Family

What do you get for the guy who is everything?

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?
2014 Dad Suggestion
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:

2013 Dad with Rubber Chicken
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:

Dad In Office
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:

Learning to Bike
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.

🍣

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Fail to Win

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.Lindsay Bayer Philly Cycling ClassicFast 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.
2015 Autographed ChipsLindsay Bayer at Green Lizard
Pepper Palace at Green LizardThe 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.Lindsay Bayer Most Heroic Jersey Pepper PalaceLindsay Bayer Air Force Most Heroic Jersey
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.

Posted on in Cycling, Family, Friends, Life, Sadness, The Pets 1 Comment

Racing at Half Mast

Tomorrow is the first World Cup of my cycling career, the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic. While I’ve done this race every year since 2011, this is the longest, hardest version yet and also the first time I’ll be doing it as a World Cup. You can learn more about the significance of the World Cup series here. I have been eager and anxious all season to step up to competing at the highest level of the sport with the best women in the world.

But to be honest, I am struggling to give a shit.

I miss my dog. Racing my bike seems frivolous and empty at the moment, as does just about everything else. Work? Ugh. Training? Ugh. It feels like a chore to even care about things like getting the mail or shaving my legs. I just want to sit on the floor with Kobe and wait for time to pass.

The worst part is that I feel obligated to ride and race because of how much time I sacrificed with Scout to be elsewhere in the country riding my bike. I missed several months of time with him this year to travel for cycling, and now he is gone. Was I too selfish? Is it even worse to not care about riding right now, after sacrificing so much?

I don’t know if it’s normal to feel this broken and sad over a dog. It doesn’t matter; this is how I feel. There is a hole in my heart and in my family and nothing except time will ease that sorrow. I don’t feel ready to get fired up about anything, World Cup or not.

But I think that is okay. Just because tomorrow is an important, prestigious race doesn’t mean the rest of life should cease to exist. I will go and race, while respecting that right now my heart is a little too broken to fully engage in the moment and the competition.

Thank you so much to everyone who has offered kind words this week. You have all reminded Andrew and me that is okay to be sad, that we made the right choice for Scout, and that in time the sorrow will be replaced with wonderful, happy memories. Thank you for understanding and for being our friends.

Posted on in Cycling, Life, Sadness, The Pets 5 Comments

To My Dog

Dear Scout,

When I first met you, you were tubby and fluffy and covered in filth, trotting down the driveway of the family that was giving you away for free on Craigslist. Some guy had gotten there first and was taking you home, and even though we’d known each other for about fourteen seconds, I knew you needed to be my dog. I followed the guy’s truck as he drove away with you, flagged him down into a parking lot, and offered to pay an inordinate sum of money if I could have you. Then you vomited and pooped in my car. We were off to a great start.

You were quiet and reserved when you first moved in, spending a lot of time in the armchair with your back to us and peeing on the corner of the bed so often I had to buy a new one. I knew you were having trouble adjusting; I could tell from the paper trail you brought home that you’d had a number of owners and not much security in your life. Based on some of your scars and sensitivities, I suspected somebody had been unkind to you at some point in the seven years before we met. The most I ever did was raise my voice at you, but even then you’d sit in the corner and face the wall until I apologized and plied you with treats.

In no time at all, you were part of the family. Kobe didn’t mind sharing the house, the armchair became your property, and our routines shifted to accommodate a second dog. You lost sight in one eye but hardly seemed to notice, always remaining calm and good-natured. When my life went through some tumultuous changes, you seemed to know – you’d occupy the empty side of the bed and burrow into me when I needed company.

Then you went blind in your other eye and for a while I didn’t know if things would be okay again. You retreated into your shell and it was so sad to see you seem vulnerable and uncertain. But then you adapted and learned to ping-pong gently around your surroundings to find your food, water, and family. It helped that we got rid of the coffee table.

The last few years have been steady and sweet. Each day was an unremarkable ritual of walks, meals, treats, and snuggles that was lovely in its pleasant predictability. You hated to be hugged, but loved to be petted, so much so that you’d throw your whole body into the attending arm over and over like you could never get enough.

Sometimes you’d also rub your face on the floor. That was weird but really cute.

You turned 12 last September and seemed to be slowing down a bit. I affectionately joked about you and Kobe being my little old men, but was concerned to notice you seemed to be going deaf. How would I know when it was time to let go? How could I define your quality of life and decide when it stopped being good enough?

Then last night and this morning happened, and I thought for sure you were slipping away. Things progressed so quickly – you seemed fine and normal one minute and so sick just moments later – that even now it seems surreal. My parents came to join Andrew and me on your trip to the vet this afternoon. I spent the drive over wondering if we’d be going home without you, partly terrified that we wouldn’t and partly terrified that we would. Saying goodbye seemed unimaginable, but the idea of having you continue to suffer and decline more was just as bad.

