Saturday, April 24, 2010


I decided on a change of pace this year and opted to "time trial" the White Rim on Friday rather than the traditional RAWROD group ride on Saturday. Sorry, no pics this year. If you're looking for pics, I'm sure there will be 10 other blogs to provide plenty of documentation. If you're looking for a decent story... well, I'm sure you'll find that somewhere else too. But here's what happened to me.

A group of 9 of us (Jesse, Adam, Keith, Carson, Brad, Miles, Brandon, Rick and me) met at the 313/Mineral Bottom Junction at 8:30am. Most of us woke up at 4:30am to make the drive down. After shivering in the parking lot for a half hour, the imaginary gun went off (well, more like Adam DQ'd himself from the entire race with his 10 second false start, and then we all followed him) and we started the ride down Mineral Bottom road. We cruised past the campground at the top of Horsethief together and plummeted into the abyss. As I approached the 5th switchback there was a slight left bend in the road before the left switchback. I was going full speed and tapped my breaks to start slowing down for the turn. No sooner did I tap my breaks did my front tire slide out. Before I even realized I was going down, I was skidding on my left side.

Who crashes on the White Rim? Seriously, anyone? Actually, I seem to remember someone going down in a similar fashion on Shaffer's last year. Was that Walkyourhorse? Well anyway, I'm now one of the few who have crashed on the White Rim.

I came screeching to a stop and my immediate reaction was that I was going to be fine. It only took a couple of seconds to realize that I was not fine. In fact, I was pretty jacked up. Brad rolled up and was looking at me like he thought I was dead. Apparently, it was quite a spectacular slam.

I picked myself up and tried to assess the situation. Cracked helmet, scratched glassed, and pretty much my entire left side had gone through the meat grinder. My main immediate concern was my hand since it was bleeding a bit, and it wasn't long before I could hardly move my fingers. The guys behind me stopped, bandaged me up, and Jesse hooked me up with some ibuprofen. I wasn't sure I could continue, and was reluctantly starting to come to terms with the fact that my day was probably over, so I told the guys to go ahead (they already blew 10 minutes of the TT's on me). After they left, I paced back and forth a bit and decided that ather than risk getting stuck at the bottom of Horsethief, I would start riding back up toward the camp to figure out if I could continue the ride.

I started pedaling and soon realized that my hand was only part of the problem. My left hip and thigh took most of the hit, and I could hardly pedal. I limped my way up to the camp and threw my helmet down in disgust. I was so pissed that I ruined my entire day so early due to a split second's worth of inattentiveness. I'm such a freaking spaz sometimes. I sat down for about 45 minutes in hopes of a miracle of some sort. I finally climbed back on my bike, resigned to wallow in my sorrows on the way back to Miles' truck. At the very least, I may as well go hang out in Moab for the day. The first minute of pedaling confirmed what I already knew - I was done. It was all I could do to not start pedaling 1-legged to save my left side.

About a mile up Mineral Bottom road, I had a nice little surprise. The ibuprofen kicked in and mobility came back to my hand, and while my leg still hurt, I was actually able soft pedal without much problem. I kept thinking about how I'd taken the day off work, taken a day away from the family, had spent so much time getting my crap ready, etc., and it was all being wasted. Then the miracle did happen. Master of Puppets started playing on my iPod (don't lie - you either have it on your iPod or you wish you did) and I suddenly felt like kicking some ass. Or something like that.

Before heading back down Horsethief, I spent a few more minutes trying to straighten my rotor, since it had gotten bent during the crash and my wheel and wasn't spinning too well. While working on my rotor, I did a quick sanity check to make sure I wasn't doing anything too stupid. It was about 10:20am. I figured I had almost 10 more hours of daylight, and even going nice and slow I should be able to make it back before dark. I decided to ride toward Hardscrabble, and if things got bad, I'd turn around and limp back out of Horsethief. Worst-case scenario is that I keep going past Hardscrabble and my leg completely seizes up at mile 50. Well even then, it's not like I was heading into Antarctica. This was the White Rim and there are trucks down there, right? I mean, I may not have 60 RAWROD riders and support vehicles to help me out, but it's not like I'd ever be left for dead down there.

I messed with my brakes until my wheel could spin for a good 5 seconds or so and headed down. I rode past the camp (for the 3rd time), and dropped back into Horsethief (for the second time), and you can bet that I was extra sketched out as I rode past my 20 foot long skid mark at the 5th switchback. I got down to the river in one piece and started riding a nice steady pace toward Hardscrabble.

Things were going well. I couldn't pedal hard, but I figured I didn't need to on a 100 mile day. I just needed to pedal consistent. I missed the left hand turn up Hardscrabble (who put those rocks across the turn up Hardscrabble anyway? I'm putting my money on Adam or Rick - trying to throw the rest of us off. They'd do just about anything to beat Brad), but luckily so did two other guys who set me straight after riding about a third of a mile in the wrong direction.

