What a weekend! With our first cool front of the fall season coming through South Florida, I decided Saturday to stretch my long run from the prior weekend's 10 miles up to 16 miles. The first 9 miles went fine, but during the last 7 my feet started to ache and I wondered if my energy would last through the entire run. I got through it, but ended up wondering if I'll ever hit that easy glide through a long run that I've felt in training for other marathons and long distance triathlons. Have I crossed some fitness/age hump where I'll never hit that "I feel I can run all day" stride? Or am I simply level jumping in my long runs and not getting enough base mileage under my belt? I hope to know the answer to that in the next couple of weeks.
The big event of the weekend, however, occurred on Sunday morning's ride. When I head over to our groups usual meeting place at Downtown Bicycles, I notice some storm clouds over the beach. When I get to the strip mall, only Helen, a strong triathlete, has shown up. Helen tells me she is only riding 30 miles since she has the Miami 70.3 triathlon coming up next weekend. She is riding north on A1a to join the G-2 riding group that is starting at Atlantic Blvd. at 7:30 AM. As I think the group ride may be at too aggressive a pace given my 16 mile run the day before, I tell Helen I'm going to ride solo, and I leave her at Atlantic and A-1a.
My ride north is fairly uneventful, but for the various puddles I need to go around from prior earlier rain. I make it to my planned turn around at Spanish River Park and turn to head back south. However, as I near the Hillsboro Bridge, a light rain starts to fall that picks up to a fairly crummy rain that pretty much soaks me. "Oh well," I think, "You can only get so wet." As I ride through Lauderdale-By-the-Sea, the rain has stopped, but the roads and my bike are still pretty wet. This stretch of A-1a has a lot of condominiums and small motels along the road where a lot of out of town tourists stay. I'm always a little concerned about this area since a lot of older drivers live in the condos and the out of towners are less aware that bicyclists ride through this area on weekends.
Sure enough, a small red pickup truck facing the road, pulls into the road about one car length ahead of me without the driver noticing me. He pulls onto the road and I feel like I just dodged a bullet. I've always told my riding buddies that the problem is that these drivers just don't notice a bicyclist. We have too small a profile than they are used to looking for before pulling onto the street. I thank God the guy didn't run into me as he pulled onto the road. Little do I know, however, that I'm not through with this driver. Without hitting his breaks or putting on his turn signal, he starts a right hand turn back into the hotel parking lot...IMMEDIATELY IN FRONT OF ME!!!
I jam on my somewhat damp breaks and try turning right into the parking lot, but realize I'm screwed. I smash hard into the side of the truck's cab and am on the ground stunned before I can process what happened. A driver coming up behind us pulls off the side of the road ahead of us, jumps out of his car over to where I'm laying on the ground and asks, "Are you OK?"
"I have no idea," I say. "Let me see if I can get up." The second before I hit the truck, I was sure I was going to be severely injured. I shudder even now as I think about how badly I thought I was going to be hurt. I'm thinking broken teeth, broken bones or worse. As I pick myself up off the ground and start checking myself of broken bones or bleeding, I'm amazed. While I'm a little sore in the left shoulder and thigh, I find I'm not only not bleeding anywhere, but that I'm able to fully move my left shoulder and leg. The driver of the truck is an black guy who appears to be in his late 50s who has his wife in the truck with him. He's busy apologizing while the driver of the other vehicle tells him that you've got to look out for bicyclists along A-1a. While these two are busy talking to each other, I check my bike. Other than the front break being knocked out of alignment, my bike also appears to be OK. Not that I can ride the last 4 miles home with the break rubbing against the carbon wheel. Not to mention that I'm kind of stunned from slamming into the side of the truck. In any event, I decide against calling the police to report an accident and accept an offer of a ride home by the driver of the other vehicle.
My unfortunate take away from this incident is that I no longer feel that I can ride the open roads of A-1a. This was the second incident this year in which I'm nearly in a major accident due to a driver coming out of a parking lot onto A-1a. In the prior incident in February, a driver pulled quickly up to the rode from a big lot. Instead of breaking at the end of the lot, he pulls all the way though the bike path and up to the line that separates the bike path from the road. As the parking lot was hidden by a ficus hedge, I didn't see the car coming. I was able to slam on my breaks just in time to avoid hitting the car, but it all happened so quickly, I was unable to shout out to my wife Salome, riding behind me, that I was breaking. Our bikes collided, but we miraculously do not fall. Other biker who witnessed the incident, yelled at the driver as they rode by, but the driver took off either oblivious to what he'd done or not wanting to face our wrath. Salome gave up riding on A-1a that day and has stuck to riding our spin bike in our home gym since then.
For me, Sunday's incident was strike number three. For those that read my prior blog, you know that I was hit by a 89 year old lady during a ride in Clermont, Florida two years ago. When I think about how badly I could have been hurt in each of these incidents, I feel like Bruce Willis in the film Unbreakable in which unbeknownst to himself, he is a superhero who goes without a scratch in the various accidents he's been in throughout his life. Well, I know I'm no superhero. I may be quick to figure how to roll with the physics of a situation to minimize the impact of an unavoidable collision, or I may just be damn lucky. In any event, I've decided that too many people in my life depend on me to continue taking the risk of serious injury. While I love riding along A-1a, I no longer feel it is responsible for me to do so. I know too many people who have gotten hit and hurt to keep taking chances of a serious injury.
I can use my spin bike at home or go to spin class to keep my riding skills up for triathlons. Besides, I read that some of the professional triathletes do the bulk of their bike training indoors. I'll still ride where outdoors where I can ride without the large amount of traffic we have in South Florida, but I bid A1a goodbye. The problem with South Florida bicycling isn't that the streets are too crowded with cars. The problem is that the drivers of the cars are just not that good at driving. Too my friends who I know will continue to ride A-1a: "Let's be careful out there."