Day 7: Copley to Youngstown

Today was a real mental test of mind over pain. The knee problems mentioned in my last report worsened. The day started out in rain. What more could I ask for?

As I began the ride, my knee felt a little stiff, but it was manageable. I was in home territory so I felt comfortable with the roads, knowing what lay ahead, including the pit of water I knew would be at the bottom of Sand Run Road. I warned everyone I could about it so that they would not go speeding down the road only to hydroplane in what was sure to be high water. However, it turned out the road was closed and the part of the road where the water was gushing was blocked off. We had to climb onto the limestone hiking path to get around the river of water and then ride to the other side. A lot of people got flats right after this point. Gatorskins rock — I had no problems.

After breakfast with Michael and Randy, I headed off on the shorter route (70 miles), which involved a climb up Theiss. Sure seemed tougher to climb than it had a couple weeks ago when I climbed on a Thursday night ABC ride. Additionally, when I got to the end of it, I realized my knee was really hurting. The next several miles down Bath Road to Graham were extremely painful. But there was no drug store (that I knew of) along the way where I could purchase a full knee brace. I resolved to continue on the route to Kent where I figured I’d eventually run into one.

This involved several miles on the rolling stretch of bike path between Silver Lake and Kent. As I turned onto Middlebury Road in Kent, I had a mental breakdown right before a really easy hill where the pain in my knee was throbbing so bad that I started to cry–mostly I was crying because I was afraid I was going to have to sag out of the ride only 15 miles in, but I was also crying because of the pain each little climb caused my knee.

Finally, I got myself composed and continued on to Route 59 where the route, thankfully, turned down 43–right past a CVS and a Walgreens. I stopped into Walgreens and purchased a knee brace and a bottle of ibrophin which I promptly took. At first, the knee brace only seemed to help moderately. I had to climb out of Kent on Summit Road, which is a big hill, but I forced myself to press on. I figured I could push on for the next 10 miles and see how I feel. I did not want to give up on this ride.

Fortunately, I figured out that I needed to gear really low on all the hills. Therefore, bumps I would normally have taken in my middle ring I now had to take in my granny gear. I spun a lot to try to maintain some semblence of speed. By mile 35 in Edinburg, I resolved to push through this ride. I decided I would ride slow and take it at my pace but that, damn it, I was going to finish this thing. I’d come so far, I couldn’t give up now.

This attitude resulted in me pushing forward non-stop. I only stopped to grab an occasional picture, more water, and once at McD’s to grab two cheeseburgers which I wolfed down. I knew that if I stopped to rest for any length of time, I would end up quitting. I took more ibprofin and pushed on. Pretty soon, it seemed as if my knee had numbed enough to be tolerable.

I was on my own all day as Michael and Randy took the 100 mile route. Probably a good thing because I would have held them back I was so slow. And because it would have been so easy for me to sag out when by myself, there is something to be said, I think, of my emotional and mental stamina. I won’t even let myself bail on myself.

The only thing that sucked about being alone is the portion through the ghetto of Youngstown. It was a little dicey in spots. One road along the route contained houses that all had their windows knocked out. Ikes!! (I was told later that I hadn’t even seen the true ghetto).

I was glad to see Youngstown State University ahead, even if it was uphill. I climbed slowly and got there with a sigh of relief. I’d made it. Yeah, my leg was very stiff and sore when I removed the knee brace. But I’d made the 70 mile haul anyway. It is completely true that I have to be in really bad shape to drop out of a ride. I hope this survival attitude continues to get me through everything in life. I’ve always said that I excel at suffering. Though, I do seem to grumble a lot about it.

Tomorrow is just 32 miles. It will be uphill. My goal is, if anything, to make it to the PA border. Then my mission is considered complete. But I hope to finish this out so that I don’t hate myself the rest of the year. I only hope that I didn’t ruin my climbing leg for the rest of the season. Right now, my right leg is basically along for the ride as my left leg has switched to doing all the work. I am so frustrated I could cry. I thought I was invincible. I’ve never had knee trouble before. This os very disheartening…

Anyway, I’m off to the beer tent to drown my sorrows in crappy beer and reflect on the good things that happened this week. Ice my knee and put the brace back on. Good grief, I’m a cripple.

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