Thursday, March 1, 2012

my knees are older than i am

Portland has been experiencing some unseasonably cold weather this week, with lows in the 30's and highs barely making it above 45F. This morning I awoke to see the lawn and surrounding trees shrubs covered with about half an inch of snow.

It has been difficult to be excited about bicycling this winter and early spring.
The cold weather has gotten to me much more this year. My knees ache after long rides in very cold temperatures (and yes, I dress appropriately). My energy level is lower than it was at this time last year, though I know that a fair amount of that is based on emotional and mental stress. There was no money to rejoin the gym this year (and with me working two jobs there hasn't really been any time to schedule weekly workouts anyway); while my weight has held fairly steady since last year I definitely feel the difference in my energy levels from not having worked out this time around. I have verbally committed to racing short-track this summer but truthfully I have not yet found my sense of drive or excitement around it, and I'm concerned that June will sneak up on me and I won't be able to follow through. If my career transition continues as planned then cyclocross is likely over for me. I am surprised at how okay I am with that notion.

Meanwhile, I have mostly faithuflly plugged along on my morning and evening commutes, in all weather, giving myself permission to go multi-modal when the weather has been especially fierce and nasty outside. Riding from the bike shop to my synagogue job yesterday afternoon, I bundled up in layers of wool and wore full raingear, and was still badly chilled just riding the two and a half miles over the Willamette River and into the heart of the city. Wind gusts made the rain fall sideways and threatened to knock me off my bike as I rode over the Burnside Bridge. I was feeling a little battered by it all.

When I got to the synagogue and dismounted I could feel my right knee creak a tiny bit from the cold, and I was reminded that my knees are getting older faster than the rest of me. I'm not sure working out in the gym would forestall that process -- I could feel those twinges last year during my weekly regimen and the weight-work and stretching didn't seem to make them go away -- and I know that at some point time and age will win out over strength and endurance. It's kind of trippy to experience that as it's happening, to feel that awareness growing, as I stand up on my pedals to power up a hill and notice how my leg muscles respond with the fire but my knees are starting to complain a little at the demands made on them. Friends with things like better-paying jobs and health insurance have urged me to see a specialist, look into knee replacement and do all the other things that the medically insured can count on. I nod my head, smiled and ignore their suggestions, instead mentally noting the ways I can conserve what I have left by portioning out the good days and giving myself a break on the bad days. That is the best that I and many in my situation can hope to do.

I got some news this week about a friend who has struggled with his health. He'd had a bad fall last summer and had been hospitalized or living in assisted care since having surgery to repair his badly broken foot. He was sedentary, diabetic and needed to work on diet and physical activity in order to lose weight. I just learned a few days ago that due to an infection, his foot was not healing as hoped for and he was forced to undergo amputation of the foot to stem the infection and avoid potentially deadly complications. He will have to return to the assisted living/rehab facility and prepare for a prosthesis. The news blew my mind. I am thinking good thoughts on his behalf and hope that he will be able to make the emotional and physical adjustments needed for a complete recovery.

He's only a dozen years older than me. This also blows my mind.

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