Say it with me now:  Soft Tissue Injury.

Until a month ago, I had no idea what that meant.  After three weeks of physical therapy, two weeks of crying, and one week of medicated and crutches-assisted living, I now know.

I returned from my surf trip to a broken-into house and a yard full of lightning detritus.  All the burglars took was my aging, sweaty, stained but most useful Camelbak.  Thank God they didn’t take the Yeti.

Angry and wanting revenge, I opted for a bike ride instead.  Pumped up by a week of almost successful surfing, I replaced my stolen goods from the local bike shop (LBS) and was on my way to Cuchara to ride.  The forecast promised clear skies all day so I wasn’t worried about my early afternoon start.

The ascent was a grind.  Almost 3,000 feet of climbing, beginning above 7,000ft.  The trail went from ATV-friendly double-track to singletrack to where-the-hell-did-the-trail-go? track.  I was alone, drinking in the solitude, the beauty of the abandoned ski area I was riding on, and the thorny flora that was cutting up my calves.  Cool mountain streams, the kind so frequently featured in beer commercials, greeted me about every half mile. 

I played tourist that day, enjoying the scenery, the quiet, and taking photos with my new bullet-proof Olympus Stylus 770SW, a major camera score from Butterfly Photo.  I happened upon deer every now and again as they gracefully, silently sproinged across the trail as only deer can.

By the time I reached the Indian Creek Trail that runs parallel to the mountain, I was tired.  The signage and my bike computer promised less than four miles back to the trailhead–all downhill.  I’m a much better downhiller than I am a climber, so this was welcome news.

The trail was ATVland, which meant it had deep gulleys carved out by tires and a sandy middle–tricky but not sketchy.

Then, something happened.  I tell people I hit a rock but I don’t actually remember a rock.  But I went flying.  Over the handlebars.  Onto my left side.  Inflammation took over.

After impact I lay there, letting the pain register.  As a veteran mountain biker, this was not my first foray over the handlebars.  But this one hurt.  Hospital Hurt.  No bones were broken, nothing was sticking out askew, but the pain emanating from my hip was record-breaking.

After my body and I sobbed for a few minutes, I decided to walk down the remaining three miles.  Problem is, my left leg and hip were taking no pressure.  Couldn’t.  I realized I would have to ride down the same trail that had just injured me.

I coached myself down in mommy-nurturing tones: “Good job.  You are doing great.  Nice corner there.  Good job.  You eat this kind of trail for breakfast.  Good job.”

Help ahead.  A beer belly on an ATV was hanging out.  Saved!  I strolled up, gingerly extricated myself from the bike, put all my weight on the right side of my body, and approached:  “I know I don’t look it, but I am really hurt.  Can I have a ride back to my car?”

Beer Belly replied, “Welp, Ima sorta waitin’ for my nephew, and we’re not exactly going that way.”

Too focused to argue, I grimaced my way back into the pedals and continued to help and safety while Beer Belly recounted the story of his friend who cut up his leg “real good” on the shale around Mt. Shasta.

I didn’t look hurt.  My collarbone wasn’t reaching for my cheek; my leg wasn’t dangling unnaturally off my hip.  Not cuts, no blood.  The only evidence of injury was the wan smile on my face and the layer of dirt covering the left side of my body.  But I was fighting back tears the entire descent, trying to keep my cool until the car.

The first sight of my car made me sob again.  Help was near.