bp 132/96 pulse 116 altered no. 159 women's pro 1/2 gmsr stage 3 VT116 at Tyler Bridge Rd 09032023 10:32 am et...
Hold that thought.
I was late
But there was a consolation prize to probably missing my brother slog up VT 17 toward the App Gap for probably the last time. At least in the GMSR. He says. We'll see. He said that last year but he's still winning sprint points so I'll believe that when I don't see it.
The consolation prize was being fourth car behind Women's Pro 1/2 in a pack on VT 116 and they were TIGHT. And there were a shit ton of them (20 30 40? how the hell do you tell at that speed from behind?) and they went over a rise and started down and it was
breath taking. I can't do any better than that. And I was going to ride behind them for eleven miles until I had to peel off and head to my family and my brother who would have been long done and back to the house.
Breathtaking. I had chills and when I have chills and the hair stands up on the back of my neck I cry. Because. That's my response mechanism.
But here's the thing. I didn't know that was Women's Pro 1/2. It could very well have been Men's 50/60+ (and I'm supposed to say Masters that's super important in that age group) and I might well have been watching my brother but there was no way to tell. I assumed it wasn't right up until I didn't.
One second they were up and the next they were ALL down. Not the way they sometimes funnel in the middle if somebody bumps a tire, because the ones on the outside don't go down (mostly) and they keep going and maybe in a handful of seconds all of them are back up and you'd never know it happened.
The went ALL down and some bikes went up and a lot of bikes where just done. You never saw so many water bottles in the road.
I was waiting and then I got the idea that I ought to make sure my brother wasn't in the ground scrum so I pulled off the road and walked up to the mess. Nope. No man in sight and pretty sure most under 30 and I was going to get back in my car like a decent citizen and stay out of the way until I noticed a distinct shortage of race staff and paramedics and I thought more would come but there are just so many to go around and this was allota mess on the road.
I walked into the mess and told the kneeling paramedic to tell me what to do and he did.
I don't know how many women left in the back of an ambulance (quite a few came and went). I know the pickup truck that left with the unridable or riderless bikes was full and I know it got sorta quiet and they wanted an airlift to Dart (that can't be good what the hell is Dart and UVM's got a level 1 trauma center, right? right?) but I don't know because I was ONLY looking at no. 159 and no. 159 wasn't fucking talking. As a matter of fact, no. 159 wasn't doing much of anything other than foaming at the mouth and vibrating and we didn't want to move her much less touch her but she had to be braced and later she had to be turned on her side.
When I put my hand on her hip and pulled her toward me she just flopped like a boneless thing but then she was breathing again and we rolled her back and I sat there while the paramedic went back to triage.
and I said you aren't alone and breathe and you're not alone and I'm not going to leave you and my name is Heather and I'm right here. OK? Not going anywhere.
And then they let traffic through and there was no rope and not cones and no people and no more vehicles between no. 159 and the vehicles coming around on the shoulder and she knew. I know she knew because her eyes flew open and rolled into the back of her head and she was trying so hard to roll away from the way too close wheels and I put my body on the ground beside her and said, they'll have to come through me and they won't so you breathe and I'll just lie here with you.
She breathed. It was hard breathing, but it was breathing.
Once I moved behind her to talk to someone about how long was she out and I said 4 seconds no more and she knew I was gone and wasn't happy about it so I put myself back on the pavement and whispered toward her ear.
I won't leave you. You're not alone. You're not alone
and I wanted to say, you're not going to die out here but I didn't actually know that for a fact given what she was looking like all fucked up with nowhere to go and then she started communicating because
it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts please
and that would have been in all caps if she'd have been able to articulate in all caps.
Where does it hurt?
i don't know i dont' know i don't know my face is numb my hands are numb
Your hands are moving and so is your face so that's good, ok? He stroked the inside of her arm.
Can you feel that?
He gave her a shot and I don't know what it was but it helped because eventually we got a name but not a dob because she couldn't decide.
no. 159 stayed on the pavement for a long time until it was clear there were no choppers coming out of Dart (what the hell even is that?) anytime soon so she ended up at UVM anyway and by the time I left I had one injured rider who refused the hospital (mighta been ok), the boyfriend of no. 159 who came along several waves later and about lost his mind, a broken bike, and half a dozen fullish water bottles.
I won't tell you about the rest of the day. It was a lot. It was about not leaving cyclists and bikes on the side of the road, especially the panicked ones. It was a lot, that's all.
The point is my time on the pavement with no. 159 during which I had plenty of time to reflect upon what it might feel like to lie there on that pavement unable to move or speak. Unable to save yourself. It's not as if I haven't given it thought. I have. I think about my brother and I made peace, more or less, years ago with the reasonably high probability that one day we might not even get his body back.
In my part of still mostly rural Central Vermont, on a 2 mile stretch of VT 116 within easy walking distance of my home, there is at least one fatality a year involving a cyclist and a driver. At least one, and my chunk of VT 116 is pretty tame comparatively. It's flat. It lacks significant curves. It has THREE FUCKING TRAFFIC LIGHTS and the speedlimit is 30mph.
Nationally speaking, the death of cyclists is about as normalized as school shootings these days. They are rarely treated as manslaughter and the driver more or less walks away. We don't even talk about it anymore.
no. 159 was in a stage race and these things do happen. They're scary and sometimes really awful, but we accept the outcome because that's part of the game. I'm not horrified by what happened. I'm really glad I was there, but I am impacted by the experience of lying in the road unable to do anything more than say, you're not alone.
I peeked through a window at what it might maybe be like to lie on your back in the road with maybe no help coming and no way to save yourself and I just can't shake it off.
She walked out of UVM last night, upright and alive. I don't have a lot of details because I don't have any right to them but I wanted to know and I asked the appropriate person and he told me.
This one. This one walked away.
...and... it's DHART - Dartmouth Hitchcock Advanced Response Team, because you need to know that too.