Sunday, September 2, 2012

1989: Part Two

This is a continuation of the year, 1989 as I look back at events that have shaped me during the past 25 years in Seattle. To refresh your memory, the first part is here

A couple of days later, I returned to work, complete with neck-brace and ski pole (the first for protection, the second for balance). I had given notice a couple of weeks before to leave that job and go on to a more exciting line of work – as a bike messenger. My first attempt after the accident to ride a bicycle was not a confidence-builder, as I was not able to throw my leg over the top tube. I had difficulty lifting my right leg more than 45 degrees, but instead of taking that to mean there was something wrong with me, I just adapted and leaned the bike further down so I could get my leg over it and ride. 

My rider number at Bucky's was 114 and I quickly became known as Weezy114. I really got into the messenger thing, as it was a combination of skills that I had talent in: riding fast, mapping locations on-the-go and a little customer service. There was a freedom to it that I hadn't encountered while working in an office. Although I was tethered by a 2-way radio, I still had choices to make and the riding was fun and the people were real characters.

After being trained by someone with the nickname "Gonzo", my first accomplishment was to hit a pedestrian in the central part of downtown as I was running a stale yellow light and she had stepped off the curb without first looking. I was mostly unhurt, but the woman was taken away in an ambulance. I continued working and riding, loving my job and the adrenaline high it provided, especially when the dispatcher on the radio was asking me to do something that sounded physically impossible... and I don't mean like climbing Yesler Way, which was inevitable. Often, the end of the day meant defying traffic light patterns to get a rush package to its destination on time – before the bank or business closed for the day. But every so often, I would have an "episode", as I began to call them, where my right leg would start to hurt and, when I got off the bike to check it out, it was as if my knee had set on fire. When I tried to soothe it by touching it, there was an eruption of pain. After a few minutes it would go away and I would get on with my day. I never went to a doctor about this, although I still had medical benefits from my previous job.

Later that month, I entered the Seattle to Portland (STP) bicycle ride, a one or two-day event covering 200 miles from Seattle to Portland. Because I was a bicycle messenger, it was expected that I complete it in one day. I decided to at least give myself the option of a second day, but by the time I got to the last stop option for overnighting, I had become so road-weary and disgusted with the ride that I wanted to get it over with the same day. I had a friend come down to Portland and pick me up that evening and we drove high into the hills somewhere (all I remember is seeing road beneath the car) and I reclined the front seat and fell soundly asleep. In the morning, we wandered into a cafe in Troutdale and I ate a full stack of pancakes that, according to the server, was difficult for a logger to finish in one sitting.

Because I was a cyclist and a swimmer, my friends convinced me to enter a triathlon that had a 1/2 mile swim, 25-mile bike ride and 5K run. It seemed innocent enough, but soon I was hooked on training for each of the three disciplines and competing regularly, though I certainly was not considered "competitive" as far as my finishing times were concerned. I was a vegetarian in those days and wasn't very knowledgeable about it, so I just ate what I liked, without looking at protein consumption or essential vitamins and minerals – that would have taken way too much planning and attention. In addition to working as a messenger, I was also hired on as a kayak guide at the local outfitter for a part-time job in the evenings so I could get some guiding experience. Soon, my life fell into a cycle of riding my bike for work, kayaking for work,  and swimming and running to train for events. Competing in triathlons gave me a great high and as soon as I had finished one, I set my sights on the next. One weekend, I ran the Torchlight Seafair Parade 5K on Friday evening, went home and packed up, setting off for Victoria in the morning, using car, ferry and bicycle for transportation, then did a triathlon on Sunday, then reversed steps until I was home and getting ready for work as a messenger the next day.

In August, a couple of guys I had befriended in the climbing course asked me to join their team to summit Mt Rainier and I accepted, imagining myself reaching the proverbial pinnacle of my climbing dreams. Due to a number of circumstances (heavy pack, poor diet being just a couple) I was exhausted by the time I reached basecamp at Camp Muir, 10,000 feet, especially since that was my first time at such an altitude. The plan was to "sleep" in the hut and wake an 12:30 AM for the summit attempt. At some point during the night, I awoke when I felt something grab my foot. I was surprised and a little afraid, but since it didn't appear that I was in danger, I went back to sleep, fitful as it was. When 12:30 AM came around, my friends were quick to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I had been snoring so loudly that it kept them and everyone else in the hut awake. One of them had grabbed my foot in an attempt to wake me, in hopes that I would change position and stop snoring. I knew that I sometimes snored, but I had a feeling that it had more to do with my state of exhaustion and possible dehydration, than simply just blocked nasal passages. I made the first of two smart decisions that year... I would sit out the summit attempt.

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