Sunday, September 4, 2011

What Was I Thinking?

Following the Sheila Dikshit travesty of 2010, Paul Henry suddenly found himself thrown into an abyss of scandal, culminating in accusations of racism, and ultimately his resignation. During the ensuing spare time he found he suddenly had, he wrote a memoir called What Was I Thinking detailing his methods of madness since childhood. Love him or hate him, I fucking love him so I don't care what you think.

I too find myself in excess of time, broadcasting this story to you considerably glazed over by Codeine and writing with one hand only, having been shunted from my MTB by a gust of wind on Saturday. I hit the road with my head and shoulder at 47.5kph. I lay on that road and I thought, well, I'm alive, but I should probably get off the road so I stay that way. When I got up, my shoulder was quite sore so I came to the natural conclusion that I had broken my collarbone. Which is the natural self-diagnosis when your shoulder's sore, eh?

I was very fortunate that a chap called Nick stopped and helped me out after seeing me on the side of the road. He walked over to me and stood there asking what was wrong before I finally realised that I needed to actually talk to him. So I told him I had broke my collar bone, so he took me down to Port Chalmers to meet an ambulance.

Nick was a great story teller. A war veteran himself, he told me stories of terrible pain he had experienced from broken bones, which in retrospect was quite funny. By the time the ambulance arrived the adrenaline wore off and shock set in. My face was sweating profusely. I couldn't stop shaking, and started hyperventilating. But I didn't cry.

The officers were lovely, one was a competitive road cyclist herself, so she told me all about her crashes. Some people just feel so comfortable confiding their traumatic experiences in me. While enlightening me with her stories, she gave me nitrous oxide to inhale, which I didn't like, because it made me feel like I was going to pass out. Strangely enough I became calm and announced that I was intolerant to all opioid analgesics, Morphine, Tramadol, Oxycontin and Pethedine, that my blood pressure would be low because I'm an athlete, I need to call my Mum, I didn't cry when I crashed, and I have a test on Tuesday for Economics. They just laughed and gave me more of that nitrous shit.

Having been through this state of affairs quite a few times this year with knee reconstruction surgery, a suspected scafoid break, concussion and now a broken clavicle, I've started to reflect on risk. A good friend of mine explained the nature of risk, comparing it to a clock, where the numbers change as risk changes. He said I should avoid risk when racing. I told him I simply can't think about risk when I'm racing because it will slow me down. The last time I thought about risk on the mountain bike was before I let go of the fear associated with losing control and hurting myself. That's when I became faster.

Can we slow down? So often, as mountain bikers, we put ourselves smack bang in the middle of a catch-22 situation. On one hand we mitigate risk to ourselves by wearing helmets, gloves and glasses. On the other hand, we put ourselves in that very situation where we are completely exposed to risk. Every time we storm down the singletrack, we are riding that very thin edge between brilliance and disaster. Sometimes we slip and catch the edge just in time. Sometimes we don't.