When the whip comes down

June 6, 2013 § 11 Comments

If your computer shook and blew a little smoke out the back this morning, there’s a reason. The record for the most iconic climb in SoCal fell, and not by a little. Josh Alverson took eleven seconds out of the fastest time up the 1.9-mile Palos Verdes Switchbacks.

This is a climb whose top times include monster riders like Kevin Phillips, Tony Restuccia, Derek Brauch, Evan Stade, Pete Smith, Jeff Konsmo, and one-off wankers like G3, Tri-Dork, and Stormin’ Norman who can pull some amazing stuff out of their shorts when they have to. Out of 15,567 efforts by 1,983 riders, Josh’s time reigns supreme. Hats off to this madcap, funny-talking moto hammerhead!

The first time I met Josh was on a Donut Ride. He was wearing a Bike Palace kit and hadn’t gotten the memo that you’re not supposed to attack out of Malaga Cove, attack onto Paseo del Mar, attack out of Lunada Bay, attack in Portuguese Bend, attack at the bottom of the Switchbacks and then drop the field. I would have personally delivered the memo had I not been languishing several miles in the rear.

Josh now rides for Spy-Giant-RIDE, and along with teammate Eric Anderson and Big Orange wanker Peyton Cooke, they made an assault on the Switchbacks after doing the NPR and Via del Monte. The arrangement was as follows: Peyton led from the bottom to the first left-hander. Eric took over from there until the steep section after Turn Four. Josh soloed to the finish.

News reports indicate that Peyton went so fast and so hard on his section that he almost fell over when he swung over. Eric, a fierce and unpleasant wheel to be on even in the best of times, buried it for the next three turns, fading just before the juncture with Ganado. Josh sprinted/sat/sprinted/sat/sprinted all the way to the finish. Strava link here.

Kudos, all three of you!

Now go get jobs.

Broken record

May 4, 2013 § 33 Comments

I hate to be the one to break your Strava bubble, but “PR” is an oxymoron. There’s no such thing as a “personal record,” any more than there’s a “personal Super Bowl victory” or a “personal presidential election.”

A record is a mark set by someone that at least two people have done. You know Chris Horner’s time up Mt. Palomar? That is a record. Eleven hundred people have done it and his time is the fastest. It’s a record time.

Even though when you climbed it on Tuesday two and a half hours slower than Chris and it was the fastest of your 67 attempts, it’s still not a personal record. It’s two and a half hours slower than the record. You can call it your personal best. You can call it your fastest time up Mt. Palomar. You can call it proof that your $2,000 power meter and $15,000 bike and $950/month personal coaching regimen are making you faster…but it still pegs you in about one thousandth place relative to the RECORD.

Nothing personal about it.

All cycling metrics point to one conclusion: You suck

Strava’s business model is simple: Provide data to wankers that shows they’re getting better. Since none of us is getting better, and in fact all of us are getting older and therefore worse, and since those of us who are improving quickly reach a plateau, there has to be a way to snake-oil us into thinking that we’re improving.

So Strava sells you a premium membership where you can join a smaller subset of records (65+ men with an inseam of less than 25″ who sleep on the left side of the bed), and thereby convert some of your meaningless “personal records” into something more meaningful: A higher spot on the age adjusted, inseam-length adjusted, side-of-the-bed adjusted leaderboard.

Unfortunately, even after adjusting yourself into 75th place, which is a huge jump from 1,000th, physics still mercilessly claws its way to the front. Your “progress” plateaus, and your ability to climb the flailerboard grinds to a halt. So it’s back to personal records, and chasing the illusion of improvement even though all the data point, or rather, scream deafeningly, to a wholly opposite conclusion: You not only suck, you suck more than you did on this segment last year. Introspective riders feel the icy hand of death tightening its grip around their throat if they look at the data too closely past about age forty.

Note to the Stravati: There’s a reason you prefer Strava to bike racing

I don’t vomit often, but when I do it’s usually after someone takes one of my KOM’s. I’ve only got seventeen of them left, and there’s not a single one that couldn’t be handily snapped up by any number of Stravati who live for that kind of thing.

