The Rule

September 19, 2014 § 19 Comments

The Rule, and there’s only one, is this: The harder it is, the better you’ll feel when it’s over.

Bryce came whizzing by us on the bike path. He had hairy legs and a new $7k Cannondale with electronic shifting. Bryce nodded at us as he flew by.

“You know that wanker?” I asked Nate.

“Yeah, nice kid. Fitted him on his new bike last night.”

“He’s going awfully fast.”

“I guess it was a good fit,” said Surfer.

In Santa Monica we ran into him again, after we’d split up from Nate. “Where are you going?” asked Surfer.

“I was about to turn around and ride back to Hermosa.”

“You’re welcome to join us if you want to.”

“Where are you guys riding to?”

“We’re just doing a couple of climbs on the West Side.”

“Oh, yeah, I know all the roads over here,” Bryce said confidently.

Surfer, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of every street in Southern California, paved and unpaved, said “I bet you don’t know all the roads.”

“I work for the power company putting up utility poles. I know all the roads.”

Surfer smiled at him. “Then you’ll know where we’re going.”

I wanted to tell Bryce to turn back now, while he still had the chance. As a new cyclist out to test his legs, the last person you would ever want to run into is Surfer. Instead, I egged the kid on. “You look like a pretty good climber,” I said as we started going up Amalfi.

To his credit, Bryce was game. He punched away at the long climb. “Hang tight here in just a bit,” said Surfer. “It’s going to be unpaved for a little bit.”

We went through the gate and indeed the going got kind of rough. I took another look at Bryce’s deep-dish racing wheels. He was breathing hard, then really hard. We’d been climbing for a long time. “Hey,” he said. “How much farther to the top?”

“We’re almost there,” I lied.

After a while we went through another gate and the dirt climb stretched out forever, still going up. “How long you been riding?” asked Surfer.

“Six months,” Bryce said between deep breaths.

“What’s your longest ride?” I asked.

“Thirty-five miles,” he answered. “How long is this going to be?”

“Longer,” said Surfer.

Bryce got off his bike and started walking. We pedaled up the grade and waited in the shade.

“How much farther?” he asked when he reached us. “I’m done. I can’t go any more.”

“That little section is the hardest part,” I lied again. “You’re doing great. It’s pretty much a gentle climb from here to the top.”

“You’re lying,” he said. “You guys are assholes.” We were high upon a dirt ridge out in the mountains now. It was hot and he was out of water.

“We’re not just assholes,” said Surfer with a grin. “We’re the biggest assholes in Southern California. Want some water?” He handed over his bottle and Bryce thirstily drained it. “Need some food?” Bryce nodded and gobbled up the BonkBreaker. “Know this road?” Surfer asked.

Bryce looked at him, then laughed. “No. No, I don’t.” It was the laughter of “I’m cracked and hot and waterless and lost and I hope these guys don’t leave me.”

We pedaled on for a ways until we came to the final section of the climb, a solid quarter-mile where you had to get out of the saddle and hump it. I was glad I had on a 28. Surfer and I waited beneath another tree for a while. “Think he’s going to quit?” I asked.

“I hope not, because if he does we’ll have to go back down this damn thing and look for him.”

“I think he’s going to quit. Kid’s game, but this would break anybody. He was struggling back on Amalfi.”

At that moment Bryce appeared, grim and covered with red dust. “These shoes suck for walking,” he said. We gave him the last of our water. “I know that whatever you tell me is going to be a lie, but how much farther to the top?”

“This is it,” said Surfer.

He brightened. “Really?”

“Yes, but be careful after we make the right. The downhill can get away from you.” I looked again at his delicate carbon wheels and was grateful to be on my 32-spoke aluminum rims with wide, thick tires. Bryce banged and bumped and bashed his way through the ruts, over the rocks, and along the endless washboard descent, almost crashing hard a couple of times.

We stopped at the old Minute Man silo, filled our bottles, and poured water over our heads in the searing heat.

When we finally hit the pavement, he said “Where are we?”

“Mulholland, just a couple of miles from the 405.”

Bryce perked up. Finally, a road he knew.

