Strava war

September 27, 2013 § 65 Comments

There is a Strava segment outside my apartment. I made it. Until a few days ago, only three people had ever ridden it, and two of those rides were before it became a segment.

Let’s get this straight. There is no reason for anyone to ride up the street, Ravenspur. It parallels Hawthorne and doesn’t go anywhere except to my apartment. It is steep as snot, but there are fifty dozen better climbs within a half-mile that can logically be incorporated into your ride. Among its other drawbacks, once you reach the end you have to make a left onto crazy-busy Hawthorne across four lanes of speeding traffic.

Why segmentize it? Because I don’t ride with a Garmin and I wanted to know how fast I could go up it. Oh, and to also sneak myself a little KOM-action, because I hardly have any left. “What the heck,” I thought. “No one ever rides up this street. It’ll be a nice little vanity-KOM that I can take out, polish, and caress for a few months, maybe longer.”

Uh-oh, looks like YOU SUCK!

So you can imagine my chagrin when, four days ago, I got the dreaded message. “Uh-oh! Your KOM was recently devoured whole by Spencer! Enjoy the rest of the day, gnawing on your own liver!”

If it had been anyone else I would have felt sad, despondent, and very blue. This is because I’ve never retaken a lost KOM. But to have it taken away by Spencer, a dude with eight entire pages of KOM’s, was infinitely worse. Why? Because one of the best Strava riders in our neighborhood had targeted me and my piddly KOM. It was important enough for him to track my activities, drill down to my rides, and wrench the precious little KOM from my soft, chubby hands.

I’m sure the moment he took it, the elaborately programmed disco ball in his living room went off, the stereo began playing “We are the Champions” by Queen, and he threw on his ermine robes and tinsel crown as he paraded naked in front of the mirror.

My sad face transformed into one of violent rage, and I set out to reclaim what was rightfully mine.

The devil is in the details

One of the things that was going to make my retake so hard was the very nature of the street. Coming home from work I’m headed uphill, and have to turn left across two lanes of fast, oncoming traffic in order to begin the short but steep climb. This means that when I set the KOM, I did it from an extremely slow starting speed. Spencer’s time was twenty-two seconds, one second faster than mine, and I knew that in order to claw back two seconds over a .1-mile segment it would take everything I had.

As I approached the left hand turn I slowed, hoping for a break in traffic so that I wouldn’t have to unclip before hitting Ravenspur. Sure enough, the timing was good and I slid through. The bump is quite steep, so I had it in my 39 x 25 and instantly ramped it up to max rpm. By the time I hit the finish, I could barely see. I got off my bike and, unable to stand, had to lean on the top tube to keep from falling down.

But I smiled. “Take that, Spencer.”

Imagine my shock when I uploaded my iPhone data and saw that not only was Spencer still the owner of my own little personal front-door segment, but my hardest effort ever was a full second slower than my earlier best time of 23 seconds. Now the devastation was complete, and a part of me died that day. I wiped away the tears and ambled to the dinner table while my family consoled me.

“It’s okay, you don’t suck at everything!” said Mrs. Wankmeister.

“I’m proud of you, Dad, because you’re helping me learn through failure,” said my supportive 15-year-old.

The spirit of a warrior

The next day I woke grim and determined. The day flew by, and I hastened it by leaving the office an hour early. My legs felt light, strong, powerful, rested. I warmed up on the ride home, doing quick bursts on Anza and two steady efforts on Via Valmonte and Silver Spur.

When I moved into the left-hand turn lane, I was going a solid ten miles per hour. Magically, a breach appeared in the oncoming traffic. Perfectly geared in my 53 x 21, I launched up Ravenspur. This time there was no question. I raced to the top, collapsing as I had the day before, but secure in the knowledge that I’d reclaimed my KOM.

As I whipped out my iPhone I crowed to Mrs. Wankmeister. “Finally put ol’ Snotnose back where he belongs!” She had no idea what I was talking about, but nodded and smiled.

What happened next was too terrible for words, and I collapsed in a heap, sobbing. My “record time” was a full second slower than the day before, which was already a second slower than my all-time best. The better I rode, the slower I went. A couple of hours later, after I’d stopped crying, I called Derek the Destroyer. Through chokes and half-sobs I explained my problem.

“Dude,” he said. “You’re never gonna get that KOM back.”

