Yeah, I broke my collarbone this weekend. I'm going to the effort of typing this up here, so that when people want the whole story i don't have to laboriously type a shorter version on AIM or something.
Saturday morning I got up around 6:30 to head up to North Georgia with Christopher, Kurt, and a pack of people I didn't know. It was pretty overcast with a chance of rain, but we felt chance was in our favor. We met up in a Waffle House parking lot, and the caravan of ~6 cars full of bikes and bikers headed up to Ellijay, GA. As we got closer it started raining, and by the time we got to the trailhead, it was absolutely pouring. Usually, we don't ride in wet conditions because it damages the trails, but the day's ride consisted of gravel fire roads and rock trails with stream crossings, so we wouldn't really be doing any damage.
It took a while for everyone to get suited up, but we finally got going: fire roads and trails uphill for miles. Several of us, me included, thought the pace of the leaders was a bit fast for what was going to be a 4 hour ride, but we all stayed fairly close and I don't think anyone was going slower than they wanted too (and a few people had a race to compete in the next day). It was very wet and while we were completely soaked before we started, somehow we got even wetter. This was my first mountain ride in the rain, and while wet, it was actually pretty nice. On a sunny day, I'm usually pretty hesitant to go through mud or make a stream crossing, but once I'm gross, it's a lot easier to do those things without thinking about it.
Halfway up the elevation gain, there was a great view of the low clouds in the mountains, but unfortunately I left my cameraphone in the car due to the weather (and my weatherproof GPS does't have a camera). The 3 of us in the back told everyone else to go ahead, and we started up the second half of the climb about 5 minutes after them. And what a climb it was! See the profile below:
While going uphill was very hard, the downhill was actually worse. It was still raining, and that combined with the mud my front tire was throwing up made it very hard to see. The 3 of us were flying down a gravel road when I noticed that I was catching up to them. This seemed like a good thing, but it turned out that I was going way too fast. I barely saw the outline of a sharp right turn in front of me and as I started to brake, I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to stop or make the turn, and was faced with an easy decision: drop the bike or launch myself off a cliff. While both tires were locked up and skidding, i kicked my back wheel to the left and dropped my bike on the right side. It stopped me pretty quickly and hurt extremely bad. While just glad to not be off the cliff, this still wasn't fun. I could feel the scuff marks on my back from the gravel, but after sitting still for a few seconds to catch my breath, I realized my collarbone was broken. I gave it a good whack to try and align it properly while the adrenaline was in full force and before the pain or reality really set in, and we then started to worry about me going into shock.
Doh! We were on the top of a mountain in the middle of the woods in the cold rain with no way to get out and no way to stay warm. Thankfully, a lost car pulled up a few minutes later. The guy I was with stashed my bike in the woods and the helpful family up there for some fishing helped me into their car. They were lost as well, but I pulled out my GPS and it gave us directions to the closest emergency room, the North Georgia Medical Center. Over an hour passed and we made it there. They dropped me off and went to fix a flat tire on their car and that's the last I saw of them. So there I was, alone in the ER, wearing spandex, soaking wet, and covered in dirt, without a wallet or phone. They took some x-rays, got my arm in a sling, and suggested I see an Orthopedic surgeon in the next few days, noting that it's a simple fracture that didn't separate. Not 20 minutes later, Kurt and Christopher picked me up at the ER after finishing their ride and we headed back to Atlanta.
After further inspection, the bite valve of my camelback is gone, and my helmet has a huge split in it, so it possibly saved my life. (Wear your helmets kids!) All in all, this is really annoying because I can't really ride for 2 months, it's hard to sleep, and really only being able to use my left hand is not fun, but it could have been a lot worse! While I missed out on the last 2/3 of the ride (which apparently is all awesome, technical, downhill with lots of stream crossings), I'm relatively well off with such a simple injury. Much worse could have happened if I hadn't been thinking, and of the very large number of my friends that have broken a bone biking, many of them needed surgery and metal plates or screws in their ankles, wrists, or collarbones. Health insurance is a good thing (16 pain pills were $3), and hopefully my bike will find it's way home! (I think the guy that hid it drove up the mountain to pick it up after he finished riding.)
So much thanks to everyone that helped, especially the many of you that I don't know. It's going to be quiet on here for a few weeks and I won't be e-mailing much, but I'll be back typing and riding as soon as possible!