My first strip club

January 21, 2014 § 12 Comments

I had never been to a strip club before this year. You can laugh, or disbelieve, or whatever, but it’s still true. In fact, after hearing some friends talk about their most recent visit to a strip club, I went home and looked up the word “lap dance.” It’s not that I’m a prude, or a Puritan, or averse to naked women. The one time I came closest to going to a strip club was when a former employer, after getting terribly drunk, drove me all over Long Beach looking for one. He couldn’t find it, and I went home as unexperienced as when the day had begun.

All that changed a couple of weeks ago, when I was in Palm Desert with my bike racing team. I finally got to go to a strip club with the guys, even though my wife was back in the hotel room.

It was awesome.

This gal was gorgeous

The stripper was performing in our own reserved room. What was even more awesome was that she was so freaking gorgeous she had a handler. They wouldn’t even let this gal out by herself, she was so smoking hot. I suppose they assumed, correctly, that anyone this drop-dead sexy would drive a roomful of testosterone-crazed men into a frenzy.

I was mesmerized when the handler introduced her, even though her name was kind of weird. “Okay, folks,” he said. “Here she is — feast your eyes on — Miss Propel.” He gently removed her clothing, which was kind of this big black sheet thing. It was incredible.

Her curves were so firm that every guy in the room could imagine himself pushing her as hard as he could without fear of doing any damage at all. Her handler confirmed it. “You can ride this baby all day long … if you’ve got it in you!”

Her proportions were perfect. Not too long, not too short, not too heavy, not too light, firm but responsive, able to lead you when necessary yet also willing to go where you wanted to take her with just the slightest and most subtle of touches.

The heavy disco beat in the background, the dimmed lights, the spotlight shining on her gorgeous front end, and the roomful of excited guys brought the whole thing to a fever pitch. Suddenly one guy stood up, intoxicated from one drink too many, and staggered to the front with a five-dollar-bill. He madly tried to stuff it into her seat, but the handler pushed him away.

Another guy dropped to his knees and begged for a lap dance, waving a fresh Ben Franklin. He fell back into his chair and the handler brought Miss Propel over, placing her gently on his thighs. She was light as a feather, and he groaned. “I gotta have her between my legs,” he pleaded. The handler snatched her away.

“She’s not for sale today. You’ll have to put in an order and get in line.”

I was so overcome with the moment that I reached out and tried to stroke her cups. “Get your nasty hands off her bottom,” shouted the handler, who led her back up to the front.

“She’s your dream girl,” he said with a sly grin. “Light, quick, responsive, strong, willing, sleek, and so much better than any you’ve ridden before.”

His words froze me. Wordlessly, I got up and went back to my hotel room.

Atonement

She was waiting for me when I got back, and she knew something had happened. I looked at her critically. She hadn’t changed at all. She still had the same perfect proportions that had made me fall in love in the first place. Sure, she wasn’t as young as the new girl, but since when does any man who knows anything judge a woman solely by her age? I touched her and felt her, just as firm and strong as ever.

Why had I been so tempted by Miss Propel, when I had this beauty waiting for me back in my very own room? I thought about the times we’d spent together. Some of it had been rough sledding, more than a few rocky roads when I thought about some of our trips to North County San Diego in April. But most of the time it had been magical, climbing on her back and gliding down or flying up — even the times when she’d wound up on top I’d never been much the worse for wear.

And I was going to trade her in for someone new with a fancier set of wheels and a racier lifestyle? Was I that much of a cad? Willing to consign this elegant lady who’d stood by me through thick and through thin just because some handler got me all hot and bothered with promises of excitement?

I stroked her seat and smiled. Our love was old, perhaps, but it was part of me. I ran a cloth over her chain and sprinkled her links with a few dabs of lube. I could feel her wanting me, begging me to throw a leg over. “I’m too tipsy now,” I said. “Just wait ’til tomorrow morning, okay?”

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 5: You’re still not ready

January 20, 2014 § 7 Comments

Even though you have dutifully progressed from Chapters 1 – 4, you are not ready for the Intermediate Phase of the Wanky Training Plan ™. How can I possibly know this? Because you are a cyclist, which means you want to skip steps, charge ahead where fools dare to tread, and get the spoils of victory without doing any of the work and enjoy your beer.

First, however, we need to review the fundamentals.

  1. You are old.
  2. You are weak.
  3. You are getting older.
  4. You are getting weaker.
  5. Give up now.

Once you feel as if you can recite this list AND what you had for breakfast, we can progress to the second analytical phase of the program, which involves explaining the “why” before telling you the “what.”

The scientific theory behind building fitness and strength

The dominant scientific theory behind strength and cardio fitness improvement is strangely unrelated to beer consumption. Rather, it is that you improve strength and fitness by applying work loads to your muscles, heart, and lungs, and then they rebuild after the training period to become stronger. It sounds simple, but it’s really not, because as you have learned (it’s the reason you’re on the WTP), the more you train after a certain point, the more fatigued you become.

The simple question, then, is “How much should I train?”

The simple answer is, “A shit-ton less than what you’re doing right now.”

Training plans that propose blocks of intervals followed by brief, one-week periods of rest are effective when you are in your teens, twenties, and early thirties. In fact, these training plans were devised in order to maximize performance of elite cyclists at the peak of their game — young mutants who can crank out massive efforts and then, thanks to youth and great nutrition and lots of drugs, recover almost immediately.

You’ve noticed that these plans don’t work for you. Why? Obviously, because you’re neither young nor an elite athlete. Moreover, you lack the motivation to do anything more than a couple of  Wanky Beer Intervals ™, and your body simply can’t take the drubbing of repeated, intense training. What you need isn’t a better training plan, but a better resting plan. You’re in your late 40′s or older. Your cuts heal more slowly. Your erectile tissues don’t work as regularly as they once did. You have to read things three or four times before forgetting them.