“I’m not?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“These Strava geeks grab the segments strategically.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“The two biggest factors are temperature and wind. Go back and look at the time of day he took it. It was in the morning, when it’s cooler. You’re always going up that thing at the end of the day, when it’s hot. What were you wearing today?”

“I had on my long-sleeve winter jersey from my morning commute into work. I was sweating like crazy.”

“Your body won’t produce the same wattage when it’s 80 degrees as it will when it’s 70, or 60, or 50.”

“You’re joking.”

“No, I’m not. That’s why you never see any of the Strava geeks take the hard climbs during a group ride. Do you actually know this guy?”

“I’ve never seen him, in fact.”

“It’s not that they’re stronger riders, it’s that they’re better Strava riders. Also, go back and look at your segment. Is there only one approach?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re coming at it uphill, right?”

“Yeah. It’s a ball-breaker.”

“Is it possible to hit it by coming down Hawthorne and turning right? You’d have a huge head of steam there, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, come on. There’s no way Spencer would do that. It’s a completely different attempt, doing a standing start up a 13 percent grade versus hitting the climb after a 25 mph sweeping turn. Nobody’s a big enough wanker to coordinate temperature, wind, and a downhill just to rob me of my one silly KOM.”

Derek laughed. “If you say so.”

The terrible team of titans

I opened up Strava, unwilling to believe what I’d just heard, and there it was. Spencer had hit the Lungpopper segment on the Hawthorne downhill, after dropping off Highridge. A more evil, sneaky, dastardly, unsportsmanlike thing I couldn’t imagine.

This morning after the NPR I was rolling around the Hill with Manslaughter, the Destroyer, Jake, and Whatshisname. They were very curious about the segment. As we discussed the awfulness of the whole thing, a gleam appeared in Manslaughter’s eye. “Whattaya say we go and ‘pay Spencer a visit’?”

Soon enough we were charging up Via del Monte. When we turned left on Hawthorne and hit the downhill the speed ratcheted up. I signaled the turn and one by one we swooped through it, then jumped as hard as we could, scattered across the road.

When Spencer checks his email later today, he’s gonna have to go looking for six spare seconds, because that’s how many he now needs to climb back atop the leaderboard. The Destroyer, Jake, and Manslaughter are ahead of him, too. And my front-door segment KOM? It’s back where it belongs. And just in case you’re thinking about coming out and taking it away, I’ll tell you right now: I have a car, and I’m not afraid to use it.

Crown Jules

July 22, 2012 § 6 Comments

All year I’ve been hearing about Jules. It usually goes like this.

Wanker: Some little kid showed up on the Donut and kicked everyone’s ass.

WM: Huh?

Wanker: Yeah. Little 12 or 13 year-old kid. Rode everyone off his wheel.

WM: Yeah, right.

Wanker: I’m serious.

WM: Twelve years old? No way.

Wanker: That’s what we thought. No way a little kid would have the lungs for that kind of sustained effort.

WM: Not possible.

Wanker: Why don’t you come out and see for yourself?

WM: I’m busy that week.

The overture

I rolled out this morning flanked by Charon Smith and Tony Sells. The sunny weather and beautiful skies meant a huge turnout for the world famous South Bay Donut Ride, although some of the key assassins such as Miles Jr. and Tink were cavorting up the slopes of the Santa Monica mountains with Jeff Konsmo and his merry band of pain merchants. Dan Cobley, John Hall, Paul Che, Derek Brauch, and a couple of other hard hitters were there, though, so it was going to be hard.

“Hey Charon, see that kid?”

“What kid?”

Jules is so short that he was almost invisible off on the edge of the peloton. “That one up there with the national champion shorts.”

“Yeah. What about him? What’s he doing here?”

“He’s going to ride away from everyone in this hundred-man group on the Switchbacks with the exception of about seven dudes. Everyone else will be put to the sword. You, Tony, me; we’re all going to go home today and say ‘I got my ass handed to me by a 13 year-old.'”

Charon gave me that look as if to say, “You ain’t fooling me with your foolishness.”

“I know it sounds crazy, Charon. Just watch. He’s gonna run a hot poker up the middle of every tender, middle-aged ego out here. You’ll see.”

Up, down, and around the bend

I watched Jules for a couple of minutes, marveling. He navigated the pack with ease and skill. Giant men on giant bikes bounded by him, around him, and in front of him with all the kookish, wankerish bike moves that infest the Donut at every turn of the pedal once you get more than about ten wheels back. Jules expertly avoided the freds and then hit the edge of the road, rocketing up into a solid position as we climbed out of Malaga Cove.

