Terror of the tarck

December 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

Splimsy O’Mulligan, the world-famous Irish advice columnist from County of Kerry lists these five keys to living a vibrant, fulfilling life:

1. Get out of your comfort zone.
2. Try to excel at things people say you’re not suited to.
3. Rub shoulders with the very best.
4. Charge the morning.
5. Fail publicly.

In other words, get up at 4:30 a.m. (#4), ride down to the Home Depot Velodrome in Carson, climb up on the 45-degree banking (#1), take up match sprinting (#2), practice in the morning when Johnny Walsh, Roger Young, Dan Vogt, and Paul Che are on the boards (#3), ride like a dork (#5).

Charge the morning

Sleep, like a discriminating taste in wine, is your enemy. Both will rob you of things that you can only do early in the morning. The only way to truly defeat sleep is to get up. We live right next to the finest tarck in the country, and it’s now open from 6:00 a.m. in the morning.  No matter what the weather or what time of year, the climate-controlled spruce boards are waiting for you to roll your bike around on them. Beginning in 2012, the tarck will operate like a fitness club, where you can ride as often as you like for a reasonable monthly fee and have daily access to the weight machines. And your excuse is…what? You need another hour’s sleep?

Get out of your comfort zone

If you haven’t done it in a while, tarck riding is simply stressful and unnerving.If you’ve never ridden the tarck before, it’s terrifying beyond belief.  There you are, locked in a wooden cage, forced to ride your bike at the top of a 45-degree bank where the consequence of going too slowly is to slide ignominiously down to the bottom with your ass full of splinters. No brakes, no gears, people whizzing by in close proximity, 6-person pacelines whipping up the speed until the riders are foaming at the mouth, inches from destruction, the slightest mistake capable of knocking down everyone and earning the undying hatred of all your fellow riders, constantly trying to figure out how to get on, how to get off, how hard to pedal, how to slow down without crashing out the person behind you…this and a million other things make tarck riding a completely different universe, and no matter how skilled you are on a road bike, the tarck will make you feel like the incompetent clod that you are in real life.

Try to excel at things people say you’re not suited to

If you’re a fast finisher on the road, give the pursuit a whirl. If you’re an endurance rider, you can practice being a sprinter. You will suck, but the tarck gives you the opportunity to try new types of riding in a controlled environment. No one will laugh at your attempts because to those who know what’s really happening on the boards you’re already marked as a flailer, and it has nothing to do with your event. The other reason people won’t laugh at you is because, unlike road riding, the tarck riders are a friendly and welcoming community. They’ll help you change cogs, adjust your bars, patiently answer any question, and give you helpful advice like, “If you’re going to ride your road bike here through LA in the pitch black early morning hours, get a red blinking light for the rear, you idiot.” Once you show up a few times they’ll remember your name, and no matter how long between visits they’ll always be glad to see you again. At the tarck you can be part of the crew just by showing up.

Rub shoulders with the very best

The Home Depot Velodrome is like a world-class birdwatching wetland during migration. If you hang around, there’s no telling what will show up. Olympic champions? Yep. National champions? By the dozen. World champions? Those, too. In addition to the international superstars who occasionally race at the tarck, there’s a regular stable of coaches and competitors who are over-the-top good. Roger Young, Tim Roach, Connie Paraskevin, Johnny Walsh, Keith Ketterer, and any other number of phenomenal tarck riders regularly hang around the Carson boards. The U.S. National tarck team is in regular attendance as well. Of course with all these great riders, you’ll feel like a complete kook, but that’s okay: you are a kook, and as long as you don’t crash anybody out, it’s all good.

Fail publicly

Road cycling lends itself to building the biggest castles in the sand. There you are, pedaling around PV or riding the canyons in the Santa Monicas thinking about this race or that race or the next stair in your stepping stone to greatness, imagining that you really can race a bike, or that this year is gonna be the year…etc. Then you go to some poorly attended race in Ontario, finish 55th, and slink home with hardly anyone the wiser. On the tarck, though, your suckage is seen by all and becomes part of the velodrome’s institutional memory: “Oh, there’s Wankmeister on his borrowed Bianchi again. Haven’t seen him since last year when he got yelled at by Walshie for stumbling down the track in his cleats like an idiot even though there’s a giant sign that says ‘Remove YOUR CLEATS.’ Hmmm, looks like he’s still clueless, let’s take a look. Yep, there he is, can’t hold a line, spinning like a sewing machine, yo-yoing off the back. What a wanker!” Like elephants, the tarckies never, ever forget.