So make a little sticky that says “More Rest” and tack it all over the house. Done? Okay, we can move on to the part you will like, rest + beer.

Proper rest-to-training ratios

Remember that you are slow, weak, old, and take forever to recover. Hence, your rest-to-training ratio should not resemble, even a tiny little bit, the ratios of real athletes and/or young people. In my very scientific study of human physiology which I did a few minutes ago on Google, the perfect ratio for old weak people is this: One week on, one week off.

“Oh, boy!” I can hear you clapping. “This is my ON week! Let’s hammer!”

Not so fast, wrinkled grasshopper. Your “on” week should have a maximum of three ball-breaking/vagina-searing days, but everything else should be rest. For example:

  • Monday: Tweezly spinning
  • Tuesday: NPR (go to the front, you wanker!)
  • Wednesday: Tweezly spinning
  • Thursday: More NPR flailage (and pound your guts out, none of that 26 mph crap, right, G$?)
  • Friday: Coffee cruise, rest, and casual lies about your real training plan
  • Saturday: Full Donut, no shortcuts, until you puke up a femur
  • Sunday: Wheatgrass Ride, so slow that the only person who will ride with you is New Girl. Yeah, THAT slow.

Your “off” week then looks like this:

  • Monday: 1 hour tweezly spinning + beer
  • Tuesday: 2 hours tweezly spinning + beer
  • Wednesday: 2 hours tweezly spinning + beer
  • Thursday: 2 hours tweezly spinning + beer
  • Friday: 1 hour tweezly spinning + coffee and lies + beer
  • Saturday: 2 hours tweezly spinning, maybe the Donut course + beer
  • Sunday: 2 hours tweezly spinning + beer
  • Monday: 1 hour tweezly spinning + beer

We can talk later about tweezly spinning and how to properly do it, and perhaps we will, but you get the drift. You are so old and weak and susceptible to systemic collapse that the only way to survive those three hard days during your “on” week is to buffer it with more recovery than a halfway house.

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The Electric Kool-Aid Bicycle Test

January 17, 2014 § 60 Comments

So there I was, minding someone else’s business, the someone being a pudgy hausfrau who had just buzzed me in her double-wide cage, and the business being “How am I gonna call you an unappealing and inconsiderate and rather dangerous person while shrieking four-letter words  with this jersey on that says SPY Cycling Team without you making the connection between a murderously angry bicyclist and the brand of eyewear for which I’m trying to be a good ambassador?”

Good sense and better PR took over at exactly the right time, which was the moment that this dude whizzed by me on a bike. If you’re like me you hate it when someone passes you as if you’d been tied to a stump, had two flat wheels, were pedaling backwards, etc. To make it worse, the dude was wearing sneakers. To make it worsey-worse, he had hairy legs. And to completely let the air out of my gasbag he was sporting a floppy t-shirt, baggy shorts, and no helmet.

Before he disappeared from view I was able to get a good look at his bike and — cue wooden stake being driven through the heart of the vampire — I was able to see that he was hardly breathing. Smiling, actually.

When “going green” means “green with envy.”

At the very last second my ego got its reprieve, because the abnormal surrealism of the whole thing switched to “No wonder he passed me” when I saw his giant rear hub. The dude was riding an electric bicycle. Those things have done in one fell swoop to self-absorbed, Lycra-clad, oh-so-serious-roadies what Colonel Colt did to the plainsman. They didn’t equal the playing field, they almost tipped the dang thing over.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that we have $4,000 electric bikes that can get you around town at 30 mph and you don’t have to pedal if you don’t want to. But hasn’t that vehicle already been invented a long time ago, and wasn’t it called a “motorcycle”? Nor was the dude some handicapped granny who, thanks to this wonderful device, was able to avoid being a shut-in, get a tad of exercise, and avoid being stuck in a nursing home.

No, this dude was young, healthy, grinning, and — as with every other one of these things I’ve ever seen — hardly pedaling at all. It probably sounds heretical, but, like, isn’t the whole point of having a bicycle to actually pedal it? And what, exactly, is “green” about taking a device that runs exclusively on your legs and turning it into a vehicle that you have to plug into the wall?

The real problem with electric bikes

… is their dork factor. Studies show that it is impossible to look cool while seated on a two-wheeled vehicle with one leg hanging lower than the other. This is why the moped failed to catch on, whereas the pink Vespa motor scooter is used by some of the coolest people ever. That one dangling leg makes you look utterly deformed, like having one testicle droop, say, three feet lower than the other. The overly-dangling-testicle-look is made worse when the electric cyclist, who’s no cyclist at all BECAUSE HE’S NOT FUCKING PEDALING, realizes that maximum head protection in the form of a motorcycle helmet is really the smart ticket, and since HE’S NOT FUCKING PEDALING and doesn’t have to worry about the weight, he combines the dangling-testicle look with the ginormous-bulbous-head on a skinny neck and tiny bike frame look.

I know, I know. Motorcycle helmets provide much better protection and he’ll outlive us all. I know. But he’ll still look like a raging idiot.

The other real problem, the “real, real” problem if you will, is the bike path. It takes years and years of practice and strength and fitness and good choice in cycling outfits to pedal your bike at 19 mph down the crowded bike path, maneuvering it so that you can terrify parents, walkers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, razor-ers, runners, pram-pushers, Segways, and wheelchair occupants as you buzz them in exactly the same way that motorists buzz you. Once you get into the 20 mph range, it goes from “I got this” to “human video game” with no respawns.

