Ramblings, musings and generally boring stuff. Mostly about bikes...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Final Goodbye

Sasha came into our lives as a 3 month old kitten from the Humane Society on Macklind in June 2001. There was some discussion about him actually being 6 months old, born in December 2000, instead of March 2001, but I don't think there was any merit to this. He was so tiny, even smaller than a typical kitten. Sootie Poot was not even a year old but already so much more mature. They didn't snuggle close like sibling kitties often do but had a great relationship nonetheless. Sasha was supposed to be Phil's kitty, Daddy's boy. I brought him home in the box from the shelter and presented him to Phil in our spare bedroom. We named him Sasha, a name we'd picked out before we had him. It's a "manly Russian name." Over the years, he gathered many nicknames. Early nicknames included "Sasha Bin Laden" (because of his hiding under the covers, like hiding in caves!), "uncle chuck" for the way he looked when he stood tall on his hind legs, "Boy!" "Bubba", "Bubbas", "Mister", "Mister-Man" "Dude", "Doot-do", "lovey" .... I could go on and on. Each nickname highlighted a piece of his personality. The thing I will always remember and cherish is how much he loved me. The plan for him to be Phil's boy backfired. I can confidently say this boy loved his momma above anything else.

He loved me until the very end. Phil has said that he believes Sasha wanted to let go at a time when I wouldn't be here to see his final suffering and goodbye. I am trying not to beat myself up too much for not being home when it was time for him to go.  I was able to work from home all week and spend the days with him. He wasn't as present or affectionate with me in the last week. I think maybe he was separating himself a little. He did snuggle me in our last night together and on his final morning. We snoozed and snuggled a little longer than Phil and, as I did every morning, I carried him downstairs in my arms to breakfast.

Over the last few weeks, he was eating less, more lethargic. I would feed him as often as I could, as much as I could, whatever I could. Sometimes that would mean spoon feeding him baby food from the jar. I'd even started putting the high calorie paste in his mouth each day, just to give him a little extra, although he didn't appreciate that as much. Since his Triaditis diagnosis in May 2011, Sasha had received steroid and b vitamin injections every 3 weeks. We had ups and downs with weight, energy, demeanor, socializing, etc, but we knew in the last couple months that the end was drawing near.

He spent almost 2 months with a "Donut" (round e collar) due to a wound and stitches on his leg. His skin had become thin from the steroids and the injection sites would easily become a larger wound. He was so adorable in that donut but we desperately wanted it to be off him. We'd give him "naked" time whenever we could, but after pulling out his stitches twice, we realized he'd need to keep it on until the stitches were out.

One morning in March, Sasha started breathing in a labored, gasping way. I brought him to the vet clinic, where he was diagnosed with a gallup murmur. The doctor indicated we could try to treat this with another pill, given daily but we decided to focus on his quality of life rather than quantity and prevent another traumatic daily medication. The triaditis was already progressing.

I believe it was the heart condition and a stroke that lead to his death on May 24. In a way, I am grateful and relieved because I feared he would just keep wasting away to nothing. He was once more than 8 lbs and at the very end, weighed a little more than 5 1/2 lbs. I take some solace in the fact that he is no longer suffering and his frail little body is made strong, whole and perfectly complete again. What I am left with is a hole in my heart that will never be filled.

Sasha was my little man. I carried him and held him more than any other kitty in my life. He sat cradled like a baby in my arms (on his back) or on my hip like a toddler, holding on with his little paws around my neck. From the moment he came into our lives, he "nursed" from ears. At times this was more snuggle and lovey but he could get pretty intense with his affection! He would often choose to do this at 3-5 A.M.! Later variations of the nursing included him giving me "wet willies"- putting his wet nose in my ear, or up my nose, or trying to burrow into my mouth! He snuggled me with such force.

I could always see from the look in his eyes how much he loved and adored me. Even from across the room, I could "call" him to me just by making eye contact. There was a depth of love in those little eyes. In those moments, I was his world and he was mine.

I am trying desperately to hold on to all the little memories. All the ways he snuggled, all the times he curled up in a tight little ball (like a tiny squirrel baby!), when he slept so soundly. The times he'd sprawl out with arms and legs hanging over the edge of the couch, bed or table. How he'd growl when carried a new toy, head held very high. He loved the toys with feathers and loved to play with ribbon. Most mornings, he would chew on the bottom of the shower curtain, as he waited for my bathroom break before going down stairs. He sneezed a lot; little tiny sneezes, in a series of 5 or 6. Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo.
I'm holding on to the memories of him sitting on my lap at the computer, or draped over my arm, or trying to climb up onto my lap while I was riding the trainer. All the little things he did, so many wonderful things, every day....

