Monday, January 31, 2011

Pech Gehabt! World Championships: St. Wendel, Germany, 1/30/11

Pech Gehabt is a phrase in German that pretty much means, "bad luck". My race was a short one that ended with a tearful ambulance ride, despite my pleading objections, for x-rays, ultrasound and in the end, 3 stitches. 
Being a part of the USA National Team is always an experience. You would think after a few times, it would wear off. It wouldn't be 'special'. But it is special. Each is very different with different objectives. This trip was very mellow. The group was a bit smaller, due to some making other arrangements, and we were the only team at our hotel. Everyone was focused on doing their best. The staff was supportive, everyone respectful and a really nice group. The lead up to the race went well. Pre-riding, knowing the conditions would very much depend on the temperature and sun. The atmosphere was still 'worlds' at the venue. The venue was great. It was also special to have Marketa there, my 'german sister'. (exchange student from hs who is like part of the family) It was nice to see the event through her eyes, one of a non cyclist and one who has never been. It's like having culture shock to the euro cross culture.
Race day went without a hitch to get to the starting line. I cooked my breakfast in the hotel kitchen. We departed on time. I didn't forget anything. I sat on the trainer and then rode the course and was able to ride everything. The ruts were rough in places, but it was not as treacherous as I thought it may be after the U23 race and it re-freezing. All was good. I was relaxed, confident and ready to roll. Warming up on the trainer in the camp is always funny. You are like an animal in the zoo with people watching you, while you put in the earphones, ignore it all and get ready for the culmination of a season of hard work.
At the line, I followed Gully's advice and took the outside of the track, since I was towards the end of the 2nd row call ups. And when that light turned green, I was relaxed, focused and had a great start with no panic. The head wind after the corner hit me like a ton of bricks, taking my breath away, so I tucked in and just stayed focused. First 2 turns were great. The first 180 I got pinched a bit, but when at the barriers, Katie was to my right (was wondering what she was doing there?) and Amy right in front of me. People were down on the off camber on the right, so Amy did what I would have done and take the line on the left, which was rideable in pre-ride, but Amy started slipping and didn't have enough speed to clear it, so I veered left to not totally smash into her, said some encouraging words and continued on. The first long false flat climb, I found myself struggling to breathe a bit, so I told myself to just relax, throttle 'er back and get in a rhythm. I struggled a bit. Then we did the stairs and got to the 'whoopdee'. A descent you needed to pedal and carry speed to make it up the other side. I was cruising and looked up and saw about 7-10 riders spread out dismounting and crashing. I tried to thread the needle and find a gap, but it was impossible. I had to brake to avoid disaster and dismount and run. Then a little false flat to the long sweeping rutty descent back to the pit then track. I had nailed it and passed a few. On the track, there were 2 Germans to draft off. Then when we got on the dirt, I decided to make my move. Then the second corner, the unthinkable happened. I don't know actually what happened, but I went down. HARD. I was laying on the ground for a while and not sure if I blacked out or not, but I heard the whizzing of people by me and I thought, "I have to get up and get going". I laid there a bit more, then attempted to get up and couldn't. By then, medics or course people, whomever they were were there. And they helped me up. I think I still thought I was going to continue. But when I couldn't put pressure on my right leg, I knew it was over. Plus, apparently my helmet was totally smashed, so they wouldn't even have let me continue if I had thought I wanted to. Protocol. Off to the hospital.
The minuted I realized I was not going to continue, the tears started coming. They were not from the pain, which I had plenty. They were for the disappointment. The pure anguish of what I thought at the time was letting so many people down, including myself. I sat in the ambulance and had to explain in German that I wasn't crying from the pain, but from the disappointment. This was a first. I think I was in shock. The sobbing wouldn't subside. I was a mess. Alone in an ambulance. Wishing at least I could stay and see how my teammates would do. See Katie win Gold. I was thinking of all it took to get there. The people who supported me. The awesome training Kendra put me through. Tim getting up at 2 a.m. to watch, only to not see me (turns out he missed it b/c he fell asleep), but it was too much.  I couldn't stop sobbing. Then the exam started. I kept asking if they could check the race. Get an update. Turn on the live streaming. But it wasn't until well after the race was over as I was shivering after getting my stitches that they checked cycling news for me. Vos had won. More disappointment. Then I got back to camp, only to hear other stories of disappointing races, flats, etc. It was not the day for the USA. In my very sore, stiff, pained state, I managed to walk around a bit, take it all in, cheer for the men and realize that it was only one lost opportunity. One bike race. There will be more. It will make me even hungrier, more determined to succeed. And now I will wait. 364 more days to try again.



