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An American in Serbia: From a Writer’s Notebook

August 22, 2018

Belgrade Bike Ride, IV: Celebrating the 8-week anniversary of stem cell therapy with 30-mile “mini triathlon”

Eight weeks ago today, I had my second stem cell therapy for my right knee. I thought of it when I was walking this morning around the city, running various errands. Even though I had walked over a mile, I felt no pain.

So when I finished my errands I decided to go down to the Danube for another bike ride. My intention was to do that I had done in the last month (see BIKING TOUR OF BELGRADe II (July 29), and BIKING TOUR OF BELGRADE III (Aug 12), and then go on to the Tašmajdan swimming pool for my afternoon laps.

When the bike shop assistant picked out a red bike on me, I became immediately aware of unintended sychncronicity. My bike was red, my shirt was red, my hat (bandan) was red, my gloves were red…

When I got to the spot after the bridge near Ada Ciganlija where I had intended to stop and turn around, I felt I still had enough energy to keep going. And so I did… all the way to the far western end of Ada Ciganlija.

Triathlon map 8-22-18

This is where sat down and rested for while before going on. By my calculations, I had walked and biked about 15 miles (24 km) by that stage – just as I did on July 14. Except that back then, even though the temperatures were much lower, I was dead tired by this stage.

After a short rest, I continued my ride. Suddenly I had the urge to pull over and stop at this beach.

“What if I did my swimming here?” I wondered.

I had not swum in the Sava river for over 50 years. And this seemed like a lot more fun than doing laps in an indoor pool, as nice as Tašmajdan is. I did have my swimming trunks on me and my towel in the backpack, so I just undressed and walked toward the river,

That was the hardest part. Since this part of the river is actually a man-made Sava Lake, the beach is actually a gravel one. Which is very hard on bare feet even for someone who walks around barefoot all day.

I still wasn’t sure what I would do when I got in the water. Which was really warm as if this lale were in Arizona. But as soon as I started swimming, I knew I would swim across to the other side. And, of course, back.

Since that was not exactly my intention, I had forgotten to take my goggles out of the backpack. So I just kept swimming with my eyes closed, stopping occasionally to take a look ahead, like a submarine captain raising a periscope. 🙂

When I got to the other side, a man about my age was standing in water about hip-deep, and soaking in the sun rays on his back.

“Do you now ow wide the river here is?” I asked him.

“It is not a river,” he replied hairsplitting.

“Okay then,” I said without being irritated. “How wide is this stretch of water?”

He shook his head left and right like he was pondering a weighty decision. “Maybe 350-400 meters?”

I’ll take 400m. Because by the time I got back to the other side, I felt about the same as if I had done 800m in the pool.

I dried out and continued my ride. I noticed that I had lost a bandaid covering a small scratch on my left knee during the swim. Since water carries a lot of bacteria, and a part of the bike ride goes through some dusty construction sites, I stopped at a bike store at Ada Ciganlija to ask if they had a bandaid.

A young blonde girl said they did not. But she went to check the contents of their First Aid box. The box was so full of stuff as if had been just restocked and never opened before. But not, there was no bandaid.

Then she and another young man in the shop who looked like a real triathlete improvised. They took a huge piece of gauze and fastened it with atheltic tape over my small scratch. It was an overkill but it did the job until I got home and put on a new bandaid,

All around, this was an unintended 3-hour, 30-mile “mini triathlon” on a Red Day on the Belgrade rivers during which I lost 3 pounds. 🙂




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