Monday, August 20, 2007

Life - End of Summer Blues

With my fiancee out "shopping" for the day (it was actually a surprise bridal shower), I was left alone at the house. Normally this would mean a mega-ride, maybe one of my "not this year" ride to Kent (120 miles or so). Or maybe doing Gimbels (and riding there and back). Or some other mega-mile, mega-time, mega-exhausting ride. A chance to spin, do some climbs, chase after some trucks, blast around a few turns, do a few tucks on fast descents, and then come back home and act like a zombie for the rest of the day. An eating, drinking, and sleeping zombie to be precise.

Instead, with the move looming big on the radar, I did other things.

First off there's this crack running between the driveway and the walls around it. I used about 20-25 pounds of pavement patching stuff and patched it. I have to seal it now but the patching is done. I didn't realize it until after I'd patched them that the cracks had been stressing me out. Somehow patching them gave me a lot of relief.

Putting the pavement patching stuff away, I started packing the van with all my car stuff to take to Todd's (he's married to one of my fiancee's bridesmaids - in other words, she was up in Todd's vicinity "shopping"). I had listed a lot of stuff I wanted to bring and asked about some "optional" items. He hinted that one of the optional items, the extension ladder, would be welcome. Since I hadn't planned on bringing it, I had to rearrange the garage to get to it. Easier said than done but after an hour or so I gingerly removed the ladder from said garage.

I started maneuvering it to get it into the van when I remembered, "Laundry line." Right. The laundry line that's been in the big tree in back since 1992. And which was last used in perhaps 1993. I needed to get it down. Now. If no ladder, no getting it down. Todd said he needed the ladder so not taking it was out of the question. Instead, I had to get the line down now.

So Mr. "I'm Afraid of Heights" got the ladder up on the tree, wobbled his way up to the line anchor (it's about 15 feet up), and after debating for a while on how to get it down, clambered back down, retrieved the BFH (the Big F-ing Hammer), and smashed the laundry line anchor clear to tomorrow.

Some pieces may have landed next door but honestly I don't know. I picked up what I could and tossed it in the garbage.

Anyway, that done, my eyes traveled to the branch hanging over the walkway like the Sword of Damocles. I got my relatively new (and expensive) telescoping saw and tried to get at it but it was at least 20 feet up and out of range of my ground-anchored self.

So as not to let this opportunity pass (i.e. the ladder), I propped the ladder up against the house, climbed onto the roof, precariously reached out with the extended saw, and cut up said Sword. Pieces fell everywhere but I felt a lot better about not having someone impaled while walking into the house.

I climbed down after the heart-stopping "How do I get onto the ladder again?" bit and got back down to the ground. The ladder didn't rattle too much so I wasn't quaking as much as normal. Still though it was nice to be down on Mother Earth again. Also a good reminder that I want to buy a ranch, not a two story (or more) colonial, so that during gutter cleaning season (the fall - leaves - and the spring - pollen stuff) I sit only 15 feet off the ground, not 20 or more when I clear the gutters.

I finished packing the van about three hard-laboring hours later and started on the drive up to Todd's. It was somewhere in the Route 8 valley where things sort of hit me.

Nothing physical mind you. No bugs in my teeth or bouncing hubcaps smacking the hood.

It was the End of Summer Blues, smack dab in the middle of my forehead.

Normally it's something I feel just before school starts. Since I haven't gone to school in almost two decades it's something else. I've been trained to have this feeling in the fall. Maybe if I was a bird I'd migrate or something. It's usually a consistent pattern. It goes something like this.

I've been training and racing like a madman. My body has gotten used to being tired or sore or both. The only days it isn't sore is when I show up at a "peak" race, a goal race. The legs usually feel okay but as the summer wears on a deep seated fatigue permeates everything. I find I get stronger and faster as the summer goes by, and even the achiness in my body doesn't stop me from making the enormous efforts required in a race or a hard group ride.

After each race or ride, dehydrated, bleary eyed, tired, I'd drive home, eat, read, lounge around, and wait for sleep to overtake me.

And I'd start it all over again the next day, the next week. The racing, training, lounging, eating, drinking.

It's a great feeling, living this riding and recovering cycle. You know you're in deep when you hit the deep seated fatigue part where you're tired but amazingly strong. The strength doesn't really go away, it just hides until you make that one extra effort and suddenly your legs are going and you close that gap.

After the effort you feel just like you did before you made that effort, tired and sore. But not more tired or more sore.

So when you need to make another effort, you ask your body again.

And it responds.

Again and again.

Somehow your body is able to do this, fatigued or not. A relentless reservoir of reserves, waiting to be tapped.

This year I barely raced, barely rode. But I felt the same achiness, the same fatigue, the same bleary eyes, the same response when I went to make an effort, but it was all for a different reason - moving. Working Saturday with my friends Kelly and Jenn, moving a lot of heavy and bulky things into the PODS, pre-loading the van, it was exhausting. We'd been moving stuff around for a while in preparation - and then the stress of the honeymoon planning didn't help. Then that morning I ended up editing the van, editing the garage, and loading a whole lot of other stuff. I finally felt that deep fatigue - it hit me in the van.

