The Checklist

December 16, 2012 § 22 Comments

Iron Mike was pedaling up and out of Malaga Cove. “Nice blog post the other day, Wankster!” he said.

“Thanks!”

“I’m gonna put pen to paper one of these days,” he said.

“Just remember the Golden Rule.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ll never be any good if you can’t steal other people’s ideas and claim them as your own.”

He laughed. “I guess I’m out, then.”

It’s not stealing if they give it to you, right?

I got back from the Wheatgrass Ride, had lunch, and then checked my email. There was a note from Mike, and it went like this:

“I got dropped on the climb the other day. In fact, I get dropped on the climb every day. While we were gathering our wits and our breath atop the Switchbacks yesterday, I and a few others began talking about The Checklist. You know, that mental list you go through before, during, and after you get shelled on a climb. Given your readership, I thought you might find it useful.”

And it is!

The Checklist

The scenario’s always the same. You’re weak, they’re strong. You’re slow, they’re fast. You start out in the field of dreams, a minute or so into the climb you enter the field of doubt, quickly transitioning to the field of dread followed by the field of devastation, and concluding with the field of dumb desperation tinged with shame and terminating in the gravel pit of relief at the end when you realize that you weren’t last.

As you plow through the fields, you go through the checklist of Proven Ways To Keep from Getting Shelled That Never Seem To Keep You From Getting Shelled.

  1. Shift to a bigger gear to increase power.
  2. Shift to a smaller gear to increase cadence/speed.
  3. Shift forward on the saddle to increase power.
  4. Shift back on the saddle to increase power.
  5. Stand up to increase power.
  6. Sit down to increase cadence/speed.
  7. Shift onto the drops to increase power.
  8. Shift onto the hoods to increase power.
  9. Shift onto the tops to really open your lungs and increase power.

Somewhere between 1 and 9, you’ve been hideously dropped, as each of these proven techniques is accompanied by a dramatic dropoff in (what else?) power. But the climb is nowhere near over, so you have to start running through the Checklist For Picking Off The Stragglers Ahead Of You.

  1. Let your heart rate recover.
  2. Select a steady cadence.
  3. Regulate your breathing.
  4. Focus on the guy 100 yards ahead.
  5. Forget that the guy 100 yards ahead is a girl. In her 60’s.
  6. Downshift to increase power.
  7. Upshift to increase power.
  8. Focus on a point in the road 20 yards ahead. Forget about the girl.
  9. Get out of the saddle to increase power.
  10. Sit down to increase cadence/speed.
  11. Admit to yourself that the girl is way faster than you.
  12. Look under your arm to make sure no one is using the Checklist For Picking Off The Stragglers Ahead Of You to, in fact, pick you off.

When you look back, you see, indeed, that there are several riders slowly reeling you in. So you go through the Checklist To Stay Ahead Of The Wankers Who You Thought Were Your Friends But Are Actually Trying To Pick You Off, The Sorry Bastards.

  1. Downshift yet again to increase power.
  2. Upshift again dogdammit to increase power.
  3. Get out of the dogdam saddle again to increase power.
  4. Look over your shoulder, accidentally swerve out into the lane and almost get clipped by pissed off motorist.
  5. Sit down to increase cadence/speed.
  6. Spit.
  7. Tell yourself to “find a rhythm.”
  8. Don’t listen to the inner voice saying that you’ve found your rhythm, and it’s in 7/13 time.
  9. Shift onto the drops to relax your back and increase power.
  10. Blot out the reading on your PowerTap, which shows your plummeting power.
  11. Blot out the voices that you can now hear over your own panting as your erstwhile friends run you down.
  12. Sit on the tops and try to keep a casual face to pretend that you weren’t really giving it 100% of every last fiber in your body to stay clear.
  13. Pretend not to notice that they pass you on the tops, their faces relaxed as they try to pretend they weren’t really giving it 100% of every last fiber in their body to catch you.

Now the wanketto of you, the dude with the two spare tires, the hairy-legged chick whose left knee cocks out at a right angle to her bike like she’s finishing up a karate kick, the kid with chainring marks on his right calf, the old fellow with the three rearview mirrors on his helmet, and the pro-looking guys in their twenties on 15K of bike and 15 cents of leg all come by. It’s time to go through the Checklist for Hanging Onto The Grupetto Of Shame In The Hopes That You Can Sit On For The Last Five Minutes Then Attack And Drop Them In The Sprunt.

  1. Downshift to increase power.
  2. Furiously wrench off PowerTap display and throw it into ditch.
  3. Upshift to increase power.
  4. Shift onto the drops to maximize draft from hairy legged dudechick.
  5. Refuse to pull through even though every elbow in the wanketto is flapping like it has a double hinge.
  6. Get out of the saddle to increase power.
  7. Sit down to increase cadence/speed and hopefully, prayerfully, oh please doggity, close that 6-inch gap opening up between you and dudechick.
  8. Regulate breathing to maintain power.
  9. Curse dudechick for not sitting up taller in her saddle to give you a better draft.
  10. Shift onto point of saddle to increase power and close the 2-foot gap between you and dudechick.
  11. Suddenly realize how dangerous it is to be riding so close to other people.
  12. Sit up.
  13. Watch the wanketto ride away.
  14. Tell yourself that today’s an easy day.
  15. Tell yourself that it’s only December.
  16. Tell yourself that you went really hard yesterday.
  17. Tell yourself that you went too hard coming up out of Lunada Bay.
  18. Tell yourself that it’s just a stupid training ride.
  19. Tell yourself that they’re all on drugs.
  20. Tell yourself how glad you are that you don’t take this shit seriously and why don’t these other people get a life?
  21. Tell yourself that you worked 60 hours last week at at a REAL job and you have a wife and kids to support.
  22. Tell yourself that maybe it’s time to get a coach.

Now you’ve caught your breath and the end of the climb is in sight. You look back and see, praise Dog! Someone is slower than you…but he’s gaining! And praise Dog even more, it’s Billy Snurfles, your nemesis, your shadow, the dude who’s never beaten you on a clumb or in a sprunt! Now you go through the final Checklist of Victory.

  1. Reach into your suitcase of courage.
  2. Empty the whole fucking thing out.
  3. Downshift to increase power.
  4. Watch your Garmin spike as you toss out 1,100 watts.
  5. Get out of the saddle to begin your big ring sprunt.
  6. Flail bike from side to side like it’s the 75th Annual Bjarne Riis Bike Toss Contest at Futuroscope.
  7. Grit your teeth like the Lion of Flanders.
  8. Go deeper in the pain cave, the zone of agony, the pit of hell, than you’ve ever gone before.
  9. Throw your bike across the line at the mailbox a scant two inches in front of Billy, who’s about to have an aneurysm of his own.
  10. Stuff the 12-inch string of spit and snot back into your mouth.
  11. Sit up in a victory pose, hands off the bars.
  12. Look over at Billy with your best “Twarn’t nothin'”
  13. Fall off your bike and collapse.

And next weekend?

REPEAT.

§ 22 Responses to The Checklist

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