A few weeks ago I was playing with the interview feature on Facebook (a new-to-me, ridiculous, immature but utterly addictive online toy) and one of the questions was: what is your last thought as you fall over the edge of a cliff?
Without a thought, I wrote: “Mom told me the bike would do me in.”
And it has.
Except this “doing in” was all my own doing. It was not some unfortunate, near fatal cycling disaster, like swerving dangerously in front of a car, being rear-ended by a garbage truck, or a perilous interlocking of derailleur and front-tire of the person behind me, as my mother has vocally feared. No, this was all me. And my tendency to do what feels good -- a lot. To excess. To the point where it hurts.
You see, to celebrate the end of the summer and burn some vacation days in the fine month of August rather than the boring home-bound month of December, I took last Friday off to ride my bike. “A quick 20 (miles) this morning”, I thought, knowing I’d be doing a longer ride with my uncle the next day. So out I went. And I encountered various road closures, downed wires and other obstacles that had me rerouting on streets unknown to me. I just don’t ever encounter those things on weekends, since I am normally working and not riding on weekdays, at least not during business hours. Rather than back-tracking, I kept taking detours and yes, I ended up lost. The first milestone I recognized an hour into my ride was 25 miles from home. Ooops. So a quick 20 became a not so quick 34 up and down the hills of Topsfield (think Tuscany for those of you who have ridden there). And so it was. The ride meant to warm up my legs became a pretty serious workout. But still, it felt good.
The next day was Saturday and I journeyed up to Portsmouth, NH to ride with my uncle. We did a nice, easy, flatter-than-flat 32 mile ride along the beaches of Rye and Portsmouth. It was delicious, heavenly, perfect beach/riding weather and it felt like I hardly worked at all. Hell, I didn’t even stretch afterward.
So of course, on Sunday, I felt great, as if I could conquer the world on this bike of mine. My friend Brian joined me as he does most Sundays. And as I’d been slowly adding miles to our weekly voyage, I had planned an almost 40 mile ride for that morning, which would bring me to 100 miles for the weekend. As a Type A obsessive who needs numbers to feel accomplished, 100 was big for me. I know many of you may not understand that, and most everyone would look at me quizzically when I told them the next day. But I wanted that 100. I know some riders do this in a day, but for me, a weekend warrior with a 3 month old bike, this was big.
So off we went. And the first 10 miles or so felt like I was riding with lead in my legs. I could not shake them or wake them, but I attributed that to not stretching with my uncle and a little too much wine the night before. As Brian led for the first part of the ride, I was determined to keep his pace and eventually the legs did start to feel normal again. But somewhere around the 20 mile mark, I made him stop for water and said “I don’t think it’ll be 40 today,” and I pointed to my left knee. Nothing specific had happened, no steep hills or awkward twists. I’d just felt a twinge deep under my knee cap and didn’t think we should push it, even to accomplish my meaningless goal for the day. So we started the 15 mile ride back to where we started. And with every pedal stroke thereon, the pain got worse until it became a searing tear. It was almost as if once I admitted it to myself that it hurt, it was going to beat me.
I didn’t hide it as well as I should have because Brian commented that I didn’t look like I was having fun. And I wasn’t. I love this bike and I love being on the road and I really look forward to getting out with friends and doing this. But at this point I just wanted it to end. I wanted to be in the driveway and getting off that bike.
When we did get back home, the first thing I noticed is that it didn’t hurt when I walk. That was good. Right? So I stretched for a while and noticed it did hurt when I bent it a certain way. And you know, the right knee was feeling a little twitchy then too.
So long story short…I spent the week with a painfully swollen and angry knee and its companion isn’t too happy either. I’ve been on an anti-inflammatory (which I ordinarily never take), rest and ice regimen for the week. Adding insult to injury, literally, I iced it so much Sunday that I gave myself frostbite (not kidding). I taught my spinning classes as scheduled, but without exerting myself or my knees at all, walking the room or teaching off the bike for the entire profile. Finally today, five days later, I am over half-way through the workday and for the first time all week there’s almost no swelling and very little pain, which I think is positive progress. But I have committed to myself that there will be no bike for me this weekend. The love affair with my aluminum/carbon baby is temporarily on hold. But it’s this “rest” thing that gets to me. I’ll take all the pills in the world, ice it whenever you want me to, but slow down and stop is not something I can abide by easily. I’ve already booked up the days with dinners with friends, beach with my DS and books, magazines, movies…whatever I can think of to prevent me from looking at that bike until next week.
The lesson I need to take from this can be summed up in three words: overexertion, moderation, common sense. Ok, that was four. But I need to listen to the knees and let them have their rest. Hopefully I haven’t been clueless enough to do permanent damage. Because truly, I don’t want it to be the bike that did me in.
PS -- I ended up with 95, in case you were wondering…