Friday, May 26, 2006

Funny story and an update

After the highly serious last post, I think we all need some levity. So here we go. Very quickly.

I was in a field sprint at a race in MA in 1991, and things were getting pretty physical. I went to grab a guy's arm and shake him as us sprinters do sometimes, and it came off!! He had a prosthesus! I handed it to him with a look of utter bewilderment on my face, he tucked it under his partial arm, and we finished the race a few seconds later. I think I said something like "I think this is yours". LAter I went to apologize and he said it happens on a regular basis.

Ok, I'm in the process of moving things so they can either be thrown out, reside at my brother's or get taken to TX, or at least SC to my parent's house for a bit. My ankle still is messed up, and I just got in from the doc. I'm hoping to be able to race Sunday. It all depends on how my ankle is coming along. I need to invest in Aleve...

MY sweetie is stressing about the time in SC, but I know we'll enjoy it. Can't wait to drive around in the golf cart...heehee!!!!!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Stories of the past

Well, as you know, I was in the Army. So here's an experience of mine. Not too pleasant, and I thought I might have posted it before, but I didn't find it in the archives, so here it is. Sorry for the lack of format, but I had typed it this past fall when I was having a bad time of it after finding out a buddy of mine was killed in Iraq.

So today in the mail I got some of my now deceased friend Prairie's journal from his sis. She typed it up and sent me entries that pertain to me. I'm really happy she did, but sad, too. For me my combat tours are like an alcoholic haze or blackout, I remember very little, just certain details of certain days. It all just became a big blur, but when I read or talk to someone who was there, they mention something that awakes memories, like after a night of partying, where you don't recall much if at all, then you hear something and it comes back.

Like the following which Prairie wrote:

Another tough mission where we fought our way to the extraction point, carrying wounded and dead. Ski's squad was taking it on the chin for us on our left flank, and he and his guys were hitting back just as hard. His radio called for close support, and they directed the gunships as we were boarding. They got on the last chopper out of town, as always, and we started to leave. Suddenly we heard over the intercom words that make us all sick: "We're missing four!!!!! Four unaccounted!!!" First squad was missing four guys, and in the confusion no one made a good head count. As our bird banked hard right, I saw four guys running into the clearing, tracers passing them left and right. They were waving to us to come back. Then I heard "Roger that, we got four on the deck still. We'll keep them covered till you boys can get them." It was the gunship pilots, who turned sharply and started making passes and unloading ordnance wherever tracers came from. For a few moments, our guys were safe. I got on the intercom:"Ok, we got four on the deck, second squad will go in and extract, we need to get in and out, we can't lose a bird or we're all dead. Ski, can you hear me?"

"Roger that, Prairie. Fourth squad ready to cover you guys when you hit the ground, we're going in hot." Ski was amazing. He never refused to go in and do cover/security. His squad was absolutely fearless, for they had to get back on the ground, draw fire and reengage the enemy, cover us, then disengage and get back on the bird without getting overrun. His chopper banked hard, I saw his guys get ready at the doors, and at about 10 or 12 feet off the ground at close to 15 mph they jumped out both sides, deploying themselves in a neat firing line. We were coming in right behind them. Our bird set down as close as possible to our four guys, and myself and two of my squad, Swick and Charts, ran over to them. Charts threw one over his shoulder, Swick grabbed another by the web gear and started dragging, and I helped grab their gear. All of us made it back to the bird and we started to lift off. I put my headset back on. "Where's Ski's squad?" I saw his chopper circling back towards us.

"They said they were in close range with the enemy and to not land for them yet." was my pilot's reply. God, we may have lost a whole squad to get four guys. I couldn't see them as we climbed towards relative safety. I switched channels so I could hear his radio chatter and the chopper intercom. His radio was calling in more close support.

"I need whatever you got on (coordinates) now!!!! We can't disengage until we have a hole punched in them somewhere. We have nowhere to go!!" I was sick to my stomach. One of my best friends and his squad went down there to protect us and now they couldn't get out, like fire fighters trapped in a burning building. I started to pray on the intercom, not even knowing I was speaking. Suddenly all my guys were saying the Hail Mary with me...Out of nowhere some F-18s and then A-10s went rushing by us. We turned to circle at a safe distance. It was like watching hell explode in front of you. We saw the detonations of the bombs, and heard them over the radio, followed by more gunfire, screams, grenades, everything. I felt so worthless, watching and hearing it, but unable to help those guys. The radio crackled again:

"Meet us at the southwest side of the clearing, we're making a run for it, be advised we have one dead, two wounded." While the gunships and planes kept pounding with all they had, we saw Ski's bird go in really hot and low. The pilot almost stood the bird on it's tail to stop in time, but we saw it lift off only seconds later. Ski's squad, the masters of quick boarding, even with dead and wounded.We got back to camp, and waited for Ski's bird to land. His squad got off quietly, eyes blank, uniforms bloodied, bayonets still fixed to their weapons, coated with blood. It was obvious they had fought hand to hand.