It’s no defense, but I never tried to set a single one of those KOM’s, which is probably the reason they fall so easily. The handful of times I’ve gone out and tried to grab a KOM, I’ve failed, usually miserably. I use Strava for the same reason that I wear pants. It’s a social convention the lack of which would earn too much opprobrium. I also use it as a handy calorie counter. And finally, I use it for you. Just when you’re starting to think your performance is dropping, or you’re really not very good, you can click on my most recent ride and feel relief: There’s someone in your neighborhood who’s slower and an even bigger bicycle kook than you.

This, I believe, is a powerful source of inspiration for flailers and wankers throughout the South Bay. Through Strava, I keep them riding. It’s a social service, and you can thank me via PayPal.

What you can’t do is get away with the pleasant little self-deception that your KOM is as good as a bike race. You can’t even get away with the delusion that it’s as good as an old-fashioned group beatdown on the NPR.

You know why that is? Because it isn’t. Masturbating your way to the top of a leaderboard on Strava, when unaccompanied by ball-busting accomplishments on group rides or in real mass start races in which you have to actually pay an entry fee and pin on a number, are just that: Digital auto-titillation.

Believe it or don’t, I’m fine with that. Riding a bicycle is like consensual sex between adults: I not only approve of it, I’m wholly uninterested in your particular activities. I’m not a libertarian, I’m a “don’t give a fucktarian.” If you’re out pedaling your bicycle, in my book you’re winning.

If your riding is confined to setting Strava records without racing or group riding, though, you are wanking. Can we be clear about that? Good. Because last Thursday a new South bay cycling record was set. Not on Strava, where anonymous, zipless riders virtually competeĀ  using all manner of tricks, traps, aids, pacers, run-ups, and “special assists” to set the record.

No, this Thursday record was set the old-fashioned way. Clubbers clubbed. Baby seals got their heads staved in. Pain was ladled out in buckets. And only the strong, the ornery, the mutton-headed, and the relentless survived.

One thing that’s never happened on the New Pier Ride

…is a successful four-lap breakaway. Dan Seivert and I once, on a cold, rainy, windy winter day in 2012 attacked on Vista del Mar and stayed away for four laps, but it wasn’t a real breakaway. We sneaked off three or four miles before the real ride began, there was zero horsepower in the field, and no one even knew we had attacked. Although we hurt like dogs and congratulated ourselves for the heroic effort, it was more a flailaway than a breakaway. Plus, no one cared. To the contrary, they tortured us with the worst torture known to a group ride breakaway: “You were off the front? If I’d known that I’d have chased.”

Last week, though, word went out that MMX was coming to town to do the NPR. This meant one thing: Merciless beatdown in the offing.

There were at least ten thousand baby seals at the Manhattan Beach Pier when the ride left at 6:40 AM. We hit the bottom of Pershing and it immediately strung out into the gutter and then snapped. The Westside seals were all lounging on the roadside atop the bump, because they’ve learned from repeated beatdowns that it’s better to jump in after the first hard effort than to try and jump in as the group comes by at the bottom of the little hill. Just as they were finishing their first bucket of raw mackerel, we came by like a whirlwind.

As we passed the parkway, Josh Alverson drilled it.

Then Peyton Cooke drilled it.

Then Johnny Walsh drilled it.

MMX, who had started at the back and worked his way up to the point, later noted that from the bottom of Pershing it was pure mayhem. Many of the baby seals were killed with that first single devastating blow to the head. Others, un-hit, were so stunned by the acceleration that they simply pulled over, unclipped, and skinned themselves.

Robert Efthimos reported that Thursday was his 128th time up World Way ramp, and it turned out to be his single highest average wattage ever for a lap on the NPR. He churned out those numbers stuck at the back of the herd after the break left.

After the ramp, Greg Leibert blasted away, stringing it out into a line of about 15 riders, with a small clump forming at about 16th wheel and turning into an amorphous lump into which 80 or 90 baby seals still cowered. After Greg swung over, MMX opened the throttle, dissolved the clump and turned the entire peloton into a single line with countless little blubbering seals who began snapping and popping like plastic rivets on a space shuttle.

