The Big Ride has been incredible so far. Full of dizzying adrenaline-fueled highs, laughter that pierces the high desert plane, and more delicious food than you can probably imagine cramming into your digestive tract. I have also been subjected to its fiercest challenges already, injuring my knee on the first day.
We rode away from Seattle Pacific University on a misty, chilly, perfectly characteristic morning, bundled in our fluorescent rain jackets, stocked with snacks and water. I could not believe that I had started to ride and would not stop for seven weeks. For the first 2/3 of the ride, I felt fantastic, notwithstanding my first flat (the first of the Big Ride) in Redmond, WA.The winding road carried us through fuzzy temperate rainforests that looked made up for the screen, all the way up to the deafening roar of Snoqualmie Falls. We merged onto Interstate 90 to cross Snoqualmie Pass. This is where things took a turn for the dangerous, and perhaps the worst.
During the unrelenting ascent up the Pass, one of my fellow riders got a flat tire. We’d been sweating our way up the climb and the temperature had dropped to 50 degrees. It was raining. Two of us rode on to avoid hypothermia, but we had to call mechanical support to pick up the other two and they were very nearly hypothermic by the time Gene arrived. After I-90, there was the 7 mile climb up Denny Creek Rd. My knee was aching, so I stopped often and spun up in my little ring.
The last seven miles of the ride were absolutely excruciating. The climb had aggravated my quadriceps tendon and it was swollen. At the time, I was worried that I had ruined my knee, such was the pain and that my Big Ride was about to end. I was worried that I’d have to SAG the next day. I cried while I was rained on, pedaled with my left leg exclusively and made my way to the campsite in Easton, WA.
Somewhere along the line, I made my peace with riding in the SAG. And then I made the most of it, using it as an opportunity to document my fellow riders, who are all amazing and amusing. I helped at checkpoints, I packed up the lunch stop. I had a wonderful time with my ride leaders and Gene, our mechanical/medical crewman. My knee received alternating doses of Advil and Tylenol, ice, and plenty of elevation and compression.
Today I rode SAG for the first 40 miles and was able to talk to a physical therapist, who recommended a McConnell taping (which worked instantly to relieve the pain) and said that she’d rather me ride easily depending on my hamstrings and hip flexors more than sit in a van all day. I’m also to ice 3-5 x day, continue with my anti-inflammatory drugs. Shortly after hearing this news we chanced upon the lunch stop and gear truck.
So excited was I that I could bike again that I changed inside the gear truck, had my knee taped by future-doctor-Ben in the McConnell pattern and set off on the final 40 miles toward Odessa, WA. It was not easy, my left leg grew tired of compensating and my right hamstring and hip flexor grew tired of doing all the work. The scrubby scablands were long and fairly unchanging, and a brisk headwind slowed our journey. Still, the joy I felt riding again was thick, and I am happy to ride to Spokane tomorrow…77 miles of flood scoured channels and sage on a sunny, dry, 89 degree day.
We finished tonight with local beers, rich chicken enchiladas, spinach salad loaded with bacon and chevre, and rice and beans. A feast for a stalwart crew!
Pictures to come when I start my rest day in Spokane tomorrow night!