Shoulder pads are a good thing.
Especially when you need them during a crash.
Unfortunately, that's the one piece of equipment I left at home during the second set of races at Holiday Valley last season, when I learned one of my toughest lessons on the course (yep, that's my x-ray to the right).
An experienced (medical) doctor may notice something that's not supposed to be there. I'm used to looking at data from x-rays zapping rocks and dirt to determine elemental speciation, and so had no idea what I was looking at until the (medical) doctor explained that I was stuck with the Greater Tuberosity Blues.
I thought that the crash during the Holiday Valley practice affected my rotator cuff or something, and although it was very painful, didn't think an x-ray was necessary and kept riding and preparing for Nationals. (With my shoulder pads, at all times.) Thank goodness I avoided shoulder-affecting crashes throughout the rest of the season, as it turns out that the one thing I was convinced couldn't have happened, did happen: it was fractured. And I didn't find out until after returning home from Nationals.
After finding out, and having an appropriate freak-out period in which my mind played through every scenario possible of "what-could-have-happened-OMG-that'swhyithurtsomuch," I realized that the biggest lesson was on my need to "grow up" mentally while riding. With increased speed comes increased responsibility, and although I rode faster than ever before during this past season, at the time of the crash I hadn't assumed the increased responsibility in paying attention to the nuances of the course, and my body's ability to handle the features. I crashed during that practice run because I didn't absorb the feature, went flying through the air, and (even though mid-flight thought I'd be able to muscle through the landing) encountered the evil ditch of pain that slingshot me forward onto my shoulder. And I knew the ditch was there; Jb and I acknowledged it during our prior runs. I was just having too much fun going fast.
The Shoulder (as I now refer to it, since it provides a pain-filled friendly reminder of the injury every once in a while) forced me to pay attention and to be responsible, and I'm incredibly lucky that the twinge of pain is the only long-term effect of the crash. A couple of weeks after the trip to Colorado, the (medical) doctor took the x-ray, and told me to take it easy for a few weeks to help encourage the healing process. I'm so thankful that it healed mainly on its own, and after a few weeks of focusing on range-of-motion exercises, I was back to lifting *extremely light* weights in May.
Jb designed my Phase 1 2014 gym training with The Shoulder in mind. Forcing myself to be patient with selecting the appropriate weights for lifting, combined with Jb's plan, have resulted in some sunshine: this week I lifted within 5 lbs of my pre-injury bench press weight!
Coming soon: "Ale caught (more than one) wave!" and "Flash Mob on Roberto Clemente Bridge"