The End of Summer Blues got some help because the van has a quaint cassette player. I have some copies of tapes I listened to in college. I usually listen to the tapes when I was driving, and I was usually driving to go to races. So the music - REM ("Begin the Begin" and more), Smithereens ("Blood and Roses" and some others), U2 ("Gloria" and more), the Cramps (a PG-13/R song I won't even name), and some lessor known alternative 80's bits - helped bring back the flood of feelings pertaining to the ESBs.

The final ingredient was the cool weather and cloudy skies. The precursor to the fall days of September, the weather shifted pretty hard this last couple days. No A/C, windows open, and you need a blanket on the bed. The cats are a good barometer - when they're curled up, tails wrapped around like a shawl, nestled in some comfy warm spot, you know it's not that hot (the alternative being sprawled out on their backs on the cool hardwood floors). Driving the van (with its nice new firm shocks and re-lined brakes) in this weather simply completed the whole ESB thing. I found myself driving steadily, mellow, sort of the way a really tired, really fatigued, yet somehow alert person would drive.

I got to Todd's, we unpacked the van with the help of his friend Mark and that was it. In the race of life I blew up. I watched them work on what used to be my Passat (I gave the Passat to Todd in February, along with all the stuff I had for it). It starts now (bad connection in the anti theft circuitry prevented it from starting before) and he's been diligently working on the brakes and various little things to get it street worthy.

Todd's wife and my fiancee arrived after her surprise bridal shower and we all talked while Todd and Mark cleaned up. I drank Gatorade and water, ate pizza and cake, and sat around doing, well, nothing.

The drive home was a repeat except I could follow a leadout car - my fiancee, driving extremely consistently and predictably (as the van doesn't like going over 65 mph), led me through to the house.

Walking up to the house I realized I left the telescoping saw hanging on the gutter of the house. The BFH lay in the grass. Bits and pieces of dead branches littered the walk.

We left them there, I just took the time to lay the saw on the ground.

We walked into the house, the semi-empty house. The bed lay on the floor, about two feet below its normal height. The cats were having problems adapting - they'd pause, wiggle their butts, and then jump... all of 12 inches up. Then they'd try to get to the window above the bed. It used to be a climb down - now it's a two foot jump up. We helped the disoriented Tiger get to his watchtower sill so he could survey all those around him.

Only one more week living in this, my first house. I've lived here almost 15 years (it'll be 3 months short when we move out). I daresay it's in much better shape now than it was when I moved in that cold December morning in 1992. The agent called today to report that the lenders had done something about a mortgage contingency thing. I think this means they promise to lend the money to the buyers. This means the house is sold. I called my fiancee right away, she called the townhouse people, and so tomorrow we'll be the proud future tenants of a cozy two bedroom townhouse about 90 miles away from where we live now.

And we'll have until two Fridays from now to clear out the house. This means we have a lot of packing to do. "We" means "I" since a lot of the stuff is mine - bike stuff, garage stuff. The whole basement, except for some clothing, is all my stuff.

At some point, maybe tomorrow morning, I'll pick up a small container of pavement sealer. Seal the cracks in the driveway. Cover my patches (the patches are the foundation for sealer but are not waterproof themselves). It's not like anyone asked me to do this, but I feel it's only right. So, before we've moved, I'll get it done. The one thing we have to do is cap the chimney - and that should be done Wednesday night.

The soon-to-be owners seem really nice, really enthusiastic. I'm happy that the couple buying the house seem so involved - they've called a few times to ask about the house, the plants, things like that. Granted the house is in good shape - after all, except for the floors, I fixed things up for me, not for someone else. But it's still good to know the house is in great shape. I feel like I've done my part. It's a good feeling.

Like you might expect, it'll be sad to move out. I wonder if it'll be like the time I sat in the empty bike shop, looking around at "what had been". I had a bit of that feeling yesterday, perhaps brought on by the ESBs. Or maybe the other way around. Really, though, you can't live in the present (or the past) for your whole life.

Progress is sometimes disruptive.

The thing about the ESBs is that although they signal the end of a season, they also herald in the beginning of a new season, a rebuilding time (both figuratively and literally), a time of hibernation.

When I got my fun car (the blue one), I wanted to videotape it backing into some anonymous garage door. Then I'd do work on it, modify it, make it more powerful, make it handle better. Then I'd videotape the door opening, the engine starting, snarling, and the car pulling out, better, stronger, faster than before. Okay it probably won't be stronger. But man did I love watching the 6 Million Dollar Man when I was a kid.

Anyway, back to the ESB thing. The time my car would spend in the garage is like the fall and winter time here in New England. This year is winding down. A couple big events to go - the immediate move, the slightly less immediate wedding. And after that it'll be time for recuperation. To rebuild. To recover. Next year all sorts of things will blossom, come to fruition. Time to drive the car out of the garage. The end of the hibernation cycle.

But for now? For now it's the End of Summer Blues time.

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