You know where I’m going with this. Yep, the guy on his new electric bike whizzing down the bike path at 25 or 30 is gonna kill somebody. Of course, since it’s on the bike path it’s also possible that the victim needs killing, especially that asshole who intentionally kicked a skateboard in front of Douggie and knocked him off his bike. Still, the etiquette issue of hurting innocent people because you don’t know how to drive your bike is a thorny one, made messier by minor rules and regulations and ordinances like vehicular homicide and manslaughter. The barely in control electric bike is showing up more and more on the bike path, and it’s just a matter of time before some unhelmeted clod takes a header and I get to pick through his wallet for spare change while EMS looks to see whether he’s checked the “organ donor” box.

The brown icing on the poopcake

Shortly after being ignominiously dropped by the electric biker, I got to the next intersection I turned right. There was a string of cars in the cross-traffic’s left-hand turn lane. A few cars back were two young boys, maybe thirteen or fourteen, sitting side by side in the turn lane. Their presence and comfort in the lane and their casual attitude on their bikes, combined with their skateboard helmets, was wholly unnatural. I glanced at their hubs, and sure enough, they were riding brand new electric bicycles. The light changed and they glided along with the traffic, barely pedaling.

I’m sure this is a huge improvement over putting kids on regular bikes and making them pedal the dogdamned things and get all sweaty and icky and making their poor lungs and heart and muscles get all tiredy-tired. Those kids are probably also saving the polar bears from the global heating that’s a massive left-wing conspiracy hoax.

But if you don’t mind, please don’t pass me on the danged thing, okay?

The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 4: Intermediate Spinning

January 14, 2014 § 12 Comments

Now that you have mastered basic spinning, you have lots of questions and you’re not very pleased.

“How long was I supposed to spin for?”

“How far was I supposed to go?”

“What were my average watts/HR supposed to be?”

“How can I keep people from laughing at me when I post this to Strava?”

Well, grasshopper, that was just your first entry into the world of the Wanky Training Plan ™. Now that you have mastered the art of going out and doing something other than hammering, it is important to remember this Russian proverb: “The best way to protect yourself is to shut up. And when you finish doing that, shut up some more.”

As with excessive blather, spinning and rest must be followed by more spinning and rest. Here’s a handy-dandy self-evaluation quiz to help you determine whether or not you’ve truly mastered the art of spin.

Self-evaluation Quiz

  1. Why’m I going so fucking slow? Yes/No
  2. My legs can’t turn that fast. Yes/No
  3. Hey! There go my peeps! I’m gonna hop in and hammer for just a few minutes! Yes/No
  4. This is boring. Yes/No
  5. Can I hammer now? Yes/No

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, you haven’t yet mastered Spinning 101. Please return to the street and repeat the lesson in Chapter 3. Once you can spin in your tiniest, itsy-bitsiest, teensy-weensiest baby gear for two hours, you will be ready for Intermediate Spinning.

Torque v. Angular Velocity

Although Wankmeister generally eschews science in favor of completely made-up bullshit, it is a proven fact that on a bicycle power is the result of torque and angular velocity. This sounds complicated, but it’s not. Torque is mashing on the pedals. Imagine that you had the leg strength of Godzilla. When you mashed on the right pedal you would shear it off from the crank, dig the teeth of the chain ring into your leg, strip all the muscle away from the bone, and shatter your foot into a billion pieces when it hit the ground. This is torque. The more of that you have, the faster the bike will go, unless you have so much of it that you end up with no foot whatsoever, in which case you’re pretty well screwed.

Angular velocity is a fancy way of saying “making the crank spin quickly.” The quicker it spins, the faster you go. So if you could twirl the cranks at, say, 4,000,000 rpm, the whole contraption would heat up, melt the bottom bracket, tear the crank out of the frame, and result in a catastrophic accident. But if, say, you could twirl the cranks at a more reasonable 160 rpm, you’d go like a bat out of hell.

Most training plans try to help you develop torque by various impossible methods, listed below:

  1. Improve muscular force by diets designed to get rid of all your flab. Diets don’t work. Please quit now and have another helping of cookies.
  2. Improve muscular force by working out in the gym. You want to be a gym rat? Dude, gyms suck donkey balls. They are nasty, microbe-infested shitholes that are filled with sweaty big people who sneer at you because you’re so tweezly. Also, there’s no empirical evidence of any kind that gym work works.
  3. Improve muscular force by S/E workouts. These workouts are stupid and ineffective if you believe in science. They are great if you want to brag about your Wednesday “Big Ring workout” on Via del Monte.
  4. Improve muscular force through intervals. These work and are a living hell. You will hate racing and riding if you do them for long, or, you enjoy them because you are batshit crazy.
  5. Improve muscular force through banned PED’s. These work, but only when combined with #4. So, you’re back to square one. Plus, they’re expensive and will get you a 2 or 4-year racing vacation when you get caught.

Since improving torque is hopeless and/or painful, that only leaves one avenue: increasing angular velocity. In other words, spin the damn pedals faster. The problem is that you’re too weak to do it in a big gear, but there’s an additional problem. Your legs aren’t accustomed to going around fast. You’re a gronker with an average cadence of 70-85 rpm, and if you can’t turn 120 rpm in your 34 x 28, how the hell are you going to do it in your 53 x 11?

Answer: You aren’t.

So the challenge is to begin with baby steps. Start with your easiest gear, go out on your bike, and ride for an hour trying to keep it at about 100 to 110 rpm. This will feel like your legs are coming detached at the hip. If you’re really unlucky you’ll tear a tendon, ligament, muscle, or your tongue. Give it a try. Then get back to me and we’ll see if you’re really and truly ready for the intermediate lesson.

Good people

January 13, 2014 § 24 Comments

I rode up onto the sidewalk like I always do, made the left down the narrow little path next to the parking garage, and dismounted at the top of the four concrete steps which lead to the big locked gate. There is a hedge opposite the wall of the parking garage, and the space along the path is so slight that if they weren’t well trimmed, the branches would touch the opposing wall. It’s a busy little passageway; countless tenants come and go through this side entrance over the course of a day.

