Road to Recovery

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Misfortune may become fortune through patience.
~Solomon Ibn Gabirol, 11th century Rabbi and poet

Life is a matter of accepting the good and the bad with a bit of humor and grace whenever, wherever you can.

I incurred a really nasty hard fall off my bike on the Cinderella Challenge and am fortunate enough to be able to recount the details. I don’t mind spilling the beans about the incident. I feel neither embarrassment or shame but rather blessed and grateful that I am alive and well (relatively speaking). Maybe we can all learn something from this-including me!

It’s easy to pass judgment on someone with a bunch of “would have”, “should have” and “wouldn’t haves”. But until you are pressed into a situation, you just don’t know how you’re going to react.

An accident can be defined as a sudden event that results in damage, injury or harm. I certainly think it applies in my case. I regard myself as a safe rider by not doing stupid stuff and making concientious decisions that will not put me or others at risk.  

The desire to be on the bike has a really strong hold on me. For every ride, once the wheels start turning with the first downward pedal stroke, I start to experience and increase the quality of freedom and playfulness in life. It also helps to quiet the mind and instill great peace and calm for me. It’s very addictive! So, sometimes even with “showers” in the forecast, I still get out and ride.

This “Ladies Only” event starts at the Alameda County Fair Grounds in Pleasanton. I meet up with my friend Jackie at registration and we head off! The first 10 miles of the route meanders through the many residential neighborhoods of the area before reaching Livermore.

The weather was cool and breezy. The looming dark rain clouds and breaks of sunshine in between created a very dramatic overhead effect. There was even a rainbow sighting! I had my rain gear on along with fenders for the bike.

The winds were blowing once we got along Concannon to S Livermore Ave and Tesla Rd. The gentle climb up Cross Rd brings us to Patterson Pass Rd. This is where the course diverges; go left for the Classic route/66 miles or go right for the Challenge route/90miles. We’re going for the Challenge!

The climb up west Patterson Pass Rd was uneventful until we reached the summit. Up until that point, we only experienced some light drizzle riding through Pleasanton. Once we started descending the east side, it was a complete downpour-we got dumped on! It was as if someone decided to turn on the faucet at full blast! At the same time, the winds really kicked up too!

I made it safely down the steeper section and continued descending. The direction of the wind was not helping at all-the tailwind propelled me downhill much faster than I liked. The wet conditions caused the rim brakes to become much more ineffective along with increased stopping distance. I applied light pressure on the brakes to keep water off the rims and feather braking but was unable to slow down. These elements created an unfortunate situation for me.

I’ve descended this road many times on dry pavement and it’s fast! Imagine going down at the same speed and not being able to slow down-that’s what I was up against! Once I came upon a right bend in the road, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to save it. I was going to try to be in control of something that was going out of control and hopefully reduce the amount of damage-to me!

I unclipped, made the split decision to veer the bike to the left towards the gravel  embankment instead of off the road and down the hillside. It all happened so fast, I went down on my left shoulder and rolled a few times before coming to a halt in an upright position. As I looked up, the bike was still flipping across the road-the tail lights broke upon each impact with the ground and the water bottles flew out! It was a bit surreal to watch.

Jackie came upon me later and helped to get my bike off the road. My helmet took a beating and having it on saved my noggin! She helped me up and I could feel the pain in my shoulder. A SAG car eventually came but left us on the side of the road to go aid another cyclist further up the road that went off the hill. Well that certainly takes precedent over my little fall! SAG was called several times and we just waited and waited in the rain for a very long time getting cold and numb.

With the camera still hanging around my neck, I decide to check to see if it still worked-NOT! I saw the SD card on the side of the road and put it back in the camera. The lens is shattered and the body is badly dimpled. No pics!

A young guy who was returning from a successful turkey hunt stopped and kindly gave us a ride in his pickup truck to the next rest stop. I was driven to Valley Care ER in Pleasanton by a couple of radio guys working the course.

