Extreme Tubing Leads To A Case Of Weird Knee

Janet's World

July 26, 2009|By Janet Gilbert | Janet Gilbert,Special to The Baltimore Sun

I haven't been able to jog this week because I have contracted a mild case of Weird Knee.

Weird Knee presents itself as a vague sensation: Something doesn't feel quite right when you walk. You find yourself compensating, putting a bit more stress on the opposite hip, and before long, you're developing Weird Knee on that side, too. At this point, you'd better respect the condition and back off your exercise program, because everyone knows Weird Knee can rapidly progress into Mangled Knee.

When I explained to some friends that I preferred to walk rather than jog because I went tubing on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay last weekend, they made incongruous "ooh" and "aaah" sounds. Clearly, they thought I had spent reflective afternoons lolling in the water, drifting along on an inner tube wherever the current might carry me.

I guess I was not clear.

Extreme tubing - my recent adventure - is a far more thrilling and strenuous ride than the gentle floating type of tubing. Tethered to the back of a 130-horsepower personal watercraft, the tube becomes a water discus, skimming the surface and swinging wildly back and forth across its own wake as the boat turns. Fabric handles are sewn around the tube's edge, and the riders alternately pull and push on the handles as the tube swings, desperately trying to maintain their balance.

If you are younger than 20, this ride is awesome. You will probably attempt some trick moves, shifting position with your friends on the tube and trying to catch some air by jumping it over small waves.

If you are older than 40, this ride is a controlled vehicular crash that lasts about 20 minutes. Your main objective is to not fall off; additionally, you hope not to wrench your neck and shoulder muscles as you zigzag across the waves.

It was the best time ever.

When was the last time you just played outside all weekend? I recommend it. And so, apparently, did our family's hosts, Latsirhc and Mij Ttoclat, whose names have been spelled backward for privacy. We spent every moment of our weekend on the bay doing fun stuff. Boating. Tubing. Water skiing. Eating steaks the thickness of the paperback edition of The Pillars of the Earth.

Remember when you were an active child and you were in superb shape? This is because you spent most days flinging yourself around on rickety playground equipment, running through sprinklers or dashing over neighbors' foundation plantings in a game of flashlight tag.

I was doused in those memories with every hit of bay spray on my face as I catapulted across the choppy waters on the tube. So what if I have to write this column with a jumbo bag of frozen peas on my Weird Knee? It was definitely worth it.

Actually, I didn't get Weird Knee while I was tubing, but when I was in the challenging role of the spotter. A spotter watches the riders and signals the driver in the event they launch off into some fisherman's charter boat or a neighboring county. Spotters face backward holding on to the watercraft.

When you first climb aboard facing backward, it feels stable enough. But once the engine revs up and your body is pitched at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the water, you're holding on with a grip that makes Mighty Putty look like Silly Putty. And that's just with your hands.

Turns out, a 15-minute run as a spotter is roughly equivalent to a weeklong cattle roundup on horseback for your legs. You're gripping that seat with every muscle from your thighs to your instep, stretching ligaments you had more or less forgotten about.

But the pain is a good one, the kind that makes you remember how sweet it is to play all day long.

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