Saturday, June 11, 2011

on the hazards of not racing and the closing of doors



So last week was crazy.  And I only actually worked one day. It would have been nuts anyway but then Janel invited me to accompany her as she was headed out to State College to help Ray and Nancy Adams and Mike Kuhn and crew with the final 2 days of the Trans-Sylvania Epic.  I had to switch the closing on the refinance of 3434 (which was scheduled for Friday) to an online closing from the traditional ones where you sit down with the agents and sign a stack of papers that hopefully you have actually read.  I was initially suspicious of this "online" option which required that I sign a Power of Attorney over to a total stranger so they could sign the papers in my absence after I approved them online, but if doing this meant I could ride my mountain bike for 2 days in State College and still get my mortgage rate lowered to 3.5%; well, I had overcome my apprehension even before I hung up the phone with Janel, who had, after all, invited to drive me up there.  Considering I am 2800 miles over my lease on the Infiniti in year 1; well let's just say it was an offer I could not refuse.

So my week went something like this: Monday of course was Memorial Day, and Meisha, Derek, Douglas and I drove down to White Clay for 3 hours of fantastic riding in the brutal heat.  When I got home I was feeling almost like my normal energetic self (rare these days) and I did more gardening until 7pm, which meant I was outside in the humidity for 12 hours, so I was good and tired.  The kind of good and tired you earn from a morning of  mountainbiking and then hours shoveling, planting, pruning, hauling, and weeding. The kind of work that makes you feel like you are part of the earth and are deserving of the space you are taking up on it.

Tuesday morning I had my deposition for the accident in July 2009 when a driver blew a stop sign and ran over my leg.  Twice.  Forwards and backwards. I took the day off from work for that, but we finished earlier than expected, so I went to Whole Foods, then home to unload, then off to Holod's to buy more flowers for my garden, then home to drop off the flowers and back out to the Wissihickon Park to run with Madison for an hour.  Poor Chloe had to stay home with a hurt paw.  It was in the mid-nineties and humid as hell, as Philly was having its first heat wave which proved once again that Spring is too fleeting here in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  It also means bolting arugula, flies and mosquitoes, and the race for that first zucchini.  After the run, Mad and I went into the creek to cool off. I slipped off my running shoes while she took gulps of water and laid her belly down in the shallow water.   It felt so familiar to gingerly step out onto those slippery rocks with my tender pale feet, just like I did  as I kid growing up with Little Darby creek in my backyard. 

I am on a mission to teach my dogs how to swim.  Of course, they were born knowing how to swim as probably all dogs are, but they don't know it yet.  I was about 10 feet away from the rocky bank, up to my waist in water, and I cheerily beckoned Madison to join me, as I was in no rush to leave the water with all that sweat streaming down my face. She was curious, but frustrated, pacing on the bank, barking at me impatiently.  She finally did take the plunge to deeper water and came towards me doggie paddling a little, but that frightened her so she turned back to shallower water. I was happy with this first step.  I figured the lesson was over for the day, and we headed home.  I made a tray of granola, then attempted to clean the house but was too tired.  The heat had gotten to me.  I had let go of my housekeeper a few months ago to save some coin and having to clean the place myself on the weekends is getting to be a drag.  Yeah I know, should have gotten married by now.  Then we could squabble over who should be cleaning the house.

Wednesday I worked out at the Kroc Center, then into work to do payroll and a few other things that if attempted by anyone else they would be so hopelessly screwed up and I would have to spend half the next week fixing them.  Once home, I grilled some vegetables and grain sausages, read and went to bed.

where my eggs come from, truly free range hens!
Thursday I got up early, fed and walked the dogs, and headed up to Lansdale to see a chiropractor who I had been anxious to consult regarding my thyroid gland issues.  I left there at 11:30 and raced down the turnpike to meet the yellow Penske rental truck in the parking lot in Conshohocken to pick up my 8 week supply of raw dog meat.  Yes, it was dog meat dayFortunately I was the first one there, which had never happened before, and this meant once I was able to extricate myself as gracefully as possible from the conversation with the odd Persian Cat breeder I could get out of there by 12:40 to jump on 76 and head into town to pick up the raw milk by 1.  There was traffic.  I had to reroute, madly passing cars who were meandering lazily on Kelly Drive with the empty cooler sliding all over my back seat, but I made it on time and then back to 3434 to unload 3 heavy coolers full of raw cow meat, raw cow and goat milk, and 2 dozen free range eggs.  Whew.

