Goes without saying or at least it’s an unwritten MTB rule “the last run of the day” seems to be linked with most accidents so has become taboo in a way, mind you it wasn’t and my mind was looking forward to running the sweet fast descents on Barns Hill – TT, Hogan’s Run and Sleazy Mexican perhaps not Social Distance but any of the above a smile inducing whaaaahoooo. Never the last run!
Sitting at the meeting point start of Frenchman’s and where a few other lines start our plan was going to drop into one of Jamie’s old lines, I’m sure it was magic torch when he cut it, anyhow a few sweeping turns in you have options to split right for the chute or left to drop off a plateau land and immediately sweep left carrying your speed back up the embankment and back on the gas as you start to pick up speed and hit some gnarly roots n ruts, trail splits again to high and low lines again strewn with roots and ruts leading onto the embankment ridge line, options to hit a little booter or roll the embankment. A rooty exit out into some sweeping corners with deep pump ditch to negotiate before the trail splits again to do the full run or cut short and peddle up towards the impossible climb and Barns Hill side. Never the last run!
Let’s go “Hartley”! Anita leading the charge as I set off after her followed by Carl and the others, she had a gone out the blocks like a hare! First section I had been dialling in over the last couple of rides and had a mint line leading up to the drop; fast sweeping corners, tip the bike in to the left of the tree stump and inside the tree on your right-hand side not a lot of room for error but oh so smooth nailed the drop catching sight of Anita disappearing back up the bank. Chase on up the bank letting the bike flow and absorb the hits through the root section picking up speed, opting for standard high line onto the ride line. Accidents happen, or seem to, in one or two distinctive modes… slow mo or you’re on the deck before you know what’s happened. Mine was most definitely the latter, a loud crack followed by an immediate loud clatter of human hitting dirt and objects with a sprinkling of having Anthony Joshua hitting you in the sola-plexus or deflating bag-pipes, coming to a halt on my knees head in hands disorientated. Never the last run!
Immediate reaction is always to get up check bike. No chance as I couldn’t lift my head and was trying to suck in as much oxygen as possible as the lungs started to fill with air once more, being washed over with adrenaline, numbness, disorientation and WTF happened. Lucky the guys on hand have first aid and carried out the initial assessment – called for an ambulance straight away, checked for bleeds, movement etc. and stern instructions not to move. The gang going into rescue over drive not that I could see anything that was going on still face down and numb. Paramedic crew #1 promptly escorted in and assessed the scene and what had been done already, the next few hours all becoming blurred into some seamless timeless nightmare and series of comical errors as the contract paramedic crew couldn’t find us or an extraction vantage point, time to roll. Never the last run!
Friend Chris and Paul were now also on the scene which meant enough hands around to support my neck and carry out log-roll procedure “on three and roll” neck brace on and at least a different view after an hour and half being on my knees. Still no news of paramedic crew #2 as I lay there numb looking at the tree canopy gently sway in the late evening breeze, that view becoming ever more obscured as dusk settled in knocking on night times door. The guys moving bikes, stopping riders coming through, blankets and jackets being rustled up, crackle of radios and anxious responses as to WTF are you, jokes and laughs keeping everyone just above the edge as dusk gave way to night and the stage changed to torch lights flashing in the dark like a prison break search scene. Reassurances that the second crew were nearly here, new muffled voices and more torch beams changed the atmosphere as evac was now happening, getting onto the clip board to then go onto a spine board, head blocks and a blur of friends faces, torch light, straps and braces and the lift began laying there trying to picture the trail in reverse to the gate were the sanctuary of the ambulance was waiting. Never the last run!
Having been on the lifting end before I know how awkward and heavy spine boards are to carry on flat terrain let alone up and down rough terrain and embankments, night air awash with puffing and panting, instructions, light beams and directions as they negotiated the trail obstacle course backed up with reassurances of “nearly there now Mark”. The ambulance door beckoned and I was inside with a different view; white fibreglass roof, lights and medical looking equipment, didn’t realise at the time that Anita wasn’t allowed on-board as the whole Covid-19 thing had paled into less importance but was now back in focus, hate to think what she must have felt? Never the last run!