We had been going at a snail’s pace up in the hills in order not to lose Bryce, but now we had to get home. Surfer wrapped it up to 30, gave Bryce a very short lesson on drafting, and off we went.

Bryce had gotten a second wind and was a quick study, rotating through smoothly and keeping the speed. Until San Vicente, that is, when the thousand-yard-stare set in.

“I don’t feel so good,” he said.

“You’re bonking,” said Surfer, offering him the last gel packet.

“Next time we do this I’m going to kick you guys’ ass,” said Bryce. The kid was game.

The closer we got to Hermosa, the happier he got. “Hey, guys, thanks for dragging me along. This is my biggest ride ever!”

“You rode like a champ,” I said. “Not many people could have done what you did today.”

“For a couple of old guys you and Surfer go pretty good. But don’t think I’m going to forget about this.”

“We won’t, either,” I promised.

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Go to the front

September 18, 2014 § 31 Comments

A guy who is one of the best racers I know said to me, “Seth, when I first met you I was convinced you were ruining a whole generation of bike racers.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere.”

“Seriously. Always telling people to go to the front. That is not how you win races. That is how you lose races.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. There are only three ways to win a race. Attack and ride in solo. Go with, or bridge to a break and outsprint your breakaway companions. Or win the field sprint. Going to the front of the peloton and hammering like a knucklehead will guarantee that you never win any races.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. And there you were, telling all these young kids to ‘Go to the front!’ And they were doing it. It’s the complete opposite of race winning tactics. Going to the front will only fry you. In a race or even on these training rides people love it when you go to the front. You fry yourself, they get a free ride, and leave you like you were chained to a stump at the end. What’s the point?”

“Well, if people don’t go the front and make it hard, then how do you end up with a good training ride?”

“There’s always some idiot who will do that. Just don’t let it be you.”

“Really? I’ve been on plenty of rides where no one takes the bit and it’s just a wankfest shitshow with one or two hard efforts, usually on a climb.”

“Look, racing is energy conservation. The winner conserves through tactics, then expends his max at just the right time, or meters high-output efforts so that there are only a few of them. But they count. Your philosophy of going to the front and slogging away is stupid, and the only person it hurts is you. Anyone can sit on a wheel at 27, which just isn’t all that fast. What’s worse is that it teaches bad tactics because you end up racing the way you train.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

“So why don’t you lay off the ‘Go to the front’ propaganda for a while? You might even get on a podium yourself.”

“Because winning races doesn’t mean shit.”

“Lots of bike racers would disagree with you.”

“I’m not talking about bike racing.”

“What are you talking about, then?”

[...................................]

What was I talking about?

A couple of days ago I got the best email that’s ever come my way. This is what I was talking about.

Seth, I saw something the other day that reminded me of you. It was a show about Japanese culture where they were highlighting various festivals and some of the instruments played during the celebrations. One important instrument is the takebue flute. They visited a very old guy who is a master takebue maker and he said something very interesting that I thought you would appreciate.

Traditionally, takabue are made out of bamboo that the customer will bring to the flute maker, and it goes without saying that people who are going to spend a lot of money on this special item go to great lengths to cut for themselves a piece of bamboo that is especially beautiful, clean, and straight.

The flute maker said that years ago a man brought him a piece of bamboo that was curved and very rough. It was not what he was used to working with, but when he began hollowing it out and cutting out the holes, he realized that it was very strong bamboo, and that its wood was incredibly dense. When it was finished, the sound was especially bright, and far superior to anything else that he had ever made.

The flute maker asked the man where he had gotten this bamboo, and remarked that it was the strongest, most dense, and most beautiful wood he had ever worked. The man told him that most people choose bamboo from the heart of the bamboo thicket. The bamboo in the middle of the grove is sheltered from the wind and the elements and therefore grows straight and tall, so aesthetically that is the bamboo that people choose. But the sheltered bamboo, hidden from the battering effects of wind and rain and sun is relatively soft, whereas the bamboo on the edge of the thicket takes the brunt of the weather. It is scorched, frozen, pushed, abused, misshapen, and beaten by the elements, and that is what makes it so very dense and strong.

