Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bennie, RIP

Dogs at Play

Saturday morning, Bennie- the UPS/FedEx truck slaying, coyote chasing, golf cart hating, protector of everything Tim’s- went on his way. It was not a good day. He was finally betrayed by his legs. He had been having degenerative problems for a while, along with some cognitive issues. He had not run in a while. The walks were getting shorter. The dog who used to sprint out the back door in the morning to bound through the woods now had to be taken out to do his business. 

Bennie was one of a litter of four. He and his litter mates were rescued at midnight one evening up in Cumming, GA. I kept him because of his beautiful coat, and the others were placed in good homes. I would spend the next 15 1/2 years vacuuming that coat up from my floor, furniture, and car. It was worth it. And the ears….

He lived the first year or so living in a yard surrounded by an invisible fence. The first collar was of little use, and so the company sent me the ”stubborn dog collar.” It was much bigger. He then learned to read the electric pulses in the buried wire. The company sent me a box with straight current. It worked for the most part. Even when he got out, he stuck close by. 

His favorite thing to do back then was to escape the house through the doggie door with a pair of underwear, for a spirited game of chase. I also have this memory of him having my 5 year-old step-daughter pinned to the ground, kissing her. Her legs and arms were waving around in the air while she hollered for me. He saw me and went bounding off! Laughing!

One day I was at home for some reason, and watched a neighbor pulling a wagon roll her toddler right up into our drive way so Bennie could kiss and play a bit with her. I was rather astounded that this lady would let her tiny toddler play with German Shepard and Collie mix dog. She said she knew he was a sweet dog. And he was. He was the sweetest dog I think I have even known.

He enjoyed the dog park. He didn’t so much like playing with other dogs. He liked meeting people. He would walk up to you and thrust his nose right into your crotch, whether you knew he was there or not. He was loved where ever he went.

He lived for many years with is little buddy Hilda, who left us far too soon. They used to play, but he was always very gentle with her. He would let her have the bones. He would let her sleep closest to me. He would make space for her at the window. When she passed we were living in a condo, where I live now, where their back yard was the Sope Creek and Cochran Shoals trail system. After she passed, I would leave for work and could hear him howl, which he had never done before. It used to break my heart. Soon he became used to being an only dog and seemed to enjoy it.

Bennie did seem to stop a few a few burglaries. Both times the people bypassed mine and my neighbor’s door for one further away. If you came to either of our doors, he was at the bay window letting you know that you were most certainly not welcome. Once I let you in, he was was sweet and loving. He actually liked company. 

I have told the story many times of him last fall, after he had slowed way down, chasing a juvenile coyote up the trail at 4 in the morning, as I ran after him in a robe and slippers, screaming his name. That was the last coyote chase. I tell the story of him chasing the leasing agent from our old apartment complex. The young agent had that electric golf cart floored, screaming at the top of his lungs, as Bennie chased him, and I chased yelling for him to stop. Sadly the leasing agent was racing down a dead end street. He circled back, ran over Bennie, and kept it floored. Bennie was not phased by being run over and still gave chase. Once I got the guy to stop, and not run the electric engine, Bennie lost any interest in the cart. I apologized profusely for Bennie slipping his collar. I thought the kid was going to have a heart attack.

Friday evening he fell in the kitchen and could not get up. I came home to find him. It was a little like the scene in the book “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” Somehow in the wee hours of the morning he ended up like that again. He woke me up with the distressed barking. He was letting me know it was time. Like Hilda, he went in my arms with me telling him how much I loved him. He was calm and relaxed. He seemed ready for his next journey. 

I tried to give him a good life. He gave me a great one! I have lost friends. I have lost family members. I have lost other pets. This one really hurts. He was a major part of my daily life for 15 1/2 years. I keep waiting to see his furry head and ears peering around a corner, or over some piece of furniture. I wait to see his gray and white snout at the bay window as I walk up the stairs. I wait to see his head pop in the shower, and then him drag the curtain open as he walks away. I wait to see his fur balls rolling across the floor. You know, I can still see those and probably will for a while, no matter how many times I vacuum. 

