"Oh, no!" my wife said. She tried to steady the camera but couldn't keep it still as the laughter poured out of her. "Thank God we didn't grow up in the 70s."
In the past, I've grown beards to sprout good luck, to sport the grizzly look whilst camping (or simply out of laziness on vacation), and even to try a playoff beard on for size. Actually, I can remember as far back as my senior year in high school, and my first (failed) attempt at a goatee. Just never could get that connector to grow in.
But never had the beard been a symbol of my discontent. Rather, it was something to be celebrated. This time around, the itching wasn't simply something to endure, it was torturous. Still, I kept it. It became, as one co-worker pointed out, a revolt, a firm stand against this senseless punishment my body seemed fit to dole out. In the words of Dee Snider, "We're not gonna take it. No!" This time, I couldn't wait for it to come off.
Once the ortho told me Sunday could be the day, I aimed my focus there. I just wanted to cover two measely miles on the treadmill (a flat, forgiving surface). Two miles. A distance that was once a warmup would now become a triumph.
Prefontaine, the 70s, and my dad's singlet
from that era, what could possibly go wrong?
I stretched all week, sometimes twice a day. I could feel the relief coming in those tight, crunchy ligaments around my knee. The hours crept by on Sunday, and finally I got up the nerve to drive down to the gym. There were four cars in the parking lot. All four people were on the treadmill. Seriously? Don't these people know how lucky they are that they could be running outside?
I retreated to what I can only call the "aerobics room," where I stretched...and waited.
Finally, one became free. Then it hit me all at once. I actually had to run now. So I climbed on. Visions of my knee buckling and me ending up tangled (and mangled) in the quad extension machine behind the treadmill flashed in my head.
I started slow and let the machine gather speed. I hit 8:30 pace and was off on a slow trot. One of the many things I hate about the treadmill though is that it always feels like you're running much faster than you really are. Thud! Thud! Thud! The clock ticked and the distance gained. Point-one miles and no pain. "Really?" I thought. No, not really. The pain came. It started on the inside of my knee where "me-as-a-fetus" failed me. But I pressed on. Then it disappeared...and surfaced in my IT band. Still, I ran on, deciding now to increase the pace.
At one mile, the pain had traveled to the front of my knee. I increased the pace more. Hey, it seemed to help.
I started looking at the odometer and breaking it down by laps around the track. "Two laps the track," I repeated. The pain eased the faster I got. I could hear things crackling, as if the running was shattering all the badness that had accumulated over the last few weeks. "One lap the track!" I focused on my reflection in the window. Trying to eek out some good form and put these two miles behind me.
"Beard of my Discontent"?
The bell tolls for thee.
"2.0" it said. I smacked the board with my palm trying to find the decrease speed button, before I noticed the big red button that simply said "stop." I don't know how to work these things. I hopped off, a smile breaking over my face, and walked back to the aerobics room pain free. I stretched, popped up, and walked out of the gym into the cold afternoon. I ran my fingernails through the beard, one last gesture of good bye.
My wife got home from yoga and asked how it went. "You've still got a beard," she said with obvious concern.
"It went...mostly fine. I waited for you so you could take pictures." (I have a blog after all.)
So we went upstairs and celebrated the removal of beard of my discontent...and had some fun at its expense.
Fresh face, fresh outlook, fresh start.
As RunDanRun commented, I've "got a date with Boston."