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16

Jul

The Eiger

I wrote this some time ago but never got around to posting it. I was thinking recently about the experience of achieving a goal. In particular a goal that is physically hard. Something that you have to work hard and suffer for so I thought I should finally post this:

Recently I was on a ride that I had to cut short. Having put in maybe half the miles I had intended, I decided not to let the day slip past without committing to something serious. Rather than attempting to set a PR on an old climb, I decided to try 24th Street again. I had never completed the climb up 24th. Each failed attempt (there were several) had only grown it’s specter in my mind. Until it grew into something almost insurmountable.

As the legend of 24th grew in my mind I was reminded of mountain climbing. I love Mountain climbing. To be fair I’ve yet to do any of the actual climbing and that may someday effect my opinion of the activity. As it stands I’m very fascinated by it and perhaps when my chances at cycling glory have passed me by I will find more time to hike the tops of Baker, Ranier, Denali and more.

One of the world’s truly infamous climbs is the Eiger Nordwand. The German name translates to the Ogre North Wall and this is what it looks like:  image

 It’s a practically vertical face to the top of a 13,000 foot peak. Eight climbers were killed before someone successfully climbed it. In all, since the first serious attempt in 1935, the Nordwand has claimed the souls of no less than 64 climbers earning it the nickname “Mordwand”, the “Death wall”.

Though improvements in techniques and technology have diminished the challenge of the Mordwand, it remains a dangerous and iconic climb. Most serious climbers have been kept awake with either dreams or nightmares of one day testing themselves upon it.

Many cyclists, especially those of us infected with the crazed desire to tackle the fiercest hills we can find, can understand a bit of the madness that infects the world’s great alpinists. In a way, we regularly face our own Eigers: That route that always kicks your ass. That one hill you always avoid. Every cyclist knows one, an ogre they can’t seem to beat. There are often more than one. As we improve as riders, old hills are tamed and new ones rear up in front of us. Hills that used to make me walk or detour around when I first started riding are now utilized as easy routes.

For some time I have faced a true ogre. A hill worthy of being called the Eiger. It’s less than half a mile in length and only a couple hundred feet high but it is steep. The average grade is over 10%. The maximum is over 20%. Half a dozen attempts to reach the summit had failed. Each time I was forced to take refuge in a cul de sac agonizingly near the summit, rest there before riding the rest of the way up. Until I reached the top without stopping i could not claim the climb.

Much like the Eiger, there are tougher climbs out there. Taller, steeper, longer, but this hill, this climb, is only a few blocks from my home. To leave it unclaimed challenges my abilities as a cyclist. So my failures there gave it more power over me.

Power that it no longer has. I have slain my ogre. I have reached the summit of the Eigre

08

Jul

You know it's hot when ...

18

Mar

When I was fifteen we packed into our family station wagon and drove several hours east across the state line. We were in search of an old woman who bred little dogs on a little farm. We returned home with a little black and brown puppy with a flopped-over ear that my sister named Tintin during the return trip.

He was talkative and affectionate and always wanted to be up higher, climbing on top of his kennel like Snoopy. He grew into a handsome, intelligent, thick-headed, neurotic, and loyal dog. In his youth he became an ace vermin killer taking down a rat, three squirrels, and countless birds before retiring. But he never lost his edge; last year he successfully defended our family from a raccoon that intruded into the yard.

I will remember the way he would sit in the middle of a noisy room of people and start talking along with everyone else. I will remember the way he would fetch toys only so he could wrestle you for them. How once on Christmas his present from Santa only survived a couple of hours before he had pulled all its stuffing out through a small tear in its stitching, so that he could break the squeaker. I will remember watching him brilliantly stalk a squirrel in our yard, using the shadowed wood chips as camouflage. Or the countless times he patiently let Aubrey put doll clothes on him.

I remember coming home from school one day and my Mom said “your dumb dog caught a squirrel!” I turned and excitedly asked Tintin “what did you do?” He leapt in the air and then darted outside. I followed him out and watched as he dove into a bush, wagging his whole body. He emerged with his fresh kill in his jaws and danced across the yard to lay it at my feet. I’ve never seen another living soul exude so much pride.