The jersey pockets of my bicycle outfit are always stuffed the same way. Gate and house key on the left, spare tube in the middle, and CO2/cash/credit card on the right. When I’m cutting out before sunrise I’ll stick my sunglasses in the left pocket, on top of the keys. It’s my “sunglass” pocket, or, when I’m coming home in the late afternoon and wearing my sunglasses, it’s the pocket in which I’ll put the Rx clear-lens biking glasses that I’d worn on the pre-dawn commute. In any event, the glasses are always on top of the gate and house key.

On Thursday afternoon I got back to the complex, dismounted, and took off my gloves before fishing out the glasses from the left pocket in order to reach the gate and house key. I walked the bike down the steps, let myself in, and walked up the staircase to our apartment. Then the evening quickly took over. There was so much to do before our big trip to Palm Springs on Friday. There were bags to be packed, bike to be cleaned, dinner to be eaten, beer to be drunk and, of course, book to be faced.

One of the last things to be packed was my actual riding gear, and nothing is double and triple-checked more often than my eyewear. This is because my vision is so terrible that without my prescription biker glasses it’s simply not possible to ride. Although I knew from our riding schedule that we wouldn’t be riding before sunup or after sundown, and I therefore wouldn’t need them, I noticed that my clear Rx glasses were missing.

“Honey,” I said, “have you seen my clear glasses?”

“No. Why? When’s the last time you wore them?”

“Today. I thought I came home with them today, actually.” A short search ensued but they didn’t turn up. “They’ll show up later,” I thought.

Rather, I hoped like hell they’d show up, because they were prescription SPY Quanta performance glasses, and they meant the difference between pre-dawn riding and not. They would also be expensive to replace.

The weekend flew by, and on Sunday night, as I unpacked my bags, I realized that the glasses had never turned up. This wasn’t surprising, since I hadn’t looked for them and since we’d been out of town. “Honey,” I asked again. “Have you seen my clear Rx riding glasses?”

She rolled her eyes. “In Palm Springs? No.”

On Monday morning I got ready to ride and faced the nasty truth. I’d lost the glasses and couldn’t remember where, and they weren’t coming back. Our apartment is small and we don’t have much in it, and the glasses would have surfaced if only because SPY provides a gray cloth carrying case with a bright orange drawstring for all its eyewear. It’s the kind of thing that you just can’t miss, bright orange strings against a slightly metallic gray bag.

I clomped down the concrete staircase and went out the gate. As I mounted the top concrete step on the walkway, I glanced to my right. There on the hedge was a gray cloth bag, hanging from a branch by its bright orange drawstring. Then it all came back to me. I’d taken out the glasses out of the back pocket in order to get the gate key, and must have dropped the glasses. They’d been there for almost four days.

Someone had picked up the bag, looked inside, realized that the glasses were prescription and fancy and important, and had thoughtfully hung them from the hedge. Over the four days countless people had stopped, opened the little bag to see what was inside, realized that they were lost glasses, and left them there. Countless little acts of observation, investigation, conclusion and … doing the nicest thing.

I smiled a big smile and tucked the glasses into my jersey pocket, the left one of course. Then I pedaled on to work, feeling like the strangers of the world were, somehow, looking out for me, and reminding me that when it came my turn, to be sure and look out for them, too.

The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 3: How to Spin (not “Spoon”)

January 13, 2014 § 3 Comments

Aside from age, inability, laziness, drunkenness, and absence of desire — all key qualities for any racer seriously embarking on the Wanky Training Plan ™ — it is important to realize that the main thing holding you back from the fifth or even the fourth step of the ugly wooden podium that someone hammered together with cheap plywood so you could totter on it, arms waving wildly as you try to keep from plunging off the back and onto the concrete in the typical arms-raised-cyclist-in-slippery-cleats-on-painted-wood-pose, is fatigue.

The fact is that aside from the creaky joints, achey back, loose bowels, urinary incontinence, and general systemic collapse that generates discomfort and pain as you rush maddeningly faster down the death spiral of human longevity, your main problem is that you’re bone tired. And please don’t give me that “But I take off Mondays and Fridays,” or “Last week was a rest week” crap.

At your age it has to be a rest month, and you’d better be ready to make virtually every week a rest week if you’re going to succeed on the Wanky Training Plan ™.

Fatigue self-evaluation

The difference between fatigue and being tired is simple. Tired is what happens when you stay up late eating potato chips. Fatigued is what happens when you ride your bike for hundreds of miles every week. But in case you’re unsure, or more likely, in total denial, take the quiz:

  1. After riding, I sit at my desk and stare vacantly at the screen. Yes/No
  2. I do “training blocks.” Yes/No
  3. I do “base miles.” Yes/No
  4. If I miss three consecutive riding days I tell myself (and every wanker who will listen) that I’m “out of shape.” Yes/No
  5. I’ve never missed three consecutive riding days. Yes/No
  6. More is better. Yes/No
  7. I’m a gronker. Yes/No [Refer to Wanky's Circular on Gronking, #45, in a previous blog post.]
  8. When I’m off my bike, motion is my enemy. Yes/No
  9. No injury or illness is so severe that some type of cycling (trainer, rollers, spin class) can’t be sneaked in. Yes/No
  10. I would ride less if … well, no, I wouldn’t. Yes/No

If you answered “Yes” to any of these, you are fatigued. Fatigue won’t go away with a day off, or a week off, or beer, and it’s different from overtraining. Whereas overtraining simply means you are stupid and cannot be helped, ever, because your newt-sized brain is permanently stuck on No. 6 in the quiz above, fatigue can be overcome. But like the lightbulb, you must want to change.

The Yin to the hammer’s Yang

Hammering is the Yang of cycling. You do it because you can, because you get sucked in, because you’re a chronic gronker, and because no one has ever shown you how to spin. Spinning, of course, is the Yin of cycling. We’ve all heard the same stupid advice for decades. “Spin to win.” “The pros all know how to spin.” “Practice with a fixie.” “Race the track, that’ll get your cadence up.” Blah, blah, blah.

