The Meathead Special

September 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

Mark Whitehead, a/k/a Meathead, knew no separation between cycling and life. The same drama that happened in a race was always fair game for continuation after the contest ended, whether that meant a full-on fistfight, a string of oaths, or a few hours at the bar rehashing the events of the day.

Mark left a deep impression on those he raced against and, later, on those he coached. Few people understood the mental and physical requirements of track racing like Meathead. The great majority of those who were coached by him considered themselves extremely lucky.

Whitehead died in 2011 with the suddenness and unpredictability that he lived. In a hotel. At junior track nationals. Taking care of his riders.

When Mark Whitehead passed away, an era in American cycling passed away with him. A prolific winner, a fearsome and fearless competitor, and a two-fisted brawler, Whitehead loved to brag “You can’t beat the Meat.”

Come pay your respects

On Tuesday, September 4, 2012, at 6:00 PM, the final year’s installment of the El Dorado training races will take place in Long Beach. This final race will be in Mark’s honor, replete with cash to the winner and a $100 prime in the P/1/2/3 race.

The guy who never drew a line between cycling and life would have been pleased to see El Dorado Park filled with hungry racers pawing the ground and stamping like horses to battle one another for a few bucks, and pleased even more to know that it was being done in his name.

The importance of lying wisely

September 2, 2012 § 27 Comments

When it comes to lying, we all get a pass virtually all of the time. There’s no other way we’d make it through the day.

[Middle of bike race] “How’s it going?”

[Can barely keep from falling over] “Fine, you?”

[Customer] “Will these wheels make me faster?”

[Clerk] “Absolutely.”

[Guy with a huge inheritance] “Was it good for you?”

[Chick on first date] “It was unbelievable.”

[Wife] “Do these jeans make my butt look fat?”

[You] “No.”

The vast majority of our lies are permissive lies. The person receiving the lie knows it’s a lie, and in fact prefers the deception to the truth. Don’t believe me? Try answering “yes” to that last question the next time you’re asked.

Off limits lying

There is another group of lies that is off limits. You aren’t allowed to tell these lies unless you’re also prepared for a shitstorm of consequences if and when the truth comes out. Fortunately, this type of lie often comes with lots of warning signs. For example, if it says “Signed under penalty of perjury,” even if you don’t know exactly what perjury is, you sure as hell understand “penalty.”

Other little indicators are when, prior to being asked the question, someone commands you to “Raise your right hand.” In the personal sphere, off limits lies may be indicated when the questioner has her hands on her hips, or on a skillet, or on the trigger.

Sports lies and the lying liars who tell them

Political speech has for so long been exempt from any requirement of veracity that it is superfluous to remark after a debate or press release or interview, “He was lying.” Of course he was lying. He’s a politician. If we’d wanted someone to tell us the truth about our crumbling society and the sacrifices it will take to fix it, we’d have hired Mother Teresa.

At the other end of politics, where veracity is punished with getting booted from office, we have the world of sports. For the most part, sports, and especially professional sports, are also filled with lies and liars.

[Coach] “I’m not sure he’ll be ready in time for the big game tomorrow.”

[Player] “I didn’t bet on the outcome of my own games.”

[Announcer] “This game is going to be a thriller!”

However, and it’s a big however, there is one sport where mendaciousness will get you excommunicated once and for all and forever if you’re ever caught in the lie. The sport is running. The lie is about your time.

Why runners are so whacko about times

In cycling, you can pretty much fake anything, even in the “race of truth.” Spend enough money on equipment, or on a coach, or on “supplements,” and you can eke out a marginal improvement over what you did previously.

In mass start events it’s even easier. Get lucky and make the break. Sit wheels the whole race and sprint at the end. Have your teammates work their hearts out so that you can cruise in at the finale. Leapfrog your way from 50th to 25th in the last half-lap.

Running? Not so much.

Running is simply a sport of minutes and seconds, and the great unwashed majority of runners live and die by how much time it takes to complete a course. This is one reason that runners rarely suffer from the “professional masters racing syndrome” common among cyclists. As a runner, you know your PR. You know the times of your competition. They are either within reach (rarely, if ever) or completely beyond anything you could even think about doing in your wildest, craziest fantasy.

The hardest of the hard core

Of all the running disciplines, none approaches the majesty and respect of the marathon. The marathon is such a dreaded and awful event that millions and millions of first-rate athletes will never even attempt it, so terrible is its reputation. Those who do run a marathon invariably mark it as one of their signal athletic achievements. It is a high watermark of ability, endurance, preparation, and toughness, irrespective of the time it takes to finish.

Hence, the finishing time for a marathoner is unforgettable. It’s an indelible number, down to the second. This is partly a function of the horrific nature of the event, but it’s also a function of the preparation that such an event entails.