There was never a clear answer. We don’t know why you were sick, and I will spend the rest of my life wondering. The vet said we could run tests and give palliative drugs but all I kept thinking was, “To what end?” Even if we could save you from whatever illness was crushing you, you’d still be blind and mostly deaf and clearly in the twilight of your life. That didn’t seem like a good enough existence for you.

And so it was the end. We said our goodbyes and the vet gave you the medicine to help you slip away peacefully. It happened so quickly – one minute you were breathing and the next she told us you were gone. It felt like the bottom dropped out of the world, as if all of the air had been sucked out of the room through a massive hole in my heart. Andrew and my mom kept petting you but I hated touching your limp body because you weren’t there anymore.

Now we are back home, Andrew, Kobe, and me. This house, tiny and filled with stuff and bikes and tumbleweeds of fur, feels far too large without you wandering around. When I think about you being gone, there is an ache that feels suffocating and all-consuming. I’m afraid to let this day end because it’s the last one in which you were alive, and I dread waking up and starting a new one without you. I’ve even thought about digging you up because I want so badly to hold you again, but (a) this isn’t Pet Sematary and (b) you did not enjoy hugs.

What if I made the wrong choice? What if you were just sick and it wasn’t supposed to be the end? What if I didn’t give you enough time, walks, attention during your life? These what-ifs are probably a very normal and yet crippling accompaniment to the choice to end a pet’s life. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s better that I hurt because you’re gone rather than you hurt because you’re still here. All I ever wanted was to protect you from the bad things.

Thank you for being such a special, sweet part of our family. I cannot imagine my life without you, neither the past nor the future. You were wonderful and will never be forgotten.

Love always,

Mom

Posted on in Family, Life, Sadness, The Pets 5 Comments

These are a few of my favorite things

Over the past six weeks, I spent a lot of time living with a family in Yucaipa, CA that were old friends of our team director. You may know them as the family with the pig. While I fell in love with the pig instantly, it didn’t take much longer to become deeply attached to the entire family. Jamie, Pete, and their three daughters started to feel like my own family and I spent so long there that I’m probably one step shy of being added to the mortgage. It was a privilege to spend so much time with them, to join in family dinners, do school and sports practice pick-ups and drop-offs, and to feel like I had found a home on the opposite side of the country. I’ve missed them since the moment I drove away last week and cannot wait to go back.

2015 Chapman Heights

My home away from home in Yucaipa, CA. It’s a beautiful place.

2015 Maisy Has Fun

Until recently, I didn’t know that my favorite hobby is sitting in the grass watching a small pig run around.

2015 Shenanigans

The perpetually rambunctious and wonderful Hilary and Hallie.

2015 Bacon Bit

The bacon bit and I spent some quality time together by the fireplace.

2015 Hilary and Me 2

This is the greatest 8-year-old on the planet, even if she refuses to eat her vegetables.

2015 Beautiful Yucaipa

The scenery on a typical ride around Yucaipa.

2015 Hallie and Me

Hallie is a sassy firecracker of a kid.

2015 Pic PB Portrait 1

A family photo shoot for Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter. I can’t get enough of that peanut butter, this pig, or those people.

Posted on in Family, Friends, Life, Travel 1 Comment

And Then Every Race Is A Win

Why do you race your bike?

Sometimes (okay, usually) I race for results, whether team or personal. It’s easy to get caught up in the placing on the results sheet. Did I win? Podium? Beat that one chick? Was everybody, like, totally impressed? Did I get beaten by that person who I cannot believe was faster, WTF, OMG? Should I hide in the team trailer?

The problem with this approach is that you can win one day and come in 48th the next. It could be a crash, a mechanical, poor preparation, crap luck, or just that your legs forgot to show up. I raced the San Dimas Stage Race a few weeks back and had a disappointing time trial, a strong road race, and a crash that broke my bike and ended my chances in the crit at one lap to go, despite feeling great and being in the right position to launch a sprint. I walked away from three days of hard work with this:

2015 San Dimas Cash Money

But the rewards went beyond a 5th place medal and $27 (and thank god, because that barely covered our tab for Burger Sunday). I got to race my bike. I spent time with friends and had personal victories throughout (did not explode on the QOM laps, learned to be patient in the road race, held good position in the field). While each day’s result felt make-or-break, these accomplishments ultimately last longer in my mind.

I think that is the only way to race your bike and stay sane, healthy, and happy. As good as it feels when things go well at the finish, results are so fleeting. Bike racing doesn’t pay well or make you famous, either, so you better have some deeper reason for chasing this dream.

As my coach put it, “In racing you are never going to come out ahead; there is just way too much you have to give up to ride well. It is crazy how much love goes into the sport from the riders. You don’t get rich, you don’t buy a house on your earnings. You are doing it because something inside says Race My Bike. But you are all in; that is the only way one can do it.” Such excellent wisdom. I don’t race because I love the podium, I race for the experience, the suffering, the tiny victories and moments of growth. Those exist whether I win or lose.

