Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Two Sundays ago (the ten year anniversary of 9/11) Dan and I biked the Door County Century for the second year in a row. The purpose of this bike ride is to show you what old age will be like.
Last year I did the Century in about 9.5 hours but I can’t say for sure – I wasn’t interested in finishing it in X amount of hours. I just wanted to finish, period. When I was done all I wanted to do was cry and pig out on some Door County cherry pie. With whipped cream. This year I timed myself – 8 hours, 17 minutes including stops.
At stop number one I ate seven sugar-coated donut holes and they were the best things I’d ever tasted. Stop two was closing up shop when I arrived so I freaked out that all the other stops would be closed by the time I got there, leaving me to starve. At subsequent stops, I tried to eat a little healthier – oranges, grapes, a sandwich. One notable exception was the strawberry shortcut stop, which I was not about to miss out on.
Before the ride, Dan had advised me to find people to draft with but I was leery of entering into such a commitment. I didn’t want to pair up with anyone because I didn’t want to feel locked down. What if my drafting partner started waiting for me at stops or expected me to wait for them? What if they wanted to chat and all I wanted to do is get this thing done and over with? What if they were slow and I needed to move on? Or, more likely, what if they were fast and I could only keep up so long? I didn’t want to slow someone down. I didn’t need anyone’s pity draft.
Dan’s philosophy is so what? Just move on if it gets to that point. That’s a typical male take on things, but I’m a chick. I would be too worried about offending my comrade, or hurting their feelings. How awkward would it be to see them later on at a stop or on a hill? “Uh so, hey, sorry about what happened back there. Uh, you know… with the whole me ‘racing-away-from-the-stop-without-waiting-for-you’ thing.”
So I didn’t ask to draft with anyone. Early on in the ride, however, a gentleman in a neon orange top (do gentlemen wear tops?) biked by me, at about my pace, and said, “We can go rafting if you want.” Or at least that’s what I thought he said at the time. I gave him one of those apologetic smiles you give someone who’s out of your league when they ask you out on a date, like, “Oh that’s so nice of you to ask, but no.”
What’s his deal? I wondered. Rafting? I’m 18 miles into a 100 mile bike ride and this joker’s thinking about doing some rafting afterward? And just how did he expect me to find him to go rafting, if I should be so inclined? He didn’t write his phone number on the back of his shirt or tell me what dock we’d meet up at. What a card, I mused.
I continued to ponder his foolishness until it finally dawned on me, about a mile or two later, that he’d been offering to draft, not raft.
I’m glad I realized too late, though. I could have gotten myself stuck in the exact situation I dreaded – striking up a partnership that was bound to stop being mutually beneficial within 30 minutes and then stumped as to how to get out of it.
It wasn’t long after this, about mile marker 30, that I felt some discomfort in my knee. By mile 33, I was in agonizing pain but I still had 67 miles to go. I thought I’d give it another five miles.
Twenty miles later, I decided to push myself to do just a few more miles - although my knee was still in pain, it hadn’t gotten discernibly worse. Fifteen miles after that I was fantasizing about how eagerly I would accept a car ride to get five or ten miles ahead, should some kind person offer it. Yet another fifteen miles down the road I was shedding the occasional tear but was too far in to give up at this point. I’d already gone 50 miles with a throbbing knee, what was another 15 or so?
My mantra, which is the same one that naturally popped into my head during the ride last year, went like this: “You don’t have to be the fastest biker, you just have to finish.” Inspirational stuff, huh? But what you don’t know is that I also would have accepted that car ride without a backward glance. I just never got the opportunity. So my success was one part inspiration, one part perspiration, and one part lack of a better option.
Dan was waiting at the finish line for me. I ate some pasta and meatballs and a couple pieces of cherry pie. That’s all there really is to say about the finish. I guess it really is all about the journey and not the destination. After I got to the destination I was just like, okay now what? Cherry pie? Okay.
That was Sunday. Today is Friday. My knee has kept me off the treadmill and the yoga mat all week. I’ve done some arm and abs work, but I can barely bend my knee. I went to an orthopedic surgeon to confirm I hadn’t seriously or irreparably injured my knee (I hadn’t).
Funny thing about the doc, Dr. Virkus. I had made an appointment with him several months prior to see about getting some metal screws removed from an operation I’d had on my other knee, but he wasn’t in on the day of my appointment so I met with his intern. So three days after the Century I go in to meet with Dr. Virkus for the first time and he starts fronting (I knew I’d find an age/gender/race-appropriate way to use that word!) like we already met. “Now, if I recall correctly, last time you were here we were discussing surgery…”
“Dr. Virkus, you are full of feces,” I wanted to say. “We’ve never met. You just skimmed your intern’s notes – and not even very thoroughly if you didn’t realize they weren’t your own.”
But that would have been awkward, so I didn’t. Also, he might have held a grudge and done some funky stuff to my knee in the operating room. “Oh, what’s that? You only wanted the screws removed? I’m sorry, Ms. Knudsen, I removed the entire patella.”
Instead I just played along like we’d met but the whole time I was worried he’d realize his mistake and point it out. Then what would I say? I would have had to pretend I was a real doodah and didn’t realize that the person I saw last time (a small-statured Indian fellow) was not the same person (a seven foot tall German) who now stood before me.
To further complicate matters, I had to explain to him several times that last time I was here concerning surgery for my right knee and this time I was here to talk about an injury to my left knee. Dr. Virkus looked flummoxed and glanced back at my chart (presumably to confirm that, yes the patient was indeed twenty-nine and not eighty-nine).
After all that hassle, Dr. Virkus said he didn’t think any permanent, serious damage had been done and that I would be back to 100% within two weeks. Given that rate, I calculate that I am currently operating at about 35%.
I certainly feel like 35%. I’m frustrated and stir crazy. The lack of physical activity is driving me nuts. I, in turn, am driving Dan nuts with my moping around. The last day or two I’ve felt a little better – I don’t have much range of motion but I can walk without dragging my leg now. Even after a full day – work and then a three hour writers’ workshop – I walked away from the workshop without a limp. However, I proceeded to try to hail a police squad car. Between my crickety knees, severely myopic vision, dampened hearing (anyone want to go rafting?), and brittle teeth (I’m a grinder), I figure my true age is somewhere in the mid to upper eighties. But that’s okay because I don’t have to be the youngest, the fastest, or the halest in this life. I just have to finish.
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