I quickly ate and then jumped in the car again to head down to the badlands of West Philadelphia to Mercy Hospital for the Independent Medical Evaluation for my lawsuit.  Of course the doctor examining me who was working for the insurance company for the opposing counsel knew my ex, Mark; they went to medical school together.  I'm not sure if this helped or hurt. The exam took 15 minutes so I was then free to head home and and pack, feed the dogs, water the garden and drive Northwest so I could meet Janel at her house for the drive out to State College.  It was 3:30 when I got home. I did not get out of the house until 6.  There was traffic getting to Glenside, but I finally made it  so we loaded up the car and were off. 

We got to the 7 Mountains Camp around 10.  Ed Moran, my friend who had been racing TSE all week in the 50+ class, had rented a trailer for the week, and said he had plenty of room for us to crash there.  We visited with him, checked in with the race directors at the Eagle Lodge, ate some food and went to bed, as we had to be ready to rock at the pre-race volunteer meeting at 8:30 am. 
  
this is not the dog that bit me
Friday morning we were told that our first task was to marshall the racers across 322 as they rode en masse to the start of the race.  At the corner of Decker Valley Road and 322 there was a white house with two one hundred-sixty-odd pound Rottweilers sitting out front.  As I was getting my things out of the car Janel was walking across one lane to the median with 6 cones when one of the dogs ran at her, barking menacingly, right into the road. Janel yelled at the dog to get back. The dog was not on a leash, no fence, and 90 racers were about to be rolling through.  I walked over towards the property to get the charging dog to come back towards me, which it did.  He seemed to be calmer, but then without warning the dog charged at one of the moto marshalls who had to rev his bike to get out of the dog's path.  I became concerned that the dog would attack one of the racers coming through, or else run out onto the highway and get hit by a truck right in front of us.  So I got the bright idea to try and contact the owner to ask him to tie the dog up or else bring him inside until the racers went through.  The other dog was barking and lunging on her chain the entire time, mind you.  I slowly walked towards the house, the dog was eyeing me warily but his attention was on me now and not on Janel, so she completed setting up the cones. 

I looked askance at the dog so as not to challenge him and offered my hand out to him.  He sniffed it and looked at me.  He seemed a bit calmer.  As I walked up the gravel driveway I had one eye on the dog and called loudly towards the open windows of the house.  I could see an old for Sale sign hanging sideways on the shabby front porch.  Some tattered curtains were blowing in the breeze.  No one answered.  I thought I would knock on the door, and I spoke calmly to the dog as I slowly advanced towards the door.  He seemed to be okay, and I took slow step towards the door, still calling out for the owner to get his dog, when I guess the dog decided he was having none of it.  He swooped in and sunk his teeth into my  leg, on the back of my knee.  Fuck.  That hurt.  I calmly told the dog I understood that he was upset and I walked off his property. This was going to be a problem.  We decided I should call the police, which I did, but the state police said it would be 45 minutes for a Trooper to get to me.  This was not going to work, I needed to jump on my mountain bike and sweep the first 13 miles of the course to relieve the folks at the first station.  While I was on the phone with the dispatcher, one eye on the dog who had both eyes on me, 90 racers came riding slowly towards us up the access road.  This could be bad.