Take care, brother.

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Hi, Mom — tasting the Totino’s (Part 9)

September 17, 2014 § 4 Comments

Hi, Mom

I have to keep this short but here is how it all went down on the NPR yesterday and it would have been different if I hadn’t had to sleep on the floor again. Tonight I’m giving ol’ Cindy the boot. She is the most selfish person I have ever met and what’s the point of having a couch if I never get to sleep on it?

I showed up at the start of the ride and saw this guy and said which one of you jokers is Bahati and he said he’s pretty easy to find, he’ll be the one going 40mph on the flats into the wind. I was like whatever, dude, which one is he and this guy who was wearing an MF Wonton Heavy Industries kit, like what the f*** is that??, said Bahati is the guy whose hair is growing out from here to Venus.

Which one of you jokers is Charon Smith I asked and this dude whose name is Sausage was like Charon doesn’t do this ride often and I was like what does he look like just in case I need to open up the can on him, too, and Sausage was like Charon’s the dude whose hair is growing in the other direction. What kind of name is Sausage I asked Sausage and he laughed, then Higgins rolled up and said hey Porky and Sausage laughed even harder. I’m Billy Blitzkrieg the Hammer I told Sausage, remember it.

We started riding and sure enough Bahati jumped in with us and sure enough he has big hair. Hey Bahati I said, I hear you’re the fast guy out here just want you to know I’m coming to get you. He turned around and laughed and said this is just a training ride, so don’t hurt yourself, sonny and I was like oh, I won’t be the one hurting because when I turn on the Hammer Jets whatever you had for dinner last night will be making a reappearance, back home I used to call it making the boys taste the Totino’s.

Bahati laughed again and said what’s your name boy and Higgins said that’s Porky, Rahsaan, don’t pay him any mind and I said everybody who finishes ahead of me today can call me anything they want but the rest of you turkeys will have to call me Blitz or Blitzkrieg or just The Hammer. Okay, Porky, said Bahati and things picked up. I looked at his legs and they are skinny kind of like a junior high school girl’s, not like the junior high cheerleaders back home, mom, big and thick like tree trunks, I mean skinny normal junior high girls. He wasn’t going to be going anywhere with those toothpicks.

Pretty soon it ramped up and I got stuck behind some slow people who gapped me out and the group rolled away, that was on Lap One, but I cut across the street and hopped on when they came back by. Then on Lap Two I got stuck behind some guy named Marv from Arkansas, he had smoke coming out of the top of his head and the group rolled away again but I cut across the street and hopped back on when they came back by. Then on Lap Three somebody went real fast while I was reaching for my water bottle and same thing.

Then on Lap Four I was feeling pretty good so I got on Bahati’s wheel and mom I sure did open up the can. Get ready to taste the Totino’s, pal, I said as Bahati started stringing it out again for the hundredth time. This time I looked down at my Garmin and sure enough he was going 40 uphill into the wind with those skinny toothpicks!! Who knew????

Here is a big mouthful of Whup A** for you buddy boy I said as I got ready to unleash and make him taste the Totino’s but I looked at my Garmin again and it said 42 and that was too fast I wasn’t ready to ladle out the Whup A** just yet plus I had a funny taste in my own mouth which was unusual.

Then I got ready to really dole out the Whup A** with a shovel but Bahati was up to 43 and I felt something weird in my back and neck and legs and stomach and my eyes couldn’t focus, and people were all screaming at me to hold my line I guess they knew I was about to come flying around Bahati for the finish.

Bahati sat up before the line and Higgins came around him as he slowed down and I was going to hop on Higgins’s wheel and come around him and win the whole shebang but my eyes still wouldn’t focus and it was just a dumb training ride and I didn’t care about it anyway because it made a lot more sense to save the Whup A** for a real race when they would all be surprised, kind of like a Stealth fighter jet that you can’t see.

More later, gotta go, love you, mom!!!