In order to run a marathon, you have to know how quickly you can run a mile. Those one-mile splits that you become intimately familiar with in training become the yardstick for your finishing time. There has never been a marathoner who did not know, prior to ever doing the race, a close approximation of their best possible finishing time.

In fact, the act of running the marathon is a mental and physical game of hewing as closely to your splits as possible. The worst thing you can do is to start off way under your splits. You’ll melt like cheese on a griddle.

No marathoner has ever been, or ever will be, confused about their finishing time

When you run a marathon, you will either be close to your estimated best time or horribly slower due to weather, injury, illness, starting too quickly, terrain, nutrition, or any other number of factors that can ruin you on race day.

What will never, ever happen is that, after thorough preparation, you will run an hour faster than your best estimated time. It’s not not humanly possible, and it’s easy to see why: If you were targeting a four-hour marathon, you’d need to run 9:10 miles. If you were targeting a sub-three hour marathon, say a 2:55:00, you’d need to run each mile in 6:41.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been beaten repeatedly about the testicles with a giant block of concrete, or if you’ve ever had root canal surgery without anesthesia, or if you’ve ever given birth through your anus, but that’s the pain differential for a person who runs 9:10 splits suddenly having to run even a handful of 6:41 miles.

Let alone the physical impossibility of suddenly churning out a string of 6:41’s, the mental impossibility is much greater, as if it even made sense to speak of degrees of impossibility. What’s clear to anyone who’s ever run a mile is that you can’t suddenly, or gradually, shave minutes off your splits in a marathon.

The anchor in the runner’s sanity

This is why, on average, runners are less batshit crazy than cyclists. They know that there’s no way they will ever go from running 9:10 splits to 6:41 splits, no matter how fancy the shoes, the coach, or the drugs. And because your times admit of so little improvement once you’ve become a conditioned runner, lying about those times takes on an outrageousness that can scarcely be described.

Lying about your race time is not simply ignoble, it is a complete repudiation of the suffering and preparation that is marathoning.

Cyclists, of course, lie all the time about everything. Runners? Not about their marathon times, because it makes a mockery of your fellow runner and, if uncovered, makes a mockery of you. You don’t simply become a gassy liar who can’t be trusted to recount his race time, like some douchebag golfer who kicks the ball and shaves strokes, you become the antithesis of integrity, the noxious weed that, if left unchecked, will overgrow the entire garden.

Once a marathoner gets away with lying about their time, the game is over for everyone, because in running, the game is the time.

How hard is it to run a sub-three hour marathon?

Consider this quote, from a guy who finished his first New York Marathon in 2:59:36. “…that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done.”

The runner? Seven-time-strippee-of-the-TdF Lance Armstrong.

Breaking three hours in a marathon is so far beyond the realm of the possible for the vast majority of runners that, if you’re lucky enough and talented enough and dedicated enough to actually do it, it is a lifetime milestone. You would more easily forget the first time you got laid, or your birthday, than you would forget the time of your sub-three hour marathon, down to the second, especially if it was the only marathon you ever ran.

Which brings up another point. Unless you’ve run dozens of them, you remember every marathon you’ve ever run. And even more importantly, if you’ve only run one marathon, there’s no way on God’s green earth that you would ever, ever, ever think that you’d run several. It’s as impossible as thinking you’d gotten both legs amputated instead of just one.

So now the table is set. Dinner is served. Everyone, please come to the table and enjoy a helping of a lie so sick, so twisted, so profoundly fucked up, and so indicative of scumbaggery that when you read it, it should make your stomach turn.

Interviewer Hugh Hewitt: Are you still running?

Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or [less].

Hewitt: But you did run marathons at some point?

Ryan: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.

Hewitt: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?

Ryan: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.

Hewitt: Holy smokes.

Ryan:I was fast when I was younger, yeah.

As we all now know, Ryan has only run one marathon, not “marathons.” And as we also know, his time was not 2:50-something, it was 4:01, a lie which should now speak, quite loudly, for itself.

Gym workouts for road cyclist types

September 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

You’ve probably got lots of reasons not to go to the gym. I used to have just one: I hated it. After five weeks, though, it’s something I plan to continue at least for six. Maybe seven. Who knows?

One of the things I like about the gym is its convenience. Our apartment complex has two gyms. One of them is fully equipped with cute Asian chicks between the morning hours of 5:30 and 8:00. The other one has a full complement of cute white and Hispanic chicks in the evening, so it’s a very excellent pair of facilities.

