Story (No Pain, No Gain)

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No Pain, No Gain
By Elizabeth R. OuYang

While the motto of the first CMC weekend biking trip of the year was clearly “No pain, no gain”, the lingering question was “But, where is the gain?”  Knowing that for most of us, the first of the two days was going to be sheer pain, we took it in stride with our bikes and ben gae in hand.  Leaving from Chinatown, ten masochistic bikers set off for Mount Holly, New Jersey. With weather breaking temperatures in the 90’s earlier in the week, threatening clouds now hung low and a slight drizzle taunted us on the hour and a half car ride south.  For a fleeting moment, we almost detoured to Philadelphia’s Art Museum, but decided to risk it in the name of pain and head for our original starting point.   It turned out to be a lucky move as the clouds held back.

Not even five minutes on the bike route, we lost Kenny Lip and Nancy Liang, one of our-co-leaders.  Walkie talkies saved us as Charlie Ong, the front leader maneuvered them to where the rest of us were waiting.   Reunited, we forged on.  Just two miles later, we stumbled upon a homemade bakery where we devoured an assortment of baked goods sitting at picnic tables outside.   The baba rum muffin and the peach puff pastry were big hits. Well fed, we were ready now to concentrate on some serious biking.  We pedaled along paved roads lined with pine trees, open farms, blossoming pink and white trees and historical homes.  Then, we suddenly hit a stretch of foul smelling cow manure ( poop for lack of a better word)!  Unprepared and in shock, one by one, we pedaled quickly holding our breath with our noses turned up relieved that it lasted for less than a ½ mile.  We continued pedaling.   As we were heading down one long stretch, we hit a barricade in the middle of the street.  Two young men with butch haircuts in plainclothes informed us this was a military installation and because of 9/11, the road was closed.  Then it dawned on me that we were on Fort Dix Road!!  I’ve heard of the FortDix military training site, but didn’t realize it was in New Jersey!!  We were reluctant to turn back, not because we were unpatriotic and wanted to defy a military order, but because we didn’t want to have to pass the pasture of cow manure on the way back!!!  With no choice, we turned back, but this time prepared that the smell was soon approaching we biked at lightening speed through this section.  We learned if you want to bike fast, just put cow manure on the route for miles and you will bike at record speed!!!

The rest of the bike trip was relatively flat and we pedaled slowly on long stretches of major roads.  Kenny’s, Kelly Ko’s, Teang Chea’s and my upper thighs were beginning to feel the pain. Patricia Chea’s acute pain was in her buttocks, unaccustomed to sitting on the hard bike seat.  The pain for us became more and more severe as we biked on seemingly endless roads.  While flat roads are a good slow way to get back into biking, it also is exhausting because you have to pedal nonstop to keep propelling you forward. You don’t have the momentum to cheat and coast downhill.  Of course, Nancy, having broken in her thigh muscles the week before on a bike trip with Francis, happily reminded us repeatedly as we were moaning in pain that she didn’t feel any pain at all!!  At one point, Michael Tam remarked even he was tired.  Nevertheless, we would stop several times, stretch, pound and massage our thighs, share our misery, pedal on and alternate asking, “how much further?!”.  Patricia took advantage of every opportunity to stand.  As painful as it was, we knew we had to bare it and keep trecking on-this was the price to pay for not having biked all winter long. We meandered along passing (but not staying at) the oldest prison in the country.   After 30 well earned miles and nearly 6 hours later, we reached our starting point, exhausted.  The question remained, “Where was the gain?”

We then headed for our motel. On the way, I propped my legs up on Charlie’s dashboard over the heating vent hoping the heat would serve as a sauna for my sore muscles!!  Showers were sheer ectasy.  Afterwards, I applied ben gae generously, placed hot towels on my thighs and elevated my legs onto the bed post to relieve the pain.  I even ordered hot tea and wine to help soothe the muscles even more.   Part of the reward that night was feasting at an acclaimed Italian restaurant with CUSHIONED chairs.  With pizza bread on the house, we ordered clam casinos, fried calamari and breaded zucchini sticks for appetizers, followed by salads.  Entrees ranged from filet mignon, linguine with crab sauce, veal, asparagus wrapped in shrimp with a garlic lemon sauce over pasta to the catch of the day!  Mouth watering, eye popping, decadent desserts followed as we shared chocolate cheesecake, Italian tartufo and cappachino hazelnut ice cream.  While content and full, the added pounds were not the “gain” we had envisioned.

For some, the hard day riding was painful, for others it was sheer exhaustion. Sisters Patricia and Taeng crashed immediately after dinner.  Michael and Charlie were out in 15 minutes.  Francis, Mr. Rong, and Kenny were snoring shortly thereafter. However, the women in room 112 did not turn the lights off until 11:30 p.m.! That’s because Kelly was glued to the TV intent on finding a repeat run of “Friends” so Nancy and I gabbed and gabbed. Finally, after threats of forceful eviction, Kelly turned the T.V. off and we called it a night!!

The following morning, Nancy finally complained of pain.  The sore spot was her buttocks not because of biking, but because the mattress she slept on was not even!  That same morning, Charlie and Michael also admitted when directly confronted that their buttocks were sore from sitting on their hard bike seats. Even Francis Lo, veteran CMC biker, complained of pain in his wrists, however, he said it was not from biking, but from having played mahjong for too long the night before our trip!!  Only Mr. Rong was in denial insisting, “I do not have pain, I do not have pain.”  No matter what the source of the pain was, where was the gain?

The gain came on the second day.  Our starting point was LebanonStateForest and it was only 58 degrees outside.  This time we came prepared for pain.  The guys helped Patricia make a custom tailored padded seat by fastening her shirt around her bicycle seat with rubber bands.  Before mounting her bike, Kelly applied three coats of bengae to her upper thighs.  I stretched, stretched and stretched.

Charlie and Nancy mapped out a challenging route.  We would go for incremental stretches on roads lined with pine trees without stopping.  After the initial couple of miles, the first long stretch was five miles, the second 8 miles (all but Francis, stopped for a break at six miles), followed by another 6 mile stretch.  No longer in leg pain, although some of us still had pain in our buttocks, we all managed to bike these long stretches with relative ease.  We averaged 8 miles an hour, completing 25 miles in 3 hours!!!! What a marked improvement from the day before!! When we asked Michael, the designated sweeper what our timing was the day before, he flatly stated, “Very slow!!”  We were so pleased with ourselves.  Having pumped so hard for so long at such a good speed we had worked up quite an appetite.  However, on these long stretches, there were no restaurants, just rows and rows of pine trees.  We were starving. We finally came across a very small, but quaint local bar.  When we arrived, they only had one burger left!! We ordered chicken wings, French fries and spit pea soup.  Since this was mainly a bar, Francis insisted we must indulge and order beer.  Why not at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon after biking three long hours?  We made ourselves at home overtaking the place since there were only three other customers there.  We played pool and darts and listened to country records on the jute box!! It was fun!!

However, after having warmed up in the bar for an hour, when we went outside it became really cold and we had another mile or two to go.  But, we made it!!  Words cannot express the satisfaction we felt at our progress in just two days!!  All the pain on Saturday was worth it.  But there must be a better way so we don’t have to go through this agony at the start of each biking season.  I know, I know.  During the winter, work out on stationary bikes at a gym or take yoga classes. Maybe next winter.

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