So what are you waiting for? You’re gonna love it.

Two-wheeled titans

October 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

The soft sweet sounds of love.

I will never forget that moonlit night in Venezia. We sat across from one another, the candlelight illuminating every curve of her strikingly beautiful face. The thick tresses of dark hair cascaded down onto her shoulders, and her unspeakably lovely eyes gazed deeply, infinitely, into mine. Our hands touched, every nerve in our bodies electrified by the anticipation of what was to come.

I had just completed work on a comedy script for Paolo Panelli, and it had met with rave reviews among Rome’s sharpest television critics. She gazed at me even more deeply as the notes from a sweet-voiced tenor’s barcarole drifted in through the open window. “My Seth,” she softly said. “Behind the smile and the laughter I know there is…” she paused, as she tried desperately to get a grip, “…a serious side to you. Oh, so serious.”

I watched her intently as the crooning from the gondolier mixed gently with the braying of two copulating donkeys, which in turn mixed with the oaths from a drunken sailor who had upset a trashcan in the alley and was now covered in fish heads and old tomatoes.

“Ah, my dearest Svetlana Olstowski-Nazlkanker,” I whispered back. “I don’t have a serious bone in my entire body. The closest I ever came to having a serious bone was, in fact, having a serious tooth, but the dentist yanked it when I was twelve and replaced it with this.”

I pointed to the stained, yellowed, and plainly mismatched front tooth that, upon meeting people for the first time, commands their stare as they wonder, “Why doesn’t he fix that fucking thing? We can make bionic fucking legs for chrissake, hasn’t he ever heard of a new crown?”

Svetlana, crestfallen, looked away, the mood forever broken as the drunken sailor began banging on the door below. “Luigi, you cocksucker! I’m going to cut your balls off with my bare teeth!”

Luigi, who apparently lived somewhere else, was unfazed. Luca, however, who lived behind the door that the sailor was pounding on, took umbrage at being called a “cocksucker” and came out swinging. Svetlana Olstowski-Nazlkanker and I watched them pound one another into pulp. I will cherish that moment forever.

Tough sledding.

Though lacking a serious side, I do occasionally have a serious thought.

But by the time the serious thought has swum its way to the edge of the pool, it is so exhausted from fighting through the sludge of inanity and silliness that it drowns before it can hoist itself up the ladder and onto firm ground. Sometimes, however, the thought is so robust, valid, and full of vim that it actually makes it to the other side without drowning. I had one of those thoughts a week ago on Friday. It begins, however, with an observation: someone you know well has a disability.

My buddy Banker Bob signed us up for the annual BORP charity ride in Sonoma County last week. In contrast to its awkward acronym, the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program does something beautiful. That something includes year-round sports and recreation programs for people with amputations, paraplegia, quadriplegia, cerebral palsy, head injuries, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, strokes, sensory and visual impairments. Part of BORP’s annual program includes a fundraising bike ride. Participants include a breathtaking variety of riders. Many complete the 25-mile loop on adaptive vehicles.

Drilling it.

It’s harder than it looks. And it looks plenty fucking hard.

What astounded me most was the post-ride. As the Trentadue Winery laid out an extraordinary buffet for participants, a scene unfolded unlike any I’ve been a part of, as we mingled with participants who were using all manner of wheelchairs and assistive devices. The realization crept up, and then overwhelmed me. Our society is filled with people who are capable of getting out and enjoying the two-wheeled experience, but who don’t ever get the chance to do it. I started making the mental tick-list of what takes for even the average Schmo to cycle–bike, kit, shoes, helmet–and then saw how much more daunting it must be if you require specialized equipment or instruction.