Before you can spin, however, you must truly understand the Yin and why it is so important. It is important because, properly done, spinning will rest your legs, actively recover your legs, and build your cardiovascular fitness. What’s most extraordinary is that you can achieve all these things without ever doing an interval, with the exception of perhaps a Belgian Tripel followed by a stout and finished off with an IPA.

In order to spin, you must first relearn some basic stuff, and the most basic one is this: You gotta go slow. Right. I’m talking to you, Mr./Ms. Hammerallthetimebecauseitsfun. Because you have a hard time with new ideas, this one is going to be very simply stated.

  1. Put your bike in your easiest gear, no matter what the terrain.
  2. Start pedaling.
  3. Do not change the gear.

Okay. That’s it for today. Now go have a beer. See? I told you the Wanky Training Plan ™ was fun!

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SPY-Giant-RIDE training camp and beer sampling contest

January 12, 2014 § 16 Comments

I had really been looking forward to the weekend, that’s what I told myself as the whole fucking peloton exploded into wobbling, weaving fragments on the lower part of the Tramway climb, only I didn’t know it was the lower part because I’d never been there before or watched the finale of the Tour of California stage because if I had I would have known that the yellow sign and the modest bump-top I was sprinting for, far from being the top, was four miles from the top, and what was already the most miserable mile I’d ever spent on a bike was about to be most hellish five miles, not just one.

The leaders numbered about fifteen and I could count them, as they were plotted out in high relief against the ugly, featureless desert shitscape that spilled out like bad barf on either side of the roadway. The flailers numbered about sixty, riders who had, like me, thought they were coming to Palm Springs for a fun team bonding training camp, only to find out that as soon as they’d picked up their swag and put on their fancy kits that some sadist had planned the most miserable of afternoons for them in the high desert hell.

Slowly I moved up, latching onto the wheels of the decaying riders who, like me, were coming apart at the seams, but unlike me were coming apart slightly faster. My signature pant-gasp-hack-cough got into their heads along with the depressing reality that flashed across their minds as I sat on their wheels: “If Wankmeister has caught me and can hold my wheel, my fucking season is over. It’s like being caught by an obese child with short legs, only worse.” One by one they pounded as hard as they could, desperately trying to shake the stigma of having me ride them down, then pulled over in defeat as I soldiered on. This terribly painful, wholly unrewarding, ego-crushing climb ended with only a handful of the very best riders ahead of me. I calculated eighth place out of about seventy-five riders, with Chris Johnson, Brian Stack, John Abate, Paul Vaccari, Logan Fiedler, Dave Jaeger, and Taylor Vaccardi ahead of me.

This, of course, was a result so far beyond anything I could have ever imagined that it almost made up for the misery of the climb and the terror of the 60-mph downhill. When we all reconvened at the hotel, the consensus was general: On the very first ride of the very first day of training camp we had all destroyed ourselves so completely that we would spend the next two days sucking our thumbs, curled up in bed popping Advil and wishing we could go home.

What is a training camp?

I wondered this the sleepless night before our Spy-Giant-RIDE Second Annual Training Camp of General Awesomeness and Beer. There didn’t seem to be any tents, sleeping bags, or highjinks with the girl campers on the itinerary, so it clearly wasn’t a camp. And after wrecking all of our legs on Day One (various riders were so destroyed by the dry air and brutal climb that the following day they tucked tail 30 miles into the ride and slinked back to the hotel bar rather than complete the 103-mile death march across the desert), I couldn’t really figure out what it was we were training for, except perhaps for a graveside service.

Mrs. WM and I had in fact begun the whole thing in high spirits. We stopped in San Bernardino on the way out to get gas after the typical husband-wife car conversation, which began like this. “I gotta pee.”

“You’re fuggin’ kidding me. We’ve been in the car less than an hour.”

“I don’ care I gotta pee.”

“You can’t have to pee. There’s no way you have generated enough pee. You’ve drunk nothing. You can’t have to pee.”

“I gotta pee so let’s stop onna pee stop now.”

A few minutes later we were at a gas station. She came back to the car. “Can I get onna magazine?”

“Sure.” This was odd, because in 26 years of marriage she had read, maybe, four magazines. She returned to the car, smiling, with a copy of Cosmo. “What did you get that for? Don’t tell me you’re reading Cosmo for fashion advice?”

“It had onna cover story called ‘Fantasy Sex.’”

There was a brief silence as I calculated the possibilities. Team training camp was starting to look good.

Swag me!

When we arrived at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Golf Nirvana our awesome team bosses greeted us with an assembly line of kits, caps, eyewear, and t-shirts. It was brain numbing to think that we, a worthless bunch of prostate-challenged wannabes were being showered with so much pro stuff. Our kits came in plastic bags with our names on them, and the kits themselves had our names on the side panels of the jerseys. We gazed in wonder, not simply at the awesomeness of it, but at the realization that all the other teams would be purple with envy when they saw our rad personalized clothing. Henceforth the pro masters SoCal masters cycling circuit would, unquestionably, be demanding personalized kits even as they gnawed their livers at not having thought of it first.

After returning from our horrific Day One training ride, I realized many things, and chief among them was this: Just because I have a fancy kit doesn’t mean I’m any good. This was really depressing, as I’d been hoping, deep down, that by wearing the nicest kit I would somehow be a better rider.

SPY had reserved a giant room with a bar, restaurant, and conference area for the afternoon presentations. We began with the most important one, from SPY Optic, called “Why You Are Here.” This was important because from the moment we were showered with swag and set up for the amazing weekend, each of us wondered the same thing: “What’s a wanker like me doing to deserve all this?”