Post note: My injuries are minor. Just lot's of scrapes and bruises. It is hard to move. I had 3 stitches put in my hip, where there was a deeper gash the doctor determined needed it. My head is sore and my neck, but so far no sign of concussion. I will keep monitoring and hopefully be able to move a bit faster soon. 

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sue, Thank you for the in-debth report. I can't think of anyone better to represent the United States then you and Katie! Thank you and thank God you didn't get hurt worse. -Amanda V

Anonymous said...

Oh, Sue, that could have been so much worse. I am with Amanda, I am glad it was not worse (few more details on your condition would be good!). But when you said you could not get up, it makes one have thoughts of how devestating it could have been. I have tears of disappointment for you but also of relief. Love you lots. Sonja

Brooke said...

Sending you thoughts of a quick recovery- both physical and emotional! Crashes suck, no two ways about it. But know that even in this experience you have found a way to inspire. It is great to win and to do well, but even the strong go down from time to time. The battle back up can sometimes show us more. Thank you for sharing your story and your strength will all of us. -Brooke

Christopher Smith said...

Very happy to hear you are OK and looking forward to fighting another day. Best regards to you Sue.

Henry Abel said...

Sue, Thanks for the report - bummer news that it was. Amy and I stayed up until 3AM so we could watch the race on-line! We cheered for you when we saw you on the start line! Am sorry to hear that things didn't go nearly as planned and has worried that something "not good" had happened since we didn't see or hear anything during or after the race. And not in the results either. Know that you're our hero, regardless - and we're so proud to have you represent us at Worlds this year! Looking forward to seeing you at the races this year.

All the best,
Henry & Amy
Bend, Oregon

Brian L said...

Seems this is the toughest part about bike racing. Keep your chin up and keep rockin'!

Flo said...

Sue, We love you all the same ! Having a home-town hero)ine) in a World Champs race is special all by itself. And a second row start, wow ! Worth getting up at 2am to see....I know. I did it.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry Mamma Sue. It doesn't always work out the way you dream it to. But you were there and that is so impressive. In bicycling hospital visits happen. We still love you.
Cody

Anonymous said...

Sue, you are an inspiration for all the women who race cross here in Oregon. We are proud of what you did and where you've gotten, crashing is just an unfortunate part of the sport as you well know. Sorry to see it happen to you at Worlds. Wishing you a speedy recovery and keep focused on the year ahead!!

Brooke Hoyer said...

Sue, I'm really sorry that your World's race ended too soon. I know you were very motivated to have a good race and by all indications it was going well for you. I'm sure that it was a bitter pill to swallow.

I know you will bounce back and be tearing up the dirt in the coming season.

bikelovejones said...

Thank you for sharing your honest and thoughtful report. Although we are not racing on even the same planet, I had my first experience this past summer of not being allowed to finish a short-track race -- 2/3 through my final lap due to serious asthma issues -- and I understand your disappointment and sorrow at not being able to stay in the race.

I hope to have the good fortune to watch you race again next year and cheer you on. Bon Courage --

Corey Martin said...

O Suebie! The crash is testament to the fact that you were totally going for it!!! - Doing what you had to do to make your goal, yet still relaxed and in the moment. You show us all what our true potential is and inspire us all to keep trying. We are thinking about you and sending visions of you killin it in the coming years.- Corey

wongwongway said...
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wongwongway said...
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wongwongway said...

Hey Sue, we in Southern California know you are a rock star! Bummed for you, as we know you wanted to and would have kicked it out there ;)

Let's get you back representing in 2012!

Go Sue B! You are a shining star of West Coast Cross!