So I'm sitting here Sunday afternoon icing my knee. Blah. This morning I fell off my bike for the first time in ~5 years. I don't like falling off my bike.
Yesterday I got a wild hair up my ass or something and decided that I could probably drag myself through DEMRR today... 112 mile road race around Oahu. I've done it 4x before and have placed 3rd and 2nd the last two times I entered so figured that I could likely manage to pull something decent out of myself today even with that Ironman in my legs from last week. I showed up to late registration for the race with ~5' to spare, joined a new cycling team (I'd been meaning to join this team for a while but had no real incentive until now). I figured I could ride the race unattached on my own, or I could join Tradewinds and instantly have A LOT of friends during that race. Given how windy it's been this whole year, I figured having some teammates to drag me around wouldn't hurt... :) Anyway.
This race starts at 5:30AM in the dark with the first 25-30 miles "neutral" where we're all jammed together with a police escort ahead and behind us as we go through town and all the traffic lights, etc. It's very nervous as most folks are fighting to be at the front. Leave 6" between you and the wheel in front of you and someone who is more aggressive will come in and take it from you... I was not feeling particularly aggressive this morning- partly b/c it's been forever since I've ridden in a big pack like that (so I was scared) and partly b/c it was raining which made the roads slippery like ice (so I was scared). Anyway, I found myself riding about in the middle of the pack through this neutral section and was consequently surrounded by riders who seemed a little less aggressive so that suited me just fine.
At one point I overheard a conversation between two riders next to me... one guy was saying that his goal was to just really enjoy himself out there today... riding your bike is supposed to be fun! he said. So I agree with that 100% yet all I could think was that my goal today was simply to stay upright. Unfortunately riding my bike jammed in the middle of this group of 130+ nervous riders in the rain didn't feel fun to me. It felt dangerous. Someone ends up in the hospital every year and I just really didn't want that person to be me this year.
And then it happened. I don't know what, really, but someone up front went down on the slippery roads and then like dominos we all started to fall. I saw my friend/teammate Atomman on the ground right in front of me and I tried to swerve around him and I braked and clipped out but the road was just too slippery and I fell and slid right into him. At some point before I got up I looked behind me and saw like 20 more people on the pavement. Just a massive pile up. I wasn't really hurt- landed on my knee and elbow (and am now feeling a sore wrist) but overall I got lucky and am not too bad off. What really sucked though was seeing Atomman on the ground biting his hand and moaning about the pain in his hip. He could not move. A couple other teammates tried to help him and I gently moved his bike out from underneath him and then we just kind of stood there trying to figure out what to do as most riders remounted their bikes and got moving. Someone called 911 and some others volunteered to stay with Atomman until the ambulance came and urged us to continue on. My desire to keep riding by this time was very low (um, at zero?) but I felt some obligation to the team to try to finish b/c there are points for top male/female finishers from each team at the finish...
So we (two teammates and I) started to continue on but by this point we were outside of that police envelope so we had to stop at every red light along Nimitz Hwy (every 1/4 mile or so) and I looked ahead and saw nothing but ominous looking grey clouds so it seemed obvious that the weather was not going to clear up before we hit Kunia... so many negative thoughts through my head at this point and all I was thinking was that this is not safe and there was no way I was interested in descending Pineapple Hill on roads made of (what felt like) ice. What to do?? I hated the thought of quitting. I have not DNF'd a race since IMAZ in 2005 when I had bronchitis. Was I being a wimp? Or was I being smart? I didn't really care about this race at all yet I didn't want to feel like a quitter. So I justified it on my mind. I erred on the side of caution today and turned around and rode home. And in my mind I called it not a DNF but a DPL (Decision to Preserve Longevity). I will live to fight another day and did not end up in the hospital with any broken bones.
So there you go. I feel kind of nauseous right now and I'm not sure exactly what from? Maybe that some people were brave enough to finish but I was not? Ugh. I hate that.