Yesterday’s TT didn’t go as well as hoped, but despite my initial disappointment, that doesn’t mean the day was a loss. Big Bear is a beautiful place to visit and ride a bike. I saw friends, rode hard, and learned more about the art of time trialing. And even if I’d won, there is another stage waiting today that will have a new victor and a new lanterne rouge anyway. To only get on my bike for a placing is to ignore the beauty of everything that happens along the way. I will never win all of the races, but that doesn’t mean each race can’t be an experience to be savored.

There is never truly a destination in cycling, so the only approach seems to be to enjoy the journey.

2015 Peppers Recovery Ride

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Tucson –> San Dimas –> Redlands

2015 Courteney Drives the Civic

On the drive from Tucson to San Dimas, Courteney realized what I meant when I said the Civic was basic.

2015 Zanna on the TT Course

Suzanna flew into California to join us in racing San Dimas. We had a lovely evening spin previewing the San Dimas TT course, which would have been my favorite ever if it didn’t go uphill for 4.25 miles.

2015 Courteney Turns 24

Courteney struggled with the idea of turning 24 last month or, as she put it, getting old. Dude, I have shirts older than that.

2015 Pepper Pillow Fight

This is what really happens when girls go wild.

2015 Peppers Recovery Ride

The three of us had quite a bit of fun at San Dimas. From the racing to the adventures at our Airbnb house, the laughs never stopped. Okay, so there wasn’t actually much laughing during the racing. Maybe just some barfing and a few tears. I also stole a bottle from the feed zone because I was desperate.

2015 A Tree Grows in San Dimas

After one of the stages, I bonked so hard that I hugged a house plant, cried, and accidentally insulted our roommate. That kicked off a spree of tree-hugging.

2015 Post San Dimas Stage 3

I was cranky after crashing out of the crit at one lap to go, so Courteney cheered me up with a spin on the TT bike. The girl really knows how to live it up! Apparently this is what old people do for fun.

2015 Sweet Pig

This pig. Holy shitballs.

2015 Redlands Rest Day

Courteney was served up on a platter for my rest day entertainment. Then I roadtripped to Super Target with Zanna and two boxes of hair dye later, I accidentally have black hair.

2015 Greatest Pet Ever...And Pig

We spend a large part of each day taking photos of the pig. Even when the pig has gas, she is adorable. Same with Courteney.

2015 Easter Bucket

I couldn’t be home for Easter so my wonderful parents mailed Easter to me.

2015 Egg Hunt

Our host family set up an Easter egg hunt for their daughters and the three of us. I found 11 eggs, a lemon, and an old tennis ball.

2015 Easter Baskets 2

We also got Easter baskets! It’s hard to be away from home for a holiday, but our hosts made us feel like part of their family and it ended up being a very enjoyable day. I also won $14 on my scratch-off lottery tickets. That’s more than I won in my last race.

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Happier than a pig in Redlands.

Our host family in Redlands has a pig. A tiny, five-week-old pink pig. Her cuteness is almost too much to bear at times. She waddles around, wags her tail, grunts a lot, and always wants to climb into your lap and fall asleep. She drives us all to distraction: nobody rode bikes yesterday. I tried to do corework but ended up holding the pig for 90 minutes instead. If photographing the pig was a sport, I’d be an Olympian by now.

But then Courteney put her in my room this morning and stepped out for a moment, and the pig pooped aggressively under the bed. It was messy and disastrous and required a good bit of clean up. The pig wasn’t looking so clean herself and badly needed a rinse to be restored to her glowing pink self. Somehow I found myself holding the tiny pig in the kitchen sink trying to rinse her butt and tail while she screamed. SCREAMED. I did not think such a large noise could come from such a small animal.

Now the pig is hiding in her blanket (pig in a blanket…pig in a blanket!..pig puns never get old) and even though she exploded poop everywhere and shrieked at me, I miss her.

2015 Best Pig Ever

I don’t know who is happier here; the pig or Courteney.

2015 Coffee and Bacon

Coffee and bacon for breakfast.

2015 Shy Pig

The pig is shy.

2015 Snuggling Pig

The pig is willing to snuggle whatever part of your body you make available.

Posted on in Life, Random Things, Travel 1 Comment

All Good Things Must Come To An End

I’m sitting outside for one last sunset in Tucson before leaving for California tomorrow. From one perspective, this trip has been one long series of goodbyes: I said goodbye to home, goodbye to each new place I discovered along the drive across the country, goodbye to Andrew and many of my teammates at the end of camp, and now I am saying goodbye to Tucson.

