It’s not a Summit County farewell bid until bones are broken
There’s no question that broken collarbones are a dime a dozen in Summit County. But I wish I had a nickel for every time someone’s looked at mine in the past week and launched into Tyler Hamilton comparisons.
It would be easy to convince people I broke it sheerly to pay tribute to the guy – that I have some creepy obsession validated because now I can find his house and stand outside in my arm sling screaming, “I love you Tyler!”
But that wasn’t the idea. This was no intentional break, and I’m kind of mad at Hamilton because the man’s psychotic tolerance for pain has made my lack of it look especially wimpy. In short, he has trivialized the condition of the broken clavicle.
It was last Saturday evening on the Peaks Trail, and I had a momentary lapse of caution. There I was, wrapping up a 40-mile solo ride when I got a little excited on the way home from Breck and tried to catch some air off a mine tailings pile. It was in mid-air that I realized I probably shouldn’t be going 30 mph, and when I landed, my front wheel turned perpendicular and my head and left shoulder collided with the ground before I had time to blink. To my amazement, I wasn’t knocked out, even though I left pieces of my helmet on the trail and my head was pounding as if I’d trapped a squirrel inside of it (fortunately, my mouth was closed at the crucial moment when I would have otherwise swallowed any undesirables).
I got up, knew right away I’d broken a bone, and hadn’t pushed my bike down the trail for five minutes before I encountered the first pair of bikers heading up the other way. It was a man and woman so focused on their ride that the woman, who was leading, merely gave me a dirty look (which matched the coat of dirt I was sporting from head to toe) as if I shouldn’t be hogging the trail. As the man pedaled passed, he glanced at me under my mangled helmet and said, “Are you OK?”
“Not really,” I answered to his back as it pedaled away. The next pair of bikers I encountered stopped right away and asked what happened. I gave them the crash story and they asked if I could make it down to the road. “You know,” one of them began, “Tyler Hamilton got right back on his bike …”
Meanwhile, I couldn’t even stretch my arm out far enough to reach the handlebars.
The -rays confirmed the break, and ever since, my daily exercise has gone from biking several miles before and after work to one-armed wrestling with my clothes every time I get dressed.
It killed me to watch the Summit Mountain Challenge race last week, having not missed one in three seasons. Afterwards, at least four people asked me if I raced, and when I indicated my arm sling, they replied with, “Well, Tyler Hamilton …”
Even though his feats have made me and my broken bone look utterly worthless, I admit I have renewed admiration for him. The level of dedication, motivation and resilience he’s got is nothing I can even conceive of. But I know a lot of people in Summit County who can.
In the three years I’ve been at the Daily, I have continually been in awe of the dedicated athletes I’ve come across: Helen Cospolich, one of my best friends, who has gone from periodically winning 10-kilometer trail runs to earning a spot on the national snowshoe team and becoming a professional runner about to leap into her first Leadville Trail 100 race this weekend; Danelle Ballengee, who, despite being one of the best adventure racing athletes in the world with an intensive training schedule, will spend a half hour enthusiastically recounting adventures of Clyde the burro from her novice burro racing endeavors. Then there’s Mike McCormack and Jeff Westcott from Maverick Sports, who have sacrificed their own racing careers and a lot of personal riding time to provide the community with bike racing (you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Jeff lug around 60-pound tree stumps to mark a race course, or Mike leading a pack of 7-year-old Little Leaguers over the log piles on the Blair Witch trail). I can’t think of anywhere else, save the Tour de France, where one could find so many people embodying such pure dedication to their sports.
This, above anything else, makes me very sad to leave Summit County. This will be my last column for the Summit Daily News. There’s a possibility that my chosen path might lead me back here, and if so, I’ll be sure to endo on it.
Thanks to all the athletes that have made my job and my time here worthwhile. I’ll miss you.
In two weeks, Shauna Farnell will leave for Prague, Czech Republic, where she’ll teach English to Eastern European executives. Lesson plans are already in the works involving Mr. Bones the skeleton: “OK, class, we call this the clavicle …”
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