We turned onto the parkway in full flight, with Johnny Walsh, Marco Cubillos, Josh, and “26” pounding the pedals. This is the point where after the initial surge, the front riders usually slowed down, or the neverpulls in back made their first and only real effort of the day to chase down the nascent break. Marco, John, Josh, and 26 kept going, and were soon joined by Greg, Jeff Bryant, Jay LaPlante, some dude from La Grange who was incinerated shortly thereafter, and one of the South Bay’s legendary purple card-carrying, neverpulling, wheelsuckers extraordinaire whose name shall not be mentioned.

MMX looked ahead from the pack as the break gained ground, surged, and bridged. Then he closed the door and threw away the key.

No break has ever stayed away on the NPR for all four laps. The course won’t allow it due to stoplights, the high tailwind speeds of the chasing field, and the relatively flat nature of the course.

We made the first turn and had a gap. Atop the bridge Jeff Bryant unleashed a monster pull, but then, over his head by the extreme effort, he and Greg were unable to latch onto the break as it accelerated at the next turnaround. Accounts differ, with some claiming a car pinched them, and others claiming they were too gassed to catch, but in any event the break didn’t feel like waiting, as there were already too many orange kits in the group. This meant the Greg/Jeff duo had to chase.

The pack was in a different time zone, which meant nothing as we’d just completed one lap and there was plenty of time for them to organize and chase in earnest. What we didn’t know is that they were already chasing in earnest, and the stoplight gods were smiling on us.

Having taken the initiative in trying to fend off the entire baby seal population of the South Bay, we were being rewarded with a string of green lights even as the baby seals were being punished with reds. Naturally, post-ride the baby seals that survived chalked everything up to the traffic signals rather than the sheet-snot that covered our faces and the haggard, beaten look of those who rode the break for the entire four laps.

Greg and Jeff, unable to reattach, finally hopped across the road and jumped in as we whizzed by. Greg then attacked us balls-out the remaining lap and a half. Ouch. Every time we brought him back another of our matchboxes was incinerated.

On the final stretch, after berating Sir Neverpull for never coming through, MMX unleashed the leadout from Klubtown. Sir Neverpull, suddenly discovering that with the end in sight he wasn’t quite that tired after all, leaped just in time for his engine to blow and his legs to detach from his torso. Jay LaPlante sprunted around the MMX lead-out with Josh fixed on his wheel. Going too far out and in too small a gear, Jay settled for second after a doing yeoman’s work in the break.

We celebrated this, the first ever four-lap breakaway on the NPR, with coffee and sunshine.

And yes, it was a record.

News from around the Empire

January 18, 2013 § 11 Comments

As of today I’m free at last, free at last, thank Dog almighty I’m free at last. “Why?” you ask. Because henceforth when I get asked The Question(s) about The Cyclist I get to say, after thoughtfully furrowing my brow, this: “Well, it’s a good question. I suggest you go out and ride your bicycle in order to answer it.”

Elbow testing: Junkyard thwacked his rebuilt elbow yesterday at the start of the NPR, right where the electronic circuitry connected to the shoulder bone, which was connected to the brain bone, which was connected to the new PV Kit bone, which got shredded and tore a hole bigger than Dallas. The ‘bow, however, is rock solid minus a touch of cosmetic road wear. They DID build him better than he was before.

Bellyflop: Neumann/aka Hockeystick/now known as “Belly” did a track stand at the turnaround on the NPR, had his wheel chopped, and tumbled off his bicycle. No harm done, and he was quickly helped by Rahsaan. He did, however, bounce when he hit. I’ve never seen that before. Belly, time to try the South Bay Wanker Diet. It’s painful, but it works and it’s free. PS: Track stands in the middle of swirling roadie packs = Numbskullish.

First blood: Charon Smith scored his first win of the year at Ontario last week, finishing so far ahead of the field that he had time to completely recover from his sprint effort and shave his head by the time he crossed the line. The finish photo shows everyone with teeth gritted, faces twisted, bodies hunched over the bars looking like they’re running from a zombie army, and Charon with arms raised, mouth closed, and no visible signs of exertion as he cruises to the win. I’m pretty sure there were some intense post-race team huddles at MRI/Monster Media, and they went like this:

“Don’t ever let it finish in a bunch sprint again, dogdammit!”