This place has become home. It’s missing a few critical things – Andrew, my parents, the pets – but something about it has stolen my heart in a way that will never be undone. When I am alone on the side of Mt. Lemmon looking at the vastness of the hills and the desert while the wind blows, I feel the happiest and most alive. It’s not the coffee shops or the great tortillas or the other cyclists; it’s just the desert and the mountains and the way the sky is bigger here than anywhere else. I don’t feel ready to say goodbye.

But with each goodbye has come a new adventure that erases the sorrow of the previous farewell. That’s not to say I’ve forgotten the things left behind; I can hardly look at other dogs because the ache for my own furballs is so acute. I miss the kind lady I met in Canyon, TX and the friend I stayed with in Albuquerque, NM. But if behind me is a trail of wonderful things, then I have to believe that what lies ahead holds the potential to be equally awesome.

So onward. Courteney and I are driving to San Dimas, CA to race this weekend and will stay on to race Redlands after that. Other teammates will fly in to join us and then we will continue our travels together around the country. We’ll race, eat everything everywhere, laugh until I’m glad my chamois is absorbent, and then do it all over again.

But that is tomorrow. For now I have this sunset, this final evening, this glass of wine, and the sweet sorrow of this goodbye. This place has been wonderful.

2015 Le Buzz Group

One final coffee shop ride to Le Buzz.

2015 Courteney's Rebuttal

Courteney thinks she is being clever by texting us a photo of her middle finger. Meanwhile, I’m sitting two feet away.

2015 Safety First

When you can’t be bothered to take anything off on the drive home from a ride.

2015 Courteney at Sunset

So meta.

2015 The Kiwi Breakafst

Every morning, Courteney makes this brown slop for breakfast. It looks like an “after” picture, except that I tried it and now I’m addicted. She made a beautiful bowl of my very own one day and has subsequently made me breakfast every day since.

2015 Recovery Time

This is what happens when the ride is done. We can never get enough chamois time.

2015 Court and the Cat

Courteney was very nervous about this black cat, so I made her go stand next to it. She kept talking about how it was eating “biscuits”, which apparently is New Zealand for cat food.

2015 Peppers Night Out

2015 Tucson Tattoo

I got another tattoo. The artist looked a lot like my father, except with a lot of tattoos and some big gold earrings. I started up some small talk by asking, “How long have you been doing this?” Without missing a beat or even looking up from my arm, he gruffly replied, “A couple of weeks.” The real answer was 1984.

2015 Afternoon in AZ

Another perfect afternoon in Tucson. Courteney kept heaving heavy sighs and moaning “I’M BORED.” This is because she is a teenager. I can’t get enough of having nothing to do. This is because I am old.

2015 Tucson BFFs

Tucson.

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This is how life looks right now

Once upon a time, life in Arizona was so lovely and entertaining that I couldn’t find the motivation to write a proper post. So here are a lot of photos instead:

2015 Peppers in the Desert

The Peppers rock. (Ha. HA. Get it?)

2015 Lindsay Bayer Riding

COME AT ME, BRO

2015 Camp Steele

Our host here in Tucson shares a last name with Andrew and because I am simple, this is thrilling.

2015 Chipmunk Terrorist

Nothing is more terrifying then a chipmunk darting across the bike path when you’re on the aero bars. They’re everywhere out here and holy crap, they have huge balls.

2015 TT Practice

Learning to ride my TT bike one anxious grimace at a time. Then I finished 3rd in the Tucson Bicycle Classic TT and now I’m all WATCH ME ROCK THIS, I’M GONNA WIN THE OLYMPICS.

2015 TT to Stella

We don’t mess around with getting to the coffee shop.

2015 I want to be a firetruck

Julie told us, “When I was 8, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Courteney replied, “When I was 8, I wanted to be a firetruck.”

2015 Pepper Palace Team

That one time we were serious.

2015 Courteney in the Car

Courteney was anxious about the ride to the TT. Or maybe it was my driving.

2015 TBC Stage 3

The lovely scenery of stage 3 of the Tucson Bicycle Classic.

2015 Peppers at TBC

I love these people.

2015 Post Race Stella

Post-race coffee at Stella Java with Jules and Courteney’s right hand.

2015 Mt Lemmon

Returning to the beauty of Mt. Lemmon for a recovery spin. Yes, I now climb on my easy days because TUCSON.

2015 CLowe and Special Sauce

I hit a rabbit on my ride the other day and was incredibly sad. When Courteney came home, I blurted out the horrible tale. She tried to make me feel better by telling a story of her own: “One time, I hit a duck. And she had all of her babies behind her. So I hit them too.”

Nothing with Lindsay Bayer and Julie Kuliecza

We’re launching a podcast. Here’s our cover art. Get excited.

2015 Tucson at Dusk

Another sunset in Tucson. Julie loves the sunsets too, so much so that I looked out the window last evening to see her standing on my car taking pictures.

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