I took this photo yesterday, prior to my riding lesson, with the intent of then writing some deeply meaningful post about deciding to really get serious about riding again on the eve of my 40th birthday.
Instead, I would like to tell you a story that ends with me not-so-silently weeping in my bathroom while pouring a gallon of milk over my bare legs.
It started shortly after this photo was taken with a tiny, seemingly meaningless, request by my instructor: Shift the core of your balance in the stirrup more toward the inside of your foot.
Ok, no big deal…I hadn’t even really thought about how my weight was balanced to the outside. I’ve been dinking around on trails and riding western and not thinking about my equitation for a verrrrrrrrry long time, but if that was all I needed to fix, no biggy, right?
Oh dear lord, no.
That was my main thought for the rest of my lesson as the “tiny” shift brought into focus a myriad of entirely unused muscles in my upper thigh. Like angry monkeys awakened from a long sleep, they roared to life and proceeded to scream their displeasure for the rest of the lesson. You really wouldn’t think your thighs would be so connected to your foot but you would be wrong. By the lesson’s end, my legs were jelly and my pride was entirely liquidated. But the worst was yet to come.
“Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness” or “DOMS”…it’s a new sports medicine term I learned today after a period in which my leg muscles progressively worked themselves into a frenzy of pain every time I rose or sat down. I felt fine once sitting or standing but the motion in between, (the squat position that also happens to be akin to how one hold soneself in the saddle) was a fountain of misery and worsening by the hour.
By late afternoon, I started having long debates with myself over whether I really needed to use the toilet. Surely I could just wait out the pain? How long could it really last? If I quit drinking, I can definitely make it a good 2-3 days, right?
That’s when I read more on MOPS and various sports medicine sites suggested increasing blood flow (to speed of healing) and that products like Tiger Balm or BenGay can help by “distracting” the nervous system with their cold/hot topical chemical mix. So I opted for a long hot shower and when I emerged, skin red from the heat of the water, I slathered on a coat of minty smelling cream from my knees on up.
A moment passed. Then another.
Then the cursing began.
Increased blood flow combined with the pore opening effects of the shower meant the BenGay FLOWED into my central nervous system and while yes, I no longer noticed the muscle soreness, it was because my CNS has decided that my legs were actually on fire and sending roaring pain signals straight to my brain.
Two minutes in and my silent cursing turned into a loud monotone of “f*ck, f*ck, f*ck” as I tried to keep it together and think of a fix. I knew from experience that washing it off would not work, and would likely only make it worse. Water and menthol don’t play well.
That’s when I had the great idea to pour milk on my legs. After all, you drink milk to relieve the burning pain signals from the capsaicin of hot peppers, it should work for this too, right? Right?
Through gritted teeth, I yelled to my 8-year-old to please bring Mommy the gallon of milk from the fridge to the bathroom. She moved quickly, having gotten the urgency of the situation from my various panged utterances heard through the door. I took the milk and shut the door again. There are some disgraces you must bear alone.
And so it was that I stood in my shower, desperately pouring milk on my chemically burned legs, hoping beyond hope the cold milk would stop the madness.
It did not.
But time did, as it does with these things.
So instead of a lovely soliloquy on “chasing your dreams” even while you straddle the step to middle age, I’m here to tell you a story of how a nearly 40-year-old woman covered herself in BenGay, screamed, cried, then poured all the family’s milk down the drain (sorry guys, no cereal for breakfast tomorrow) in a desperate effort to stop the pain of her self-induced chemical burn.
I remember turning about 25 and thinking “Man, I am going to lose my ‘oh, I was just young and stupid’ excuse for doing dumb things soon”.
It appears you will indeed lose the “young” part of that excuse but never the “stupid”.