To the relief of many, the answer was NOT “Go forth and win bike races.”

Instead, the answer was something entirely different. It was, “Go forth and live a good life, and a happy one. If you win bike races as a result, good for you. If you win nothing at all, you’ve still won everything possible.” In shorthand that every bike racer can understand, we were treated to the SPY motto, “HTFU.” Yeah. Happy the Fuck Up.

A few of the new recruits may have been puzzled, but I wasn’t. Anyone who thinks that winning bike races, or winning any kind of race, is the key to a good life well lived, hasn’t read the fine print that comes Life. Crushing the souls of your competitors, or marking up their FB wall with boasts about how you’ll destroy their hopes in the Aged People With Prostate Issues Category is important, and fun, and, perhaps, fulfilling in some strange way. But the key to getting your foot onto the next stepping stone in life isn’t “winning.” It’s being the kind of person who is kind, and it’s happily accepting happiness as a completely self-fulfilling way of doing the journey.

Of course none of us bought that bullshit for even a nanosecond, and all we could think about was training harder, racing smarter, and beating the snot out of the guys and women we race against, hopefully humiliating them in front of their small children, but at a minimum making fun of them for cherry-picking crits and avoiding anything with a hill in it.

How the team was fitted

The next morning we staggered into breakfast, inhaled everything on the buffet line, and sat down to a presentation from Harmony Bars, a San Diego company that makes what is unquestionably the tastiest in-your-jersey-pocket-treat ever created. However, no one in the room was able to concentrate on the caloric and nutritive aspects of the presentation, since it was being done by Jess Cerra in a pair of mesh white tights. We had all spent the previous day having Jess ride us off our her wheel on the Tramway climb, not terribly different from the times she had ridden us off her wheel on the Swami’s Ride, on the SPY Holiday Ride, on the Belgian Waffle Ride, or, frankly, every other ride we’d ever accompanied her on.

Jess’s strength and unrelenting power on the bike, and her unparalleled ability to litter the roadside with smashed male egos, was equaled only by her presentation in the white tights. Every man in the room died a little bit that day, heaping jealousy and hatred on the shoulders of John Abate as we watchd, er, listened, to Jess’s presentation. The Harmony Bar story can be summed up thus: This shit tastes good, is locally made, and was designed by people who crush on the bike. Okay?

Next we heard from our StageOne sponsors, the dudes who designed and manufactured our kits. Joe Yule and Jon Davy had a glazed look in their eyes, and it was clear they’d put together their presentation after a detailed sketch on the back of a napkin. Davy’s every third word was “Uh,” and with good reason: StageOne had designed, manufactured, delivered, bagged, and tagged the entire team kit in less than ninety days. This had involved multiple designs and product tests, trips to the manufacturing plant in Holland, and an eye for detail and execution that no one but Davy could have ever delivered. Joe Yule’s lifelong mission to beautify the highways of California had come, yet again, to fruition, as our SPY-Giant-RIDE kit was so beautiful that grown men wept while taking selfies of themselves in the mirror and posting them to their mothers’ FB pages.

To make matters more intense, StageOne replaces SPY-Giant-RIDE’s previous kit manufacturer Squadra, and riders are nothing if not bitchy little pricks about their kits. Whatever concerns people had about leaving the top-line kits of Squadra for the as-yet-untried-new-kids-on-the-block-StageOne were dispelled after our first team pedal. Sporting innovations that include a zipper garage, back grippers on the jersey, and farmer-john straps for comfort when you’re not wearing a base layer, the StageOne design and production received rave reviews, which is good, because if anyone had dared complain they’d have had a 210-lb. Jon Davy to deal with.

Following the StageOne presentation we heard from Giant, our bike sponsor. I wish I could explain to you in detail why the new Giant Propel is the most awesome bike since someone decided to make a bicycle with a chain … but I can’t. The Giant presentation explained lots of details about the Propel and about the concept of aero road frames and about how it improved on what most already considered the most perfect bike ever made, the Giant TCR, but it was all in one ear and out the other for me as I was still stuck on the Harmony Bars and the white tights. One of the problems that Giant has with its bikes is that each new model improves on an already incredible model, and the people like me who are completely in love with the current model can’t imagine something better than what they’ve already got. But the situation appears pretty simple, in that the Propel will propel you faster.

Let my people go

Once the presentations finished we saddled up for a leisurely 103-mile ride in the desert. It was going to be a friendly, two-by-two affair until we hit a nasty sidewind going up a long grade and the young punks turned on the gas and shredded the field. Suddenly our 75-person peloton was split into multiple groups of desperately pedaling flailers who broke up into echelons as they tried to avoid getting further behind. The young punks pulled away as I sat back in the second group watching the end of the day happen at about mile twenty, because there was no way the leaders were coming back. As we toiled into the most miserable of howling sidewinds, the guy in front of me exploded into pieces and I lunged ahead in a last-ditch effort to bridge.

Leaving entrails, my soul, and copious quantities of spit and snot on the road, I somehow made it across. The only rider to go with me was, of course, Jess, who then went straight to the front and took a pull even as I hung on the back and prayed for a land mine. Happily, Andy Schmidt flatted at Dillon Road and we all stopped, giving the broken, dropped, crushed, and defeated remainder of the group time to catch up to us. People looked so ill and sad and sick and unhappy that it was clear to me the training camp was a total success.

For the remainder of the ride we rotated, hammer-tated, flail-tated, and generally gasped our way back to the hotel. Massive beerdration ensued for those of us who had not had enough water, and after an even more massive pizza feast we sat down and listened to another slew of evening presentations. The one that impressed me the most was MRI Endurance, our team’s presenting sponsor who is a manufacturer of training supplements. They impressed me not because of the presentation — I was too drunk to understand any of it and kept falling asleep on F-1 Jim’s shoulder, awakening only to wipe off the drool — but because of the following day when MRI handed out the team product.

