Posted on 1 Comment

Shit gets real.

BDop Blog Post: Shit gets real.

“I don’t feel like myself,” I repeatedly told my wife, “I can’t describe it but I just feel…off.” 

I was right.

Several doctor appointments, several tests, six weeks of meds, and an uncomfortable biopsy later, I was told I had Prostate cancer.

Not great news, but it is now treatable and has extremely high survival rates. Until it spreads. Then things start getting dicey.

My cancer had spread and the biopsy pegged it at an 8/10 on the Gleason Scale. This shit was aggressive. Even the doctors took it seriously.

Ok.

I did some reading and tried to wrap my head around what I’d been told. Living halfway around the world, I had to plan how to tell my family, all within a few hours, through a series of skype calls. Things went remarkably well. My family was surprised but I was able to manage the news without too much drama.

Now what?

I had to tell my son. 

And a few friends. 

And I guess my co-workers?

So I did. And it went surprisingly well, too. No one seemed too upset, or asked too many questions, or at least any questions I hadn’t prepared for. That was done. So far cancer was going well. It had only been a few weeks but I felt like I had this Cancer stuff managed.

Then I started radiation treatments. They were pretty easy, at first. I had a specific time I had to get up in order to enjoy a coffee before I had to leave to get to the hospital, every morning. I had timed all the lights so that I could get there in 15 minutes. My treatments happened within about a 30-minute window. I could leave my place, drive to the hospital, sign in, get dosed, grab my paperwork, and be back home in about an hour and twenty minutes. 

Sorted.

Then it started to hurt. Not like before, but really hurt: At random times, or any time I went near a bathroom. And it got worse. The meds got stronger. I was tired. The meds weren’t nearly enough. I couldn’t eat out of fear of causing more pain. And it got worse.

My once little boy worried about me. I could see his protective instincts flair, maybe for the first time, when I reached for something at the table and the pain slapped me down, and held me there, and pummeled me, finally relenting in a slow, uneven, begrudged retreat.

I saw him look at me, once, at night, when I was lying on the couch and he thought I was sleeping. He turned his head from where he sat, in the armchair my wife was sitting in when I had proposed to her, to say something to me about the show we were watching. He thought I was asleep. But I saw him.

I saw him as he looked at his father, fully clothed, wrapped in a wool blanket and a toasty cat, burrowed into the sofa and pulled heavily down into a deep, black, pharmaceutical lack of consciousness.

How could things ever be the same?

Every day for eight weeks I was poisoned for my own good. And it worked. The cancer was still there but it was less ambitious and was smarting from a sound kicking in the teeth. 

A blood test, every three months, to keep an eye on the beast, became a new normal for me.

If all goes well, the smaller hammer, hormone therapy, over the next few years will end this sorry tale.

In less than a year things around me grew, and aged, and came into a sharper focus.

New realities foisted themselves onto me. 

The reins slipped in my hands for the first time and my son grew on his own. I couldn’t be the one his troubled face turned to. Not now. Not about this.

But for now, the news is good. He’s found a new passion and I’m excited for him.

It’s been a while. But maybe if the weather is nice tomorrow, we can go for a short ride. Or not. Maybe we can sleep in, and then hit the bookstore. Or maybe we can cook a ginger stir fry for dinner. Or maybe not.

Maybe we could just order pizza and watch Firefly.

Posted on 5 Comments

New Again

I started riding with toe straps. In my first race, I wore a hairnet. My six-speed freewheel was considered  overkill, “Who needs all those gears?”

A few decades later, I’d seen trends come and go and come back again. 6 cogs is now 12. I use those leather toe straps, bloated and fried by years of sun and rain, to keep the tubulars neatly folded in a parts bit in the shop.

I wouldn’t say I’m jaded but nothing really makes me say, “Wow!” anymore.

As he grew up, my son went through the usual supply of kids’ bikes but then he hit a void. He was too big for the largest kids’ bikes and too small for adult-sized bikes. Anything we did find was far too expensive for something he would outgrow in 18 months. So, for about 3 years, he didn’t have a bike. 

About 2 months ago, I looked over at the child sprawled on the sofa and realized he was taking up the entire thing. Suddenly, I saw how he’d grown. Maybe, I might now actually have a frame to fit him!

I put together an alloy disc brake bike with 105, some fresh wheels, and swapped in a shorter stem. He got on the trainer and we made a few tweaks. I rifled through a clothing bin to find some shorts and a jersey and we were good to go!

As I put the bike in the trainer, I got questions: “How does that fit in there? Show me.”