RESULTS: Blunt trauma to the left shoulder. X-rays shows a couple of scapular fractures

POST-ACCIDENT: awaiting results from CT scan for Orthopedist opinion on whether surgery is required and time frame for recovery


Much THANKS to my BFF Jackie for staying with me throughout this ordeal! Another THANKS to Ryan and David-the Tracy radio guys for driving me to the ER and making sure that I was taken care of!

It’s going to be tough for me to not be able to ride my bike. My plan is to hit the gym, spin on the bike, cross train on the treadmill, stairmaster and elliptical machines to continue working the lower body. Gotta keep the body moving and stay active. Maybe I can work on doing one armed push-ups! I’ll also go out for some walks and hikes to feed my appetite for the outdoors.

When you get down to it, my injuries could’ve been a lot worse. Don’t know if I could’ve done anything differently to change the outcome but all the material items can be replaced. There’s no replacing me-the universe has someone watching over me! THANK YOU! I am still blessed and grateful to be here!

I am looking forward to a positive and healthy recovery! I’m beat, but I’m not down-all is not lost!


Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and repeat to yourself the most comforting words of all: “This, too, shall pass.”

~Ann Landers


  1. Nancy, Best wishes for a speedy recovery. And I know you will make the best of your time doing something–whether it is walking, hiking, spinning, or using the gym!! Carole


  2. I am sorry to hear about your accident and injury but thank you for this post. I am new to the Bay Area (from Chicago) and have decided against riding in the hills in the rain and wondered if I was just wimping out. Now I know I have made the right decision. Those hills are tough enough without having to fight the elements as well. Wishing you a speedy recovery.


  3. Nancy,
    I am so glad the injuries are relatively minor. I hope you mend quickly. There are plenty of great roads and weather ahead.


  4. Nancy, you are courageous and an inspiration – even in the face of injury = great sportsmanship. I wish you speedy recovery and angels in the recovery room.
    Mary Ann


  5. Hi Nancy! Just had to write and let you know that everyone here and all your family and friends are praying and wishing for you to have a speedy and successful recovery. You made the right choice in taking the side of the hill rather than go down the edge of the road.

    I know that area as it is part of my training route even though I live in Modesto. The other female who was also involved also belongs to my club, Central Valley Velo.

    On that day I traveled to watch and take photos of my female friends from my club but only to find howling winds and a downpour of rain in the Altamont area. I even picked several riders who just came down from the Patterson Pass into Midway. Underneath the overpass there had to be at least 30 female cyclists who had just came down Patterson Pass and were seeking dry shelter and trying to stay dry and warm.

    Unfortunatley I could only SAG two lucky women back into Pleasanton Fair Grounds. While I was loading their bikes up, all I could think was how daring and brave all these girls did riding down Patterson Pass on very dangerous conditions. Even driving back into Pleasanton the determination and the look in the riders faces as the battled the eliments and just wanted to finish. All of you who participated in this years Cinderella ride I tip my hat to you! You have a heart of a Lion indeed!

    I also road race and I’ve seen my share of accidents. I was involved in a real bad road cycling accident on September 17, 2011. On that occasion another rider clipped my front tire and I went down doing 28 mph. We had a double pace line and everyone back of me got involved and it was awfull! A total of 8 riders down with me being the most serious. My injuries included 7 fractured ribs, right punctured lung with 25% of fluid inside, and a fractured right clavicle. Luckily one of my teammates who was way in the back of the pace line was able to avoid the accident and give me first-aid. It also helped that he is a fireman and a paramedic.

    Five days in the hospital and with a titanium plate on my right clavicle I was back on my alternate spare bike on the second week. I gingerly rode for 15 miles and it was something that I had to do but wouldn’t advise it to anyone else. One month later me and my riding buddy rode up Mt. Diablo and then several days later rode it again to celebrate my birthday and prove that I am a survivor. The following week we rode up Mt. Hamilton and I savored my accomplishment.

