13 June 2009

How I survived with a sprained finger


I forgot it was race day today.

In fact, I think I thought race days were still on Sundays. It's been that long since I've raced.

Regardless, it quickly became evident as I headed out this morning that I'd got my days mixed... the number plates on everyone's-bike-but-yours kinda gives that sort of thing away pretty quickly. But, other than a few skinny riders out early doing warm-up intervals on this somewhat breezy early summer morning, the only other folks I ran into on my way to ride the suffer-trail up Lower Brookbank were my friends Ken and Kurt preparing to do a little race-day corner-marshalling with a posse of their kids.

Toward the top of Brookbank the already-steep trail tips up even steeper into a section just below the Upper Brookbank intersection that's tough to clean even on ideal conditions on your very best day. Today neither of those components were present, so I rode toward this trap ready to dab. I like to ride into it as far as I can, no matter what, hoping to perhaps get lucky, and today I thought I saw a decent line through the loose stuff that's accumulated at the bottom of this section.

I've been on Brookbank several times this week, going up and down. So I immediately noticed, as I headed toward my line, that there were a few new sticks and limbs strewn about on the ground in this area that hadn't been there yesterday. A few of the limbs were sizeable, five or six footers, that had obviously sluffed off one the the many large old snags that occupy this pocket of the hillside. I didn't think too much about the limbs though, they were off my line; they were remarkable only for their size. But then, as I rode past the base of one of the nearby snags I began to hear HUGE cracking sounds just inches from my right shoulder as the dead tree next to the trail began to give way RIGHT BEHIND ME!

Instinctively, I jumped off my bike and began to run up the trail as the sound of the tree crashing to the ground grew louder behind me. In my head I'm thinking, "It's going to kill me. If it falls on me I am dead." I had no idea which direction the snag was falling, only that, judging by the sound, it was coming down very, very close to me. I didn't even turn to look, I just ran as fast as I could away from the sound. As it fell it began to sheer off it's own limbs and the limbs of other nearby trees and I could hear all of these amazing, huge cracking and crashing sounds growing louder and louder right behind me. I ran in a panic, almost on all fours, straight up the trail, stumbing over loose rock, when suddenly something inside me said, "Uphill! Run uphill!" I immediately cut up the bank of the hillside and scrambled over the duff and trailside debris. Seconds later, with a gigantic thud and crash, the snag fell to the ground. The commotion was instantly over. And I stopped running.

I was about 20 feet from the tree; my bike, where I'd ditched it when I started running, was only inches from it. It had fallen nearly perpendicular to the trail, downhill from it's rootbed, but less down the hill than I'd expected. It was an old cinnamon-colored ponderosa, with perhaps a three foot diameter, some 75-100 feet tall. A big old snag. I'm sure it's still there and will be for some time to come, until an earnest saw-crew gets all the way up there to cut through it.

I sprained my finger pretty good while I was running. Not every day you get to say that. Nor is it every day that you get to be a real live mythbuster either.

But I am today. Because I can tell you, for certain: When a tree falls in the woods, it makes a very big sound! A very big sound indeed.

More pictures on flickr.