Have you ever seen a shark feeding frenzy? People were practically gnawing each others’ arms off to get their share of the special supplements. Eyes were gouged, crotches were kneed, and medullas were rabbit-punched in the melee. Judging from the enthusiasm of the riders, this stuff works wonders.

Ending on a high note

On Sunday morning, we were so trashed from the beer, the riding, and the presentations of the night before that a few shameless wankers left early (after collecting all their swag, of course). Those who stuck around got to enjoy yet another morning of great food, camaraderie, and a series of excellent presentations from Skins, RIDE Cyclery, SRAM/Zipp, Lake cycling shoes, Razer keyboards & mice, and Clearwater Partners. Skins provided a detailed scientific review of the benefits of their full line of compression gear, but Mrs. WM had only one question: “If you compress onna chin-chin, it’s gonna make it bigger?”

I didn’t know what to say, or even what product to order. The compression tube sock, maybe, in size XXXXS?

The other sponsors helped us better understand the benefits of working with an awesome local bike shop, of racing on SRAM components and ZIPP wheels, of using Lake shoes and the Boa locking system, and of investing all of our money with Clearwater so we can retire early and race our bikes full time like true SoCal masters professionals.

We took a fine group picture  and called it a day. My 2014 season is officially a success, thanks to the excellent job I did riding around the resort looking splendid in my new outfit and (barely) beating Jess up the Tramway climb. Looking forward to lots of great racing in 2015.

The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 2: Why All Training Plans Suck, Except Wanky’s

January 9, 2014 § 24 Comments

Training plans all suffer from the same set of defects. They require you to follow them, they require discipline, and they were designed for someone else.

Let’s look at this first mortal flaw, the requirement that you actually do what the plan tells you to do. This would not be a problem if the plan said, for example, “You’re not drinking enough beer. Drink more beer.” (In fact, this is one of the first things you will be required to do on the Wanky Training Plan ™ . But all training plans except Wanky’s never tell you that. Instead, they all have, buried nastily down in Month 2 or Week 12 or in the arbitration clause, something called “intervals.”

This is like burying a plutonium pellet inside the vagina of a beautiful rich single woman Rhodes scholar who wants to be your mistress and is a fantastic housekeeper, cook, and head of a Silicon Valley major corporation, who always orgasms before you do and whose idea of a great relationship is you riding your bike while she hands you up water bottles. Of course, the “other coach’s training plan” never starts you out with intervals. That would alert you to all the misery and hard work and impossibility that lies ahead, so it starts you out with “blocks” of “base miles.” And who doesn’t like base miles?

Base miles mean hours and hours of fiddling around up and down the coast, chatting with your pals, drinking coffee, trolling the Internet for new bootie covers, trolling the peloton for new booty, damn, son, this is the life! But do you need base miles? Of course not. As a Wanky Training Plan ™ devotee, you’ve been riding for years and have so many miles on your legs that your taint looks like grade P12 sandpaper that’s backed with chips of flint. Still, they give you base miles because it feels good.

Then, the nasty part of the training plan sets in: Intervals. Sometimes they’re called 20-minute efforts, or FTP tests, or big ring workouts, but trust Wanky, they’re all the same shit. You will climb inside a skanky hurt locker and pound your brains out until you despise the very bike you’re now on a 36-month payment plan for. This is “what makes you stronger,” but in reality it’s what makes you realize that you just aren’t cut out for bike racing. It’s somewhere in between that second and third set of 20-minute efforts that you realize your power has dropped, your heart rate has tanked, and this is about as much fun as getting a new tooth implant in your anus.

The Wanky Training Plan ™ , however, will never require you to do an interval, unless you consider drinking three beers in a row an “interval.” The WTP requires, instead, that you “Begin to Spin.”

Tune in tomorrow for Chapter 3: How to Spin (not Spoon)

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 1: Introduction

January 8, 2014 § 28 Comments

I still remember the time I got really serious about masters cycling, when I thought about getting coached. The next morning, after the hangover had worn off, I went back to my usual ways, but that evening of surfing the Internet was a very intense period in my life. That was in 2005.

A few years later I got the best coaching advice ever, from Ron Peterson. Ron is a top-notch SoCal coach who has taken countless wankers out of obscurity and into the global limelight of parking lot crit podiums. Here’s what Ron told me: “Seth, you’re uncoachable.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you’re incapable of taking someone’s advice on any topic without either ignoring it, arguing about it, changing it, or doing it wrong.”

Self-evaluation

If you’re wondering whether the Wanky Training Program is right for you, please take the following quiz.

  1. Don’t fucking tell me what to do. Yes/No
  2. I don’t care what you think. Yes/No
  3. I’m pack fodder. Yes/No
  4. I’m delusional. Yes/No
  5. I’m old. Yes/No
  6. I’m cheap. Really fucking cheap. Yes/No
  7. I’m lazy. Yes/No

If you answered “Yes” to all of the above, you are a perfect candidate for the WTP.

Conceptual fundamentals

Before embarking on the WTP, it is important to grasp certain concepts. First, you aren’t any good and you never will be. This is the core principle for the WTP. Your essential lameness has been proven (in most cases) by years and years of mediocre results. You are better than some, but far worse than the best. No one who matters fears you, and no one who fears you matters.

Second, you are old. Age isn’t “just a number.” It’s an absolute statement about your rapid mental and physical decline, both of which are taking you on a deafening plunge towards a rather immediate death. Your best years aren’t simply behind you, they’re so far in the rearview mirror that they can’t be seen without bifocals and a telescope.

Third, winning is beyond your grasp, mentally and physically. All the drugs and all the training and all the coaching would never instill in you the gritty mental toughness required to win a bike race. You aren’t just physically weak, you are emotionally soft. When global warming throws the world into a cataclysmic war, you will be one of its very first victims.

