…No, It Is Me

How often do parts of your life  not go as expected? When that happens to me I question why. External forces, some person or machine not working as expected…or is it me.

While most of the time I save this introspective analysis for the really important things. Sometimes not.

For me, biking is somewhere in that grey area between important and not. Life threatening, life changing, on the same scale as illness, work, family or plague? No. But it remains a focal part of my personal story. So it is not just something I do but part of who I am.

Two weeks ago I fell. Last week I just had no energy. No idea if the fall was more traumatic to my system than I initially thought or what the deal was. There were times last week when it felt as though the legs pumped hard and my speed was good and then I would glance at my trip computer to sees that I was more than 2-3 mph slower than usual. That’s a lot.

There were two potential reasons why the computer was showing a slow speed. One, that I was riding normally and the computer was damaged in the fall, this could be a technology issue.  Two, that it was me.

I held out hope for the former explanation all week. I rode this morning and discovered truth.

It was me.

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4B-2C=2G(ood)

After getting up before dawn to begin a day trip to Richmond Va. for a 2 hour sales call, any break on what was already going to be a long Friday was definitely welcome. I got two.

All through the 2 hour meeting I faced a window and received a clear view of  a major rain pour down. While focused on the task at hand, in the back of my mind I am thinking that the plane will be delayed and it will be an even later night than planned. I hate losing Friday nights to business travel even though it is all part of the career I chose.

The first break came when I saw the plane on the ground and the sign telling me it was leaving on time. The best came a few minutes later.

I was in seat 4B, an aisle on the small four seat across regional jet. As the flight began to board, the counter guy was calling names of stand-by passengers that were getting seats. I paid little attention as I already had a ticket. But then I heard my name or so I thought. I wandered up to the counter guy to find out if my hearing failed me– as it often does these days. No, not this time. He wanted to know if I would mind sitting in first class. Mind? Always willing to do the airline a favor I replied. Seat 2C.

I fly often enough to have accumulated a few first class upgrades but not often enough to be able to do so every flight. I tend to save them for flights at least 2 hours long. This  was a pleasant treat at the end of a long day.

Now this was a regional jet so the upgrade meant that I could get drinks when I wanted and a bigger, more comfortable seat but no haute cuisine or foot massage. Yet when it came to the algebra of this flight, as my friend Frank would say, “It’s all good”.

It’s Still Dark At 4:30 In The Morning

I love the summer months for many reasons. The weather. Spending more time outdoors. Biking. Going to outdoor festivals.

One thing near the top of the list is the number of hours of daylight. It is depressing in winter to wake up and then to drive home in the darkness. Yet in the summer there is usually light when I awake at 5;30 and it is still light even if I do not return home until 8.

Today I have an early flight. The alarm went off at 4:30 AM. 4:30 is the winter of the day even in July. The house is silent. It is pitch black. I have to feel my way out the bedroom hoping I do not trip on an errant pair of shoes lying inconveniently in the middle of the floor.

I am tired to the core at this hour. Yet I am flying to sell work. Need to keep moving.

Between 5 and 5:10 the dawn breaks and bits of light seep in through the windows. I move around in the  shadowy light.  By the time the cab pulls up at 5:30 the day has clearly arrived.

If only I could get back under the covers.

Oh BTW I Have A Brain Tumor

No, no, no, not me.

I was speaking a month ago to a client that I have become friendly with. He is a quietly engaging guy. Bright, good at what he does and one of those people you would describe as “one of the nicest people you ever met”. 

We were discussing the latest work related assignment.  I then asked him about his recent trip to the emergency room. I had heard that he had gotten dizzy and concerned colleagues insisted that he go. That turned out to be an inner ear issue that quickly cleared up.

“Great”, I said as I heard the news. Then in a voice which I will always remember for its calmness touched with a bit of satisfaction– as bizarre as that may sound. He was happy that it was discovered early since it was growing and that it was not malignant. His view was that if he had not had the ear thing and if it had not happened at work and if he had not gone to this emergency room, then the tumor would not have been discovered. I found the calm way he approached this moment in his life to be beyond my comprehension.

If I received this news I would be a basket case. I would be angry and sad and depressed. Not him. I continue to find this beyond amazing.

I am thrilled to say that he has had the surgery, is doing well and resting at home.  I hope to learn from his approach to life. A long and happy one we all hope.

A Most Dangerous Sport

Name the most dangerous sports. Football, rugby, mountain climbing, wrestling (the real stuff not the professional acting on TV), X-Treme fill-in-the blank. Think again.

Bike riding is up there. At least it would be if you saw me at about 9:30 am yesterday. And no, I do not mean bike racing where high speeds, hairpin turns and group crashes await. I just mean peddling. By yourself.

This is my second fall of the season which is two more than most. The first one just led to scrapes. Painful ones but no serious damage. I walked, or actually hobbled, away from this one so I cannot claim major injury. It just feels major.