With the flow of tears, they feel like they are slipping away. I want to be distanced from the pain but remain so close to the memories. I can't believe I'll never get to kiss that M on his head, or the kitten soft fur behind his ears. I truly believe he was the most kissed cat ever. Even during his night time "loveys", I'd kiss him in my sleep (sometimes in effort to get him to stop with the over the top affection).

We tried to prepare ourselves, knowing the end was near. Yet nothing could prepare me for the enormous grief, the hole in my heart. He was a part of my every day for 13 years. Part of who I AM is because of his love and my love for him.

I am truly better for having known him but that does not ease the pain of his goodbye.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Saturday, May 10, 2014


“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle” ― J.M. Barrie

There is sadness in the world every moment of every day. It doesn't take much looking around to see it. Fortunately, there is also great joy, gratitude and love to fill the rest of the space. Sometimes, despite how immense it is, it's harder to find. 

It's easy to become caught up in one's own trials and tribulations, the pain caused to us, justly or unjustly. It's also all too easy to shove it aside, write it off or place blame. It's hardest to recognize the pain, the suffering, the hurt and own it. To sit with it and allow it's experience as fully as we allow joy. Even harder still, is the shift of focus, to allow one's being to be comforted by the existence of discomfort. 

This may seem vague and verbose, but I have a point. One I felt compelled enough to return to the blog, to write about something other than the occasional run, trip or bike race.  I initially returned here to be reminded of the last time I felt this particular pain. I documented a few days of the roller coaster here (and many others in a personal journal). I'd forgotten about both but remembered this sensation. I remembered the permission we allowed ourselves to feel things, think things and say things that we didn't like and didn't always want to own up to, but needed to. I remembered how hard each day was, but how comforted I was that I had another day to do this hard stuff. I provided care and love that I never knew I was capable of, but it felt like second nature to me, yet all the while fumbling to find the right way. 

I am here again, and yet I am not. Uncertain and yet certain of what we all know to be true. Life is fragile and fleeting. Struggle is part of this process. The blessing of death is that what was once imperfect is made perfect and complete again. The curse is the future ceases and everything becomes a memory. My mind is too quick to fail and memories feel too fragile and opaque. 

I find I'm on this familiar roller coaster. The joys and highs and swooping lows. I am preparing myself for the end but trying to remain present, grateful and hopeful. I'm not alone in this battle. I'm not alone in this world. I'm not alone in this hurt. If I put my troubles aside, without turning my head, I can see great battles being fought, and some lost all around me. Each one worthy of it's own time, energy, respect and full experience. 

Not knowing where the end of this battle will lie or where the next begins, I'll try to focus on one step, one moment, one breath at a time. And respect the connection we share in our troubles, the strength we gather from one another and opportunities for joy and love that each struggle may bring. 

"Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one." ~Bruce Lee

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Racing Season Has Begun - Tour of St Louis

The 2014 Racing Season has "officially" started as of Saturday 3/22 with the Tour of St. Louis.  I participated in the Centaur TT and Forest Park Crit Women's 3/4 races.

It's funny how perspective on the race, how I did, how I felt and what I could accomplish varies over the minutes, hours and days after the race is over. Here's my account, as of today....

While I knew I was getting up at the crack of dawn to do the Centaur TT, it didn't really sink in that I was "racing" until about 1 minute in to the TT. I started the morning by first focusing on getting my coffee into my body, my stuff in the car, my car to the parking lot at the start and finally my bike in the trainer. I know that I NEED a good warm up if I expect my body to respect me later. Yet somehow I got about 15 minutes of warm up.

I rolled around the parking lot with Big Ring and then headed over to the start line. Rock Solid Ron was there to hold us and that always makes me rest easier! I didn't know a few of the ladies we were lined up with and didn't know what to expect in terms of them providing "rabbit" incentive. I did know that with Big Ring starting 2 minutes behind me, I would be lucky to hold her off until the turn around.
For the first time in several years of doing the Centaur TT, I didn't start off too fast. I eased into a reasonable, yet high pace, cadence and watched my heart rate inch upward, rather than skyrocket. I was comfortable. Maybe too comfortable. At 1/4 of the way in, I realized the pace I was consistently seeing was lower than what I wanted to see. I'd push and bring up my speed, only to see that same low speed a few minutes later. I did manage to catch and pass my 1 minute lady, although it felt a little bitter sweet as I no longer had the hope of passing her to spur me on.