I took it fairly easy up Hardscrabble, made it to the top and did a quick assessment. I figured that my leg hadn't stopped working after 30 miles, so it would probably keep working for the next 70, so I rolled off the other side of Hardscrabble and into Potato Bottom. I figured this was pretty much the point of no return.

The ride from Hardscrabble to Murphy's Hogback was uneventful. In fact, the main thing I remember about that section was that I got a bit lonely. I don't know that I've ever ridden my bike for more than 3 or 4 hours in complete solitude before now, and I guess it caught up to me. Then I started thinking about why the White Rim is such a special place, and it really comes down to its remoteness. On the White Rim, you can ride for miles and miles without seeing another soul (especially if it's not RAWROD Saturday), and there is no sign of civilization anywhere. After about mile 50, I really started loving the solitude. It may sound cheesy, but the solitude was sorta cleansing, in a way, and I was glad to be riding rather than sitting in some Moab cafe, moping about my wasted weekend.

I kept telling myself that Murphy's was a long way off so that I wouldn't get my hopes up, and then before I knew it I was riding across the top of Murphy's mesa. I stopped and checked my front brake, which ended up being a mistake. It was rubbing pretty bad now, so I tried to fix it. In the process, I stripped one of the ti bolts and made the brake rub even worse. After 2-3 more unsuccessful attempts, the rubbing was at an all time high, and I was grateful for my iPod to block out the screeching sound.

I dropped the other side of Murphy's and could tell that the ibuprofen was wearing off. I popped my last two pills, and within 5 more miles was feeling the best I'd felt all day. I'm sure the gradual descent combined with my ethereal high helped, but I felt like I was on top of the world while flying toward Musselman Arch. I even nearly forgot about the dull pain in my left thigh for a few minutes.

I rode by the Arch without stopping and made it through the last few little climbs before rounding the corner that takes you to the base of Shaffer's. I ran into Miles, which was nice not only for the good company, but also because he was my ride back to camp. I figured that if he had finished before me and found his truck sitting there, he would most likely have though I had spent the whole day down at camp and driven down to find me. That would have left me riding down Mineral Bottom to the camp (again), which would have sucked. So it was great to be able to run into Miles, just before he finished his first dirt century. Nice one, Miles.

Shaffer's is a beast. Not only does it look impossible from the bottom, but you climb and climb for what feels like forever, and then look up and it hardly looks like you've made any progress at all. The higher you get, the higher the cliffs get.

To make along story a bit longer, I finally made it up Shaffer's and eventually rolled into the parking lot at the end of the dreaded pavement. My official time was around 9 hrs 20 min. Injury time at the top of Horsethief took 1:04. Riding time was 8:03. During the last 80 miles, I rode with a guy from Infinite Cycles for about a mile, and I rode with Miles for about the same. The other 78 miles were ridden in complete solitude. I was glad I pushed through and finished. I felt like I did something that I didn't think would be possible 8 hours earlier.

After eating a few of Kenny's famous brats and bread, I headed home with Miles and Brad to cap off a huge day. I woke up Saturday morning and felt like I'd been run over by a freight train. Left knee, thigh, hip, rib, shoulder, and especially wrist are all in pain. I don't think the pain would have been much different had I not ridden the loop, so I'm glad I did. I'm lucky that all my injuries are pretty superficial - in a week, I'll probably forget about them. Seriously, if I were a bit tougher, I would have just continued riding with the group rather than wasted an hour up at camp.

Since I didn't post pictures, I'm posting the ride details instead. If you zoom all the way in, you can see my indecisiveness near the camp/crash site.

P.S. check out Miles' awesome video from the ride.


Anonymous said...

After seeing you crash I was thinking lifeflight. I still can't believe you rode the whole thing! I woulda bailed for sure.

nate said...

Thats huge man! Good job, glad you were able to ride rather than hang in moab.

bjchild said...

That's impressive that you stuck it out. Nice work.

Rick Sunderlage said...

When I saw you roll up to the cars, I was very confused and thought I was seeing things. You must have been flying. Nice work.

nails said...

That's quite the story, crashing on that descent could send you rolling all the way to the river. You are an animal. Post some fotos of the carnage!

KanyonKris said...

Interesting way to start a TT. Made me hurt just reading about it. Glad you're not mangled. Truly hard core.

Aaron said...

@Nails - most of the photos would not be safe for work. Not because they are all that gory, but because they are a bit close to my privates. ;) (yeah, I just wink emoticon'd you)

South County Ciclista said...

Funny, my bet was on Adam as well for putting those rocks all in a line having you (and me) ride into the campsite.

I still couldn't believe you rode the whole thing. Tough very tough.

evilbanks said...

awesome write up. Man, what a true badass-----nice work man. that is truly an epic tale.