2015 Cycling Team
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- Worth A Visit
We got another dog.
I couldn’t decide whether to say “I” or “we” there because while he is definitely our dog, the half-baked planning and dogged (zing!) obsessiveness around getting another Shiba Inu were all mine.
Searching for another Shiba to adopt became my life’s sole focus shortly after Scout died. Early on, people asked if we were going to get another one and I recoiled in horror at the very idea of trying to replace Scout. The body wasn’t even cold yet! JESUS, PEOPLE.
But then I found myself in the Pets section on Craigslist, looking for a dog to adopt. Also Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet, Petango, various county/city animal shelters, SPCA sites, the Humane Society, and every Shiba Inu rescue group in America. It was psychotic; I’d search every site and then start all over again automatically because maybe the right dog had been listed since the last search…eleven minutes ago.
I knew without a doubt that I wanted to rescue a needy dog rather than getting a puppy. I also knew that it had to be another Shiba because the breed is well suited to our lifestyle. We live in a condo, I do not enjoy drool, I like emo dogs with holier-than-thou attitudes who prefer to spend their time writing poetry and cleaning their feet. While there are many wonderful dog breeds out there that are great for other people, I know we can keep a Shiba genuinely happy.
However, it turned out to be really difficult to find one to adopt. As soon as I’d locate one on a shelter site and make an inquiry, I’d get a response saying the dog had found a home. You know things are getting desperate when you’re like, DAMNIT, the damn dog at XYZ shelter found a damn loving family, damnit!
After a few weeks of compulsive searching, I found an available 8-month-old boy in Tennessee. I arranged to meet the owner’s driver at a gas station off the highway halfway between our homes to collect the nameless dog, and a nine-hour road trip later, I was back home with Tanner. He was filthy from living outside, Kobe hated him instantly, and he peed in the house within hours. And with that auspicious beginning, I knew our family was just a little closer to whole again.
Hi Dad! Happy Father’s Day!
Remember last year when you gave me a helpful suggestion for what to get you for this special day?
Once again, that did not happen. I’m sorry. Surely it’s some consolation that I left my M Coupe at your house a few months ago with strict instructions to drive it regularly. Happy Father’s Day, here’s my car to babysit? Children really are a gift that keeps on giving.
When I thought about other things I could get you, I drew a blank because you already have the one thing you wanted most over the last few decades:
I didn’t think “the more the merrier” applied to rubber chickens, so I did not get you another one. Besides, I’m pretty sure you already have one of everything else in the universe:
Instead, I made you a card and dinner (although we both know I ordered the steak from a restaurant because the only grilling that happens in my neighborhood is when the police come to question another suspect). I don’t really know a better way to thank you for being my father. There isn’t a gift or card that covers “hey, thanks for life and then teaching me to be a person and helping me solve every problem ever.” Although Starbucks keeps sending promotional emails to convince me otherwise.
So, thanks for life and so on. I couldn’t have gotten here without you. I’m also very grateful for this:
Who would ever have thought we were engaging in some early career development? Thank you for showing me the ropes and running alongside as I figured out how to not crash. I have gone on to find so much joy in cycling (while unfortunately only earning slightly more from the sport now than in that picture). I will never forget who first launched me on two wheels.
I will also never forget what you did for me recently. On the last day of Scout’s life, you were the rock for the rest of us. You held steady as my world was collapsing and helped the vet place our sweet puppy in a box so that he could be carried home and laid to rest. I wish I could erase that day from my mind forever, but in the absence of that ability, I am so grateful to at least be able to remember how you carried him out of the office and placed him gently in your car. I didn’t have the strength to handle any of his arrangements but you took Andrew to your house, got out the shovels and the whiskey despite the rain, and laid my dog to rest. You gave me the comfort of knowing that he was at peace when everything he left behind was so crushed and broken.
You have always stepped in to help me through the worst of my life’s moments. There isn’t a chicken or dinner or car enough to thank you for that. Thank you for being my father and for making sure that when I crash, I always land on something soft and safe.
I raced Philly. We packed Kobe into the car to join us for the trip, I showed up and only cried three times, and then I raced. It was somewhat surreal; my first World Cup and I couldn’t even engage enough to feel anxious. At one point during the race, Lauren Hall made a comment about how I wasn’t smiling and so I replied, “my dog died,” and started to cry. She then pointed out the moto with the camera that was filming us. Good times.
Before the race started, I noticed my teammate had “FAIL” written on her bars. That seemed like an interesting tactic and for a moment I thought about writing “YOU SUCK” on mine in solidarity, but instead asked for an explanation. “It’s a reminder,” she answered. “Fail to win. It reminds me to go out and give everything I’ve got to win.” I mulled that over as we lined up to start (because it was an improvement over the endless loop of my-dog-is-dead-my-dog-is-dead that I had previously been using as a motivational monologue) and then went out and did just that. Every time it was even slightly possible to pull off, I attacked. Sometimes it wasn’t that smart, sometimes I didn’t feel great, one time I even came straight through from chasing back onto the field to go right off the front.
It wasn’t conservative and I didn’t care. It felt good to ride hard and not worry about the consequences. It felt good to think, “Holy shitballs, I’m attacking at a World Cup.” It felt good to not worry about what would happen in a lap or the next day but to just race the hell out of each moment. I failed to win and it was excellent. When I made the final trip up the Manayunk Wall – alone, after having detached from the field on the previous ride up the wall – I got high-fives from spectators the whole way because why the hell not? I was so thankful for their cheers and so damn grateful to have found the balls to finish the whole race. It may have cost me an extra 30 seconds, but it was worth it.Fast forward a week and I was home racing the Air Force Cycling Classic. Another week of living without Scout has made things hurt less acutely (partly because I’ve made a full-time career out of looking for needy Shiba Inus to adopt), but I can’t shake the slightly detached, depressed feeling. It’s starting to feel awkward to tell people that I’m still sad about my dead dog, but awkward is sort of my thing and it’s not like I can magically feel better on schedule.
Last Friday night before Air Force, my teammates and I went to an event at Green Lizard Cycling to meet people and answer questions about what it’s like to be a professional cyclist (short answer: like being a regular cyclist, but with more kale). There I got to meet a few young female cyclists who were so excited about racing and the chance to meet me, which blows my mind because I do not see myself as an aspirational figure in any way. I giggle at my own farts. But they were excited and that made me excited and I went so far as to autograph somebody’s bag of chips.
The next two days of racing went well. I don’t feel quite like myself yet – and maybe the definition of ‘myself’ is going to be different now that I’ve lost something so dear – but I was able to ride hard, give everything possible, and fail to win. For Saturday’s race, that was enough to earn the Most Courageous Rider jersey. It was an honor to receive that award at my hometown race in front of my family and friends.
For Sunday’s race, we had a team strategy and I wanted to hug Julie in the middle of the crit (despite the logistics of that) for being completely spot-on in nailing the plan. She was everywhere she needed to be at every moment, freeing me up to play my part in the plan. It didn’t work out – I was supposed to go up the road with a Tibco rider and never managed to get away – but it was great racing nonetheless and we did our best. If there is one lesson I want to share with the girls who are kind and crazy enough to look up to me, it’s that you should always do your best, even when you’re hurting, even when you’re sad, even when life does not go your way. There may still be heartache when you fail to win, but at least there is no regret.