I popped off the front wheel to put the bike on the rack: “How did you take that off so quickly? Show me.”

“Why did you lay the bike that way?”

“Which shifter is for the back, again?”

“The bigger cogs at the back are easier, right?”

And on and on.

We began our first ride together and I found myself explaining things from the very, very beginning: “The right shifter is back gear and brakes. The left is for the front.”

“Yes, the little paddle, there, at your fingertips.”

“Loosen your grip.”

“Don’t steer with your hands. Steer with your butt.”

Five minutes of nothing but the sound of chain through gears and the wind.

Then more questions and advice: “Don’t look at your front wheel. Look at a point up the road. Scan back to just in front of you, and then back up the road.”

Chain through gears and wind.

We rode for just over an hour together for his first ride. I lost track of how many questions I fielded but it was a lot. And these weren’t the incessant questions I was peppered with just a few years ago like, “How many knees does a spider have?”. Or “Where does time go when we use it?” These were questions I could answer.

After racing for decades, I found myself only riding with experienced riders: People who got their own gear sorted, who knew how to ride in an echelon, and who didn’t need any advice from me. I was being taken back to the beginning again.

We bought a new helmet and I added some toe clips for the next ride. I started thinking about how to explain that little toe flick. The one you need to make to get the pedal to turn over so you can put your foot in the clip. Who had taught me that and how many times had it taken for me to get it right? How many years was it before it had become second nature?

I had just gotten really good and popping off the line in a crit to get a good spot near the front. Then pulling the strap tight without losing a place or causing a gap to open. That was before the first clipless pedals found their way to the start line and rendered one more skill obsolete.

And then other skills became arcane. Like being about to shift both down tube shifters at the same time to maximize gear combinations. Or to double shift down to drop to the small ring at the base of a climb without losing momentum. STI took care of that. It made useless a skill I had worked on for years and denied experienced riders that advantage over those newer to the sport.

But, time and technology moved on and so did I, happily.

As I finished my morning coffee and looked at the weather out of the window, I wondered what questions his enthusiasm would bring. What advice would come – advice given to me by friends and teammates when hairnets were optional and 6 cogs was cutting edge?

How soon would we be able to throw both our bikes on the car rack so we could go ride in the mountains? I wondered how long it would be before we could strap on some panniers and do a long weekend camping trip. Or when we could fly to Vietnam, or New Zealand and spend a month touring there?

I looked at my shoes and wondered if it wasn’t time for a new pair. Did I have enough lights so we could ride at night? A computer with cadence would help him spin and he could tell his friends at school how far we had ridden.

And I looked at that giant, silly, ear to ear grin on his face as chain passed through gears and the wind filled our ears.

And, I thought, “Wow.”

Posted on Leave a comment

It’s a Beautiful Thing.

CHILD'S BIKE WITH TRAINING WHEELS

From where I sit on my balcony at home, I can see a park and a pedestrian area that is covered with those paving stones that lock together. It’s really quite relaxing, in the evening, to sit there with a cold one and watch the young families gather with their small kids. I find the sound of kids laughing oddly pleasant and, very often, I can watch them as they tear around on their bikes with the training wheels still attached.

The other day I was doing just that when one of the little tykes starting screaming that shrill, ear-piercing shriek that only small children can shriek and, one would believe, that must cause any dogs for blocks around to scatter. It seems his mom was ready to leave and he wasn’t. She was pushing his bike with one hand and had a bag in the other. The little guy was just standing there, shrieking.

Watching a good mom be a mom is nothing short of amazing. And this was a good mom.

She didn’t panic, or yell at her kid or try to negotiate with him. She calmly put down the bag, picked up her kid and walked out of the park. I could hear his shrieking, like the whistle of a passing train, fade off into the distance and be replaced, once again, by the laughter of the other kids, birds and the sounds of the park.

The thing is, the bag she was carrying and the bike were just sitting there. I have no idea what was in the bag, it was most likely things she needed for their trip to the park but the bike was fairly new and of a famous brand.

And it just sat there.

No one approached it. None of the other kids ran over to play with it and none came forward to look after it for her. It was just…there.

About 15 minutes later she returned with her son, who had clearly shrieked himself out of all the shrieks he had, for the moment, and they walked over to the bike and bag. She picked up the bag, threw it over her shoulder, and without a word began pushing the bike home while her son reached up and took her hand.

