To get ready, I would drive down to Dauset Trails Nature Center, home to one of the absolute best mountain bike trails in Georgia. I started lightly, going every weekend, and as I got faster and braver and the adrenaline junkie in me began to awaken, I started going every single night. I couldn't get enough of the steep hills, log jumps, ramps, and bridges—all in all, over fifty miles of excitement and adventure. But my favorite part of the entire trail was a short, extremely steep jump run called Pine Mountain.
I ran the Pine Mountain course at least three times every single night. I adored it. It started off at a high elevation with a gorgeous view of the nature preserve below. Once you started down, you reach twenty-five miles an hour extremely quickly, and then the jumps started. These earthen banks launched you straight outward while the ground below you sank ever farther, allowing you to catch major air. Given the steepness of the terrain and the speeds you were traveling, you had to keep your wits about you at all times. Flubbing a landing on any one of those jumps meant the difference between going home sweaty and going home bloody and/or broken.
On one particular evening, I was going through my paces on the trail system and reached Pine Mountain just as the sun began to sink beneath the tree line. I knew I had only about thirty minutes of usable daylight left, and I had to make this one run count. With a full head of steam and all the confidence of a mountain biker who'd just crossed the line from amateur to "experienced," I pumped my legs as hard as I could to get rolling down the hill.
In no time, I was at my top speed of about twenty-five miles an hour, and when the jumps arrived, I began popping and landing them with the skill and finesse of a guy who thinks he has a lot of skill and finesse but really looks like a grown-up hopping molehills on his too-expensive bicycle. Just as I reached the first turn in the trail, a huge brown blob whipped in front of me and blocked my path.
There was no time to brake, or skid out, or try to bail off the bike and let it take the damage. I couldn't even brace for the impact; it just happened. It was like hitting a brick wall that was built waist- high. It hadn't even registered that the thing I'd hit might have been a mammal. All I really knew is that something brown had just stopped my wheels from moving and dislodged me from my mountain bike, and I was going to die wondering what the hell it was.
I hit the ground—hard. I was lucky as hell, because I'd hit the only finger of land that extended out to a much steeper decline down into the nature preserve. A foot to the right, and I'd have soared like Wile E. Coyote into the abyss. Good thing I didn't, because I hadn't packed my Uh-Oh sign in my CamelBak.
Like anyone does upon falling down, the first thing I did was attempt to move. A quick internal system check registered severe pains from my knee, abdomen, and right arm. Were they too severe to stand? Let's see . . . nope. I could get to my feet. My knee was cut, and my sock and shoe were soaked in blood. Any break? Doesn't seem so, just a minor flesh wound. Where the right arm was concerned, I knew immediately that I'd rebroken my wrist, because it felt like it had the last six times I'd broken it. As for the abdomen, every step I took and every breath I inhaled sent a shock up my body. It felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me and then kept punching me for fun.