So, As My Thighs Burst Into Flames . . .

Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but it didn’t feel that way on Saturday with my legs screaming, apparently finding vocalizing more attractive than the ride I had in mind.

Coincidentally, it was also 24 hours after I donated blood.

Proving once again there’s no “off” setting on the Craig genius switch, I decided to go for a road bike ride — but waited until the temps got into the high 30s to avoid having to dress like the Michelin Man. My day-before donation was out of my mind, so to speak.

‘Gift of Life’

The donation went beyond the normal gift, my first “Power Red” unit, which put me into new territory.

Instead of a pint of whole blood, a machine strains out a double dose of red cells, and gives the donor back platelets, plasma, white blood cells and some saline. The red cells, you probably know, shuttle oxygen around the body. Power Red donations go to trauma patients, newborns and emergency transfusions during birth, people with sickle cell anemia, and anyone suffering blood loss — the so-called ‘gift of life”. The American Red Cross has put out an urgent plea for blood and these donations obviously count for more.

I’d never experienced problems after donations, following the standard advice on more than 30 prior occasions to take it easy for the rest of the day, hydrate and avoid exercise for 24 hours. I got mixed opinions from the Red Cross folks over whether I could take my routine ride on Saturday: some said to rest easy, while others said it would be fine. Seeing how there were more people in Camp Two and they said what I wanted, I decided to go with their sage advice.

Doping or Just Dopey?

Following the donation, I felt a bit puny Friday afternoon, perked up some in the evening and woke up feeling well on Saturday. Good to go, right? — until I wasn’t, a realization that hit before I got out of the neighborhood. Just keep going, I urged myself, keep turning the pedals and it will get better.

At mile five, my legs answered my urging with words unfit for a family blog — or even this one. I remain mystified by the intense burning sensation because if the root problem was a lack of oxygen, and fires need O2, why so much hurt?

Cycling has long had a problem with doping, the use of performance-enhancing substances, often to increase the amount of red cells. On Saturday, I demonstrated a different form of doping, the kind involving an actual dope running low on red cells and common sense. More proof? I rode 20 miles.

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