Sunday, November 25, 2012

A linguistic analysis of a bike crash

- or A Grammar Nazi's View of Why I Crashed
Statesville CX Single Speed start. photo courtesy of Carl Pelzer



My recent Facebook status update tell's the story:

"Didn't manage to get a grip on the bike as I dismounted for the first set of barriers, managing to turn the holeshot into a head shot as I hit the second barrier with the side of my head. Fortunately, everyone avoided my barrier tango. I popped up pretty quickly in my best "I'm a tough as nails 'cross racer" only to have my legs buckle underneath me. Got up, got the chain back on the bike and fina
lly got my head screwed on straight about 5 minutes later. Managed to work my way up to tenth despite a second fall (tangle with a junior rider) and having another junior try to keep me from passing in the twisty turn sections. Word to that particular junior - experience and treachery will always win out over youthful exuberance. There will be elbows..."


The long and short of it is that I knocked myself silly. I suspect that my teammate Jack Brown's assessment that my shoulder looked dislocated might be accurate given the way it feels two days later. All I know is that once the stars and bluebirds stopped circling my head, I got the chain back on my bike and put the metaphorical bit between my teeth and started riding hard to make some chicken salad out of the chicken sh*t I'd served myself.

Seeing my Facebook status update, my friend Chris, the erstwhile English and Italian instructor, hit me on chat. This was our conversation:

Chris Harris

how're you feeling, dude?
This chat is no longer off the record



Shawn


sore


Chris Harris

you're supposed to go OVER the barrier, not into it. we gotta work on your prepositional fluency


Shawn

but you go INTO the barrier section, where you go OVER the barriers
so you're saying my prepositional fluency caused my crash


Chris Harris

it's a fact of analytic-language linguistics that the last step in fluency is prepositional mastery. fluency comes from the latin 'fluere,' to flow.
so yeah. the words don't flow right, neither do you.


Shawn

so linguistics is the ultimate tool for mastery of anything


Chris Harris

i see an academic article in this
well, yeah. it is
or not


Shawn

well I definitely lacked flow. Kind of a sickening feeling as you hurtle towards the barrier, pull up on the bike and realize it isn't coming with your hand


Chris Harris

i have evidence to back me up
you said: "but you go INTO the barrier section"
actually, you go IN TO the barrier section
INTO is an entirely different sense. they're not interchangeable
you go IN TO a building. going into it means, well, you walk or drive right into it
so your brain, in confusing INTO and IN TO, caused neuromuscular confusion


Shawn

so I said what I did, rather than what I meant to say (and do)


Chris Harris

= crash
yes. neuromuscular confusion is not what you want when any sort of hurtling is involved
separate the prepositions and you won't separate skin, teeth, shoulders from their rightful positions


First off, let me say that I am a big fan of the idea that we create our own reality through our subjective perception of it. I place a great deal of stock in the concept of Positive Visualization. It along with Active Rest, forms my complete training philosophy (aka The Smoke and Mirrors Plan). So I'm not going to dismiss the notion that my grammatical confusion caused cognitive dissonance that resulted in my crash.

It is sad to note that I seem to ride really, really well when starting DFL. A crash and mild concussion just add a little more giddyup to the mix. So now, along with the need to focus on my positive visualization of the perfect start (I'm not BSing about this. I picture everyone riding out of my way and me flowing to the front. Works every time. Weird.), but now I must maintain proper grammar in the running monologue in my head that goes on the entire race. It's all terribly exhausting...
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