Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pulling Weeds & Hamstrings

You know why cyclists, and other pro athletes, seem to retire around age 38 or so? It’s not because they are past their prime, achieved all their goals or ended up with their name on an El Puerto list.  It’s because they got to the age where they own houses and grass and gardens and planter boxes and all the muscle ripping ligament tweaking upkeep that comes with it. 

By nature, cyclists appreciate beauty and therefore cannot turn their back on garden weeds or burnt out patches of grass.  They seek perfection in form and movement.  The flow of sweet single track and echelons that mimic migratory flight, engrain the theory of natural order in a cyclists noggin.  Tell me you don’t want your yard to look like a Graham Watson photo of a flowing flowered French countryside or Colorado Aspens framing a meadow. 

The grass in my yard must be even height.  Weeds cannot distract my eyes from the roses.  Planter boxes perched above a cobbled patio must elicit the feeling of an Italian café.  However, the fitness developed from riding bikes drains out the second you stoop over and pull weeds from the garden, leaving you a quivering worthless heap.

After a landscaping project last fall, wheel barrows and burly men in steel toed boots carrying plants, soil and sod up the hill and into our backyard put the hurt on our already hurting side yard.  In hindsight, a neurotic side-effect of cycling, maybe I should’ve anticipated the traffic on the path and had them sod the side yard too.  Second guessing aside, my nagging sense of natural order told me that I had to patch the grass, pronto! 

Cyclists learn from their mistakes.  The last time I worked in the garden, pulling weeds, I also pulled some hamstrings.  You would think that being fit and flexible, having the ability to ride for hours, bunny hop and cyclocross would keep us immune from the aches and pains of the typical fatso doing yard work, but that’s not so.  I would hedge a guess that even the great Eddie Merckx, whose toughness on the bike gave him the nickname “The Badger,” fell victim to his own bull-headed cycling stubbornness, and was eventually demoralized working solo in his Belgian garden.  For cyclists, gardens are kryptonite.

To keep the Kryptonite from exacting its toll, this time I decided that it wasn’t wise to bend over at the waist to patch the grass.  To avoid unnecessary hunching, crouching and stooping, I would kneel on one knee, a brilliant tactic I thought.  My strategy was to patch the hillside going left to right in rows starting at the bottom, to minimize travel up and down the hillside.  Like systematically putting food in my outside jersey pockets and spare tube in the middle, I laid the buckets, hose, trowel, claw and bag of seed mix in a systematic order in front of me to avoid overreaching and contorting my body in unnatural positions.  I stayed hydrated.  I even took two breaks and a natural. 

For three and a half hours I patched.  Standing on the sidewalk, looking up the hillside I admired my work.  In two weeks I’d have grass-babies.  In a few months cyclists from all around would come to my yard, tuck their sunglasses in their helmets, and ponder the plush even looking grass.  By the end of summer it’d be worth the attention of Graham Watson’s lens.

For three days I’ve been sore.  While not as crippling as last time, the garden got me again.  It put the whammy on my right glute and hamstring.  I haven’t ridden a bike since.  Thankfully it’s a rest-week.  Aside from training to become more fit as a gardener, or crawling through the garden like a snake pulling weeds with my mouth, I’ve realized the best way a cyclist can achieve natural nirvana and avoid getting hurt in the garden, is to hire a team. 

A typical landscaping crew is remarkably like a bike team.  There’s the team leader that doesn’t do any work unless it’s of the highest order and there’s the strong domestiques that slog the wheel barrows and plants from the truck to the yard.  It’s no surprise the landscaping cyclists that I know are usually the owners of the company, immune from the hard labor.  Attacking my garden on my own is like being in a race without the support of a team, doomed to take on every weedy attack on my own.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a cyclist I disagree, my yard can go to seed because when the sun shines I'm going cycling not weeding :)

Which is probably why it hurts so much once you finally do get around to it.

Eddy Merckx was not The Badger, that was Bernard Hinault...