Billy Blitz

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Hi, Mom — hope the hogs are okay (Part 8)

September 16, 2014 § 8 Comments

Hi, Mom

Wow, I’m really sorry to hear that TCEQ has come down hard on Pap. I can’t believe that would happen in a free country like America. The Pilkingtons are a bunch of crybabies and always have been ever since we used to beat up little Brucie-poo back in kindergarten. If they don’t like the smell of the hog farm why don’t they just move? And all those people who complain about the hogs*** and chemicals from Pap’s farm that gets into the groundwater, I bet you don’t hear them complaining about our hog farm at breakfast when they’re stabbing each other’s hands with their forks to see who gets the last slice of bacon.

It is so unfair and I hope his appeal passes. Reagan was right when he said government is the problem, mom, it sure is. By the way, I’m glad that Pap is still getting his hog producer subsidy payments from the Dept. of Ag. That’s the least our nation can do for his service.

Anyway, as you can probably imagine things have not gone too smoothly with Cindy, and thanks for the $500, but she has already spent it. We enjoyed three or four Totino’s extra large with some silver bullets, that is some good eating, mom!!

But anyway Cindy has been a big pain and I was right she came out here because she’s lonely but you will be shocked to hear that I think she has been playing me. She went into the toilet to wash the pizza stains off her t-shirt (do you remember that Hogs & Dogs tee that Pap gave her when she came over last Christmas, the one with the guns and the dog dressed up like Jesus with the AK-47 shooting up the atheists, that one) and I took a look at her cell phone.

I typed in the password “password” and it worked, Cindy isn’t the brightest Taser in the utility belt. Anyway guess who gave her the bright idea to come out here, yep, Higgins. They have been texting each other for, get this, the last two years. It made me furious to read some of that stuff, he calls her pussy cat, yeah, more like alley cat who will scratch your eyes out for a can of food or a rummage through your dumpster.

Higgins has her thinking I’m getting canned from Team Ding-a-Ling and they will give my apartment to him. Higgins is living over in North Hollywood with some guys he says that’s where the movie stars are and she’s all starry-eyed (get the joke, mom?). Movie-stars and starry-eyed, ha ha! I may have a future in comedy here yet! Ha, ha!

And she has said some very bad things about your son that I can’t repeat here because it’s not the kind of language you’re used to. Anyway, she’s sleeping on the floor for sure tonight, I’m going to teach her a lesson plus I need the rest to be ready for another big training ride here called the New Pier Ride or NPR for short.

It is a sprinter’s course, so Higgins won’t be there unless someone lends him a motorcycle or a new pair of legs. To be honest I had a tough time on all those climbs on the Donut Ride. That skinny guy Derek I told you about he is a good climber and man he can drink a lot of beer although actually I would like to see him try to go toe-to-toe with me on a couple cases of silver bullets. He will be on the NPR tomorrow and he told me about some other guys there who I will have to I’m sorry to say open up the can on.

The big dog around here according to Krankewitz is some guy named Bahati I will have to school him too with a big old helping of Whup A**. This is how we do it in Texas is what I will tell him.

I LOVE YOU, MOM!! and if you could put in $50 that would be awesome!! LOVE YOU!!

Your son Billy Blitzkrieg

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Hi, Mom — guess what the cat dragged in? (Part 7)

September 15, 2014 § 8 Comments

Hi, Mom

I didn’t get to finish telling you about the Donut Ride except that there was a huge sprint towards the end and yep, I opened up the can all right. Higgins thought he had been passed by a falling piano, that’s how quick I came around him and the other fancy-pants SoCal sprinter boys are all making a note of Billy Blitz the Hammer.

Afterwards some skinny dude named Derek and his teammate DJ (both of those guys are so old, mom, I really felt sorry for them) came up to me and said hey Porky, there’s no need to sprint after everyone has sat up, especially with the way you throw the bike around it looked wilder than a chick tossing rice at a wedding. Higgins said Porky wins all the races that end 100 meters after the finish line, that guy is so jealous of me so I just cut him to the quick with Whatever, dude.

Anyway, after that we pedaled over to a local beer company called Strand Brewing, it is supposedly the s*** here in LA, they make their own beer. I was really skeptical — brew your own beer? Really? Why not just get a case of silver bullets? — and turns out I was right. Derek and DJ bought me a glass of IPA and I was like um, can I have a silver bullet and they were like no, so I was like okay, gimme a Corona Light then some lime then and they were like uh, double no, so I was like okay, even though I hate it gimme a Miller Lite and they were like uh, no, here’s your IPA.

