Lanier talks crashing, how to overcome to get back in the race, and why you should never live a life fully out of fear.
I was in a crash during a race 2.5 weeks ago, resulting in a fractured rib. When I first got up, adrenaline was doing its job and I thought my front wheel sustained all the damage. But the pain increased by the day and x-rays later that week confirmed that I was looking at yet another recovery period this season. I already worked through 4 weeks of muscular damage recovery this spring from a minor fall during a break in racing. So the mental path was familiar: initial optimism that recovery would be short, followed by frustration when my body does not share that optimism, then slow painful efforts on the bike to avoid losing every last shred of fitness that I worked so hard to obtain. Training rides are again exercises in pain tolerance. Racing plans are postponed. My weekly yoga and strength routine is disrupted. I am in a funk.
I remind myself that I am lucky, that several competitors’ injuries were far worse. At least I can ride! One long-time riding friend who has ridden centuries with broken ribs, explains exactly what to expect and gives me a pep talk in his gruff way: “It’s just pain management, Lanier. You’re tough. Just ride your bike.” I arrange a ride with him. My coach tells me to refocus my short-term goals: “Remember what you love about riding before you started racing, and do that. Lead those beginner rides, commute and enjoy the scenery. Just ride your bike.” I sign up to lead more beginner rides, begin commuting to work and plan the MS Ride this weekend with Jenifer. Endorphins are working their magic and the pain is reduced. My spirits improve.
Several have asked if I am scared to race again. The answer is no. I have fallen more outside of races than in them. Using feedback from others, I think through what I can do differently to reduce the chances of going down in the future. There is risk in riding and racing our bikes. There is also risk driving a car or walking across the street. I will do everything I can to mitigate those risks. But I never want to give up living my life fully out of fear.
So if I am afraid when I line up for my next race, I will remember another racing friend’s words. It was my first race back after the first injury, and despite my excitement to race again I was worried my muscles would lock up. He asked, “Can you race?” When I responded yes, he said “Then just go race your bike.” So I did, and I will.