We thought that we had it bad. I did, at least.
A few Saturdays ago, a couple hundred of us gathered in Northeast Jackson for a race hosted by Courthouse Racquet and Fitness and directed by the Mississippi Track Club. Beautiful day. Fun course. Great atmosphere. And then the sun burned through the early morning haze and it got H-O-T. It was a relief to hear that starting shot at eight o’clock. Off we went — into the heat, the humidity, the sweaty asphalt. It’s an out-and-back course we followed, and I noticed on the turnarounds that folks were slowing down and a fair share of runners were walking. The water stations were where the action was for this race. Kudos to the wonderful volunteers manning them.
After the finish, standing around with cupfuls of Gatorade and cookies in hand, the analysis consisted of: “Man, it was hot.” Or, “Can you believe this humidity?” And saltier variations of those themes.
Clearly, summer has arrived in the Magnolia State.
So, it was hot, it was humid and runners and walkers alike sweated bucketfuls in the Courthouse Celebration 5K. The winners won and the finishers prevailed. It was a great start to the weekend — a slog in a steam bath but dripping fun nonetheless.
We melted away into the usual routine. For me, it was cutting the grass, grilling the dinner and sipping a cold one.
And there was one more outing set: the Sunday-Morning-on-the-Trace-before-Church bike ride. My friend, Jim Loome, and I pedaled out of Clinton toward the Natchez Trace a few minutes after 7 a.m. on Father’s Day.
It was another, ahem, perfect summer day in the South: hot, humid, hazy. But we were on the bikes — we could coast, enjoy the breeze, talk politics, savor the scenery. Nothing like the tough run on Saturday, right?
And then this dog showed up.
Mutt, mutt, mutt
It was a mutt. Half golden retriever, half who-knows-what. It was on the right side of the frontage road and headed our way. I thought I had a good line around the dog but that was based on an assumption. Here’s a tip: never assume anything about what a dog will do.
Long story short: I T’d the dog like two drunken SUVs at an intersection. My front wheel nailed its midsection, it yelped and scampered down the road. Lucky dog. I came off the ol’ Cannondale — backwards — landed on my tailbone and then slammed my head into the pavement. It was a Ben Roethlisberger-esgue moment. Here’s another tip: a Giro bike helmet can save your skull. My helmet was toast — a chunk of it shattered on impact with fault lines cascading out from the impact zone.
But I was OK. My backside hurt like hell, but my head was intact. Loome got me to my feet, a passerby stopped to help, but I was alright.
Two minutes into the ride, a quarter mile from the cars, and the ride had come, as the cliché goes, to an abrupt halt.
Running the numbers
A number of stats about bicycle crashes and helmet usage are posted online by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute:
• About 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries.
• Bicycle crashes and injuries are under reported since the majority are not serious enough for emergency room visits.
• One in eight of the cyclists with reported injuries has a brain injury.
• A very high percentage of cyclists’ brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, estimated at anywhere from 45% to 88%.
• Direct costs of cyclists’ injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $81 million each year. Indirect costs are estimated at $2.3 billion annually.
You can find more details at www.helmets.org. The Web site also has a number of links and resources for parents who need help encouraging their kids to always wear a helmet — whether it’s on a bike, a scooter or a pair of skates.
Of course, I have a dramatic object lesson to share with my girls and their friends now. They know that helmets shouldn’t look the way mine does, but it’s better to destroy a helmet rather than suffer a cracked noggin. Hopefully, it’ll stick with them.
Up and down
My helmet was shattered. I should have quit. I wanted to finish the ride. So, we did.
The start to the day? Well, it sucked — it just did. But the ride redeemed the pain from the crash. The traffic was light, the scenery was awesome — as usual — and I saw a turkey amble out from the treeline along the way.
And yes, I made it to church. Kneeling was tough, but I have no complaints. I’ll be back on the bike next Sunday morning before church with a new helmet.
I still kind of hate that dog, though. I’ll have to work on that.
Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at firstname.lastname@example.org.