His ashes will be joined with Hilda’s and spread in a few places. 

Here is to Bennie!

Bennie Ears Dogs at Play 2/52 Bennie Bennie I am just exhausted!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blankets Creek Dirty Duathlon

Thought I was running late for the Blankets Creek Dirty Duathlon. I got there at a little after 7. Transition closed at 8, race meeting at 8:30 and race at 9. Well, as it turned out, I was like the 10th bike in transition. I could have slept later.

Early Morning Registration

I was talking with a few guys. We could have had the meeting at 8:05 and started the race at 8:15. A little bit of “hurry up and wait.” Overall the race was well put on and most folk seemed to have a good time.

Transition Area

I was in the 3rd wave, 40 to 59 year old men. We took of with a bang and I was out front briefly, and then this guy pulled even. I was joking around with him talking about being old, and he told me he was 48 too. He pulled ahead and I tucked in behind him. A 100 meters later I said “pffffftt” just let him go. He vanished. I was hoping he was a runner and maybe not a good cyclist. Yeah, right.

Pre Race Meeting

At about ¾ of a mile a guy in blue tucked in behind me and we ran together for maybe a mile and a half. He finally came around and told me to yell if I wanted to pass. I just let him lead and then let him drift away. At about mile 3 I had two guys come from behind and one was saying to the other “I feel like a knife is sticking in my side. Go ahead!” Another guy in blue past me and me and knife guy ran together. I finally let him go while trying to back off a conserve a little energy. At the end of the run, two or three guys got by me. I finished the run in maybe 6th or 7th in my wave, at best 2nd in the 45-49 age group. I had no idea because we did not have ages marked on our shins like we do at almost all triathlons. I only knew one guy was definitely my age.

After a quick transition, I was off on the bike. I had ridden at Blanket’s before, but do not remember seeing some of these trails. A couple guys past me as we headed for and up Hurl Hill. Coming off that we were moving down a rough trail that took a sharp left. Knife guy on the run had warned me about that as we chatted. He did not mention I could have died. I was behind one guy and had 2 or 3 following. We hit the left hairpin turn. There were two EMT’s standing in the turn. The guy in front of me could not follow his line and wrecked. I locked up the wheels and screamed “wreck” to the guys behind me. I put one foot down, cut inside him and then ended up on the outside of the trail. That was where the huge drop-off was. And the trail was not dirt, but what looked like rock building up what used to be dirt. To hold me on the trail if I miss-judged the turn was some yellow, plastic ribbon. I was trying to get my foot clicked back into the pedal while simultaneously trying not to piss myself. (Later there was yet another section with a drop-off with rocks and roots obstructing a skinny trail). Very scary to this triathlete who usually rides smooth roads.

A few more guys got by me on the first section of trail, the Van Michael section. We hit the Dwelling Loop, which was a little less technical, and I could hold my speed. By this time the race had stretched out and I was pretty much on my own. A couple guys caught me, but I had no idea which wave they were from, or which age group. That was again an issue with not having ages marked on calves. You really had no idea of who was who. Relays, multiple waves and multiple age groups were all tossed together and you had no idea of what was going on. I had started cramping at the end of the Van Michael section and it was getting worse, so I figured I would just keep the pace as high as I could and hope to crack top 5 in my age group.

While this type of riding is not my strong suit- lots of accelerating- the new 29er was doing great. It was just rolling over everything. The Avid disc brakes were squealing a bit, but this is common for Avid Juicys. The front derailleur had some rub, and was a bit out of adjustment. However, I was happy as could be. I am glad I cut down the handlebars, as there were some narrow sections I barely made it through at speed.

I hit the final section, South Loop, and was moving along. There was lots of weaving, but not much climbing. When I exited from there onto the short fire trail, I heard 3 guys behind me, so I punched it when it flattened out. I flew by one guy and just gunned it. After about 30 seconds I looked back and nobody was there, which was good because then the cramps really hit! I rode them out and finished. Maybe I had a top 5 age group!