“I told you we’re going to have to break away to win! Only way to outsprint Charon is by making him do the 1/2 races, where he belongs.”

“We can’t have him in a break, ever!”

“At CBR we’ll attack the entire race until we get away!”

“If we work together with the other 99 riders in the race, we might have a chance!”

Etc.

By the way, good luck with that plan!

Get ready for CBR: The first South Bay crit of the year happens on Sunday when Chris Lotts puts on the Dominguez Hills Anger Crit Thingy. Please show up to support local road racing in SoCal. Yes, you’ll be pack meat, just like last year. So what?

Winter’s over: The South Bay endured seven (some say eight) days of brutal winter this month, where early temperatures got down to 39, and the highs never crested 65. Thankfully, the bitter temperatures are over, and we’re slowly returning to lows in the high 40’s, highs in the high 70’s. Don’t put away your heavy winter clothing yet, but for sure rotate it to the back of the closet.

Bad wind news: G$ is in Scottsdale testing his bike position in a wind tunnel. Great. A faster G$. Just what those of us in the Elderly Fellows category need.

Gitcher waffle on: The Belgian Waffle Ride is set for April 7, 2013. It will be the hardest one-day ride of the year, where chicken tactics, wheelsucking, and letting others do all the work will earn you nothing more than infamy and a purple card. This will be first and foremost a contest between you and the road. Finish it and you’ll know satisfaction!

Mad props to Dorothy: The 2012 cyclocross season has ended in SoCal, and it couldn’t have gone better or been done without the extraordinary efforts and work and innovation and enthusiasm of Dorothy Wong. I bailed after about ten races. That shit is hard. Next year, which I suppose would be this year, I’ll be in for the whole season now that I know what I’m in for. Thanks to Dorothy for making ‘cross such a success.

Equipment flail: After dissing on my Night Rider lighting system and replacing it with the tube-shaped Serfas light, I can happily report that the Serfas is far superior except that it shuts off every time I hit a bump, and after about four or five bumps it won’t restart without a 1-minute pause or longer. That’s a long-ass time when you’re bombing down VdM on Bull’s wheel at dark-thirty. For $150.00 you’d almost expect something that would work, but then you remember, “It’s an elite cycling product, so of course it’s a pile of shit unless you spend at least $500.00.”

Smooth looking skin: Since incorporating kimchi into my diet, Mrs. Wankmeister has advised me that my skin is softer, more lustrous, and gradually shedding the leathery, scaly, rough, scabbed-over look that comes with road cycling. Though I don’t give a rat’s ass about theĀ  beauty aspect, I do believe that healthier skin will stave off the skin cancer in my future for at least a year or two, and Professor Google confirms that kimchi is the wonderfood for healthy skin. The downside of course are the kimchi farts. Those things are vicious, however, they too have a beneficial effect on skin, as anyone on your wheel gets an instant facial dermal peel when one of those suckers rips into their face. You have to be careful, though, because they can also melt the polarizing slits on your expensive cycling glasses.

Every cyclist’s (twisted) dream

November 30, 2012 § 41 Comments

“How would I ride if I lost 25 pounds?”

Every cyclist has wondered what it would be like to shed massive weight and dramatically reduce body fat over the course of a few weeks.

“Would I climb that much better?”

“Would it make me that much faster?”

“Would it be worth it?”

“Is it even possible?”

“Why am I so fucked up?”

Etcetera.

Wankmeister drinks the Kook-Aid so you don’t have to

There is a long story about how I fell into the black pit of the Hunger Diet, but it’s not worth telling other than to say that a big belly and some unflattering race day photography led me my current folly.

At first it was simply to reduce the belly roll’s jelly roll. Gradually the diet took on a darker, more morbid aspect, as it became dieting for the sake of dieting. Having numerous educated, experienced people caution me against my methods only spurred me on.

