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.

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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,


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.

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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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