d a i l y   d o g 't o o n s w o r d s c a m s t u f f r a d i o   f r e e   d o g p a t c h

"A dumb joke is better than a smart bomb." — Roy Blount Jr.

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    Our bodies are women who were never meant to be faithful to us.

    — Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser, Braided Creek

A mad dog hobbled by an overuse injury

. . . and no, it's not his mouth

  By Patrick O'Grady
Mad Dog Media

NTIL I TWEAKED MY LEFT ACHILLES' TENDON IN JANUARY, I'd never had what I thought of as an actual sports injury. Oh, I've rubbed off yards of hide, spilled gallons of blood and even snapped a couple of collarbones, but that's just about falling off the bike. Operator error.

  What I'm talking about here is an overuse injury, the kind that TV sportscasters describe by location (a "knee") and old-school coaches and inadequate health-insurance plans insist you ignore ("You gotta play hurt!").

  No doubt I have been spared this sort of thing for a half-century because my youthful forays into sport generally involved load-bearing activities; you know, stuff you can do in a pool, or maybe a poolroom, or even lying down.

  This is not to say such activities are entirely without risk. The captain of my high-school swim team once got drilled amidships by a diver during practice and was hauled unconscious from the water. Another teammate split open both heels on the wall during a poorly timed flip turn. And plenty of us barfed in the pool during early season speed workouts, which made the swimming a tad sticky, like doing 100-yard freestyle repeats in a vat of watery soup from the school cafeteria.

  As for poolrooms, they have been known to contain pool cues, which can be put to any number of appalling uses never intended by their designers, especially if the cue-wielder has discovered you lying down with someone he is unreasonably fond of, perhaps even married to. Happily, I was a Foosball player. The worst an irate Foosball player can do is chuck one of those little balls at you.

  Despite these and other hazards, I remained free of chronic injuries until I took up running, which has finally set me to stumping grumpily around podiatrists' offices like Long John Silver, with a distinct list to port. Give me a peg leg and a parrot and I'm a lock for a role in the next Johnny Depp pirate flick. Arrrr.

  Wrong Way. Moving to running from cycling is exactly back-asswards from how most people make the switch. Even Dubya managed to get it right, which makes it practically the dictionary definition of a "no-brainer."

  Frankly, were it not for cyclocross, which I discovered in the late 1980s, I never would have run a step. Not with empty hands, anyway. As a kid, I hated gym-class laps around the track the way Dick Cheney hates the living.

  But back in the days of Lyotard pedals and bar-end shifting, 'cross involved a good deal of running, just like larceny or adultery. And so rather than relearn this despicable practice every fall, I decided to run year-round, just enough to keep the Alzheimer's off my legs' muscle memory: "Eh? You want us to do what? Say, what kind of shoes are those? Help, help, police!"

  An added inducement was that running is useful when encountering critics of one's work, as some Danish newspapermen have recently discovered. As the late Richard Pryor noted in "Live In Concert": "You never can tell what will happen. You be out in the street and somebody could jump on you. Your legs got to be in shape in case you have to run. Run. If you can. If you can't run, fly."

  The Agony of De Feet. I never could fly. And now I can't run, not even if I catch fire. I can still ride, but if some literary critic jumps on me and there's no bicycle handy, I'm gonna be busing tables in Hell while Richard kills at the Lake O' Fire Improv.

  Three weeks after my injury left me unable to set foot to floor, my usual Monday-morning footwork involved a 30-minute walk, with quarter-inch cork lifts in the heels of both shoes pending the arrival of some exorbitantly priced orthotics that did to my Medical Savings Account what the White House wants to do to the entire health-care system.

  Once I warmed up and quit limping I felt the old urge to run, or at least jog. But the tendon murmured, "Oh, I wouldn't do that if I were you."

  Now it tells me.

  • A version of this column can be found in the March 2006 issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.
  • the back yard

    Most of this crap was bought and paid for by the fine folk at Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a trade mag in Laguna Hills, California, that has had the misfortune to employ me at a distance since 1992. The rest of it is the fault of VeloNews, the Boulder-based Journal of Competitive Cycling, whose readers I have been annoying since 1989. None of it is any problem of mine. They made me do it; they offered me money.

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    Words and pictures on the DogPage © 2006 by Patrick O'Grady/Mad Dog Media. All rights and most lefts reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed, laser-printed, photocopied, crocheted into a sampler, knitted into a sweater, tattooed on a floozy, spray-painted on an overpass, tapped out in Morse code, sublimated onto a jersey, shared in whispers in the back row of an adult theatre, shouted from the rooftops, scored for the Crusty County Symphony Orchestra, translated into Squinch, or communicated via telepathy without the permission of and the hefty payment to a heavily armed, whiskey-addled cyclo-cross addict who knows where you live. Bonehead shysters and the simpletons who employ them, take note: The opinions expressed on the DogPage contain toxic quantities of hyperbole, satire, parody and humor. Pah-ro-dee. Hyyuuu-mor. Acquire a sense of same or read at your own risk.