day before when I was caught in traffic, and for all the riding previous, when we were JRA on fireroads (!!).

Only, the loose, shaley section where the trail is steepest had become even more loose and shaley. I recognized this a little too late, and though I distinctly remember having the thought that it was time to back it off, I admit I was a bit too stubborn.

I let the bike drift out with gravity a little while I tried to check my speed without upsetting my balance. But I let it drift a bit too far and I felt my front tire get hung up some loose stuff to the left. "I'm going to crash," was the thought and as we teach in Ninja Mountain Bike Skills, I began to look for a place to go down. It's always better if a crash is up to you. Read on to find out why ...

But then I felt my front wheel hook up again so I thought, "Oh, I've got this ... I'll ride out." Mistake. It was already over, I just didn't commit to the idea and in trying to fight it, I just made it worse. My front tire reconnected with the loose stuff, flopped over and I was thrown "violently" (as Coach Richard describes it) over the downhill side of the trail, rather than the nice uphill-side slide I could have chosen when I had the choice.

My Garmin says I was doing 21.1 mph before my abrupt stop. The leftover kinetic energy had me take a little ride down the hill, mostly on my left leg. The loose rocks and shale cut me up, including a particularly nice gash to my knee. They also didn't make for a soft landing, so my hip took the brunt of the initial impact ... it will be a colourful week.

I lay on the trail thinking BCBIKERACEBCBIKERACEBCBIKERACE while trying to assess what had happened. I think I was still tangled up in my bike. Then my heroes arrived. Richard, who by now had managed to safely stop his own rapid descent without hitting me (thank you Richard!) had warned the rest of our Ninja Train there was a rider down, and then took over assessing for me. Thank goodness. I was having a hard time getting past any thought but BC BIKE RACE.

I never looked at my leg on the trail. I let Richard and Lisa handle all that. Richard calmly told me my knee was hurt and located the first aid supplies, while Henry held my hand and my head and Lisa began washing out the wound with water so she and Richard could expertly apply a field dressing. It's nice that our Ninjas are so well-trained! And special shoutout to sponsor Hero Kit which has come to my aid twice now in two weekends. Repair kit last Sunday and Crash kit this one.

Mostly I just stared at the clouds and squeezed Henry's hand. There were lots of faces over top of mine too, so thank you to all those concerned riders who stopped by - Shout out to Roger and Nancy! Sorry I interrupted your flow! I got up, dusted myself off and we limped off the trail to more level terrain. Turns out my bike survived the ordeal -- thank god -- so I just rolled out, one-legged pedalling the few miles back to the car. Hurray for ILT training. I picked a good place to go down: we were nearly finished our ride, and the hospital is just down the street.

I won't bore you with the adventure that was the Big Bear Hospital but here are some highlights:
  1. Wound cleaning with a terry cloth, soap and no numbing (until a doc intervened thank god)
  2. Xray showing I left all the trail on the trail, and not in my knee 
  3. A firefighter crew making bets on how many stitches I was in for
  4. Seven stitches and my first time paying for something in the emergency room. Ugh. 
Thank you to everyone who helped me off the ground, off the trail and off the ledge through this exciting weekend. Biggest thanks to Richard, Paula and Heidi for spending an exciting afternoon at the hospital instead of enjoying Team Camp activities. Paula's zeal for insides is legendary and without her encouragement, I might not have the level of appreciation for blood and gore I do now (1 out of 10, rather than 0 out of 10). It is also hugely comforting to have a friend in your corner, especially one who knows her way around the medical system, asking the right questions. Thank you so much Paula -- It's so nice to have things in common, but I prefer the other things, rather than the knee injuries we've both enjoyed the past month. 

Thank you Richard for reassuring me that this is the absolute best time I could have knocked myself out for a week. Thank you for staying calm and getting me safely out of the trail and into the ER and then for being a proper good friend by glorifying the events in stories afterwards. I know I started to panic out there as I ineffectively tried to scrape myself off the slope but as soon as you arrived with your encouraging words, "I got you," I believed you. Thank you for taking over, and for DOUBLE chips and pop. 

And Heidi, thank you so much for being part of the hospital crew. It is so crappy waiting around ERs and I am really touched that you guys were there. Plus, your insight into nerves and recovery has been very educational, so thank you for that and just for being there. You totally deserve that teamwork trophy :) 

So with that ended my Team Camp. We had a great night out last night that included ice cream and many touching words about our amazing team. I feel really lucky to have found these Ninjas and I can't wait til I'm back up and riding with you guys again. This morning I'm writing blogs and other things while they're off ripping the Bike Park. Even though I'm banged up, sore and stiff, I gotta say, I'm feeling pretty good. 

By popular demand, here are the bloody photos. Don't scroll if you're my mom, or squeamish (like me ... could barely get these posted). 

Expert field dressing!! 
The first exam 
The joy of cleaning
This is Paula's favorite. Nurse Tammy is opening the wound to show her nerves and meat. 
"Seven stitches for you, and probably another seven for your bib shorts" - Richard La China
All cleaned up, ready to get the flock out of there


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Feel Pretty - Bike Models Needed!

It's been a banner year so far for my accidental modelling career. I've been having a lot of fun "riding and repeating" in the latest and greatest apparel for our amazing sport and the opportunities seem to keep coming. Here's where I am so far:

If you are flipping through a Canari or Zoic Fall 2014 catalog, look out for my telltale ponytail.

Thinking Pink for Canari's upcoming fall catalog

Shooting the Zoic Catalog with Ninja Heidi and our new buddies

If you're watching TV in Europe, you might see me hiding behind a tree in pink (again) for B'Twin:

And if you're tuning in to the Tour of California, you might spot me and Coach Richard modelling our #RideLikeANinja kit for Champion Systems.

If you want to get in on the photo-shoot, "blue Steel" action, check out the details below for the latest opportunity:

Bike Models needed for bike brand photo shoot! 

WHEN: The dates of the shoot are: May 17-25 :: Sport, Recreation & Kids Bikes May 28- June 4 : Performance Bikes (on & off-road) Each modeling session will take around 2-4 hours and you will be compensated in payment based on the time you are needed. ($150-200) Payment will be made immediately following modeling session. 

WHAT: We are shooting the full line of bicycles for a bike brand that will be used worldwide for marketing, ads, and in-store displays, etc. 

WHO: We are looking for outgoing, smiling faces that know how to ride a bike and perform well in front of a camera. Adults: Females: Ages 18-45 +1 Teen, Height 5’1”-5’6” (size Small bike frame) Males: Ages 18-45, Height 5’6”-5’10” (size Medium bike frame) Kids: (must already be comfortable riding a bike) Ages 9-12, Height 4’3”- 5’1” Ages 7-9, Height 3’11”- 4’5” Ages 4-7, Height 3’3”- 3’11” Ages 2-4, Height 2’9”- 3’7” (bike will have training wheels) 

WHERE: The photoshoots will be located throughout San Diego. 

“I’M IN!”: Please email a photo of yourself, child or family & include height & age. Let us know your availability, or dates/times that would work best for you. For more details about this photoshoot or any questions, please get in touch with me ASAP. 

Feel free to forward this information to a friend. Phone: 978-302-0239 Email: 

We hope you can join us for the shoot! 

Thank you, 

Elise Heinold 
Jake’s Point of View Photography