Thursday, November 30, 2006

Joy & Pain

Yowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! What the &#$&*#, I thought to myself as I sat on my chair at work this afternoon in entirely the wrong way producing a sharp zinger of a pain.

Something painful, soft, inflammed, sore, ouch, ouch, OUCH. I dart into the bathroom and do my best imitation of a pornographic pretzel to find a saddle sore the size of the Chicagoland area between my legs.

Dear god. It’s huge. How does one get something like this? I’ve been riding lately, but not spending nearly that much time in the saddle. A few 2 hour rides a few times a week. But certainly no mega-miles that would create conditions ripe for one of these.

How is it I trained for Ironman all summer without so much as a scratch and just today I unearthed this saddle sore AND slammed my finger in a door proving that at age 31 you can still feel a physical pain that will produce instant tears (note: I have not experienced the pain of childbirth and I assume that pain will produce a steady stream of tears and punches towards my husband).

And now this. This hideous, bulbous saddle sore that I swear just mumbled something to me along the lines of you thought you’d sneak through a whole year without me, eh?

Must be Canadian. Perhaps I picked it at short course du worlds in CornerBrook this summer? I knew those Canucks were up to something – first you pay for cream in your coffee, then they’ve stricken you with saddle sores...

How does one treat a saddle sore? Warm compress? Medicated cream? Do I name it? How about Sam, as in how in the sam-hell did I get this thing? And how long until it goes away?

Who can I even ask? I consider turning to the most knowledgeable, experienced source in all things cycling.

My husband.

I’ll confess for him (he loves when I do this) - Chris gets saddle sores from time to time. I know this because he enjoys showing them to me from time to time. He comes ambling into my bathroom in the morning, muttering something about lotion popo-tion, stealing any medicated cream he can find in my drawer and threatens to show me a less than pretty part sore on his legs. I usually roll my eyes or depending on the level of threat that he will actually follow through and show me – I bolt past him and run away.

I always assumed saddle sores were the result of less than perfect hygiene. Not that my husband has hygiene issues, but boys in general are smelly and get things like saddle sores. Girls don’t. So what gives? My hygiene is nothing short of impeccable. Heck, some days go by and I’ve taken not one, not two, but three showers.

Seeking a solution, I approached Chris after dinner. I told him I had something disgusting to show him. Oh, I’ve been waiting years to say something like that to him. It was finally my turn to turn the tables, to show him something that would make him cringe with fear while shouting what the hell is that like the time he showed me the oozing, red sores on his stomach when he caught a case of impetigo (from swimming in a pond in Ohio that could only be described as a litter box for a thousand geese) or the time he demanded sponge baths after a crash in a criterium left him with weeping, bleeding, scabs from road rash.

And so, after dinner, I suggested we move from the kitchen into better light so I could reveal my saddle sore. In other words, I wanted to be sure he no way, no how missed any disgusting detail of this thing. The better lighting must have worked because upon seeing it he shouted “AH! What the hell is THAT!?”

Victory is mine! Inside I am laughing a million priceless laughs pent up from years of not acquiring anything on my body that would elicit that type of reaction – though I tried – the stitches in my finger after a work-related incident with a pair of scissors and a coyote pelt, the time I got trenchmouth, when I had the stomach flu and shit myself silly for three days straight. All good tries, but not good enough. But this…..

“I don’t know. I think it’s a saddle sore,” I said timidly.

He’s seen enough of his own saddle sores and the sores of countless other friends that I thought he would have seen it all by now. But apparently this even took him for surprise.

That’s no saddle sore,” he quickly replied wagging his finger in the direction of what now felt more like a Mauna Kea-sized volcano ready to erupt between my legs.

He was still marveling at the size of it when he finally spoke, “How long has it been there?”

When I told him just a day, he looked doubtful. Something that size could take years to come to the surface, years.

“Does it hurt?” he asked, inching closer to it.

This is why men don’t make good mothers. Does it hurt. Does that bump between your legs that registers in at 300 feet above sea level- and rising - hurt. Does a monkey like bananas? Of course it hurts. From the minute I noticed it ‘til the minute I showed it to him, it had been throbbing in angry pain. Add to that the fact that I rode on my trainer tonight (brilliant move, I know) and it was like someone had put a pummelo (unusually large grapefruit hybrid weighing it at over 5 pounds with a circumference of 8 inches) on the right side of my saddle and said ‘and now enjoy your ride’. Every pedal stroke, all 100 revolutions-per-minute for 45 minutes reminded me that it was there and it wasn’t going away.

“What do I do for it?” I asked.

Oddly enough, I had witnessed the care of many a man’s saddle sores on Ragbrai. I remember the time Andy aired himself dry while lounging in a lawn chair after applying new skin to his sore. The time Joe painted his sore with new skin and then used the air mattress pump to blow the area dry. And since you only get saddles sores in bodily areas where the sun don’t shine, seeing grown men do this, in the middle of someone’s backyard in small town Iowa is quite the sight.

Chris rattled off a few remedies, tea tree oil, Bactroban, assuring me that it would recede quickly. And I thought to myself – great – yet one more ritual to add to my routine of daily maintenance as a result of my triathloning. The ingrown toenail from a cycling shoe that fit too tight, the dry skin from the pool, the bunions from miles of running. Add to it one angry saddle sore, 12 inches in diameter.

At times like this, you wonder why you do it. Why you willingly engage in these activities that create conditions for so many aches, pains, sores and such. Why you insist on hopping on a bike 3 – 4 times each week, jumping in the pool at 5:30 in the morning, running in the darkness being beaten with cold rain. Why? Do we like the difficulty of it all, do we crave the pain? Or do we experience it so often that it just turns off in our head until we don’t feel it anymore?

It reminds me of that cheesy song from the 90’s, something along the lines of ‘joy….and pain….sunshine…and rain.' All of a sudden I feel the need to pump it up. Anyways, it is a fine line of joy and pain, pleasure and hurt. For example, I was in the weight room the other day, doing a circuit of about 10 exercises, 30 reps of each 3 times through. In my mind, I could see the tiny muscle fibers stretching, tearing, breaking down as I pushed it a little farther. And I thought to myself, I love this. The feeling of getting weaker to get stronger, hurting to feel good. Riding the line of pleasure and pain.

Perhaps that is why this morning I headed to the pool with one sore bicep, one toenail still ingrown, eyes weary from sleep, and a band-aid between my legs to conceal the saddle sore - still there and it hadn’t gone down. But the swimming felt darn good.

One thing is for sure in all of this pleasure and pain – I will be feeling the pain of this saddle sore for a little while longer before it completely turns off. Because it is angry and it is ready to roar. Until then, I think I will revel and gloat in the pure joy of my ability to get saddle-sore-status updates from my husband whom I will force to look at it daily until it goes down.

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