Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Feeling stronger, but more uncertain

Today is Day 10 off the bike, and I have to admit, it’s killing me ... slowly. Every day, I develop a little more range of motion in my knee. And every day, I take that range a little too far. In the morning, I’m on top of the world and bounding up hills. And in the evening, I’m sore, stiff and frustrated, and rifling through the yellow pages to find sports medicine doctors. But I never call them when the morning comes. This evening, however, I’m announcing my intentions on my blog. Hopefully, it will hold me accountable for at least giving a doctor a call.

Today, I stretched my knee and coaxed it just beyond a 90-degree angle. I started out 10 days ago with a rigid 180-degree leg. After a day, I could bend it to 170 degrees, 160 degrees, and so on. It’s a strange way to heal, and it always makes me feel a day away from invincible when I get up in the morning. Now that I’m about a day away from being physically able to turn pedals again, I figure I should at least seek out some professional advice that I can ignore.

Since my walking ability has been upgraded to almost “normal,” I decided today was the day to do an “up” walk. I laced up my Montrail Susitna running shoes - which I was elated to find on super clearance more than a month ago and still haven’t used - and started pounding up the Dan Moller trail. The trail basically starts just outside my front door by following a snowy path up two unplowed streets, then diverges on a steep singletrack that connects with the snowmobile trail. Since I’ve only ever ridden the Don Moller on my bike, I’ve only ever seen the snowmobile trail. And I realized that today, more than six months after moving in next door, I was hiking up a trail I had never used before, wearing winter running shoes that I had never even before bothered to wrestle out of the closet. And I thought ... wow ... I really do ride my bike too much.

It felt good to get out for a real hike. But it doesn’t help my physical health to be so excited about the Iditarod Invitational. Today’s developments were equally inspiring. The peloton of three cyclists pulled out of Nikolai just before 8 a.m., and rolled together across the finish line at 3:20 p.m. for a three-way second-place tie that trailed Pete by nearly 20 hours. Further back on the trail, the weather took a hideous turn for the worst. -30 degree temperatures coupled with 45 mph winds created wind chills on the pass that were off the charts. After starting the traverse to Rohn, most of the remaining cyclists at that point were turned around with varying stages of frostnip. Several scratched. Another guy I’m rooting for, Brij, opted to wait out the storm. He’s currently at the Puntilla checkpoint, and I’m crossing my fingers that he’ll finish the race.

Either way, I was feeling inspired to bound up the hill in my brand new sneakers, iPod thumping and sunlight blazing off the white snow. The temperature read 11 degrees when I left, and I thought about how beautiful and warm it was here; how enjoyable it would be to go home, ice my knee and eat a Boca burger for lunch; and how much I envied those still healthy and strong, and still turning their cranks out on the frozen Iditarod trail.