First thing I did was to start looking for the 48 year-old who ran away from me. I could not see him. I thought back but could not remember passing him. Where was he? I saw some other guys I raced with and was talking with them. Nobody could remember seeing this guy after he ran away from us. I packed up, loaded the bike onto the car and went back to the transition. Lisa, the race director, announced that preliminary results were posted. I went up to look. The guy who ran away from me could indeed bike. He put 4 minutes on me on the run, but 13 on the bike. Holy crap! I was second age group! Yeah! But the guy had just destroyed me. Then I saw he was circled as first overall. He destroyed a whole lot of people! Damn! I checked to see how close 2nd was to me. I had him by 9 minutes. Oops, I could have eased way up! After the fast guy was moved to 1st overall, I assumed 1st age group. I would have placed top ten in the 40-44 age group, so not too bad. However, a 50-59 age group guy beat me, so not too good. I did not get chicked!

The 48 year-old who took first was not at the award ceremony. He probably was at home showering. I think he was eating at the Waffle House by the time I finished. Awesome race by the guy! I picked up a free registration for the next Dirty Duathlon in Canton during the month of October. I can use that.

All in all a great, fun race. I was very pleased with my performance. I am not in good shape and have done very little running over the winter. This was a new bike I have only ridden for about 15 miles. I will take it and be happy!

Race Director Lisa of Mountain Goat Adventures

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Georgia Rides to the Capital

Capital, originally uploaded by TimothyJ.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Catching up on The Snake #2 and #3.

The Snake’s 2nd trial in February went fairly smooth. It had rained for a few days before, but the trails drained quickly and were not too muddy. The first creek crossing was about 18+ inches deep, but I rode easily through it. Some people did walk. There were spots of mud, and I did end up covered, but it was not a big deal. I had a slow leak in my rear tire that I changed at the last aid station, but the ride pretty much went off without a hitch. I was slow and steady and finished. Some people did walk. I started the race with no legs because of the 130 miles I had ridden the previous weekend, some of that on the sadistic Airport Ride. I knew I could not push it and just rode in easy.

For the 3rd Snake time trial, aka March, the final one to get the 3x34 mile belt buckle, I was ready. I would have walked that freaking trail if I had to. I was going to get that belt buckle.

I finally fixed the issue with the tires going flat or leaking. My rims are WTB Speed Discs which have these grooves, or seats, for the tire beads. Because of this they use a thin 11mm rim tape. The bike came with wider tape, so when the tires were seating on the rim they were pulling the rim tape off the spoke holes, and thus I was getting flats. Regular cloth 11mm rim tape wasn’t working too well either. I ordered the WTB 11mm vinyl rim tape, and this seems to have fixed the flat problem. No flats or leaks during 3rd Snake, which is not to say I did not have any mechanicals. I have no idea why the proper rim tape did not actually come with the bike.

There was hard rain the night before the race. We had no rain during the race, but the damage had been done. The trails were slop on all but the highest areas. The clay/gravel trails were like runny peanut butter. A minute into the race, you no longer worried about getting muddy. The first stream crossing, the one that can get really high, was a disappointing 8 inches (insert tasteless joke here). Just like riding through a puddle. There were deeper, and more dangerous, puddles. Curves on the trail were dangerous as everybody was sliding. Riding in other’s tire groves could be dangerous as well. I just let the bike slide and tried to stay upright.

A few miles in the glasses were off- I could not see through them. I actually had to stop and peel off a base layer and my arm warmers as I was overheating early. Then I just kept going.

At mile 11 I was passing another cyclist and put a stick through my rear wheel. The guy I was passing yelled that I had cut it in half with my spokes. Luckily there was no wheel damage, but I bent my rear derailleur. The shifting got bad, but a mile later I fell over and bent it a little back, so it was not too bad. Still the chain was jumping around. At the midway aid station, I straightened and adjusted it. It was not perfect, but better. One of the riders who had a mechanical and could not finish was cleaning everybody’s chain at that aid station. Let me say again, mountain bikers tend to be super people and great to be around. I can pretty much guarantee you would not see a triathlete who broke down helping out at an age station. That just does not happen.