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Tommorrow — Chapter 2: The Problem with Training Plans

The latest in winter riding equipment

January 7, 2014 § 25 Comments

I got up at 4:00 so I could be out the door with my bike in the car at 4:30 so I could be at the office before 5:00 so I could go ride for 90 minutes so I could be suited up by 7:30 so I could be in court by 9:00. As I pedaled down Del Amo I felt the cold air try to chop through my long-sleeved jersey, but the jersey was insulated, and in addition I was wearing my latest winter cycling acquisition: a beard.

Beards never really caught on in cycling until cyclocrossers and hipsters began spreading the gospel about beer. The only other time a seriously bearded person raced a bike was the Russian in American Flyers, and he was the villain. No, it took skinny pants, mud, heckling, and beer (did I mention beer?) to finally get the attention of the sheeplish, conformist, baah-baahing road racing crowd. And even now beards are mostly frowned upon because, aero.

For me, beards were always unattainable, or so I thought, because I didn’t have a thick chest rug or a matted carpet of back hair. Growing up in the Burt Reynolds – Tom Selleck era, we learned the fundamental junior high equation: Man = Hair. Big Man = Hair x ShitTon. So, I was always a girl among gorillas because I just wasn’t hairy. My chest was smooth and sleek as a well-oiled bald head. My back sported nary a tuft of coarse man-hair. In fact, the only significant follicle activity I ever had on my chest was this long hair that grew out of my left nipple. I named him “Stan.”

Stan began growing when I was about fifteen, and he wasn’t in the least bit perturbed by the absence of fellow follicles. He grew steadily until I was about forty, when he reached the length of six inches. I could curl Stan around my finger so many times that he looked like a coiled spring. I loved that hair, and you can imagine how I felt when one day while twirling him I yanked him out by mistake. It was “Ouch!” + “I’ve just amputated a leg,” and now I don’t even have that one lonely strand.

Of course one time I tried to grow a mustache, but it wasn’t very successful. It looked like a big hairy caterpillar that someone had run over with a truck and then glued to my upper lip. I finally cut it off.

One day, though, several months ago, I decided to have a go at sideburns. These didn’t work out very well for the same reason that the chest hair thing didn’t succeed. But once I shaved them off, I decided to try and grow a little tuft on my chin. Imagine my surprise when it sprouted! Not just the four-or-five strand equivalent of my left nipple, but a genuine tuft of chin hair took root. More incredibly, the longer I left it alone, the more it grew until, a few months into the experiment, I wound up with a very solid clump of beard on my chin.

Hair history

My dad always had a beard, ever since I was old enough to know what a beard was. And it wasn’t just any old beard, it was a left-wing, pinko, anti-establishment, nonconforming, Vietnam War hating, dope smoking, rabble rousing communist beard of the very first Karl Marx variety. Dad’s college students all had beards, except the women, who didn’t have bras. I would come to appreciate that earlier than most children my age. I suppose part of the reason it took me almost fifty years to grow one (a beard, not a bra) is because if Man = Hair, then  Dad = Beard, and I grew up with serious authority issues.

Another anti-beard incentive was my brother Ian. He was a awash in testosterone by age eleven, and at fifteen was shaving twice daily. He didn’t work hard to grow a beard, he worked might and main not to grow one. His facial hair was so thick that the one time he went “commando beard” it made dad’s look like the scraggle on a Jack Russell terrier’s chin. And he grew it in, like, twelve hours.

But more than anything else, it was the bike. Eddy had mutton chops maybe, but Eddy didn’t wear no beard. And neither did Roger, or Bernard, or Sean, or Greg, or Fields. Men, especially bike men, were clean-shaven, lantern jawed specimens who wore their chins like they wore their shins: shaved and smooth. If it was good enough for Eddy, it was more than good enough for me.

Hipster hair

As recently as two years ago I had no idea what a hipster was. The first time I heard someone say the word I thought they were talking about black dudes from the 70′s like I used to watch on Soul Train. I remember learning with incredulity that there was a class of bike riders who other bike riders disliked because they dressed in weird clothing, had bizarre affectations, were social snobs, took drugs, and were fanatical about their bike styles and brands. “That sounds exactly like roadies,” I remember thinking.

Of course I learned that hipsters had NOTHING in common with roadies, that they were completely and forever different and, like, totally opposite because … facial hair.

So, not so much out of solidarity as out of curiosity I grew some face fuzz. People went out of their way not to comment on it and I figured it was going to escape censure completely until one morning on the Kettle Ride, when Pretty Boy from San Francisco pedaled up. Pretty Boy is famous for being rich, pretty, single, and Rapha. He owns a fancy villa in Tuscany, trains in the summertime by doing swathes of the Tour (watches all the Alpine stages, natch), and has one of those cush doctor gigs where he doesn’t have to look at or talk to or touch sick people but still hauls in the dough.

“Hey, Wanky,” he said, staring at my raggedy patch of beard, which was now long enough to be streaked with big runs of gray. “You’re the last person I’d have ever expected to show up with ironic facial hair.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I kept on pedaling, but I thought it was a funny comment until I came home and saw an FB post about “ironic facial hair.”

“What in the world,” I wondered “is ironic hair?” So I Googled it and there it was in the Urban Dictionary: Ironic Facial Hair.

But was my facial hair ironic? Can hair even be ironic? And if it could, would a grown man use his beard as a literary device? Perhaps, because according to Professor Google, irony “is a statement in which the meaning that a speaker employs is sharply different from the meaning that is ostensibly expressed.”

By the time all these thoughts had crossed my mind I was whizzing down the bike path. The cold morning air was trying, and failing, to chill my face. Although it wasn’t much, the moderately dense outcropping on my chin broke the cold and warmed my face.

Is a face warmed by a non-Rapha beard ironic? I think not.

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