Saturday, August 17, 2013

Life is so darn fragile....

I never met Bonni Curran personally but I did write her some post cards over the winter, from the road.

Bonni, along with her husband Peter are supporters of NNF, the National Nordic Foundation.  Last year as a member of the US Ski Team B team I was completely unfunded for the entire winter.  NNF stepped in to help me foot the hefty bill of traveling and racing 5 continuous months in Europe.  NNF was able to do this because of the generosity of people like Bonni and Peter. So, while I never met Bonni face to face I feel connected to her because she believed in what I am doing - and helped make it possible. 

On August 6th Bonni's life was tragically cut short when she was struck and killed on her bike.  Details of the accident are still somewhat unclear but it seems to have involved a construction site, a wobbly bike, and a dump truck.

Bonni's accident makes me think of all the training session that I, my teammates, and everyone in the sport of Cross Country Skiing complete on the roads. (Not to mention all the bikers and other non-motorized forms of transportation.)  Roller skiing is a necessary part of training for cross country skiing and unfortunately, bike paths don't cut it - and we don't have enough paved "roller ski loops" at our ski venues to suffice. 

If and when it comes down to a human body and carbon fiber against an F350 or even a Toyota Camry, who is going to win? It's not going to be the skier or the biker, that's for sure.  Accidents such as Bonni's bring a slice of humble pie - and reality - to my training regime.  It makes me think that you can never be too careful.  Also, it paints a picture of just how quickly life can be taken away. One minute Bonni is with us, and the next she is gone. On August 6th it was Bonni but who will be next? Because more accidents are bound to happen as painful as that fact may be.

In honor of Bonni I've compiled a list of safety tips.  While most of these are common sense I still feel as if it's worth sharing and/or revisiting. Here is a quick list of safety protocols that I try to follow: 

1) ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET. This is a given but for some reason people don't always do this. My husband is an Anchorage Fire Fighter and has responded to many a biker head injuries. He says it's amazing how fast a bump the size of a grapefruit can come out of your head...... "Brain Buckets" are real things so wear one. They have awesome neon ones these days too.  Go spend money and buy one you actually like and want to wear. It's well worth the money.

2) EMBRACE THE 80s! Wear NEON, not BLACK. Please don't blend in with the pavement!!! Wear something that stands out against the backdrop you're training in. Visibility is hugely important!

3) NEVER, under any circumstance USE HEADPHONES to listen to music while on the road.  You need each of your senses, ears, eyes, even your nose to detect danger and know your surroundings.

4) ASSUME every car on the road is out to hit you. Don't assume that they will see you. Ski, bike, walk, run defensively. Just because you are highly visible and following the rules of the road doesn't mean they know you're there.  Texting and driving is becoming a HUGE issue and is really, really scary for someone like me who spends a lot of time training on the roads. I actually just watched a very telling documentary put together by Werner Hertzog about the dangers of texting and driving.  If you have time, it's definitely worth a watch. It can be found here:

5) COMMUNICATE as a TEAM. Assuming you're training or recreating with others become familiar with common terminology like "car back" or  "car up" ...... "slowing down", etc. Four eyes on the road are better than two and ten are better yet. Be observant and let others know what you see and hear so that the entire group can react appropriately.  For example, when a car is coming from behind and you're skating someone should yell, "car back" and everyone should start double poling therefore giving the car as much room as possible. 

6) DON'T ACT LIKE YOU OWN THE ROAD because you don't. Follow traffic rules as best as possible and be respectful to the vehicles on the road. Don't cut in front of a car just because you know you'll make it - you're making enemies for endurance athletes everywhere. Be polite and follow my mantra, "Smile and Wave"... you can't go wrong with reminding people behind the wheel that those of us using ski poles in the summer are people too.... not just annoying targets slowing down their rush hour commutes.  Make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them to ensure that they see YOU rather than just a blank stare THROUGH you. 

7) PLAN your ROUTES strategically. Don't wait for rush hour to do your workout if you can help it. Avoid downhills with stop signs considering roller skis don't have breaks. Ski routes that you know are safe or get specific directions and recommendations from friends who know what they're talking about.  Don't let your ego get in the way of taking your skis off and WALKING down sketchy hills. Just two days ago Matt Whitcomb was supporting our roller ski via bike.  For the steep hills he would shuttle us down meaning we'd put our hand on his back and use his bike's brakes!  

Last but not least I bought a Road ID bracelet today (purple!)  I have my name and three emergency contacts in case something should happen to me while out training. Not a bad idea if you're someone who spends a lot of time out on the roads, particularly alone.

Please, please, please be safe out there.  My deepest sympathys to the Curran Family and everyone who is grieving from the loss of Bonni's life..... just a small reminder that every day is a gift and should not be taken for granted. 

Now: go get after it!