A Sunday in Hell

I distinctly recall talking with Joe Huth about the possibility of sliding down from up high on the velodrome banking. Joe said it had never happened to him (knock wood), but from what he was told, “you don’t have any warning. It just happens.”

That conversation flashed in my head as I felt my tires let go. It was a shock. I was just turning laps above the stayers line and then I was sliding.

I didn’t hit a pedal. I don’t know what happened really. The best explanation seems to be that the gusty winds that day slowed me up just enough in turn 1 that I went below the ‘safe speed’ and then physics took care of the rest.

When I hit the apron at the bottom I knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. Usually after a wreck you get the bike off you and get up. Only I couldn’t. I looked at my right leg and thought “Marcus Lattimore” (S. Carolina running back injured last year. Video too gruesome to include here).

Next came the cascade of thoughts on all the training and then missing all the upcoming races. Same thing you would think when you realize you broke a collarbone.

But it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a whole lot worse. Screw the bike racing, I just wanted an ambulance, and wanted to get my leg fixed.

One of the things the EMTs and doctors ask (repeatedly) is your pain level on a scale of 0-10. I can say with certainty that I have a new definition of what “10” is. The EMT said I was getting the “Saving Private Ryan dose” of pain killer, and I have to say I would not have known it. He told me, “yeah, it usually doesn’t do much in these cases.”

I count that I was moved 6 times from the infield at the track to when I went down to the OR. Each one of those moves rated a “10”. But the worst was when they tried to put my leg in traction for the night since surgery couldn’t happen until the next day. Pretty sure the entire ER heard it.

The diagnosis was broken femur, and “not a clean break”. I had made a few calls while in the ER, waiting for the X-Ray results, and I had said, “I can tell by the faces on the ER people that this is not good.”

When the doctor said they couldn’t do the surgery until the next morning, I was tempted to ask if they could take me across the street (i.e., the Clinic) but even if that was an option I knew I couldn’t tolerate being moved again.

Perhaps the most surreal part of the day came while laying in the ER waiting for my room to be prepared. For some distraction I flipped on the TV. There was some kind of news report flashing the names of “Amanda Berry” and “Gina DeJesus”. I knew the names, and was thoroughly confused. Were the pain killers making me disoriented? I fell asleep and didn’t learn until the next day what I had been watching.

This was my version of A Sunday in Hell, thankfully not captured on film.


I want to profusely thank Gary Burkholder, the other rider who was at the track, and the firemen from the firehouse down the street, who helped me out in those first minutes after the accident. Not sure I would have held it together without them.


Hat tip to John Lowry for this:

I have exclusive use of “10”


Reading the physician’s report of my ER visit, found this:

“… EMS gave him 4mg of morphine for pain that he stated was the worst in his life when they attempted to move him”



Filed under cycling, track cycling

5 responses to “A Sunday in Hell

  1. Jim

    Glad to see that you have it together enough to help us understand.
    I have told people that they should never take the riding we do for granted. Something like this can happen in an instant.
    I am glad you are on the mend and I know that with your drive and desire, you will be back.
    Heck, you could probably beat me now!
    Best wishes and get well!!

    • Brian

      Thanks. Yes as we’ve discussed in email it’s quite sobering when you see how quickly things can change. My accomplishment this morning was getting out of bed on my own, using a walker to get to the bathroom then to the chair where I’ll be parked the rest of the day. I’ll be writing some more on that

  2. Ray Russell

    Brian, so sorry to hear the news. Hopefully you’ll mend soon and get back to doing what we all love. Meanwhile, take the opportunity to explore some new terrority that gets bypassed by the training that dominates our lives. Read some classic literature, watch an old movie, google an old friend you haven’t heard from in years. Be well, stay positive and make the best of the situation. Take care!

    ray russell
    Sette Nove

    • Brian

      thanks Ray. Yeah, it’s pretty apparent to me how cycling (racing) can take over your life. I will definitely have time to do some other things I generally have trouble making time for.

      And the bonus is I won’t have to do any lawn mowing or mulch spreading this summer

  3. Pingback: Steel is real | Über die Brücke

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