"Ski, you ok? You need anything?" He just sat down and cried. Others of his squad walked aimlessly to our area. The aircrew came over and tried to comfort him. I saw he had something on his head, and went to wipe it off, but he swatted my hand away. Normally he'd be quiet, or just kind of walk slowly. This time something really had him rattled. So I went to the chopper and saw why he was upset. Radio, his squad's radioman, was lying dead on the floor of the chopper, shot through the head. Then it hit me. Ski had some of his brain on him and in his hair. Not only had it been close for Ski, but he and Radio were good friends. The only lefties in our company, they used to joke about being a minority, things like that. I helped carry Radio to the morgue, and let Ski recover at his own pace.

So, that's what Prairie wrote. I'd forgotten about that day until now. This is my abridged side of the story, picking up where we heard the four guys were on the deck.

"Are you guys up to covering second squad?" They all nodded yes. "Alright, we need to set up a screen between our guys and them. It's too hot to land, so we're doing a moving deployment, we need to get out as fast as possible. As soon as we hit the ground, fix your bayonets, I think it's going to get close and personal down there. Lock and load, check your ammo!!! Let's go get our guys!" We banked hard, came in low and fast, jumped, fixed bayonets, and took fire immediately. It's really a jumbled mess of memory fragments for me. I recall closing with the enemy, and some hand to hand combat, but not details. We were now stuck with no way out, and fought like cornered animals to find a way out. Somehow Radio kept his cool in all this to shoot with one hand and call in air support with the other. When it looked hopeless we heard some planes and they dropped all kinds of stuff right on top of us, so close that I was knocked to the ground by the concussion. That bought us time to be able to finish off the enemy around us and make a run for it. Except as we were about to get going, I was right next to Radio and as we got up, I heard a buzz and all of a sudden I was wiping his brain off my face and head. I'm so thankful he died instantly. So I picked up the radio, made the last transmission, grabbed radio, and ran to the chopper. The ride home was tough, but it wasn't until we landed that things sank in. I was numb. One of my friends was dead, we had almost been annihilated, we were in hand to hand combat in a struggle for our lives, and now it sank in. I got off the chopper, and took a few dazed steps. My legs went to jell-o, and I sat down and began sobbing. This ain't Kansas anymore, and it was becoming apparent we were involved in something that was way bigger than we ever thought.

Prairie was a friend who only had another 3 years before he could retire. He was killed his first day of his 2nd tour of Iraq. He volunteered to take the place of who he was replacing two days early, because he was the type of guy who wouldn't have been able to live with himself if something were to happen and he could have prevented it. On the way back from a firefight with insurgents another patrol radioed the codeword which means they were about to be overrun. Having been in that position, I can say I would have asked my pilot to divert so we could help out. Doug asked his guys, and they were up for it, so they went in to a really hot fight. When it was apparent they couldn't hold out, the choppers came back to extract everyone. Doug got off his chopper to give the space to a wounded soldier, and saw another wounded soldier trying to get to the chopper. He ran to him, started carrying him, and was shot in the back 3 times, but managed to carry the other guy to the chopper. Doug was pulled in by the crew and he bled out on the way to the triage center. He never thought of himself, and we should all be so lucky to have friends like that.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Technical difficulties

Ok, been absent for awhile due to some problems. Like my housemate changing servers and being convinced a router would get her fined and charged extra. No, that would be a modem illegally installed, brainless...

Anyway, painting at my sister's house and letting my ankle heal, and will be racing the 28th of this month in Hartford, CT. Hope to do well as my dad will be going with me. Also going crazy trying to get in touch with someone who was selling a car. Strange things happening. I need to get a new car so I know what will go with my parents and what will go with me, and how to plan to load the car I have. Arrrggghhh!!!!

Well, back to work, just wanted to let all of you know I am still alive. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll be able to get back online at home tonight if I'm in a good mood.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's called water, pal...

I went to return some bottles at the grocery store today after work. The machines were down, so I had to deal with some college kid who hates his job at the counter. I say that because he was in a class of mine 2 years ago. But it gets better.

Some slimecrawling troll was in front of me with a cartful of bottles. I had 12. He looks at me and says "huh, yeer gonna be here a long time becuz of me, why donchya give me your bottles?" I told him no, I'll wait, as I was like him and had noplace better to be. It left vapor trails over his neolithic skull.

