August 31st, 2013…I was on my 1st day of vacation in Mammoth with my then boyfriend. I hadn’t been to Mammoth in a long time and was really excited to get some downhilling in. I had borrowed a DH bike from my good buddy Mike at Cycle World, so I was extra excited to ride a super fun bike.
The plan was that we would ride together the 1st part of the day, then I would go back and check on the dogs. He was extremely fast, so he could get a ton of runs in while I stepped away, plus a break for me would be a good thing.
1st run of the day….was going to be an easy run to get acclimated to the pumice, the new bike and just riding really fast descending again. So I decided on Off The Top.
Right from the start I was having a blast. Felt good and we were switching on and off leading and following. The last time we switched, I was trying to go as fast as I could to catch up. I just rode over some speed bumps and started to enter a more narrow area with some shade and trees. All I remember is turning my handle bars slightly to the left. I was going just over 31mph when I hit the tree. It was like a truck hit me, then catapulted me down the trail. I remember being in mid air thinking O god..I’m doomed when I land. My body including my head bounced and bounced until I just lay there. My right leg was twisted under me and I remember feeling knifing pain running all over my knee, shin and ankle.
I radio’d for the BF (not using his name) since he was ahead of me. A couple came up on me 1st who just happened to be PT’s, so they knew to be extremely careful. I don’t remember much from this time to when SAR (Search & Rescue) got there. I do remember trying to walk and my right leg collapsed.
When SAR got there, they brought this boat like thing down with them that had a mountain bike tire in the middle of it. There was NO WAY I was getting in that thing. Well….in the end….I had no choice. They braced up my entire leg, picked me up and put me in this boat thing wether I wanted too or not.
Three of them including the BF, PUSHED me UP to the very top. These were 3 very strong people. An SUV was waiting for me at the top that drove me to the SAR house. I waited until the BF got back with the bikes and all of my stuff. Then he drove me to the ER. I felt so awful that I had just completely ruined our vacation and was now absolutely helpless. Life just took an awful turn and everything was about to change.
I was pretty much at my lowest point and just devastated that this had actually happened AND on the very 1st run of our vacation that we both had been looking forward too.
When we got back, the insurance drama began. I have an HMO. I was assigned an ortho to see that I didn’t like at all. He lectured me on how someone “my age” should know better and not downhill because it was suicide. Yes…..he actually said that!
It took another almost 3 weeks of constantly following up with the doctors office to try and get a 2nd opinion. It was awful. I was in excruciating pain 24/7 and still had to manage working and getting around on crutches.
My MRI was finally approved and so was a 2nd opinion for a surgeon. The ACL was over 80% torn and everything else seems to be torn as well. My leg was so swollen I couldn’t even wear a shoe. The surgeon wouldn’t do surgery until the swelling went down and I had some range of motion.
Let me bring you forward now to surgery day, November 15th. BF had just disappeared, literally, just left, so now I counted on my inner circle of friends for help which I desperately needed and wouldn’t have gotten through this without them. Come to find out that the MRI missed a few things. The major thing was that part of my femur broke off. That is why I was in so much pain. After surgery, I stayed with one of my closest and dearest friends Darcie and her daughter Megan. They literally took care of me for the weekend and brought me home.
From the time I got home, another great friend Marybeth created a spreadsheet between my friends for everyone to have shifts and come over and take care of me. And that they did. I had everything I needed at all times thanks to my good friends.
During this time, I don’t remember much since I was medicated, but I’m told Jesse came over to borrow my bike since his was in for repair. Now the plot REALLY thickens……
Over the next few months, I had PT every week and strengthening exercises I had to do every day. My right leg was taking forever for the swelling to come down. I had been on crutches for over 4 months. Life wasn’t pretty and it was very difficult to do even the smallest of tasks.
In January of 2014, things started to move along in rehab and I was limping around without crutches. I was working really hard and icing constantly to try and get the swelling down from surgery. I still hadn’t been able to get 1 pedal stroke on the trainer because my right leg just didn’t have enough range of motion yet. But……I was close….I also found out that my DH helmet was actually cracked…I really hit hard….Kali Protectives has been a personal helmet sponsor of mine and a GGR supporter. Thank god for their helmets. I didn’t even have a headache after the crash.
February, I was able to get full revolutions on my trainer and was working extra hard to try and walk again. It was both a scary and exciting time.
Moving on to March..the follow up with the surgeon went so well that he moved me up from starting to ride in May to go ahead and RIDE but be careful and just flat road. Soooooooo, I sent Jesse a text immediately saying i needed my bike back that I was cleared to ride! See I wanted to ride my mountain bike on the road instead of my road bike because it was just so much more stable, especially with the huge 29r tires.
Well, Jesse didn’t get back to me right away which was very unusual. I sent him an email. Still nothing. Now I am thinking, O god, he broke the bike and doesn’t want to tell me, it’s in the shop in a million pieces. He stalled until the next night. By this point I was freaked, angry and stressed. WHAT was going on with my bike?
Well, to make a very very long story a wee bit shorter…Jesse wanted to do something nice for me since I had gone through hell and back the last 7 months. So him and Cosmo started Project Engelbling. This entire time, they had been working on blinging out my bike in purple (GGR Club color and my favorite color). They got 42 other people involved as contributors of the project. They told me every lie you can imagine. They even had a picture of my frame photoshopped with a crack in it, and had Michael’s bike shop AND the entire warranty department of Specialized in on it just in case I called to see what was up with my frame. They had every angle covered. VERY sneaky…….well done my friends…..
Lots of behind the scene drama was going on….it must have been very stressful for everyone to keep this up especially since I was so upset about my bike and just wanted it back not knowing what was actually going on and the lengths everyone had gone to keep this huge secret from me.
Brings us to March 29th 2014, the GGR Quarterly ride at Sycamore…the presentation…
Jesse had gathered everyone to present the bike back to me. At this point, a few things slipped so I already knew that they were blinging out my bike, but that was all I knew.
The moment had arrived…..Laura W held my eyes closed while kim and Jesse uncovered the bike. I heard big gasps from the crowd. NOW I’m REALLY buggin…So they finally gave me the OK to turn around. I was absolutely blown away. The detail was just amazing. They had taken so many of the pieces of my bike and anodized them purple, changed the cabling to purple, the platforms that I now have to ride in for 6 months so I don’t twist my knee twisting out of my clips were brand new and VERY purple. They even painted my Danusia bells with a hint of purple. Danusia would have got a HUGE kick out of that.The group also presented me with an amazing plaque and left over funds for the GGR operating account!
My Sincerest thanks to all of my fellow riders and friends:
Cosmo and COSMO WORKS for the exceptional photography on Project Engelbling
Michael’s Bike shop Newbury Park
Andy at Specialized warranty department
Joanna & Charles
Lisa T Granata
GGR Girl WE