I wondered why no one was talking to him. Here’s a kid with the confidence, skills, and proven ability to go out on a big boy’s ride and smash people’s heads in. This isn’t just precocious, it’s pre-precocious. Maybe you wankers should talk to him and get to know him now, before he starts peering out at you from magazine covers.

“Hey, man, what’s your name?” I asked.

“Jules,” he said. Totally cool. Totally grown up.

“I’m Seth. Nice to meet you.”

Brief smile. “Yeah.”

He told me about his recent trip to Trexlertown, where he scored some impressive results on the track. That explained his great bike handling. A bit of later research showed that Jules is an omnivorous cyclist: he races track, crits, road, time trials, and ‘cross…and is good in every single discipline. His long string of firsts and seconds from 2011 have been depressed as he’s moved up into the next age bracket, but his winning trajectory being what it is, that should take care of itself in the next year or two

Calm before the storm

No one wanted a hard run-up to the Switchbacks this morning, so it was one big, lummoxing group as we rolled up Lunada Bay and on to Portuguese Bend. At the beach club, where the pace is often single file, the ride continued its leisurely pace. I heard chatting behind me, a giveaway for the difficulty of the ride.

Of course, an easy run-up to the Switchbacks just means that the actual climb will be exponentially faster, as people will have fresh legs when the climb starts. A couple of attacks went just past the beach club, but it wasn’t until Paul Che opened up the throttle that the ride began in earnest.

Paul dragged a small contingent of seven riders all the way to the base of the climb, then swung over. The pack was a tiny speck. Just before cresting the first level spot, shortly after beginning the climb, I blew. The six riders in the break rolled off. As I dropped back into a rhythm, I heard the sound of an approaching bike.

It was Jules.

Do you have an ego? Are you a grown man? Do you consider yourself fit? Have you ever thought that “but for” you’d have been a pro? Is your weekly slugfest a validation of your ability and strength? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the realization that you’re hanging for dear life onto the wheel of a barely-turned-thirteen-year-old child will devastate you.

Though he provided precious little draft, it was enough to latch on, and this kid proceeded to take out his bullwhip, inspect the tip to make sure the knot was properly tied, and beat the shit out of me with it. He had his eyes glued on the break, and would periodically get out of the saddle to jam it even harder. I know that my exhalations, both the sound waves and the bursts of air, were pushing him on somewhat. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”

We overtook a dude from Big Orange, who jumped on my wheel. I blew after the first hairpin as Jules got out the saddle again and just lit it up. The other grown man and experienced racer hunkered down and let Jules pull him for quite a way until he could recover, then he attacked the kid and dropped him. Nice.

I kept Jules in sight until the final turn, and then he was just flat out gone. By the time I rounded it, he had already reached the top of the hill and I never saw him again. Of course the short tow I’d gotten from this dynamo had put me so far ahead of the chasing peloton that I’d overhauled my bottom bracket by the time the next shattered group rolled up.

So if, a few years from now, you hear the name “Jules,” and it’s spoken with a trembling voice, in fear and awe, don’t say you weren’t warned.

And for those of you who think I’m blowing smoke, here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quvjpPVv1zY

Can I be your fucking wanker cunt?

July 10, 2012 § 18 Comments

It’s hard to come back from a pleasant vacation in Palm Springs after enjoying the 116-degree daytime temperatures only to find that I’ve been out-vulgared, and by a tweezly Brit bicycle rider, at that. As a kindergartner at Galveston’s Booker T. Washington Elementary School (since razed), I learned early the proper pronunciation and application of profanity. If you could have seen how proud I was when I finally mastered the high-speed phrase “cocksuckinmotherfuckinblueballedbitch,” you would have thought I was the cutest little six year-old you’d ever seen.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t rested on my laurels. I’ve worked hard and diligently these past decades to never slack off on nastyisms, crudification, and profanizing in every possible way. Need someone to say something foul and detestable in the presence of ladies? I’m your guy! Looking for an uncouth spewer of obscenity in a formal setting? Call me! Casting about for a dude who can overtrash the gutteriest filthmouth? That’s me. It’s always been me.

Until I happened to go off to Palm Springs for a vacation I didn’t even need only to find that the leader of the Turdy had given an interview laced with uglyisms and profanity of the worst sort.

The word “wanker”? I thought I fucking OWNED it.

