At the start of this morning’s Wheatgrass Ride, several riders were comparing ailments.
“My spine hasn’t recovered from that lumbar fracture of five years ago,” said one.
“I’m so sore throughout my entire body after a hard ride that I have to get a full-body massage and bathe in Epsom salts,” said another.
“After that separated shoulder, broken forearm, and hip replacement, sometimes it’s hard to even get out of bed,” said a third.
The talk continued; it was a litany of serious illnesses, broken bones, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Pretty soon the conversation turned to treatment and the reputations of various doctors, sports medicine specialists, orthos, chiros, massage therapists, acupuncturists, osteopaths, podiatrists, natural healers, and horse veterinarians.
I really felt for these folks and the obstacles they had to overcome simply to ride their bikes. Of course, I’d recently experienced a physical ailment myself, and I shared it with them.
Anatomy of an ailment
In well over thirty years of cycling, I’ve been fortunate to have escaped injury. Sure, there were the inevitable Cat 4 crashes when I first started racing in ’84, but I never broke a bone and never got more than minor road rash. Likewise, I’ve never had discomfort on the bike. I’ve never had back pains, neck pains, knee pain, hip pain, jaundice, leprosy, stinkybutt, or any other discomfiture except for the misery that comes from getting hammered and dropped.
However, last week, after doing the SPY Tuesday morning ride, I awoke on Wednesday with a muscular pain just above my right hip and off towards the left, in that soft spot between the backbone and the hip bone where I keep my fat stores for the winter. It was somewhat uncomfortable.
Each time I turned around, or when I pedaled to work, this small muscular/fatty area emitted a kind of sore feeling. On the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale, I was a solid “2.” Perhaps it was even out of the 2 and even into the lower 3, but not by much.
This soreness occurred throughout the day at intermittent times and it was very annoying, almost painful, in fact. The discomforted area was about one inch in diameter, and although I could relieve the sort-of-but-not-quite-pain by pressing it with my finger for a second or two, an hour or so later after I had stopped pressing the afflicted area, the kind-of-soreness would return.
Getting old is hell
I’d heard my friends talk about the pains, illnesses, and aches that come with ageing. Until I got that sore spot I hadn’t taken them seriously, but now I can really empathize. This uncomfortable spot went away after two days, but while it was there it almost bothered me a lot. And although it was one of the worst experiences I can recall, it made me a better person because I can now really empathize with my cycling friends. It also made me realize how important it is to continue cycling, because the pain and discomfort of riding hard is what made it possible for me to get through those two days. I like to think that cycling has given me a sort of “toughness reserve” that I can draw on in times of almost feeling like I’m in pain.
I’m going to start taking better care of my health, too. This was a real wake-up call, the way that little sore spot just stayed sore for two entire days, on and off. It made me think, “If I’m already getting a little discomfort spot at age 49, what’s going to happen when I’m 60? Or 70?” Now’s the time to be proactive, folks, and to stop taking good health for granted.
So, I’m not trying to sound preachy, and certainly not trying to beg for sympathy, but it’s the tough times in life that let you appreciate the good ones. Take care of your bodies, folks, it’s the only one you have! Below is a true photo of the affected area. It was really partially uncomfortable some of the time. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.