The second half of the time trial is where the course gets real technical. I just do not have the skills to ride the rock gardens. I rode more this time, and I am a better mountain biker for having ridden all 3 of these, but I just do not have the skill level to ride this crap. My plan was to just get through them. At mile 22 or 23 I ran into a rider trying to inflate a 29 inch tire with a little teeny pump. I asked him if he needed anything. He asked if I had a bigger pump. I told him I could give him a CO2. He said he didn’t want to take my CO2. I said, “Dude, I flatted 3 times in January. I have 4 CO2s. Take one.” He used my CO2 head since his malfunctioned with his cartridge, and 20 seconds later he was ready to ride. He said he had been there for 20 minutes.

Mile 26 was where I fell over and rolled down a hill. That was fun and oh so graceful! I was still having trouble clicking out of my pedals with these new shoes. I did not kill myself, but I was very aware that I could easily slam my head against a rock. I fell over a number of times. I have a bad bruise on my knee, various cuts on my arms and legs, and it was not until a day later that I realized I had dug my front chainring into my calf- embedding grease and grime in my skin. I could not tell you when all that happened.

I finished with my fastest time. #1 was 5:36:58. #2 was 5:24:36. The final ride was 5:04:38. My cumulative was 16:06:12. Not blazing, but I got my F$&%ing belt buckle! It was a little smaller than I thought (insert tasteless joke here), but it sure is pretty! 88 riders got a belt buckle. On the bus ride to the start I asked who would be here in the rain if there was not a belt buckle to be acquired. The vast majority admitted they would not have been there with the weather we were having.

After the race there were 3 kegs of beer, chili and peach cobbler. A band played under a very small tent. People were huddled under other small tents. The rain was falling. It pretty much held off. I did not stick around for the awards. I ate my chili and cobbler, got my belt buckle and left, as the band was playing Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone.”

I will never ride that f%$&ing trail again. At least the last 17 miles.

Edited to add: Of the 83 men who finished the 3x34, I was 76th by cumulative time. Ouch. First time I have ever been a BOPer- Back of the Packer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bull Sluice Lake

Bull Sluice Lake, originally uploaded by TimothyJ.

The lake that formed when Morgan Falls Dam was built on the Chattahoochee.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Timothy J Gets Bitten by The Snake

Ouch! That hurt! Not just because it is the toughest 34 miles have ever ridden, but also because I rode it aggressively. Well, I rode aggressively until the bottom fell out. But yeah, that race hurt!

I show up at 7:45 to the expo center up in Dalton, GA. Crowds milling about, volunteers directing people and a guy with a bullhorn “Be sure to get on the buses by 9 o’clock. The buses are leaving at 9 o’clock. If you are not on them by 9 o’clock, they will leave with out you." It was a point-to-point race, so you load up your bikes on trailers and trucks and before 9 o’clock, get on one of the buses and they take you to your starting point- one for the 17 miler and one for the 34 miler.

I register and load my bike up and then go back to change into race gear. You want to be cold before you start, so you do not overheat on the bike. I was very cold, but I dressed perfectly for the ride- one of the few things to go right on the day. So there is a big group in the parking lot getting ready and the guy, actually a pretty cool guy, with the bullhorn still going on “Be sure to get on the buses by 9 o’clock….” He is about 6 cars away from me and suddenly there is a lull in the announcements. So being me, I yell a question at him, “Hey, what time are we leaving.” Everybody is laughing. Now this is the difference between triathlons and mountain biking. At a triathlon my smart-ass remarks are met with a dirty glance. This guy turned to face me, looked at me, and flipped one big ol’ bird, grinning. Then he says, “Do we have a smart-ass riding the 17?” I answered, “No, the 34.” He just muttered okay, smiled and started with the bullhorn again. Hilarious!