The whole idea behind Brad Wiggins in this year’s Turdy France was that he would re-establish order in the peloton and earn back the loyal flock that had wandered a bit since Drugstrong’s heyday. He’d do drugs, but not enough to detect. He’d beat the snot out of everyone, but wouldn’t Simeoni-ize them. He’d get a stacked train of doped up stars to control the peloton, but wouldn’t let the 300-lb. sprunter dude win an Alpine stage.

We’d ignore that he’d never, ever shown himself to be a Turdy contender. We’d ignore that he trained in secret, in a place where the testers couldn’t arrive unannounced. We’d ignore that he was chalking it all up to hard work (“I’m on my bike. What are YOU on?”, etc.) Most of all, we’d let the bigtime fanboys like Bill Strickland, Joe Lindsey, and the other pitchers of softpoop get their pabulum machines cranked up so the “industry” could get back to what it does best: selling shit to fat people that they’ll mostly never use.

The whole idea, however, was NOT that Wiggo, or Wig Out, or Earwig, or Wiggster, would appropriate MY favorite pejorative and then make it even more awesome.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the word “wanker” was mine. It wasn’t yours. It wasn’t hers. It wasn’t theirs. And it sure as hell wasn’t Bradley Wiggins’s. Do a Google search for “wankmeister” and your hard drive will go limp with hits, so to speak.

Doesn’t matter now, though. No matter how hard I blog, and tweet, and holler in the future, Wiggy will forever own “fucking wanker” because he paired it with “cunt.” Put ‘em together and you get “fucking wanker cunt,” which is just about the most awesome vulgarism ever, bigger than spermface, even, or clithead. It’s that big.

Going big, then going home

The power in a true obscenity is only released when it boggles the mind. As a child, I still remember the first time I heard “cocksuckingmotherfuckingblueballedbitch.” I was six. It was my first day in kindergarten at Booker T. Some kids were talking trash. My brain ground to a halt. “Cocksucking,” I thought. “Is that what I think it is?” Then I listened in amazement as they repeated it. “Motherfucking? Is that what it sounds like?”

A stunning concatenation of images that weren’t even images filled my head as everything went blank. Then, dimly, “Blueballed” rambled in through the haze. “Blue balls? What are those? Mine are white.” I realized that it might mean someone had whacked you so hard in the nuts that they turned blue, like getting a charley-horse. “Wow, that’s gotta hurt.” And then, finally, like a gentle ending at the coda of a great violin concerto, “bitch.” Such an ordinary word…except that everyone knows bitches are girls, and girls don’t have balls, so this is a bitch with blue balls!

That moment when your mind smashes against a powerful obscenity, something truly fitted to make your brain twist and writhe and grapple, that’s the moment you know you’ve hit pay dirt, and that’s what happened the second Wiggsy unleashed “fucking wanker cunt.”

Imagine! “Wanker,” an ordinary enough piece of slang that makes you think of some chubby dude with a hairy navel locking himself into a public restroom stall, combined with “cunt,” a somewhat rough word that, however, can be made slightly less so by adding a “-y” on the end, as in, “Can I have a scoop of chocolate, a scoop of cunty, and some sprinkles mixed in?” tied together with the ordinary enough “fucking” so that it all seems to hang together until…wait!!! Wanker is a man! Cunt is a woman! A woman wanking! A man cunting! Tied together with fucking!

“BRAIN LOSING POWER! GIVE ME MORE POWER MR. SCOTT!”

“I CAN’T CAP’N, SHE’S GIVING ALL SHE’S GOT, IF I ASK FOR MORE SHE’LL BLOW!”

“MORE POWER, MR. SCOTT! THAT’S AN ORDER!”

“SHE CAN’T TAKE ANY MORE, CAP’N! SHE CAN’T!”

And there I’d still be, stalled in permanent brainlock with Mr. Sulu, Lieutenant Uhura, Mr. Spock, and Captain Kirk on the profanity bridge, if my phone hadn’t rung and knocked me out of the infinite obscenity loop.

What this means for the Tour

In addition to p*wning the snot out of Cuddle Evans in the time trail, Wiggsy took the time to explain that he “can’t be doing with” us fucking wanker cunts ┬ábecause it “justifies their own bone idleness.” Now hold on just one danged minute! Did he really say that he can’t “do” us fucking wanker cunts because of our bone idleness?