In NY you're supposed to wash out the bottles. When I worked for the precursor to this company, I took great delight in refusing to accept bottles from these troglodytes. They'd be upset because how were they then going to pay for their Schlitz? I'd say "get a job?". Mean, yes. Well, this brainless wonder didn't wash his bottles out, some still had some form of fluids in them, others had god knows what. Eventually he left, sneering at me as if he had gotten one over on me, so I let him keep believing that. Actually, I'd be ok with him not washing out the bottles if he used the water for a bath and to brush his four remaing brown and one green tooth.

Now that I'm done being a snob, what else is going on? MY parents are coming to town on Friday. Sat I've conned them into coming with me to Lake George for a race. Weather forecast: 54 balmy degrees and rain, baby!!! Woohoo!!! My kind of weather. Of course, they're from SC so it'll be like winter to them, but I left a message on the phone to warn them.

I guess I could go on about stuff up here, but I don't want to bore the four people who regularly read this. But tomorrow I do go look at a new car for me! Yay!! IF I get it, it'll be the newest car I've ever owned, a 1997. I'm very excited. Time to retire Sven, and right now he's almost at 249,000 miles. Just a little more...

Later I'll put up pics from this past weekend at Williamstown, MA. The camera has gone from the knapsack to the desk. Progress...

Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm getting old

Well, I raced in Williamstown, MA, yesterday. I had an ok race, since I had no real warmup and wasn't sure if I was going to get into my first race at all. But I did, and I made the best of it. I got 15th from 37 starters. Ok, but still not too impressive. I was in a chase group of three and lost the sprint to the two other guys. That was a wakeup call.

Let me explain something about this race course, of which photos will be put up later. It's beautiful. Which means it's dangerous and tough. Like potentially fatal. Any race where they tie mattresses to trees and signposts at certain corners is a good thing. I think so, anyway. I know of someone who will now never let me return to this race... Well, back on track. It's a very technical course, in that I mean you need to be able to really throw your bike around, dive into super tight corners and not be afraid to hit your pedal on the ground or clip a curb. There is no place on this course where one can relax even for a second. It's exhausting physiacally and mentally. NO daydreaming here, folks, or you're on the deck or in a tree.

The two worst corners are the two fastest, of course, and take quite a bit of courage to get through. One of them is really tight and really fast, and the other is really tight and really really fast. But on with my races.

Since I wasn't warmed up enough, I wasn't able to ever get up to the front. Eventually the pack split, and I wasn't there where I needed to be. But I kept riding as hard as I could, and began to get into a good rhythm, and started to catch people. Eventually, it came down to the lead group of 10, 2 more guys about 1 1/2 minutes back of them, and my group. I kept getting dropped and chasing back on, and kept returning the favor to the other two guys who were with me. So it was definitely some good racing amongst the three of us. Of all things, the other guys had problems matching me on the climb (half of the lap) and we were equal on the descent, just on the windy flat section they were able to reel me in again and again...

Well, when we were told we had one lap to go, the other two guys decided to sit in on me, which means they rode in my draft and refused to pull through. A very well used tactic. So I rode a hard descent, tried to shake them on the flat, then on the climb I went all the way over to the left so they got minimal protection from the wind. I also slowed way down so maybe one of them would come around me. Nope. I had really no options but to try and catch them by surprise. I kind of did when I jumped really hard before the last corner, but it wasn't hard enough.

We came out of the corner and I forced them to go around me on the right side, but I guess I should have gotten one gear higher, I'm not sure. I gave it all I had, but the other two guys got me, though I did a great bike throw at the line to make it close. Well, after the photo review I got 15th.

Ten minutes later I lined up for my next race. Well, remember the ankle pain I had? The cool thing is it's gone, and Sunday was the best I felt in days. But not far into my second race I felt a tinge of pain, and discretion being the better part of valor, I quit. I feel a little guilty, but I didn't want to risk my leg. That might risk my season, or worse, make moving in a month difficult at the least. Besides, I have some races I want to do when I get to TX. Woohoo!!!!

Friday, May 05, 2006

I'm a bit upset

Well, I got cut off by my team. I knew it was coming, but it still pisses me off. I didn't get a top three by the end of last month. Never mind the guys who did all had teammates working for them. Worse, I still haven't gotten my uniforms, and now I'm pretty much over it, so they can keep them. As long as I get my money back. When I post on my team forum, it's like my posts are invisible.

Well, depending on how my ankle is (the left achilles tendon has developed a small knot on the back of my ankle which is a bit painful) I might race Sunday. On a course that last year kicked my ass, but that's because I had only about 200 miles in my legs and I had just finished rebuilding my road bike the night before. Not a good plan. I remember thinking "man, I could really do well here if I had some miles in my legs", and this year I'm close to 3,000 already. Let's get rolling.