The gym is also really easy to use as compared to cycling. Here’s what you have to do in order to ride your road bike:

  1. Check calendar to pick proper ride
  2. Air up tires
  3. Fill water bottle
  4. Turn on iPhone Strava app
  5. Wipe/lube chain (yeah, right)
  6. Put on ID neck chain for when you get run over
  7. Put on sunscreen
  8. Put on embro (Oct-Jun)
  9. Put on stretchy tight undershirt
  10. Make agonizing decision about which kit to wear
  11. Put on complicated biker outfit
  12. Put on complicated ratchety-thing shoes
  13. Adjust helmet
  14. Put on sunglasses
  15. Charge front/rear lights
  16. Attach lights
  17. Notify world via FB of impending ride heroics
  18. Charge video cam
  19. Attach video cam
  20. Put spare tire kit in jersey
  21. Put phone/money pouch in jersey
  22. Strip off complicated biker outfit in a sweating hurry because of Pre-Ride Rule #1: No matter how early you get up to patiently await your morning glory, it will only start tapping at the door when you’re fully suited up and ready to roll.
  23. Put complicated outfit back on
  24. Activate all lights, cameras & Garmins
  25. Check iPhone one last time to see who’s bailed at the last minute, forcing you to change your entire ride plan
  26. Reach meet-up point and hang around for half an hour waiting for people to show up
  27. [Post-ride]
  28. Upload and analyze Strava data
  29. Give kudos (don’t leave anyone out!)
  30. Upload and edit ride video
  31. Carry mountain of embro-stained clothing to the washroom
  32. Wipe down bike

For the gym, however, the prep list is different, and it looks like this:

  1. Put on gym shorts, t-shirt, socks, and gym shoes.
  2. Walk over to gym.
  3. Work out.

Proper gym etiquette for the newbie biker wanker

Like cycling, gyms have their own rules. At first everything looks strange and different, but that’s just superficial. Essentially, it’s no different from a group ride.

Every gym has its “ride boss.” This is some short dude with a short dude complex and muscles in places that you thought were the exclusive domain of important internal organs. Like his cycling equivalent, he’s a psychopath, and spends all his time in the gym. He sizes you up at a glance, and your size is “puny weakling.” But don’t worry! If you keep at it, work your tail off, show up early in the morning and after work, sweat like a dog and try to follow his example, after many long years you will one day move up to “less puny weakling than you used to be.”

The important thing to know about the ride boss is that you must know his name, but he will forget yours repeatedly. He will also, after a while, become so disgusted with your flailing that he will offer you a tip. STOP EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING AND COMMIT THE TIP TO MEMORY. If you follow it, it will be the first thing you’ve ever done right in a gym.

As you get to know the other regulars, it will feel more and more like a bike ride. For example:

  1. The weakest and flabbiest woman will repeatedly bench three times your heaviest single rep ever.
  2. The more you do it, the more you’ll realize how hopeless it is.
  3. Enthusiasm and full-on commitment will soon give way to some kind of lower back or knee injury.
  4. You’ll begin reading Muscle and Fitness.
  5. You’ll conclude that the reason everyone is stronger than you is because they’re doping.

Novice mistakes to avoid at all costs

After a few weeks, I’d kind of gotten my confidence up, and my tummy fat was starting to show the hint of a 1-and-a-half pack, and I swaggered into the gym ready to begin pumping iron. Two gym bunnies were spread out on the floor doing some kind of bunny yoga stretchy thing. Which was awesome.

They checked me out as I nodded coolly to them and grabbed the manly medicine ball to begin warming up. Then (and this tends to happen when I lift my hands above my head) I let out a very greasy and prolonged silent killer. Within seconds they’d caught my drift and moved all the way to the other side of the gym. A couple of presses later and I had the whole place to myself.

So that’s not cool. Please don’t do it.

The other huge novice mistake to avoid is the exercise ball fiasco. This is where you go online and watch a quick video of some cute chick or some muscly dude do Cat in the Hat type abdomen flexes using a giant circus ball. “I can do that,” you erroneously conclude.

So you hit the gym and, with other people present, you try out the old exercise ball balancing trick. If you’re lucky you just fall off the ball and ruin an ankle or a knee on the concrete. If you’re unlucky you kick the ball off to the side and scare the crap out of somebody. If you’re super unlucky you actually crack your forehead on the cement floor. I did that, and it hurts, especially when all the gym bunnies are watching you out of the corner of their eyes.

Stick to your plan

It’s easy to start working out at the gym, see some moderate improvement, and then completely forget why you’re there in the first place. This handy checklist will help you remember.

  1. Gigantic arms will not speed you up on the bike
  2. Just because Prez tore his knee ligaments doing lunges doesn’t mean you have to
  3. The guys in the gym will scorn you for your tweezlyness, but the bunnies will secretly die in envy for your narrow ass and skinny legs
  4. If you hear something tearing inside, followed by bloody urine, stop
  5. Grunting like Arnie when you’re benching 40 pounds embarrasses everyone
  6. The only time a six-pack helped a cyclist was after the race ended

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You are currently viewing the archives for September, 2012 at Cycling in the South Bay.

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