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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

As part of my bounceback initiative, I've adopted a policy of accepting as many random invitations as possible. Along those lines, my good friend, D (a former adversary in professional terms), invited me to hike Old Rag on a Friday morning with him and a friend of his who was visiting from Wyoming. I thought it would be a fun opportunity to enjoy a beautiful day and meet a new person, so I said "yes" without hesitating. I had another tennis match on the calendar for Sunday but I figured two days would give me ample time to recover from the hike. 
Old Rag is both lush and rocky.  Greenery blankets the whole mountain but as you approach the summit you start to see clusters of boulders at regular intervals, too. Some sit in jagged clumps on the ground, but others look like they’re leaping off the side of the mountain.  The gravity-defying groups jut out at improbable, precipitous angles and balance on each other as delicately as if they were Cirque du Soleil acrobats instead of three ton hunks of granite. The hiking gets slower and more technical in this area, and single lane passages create bottlenecks. My attempt to help D --who was hiking just behind me and is of medium build--navigate one such tricky crevasse and gain purchase on the rock above caused my right hamstring to secede from the rest of my leg. The episode reminded me of that cliché about pulling a camel through the eye of the needle, except you’d have to add a phase where you first hoist the camel up from the bottom of an elevator shaft. By Saturday evening my hamstring didn't seem inclined to rejoin the union at all, much less in time for Sunday’s match. It refused to accept any weight I tried to put on it. I couldn't consider forfeiting but the prospect of taking the court looking like a raqcuet-wielding flamingo was less than appetizing.
I spent the night in the company of an ice pack, with good results. When I awoke Sunday morning I was delighted to discover I no longer felt a blazing rush of pain when I performed certain activities, like inhaling. Still, I had to play.  I drove gingerly to the Four Seasons Tennis Club in Fairfax. My parents showed up to spectate at my match, which my father later described as “just like Breakfast at Wimbledon, without the strawberries and cream or the talent.”  But before I took the court he was all business. While my mom was busy telling me to enjoy myself out there, Papa Yank rolled out helpful sportsmanlike comments such as, “If you get her down, step on her.”  (I should note that he cemented his cheerleader reputation in my childhood, during my sisters’ and my soccer games.  Nothing rallied the troops on the field like an inspirational “Get the lead out!”) 
If my opponent feared an encounter with my Size 9s, she sure didn’t show it, whereas her soles hovered near my neck so often that I would buy her a pair of 8s with no fear of having to return them.  To give her proper credit, she was a much better player than I.  But I also committed an early strategic blunder by taking the court in an Ace bandage wrapped so tightly around my hamstring that my right thigh looked like a water balloon in the grip of arm wrestler.  My opponent saw my limited mobility and wisely exploited it.  The good news is that she didn’t exactly kick my teeth in. (I claimed one game out of two sets and brought several to deuce repeatedly.) But something more than standard issue floss was needed to extract all the neon fuzz I ate.

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