If I thought Wiggly taking ownership of “fucking wanker cunt” was astounding, the minute he accused us Twitterers of bone idleness, well, that just ended the discussion. Me? Having an idle bone? If he’d send me his mobile number I’d show him “idle.” Idle like a warren of rabbits, pal.

This dude just went from bottom of the poopstack to the top of the heap in my book. He wants to be big dog of nasty language? Take it away, Bradley. This is a chapter in Turdy France history that you will truly get to write on your own. The rest of us will be trailing, helplessly but awed, in your wake. The Tour de Curse is yours by a mile.

And it couldn’t happen to a bigger wanker.

My best friend, “Sue”

June 28, 2012 § 19 Comments

Everybody’s so pissed off at the dude whose old lady is suing Strava. “Frivolous lawsuit!” they holler.

“Bullshit fucking plaintiff’s lawyer!” they scream.

“End of democracy and the free world!” they yowl.

Etc., etc.

Well look here, pussies, that’s not a frivolous lawsuit. In my world, that’s an awesome lawsuit of the most meritorious sort. You want frivolous? Come to me. I once sued a murder victim for littering a park with his blood. I sued the City of Torrance for failing to prevent drunk drivers from hurting themselves when they crashed into pedestrians. I sued a blind little old lady with Alzheimer’s for trespass when she tripped on a hose and fell onto a supermarket driveway.

You fucking want frivolous? What about the time I sued the federal government for making its forms too hard to understand? Or the time I sued all the teachers’ unions for failing to reduce the incidence of work-related blowjobs? I even sued RuggedMAXXX2 for compensation after all my jeans burst at the seams.

Yeah, baby. You fucking want some more of that frivolous shit? Come to poppa. I ain’t never met a douchebaggy, shitfucky, spitsticky, snotgnarly plaintiff with a trumped up claim who I couldn’t massage into a full blown, 15-inch, blue-veiner federal case. So don’t come crying to me about frivolous.

One, two, flush

Now then. Although I’m known far and wide for suing anything and anybody who hasn’t already been tossed into a wood chipper, there’s one tiny little thing you need to understand: all my frivolous cases lose. Yep, that’s right. The time I sued Big Honkers Gentleman’s Club for causing excessive sexual tension? Case got tossed on demurrer, and the defendants sued me for malicious prosecution and intentional stupidity. They won on all counts.

The time I sued Redondo, Hermosa, and Manhattan beaches for maintaining overly hot sand and scorching my soles? Laughed out of court and slapped with double secret probation along with multiple fines, sanctions, costs, attorney fees, and having my name written all over the bathroom walls at Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Go check ‘em out. They all say, “Wankmeister = WANKER!”

Funny how the knife only has one cutting edge

On the other hand, I’m racking my brain trying to recall the last time I saw an outraged article about some douchebag insurance company that rejected a valid claim by some poor cyclist bastard who’s now a quad due to the poor judgment of some drunk driver. Or the angry posts on cycling forums about the thousands of people who get life-altering injuries, yet walk away with nothing because the wrongdoer was uninsured, or under-insured, or a deadbeat fuckwad, or represented by an all-powerful insurance company who put the blocks to the crippled, maimed, or permanently disabled victim.

Fuck all those people. They’re just cyclists. What we’re really pissed off about is the occasional douchebag lawyer who files a shitty case and gets thrown out of court on his dingdong.

Please, therefore, make a mental note: Life isn’t fair. So you better be ready to fight hard.

What’s up with this Strava bullshit

I used to do Strava, just like I used to do meth, crack, and bike porn. But I quit. Why? Because it’s STUPID. I post my best time on Ol’ Wrinklesack climb, and then some wanker on a moped, or some wanker who can actually ride, or some chick who’s totally badass, whales the shit out of my time. So then I go back and whale on her time. Then she on mine.

At some point somebody ought to be asking, “Why don’t we just meet up halfway between our apartments, take off all our clothes, and fuck each other until we’re too tired to stand?” [Note to the curious: in my case, that’s at least twelve full minutes, counting foreplay and post-play discussion/analysis/video review.] Wouldn’t that be pretty much the same thing, only more fun? And think of all the clothes we wouldn’t have to wash!

I didn’t just quit Strava because of the misplaced sexual tension. I quit it because after a few months it confirmed what I already knew: I suck, and there are a zillion people who are faster than I am. Well, fuck all of you. I’m still taller than you, and look better than you in a tailored Italian suit. Once I can afford a tailored Italian suit you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Why the Strava lawsuit sucks

It doesn’t. I hope they get sued all the way to Ghana and back. I hate them because they send me nasty little goading messages saying, “Droopy Festersore just took your KOM! You gonna let that happen? Get out there and take it back!”

