It was mid-September when my family and I were enjoying one of the last weekends for this year’s MTB season at Steven’s Pass MTB Park. We were almost all the way through the day and had no more than a couple runs left in us. I went up the lift with my son to ride a run named PBR. Those unfamiliar with it will note the entry to PBR is a drop, located partially down another Run called Rock Crusher. I had done this run dozens of times. My son had done the drop for the first time that day and was excited to show me. It is about 8-10 feet down, very steep and intimidating to some. He was in front of me and stopped off to the side. I figured he wanted me to go in front, per usual arrangement. I rode quickly by, and hopped off the drop.
That is when the pain ensued. I struggled to catch my breath. I was tangled in my bike, and on my back. Once I saw he was guarding the entrance for any would-be riders, I attempted to catch my breath. The pain in my stomach was severe. Judging by the distance I had gone, I suspect I simply went too fast, missed the landing transition, landed on my front wheel, and piled my head into the ground before flipping the bike over me.
I had decided to move over to the Intermediate trail, and head down the mountain. My head was fine, and I showed no signs of concussion. My back was not hurting at this point as well. With significant help of my cool headed son, I made it to the lodge, unknowing there was anything significantly wrong with my back. The only real signs of damage to me were the cracked and crushed helmet, and skinned up left elbow. I had taken my elbow pads off 2 runs prior because they would keep slipping down.
The staff at Stevens was extremely responsive and helpful. They checked me out, and determined I had injured my back, specifically a couple of vertebrae. This was confirmed after the ambulance ride to the first hospital and a CAT scan. I had broken one vertebra in 3 places, and crushed another. I suffered no head injuries, and had minor bruising of some ribs. I had to be transferred to Harbor View to get an MRI to rule out spinal issues. After many tests and again, great staff of folks working on me, they concluded I would not need surgery and would need to wear a torso brace for 12 weeks.
This could have of course been much, much, worse. I evaded a head injury I believe because of the correctly fitting, full face Bell Super 2R MIPS helmet I was wearing, and a little luck. My knees were protected with pads, as well as my gloved hands. Had it not been for the ill-fitting elbow pads, I am confident my arm injury would not have happened. I cannot speak highly enough for PROPER fitting safety gear.
I have been around cycling for many years, and seriously involved for around 3 years. I participate in road cycling as well as MTB riding of all kinds, with my entire family. I have never met a community of people so willing to help at the time of need. I had offers for anything I needed even before I had returned home, even from my LBS. The first week I was home, my family, my friends, and the bicycling community was there, bringing my family meals, groceries, and providing any help needed. My wife stood by my side, lacking sleep for almost 2 days until we were safely home.
I am truly humbled by the support of everyone, especially the cycling community that I now call family. Participate when you can, help when you can. They are all there for each other in a time of need, this I can attest to. Now it is a matter of time before I get back on my bike and the road to recovery.