At 146 pounds I’ve almost reached my “goal,” not that I ever had one. My beginning weight was 167-170; guesstimated body fat was 25%. I’m now down to 12.2%, maybe 11%.

At 6 feet, 1/8 inch, this has been a dramatic loss of weight in a mere seventeen weeks. If you’re considering something similar, I can’t advise you either way, except to say that only the somewhat unhinged have even a remote chance of “success” if you define success as being profoundly unhappy and lethargic. Likewise, I can’t say how this will affect your cycling, though I can say how it has affected mine.

Disclaimers

The bulk of the Hunger Diet consists in being hungry. Not, “Hey, honey, I’m hungry. Let’s grab a bite, ok?” but more like “I will fucking kill anyone who obstructs me from licking these three tiny pieces of dried oatmeal stuck to the pan.”

It is like doing the hardest interval of your life, and each time you look up someone screams in your ear, “You’ve got another hour to go or we will tear your nuts off!”

This interval of hell continues as long as the diet continues, except for brief rest periods called “eating.” As soon as the eating stops, however, the hunger interval picks up where it left off. So it will suck to be you.

This type of diet can’t be healthy. I don’t know how it’s unhealthy, exactly, but you can look at my food log where I’ve blogged my daily eating plans and decide for yourself which aspects of my physiology I’m wrecking forever.

Aside from being an unpleasant and unhealthy experience, people will treat you like you are a total pariah, even more than they already do, I mean. As a cyclist you’re ten times trimmer and fitter than the other slugs in your office, and they secretly envy you and may even openly make fun of you when you prance around in your tighties.

Once you let them know you’re on the Hunger Diet, and you actually put a digital food scale in the lunchroom to weigh your raisins, they will fear you and hate you and despise you and envy you, all at the same time, occasionally accompanied by a public beating. Their feelings will manifest themselves in countless disparaging comments.

“You don’t need to go on a diet! You’re too skinny already!”

“Being too thin is very, very unhealthy!”

“You’re anorexic!”

“You’re going to lose all your muscle, which is metabolically active!”

“You look like a cadaver.”

“I like my [men/women] with meat on their bones.”

“Is that your lunch? I could NEVER eat that.”

“I hate [tofu/canned tuna/yogurt/fruit/nuts/anything that’s not soaked in lard and deep fried]. How can you stand to eat that?”

“Life’s too short to diet.”

“You’ll gain it all back.”

“How’d you like some of THIS?” [Holds a chocolate Hag bar in front of your nose, makes disgusting smacking sound.]

“It ruins the pleasure of food to count the calories in it.”

“Science doesn’t have all the answers.”

“You work out too much as it is.”

“It’s important to eat some fat.”

The list of demeaning and unsupportive comments is endless and can’t be combated. Just agree with them and keep methodically weighing out the raisins. Perhaps you can toss in the odd comment about the fact that there are 5.71 calories per gram of potato chip. You can’t refute them, though, as they’re pretty much right.

Massive weight loss and cycling

When you’re racing you can’t lose lots of weight because you won’t be able to race. When you’re training you can’t lose lots of weight because you won’t be able to train.

Slow and gradual is the ticket, but is impossible for one reason: You’re a fucking cyclist and you don’t want to do anything gradually.

But here’s what I’ve found. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that I’m…lighter. Even going slow, or bonked, or completely flailing off the back there’s no sense of sluggishness. My legs turn around a thousand times easier, it seems. If this is what PED’s feel like, no wonder people take them.

I’m not any faster or stronger, at least according to the Strava times of the routes I normally ride. On the other hand, I’m completely focused on losing weight rather than putting in big efforts, so it’s possible that I will ride faster if I’m able to build power and endurance at this new weight. It’s also possible that I’ll become a unicorn.

Although I am slower and weaker, it’s balanced by having lost all endurance such that I want to get off my bike and sob after about thirty minutes into any ride, regardless of intensity. So there’s that.

