Rider down

Arriving at work after a morning doctor’s appointment, I was climbing the stairs from the basement-parking garage when I was met by a panic-stricken co-worker.

I’ve known our company’s executive assistant for more than 10 years. Her calm demeanor under pressure is one of her greatest assets, but at this moment her eyes were wide. She gripped my forearm hard.

“Laura had a terrible accident on her bike! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you on your cell phone. She’s at Methodist Hospital. Call Anna!”

Anna, my sister-in-law, didn’t pick up when I dialed her cell phone. Her home phone, too, went to voicemail.

On my way to the hospital, I finally reached Anna and learned my wife had shattered her wrist and fractured her femur. Both would almost certainly require surgery.

Her crash was a real fluke. On Friday, May 9, while finishing a training ride on the Cedar Lake Trail, Laura dropped her water bottle after taking a drink. It’s possible she ran over it with her front wheel or she might have inadvertently flinched. Either way, she went over on her left side, landing hard on her left wrist and hip.

After one cyclist passed her curled up figure on the edge of the path, three others stopped to help. She’d come to rest on her right side and couldn’t reach for her phone with her broken arm.

The three riders stayed with her as she waited for the ambulance, which rushed her to Methodist Hospital. There, they took X-rays and called in an orthopedic surgeon. During four hours of surgery, doctors inserted three massive screws in her hip and a plate with 10 screws in her wrist. She was in the hospital for five days.

It was painful to see my wife so incapacitated. Anyone who knows her knows she can’t sit still. As the mother of our three active children she’s always been an energetic and engaged mom, taking the kids on daily outings to museums, parks and other points of interest.

Perhaps the saddest part of her accident is that she’d just recently fallen in love with cycling — fallen for it the way I had years ago (which is to say, completely). Last summer, we took a number of social rides together, including several truly thrilling “bike dates.”

Our dates on wheels were, surprisingly at the time, her idea. We’d hire a sitter after dinner and spin around town (usually 15–20 miles) before stopping for coffee or a glass of wine and dessert. The ride home together, with the sun setting, matching bike lights illuminating the trail before us, was magical. These were enchanted evenings.

Early this spring, Laura decided to stop by a meeting of the Velo Bellas, a women’s cycling club. She returned completely energized. Within three weeks, she had joined the group, bought a road bike and taken her first group ride. I hadn’t seen her so excited since the birth of our kids.

Laura didn’t participate in group sports as a kid, so she hadn’t experienced being on a team. The camaraderie or the tension, the anxiety or the cathartic release, the addictiveness of endorphins. I say without condescension that she had a childlike enthusiasm that was charming and infectious. Through her, I was experiencing the love of the sport all over again.

Best of all, it was bringing us even closer together. It was exciting to share a new passion after 12 years of an already wonderful marriage.

I’ll admit, it’s been difficult for me to give up most of my own club rides, and put off until next year plans to do more bike racing, but all this family needs is a mom with a hip fracture and broken wrist and a dad with a broken collarbone, or worse.

Still, I know I have years ahead of me to ride, health permitting, and so does Laura. And this is perhaps my biggest relief: she’s still excited about biking after her recovery.

It’ll take time to get comfortable riding hard and fast again. She knows she’ll be a little nervous getting ready for her next group ride, not to mention her first race. But we both know she’ll get back on her bike.

And I can’t wait for the day when she asks me out on our next “bike date.” Even though we still argue about who asked out whom 15 years ago, we both know she asked me to bike with her first. And I still know we’ll ride off into the sunset together some day.

Be safe out there, and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Fred Mayer lives in Linden Hills. Check out his blog at shiftyguy.blogspot.com.