    It’s a long recovery for me as I’m not as a great climber on the bike like I was before the accident. But heck, just glad to be alive and still able to ride a bike again.

    Nancy, just listen to your body and only you will know when you are ready again to get back on the saddle. Get well soon! You and all the ladies that did the “Challenge” are indeed very brave coming down Patterson Pass with conditions like that!


  6. Nancy,
    I am so sorry to hear about your accident. It could have been anyone of us, as we all, I am sure, think about the possibility of an accident. And although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, you of all people did not deserve it.

    Let me know if there is anything I can do to aid in your recovery. When you’re ready for hiking, maybe you could join my group on a hike some Wednesday.


  7. Nancy-
    As someone who has experienced a number of cycling injuries, there is good news! We all heal and get to ride many more days. The hardest part is patience which becomes our teacher through this time period.
    You have such an amazing spirit and that will aid your healing. We look forward to your GPC return.
    P.S. As you know I have a bionic left arm from a ski accident. I drove with one arm for several months while I healed thanks to a special knob on my steering wheel. Let me know if you want more info.


  8. Nancy, you are becoming an incredible writer in addition to an unbelievably strong cyclist. Your account of the accident was dramatic and beautiful to read. I told someone yesterday that I knew you would transform this experience into something positive, and you have already begun to. I also told my friend that you are one of the strongest people, both physically and mentally, I have ever met. I am so sorry this happened to you, but I know you will be even stronger when you are healed. I know this is hard on Micheal, too, because he loves you so much, as we all do.
    Love, John


  9. Hi Nancy,
    You’ll be back to cycling before the summer hits. I’ve watched you cycle for more than a decade and know your commitment. Cycling got me back to running …. now I do both. I have no doubt that this period of forced creativity will bring you more than you had before. Em Segmen


  10. Hi Nancy

    Just heard about your accident so wishing you a speedy recovery. Keep up your ever positive attitude.


  11. Good Morning Sleepy-Head !!!!!
    I am so very glad to hear you were not hurt severely. The mental road you are now traveling on is a good thing, i can speak from experience, for i was hurt severely from a motorcycle accident. This accident rendered me unable to work for 3 years, it was a-long-road-to-recovery with numerous operations in between, testing my mental toughness. Motorcycle & bicycle riding have alot in common we saddle-up & get-in-the-wind, that is why i love it sooooooo, stay smart and do not try to ride to early, for when you are able to ride again you will truly cheerish the feeling !!! When i see the girls out riding in the wind it makes me feel like there is hope for the world after-all, i have sooooo much respect & admiration for all of the girls who want to feel the wind upon their face as YU have chosen. I hope you have a pain-free recovery and i look forward to the day when i am fortunate to be able to saddle-up with YU again, and go out and chase some cars !!! >> (:~)

    Sincerely & Best Regards



  12. Hello All,

    Thanks so much for all your well wishes and words of encouragement!
    I can definitely FEEL THE LOVE!
    I will commit to making a full recovery and will be back on the bike soon.
    Hmmmm, maybe it’s time for another bike…………one with dics brakes!
    See you all soon and much love back to you!

    Thanks to everyone for offering their assistance!
    Michael is my rock and he’s doing a phenominal job of keeping me together! LOVE HIM!



  13. Hi Nancy,

    So sorry to hear about your crash! But if you were losing control and could have slid completely off the side of the hill, then it sounds like you made the right choice to put it down somewhat more controllably.

    Welcome to the torn AC tear club, I have my left shoulder tear (level 3) from a skiing accident and my right (level 4) from a bike accident.

    I opted not to get either operated on, just doing exercise to keep them strong and pliable.

    Best of luck on your recovery!!



  14. So sorry to hear about your accident. But you have such an incredibly upbeat attitude that you will surely heal quickly. Maybe I’ll see you at Timmy’s salon before you get back on the bike.
    Get well soon.
    Joan Friedman


  15. Hi Nancy,
    So sorry to hear of your wipeout in the rain. It must be awful to not be able to slow yourself down. In any case, your sprit is still going strong and your body will follw along in due time. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.