My first response is, “Fuck you, you spammer motherfucker, for cluttering up my fucking inbox.”

Then, after I cool down, I think, “Fuck you, you spammer motherfucker, for making me feel like a piece of shit just as I was about to really enjoy my day evicting some poor old blind lady out onto the streets.”

Next, I get on Strava, look up the douchebag who bested my time by some ungodly interval, and find out that it’s a fucking avatar. “Piddly Bojangles” is the Strava pen name for some asshole who you’ve never seen on a ride, never raced against, and never heard of. But he just urinated in your Strava coffee and made you glower and snap at your nice secretary before she even got her bra completely unhitched.

The lawsuit is also awesome because, unbeknownst to you, Strava has an indemnification clause that you automatically agree to when you become a user. What’s that, you say? You can’t spell “indemnification”? You think it’s a kind of adult diaper?

No, my friend, Strava has a sweet deal where, when they get sued, they can then turn around and collect the money from you…plus attorney fees! Sweet! That dry scraping sound that’s accompanied by sharp, blinding pain? It’s your asshole, and Strava’s probing it with a rusty legal pipe.

The nasty facts of life

If you do something that affects a lot of people, you’re eventually going to get sued. Hire people and give them jobs? They’re going to sue you. Invite people to join your group ride? They’re going to sue you. Create a foreclosure meltdown that destroys the world’s largest economy and sends the planet into a 5-year financial tailspin? You’re getting a raise. But that’s a different story.

Cycling is cool and fucked up because people get together to do it and have accidents. The getting together part is cool. The accidenting part isn’t. As long as we demand the right to be compensated when other people hurt us, there will always people people who stretch the limits of who-caused-what-to-whom. The flip side is that you could live in a country like Germany or Japan, whose civil law systems provide modest compensation for victims and bulletproof protection for corporations.

You want a few frivolous douchebags to skate through the cracks so that truly meritorious cases have a chance? Our system’s pretty fucking good. You want a steel-reinforced-concrete bomb blast barrier around corporations so they can fuck you at will? There are lots of foreign countries like that. Texas comes to mind…

Instead of pillorying the lawyer filing the frivolous lawsuit, why not take a deep breath and have a little bit of faith in the system? If it’s frivolous, it’s headed for the door.

Trust me. I know.

The taste of bitter, Devil’s Punchbowl 2012, Part 3

April 30, 2012 § 4 Comments

By the time we hit the right-hand turn onto the stairsteps of death, Wankmeister’s golden legs from the previous week had turned to silver. Barely hanging onto the back, I noticed that Ol’ Gizzards had been shed. Fatty the Pimple, the balloon dude with the red outfit and rainbow striped sleeves that made him look like a zit about to pop, was huffing and puffing like a Code 4 cardiac patient.

At the top of the stairsteps my legs of silver had turned to bronze. Fatty the Pimple popped. On the long crazy downhill I recovered, then recovered some more on the rolling section leading to the hard right turn, where the organizers had thoughtfully placed lots of sand and gravel across the off-camber, high speed, right-angle intersection. “Careful!” they yelled, which was lots cheaper and easier than sweeping the deadly turn with a broom. Fatty had toiled his way back on, and of the forty or so riders who had toed the line, only about twenty remained.

As we began the climb up to the start-finish, we passed the giant sign pointing out the San Andreas Fault. Now at least I knew who to blame for that vaguely familiar taste in the back of my mouth. The taste of bitter.

A three-man suicide break was already up the road. Axena had attacked with Purple Parks, and Steelhead bridged to complete the threesome. Our main chase group came through the start-finish, turned left, and began rolling up what is in effect the second section of the climb that began at the sandy intersection.

DQ Louie had decided to bring back the leaders, and the moment he upped the pace my legs of bronze turned to legs of wood, then plastic, then overcooked spaghetti. This was it. The dreaded moment of droppage. The moment when the hardest, gnarliest, most painful and relentless contest in Southern California goes from being a road race to a time trail.

Fatty never came off, which made me hate him even more, and made the bitter flavor stronger still.

Oh, no, Mr. Bill!