Fast-forward to the elite national track championships held this past week at the Home Depot Velodrome in Carson. We were treated to some unbelievable performances, not least of which was watching Mike Blatchford uncork a 41.9 mph sprint in his semifinal heat. Somewhere along the way local racer Will Chesebro also pulled on the stars and stripes. And then we got to see Joseph Berenyi pull off a come-from-behind win in the individual pursuit, no small feat when you consider that he did it with one arm. The roar of the audience as he began to surge with three laps to go, and his gutsy, take-no-prisoners ride was as exciting as anything I’ve ever seen. If sport has a gift to give, it was delivered to me that night with a bow on top.

Full on, going for the gold.

Tell me again about that hard group ride you did.

It became clear that with regard to the BORP  fundraising ride and the track races, the people doing the giving weren’t just the ones who paid the entry fee. The people showing us what it really means to overcome obstacles on their way to the pinnacle of excellence were dispensing with some charity as well, and perhaps the people most in need were those like me who really didn’t have a clue about how other people get on with their daily lives, lives in which things like going for a quick bike ride can be pretty complex.

So there it is, panting and out of breath, recovering as best it can with its legs dangling in the pool, the serious thought that has proven pretty resilient amidst the other mental clutter: sometimes when you set out to be charitable, what you find is that the real charity recipient is you.

South Bay cycle news

September 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

Always on the sharp end of the spear: Former South Bay rouleur and current Cat 1 ‘cross racer MMX chalks up another stellar weekend of results. Podium this week and last dominated by Spy Optic.

Putting money where pedals are: Spy Optic is beefing up the profile of cyclocross racing in Socal. Interest and participation are growing. Spy is pushing it ahead, building on the solid base of long-time promoters like Brad House.

I never thought I’d see him pin on a number: Padraig is back in the mix after a nine-year racing hiatus, laying it down…where else?…in this weekend’s ‘cross race. Welcome back, and enjoy your Zinfandel spoils of victory!

Best looking peloton in America: CG looking good in the group, surviving the Pier Ride in style and modeling those sexy legs on FB in shitkicker boots. How good is her taste? Only StageOne, thanks. KH riding fast and looking unbelievably fine in her Helen’s kit…when do we get to see that state champ jersey??? VV and all the pretty gals galore, nice!

Flatback on the Parkway: King Harold leaves everyone choking on his fumes as he dusts the group on Westchester this morning. Whiners say, “Why are you hammering? It’s the OFF-SEASON!” King Harold says, “I didn’t realize you had a pro contract,” and “Aren’t you the same ones who never make the break at Telo?”

It’s not a royal court without the King: Pier Ride feels about 10mph slower when RB isn’t there showing off his Skilz and “Can’t Beat the Meat” bib shorts.

French Toast shakedown: DJ drag races/chases down the lone break into the Marina sprint. That boy goes faster when he’s unfit than most people do with a personal coach.

Get ready to brag about who you train with: KP is fit and in the zone for elite nationals at the Home Depot Velodrome this Friday. He races the team pursuit at 7:00 p.m. with local legend JW, world champion KK, and young matador CB. Show up for some barbecue, beer, and local pride.

Ironfly lays it all on the line: Davy Dawg and Hockey Stick represent the South Bay at elite nationals as well. Look for the Dawg to burn up the boards in the kilo. However well he does, no one will have more fun at nats than Hockey Stick. Guaranteed.

Goofball alert: Every Saturday the cream of the South Bay crop has been rolling out PCH to the Rock at Point Mugu in search of MT4 fitness and general fun. 100-plus miles, steady pace, and the occasional Freddy who has to be disciplined. 10/1 at 6:00 a.m. from the center of the known universe, a/k/a MBSB. Knoll, DP, Iron Mike, and one or two others do the honors.

Trading mush for asphalt: Local hammerhead, star shaper, first-rate guitarist, and missing tooth surfer boy showed up for the Pier Ride this morning. Everyone loves Raymond, but everyone really loves Danc, furry legs and all.

Go ’til you blow: Gooseman lit it up on the Parkway for 3 minutes at 30mph trying to haul in King Harold and his erstwhile breakaway partner. The explosion was seen as far away as Riverside. That boy never met a futile effort he didn’t like!

Chief returns to happy hunting grounds: JK is back from his Boys on the Loose in Utah walkabout, where participants stagger through the sagebrush on peyote for four days until they see a vision, after which they receive their name. “Two Dogs Fucking While the Trash Blows By” was deemed unfit for a man of his stature, so we’re keeping “The Chief” until next year.

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