Tuesday, March 2

The Luge Incident

Most often when I make a mistake, a mis-judgment, I have time to reflect afterward and ponder the causes, effects and consequences of my choices. This morning I got the rare opportunity to reflect during my mistake.

Last night as we drove home from the rec center I decided I'd ride to work today. The roads are in good shape, dry, free of snowy rubble and I was determined (and still am) to go back to riding four or five days a week.

I got everything ready last night and just before the crack of dawn this morning I set out from home toward Golden. Now, sitting in my cubicle I have a bruised elbow and some scuffed clothing to show for it.

The ride went smoothly, if a little slow, all the way to the C470 bike path. Usually by then I feel pretty good. I'm warmed up and the heavy traffic is behind me (or rather along side of me on the highway).

My thoughts had wandered to some random thought flittering around in my head. I was chasing tangents in my mind again.

I stood up on the pedals on the rolling hills of the bike path. Standing to climb hills is rare for me. I'm a sitter. As I crested the high point and started to drift over and into the curve that would take me down into the tunnel under C470 I saw shiny stuff on the bike path in the tunnel. So much for staying dry I thought.

A split second before my front wheel touched I realized I wasn't going to get wet at all. Once I could see the entire length of the tunnel it hit me full in the face...actually, in the backside. From one end to the other, side to side the tunnel was a sheet of ice. According to the measuring tool in Google Earth the tunnel is about 260' long.

I was probably going 12-15 miles and hour. That's a conservative estimate.

For a good, solid, eternal two seconds I was upright and in control. And then I decided to pump my brakes to bleed off some speed. And that's about all I managed to do.

After the third pump my rear wheel got out from under me and I went down. I probably should have laid off the front brake, or the brakes altogether, but I was worried about the sharp curve at the end of the tunnel, which I found myself hurtling toward at 12-15 miles an hour. That's a conservative estimate.

While careening toward dry pavement I had time to switch sides (my right elbow was getting sore) and I could look around, see the bike sliding behind me, lights flashing still, even in disaster.

I had pretty good momentum right up to the second when the back of my helmet made contact with the wall at 12-15 miles an hour (conservative estimate). A couple of head bumps (with enough time to acknowledge that wearing a helmet IS a good thing) and the effects of my brake pumping are finally realized. Too little, too late...

Or was it too much?

I'm pretty sure if I had tried to ride it out without touching my brakes I might have ended up in the prairie grass in a heap. At least I slowed a little bit.

I slowly picked myself up and did a quick once over to make sure I was ok. I picked up the bike and wrestled it back into shape to finish my commute. I was ok, a bit shaken, a bit dazed. The terminus of my luge attempt put me about 15' from the end of the tunnel. A conservative estimate would have seen my skidding at least 100'. It seemed like it anyway...

Rolling into work with 47:00 on my computer didn't even make me feel bad. That included my luge run.

My right elbow is a bit sore. My clothes are a bit roughed up. The bike is ok, but leans against my cube behind me and I am fairly certain it is glaring, glaring at the point between my shoulder blades.

Ironically I'm not trying to decide if I'll take that route tomorrow, but whether I'll take my camera and leave early so I can document the conditions...


Aerial of the tunnel. The red arrow shows my direction of travel.

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