I asked what’s an IPA and they said it’s India Pale Ale and I was like uh, no, Mexican beer maybe but Indian beer no thanks. They were like try it and I did and it was the worst stuff I ever drank. It is so bitter mom, Californians do not know anything about beer. The guy who runs the place is named Joel and he was like, how is it and you know me, mom, I can’t lie and I told him that he wasn’t going to be putting Coors out of business any time soon.

Even though it tasted awful I had about six of them and the one thing I can say is that Strand Brewing beer, if you have six of their Indian beers you will have a hard time standing up after that. Who knew that Indians made strong beer or that Indians were white like Joel? That dude is the whitest Indian I ever saw. When I think about India all I think about is those people who drink their own p***.  Anyway, so that is why I didn’t get back to you.

Anyway, guess who showed up on my doorstep this morning? Yep, it was Cindy. She said she got “let go” at the feedlot but you and I know that she just got lonely like an old dog. I felt really sorry for her, mom, I know she isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed and she eats way too much frozen pizza but she is a good-hearted soul deep down so I told her she could sleep on the floor.

She was like sleep on the floor my a** and she took the couch so I’m slumming it for a while on the floor but that’s okay because she is a good ol’ dog, that Cindy. Anyway, I was really surprised when she told me that some federal agents had come by the apartment in Amarillo looking for me. Apparently someone who looks exactly like me — weird since Amarillo is such a small town — has been hanging out at the post office and going through the trash and taking out the junk mail credit card applications and filling them out in his name and then running up a big tab.

What’s weirder is that this criminal was having the cards sent to Cindy’s address and so naturally the cops think it was me but I swear that it wasn’t. Good ol’ Cindy told them I didn’t live there anymore and had moved to Arkansas, she is a good ol’ dog. Now she is saying that she loves me but if I don’t give her $500 bucks asap she will call the federal police and tell them where I am. I’m not afraid because I have nothing to hide but if you could put $500 in my account that would be awesome, mom, I LOVE YOU.

Love you, mom!

Your Blitzing Bag of Billy

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Hi, mom — best day ever (Part 6)

September 14, 2014 § 7 Comments

Hi, Mom

I got a knock on my door late last night, it was Maurice, one of the guys I met out behind the dumpster at Bunny’s. You won’t believe what he had, he had my bike. Yep, my team bike. He said he had seen some guy riding it and him and a bunch of the other guys had knocked him down and brought it back to me.

Are you really a pro athlete he asked me and I said yeah, why and he said because my apartment was all full of empty silver bullets what, was I training for the beer Olympics? And so we sat on the couch and emptied a few more and I offered to give him one of my belts but he laughed and said no thanks. Then I told him anytime him and the boys wanted to come by and have a drink they knew where to come.

Then after Maurice left I got a call from Krankewitz he said I should start doing some of the local training rides and I said what for, it’s no fun beating up on little children and he said don’t worry there are some girls and old men you can beat up on, too and he said I’d need to have a few miles in my legs for cyclecross.

So I rode over to the starting place in Redondo Beach it’s called the Donut Ride and Krankewitz wasn’t kidding about the girls and old men. I never saw a creakier and more broke-down looking bunch outside of a retirement home but that wasn’t the worst. The worst was that Higgins was there too, but that still wasn’t the worst because Higgins was wearing a Team Ding-a-Ling jersey and shorts.

Hey Higgins I said and he said Hey Porky and I said it’s not Porky anymore pal, they call me Billy Blitz the Hammer now and he said we’ll call you Porky Blitz then and a bunch of guys he was standing around started laughing. How come you’re on Team Ding-a-Ling I asked and he said that Krankewitz figured we needed a real sprinter yeah, so why’d he hire you I asked and Higgins said why don’t you ask my rear wheel, you know, the one that always rides away from you and I said whatever, dude, and you can bet he didn’t have a comeback to that.