 “Here come the racers," I said, "I will call you back later" and I hung up. Seconds later Jeremiah Bishop, Jason Sager, Amanda Carey, Selene Yeager, Vicki Barclay, Sue Haywood, and the rest of the crew were rolling slowly to a stop, right in front of the dog's property, right in his line of fire.  I clumsily picked through the slowing riders so I could get between them and the two very agitated dogs.  I managed to herd a few riders away from the property, and positioned myself between the loose dog and the pack as my right leg started to swell up and become pretty sore.  I guess so many riders coming through at once intimidated him enough that he decided not to charge any one of them.  Good thing.
teethmarks in my leg

I ended up sweeping half of the course, which meant lots of lifting that very sore leg up to dismount from my bike about 100 times to take down all of those yellow arrows stapled to the trees.  There were some good long climbs, and I took them easy on account of my general fatigue lately as well as the fact that my leg was killing me.  It was getting hard to bend the knee as the hours wore on.  It took me 3 hours and 45 minutes to sweep 20 miles of the course, but there were plenty of arrows.  The picture above is of one of the rock gardens I got to ride through, what a rush!  I went back and practiced that a couple of times.

I got back to the trailer, showered and did my online closing which did not go as smoothly as I would have liked.  But it got done, after I told the title company that they were completely inept.  I did call the police regarding the dog bite, and a Trooper showed up at the camp and told me the Dog Warden would be contacting me on Monday, which she did. In the meantime the locals had informed me that the dogs' owner's name was Doug Klinger, a belligerent drunk who often showed up at Brownies, the only bar in town who had not barred him from entry, at 11 am and drank the day and night away.  His dogs were often loose. When Ed, Janel and I drove into State College to Cozy Thai for dinner, Mr. Klingers teal Astro was in his driveway.  When we drove home an hour and a half later, it was parked in Brownie's lot.  All of this conveniently viewable from 322, which we had to drive on to get to the camp and to town.  Good times.

of course I had to get a picture and that pissed him off more
Saturday Janel and I swept the entire stage together, all 26 miles.  Mike and Ray really did a great job with setting up this course; as Janel put it, there was just enough road and singletrack to achieve the perfect balance for racers fatigued from 6 prior days of pain.   There was a really diverse mix of scenery as well.  It was even better to sweep with Janel than alone, and we both agreed that we would love to actually race TSE because it is one of the only stage races in the world where much of the race is single track as opposed to dirt roads. Janel raced (and placed in) La Ruta a few years back and her boyfriend Tim has done several major stage races as well, so she should know.  This would require that we get our energy and performance levels back to normal.  We are currently both seeking the help of the Lansdale chiropractor in an attempt to get some answers since going the conventional medicine route has been fruitless for both of us.   

We had some adventures.  I ran over the tip of a black snake's tail and that pissed him off, so he reared up and would not calm down and move off the trail.  Janel had to wait a few minutes before she passed him.   We saw all manner of wildlife, and of course the bucolic forest riding that prompted me to exclaim that this is how I meditate, that even not being well enough to race,  I was still grateful for the opportunity to ride through these trails and appreciate nature in all her diversity and grandeur.
the Sweepers
We got back to camp and showered up, and dinner was early, then awards, then everyone was pretty much drinking beer and celebrating the culmination of an epic week of racing.  I had my nose in this fantastic book the whole time, but I did get a chance to take some vids of the 3 lap beer race around the lake.  During which I got pelted in the head with a beercan, but beyond that managed to remain unscathed.  It's not that I did not want to partake in the fun, it's just that I've been staying away from alcohol since I've not experienced optimum vitality in awhile.  Adding more toxins to my load would just make it worse. And I guess I was in an introspective mood and not really anxious to compromise my cognitive functioning, which has been sluggish lately through all of this.

Janel and I finally said our goodbyes and left for home around 6:30.  We made good time back to Philly; it helped that Janel had her lead foot on the accelerator of her Suby WRX.  Madison and Chloe were very happy to see mom return.  I had a blast, but the trip engendered a tinge of sadness which was not completely surprising.  I guess I felt a bit like an outsider, even though I saw many friends; not really a mountain bike racer anymore.  Transitions can be hard.  It's a lesson everyone learns and relearns many times in life.

My instincts are telling me I need to close the door on this phase of my life in order for the door to the next to appear.  I can make out vague outlines of this new path, but I can't see it clearly or grasp it yet.  It's a leap of faith, because you can't really see the new door until you have let go of the last, but I know it's there; beckoning me with possibilities, waiting patiently for me to let that old door squeak to a close behind me.   

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