  16. Hey Nancy – saw this on GPC talk so thought I’d offer best wishes for a speedy recovery. I’m just ~1wk out of surgery to repair my clavicle after a tumble on a recent training ride that’s messed up my riding plans for the next couple of months, so I completely sympathize with the frustration of not being able to get out and ride. It’s tough to accept needing to step back from all our plans and watch our friends go off and continue with their epic adventures without us – but I’m really just focused on trying to heal up properly before heading back on the road.

    Hope you heal up fast and stay sane!



  17. This makes a pretty good argument for disc brakes on road bikes. No fade, lots of stopping power. Slightly heavier front wheels as crossed spokes will be required to transmit the torque from the hub to the rim.


  18. Sorry to hear about your accident. I heard that it happened from Pat Robak. Your account was so detailed, it’s as if I were right there. Downhills scare the hell out of me and your account just backs it up for me. Your are in such superb shape, your recovery should be a speedy one. The gym and spinning sounds like a plan. We will all the thinking of you and wishing the best.



  19. Nancy you inspire me with your positive and healthy life and attitude. I have injured my shoulder too. It is painful and it will heal. Being good at rehab isn’t a skill we choose. But it is a skill nonetheless….and part of cycling. Mend well and be well.


  20. Hi Nancy,

    How positively philosophical you are about all this — you are a wonder! I’ve been thinking a lot about you as it brought back many memories of a similar fall I had resulting in both a scapular fracture, A/C separation and bruised ribs. You are right — it could have been worse, yet sometimes that’s hard to imagine.

    Cycling is so much a part of you that we know you’ll be back as soon as your body will allow. In the meantime, dream about a new bike that will make you smile! You have lots of fans around you who are rooting for a very quick recovery. Time and patience. — Barb H.


  21. Hi Nancy!

    What a frightening experience! I’m glad you remember the details, for the benefit of us all. It would seem you made the best of an unfortunate situation.

    I did the Cinderella, too, and had just turned left on Patterson Pass when the worst of the deluge began. I was thinking I was really glad NOT to be on the challenge course, as I was having enough trouble staying on my bike on that descent, getting tossed around by the wind and going very slowly.

    You have my sympathies–I know how painful a shoulder injury can be.

    Ann L.


  22. Nancy,

    So sorry to hear of your mishap. Wishing you a speedy and complete recovery. Knowing you, it’s in the cards. I’ll miss you on the Bay Trail ride; you are my favorite.



  23. Nancy –
    I was scared for you when I first opened your ride report. You’ve touched all of us in a very positive way and it hurts to hear when someone we care about gets injured. As you do so very well, you came through it with a positive outlook and a willingness to share. I know that sharing will help the rest of us avoid a similar situation in the future – thank you! My best wishes for a speedy recovery and I look forward to riding with in the very near future.


  24. Nancy,
    You are such a trooper! Great attitude. I know that feeling of making a split moment decision going down hill……..”what will be the less of all evils in this crash?” Had to do it years ago going down the Lucas Valley hill, and remember it every time I ride down that hill now. So glad you didn’t suffer more. You’re healthy; you’ll heal fast. Have patience with yourself and marvel at the miracle of your healing body. You are such a safe and good cyclists. We miss you on the GPC rides and look forward to the return of your smiling face.


  25. Nancy,
    Even in hardship you tell a good story, make it somehow uplifting and post photos that complement the words. Best of luck with your recovery and those one-armed pushups.



  26. Nancy,

    I’m so glad that Walt sent me your post. Otherwise, I would not have known. I was wondering whether anyone was going to go on the challenge that day. Going downhill has always inspired a little bit of fear in me. Kudos to you for being such a warrior–on your bike and in recovery!

    I look forward to seeing you on the next GPC ride. Take good care.

    Best, Adele


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