With regard to vanished endurance, when your body is in constant shrinkage mode, all of the reserves are gone. You know that funny burst of power and euphoria that comes right before a massive bonk? I get them all the time now…along with the bonking. In the chubby days, bonks used to send a pre-bonk notification via a well-dressed, manicured, clean-cut bonded messenger. “Excuse me, Mr. Davidson, our blood sugar center has indicated that recent withdrawals have exceeded deposits, and barring a reasonable infusion of sugary glop in the very near future, the bonk that has been shipped out will be arriving in approximately ten minutes.”

Now it’s a little bit different. The delivery dude hasn’t shaved in two weeks, is covered with “FUK U AND DYE” tattoos, and just barges in without even ringing. “Yo, fucker. Bonk here. Enjoy.” Then wham, just like that, he dumps the bastard on every muscle in my body and the whole thing grinds to a halt, immediately.

The plus side to riding while completely bonked is that it forces your body to consume gristle, bone, heart fiber, internal organs, and brain matter, which further reduces weight and impairs your ability to force yourself to stop losing weight. So you can put another big tick in the “plus” column.

As quickly and viciously and unexpectedly as the bonking happens, recovery is ten times quicker than it used to be. This is the one thing I didn’t expect and that I truly love. Recovery. No matter how hard I go or how deeply I bonk, I am completely recovered in minutes. “Recovered” as in “ready to go again at 100 percent.”

In the old days there would be a hard effort followed by a big message posted over the windows, which had been boarded up with enormous cedar timbers: “Closed for business until further notice.”

Further notice was usually Thursday of the following month.

Now, on the Hunger Diet, it’s like you’ve got a team of professional fluffers at the ready the second you infuse sugar or get off your bike for an hour or two. “2000-watt effort? Oh, noes! Don’t worry! Come on, boys…fluff!” Then there you are hard as porcelain and ready to go again. I’m talking about cycling, by the way. The other area in which hardness is so important, what with all the starvation and deprivation is, ah, shall we say, sadly under-performing.

More incredibly, on days where I do the NPR and then have to commute home at night, I used to be a dead man pedaling during the end-of-day struggle up the Hill. No more. The morning beatdown, no matter how vicious, leaves no imprint on my legs by five or six in the evening.

This feeling alone has made the whole ordeal worthwhile, that and the sensation of turning weightless legs. My cycling hasn’t improved in a competitive or performance sense, but it is worlds easier as an activity. No idea why this is so, but for me it is.

Postscript (Or: Why the experts are experts)

Yesterday I awoke with a new low of 145.5 and a massive stomach ache but nevertheless went on a fool’s errand. It was raining and cold and the NPR was going off on schedule, so I dutifully rode over to the 6:40 AM start at Manhattan Beach Pier to see how my new wonder weight would fare under the pressure of a full-on effort.

It fared worse than badly.

I stopped at the end of the alleyway to take off some gear and would have never caught back on had Jonathan Paris not waited for me. The group was driven by Stathis the Wily Greek, and without ever taking a pull I thought my legs were going to fall off. That effort alone, on a flat stretch of road sitting on a wheel, was all I could muster.

It went downhill from there.

The entire ride was an exercise in no power, no endurance, constant muscular pain, and a stomach cramp worse than any menstrual period I’ve ever had. Frozen and shattered at ride’s end I sat in the Kettle Restaurant back at the Center of the Known Universe and tried to atone for my sins with a massive breakfast of grease, huevos rancheros, grease, beans, and potatoes topped with grease.

This wise dietary choice got me as far as the office, where I showered, changed, and drove home, doubled over in pain. Six hours of sleep, and constant food throughout the day revived me (somewhat) so that I was able to drive back to the office, do some work, and ride back home in the rain in time for dinner, where I ate more food, completely abandoning all pretense of diet.

I went to bed at 7:30 and awoke at the point of 4:00 AM today, ravenous. Morning weigh-in confirmed the damage…149 pounds, a 3.5 gain in 24 hours.

The motivation to return to the Hunger Diet hasn’t abated one whit, though. One carefully measured 1/4 cup of oatmeal and some raisins later, and I’m raring to hit the gym and convert more of those brain, heart, and liver cells into muscle.

My only advice to you, though? Don’t.

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