The turn around never seems to come soon enough. I started seeing the earlier ladies on their return and gave a few cheers where I could. I noted where I encountered Jen to do a pace check. I knew the turn around would be soon. What I did not anticipate was the awkward placement of a police car in the path of where I would have liked to turn. I was able to adjust quickly but I slowed more than I wanted. I soon saw Kate approaching the turn and knew it'd be seconds before she passed me. I also noted I was right at 2 minutes behind Jen.

I was able to pass a couple of other ladies on the return and was quickly passed by Kate. We had a pretty wicked headwind on the otherwise wonderful return route. Again, I noticed "that" number returning to my speed and tired to bring it up, but now I was fighting wind and fatigue. I pushed as much as I could at the end, passing another lady with about 1/2 a mile to go. By the time I finished, I could no longer clear the goop from my cold out of my lungs and I was wheezing significantly. I managed to finish with 35:00. Slower than last year's time by a lot but somehow good enough for 8th out of 15 or so.

Getting to the car, packed up and to the Crit was a race of it's own right. I had about 30 minutes to get it all done and had to fit a 5 minute wait for the porta-potty. One good thing about racing the crit so early-Good parking! I pulled right up to the curb outside of the last turn and set up my trainer on the sidewalk. After a quick costume change (into WARM and DRY everything), I hopped on the trainer to warm up. Jen soon joined me and thankfully encouraged me to get those few intervals in to prime the otherwise heavy legs for the work ahead. Focusing my energy on my warm up also seemed to help keep my nerves at bay. It's amazing what a good warm up can do.

With 10 minutes to our start time, Jen, Alice and I headed over to the start. We were able to take a lap of the course and quickly surmised that staying out of the wind would be goal #1.

I lined up behind Alice. I counted 21 ladies at the line (although there were 23 in the results!) Not a bad turn out! Cristel was back after taking some time away from crit races (4 years!) and this was my first time racing with Adrienne since her return to racing. There were many other strong ladies lined up, including Tara Flaig. Jen commented she'd need to stay near the front and I silently decided I should stay close to her and/or Alice.

With the start, it seemed 1/2 the field struggled to get into their pedals and I lost LOTS of places by being behind them. By the 2nd turn, when 3/4 of the field braked hard, I knew I needed to move up right away. It took another lap to get into a good spot but I knew once I was on Alice's wheel, it would be good.

Most of the race was uneventful. There were a few attacks and lots of trying to stay in a draft, out of the wind. I did some work pulling, or chasing an attack. Only once, I let an attack go without jumping, as I was tired from having pulled off from taking a pull. I quickly realized the work it took to hang on was greater than if I had just gone after that attack. I found that heart rate where things start to go fuzzy and knew I'd need to back off and rest if I wanted anything left to finish. I tucked in, rested and was ready to go by the next lap. I tried to stay out of the wind, knowing from bad positioning on one particular lap that it zapped my energy more than I could afford.

With 6 to go, Tara was suddenly getting a gap. I didn't see or hear her attack until she was away. My position wasn't too good -1/2 way back in the field (which had dwindled to about 14) and realized too late that no one was going after her. I moved to the front but didn't have the energy to try to jump and really just wanted to stay where the people were! We slowed considerably on the next several laps, obviously resting, preparing for the sprint finish. Just before the Chicane, Adrienne attacked and I found myself in a bad position. As I was catching on, two things happened. First, Adrienne sat up just before the final turn and the field swelled around her. For a second, it was like no one knew what to do. (I think we were also lapping a couple of other ladies at the time too, and that added to the confusion). Secondly, I found when I pushed hard on the pedals, the pretty little teardrop muscle over my knee (the one I would love to build up more!) decided it was DONE for the day and gave me a good squeeze in response. I relaxed as best I could and tried again. By this point, the sprint had started and when I pushed down again that little muscle said "No Ma'am!" My race was done. I watched those ladies sprint away from me with Jen taking 2nd place and Alice in 8th. I rolled in easy for 12th, just off the back of the first chase group.

Overall, I was pleased with my race. I felt good and met most of my goals. I learned things about my heart rate and recovery and listened to my body when I needed to. My biggest disappointment and greatest opportunity for growth surrounds my fueling and hydration. I believe I would not have experienced that cramping had I been able to eat something of substance in the hours before that race. I managed to eat only 1 bite of a granola/oatmeal bar before the TT, and about 2/3 of the bar on the way to the Crit. Instead of Gu or gels, I can stomach some fruit leather or fruit snacks. I only drank about 2/3 of a bottle of water.

My result reflected my poor fueling choices and doesn't really show what I accomplished. For the first race of the season, it's a good start and hopefully an indicate of more good opportunities ahead.

This is the only picture I've seen of me at this race so far. It was taken by Cristel's friend Marci. That's me on the left with the white shoe covers!