The Dog Days

I see my vacation in the rearview mirror. A fading memory of a not-so-great week. (Eli’s injury, then illness, then an early return home. <<== Link). Susan scoured VRBO looking to rent a place at the beach for a few days as a family consolation prize. Apparently, a popular idea. No one vacationed last summer. Everyone on earth booked a house this year. No rentals to be found. A hotel room miles off the beach access road seems to be the only option. Or maybe a daytrip. Nine hours in the car, ten on the beach, I might be too old to pull that off.

I wish I could stop falling off my bike. Right, I wrote about Eli crashing on vacation, but me? Our first day home, I rode at the Farm. The mountain bike team I coach has a trail system on private property. Wooded swaths bordering a few crop fields, three-plus miles of trails already cut. Plans for more. Cleverly, we call it the Farm.

No one’s been riding there since our early May trail maintenance day. Thorn bushes encroached the paths. As I passed, they snagged my bare arms. Blood dripped from both hands before I completed a lap. In one tight area, a thorn-runner grabbed ahold and didn’t let go. I jerked my arm free and threw myself off balance. I landed on my forearm, wrenching my shoulder. A partial dislocation, it’s called a subluxation, something I’ve done a dozen times. Each day since, a bit more range of mobility returns. On day-one, I couldn’t put my phone in my back pocket.

The season started last night, the first practice of the year. Mostly healed, I led the green team on laps. The greens are the high schoolers. I’m supposed to coach the red team, the middle schoolers, they ride at a relaxed, cautious pace, much more my speed. A last-minute coaching shakeup put me with the greens. “Jeff, take them on some loops of the skinny line.”

I suck at skinnies. Our trail has four ten-foot-long raised half-log sections to balance on and ride across. They look like dugout canoes before the digging starts. I made a skinny in my back yard out of cinder blocks. I’m supposed to be practicing daily, but I don’t. Last night, on each loop, I rolled off the side of one or more logs. Not a big deal, they’re only a foot off the ground, but embarrassing when the coach can’t do the drill. The fourteen-year-old pinned to my back wheel no doubt judging me.

As I rolled off the side of a log on my last lap, my wheel dropped in a ditch. I launched over my handlebars and landed on that same forearm. I didn’t cuss, and I even laughed it off pretty quickly. The kid behind me, astonished and concerned: “God, are you all right?” By the time practice ended, my ribs hurt. Today, they’re sore to touch.

I have rashes trying to break through on both forearms. Trail building last weekend put me knee-deep in brush, creating a trail in what looked like a lightly wooded meadow. I could see poison ivy plants all around me as I mulched the undergrowth with a weed eater.  I’ve overdosed on Claritin all week, the antihistamines suppressing the allergic reaction. My arms are bumpy and itch a bit, but a full-fledged breakout still staved off by my pharmaceutical abuse. My wife and kids keep checking in with me about how many 24-hour doses I’ve taken each day.

I love summer. That’s what I tell everyone all winter. I really don’t mind being cold but the short days cut into my outdoor activities. I don’t mind being hot either, but for the past two weeks, the oppressive heat and humidity have irritated me. I don’t feel well. Various aches and pains and now itchiness leave me in a bad mood. I know these weeks bracketing the solstice are a gift. Daylight until nine o’clock, I should be hiking after work and running at sunset. Instead, I’ve sat in my house, injured, sulking, planning how I might coach the reds.

I’m fighting against the feeling that I’m already stuck in the dog days. It’s too early in the summer to dream about fall. I’ve been looking forward to the mountain bike season since October, I want to embrace it. With vacation ‘out of the way’ my weekends are free to pop out to the state forest to hike, bike and run whenever I want. So what if it’s hot? I’ll drink more water. So what if I have nagging injuries? They’re an expected side effect of mountain biking at fifty-eight years old. Eli, now fifteen and only three weeks out from his injury, is already taking small bike rides around the neighborhood. My days of being an elastic teenager are long gone, but my enthusiasm hasn’t faded. Sometimes I just need a little push.

Photo by Tony Sebastian on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “The Dog Days

    • It’s a valid question. I’ve done plenty of destroying in the name of fitness. In this case I’m not sure it’s really the same thing. Getting kids (boys and girls) into the woods and on bikes IMO is a pretty important goal. The benefits my son has received from joining a mountain biking team are simply immeasurable. He’s a completely different kid. I’m hoping this is just a run of bad luck.

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      • My husband feels the same way about team sports and about getting kids outside – he used to be a camp counsellor and he taught swimming at the ymca year round. He also used to play raquetball (up to national championships), hockey, baseball and tae kwon do He still golfs. He is 62 and every joint in his body is shot. I feel so bad for him for all the pain he is in. He doesn’t have an answer for me either.

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  1. Geez, that stinks. I am sorry you fell again and are feeling so many aches and pains. Fall IS my favorite season with spring at a close second. The past three days here have been in the 90’s with so much humidity. I don’t know what the real feel is but the film of sweat that constantly covers my body says the temp is even higher. I’m hoping for a thunderstorm to chase this nasty heat away. For you, I hope you can get into the activities with Eli soon since it is what you were looking forward to and excited for. It is also good to hear he is back up and riding again. Take it easy, or easier, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

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    • We were supposed to get a huge thunderstorm tonight which never materialized. It’s like soup outside. I don’t mind the heat, but this humidity is ridiculous. I’m not sure we’ve ever used our AC so steadily in June before,

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  2. Honestly, you make off-road biking sound terrifying. I had to google “Skinnies” to try and understand what you were describing. Holy crap. I have a hard time biking on a trail intended for bike and pedestrian traffic. I’d say kudos for your stamina, but I am a tad concerned for your enthusiasm for a sport that dislocates you on a regular basis.

    And, I’ve had the poison ivy. Totally not fun at all. Hopefully the Benadryl will do the trick. I had to go on Prednisone because I had such a bad outbreak. The oatmeal baths are a myth. It did absolutely nothing to help and required me to painstakingly pick bits of oatmeal out of my tub for quite a while afterward. Good luck on your road to recovery. Try not to subluxate anything else.

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    • I promise, what ever you saw on youtube is 30 times harder than our skinnies. No one would post videos of what we’ve got. I really need to stop falling. the trails aren’t even remotely difficult. I just need to get my head in the game. After years of trial and error, I’ve found that the only thing that works for poison ivy is the antihistamine overdose.

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  3. Here’s hoping summer only gets better for you from this (low) point!

    I hate falling. It hurts. It takes more drugs and time to recover from each fall. But I try to put a positive spin on them: I’m still out there, pushing my limits, kicking “aging” to the curb.

    For better or worse, you seem to have the same mindset 🙂

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  4. What a rough patch. I would have ditched the bike by now to save my body, but I know that’s not you. Hope you feel better soon and get to do some of the fun summer stuff you planned with your family.

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  5. as you note, I guess it comes with the territory of trying to stay in shape as we age. It seems like it is easier to injure ourselves and it takes longer to recover. I am sure you will be back out in nature in no time…

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    • In truth, I’m getting far less hurt than I expected a fall would produce when I restarted mountain biking a a couple of years ago. I hope to be in nature pretty much nonstop starting an hour from now until Monday night. I’ll just be moving slower.

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