Nick Lacombe: A life of pain

Nick at collegiate cycling race

Pain is an unavoidable part of life and not something to run from. Nick Lacombe, a sophomore at Western Carolina University knows a thing or two about experiencing pain.

At the age of 4, Nick tripped through a metal detector. This resulted in the loss of a tooth and damage to another. In the first grade, he broke his pinky finger in a playground accident.

Nick managed to split his chin open twice. The first time was in a skateboarding accident, he was travelling downhill at high speed and went headfirst into the asphalt. The second time, Nick was sliding on pillows on a hardwood floor and hit the wall headfirst. Both of these accidents resulted in stitches.

At the age of 15, Nick shattered his left ankle after leaping from a cliff into shallow water at Slide Rock State Park in Arizona.  This accident led to hospitalization and two surgeries. He now has a six-inch-plate held together with six small screws in his fibula.

“I always thought that if my kids made it through childhood without breaking a bone, then I must be too overprotective”, said Christine Lacombe, Nick’s mother. “I never worried too much about Nick until he took up cycling, went away to college and I knew he was riding his bike on those steep mountain roads. Knowing that he is out there almost every day, I would go crazy if I worried all the time, so I try not to. But I will say that whenever I get a call from him, the first thing I think of is whether he’s calling because he is hurt again!”

Nick managed to make it nearly two weeks into college injury-free. That is, until he descended the road leading up to the Jackson County Airport on his road bike. He crashed at high speed after taking a corner too quickly and broke his collarbone. An ambulance took him to the hospital in Sylva and his bike was nearly destroyed.

One month later, Nick was mountain biking off of Cane Creek road in Cullowhee and broke his collarbone again in a crash. “I took my jersey off and made a sling out of it. Then, I hiked out of the woods, rode my bike to the end of the road with one hand and hitched a ride with some kayakers”, said Lacombe.

The broken collarbone resulted in Nick being unable to compete in collegiate mountain bike racing his freshman year. It may, however have prevented himself from injuring himself further, at least temporarily.

Nick’s sophomore year was not without bodily harm either. In a collegiate mountain bike race at East Tennessee State University, Nick attempted his first downhill mountain bike race. During the first part of the race, he crashed his bike and got a concussion in addition to bruising the right side of his body. He did the second part of the race, unaware he had a concussion and crashed again, splitting open both of his elbows.

Many people would consider taking it easy after experiencing any one of these injuries, but Nick disagrees with that assertion. “I don’t have a death wish. If you aren’t pushing boundaries, you aren’t living life to the fullest”, said Lacombe.