On the descent I formed a group with Mr. Bill from Big Orange, Bill L. the Pool Guy, and some dude from Schroeder Iron. His name was probably Bill too, but I was too tired to ask, and the way he hung his head and sagging gut as he rotated through told me that he was too tired to answer. None of them was climbing worth a shit, which made it even more humiliating when they effortlessly rode away from me the third time up the big climb.

As I flailed along by myself I passed C.U. Tomorrow. “Good job, C.U.!” I said as I passed.

“Fuck you!” she waved.

The next chick I overtook was Irish Lassie. “Good job, Lassie!” I said as I passed. “Shut up and give me a push!” she yelled.

The next gal was Gangstachick, who I passed just as we began the downhill. How was it that these three teammates were spread equidistant along the climb? “Good job, Gangstachick!”

“Your advice about wheels sucked! There’s no wind at all! I should have brought my 808’s. YOU SUCK!” she called out as I passed.

By now I had formed another flail group, this time with Cat 4 Shon Holdthebroom. We lumbered on for a long way, with him occasionally moaning, “I can’t pull through. No more gas, dude.” Fortunately, his tank magically refilled after the final turn as he and his Cat 4 buddies left me in the dirt, sprunting up the final mile to the finish. I crossed the line with yet another impressive moral victory in the bag. Dropped, defeated, and spanked by a couple of Cat 4 wankers at the end, it had been another day that began with high hopes and ended in the rubble of cruel reality. I rolled my tongue around in my mouth, collecting small clumps of salt. And bitter.

The real race, for the real racers, however, had ended much differently.

[Tune in tomorrow for “How Devil’s Punchbowl 2012 Was Won Through Trickery, Treachery, and Deceit, and How Fireman Borrowed My Rear Tire but Lived to Regret It and How Mighty Mouse Learned the Importance of Checking the Race Flyer for Starting Times and Never Trusting the Most Notoriously Late Racer in the State to Tell Her When Her Race Was Supposed to Go Off and How Tink Listened to Wanky and How Roxy Almost Broke Her Hoo-Ha”]

Fear and loathing in North County

April 18, 2012 § 14 Comments

When our small pack of starving, drought-ravaged, beatdown wankers hit the second rest stop at mile 65.4, it was pandemonium. Fistwads of BonkBreakers, heads doused in cold Coke, unpeeled bananas devoured whole, and all the while smokin’ hot SPY babes making hashmark soup of our numbers to ensure we were credited for reaching the checkpoint, and me boring straight for the water, refilling my bottle, and jumping back aboard while most of the others were still gobbling PowerBars, sticking a finger down their shorts to see how egregiously their stinky diapers needed changing, or just rolling in the dirt and softly moaning.

A hundred yards past the transfusion station it hit me: whenever your ride involves a half-naked woman in her 80’s wielding a broom and threatening to kill you with it, you’ve just crossed the threshold from epic and wandered over into the batshit crazy realm of the surreal.

In fact, my last encounter with a crazy octogenarian woman during a bike ride didn’t involve one who was half-naked or carrying a broom, it involved one who was completely naked and barefoot, and ten miles from the nearest farmhouse.

Spit and Spanky Muffins

Spit&spankymuffins, or Clanghorn Leghorn as he was also known, had been whooping it up on the side with this little package from Granger, the only town in Texas that still had a Czech newspaper, and as far as I know, the only one that ever did, or for that matter, wanted to have one.

I don’t remember her name because I always just called her Czechmate, and that particular morning in July of 1984 as I rolled up the frontage road along I-35 to pick Clanghorn up at his house for a ride, I could tell from a distance something was amiss. For one, in front of his little white rental shack there was a silver Z-car, and the only person I knew who drove a silver Z-car was his fiancee, the little ballerina, who I always called “Bally.”

For another, from the distance and angle I could see a maroon Ford pickup parked out on the back lot, obscured by the mesquite and the brokedown storage shed. Clanghorn didn’t own a car, and the only person I knew with a maroon pickup was Czechmate.

For a third, I could see the side window that abutted Spit&spankymuffins’s bedroom, and it looked like a head was sticking out, a head with long brown hair, which was odd because Clanghorn always had a crew cut. For a fourth, even from that distance I could hear the godawful pounding on his screen door and see a highly agitated Bally making more racket than a 92-lb. ballerina ought to be able to make.

The only thing that meant we weren’t going to need a homicide detective was that Bally had approached from the north and thus couldn’t see the truck out behind the house, and that Bally didn’t carry a handgun. Most days.