I will remember him climbing into the back window of my car to get a better view. I will remember him launching out of the van when we got to the beach, only to come back a few seconds later, caked in the wet sand that the cold Washington weather was blowing around. I will remember the way he would bump my leg every stride as I walked down the hall. I will remember him standing next to me with his paw on top of my foot, as though he was trying to say “It’s ok, I got you.”

I will remember watching him sneak into my room at night to bury a treat in a pile of laundry.  I will remember him coming in my room every morning. I will remember him twitching and baying in his sleep as he dreamed.

What I will remember most about him is the way he waited in the window for us. The way he hopped in the air when we came home. No matter what happened, I could count on Tintin being happy to see me. When I came home after being away at college for several months he looked at me for a moment like he’d given me up for dead, then ran across the room to give me the best greeting I’ve ever received.

I cried that day because his love was so strong. I cried this day because that love will live on only in memory. It’s tough to lose someone you’ve known for half your life. It’s hard being sad because you’ve lost the one you turned to for comfort whenever you were sad. When Steve Irwin’s dog Sui died, he said “you only have a few best friends in this world”. Today I have one best friend fewer and he isn’t here to make it better.

 

20

Jan

Don’t Talk to Me

I started following sports when I was about 5 years old. I was 6 when my hero Steve Largent retired. I was 9 when the Seahawks went 2 and 14 despite having the league’s best defense. I was 10 when the Sonics were the first #1 seed to lose to a #8. The next summer I lived and died with the Mariners. The year after I watched injuries rob the Sonics of a chance to upset the greatest team in NBA history. In high school I was prepared to see our suffering end but our record breaking team lost their way in October. In college I was forced to watch officials rob us of our first title. Then a couple years later my heart was ripped from my chest when the only team to win a title, albeit before I was born, was stolen from us and there was nothing we could do.

If I had grown up in Chicago I would have seen the Bulls, Black Hawks, and White Sox win titles. In Dallas I would have celebrated Super Bowls, Stanley Cups, and an NBA title. In New York the Yankees and Giants have both been champions multiple times. In this new millennium I could have reveled in 3 Super Bowls, 3 World Series, an NBA finals and a Stanley Cup if I was a Bostonian. St Louis, Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, Denver, and San Francisco have all won titles in multiple sports. Fans in Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Oakland, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis can remember recent times when they danced in the streets because one of their teams brought a trophy home to their city.

I haven’t felt that. I’ve never been able to hug a stranger in a bar or skip work to be at a parade because my team won it all. So when people tell us to calm down or win with “class”. All I have to say is kiss my ass. Unless you’re from Cleveland or Kansas City, you don’t know how it feels to be on the edge of breaking the spell. You don’t know what it feels like to care so much and support for so long. To wear your team’s colors every game day of every week of every year for your entire life. To watch your team do great things and then listen to everyone ignore, discredit, and disrespect them. In two weeks all that could be gone. In two weeks I could begin to heal the wounds of a lifetime. In two weeks I could have a memory that I can tell, teary eyed, to my children and to their children and to their children for the rest of my life. So don’t tell me to calm down. Don’t tell me how to act or what to say. You’ve had your day, so shut your damn mouth and let me enjoy mine.

18

Feb

There's a reason dogs are mans best friend

Some of these are pretty tremendous

29

Jan

Nothing too major from my first day in London.

Nothing too major from my first day in London.

25

Jan

This has been at the fore front of my mind as I prepare for my intercontinental flight.

23

Jan

My first Geocaching adventure was a rainy success today. Found 3 of the 5 I went after and saw some new stuff in my neighborhood. Might have to hunt some caches down in London next week.

My first Geocaching adventure was a rainy success today. Found 3 of the 5 I went after and saw some new stuff in my neighborhood. Might have to hunt some caches down in London next week.

19

Jan

Apart from the ice that accumulated on my clothing (and face) the ride home was pretty good.

Apart from the ice that accumulated on my clothing (and face) the ride home was pretty good.

16

Jan

The best movie trailer I’ve seen in a while