July 17, 2008

Glory Days

In the space of just two days, I have been painfully reminded about how old I am getting, how out of shape I am and how long it has been since I was in High School. I decided this year to play in the Spanish Fork City Fiesta Days Tennis Tournament. I had only practiced a handful of times in the last year, but I thought to myself that tennis is tennis and I had been a decent player during my glory days of high school. The picture above is from my Junior year (I know, I hardly look a day older) and the article below is from my Senior year, nearly 19 years ago.

Playing tennis is just like riding a bike, I convinced myself. Once you've learned you never forget. So, I signed up to play Men's Singles 4.0 along with 7 other men from the city. My first round match was on Monday night at 10:00pm. Knowing that most of the men playing work during the day, I guess the tournament organizers thought that 10:00pm would be when our bodies would be in peak physical form.

On Monday, I came down the stairs at home and stepped squarely on some sunglasses that Maddy had left on the ground. The good news - the sunglasses were unharmed. The bad news - my foot was not. I ended up with a giant bruise in the middle of my right foot that made walking a little more painful than usual. I reminded myself that playing in pain was nothing new. In fact if you look at the first picture from my Junior year, you'll see a cast on my left hand. I won that in impressive style by tripping on a tennis net and falling backwards onto my wrist, fracturing it during the summer before the season started. I figured a bruised foot was no problem. I did end up winning the match Monday night 6-1, 6-2 but I think I was helped by the fact that my opponent had bruised his ribs two days before when a cow fell on top of him - literally! Something to do with castration and tying up the cow's legs. Needless to say, he dropped out after the first round (my opponent and the cow).

I came home Monday night just before midnight and spent a few hours applying ice to limbs and joints and anything else that moved (or "should" have moved but couldn't). I was discouraged at how completely exhausted I was but determined to get ready for my secound round match scheduled for Tuesday at 10:00pm.

At about 6:00pm on Tuesday I was cleaning up around the house and stepped on a garbage bag that had some broken glass in it, puncturing a few of the toes on my left foot. No problem I thought - a litte bit of antibiotic ointment and a few band-aids and I'd be fine. That turned out to be minor compared to my attempt at about 7:00pm to catch a fly with my finger. I had been after this fly for at least a week and he had finally landed right in front of me on our granite countertop in the kitchen. Completely by instinct I tried to slam it with my hand, missing the fly but jamming my left middle finger into the counter. A friend was over at the time who happens to be a Physical Therapist so he looked at it and figured I either snapped or tore some of the ligaments. He bandaged it up for me and I tried to get ready for my match but wondered what in the world I was thinking trying to play with a bruised right foot, lacerated left toes and fractured finger on my left hand. Had it been during the day, I might have thought more sensibly and withdrawn from the match. But, it was late at night and we all know that our judgment is impaired the longer the sun has been down.

That match was last night. Though I won 6-0, 6-2, I played a man that was picking up his racquets for the first time in a very long time and he was as tired as I was. By the end of the match, neither of us could move and we spent a lot of time gasping for air between points. Two thoughts came to me during those moments. 1. I really should invest in an oxygen tank for between games, and 2. I really should not eat cheeseburgers on match day.

Back to the bike analogy. Getting on a bike after 19 years is one thing. Riding it for an hour and a half carrying extra baggage on your sides, gulping for air and wishing you were dead is another. Today I have barely been able to move. I am walking with a limp and feel like every muscle is on fire. Thankfully my final match is not until Friday (see the bracket below) and I can get some rest, refrain from eating any more cheeseburgers (though I did have two today - work hazard, what can I say?), and try to remember the glory days when I actually knew what I was doing.

Note: On Friday I won the first set 6-4 and was up 3-2 at deuce and ran out of steam. I lost the next 8 games and ended up losing 6-4, 3-6, 1-6. But, I have my right arm and hand intact and I enjoyed a giant cheeseburger after the match. Obviously I need some conditioning before next year's tournament.