I recall reading a book a long time ago written by a guy who rode his bike around the world. It took him two or three years if I remember correctly. He had been training before the big starting date, and after a big send off by friends and family, he rode 100 miles on his first day - more than he had ever ridden in a day with all his gear. The next day, he was so stove up he couldn't walk, let alone get back on his bike. He was ready to give it all up and probably would have had it not been for the embarrassment of quitting after only one day. Instead, he climbed back on his bike and managed 40 miles, then a bit more each day after, and eventually pedaled it around the world... not counting all those little bodies of water in between the continents, of course.
We've been training in Las Vegas where it's quite flat and while we've walked some respectable distances, we haven't been carrying 20+ pound packs. Our first day out was more than 15 miles, a single day record for us, with or without packs. In addition, we must have gained and lost more altitude than we did in a month of Las Vegas walking. And much like the guy and his bike we were a bit stove up by the end of our first day.
Hips, knees, feet, backs and muscles in general were all complaining. Even after hot showers, a light dinner, copious amounts of wine and vitamin I (ibuprofen), we still had a restless night. We may have been hurting, however, but there was no serious contemplation of giving it up just yet.
This brings me to the actual topic of this blog - levels of pain. An odd topic, I know, but bear with me.
We've all been to a health provider, either on our own or with someone, when the question was asked "on a scale of one to ten, with one being you feel wonderful and ten being the worst pain you've ever felt, how are you feeling today?". This is very a subjective rating - many of us have never had to endure significant pain. As Marcie and my sisters have often insisted, no man has ever endured real pain since none of us has ever experienced childbirth. Maybe so, but I wonder whether passing a walnut sized kidney stone or having a leg amputated without the benefit of anesthetic, like soldiers in the civil war endured, might not be right up there. At any rate, it was a topic of debate until I was contemplating the Sistine Chapel.
There, in his painting of The Last Judgment, Michelangelo depicts Saint Bartholomew holding his own skin after being flayed alive. Now that has to top anything I can imagine on the pain scale. I thought that the flaying process involved potato peelers or cheese graters, but according Michelangelo, he was pretty much skinned like a rabbit - not that one way would be better than another. (BTW, St. Bartholomew is the patron saint of leather workers, tanners, taxidermists, glove makers, and butchers - I kid you not. The Catholic Church has a real flair for the ironic.).
I think a patient's rating of pain would be much less subjective if we used the Flay Scale. "On a scale of one to ten, with one being you feel wonderful and ten being flayed alive, how are you feeling today?". "Well doc, after having my arm ground up in that wood chipper, I'd say I was about a 6.5 on the Flay Scale."
As to Marcie and me, I'd put us at about a 0.025 on the Flay Scale after our first couple of days on the Via Francigena. That puts it in a different perspective, eh? Join us next time when we visit wine country and explore a legend or two.