Dealing With Loss is Hard, Losing My Training Partner Has Been Harder

Not everyone knows this because I didn’t make a big deal on social media at the time with an in memoriam post, but one of my cats I’ve had since 2007 went over the rainbow bridge at the end of June 2022. Her name was Tinkerbell and she lived to the ripe old age of 18-½, and not only was my bed bug but she was also my Zwift training partner since I started using it two weeks after the accident that caused my traumatic brain injury back in October 2017.

After my accident I grew closer with all three of our pets (2 ragdoll cats & 1 mini Aussie) but in different ways. Tink just always wanted to be near me no matter when I was in the house, so when I began Zwifting and started living in a pain cave I made Tink a catnapping spot close to me. That wasn’t the easiest thing to do when I lived with my ex because my pain cave was really a shared space that my ex decided to dominate 95% of all floor space on the third floor and relegated me to putting my trainer back in the far corner…under a slanted ceiling so i had to always be ducked to not hit my head. Me and my two girls were really just guests in my ex’s home but I did the best I could to include my girl Tink in my training so I could be in good company that loved me as long as I fed them at 5 am sharp every day…bunch of fuckin’ savaged beasts those felines are when I’m not punctual about feeding time but I still loved them to death, after all Tink and Cincy are the longest relationship I’ve ever had.

The day came where me, Tink & Cincy were out on our own again and had to move into our new home after my break up with my ex-fiance in December 2019. Like the Semisonic lyrics go, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Now I had the opportunity to have a real pain cave with hookers and blackjack that I could call a space of my own where I wasn’t a permanent guest in my partner’s home. (The hookers and blackjack joke comes from Futurama if you never watched the show). I could really make something great here, but I wasn’t going to forget about my little amiga training partner.

My new pain cave was a shared space for the three of us. Aside from both of the girl’s litter boxes being in there (as there was no better place for them in a 2-bedroom condo) I laid out the room with three different places for Tink (or Cincy) to keep me company and catnap while I Zwifted and I made them as comfortable as possible so they could get their cat nap on while I got my grind on.

Of those three spots the most favorite of Tink’s was the top of the two large stacked rubbermaid tubs topped with my Steelers blanket for that added softness so those dreams during her cat naps were that much sweeter. The image I used for the title of this post is this spot. It is between the cockpit of my Cervelo P5 and the bedroom window.

For the past 2-½ years that spot had her name written all over it whether I was in there or not. Our routine was after I fed them I’d change and hop on the bike. Not too long after she’d waddle her way into the pain cave with her stegosaurus-esque low, lumbering gait, and then would hop on the one low bin as her step up to the top of the two stacked bins. I’d already be 10-15 minutes into the ride at that point. She’d walk to the edge of the table with my iPad, look directly into my eyes and give me her meow. She wanted her fist bump before she started settling in. So I’d hold my fist out for her and she’d give the top of my hand a nudge with her nose and then a couple licks because she liked the saltiness from the sweat before going back onto the blanket.

About 30-45 minutes after dawn broke during the winter and spring the sunlight would crest the tops of the trees in the woods across the street and the sunlight slowly started to pour through the pain cave window. Tink could very much feel the warmth of the sunlight during her morning slumber because as it fell on her she would instinctively sprawl out so she could absorb more of it’s rays. I’d reach over the aero bars and would give her a soft belly rub.

Tink lost her hearing sometime during 2020, which I mean whether you’re man or beast being deaf probably makes for the best naps as there’s no outside noise to wake you up! I do remember when she’d wake herself up though, because she was deaf she’d wake up totally disoriented and meowing at the top of her lungs trying to get her bearings. I’d hop off the bike to come over to pet her until she knew where she was again.

She’s been gone since June 27, 2022 and even today I still struggle to workout in my pain cave because when I’m looking over the aero bars through the window to the outside…the two stacked tubs with the Steelers blanket topper…she’s not there anymore, and it makes me feel kinda sad and lonely. I guess I just really miss my friend’s company. I know one day that will fade and I’ll be Zwifting like I used to, but it’s just harder now to stay focused and on the bike.

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