"Um, no. Well, not now . . . ."
We had just turned off of Gieger onto Fern Hill Rd. for the first climb of the day, and Lynne had caught me defying doctor's orders. Suitably chastised, I dropped my butt back on my saddle, shifted into the most venerable of my granny gears and spun frustratingly slowly up the hill. It was going to be a very long day.
But I get ahead of myself. I can sense you thinking, "Whoa, Nellie! What's this about doctor's orders?"
Cast your mind back, Gentle Reader, to mid-October 2010. I had just run my first half-marathon and was insufferably proud of myself. About a week before the race, I had felt some pain in my hip and a bit of a hitch in my gait, but nothing alarming. During and immediately after the race I felt fine; no more sore than I would have expected for running full out for 13.1 miles. And even when I continued to be sore and, let's face it, limp like Chester for a few days after the race, I chalked it up to muscle strain and treated accordingly. But when I was still sore six weeks later, I decided that it was time to see a professional. So I got my GP to refer me to the sports clinic, and the Monday after Thanksgiving I hied myself off to Kaiser, trying not to think about the fact that the funny explosive pain I felt in my hip with every footfall was an awful lot like the funny explosive pain I had felt in my ankle when I had stress fractured my fibula eight months earlier. 30 minutes and two dispositive physical tests later, the physiatrist confirmed my suppressed suspicion/fear: "You have a stress fracture in your femur."
"So, Doc, what do I do now?"
"Try not to walk on it for a few weeks."
Try. Not. To. Walk. Processing . . . processing . . . Nope, that's not registering.
"Say again, Doc?"
"Don't put any weight on it until the end of December."
"Um, so I can walk if I don't put any weight on it?"
"Well, you can very short distances - slowly."
"Around the office?"
"But not to the office?"
"Can I ride my bike?"
"You can if you spin and stay on the flats."
"Not for a few weeks."
I felt like I was negotiating. I was negotiating. And I am a lousy negotiator (one more reason I gave up trial work). By the end of the appointment I had my marching orders. Or non-marching orders, to be more precise. Until the end of December, I was to put no weight on the leg. If I wanted to walk, I could do so with little tiny baby steps or use crutches. I could swim, I could spin on a trainer, I could aqua jog (and yes, that feels as silly as it looks), and I could ride my bike from my house to the DOJ office in Portland (hauling my crutches behind me on a trailer). Beginning in January, I could ride my bike longer distances as long as I took it easy, and I could begin to walk for exercise, "but not more than two or three times a week." I could forget about running until mid-February at the earliest.
Needless to say, my December pretty much sucked. I had already been hobbled by pain for the second half of October and all of November, so we're really talking about 10 weeks of relative sloth by the time the New Year rolled around. And not the cute kind of sloth.
Thus, when I learned that my friend Marcello had organized a 200K brevet for New Year's Day, I was tempted to sign up. I was a little concerned about my ability to go the distance, however, because other than a flat, slow, cafe-centric ride in mid-December I had not ridden my bike more than 30 miles since, oh, sometime in September. But friend Lynne said she'd ride with me, and the weather report promised a dry (if somewhat chilly) day. There really was nothing to keep me from riding. Except common sense of course, but that never stopped me before.
So, then, where were we? Oh yes, Fern Hill Road. Lynne and I were about 14 miles into the ride, which began at Marcello's house in Hillsboro. Check-in time for the ride was 7 AM, with a ride start at 7:30. I'd arrived a bit late, and then had a fight with one of my shoes, so by the time I got over to the start zone, most of the riders had already formed their start mass and had no time to acknowledge my existence, let alone socialize. That was okay, because when I'd looked at the list of preregistered riders, I had recognized very few of the names. There's a lot of turnover in the Oregon rando world; miss a few events and you may as well have dropped off the edge of the planet. I did see friend Susan, looking like a superhero in her form-fitting, matching cold-weather gear. I was, in contrast, downright frumpy in my various layers of whatever of my cycling clothing still fit.
Marcello gave the okay to start, and we were on our way. The temperature gauge on my cyclometer read 35° at first, but within minutes had dropped down to 31°. Lynne and I quickly established our position as Les Lanternes Rouges and cemented it (at least for the time being) by making a few early stops for clothing and equipment adjustments.
The course of the ride took us southwest from Hillsboro down to Dallas, and then back they way we had come. Although there were lots of rolling hills along the way, there were no *real* hills. Which is good, because if there had been any real hills, I would have been screwed. As it was, I was spending waaaaay more time in my granny gears than ever before, and I have never been shy about bailing and spinning. Lynne beat me to the top of every hill, and I gave her permission to revel in it. When I left home, I had told Greg, "The shape I'm in, and the way I'm feeling, I'm guessing this will take me 12 hours." Well, 12 hours after we left Marcello's house, we were back; cold, hungry and exhausted. The cold and hungry part were quickly allayed with piping hot cups of tea and large bowls of vegan chili. The exhausted part? Well, that stayed with me through Sunday.
I would like to say that it was an "epic" ride, because that would make me feel better about how much it took out of me. But it really was not epic. It was cold, but I've ridden in cold before. There were some headwinds, but I've ridden in wind before. So, no, it was not epic. But it was a challenge, and I have to admit that I loves me a challenge. It was a good day to ride, and it won't be long until I am allowed to dance on my pedals again. Then it will be a very good day to ride.