Here’s a cautionary tale for those of you needing some idle distraction… This is a dark bookend to my return to carbs post.
- Too long indoors = poor situational awareness
- Tubless can leak air during rides… who knew?
- Doing baseline routes the wrong way just for a change is not a good idea…
The Harlemermeer Ringvaart is one of the most popular training routes on the Amsterdam-Den Haag axis. It is well worth an idle Google as it touches on many of the fascinating aspects of Holland. The Harlemermeer was created when the ‘Water Wolf’ ate up a few Dutch villages. They only got serious about getting rid of it 200 years after a plan was first suggested and a plan offered. Then it was only when the Wolf got to the doors of Amsterdam and Leiden. It is the scene of some national founding myths; The Sea Beggars and an Anglo Dutch naval battle (Schiphol Airport in fact). The Ringvaart is a 70 km long circular canal into which the water of the Harlemermeer was pumped over the course of 4-5 years in the middle of the 19th century. Then in typical Dutch fashion Leiden and Amsterdam had a fierce argument as to who would lay claim to the new tax revenue from it. As it turned out the answer was also a typical beggar-thy-neighbour solution: They set up a new municipality. They managed to cover the costs of the various huge steam pumps they built and ran in places like Cruquius and Lijnden when they sold the land on. It has also got a goodly, and fully ridable chunk of the Stelling Line cutting across it. For centuries the Dutch have used selective flooding of their reclaimed land to defeat invaders. The Stelling Line was the apotheosis of this strategy. They spent a massive chunk of their defence budget through the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century building this thing. Then a couple of bike wrenches in Dayton, Ohio invented the airplane…
It’s a great training route as it is flat as a pancake, almost no traffic and only a couple of lights. Obviously being a ring there are two ways of riding this clock-wise or anti clockwise. Now in all my years riding this route I realized I never rode the whole thing clockwise. It turns out most of us don’t. I have ridden sections of it that way, but usually en-route elsewhere or coming off a different ride. I have also spent the past couple months on off season doing the Fascat weight plan and riding indoors with it. Recently I discovered Hunter Allen’s blog post on the ‘No-go zones’ so when the plan called for a 2 hour Z2 ride (A no go zone, < 2.5), I thought I would take it outside and do the Ringvaart. Then for a jolly I would do it the “Wrong way”.
This particular bike had only seen one ride since February and the first lockdown. The irony will become clear; but then I didn’t want to keep riding outdoors. I wanted to avoid the possibly of loading up an already harassed health care system in the highly unlike event I had an incident. For that first ride back I replaced the sealant in the Pro ones and filled them back to the usual pressure. I rechecked the pressure prior to this ride too.
All the above sort of wafted through my noggin a few weekends back as I sat, Buddha-like, in the middle of the Ringvaart road, contemplating my Sealskinz clad hands sat uselessly in my lap. I was enjoying the sounds of punctured bagpipes. This wasn’t my first rodeo, I never had a serious crash before in my 35 years of riding. I came close when I lived in the states and wiped out trying to take off my arm warmers. Then I had that same bagpipe music. Once I realized that I was the source, I concluded I had probably winded myself or at worse done a rib in. Now being about 30kms from home, I was tempted to call 911 then. Luckily, this being the states, I realized that they would have transferred me to a bunch of accountants with a couple of EMT guys and an ambulance on retainer. Who would have picked me up and upon stabilizing me noted that the correct hospital for my injury would have been two counties over. They would then have probably got in touch with a billing firm that had a chopper… When I got to the real estate agency with a hospital they would have taken one look at me and sent me across town to a tax consultancy that had an X-ray machine. Where they would look at my chest… then as a malpractice buffer CT scan everything else, do a full blood work up, endoscopes fore and aft and a DNA analysis for any underlying conditions before sending me home with some painkillers and draining the hell out of my coverage for the year… So except for an excruciating first 5 meters, I rode home one handed: Not to be recommended.
So back to the Ringvaart. Thanks to the music I was pretty sure I had done in more than one rib but the inoperative hands were a bit of a puzzle. WTF had just happened…?? What had happened was this. As I was leaving one of the few lights on the route I noted that mushy feeling in the front tire. I checked and sure enough it was a bit soft. No sign of any sealant and I had filled it to pressure before I left. Ho hum… I pumped it back up and rode on. Down the road a while it was mushy again. This time I checked the valve and it wasn’t fully tight. Pumped it up again and a quick nature break. As I was getting up to speed a guy passes me and I end up sucking his wheel at a little lower power than I was gunning for. Never mind all good. He tires and I take over at the front on the same pace however now I am going a little bit too high. Right so I will do a decent pull then drop off and fall back to go on my own again. As I am doing this I end up sucking his wheel a bit as he fiddles with his bottles. So now I chop it and I really drop back. Then I start coming back up to speed, gauging my power, when I get that mushy feeling again. I look from the Garmin down at the tire. In my peripheral vision I clock a van parked across the bike lane. Too late. Later when I saw the damage to the van and my bike I realized that my avoidance turn came within an inch of working. My front wheel axle struck under the outside of the bumper. I bounced off the corner of the van then bounced off the road and ended up sat up in the middle of the carriageway with three busted ribs and two broken collar bones. So I have my cyclist cred injury at last. All collected at once.
Of the three lessons learned I started with, the first two are perhaps obvious but the third. Well it comes down to this: If I rode the Ringvaart the right way then I would be on the waterside, adjacent to the canal. There are no buildings there. Hence there are very few parked cars. So it is a doddle in terms of situational awareness.
I would love to thank the woman who looked after me while we waited for the ambulance, but she never left her name. There was some very dark comic moments there as I tried, unsucessfully, with no arms and old slippery Bonts to shuffle my arse out of the way of the traffic I was clearly blocking. I would like to apologize for what I called the gentleman who laid hands on me to try and help me to do that. Also trying to tell the two wonderful EMTs, in a mixture of appalling Dutch and even worse English, unsuccessfully again, how to release said Bonts. So that we could try stand me up to get me on the gurney. Or in the ambulance when the EMT and Cop were asking me my wife’s phone number in the midst of shock onset. In my chattering deranged state I said I haven’t got a f%*king clue, it’s in my phone contacts… Only to hear the two of them guffaw as they picked up my phone to see it on my wallpaper screen as an I.C.E contact. Finally I would like to apologize also to the trauma surgery team members in VUMC for gibbering at them in my ketamine soaked state. I have a very clear snapshot of one of them laughing their head off as they wheeled me to the recovery ward. I may have come out with something along the lines of this shit is great and can I have some for my VO2max intervals. Since my hearing aids had been removed I was probably roaring at full volume.