This past weekend, I biked from
Before, the farthest I’d ever ridden on a bike was about 12 miles. It was on a mountain bike on the ridiculously sharp hilly roads near my house in
Then my roommate Liz in
Then, last week Chris called to say that we weren’t going to a Jazz festival is
“How long will it take?”
“I was planning on two, maybe three days.”
“Ummm…how far is it?”
“I don’t know. I figured we’d bike about 80 miles a day.”
My jaw shattered on the floor. [Stunned silence] “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Well that’s about how far I bike when I’m being lazy. That’s not very much by biking standards.”
Right. 80 miles. A day. That’s farther than the distance between
Chris told me that on the first day, biking hurts. The second day, it hurts more. The third day, even more. After that, it mellows out. Too bad we were only going for two or three days. Then he started laying it on really thick, describing the pure misery to be found in long distance biking. I think he just wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into. The odd thing is, the worse he tried to make it sound, the more I wanted to go. Fighting exhaustion and pain, covered in mud, biking through a downpour? Yeah. Sign me up. I slowly realized that not only was I doing for the absurd quantities of food I would be eating, but I also really felt like I needed to prove something to myself. Prove that I could take it. Prove that I was tough. Prove that I wouldn’t fall apart at the seams. Prove my utter stupidity.
No matter how bad it got, I told myself, I could do it.
The first day was a blast. I felt so powerful. Like I could cycle forever. Then night started to come and my right knee started cramping up. We slept in a “refugee camp” as Chris called it, amongst endless rows of RVs and car campers, especially packed for the 4th of July weekend. My knees hurt bad that night. I was limping, and my left hand felt all tingly and numb.
The next morning it hurt so bad to jump back on my bike. My knees screamed, and I wondered if my crotch was ever going to forgive me. “This can’t be healthy,” I thought as I winced and peddled gingerly. However, it was muscle pain and not bone pain, so it was okay to grit my teeth and just get through it, right? But it was *weird* muscle pain. Those funny little muscles around my knees. The ones that seemed to be there only for the purpose of giving me pain on this bike trip. It was so bloody frustrating. I had expected to combat muscle fatigue in my thighs or calves, or to pant and gasp for air, but nooooo…it was my friggin’ knees complaining, holding everything else back and making me feel less like a hardcore uberathlete and more like a wimpy chump.
Chris was incredibly patient with me. I asked him for advice on how to deal with my especially achy right knee and he said to take it slow, take lots of breaks, use lower gears…oh, and there was a trick I should know about. He recommended grabbing my knee with my hand and using my arm to push it up and down. I tried it…and, gosh golly, it worked. It took a little practice to pull it off and stay balanced at the same time…and it made me feel like a royal gimp. A super hard core royal gimp.
I thought about dropping out. I would stay at the camp, Chris could bike up to
No matter how bad it gets, I can do it, remember? So I crept along the road at the fabulous speed of a mile an hour and thought real hard about how pain is only a perception and perceptions come from my brain and therefore I can choose to ignore it…right?
My knee, however, just got worse. I wasn’t [gulp] terribly worried because when I got off the bike and walked around, it was okay. Hey, and you know what? Nothing made me feel more hard core than riding along the beach, on a road as flat as a pancake, grunting and sweating and pumping my stupid knee with my arm...and then getting passed by a couple of joggers. That was fun. I had to stop for a second because I was laughing so hard.
And then somehow, I made it to
Ha. and I thought it was bad in the morning. Turning around and biking back to our campsite was…definitely the most painful thing I’ve ever done in my life. (Wow, I’ve been sheltered, eh?) It fucking sucked…but now I know that I’m a strong person and I don’t break that easily. Corny, I know, but it means a lot.
When I finally allowed myself to collapse at our campsite, Chris grinned at me and said, “Congratulations! You made it to
The next morning, I woke up, and my knees felt…okay. They started screaming again when I jumped back on the bike, but it definitely wasn’t as loud as the day before. Weird. Then Chris noticed that my seat was too low. So we stopped, had breakfast at an awesome little diner and he raised my seat two inches. Suddenly, biking started to feel very good. My knees still hurt, but it felt marvelous to stretch them out with every peddle. and I felt like an idiot. I didn’t know exactly how high my seat should have been because I’m not a expert biker, and it felt about the same height as my clumpy mountain bike at home. But at the beginning I had faint suspicions that it was too low and didn’t say a thing. Stupid.
Long story short, I made it all the way back to my apartment on my own power. And my legs felt fucking fantastic. Seriously. By the end of the day, my knees had almost stopped hurting entirely. A miracle.
150 miles. Wow. I biked 150 miles. And now, 150 miles doesn’t seem like such a long way anymore. And my leftmost fingers still feel kind of funny, but at least my knees are fine, right? I would definitely do it again. Without the knee pain.