It's not a great motivational tool in our sport, but anger does work, and I'm angry. Very. My team has abandoned me, even when I've already done 11 races, and most of the other guys have done maybe 4. Add to that I got a 10th, 14th, 22nd in a pro race, 26th in another race where half the field quit, 34th and highest finish of the team a few weeks ago when I had two teammates, and I feel they owe me. If I had any teammates at the other races things would have been much different, I can assure you. Let's just say that when I last got this pissed I bridged a 12 minute gap by myself to a breakaway of 11 guys in only 28 miles. I finished 5th. Or the time a team director made some desparaging remarks about my ability in a stage race in Kentucky/Tennesee. I won the stage and finished it 19 effin' minutes ahead of everyone. Of course, with all the climbing the two previous days I only moved up to 17th overall, but I made my point. I was never allowed to get away solo or in a group the rest of the season.

Soooooo, if I race Sunday, where I'll have several of the "in" clique of my team, I aim to thrash the field. I won't race against my team, but I'll definitely be working for me.

Well, it's time for bed, I think. One more day down before the big move so the hole in my heart is filled...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Details of another type

I finally got back on my bike tonight. Not a long ride, but it was good enough. I was going to take it easy, then it started to get overcast, the temperature started falling, and it began to spit some rain. Ok, I figured I'd go do a roller coaster type of ride, and that was fine. Except I began to get worried I'd get caught in a rainstorm and that wasn't what I needed then. Turns out, it would have been better.

I was really going well, as I had a little tailwind and was in a mood to get home, when a small deer jumped out in front of me. I hit the brakes, swerved right, we both had "deer in headlights" looks I'm sure, and I hit his left shoulder with my left hand/wrist, jamming it. Both of us looked at each other for a second, for I had stopped a few feet further down the road. I started to talk to the little guy (maybe a year old judging by the size) so he wouldn't freak out, and he took off. So did I. I think I jammed my wrist, but it's feeling a lot better now. That's the third deer I've hit on my bike in 17 years. Hmmmm....

As for other details, let's just say this: Steph is an amazing woman who has melted my heart, superlatives fail me in describing how I feel for her, she's drop dead stop all time and motion in the universe beautiful without a doubt, I hate to be away from her, and I'm going crazy waiting for the day to arrive when I move down to Austin. Hope that answers everything.

Monday, May 01, 2006

PINs, passwords, and goodbyes

Ok, I had one of the most amazing weekends of my life. Nothing went too wrong, if at all, and I'm glad it all worked out as it did. Soooo, to act one.

The love of my life came to visit. No secret there. Of course, she made it an adventure getting here by taking the subway from Jamaica to Penn Station. But she got there, and got on the train to Poughkeepsie just fine. I got down to pick her up, walked in the waiting room (I had just finished buttoning my shirt) and was a little overwhelmed. Pics do not do her any justice. So after the initial shock wore off things were great. We went to dinner, had a nice night to soak each other in, and woke up on Friday trying to figure out if it was really happening or if it was a dream.

Friday I got my hair cut (yes, after 6 months) and we went to Woodstock to check out some shops. Then we got some yummy pizza, got home and got ready for Philly. Saturday we went to Philly, hit Leah's place for her birthday party and had a great time. Prior to the party I rode my bike and trainer in her back yard for awhile, we then went to check in at the hotel (where there was a prom, but thankfully it wasn't noisy later on) ate, and came back to the party. I met some interesting people, yes I did. It was cool, and I enjoyed my three glasses of wine.

About that wine, we'll get to it later. One word of advice, though, when you go to a party and the kitchen has an island, don't let yourself get trapped by the refrigerator. You won't have any chance of getting out unless you vault the sink. Take my word for it, it might be the only option... But it was way too much fun for this old guy.

Well, back to the hotel we got at about 1 or so, and we overslept by over an hour. Now, Philly to Binghamton is a bit of a drive. When you need to make up an hour and a half, it becomes an adventure. Deciding it was easily possible, I set off in hot pursuit of the clock. We mad it from Cherry Hill, NJ to Binghamton, NY in about 2 hrs and 25 minutes, including stopping for a tank of gas. Yes, I still have the racing driver in me...190 miles or so...yes, I broke 100mph for quite a bit of the way.

Anyway, I was dehydrated and a little stressed when I arrived with 10 minutes to spare. So I quickly got my bike together, got ready, and rode to the line. I survived, but I was definitely at about 85%. I tried to recover between my races, but with about 3 laps to go in the second race I was dehydrated and could feel myself going fast, so I quit at the top of the hill just past the finish line. Next time will be better, I'm sure.

On the way home we had dinner with some old friends of my sweety's, then came home and fell asleep. Today I took her to the airport, which was pretty tough for us both.

If you want to see pics of the weekend, you'll have to wait, as I didn't use my camera basically at all.