Pedal Another Mile

Bicycling, death, life after death.

A look into the past, pt. 1 - the day I broke my hand

Since the riding season is winding down I thought I'd make a post every once in awhile about something that happened in the past.  The first trip takes us back to August 17th, 2008.  It was my first year really taking cycling seriously in at least seven years.  I had originally set a goal of 300 miles for the year (seemingly unattainable after my first ride back in April) and then readjusted it to 1,000 after I passed 500.

At the time I was riding a 2000 Trek 4500 hardtail mountain bike, mostly on crushed limestone trails.  I spent a lot of time on the I&M Canal trail between Channahon and Morris, trying to extend my distance.  By mid-August I had  700+ miles and I felt I was ready to try Channahon to Seneca and back, a distance of close to 50 miles.


So off I went.  At one point between Morris and Seneca the trail was closed since a sizeable chunk of the width of the path had eroded down a hill.  It was still passable, however, and was NOT the cause of my crash.  But since it was closed it wasn't being maintained, and grass had been growing on the trail, hiding all kinds of goodies.  Goodies that included a tree branch that had fallen, which I hit at about 16 or 17 mph. The contact caused me to wobble a bit and veer off-trail right into a tree root that was about the height of a curb.  The bike came to an immediate stop.  I did not.  Momentum took my feet right out of the clips and over the handlebar I went.  I landed on my left hand and before I had even stopped rolling I knew I had broken bones.  I just didn't know how many and how bad it was going to be.  I tried to call my wife who was at work but had very spotty cell service.  She heard enough to tell me she'd let the 911 center for the area know and they'd come and get me.  The thing was, I was two miles from a road, and if they had to go down a closed trail to get me I'd probably be in trouble and even worse - I might have to leave my bike behind.  No way in hell was that happening.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the bike.  That thing was a tank.  So I decided to ride one-handed back to the last road I passed two miles earlier.  It was about 20 back to my truck and there was no way I could do that with broken bones. I had no idea of the name of the road, so when I called 911 I was counting on them triangulating my position.  They couldn't, so I gave them my GPS coordinates off my Garmin bike computer.  Thankfully the ambulance that came to get me was big enough to load my bike into it, too.  Off to the Morris Hospital ER we went.  I called friends who live in Morris to come to the hospital and get my car keys so they could get it for me.  They were awesome to do that for me :).

The swelling was pretty bad by the time I was in a room.  It took two nurses about five minutes and half a bottle of lube to get my wedding ring off.  They were about to give up and tell me they had to cut it off when my finger finally let it go.

I got some x-rays and waited for the damage report: broken 4th & 5th metacarpal bones on my left hand, as well as severe swelling in those fingers, with a possible broken pinky finger.  The fitted me with a temporary cast and told me to see an orthopedic doctor in the morning.  The next day I had a cast put on, which would stay with me for four weeks.  When it was removed, the metacarpal bones had healed but I couldn't bend either finger and had almost no grip at all because of it.  What followed was over three months of physical therapy, which was quite painful at times, but allowed for me to get most of my grip and power back.  Unfortunately, my pinky finger is permanently bent at the middle knuckle at about 45 degrees, but I can live with that