Things got a little off plan this weekend when my wife’s phone rang on Saturday afternoon, with the news that her boss had died on Friday (May 15 - already a dark date on our calendar with last year's event) while on a trip to the Canadian boonies. Not a very typical boss/employee relationship as my wife has been very significantly involved in running not only his business but his personal affairs. Their firm is a small one which does niche deals, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the firm as being totally unique in the world of law, not necessarily in the work they do but in how they do it and how the firm is run. The survivors have a lot of work on their hands to get things sorted out, but they’ll manage.
R was a guy I had gotten to know pretty well. He was wicked into sailing, and I’d raced against him a bunch of times a while ago. He was just getting started then, and we were at the top of our game (such as it was), so we didn’t get too many chances to mix it up with each other. One odd thing is that he donated his boat for this sort of all-star deal that happened back then at the Annapolis Boat Show, and I wound up drawing his boat to use for the event. So for about 10 years before my wife started working for him, I’d had this cool picture of me sailing his boat.
He'd stayed really involved in sailing, and I used to go with him every now and again before I started racing bikes and having no time to sail. One event that is a particularly fond memory was a big three day regatta in Annapolis where one of his usual guys couldn’t make it and I got the call. These are 3 man boats called Etchells, pretty classic and somewhat old school but still wildly competitive. R had developed a pretty solid but limited skill set in the years he’d been sailing, so he was good at going in a straight line but when things got dicey he needed a bit of attention. Mike, an extraordinarily talented guy (Olympic silver medallist) who always sailed with R, had that end of things pegged. Mike is also a whiz at tuning the boat for the conditions. I managed where we were going and how we were getting there. Through the first day, we managed to just outperform their usual spot in the pecking order but nothing too hot. The second day, we got things figured out. Over maybe four races we managed a pair of top 5s, a win, and a total shocker. The win was the first time R had ever broken the tape in a race of any significance and man did he light up when that happened. I'm really happy that we were able to share that, and as he kept climbing up on the ladder of improvement I always somehow reminded him that all of their subsequent wins "smelled like Dave K," which is part of a much larger inside story with some sick and twisted, though very hilarious, parts. Things continued to gel for the guys as they kept at it, with their crowning accomplishment being tenth in the Worlds last year. Pretty astonishing when you know the whole story, but in any case for a man in his 70s to get a very late start in the sport and post that kind of result is just awesome.
There aren’t too many guys in their 70s who’d decry being cut down before their prime, but I’m sure if he’d had the chance to say it before he passed, R would have. R was a guy that you could learn a lot from, but his legacy to me is that you never have to surrender to getting old, that there are always new challenges to face and hills to climb. His passing leaves a pretty big void in a lot of lives.
The immediate fall out of this for me was our cutting the trip to NJ short and coming back on Saturday night. Not that I 100% regret missing an 18 mile TT in the wind and rain with a 7:45am start time, but it would have been interesting to see how it went. Instead, I did a trip out to Poolesville with some team mates. I hadn’t done any specific physical prep for the TT, and had done a pretty hard ride on Saturday to simulate doing a TT after a road race, as is typical of our 2 day stage races. Nonetheless, my head was geared toward giving it a good hard roll so I pretty much sat on the front and marked a pretty insistent tempo through the head wind on the way out. My mood was a little dark, feeling terrible about R and knowing that my wife and her colleagues have a set of hurdles in front of them that none had realistically imagined would be arriving this soon, so I guess I was ticking off a bit of an angered pace. Had a couple instances of being that group ride ass hat who obliviously rides off the front of the group, but got things tempered to the right level after a bit. The Poolesville course is in unbelievable shape, the dirt section is positively buff. I guess the Murad course looks fine too, but I didn’t pay particular attention to it since I’m not racing it.
The way back was pretty balls fast with the tailwind and left us with a pretty impressive average speed for the trip. I got in some good work when I dropped way back off the group to practice bridging up. The weather kind of sucked but not nearly as badly as it was supposed to. Good group, good ride.