Anyway the ride started and to tell the truth mom I wasn’t feeling my best because of the jet lag and I haven’t gotten used to the California air yet and I was on the 404’s when I should have been on the 303’s. We went through this little plaza called Malaga Cove and some idiot hit the jets and it was strung out in a line and people were popping off the back like a lit string of firecrackers. I was just about to open the can but I was pretty far back when I got the lid off and by then this idiot in front of me, some chick, had opened a gap that I could have easily closed but instead I waited for her to close it and she couldn’t and then we were by ourselves.

I had already put the can back in my hip pocket when this chick looks at me and says pull through, fat boy and I said to her when I pull through you’ll know it sister because of the sonic boom and she said that’s not the first time I’ve been promised a sonic boom and only gotten a toy whistle and I said whatever, chick and that shut her up.

Anyway I was sitting back there for a while and then this ancient old man with a tattoo on his leg and white hair and a white beard came by, mom, I swear he was a hundred. Hop on he said so I did and we left that chick to regret her rudeness. The old dude was going pretty good and I was going to come around him and help but he seemed pretty happy there and so I just sat on his wheel. This Donut Ride course is pretty tough but not for me, mom, it was my rest day and it’s actually the off season anyway even though I will be doing cyclecross later.

The old guy his name is Tim finally got tired after about thirty minutes and we hit a big hill and so I attacked him and dropped him. Everybody was waiting at the top of the hill, it is called the Switchbacks, and Tim nipped me at the line because I let him and I felt sorry for him, he’s a hundred or older, like I said. The chick passed me too but I let her because I felt sorry for her.

Higgins was there and said look it’s Porky Blitz getting owned by Methuselah and the bag lady and everybody thought that was pretty funny but I said whatever dude and that shut him up good.

Anyway, the point is that I got my bike back and I haven’t opened the can yet lucky for them, I’m still flying under the radar and when I bust loose they will know it. Love you, mom.

Billy Blitz the Hammer

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Hi, Mom — worst day ever (Part 5)

September 13, 2014 § 2 Comments

Hi, Mom

I want to kill myself. After getting moved in I rode down to Bunny’s Liquor Store near my place to get some silver bullets. There were seven or eight guys standing outside and they also had lost their belts. So I said to them hey could you watch my bike for a minute because this bike is worth about $5k and one of the guys said sure, man.

So I went inside and got three 24’er cases of silver bullets and when I came outside my bike was gone. Hey, where’s my bike I asked them and they said I don’t know I didn’t see anything. You’re kidding me I said you were here the whole time and that bike is my livelihood. They were like hey man we didn’t see nothing and mom I almost started to cry. They were like why are you so upset and I said I’m a pro bike racer and that’s my team bike. I’m gonna lose my job now.

They were like oh man that sucks. I said didn’t you see anybody but they were like, nope. I don’t usually cuss mom but I said f*** and s*** and god**** it to h***. There goes my whole life and they were like oh, man that really sucks and hey is that Coors Light?

So I was like, hell yeah, silver bullets baby so we went around to the dumpster behind Bunny’s and started cracking them open. They are a pretty good bunch of guys and they said they would keep an eye out for my bike and if they saw the person who stole it they would take it back and give it to me. Pretty soon a bunch of other guys showed up and we emptied the third case so I went back and got three more. None of the dudes in my neighborhood have belts like I said before there is a HUGE belt shortage here in LA.

Then they were like hey, do any brothers race bicycles and I was like no, I only have a sister and she works with Pap on the hog farm. They were laughing hard at that, go figure.

I don’t know what I’m gonna do now, mom. After we killed that last case of silver bullets I got three more but now I’m completely broke. Anyway the guys in my neighborhood and I are good friends now, they invited me to play hoops with them tomorrow and told me to bring some more silver bullets. I have no idea what hoops are but if it’s a sport I will have to open the can on these guys even though they’re my friends. I may be short but I don’t lose to anyone.

PS: Can you put another $150 in my account? I thought I had some extra money but it looks like I spent it all at Bunny’s.

PPS: Love you MOM!!!

PPPS: Don’t tell Pap I got my bike stolen.

Love you,

Your son “Blitz”

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