We bus over to the start, and since we are the first bus, wait for the bikes, chit chatting and stuff until they arrive. When they do arrive everybody scrambles to get out on the trail early to avoid the crowd. In no time I am off onto the Pinhoti Trail. I was kind of taking it easy until we hit the big stream crossing, which is rather anti-climactic. It is just a foot deep and an easy ride. Nice trails and I am moving along pretty good. I lost a little bit of time on a few poorly marked turns, but am feeling good.

Then the first bad thing happen, I flat at mile 7. Usually a flat is no big deal, but a month ago I went through the I-can’t-fix-this-flat-because-the-spares-keep-getting-holes-before-they-are-halfway-inflated at Blankets. I did not think this would be a problem because I checked out the rims and the tires, and put in new rim strips. Well, it became a problem. The first spare started leaking halfway inflated. I checked the rim and tire, and thought I found the culprit, because suddenly there is blood running down my finger. Try a patch and pumped it up with my pump instead of my last CO2 cartridge. No go. I check again, seems I found a little piece of metal. I use my last spare and last CO2. It holds. 10+ minutes lost, and lots of people passing me, but I am back. BTW, over 90% of the people passing are asking if I am okay. Great folks. Before rolling, I turn to pee in the woods. About that time the 20-something girl in the pink tutu with a pink pillbox hat on her helmet comes racing by yelling, “I see you peeing!”

So I am now pushing it a little to make up some time, but my early start time to avoid the crowds is negated. I am working hard to pass lots of people. I am fully aware that I have no spares or CO2s, only patches and a small pump, so I am also trying to avoid flatting again. I hit the halfway point, 17 miles, grab my new bottles from the SAG/Special Needs folk and continue. I start to cramp. No the full on stand-on-the-side-of-the-trail-and-scream cramp, but the lighter if-you-don’t-take-it-easy-you-will-be-standing-on-the-side-of-the-trail-screaming cramp. I start trying to regulate my efforts, but I am in a little deep and am starting to hurt. At about mile 26 I am screaming down a very rocky hill, going way to fast, and I nail a rock with the front wheel. It blows. I do not go down, and get off the trail so the guys right behind me can ride by. I pull out the tube and start trying to find the hole. I can’t. People are coming by asking if I am okay, and I start asking for a 26-inch tube. Most folk seem to be on 29ers, but I finally get one. I pump it up and take off.

Shortly after that the serious stretch of rock gardens show up. Damn, these things are the worst yet! Lots of people are walking up the steep sections, me included. I am cramping bad when off the bike now. The right leg is cramping while on the bike as well. My forearms are cramping, and I am having trouble straightening my fingers. At about mile 27, the guy behind me points out that the sole of my shoe is separating from the upper. I say, “Looks like the cleat is keeping it attached, I should be okay.” -famous last words. Minutes later, it completely separates. Miles of rock gardens ahead, and there is no way I can ride them. I walk until a little before mile 31. The girl with the tutu passes me again, but I wasn’t peeing. I show the sole, cleat and toecap that I am carrying to few people who ask. One girl says “I don’t have a spare one of those” and we both laugh. At about mile 31 it is smooth enough that I can use the toecap to lightly hold the sole in place enough to clip in and ride. It is mostly downhill from there and I finish. I was snake bit but I made it to the end. I have no idea of the time, well over 4 hours I am sure, but lets say it was a little slow.

This exchange comes to mind:

“It’s a bollocks, this race!” said [Theo] de Rooy. “You’re working like an animal, you don’t have time to piss, you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this, you’re slipping … it’s a pile of shit.”

[A]fter laughing and regaining his composure, [John} Tesh had the good sense to ask a follow-up.

“Will you ever ride it again?” he asked the mud-covered Dutchman.

“Sure, it’s the most beautiful race in the world!” said de Rooy without a second’s hesitation.

I will be back in February and March with problems fixed. It is a tough, painful race, but I will be back.

Update: Ouch! 5 hours and 36 minutes! No wonder it seemed like I was out there all damn day!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Man on Wire V2

Original newscast. Still makes me queasy. I have to see the new film.