Then I noticed something. Although no one said anything to her or made any overt gestures, some of the other moms gave her the slightest of nods as she left the park with her son. I didn’t get the impression that any of them knew each other but there was something else at work. It wasn’t just empathy but some kind of understanding of their shared experiences and responsibilities – something they had all come to recognize at some point as a mom – or maybe it was a display of collective momness, if that’s a thing.

They knew what it was like to be in her position, and probably would have offered help if it was needed, but they also saw the mom had it under control and so just went about their own business.

A few days later I was riding in an area of small, nasty roads that twist and turn, are chewed to bits and don’t really lead anywhere. As a result, there is virtually no traffic. It’s great.

As I crested a small hill, I saw a guy standing there leaning over his bike. I didn’t seem like he was doing anything or that anything obvious was wrong, but I slowed down anyway and asked him if everything was ok. He smiled and said everything was good and he thanked me in a way that suggested I should just keep going.

And so I did. I finished my ride and made my way home.

Later that evening, I sat on my balcony listening to the sound of the ice clinking in my glass mingle with the purest laughter. I watched the kids kick balls, run around, fall down on the grass and pedal furiously across the paving stones. And I watched the moms and the dads make it all happen.

As I sat there it suddenly dawned on me; Earlier that day, at the top of a small hill, for the briefest of moments, I too, had been a part of the collective momness. And it wasn’t the first time.

Over the years, I’ve stopped, more than once, to lend a hand. And I’ve been on the receiving end, as well. I’ve even had motorists stop to make sure I was ok and to offer assistance.

As I thought about it I realized that maybe it wasn’t such a rare thing after all. I’m sure anyone reading this has had a similar experience at some point while riding. Maybe it’s just all the shrieking in the last few years that seems to be filling our public spaces that makes it so hard to remember our shared experiences and responsibilities and that makes common things, like collective momness, seem so rare by comparison.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

“Don’t worry, it’s easy.” they said.

AIRCARFT COCKPIT

If you’re here, then you know that we’ve made major changes; We’ve created a new website, changed email and social media platforms, and recycled every product catalog in our office that was more than 10 years old. Easy-Peasy we thought.

The moves were needed and encouraged and we were told, time and time again, by those who ‘knew’ that it would be quick and painless and that we would feel better when it was all over.

Thanks, Doc.

Well, they were partially correct. We’re pretty happy with the results but wouldn’t wish the slog on anyone. And it was a slog.

We’re a small company and do many things in-house. This meant learning all new software and letting go of the old, tried, and true ways of doing things that, although familiar and stable, just weren’t doing the job anymore; Like Bob’s cycling shoes.

The cleats were pretty new, there were no tears or any visible damage to the uppers, but they looked weary and sad, and drooped a little as they sat in the corner waiting to go out again and play.

Bob’s riding buddies had mentioned this, a few times, and it had become a bit of a running joke. Someone even suggested starting a pool. Well, not suggested actually, they started one. I had 3 weeks from today.

But I understood Bob’s hesitation. I’m sure the old shoes felt very comfortable. They’re stretched out around the forefoot and didn’t hug the toes too tightly. I’m sure the heel cups had softened up and didn’t rub on the back of his feet anymore. And the cleats were probably dialed and exactly where they need to be. So why change?

It’s probably a good time to mention that we have a dog and a cat. The dog’s name is Joe and the cat’s name is Pudding Head. These two boneheads both love feet – and anything to do with feet. Anything.

You might be able to see where this is going.

Bob came over to have a pre-ride coffee (actually, to wait for me…I was running late…). He came in, took off his shoes, and we went into the kitchen from some jet fuel espresso.

Bob’s shoes lay helpless and unsuspecting by the door. Bob’s shoes, these leathery manifestations of hundreds and hundreds of salt-stained hours sprinting, climbing and rolling through the sun or driving tropical rains, these worn, comfortable veterans of the road that were soaked well through with the very essence of Bob never saw it coming.

And then it was done.

I had lost the pool. Sabotaged by my own.

So, after much whinging and moaning and wringing of hands, Bob had new shoes. They seemed a little tight in the toes and rubbed at his heels. It also seemed the left cleat is never exactly where it should be. We had to stop once a ride and wait while a 5mm Allen key was produced, and another fine tune happened.

No one griped. We all knew it was a process. We all knew that eventually, they will be just right. But, for now, we were prepared to stop once a ride and wait for 5 for Bob to tweak his left shoe.

Like most things, it’s a process. It requires some pain and suffering on the front end but, at some unknown point in the future, the shoes will go from being Bob’s new shoes to just Bob’s shoes; The toe box will stretch, the heel cup will soften and the cleats will be dialed, just right.