It happened fast and was just one of those freak accidents. At the 17.5 mile mark in my normal ride I bike up a modest incline and take a right turn onto a bike oath. No cars. The turn is at best modestly sharp. My speed is only in the low teens since I am climbing. I have made this very turn dozens of times.

Not sure if the path has changed in a week or if I just never take the turn so sharply. There is a crack in the asphalt that starts out just a little wider than a bike tire and closes in a few inches. My tire found that crack. The next crack was the sound of my bike helmet as it hit the pavement. (Insert bike safety promo here. NEVER ride even 5 feet without a helmet.) Then my left side, bone just below the hip, landing next and I skidded on my side for a while. No one else around at the time. I lay there and just took stock. Head was scraped but not bleeding, leg hurt. Some blood on my leg. Conscious enough to take stock. Good signs. I slowly got up. Found my left leg to be in pan but I could move. Picked up the bike and moved off the path.

Fortunately the helmet and not my head cracked. I had cuts but no serious blood flow. My left bike glove now has a new airway to cool off the Knuckle of my index finger where fabric once existed. (I have filed a patent on this new bike glove design. Truly revolutionary.)

Over the next 15 minutes I licked my wounds, figuratively not literally, that would have been gross and required some amazing flexibility on my part. I fixed my bike adjusting brakes and putting the chain back into place. I was now 17.5 miles from home, both my wife and son were engaged in activities in which they would not be hearing their cell phones.  And I had no cash–which was rare since I know things like this can happen and I might need a cab.

I got on my bike to see if I could ride and whether it was in condition to be ridden. The answer to both was more or less yes. The injury to my left leg had more to do with weight bearing than the cycling motion. So I began to ride.

At this point in the story most people being of sound mind would assume that I headed in the direction of home. No, not me. I have so few opportunities to ride that I cherish each and every one. On holiday weekends I try to ride twice. Ideally with a day off in between. This weekend I could not ride on Friday and had to limit my ride to a quick 30 miles on Saturday. While the distance was short, I pushed myself hard on Saturday. Even as I left the house on Sunday, well before I fell, I had no idea how my legs would hold up over a planned 50 + mile ride. No I had the trauma of the fall to contend with as well.

Bottom line. 53 miles completed. Lets stress completed. It was slow and painful. Hard to tell how much of the pain was the fall versus the prior day’s ride. As much as I felt physically limited, the trauma of the fall clearly messed with my head. I rely on pushing myself. There was no push yesterday.

Today I am scraped and sore. My neck hurts from the whiplash and I walk like Chester from Gunsmoke. That’s what can happen when you take on danger. That’s me. Mr. Danger.

Skunks and Possums and Deer, Oh My!

Pepe-Le-Pew-All in the past week Mother Nature has been unleashing her creatures on the streets and back alleys of the city. Bike paths too.

First, the route to a client took me past a forest preserve. On a stretch just outside the preserve, not far from some homes I saw my first skunk. Well at least my first live, not road kill, non-cartoon one. He (or she I did not get close enough to tell) was running? hopping? It was hard to describe. All I could think about was that I was glad this was miles from my home. But it was only yards from someone else’s home.

A few nights later we were trying to exit a parking lot. My wife was out of the car because the machine took dollars only, no credit cards, and it was not liking so much the singles that we had. From the corner of my eye, which like the rest of my body was safely in the car, I saw a creature too big to be a cute little mouse. It looked like a medium sized rat and it was heading our way. I suggested to my wife that she might want to hurry.

Once safely in the car we got close enough to see that it was a baby possum. We have an adult  that frequents our backyard and occasionally scares the bejesus out of me as I come in the back door at night. They are not attractive creatures when large. At least they aren’t rats.

Then last Sunday I was riding on the bike path about 20 miles north of where I live. Typically my eyes are focused more down than ahead. At one point I glanced up to see a deer straddling the two lanes of the path. In this area there is only a foot of grass on each side of the path and them woods on the other side of the grass. I hit the brakes. Being the great outdoors man that I am I surmised that I would not fare as well as the deer should we collide. The image of hooves crashing down on my skull also gave me pause.

Instead of a crash I slowed long enough to witness the deer bound off into the woods. They are beautiful creatures.

I love Mother Nature but that was more than enough nature for one week.

The Great Chicago Desert

From Dictionary.com

Desert, waste, wildernessDesert emphasizes lack of water

desert

The Village of Lincolnshire is a wealthy suburb north of Chicago best know for being the place where I work. Today it was a desert. No water. At least none that you could use.

There was a “boil water alert“. At work you could not use a drinking fountain, drink the coffee, get ice OR EVEN WASH YOUR HANDS. Thank the lord for swine flu. Without it there would not have been a large supply of hand sanitizer in the building. I would have been forced to drive to the nearest gas station every time I had to go to the bathroom.

By the end of the day my mouth was dry. I was thirsty and the vending machine was out of bottled water. Tomorrow. Bringing a canteen.

A desert. Right in the middle of the Chicago suburbs. And I was there.