DNF: Dumb Numb Fingers

“I got room for one more!” I heard a man shout. “Me! I’ll go, please sir!” I frantically began searching for my bike. He must have realized what I was looking for and said “I can take you but not your bike.” Survival instincts kicked in and the next thing I knew I was clamoring into a truck and being whisked away. While my bike laid forsaken at mile 13.7 of the Whiskey 50.

This is how I thought most of the day would go

That morning had started like any other race morning, oatmeal, coffee, debating what to wear and a weather report. When Sully saw the report he said, “well at least it will be an epic ride.” A spoof on the company who runs the race, Epic Rides. The weather called for temperatures in the low 40s, with high winds and precipitation. Guess I’m wearing knickers. The precipitation called for .02 inches of rain. Okay, it’ll just be the high wind that we’ll have to deal with. We gathered all our gear and as we stepped outside realized we’d be getting more than .02 inches, as it was already raining and the ground seemed pretty saturated. Great, but still the rain isn’t awful, or a deal breaker. As Barb says, “It’s a pleasure to ride in the rain.” Mainly because in South Dakota we didn’t have to deal with it a whole lot. It wasn’t suppose to get terribly cold, sure the descents might be a little cold, but I had a base layer, jersey, arm warmers and a jacket so I thought I could hang. 

Right before the gun went off a guy came by handing out Nitrile Gloves, which I immediately pounced on to go over my gloves. The rain had picked up but once we started moving it wasn’t

Sully taking off

terrible. Okay, I can do this. It was about 4 miles on the road, which Sully passed me on. At first I thought it was some jerk trying to squeeze by me but when I heard his distinctive voice checking in on me, all my tension to run this uy off the road went away. I told him I was fine and he kept going. I was fine, but was starting to get a little cold, the rain hadn’t let up and we were beginning the climb up onto double track. Followed soon by single track. The single track had a lot of stop and go traffic, which meant slowing my pace and even sometimes getting off the bike to wait. My hands kept getting colder, I remembered once to drink something but that was about the only time I could muster it. I kept trudging along, higher into the climb and further from any chance of warmth. I saw a lot of people just stop and start hiking down the hill, but knew I would be in no condition to make it back on my own so kept going. My hands were getting the worst of it now, I was trying to muster all the courage I had to remain positive. This will be over soon, your hands will get better, keep moving your fingers, keep moving. I saw a group of people cheering on the side as I came by. “How…how far until the next aid station?” My voice cracked. “Six miles, do you need something?” I somberly said, “No.” 

At this point I couldn’t feel my fingers any more as the rain had quickly changed to sleet and then hail and then finally snow. With every foot of climbing it seemed to get colder. I was mostly protected by the trees and shrubbery but at the top of the climb the ridge open up and the wind reared its ugly head sending snow everywhere and sending shivers

Taken from the Daily Courier in Prescott, AZ

down my spine. I wanted to turn around so bad, but heeded the advice of my Godfather, “how will this look on the accident report?” something he always reminds me. I figured not too good. “Girl racing Whiskey 50 gets so cold wanders off into the forest. Found 7 hours later. Loses 4 toes and a finger to frostbite.” I know a random number of digits but it happened to a girl I went to college with. It was mainly the fact that I wouldn’t be able to wear flip flops with 4 toes missing that kept me going. 

I couldn’t shift, or had stopped trying but was stuck in a relatively easy gear so it wasn’t the worst thing. Braking was a bit more questionable as I could but had to constantly check that my fingers were engaging with the levers. My fingers would slide off and I wouldn’t realize it at all until I started rapidly accelerating downhill (not great). 

After the exposure on the ridge what should have been a fairly quickly descent turned into agonizing pain. My whole body was shaking, trying mercifully to get any heat. I soon saw a make-shift tent in the distance which gave me an ounce of hope, just make it there. I did but it didn’t seem to warrant an actual stop, trudging by I heard someone say, “aid station is about 2 miles down, they are halting the race there.” Halting the race? How does that work? Has Sully been waiting for me there?  Two miles, that’s all I had to make it. 

More descending followed by more not braking. I had one foot out all the time now to drag just in case. I got off my bike to walk a section as it didn’t seem like the best idea to go down a bunch of rocks with limited braking ability. It flowed into a turn which had enough area that I put my bike down to try and get any heat back to my hands. Three guys must have realized what shape I was in and parked their bikes and huddled around me to give me warmth. “Move your shoulders, get the blood flowing back to your hands. They continued making small talk but I was more focused on getting blood back to my fingers that I’m not sure what else they said. I started making my way down the hill

Like Hot Tea, a shower and dry clothes 😀

behind them. They were soon far in front of me. I couldn’t get there fast enough but I was too cold to care. Around a bend and down I could see a group of people huddling together. It felt like Christmas morning- Oh, I’m so close!! I made it to the bottom where I could see people were huddling around a fire pit. I dropped my bike and tears starting welling in my eyes as I was so relieved to be there. People parted as I walked up allowing me to get close to the fire. I started to try and take off my gloves and by that I mean hold them out in front of me and look at them while contemplating how to move my fingers. A man standing next to me must have realized my struggle and pulled both pairs off for me so I could get the warmth directly to them. “It’s going to hurt.” He was right, as the blood started flowing back the agony of pain was cumbersome. After a few minutes I started to wander out, searching for anyone who could give me information on the race, if it was halted, or they were re-routing us. That’s when the man yelled he had room in his truck. 

It was my first DNF, around mile 7 I knew it would be. It was hard for my ego to swallow initially, as I once ran a marathon with no training to avoid a DNF. I knew how stupid it would be for me to continue and at the pace I had been going was nowhere on track to finish close to where I wanted to. I had been out there for 2+ hours taking in no food or water, once my hands were frozen it was game over. I was able to get back to the start and put dry clothes on which helped but it was about 4 hours before my hands felt relatively normal again*. Sully finished the race on his singlespeed because he’s pretty incredible.

I didn’t beat Sully like I had hoped but I’ll be back with a vengeance!

It certainly wasn’t the finish or race that I was expecting. But it’s hard to be upset at the way it ended because it wasn’t with a traumatic brain injury so I can cheer to that. 

I’ll drink to no TBI

 *In case you were worried I was able to find my bike with relatively easiness. I’m sure the race company wasn’t expecting that weather to happen as well but they did a great job of getting people off the course and taking care of them.


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