By the time I got up to the fence Spit&spankymuffins was slowly opening the screen door, in tandem with Czechmate falling clumsily out of the window in her panties and hopping like a crazy woman through the goatheads and fire ant mounds to the safety of the thorny mesquite and her pickup, where she carried a handgun every single day of the year.

Bally jumped inside the house and was yelling so loud that she never heard Czechmate drive away. I played dumb and added a little more to the distraction while Clanghorn did a disappearing act with Czechmate’s clothes that would have made Houdini blush.

No country for old women

Clanghorn finally convinced Bally that nothing was amiss, and she was never the wiser until the big shindig the night before their wedding, when I raised my glass and made a toast that more or less wandered off onto the topic of Czechmate and how glad I had been that Bally had left her .45 at home that morning. That, along with their subsequent divorce after the world’s shortest marriage, is another story.

THIS story is about how Spit&spankymuffins and I decided that Bally was going to be laying in wait for most of the day, so the only way to throw her off the scent was to go do a nice long 120-miler, the only problem being that it was now 8:00 AM and the temperature was already 104, and if we waited much longer it was going to get hot.

Clanghorn thought he knew a couple of routes that would at least take us near a convenience store where we could get water, so off we went. By mile 90 we were both delirious. The temperature was well over 110, and the ambient air temperature four or five feet off the asphalt was easily 130. Clanghorn got turned around and we missed the convenience store, so we now had to either get something to drink or die.

By some miracle we hit a low water crossing that was mostly filled with nasty green stuff from a dairy farm upstream, but we were pretty sure we didn’t have to worry about brain damage, as no one would notice, and so we filled our bellies and bottles on that nasty green sludge, which, if I say so myself, was the sweetest and best tasting water I’ve ever had in my life, notwithstanding the cramps that night followed by the vomiting and diarrhea that ensued for the next three weeks.

As we rode out of the shade from the water crossing, ten miles from the nearest farmhouse, we saw a figure approaching us in the distance. As we got closer, we saw it was a woman. A very, very old woman. Naked. Barefoot. Walking on that frying pan asphalt looking as starry-eyed batshit crazy as we felt.

At first neither of us could believe it. “You see that?” I asked Spanky.

“Uh-huh.”

We pedaled slowly by. “Hi, ma’am,” I said.

She never looked to the right or the left, and I couldn’t help noticing that her body was perfectly brown all over, with nary a tan line anywhere. “Hey, Wankmeister,” Clanghorn said after we passed.

“Yeah?”

“Why don’t we just pretend that never happened?”

“Deal.”

No country for lycra-clad whackjobs on the BWR

While I’d been downing plasma and EPO tabs at the transfusion station, a group of about twenty riders had taken the hard right turn down the dirt road that led to the quagmire of mud and water and slop and hell known by the bitterly ironic name of Country Club Road. As I made the right turn in their wake, I was surprised to see them all coming back again, pedaling pell-mell and screaming at the top of their lungs: “Turn back! There’s a crazy lady with no teeth and a broom barring the way!”

Well, all the motivation I needed to go full steam ahead was the chance encounter with a crazy toothless broom Hilda. Within seconds the SPY broom wagon came up, shouting the same thing. On I went until there in the distance I could see her, hopping up and down in a blue fury, one-piece burlap sack jostling about her skinny frame, three-foot breasts slinging thisaway and that like two bad dancers, one of whom wants to tango and the other of whom wants to do crossword puzzles.

“No blog,” I thought as I got closer, “will ever top this.” Then, as I saw her making some pretty fair batting cage slices with the broom, cuts that, if they connected, would at least be good for a ground rule double, it hit me: Crazy half-naked lady with three-foot breasts doing major league swings with a broom can only mean that her son, who is probably also her husband and the father of her grandchildren, has finally pulled on his burlap bag, loaded the guns, and drained the rest of the turpentine bottle prior to going out on the porch to see which raccoon or possum or skunk or crow or lizard or trespasser he’s going to have to shoot the legs off of.

“Fuck blogalistic integrity,” I thought. “I’m outta here.”

The surrealistic hell of the North County

After a mad dash I connected with the pack that had flown from broom Hilda, a completely different amalgamation of wankers than the dead and dying who I’d left at the doping station. The inaugural Belgian Waffle Ride was already an unmitigated nightmare of British proportions. The last thing I could clearly remember was the sight of MMX churning away at the front on Green Canyon Road, with zombie The Bone battering away, and freakish K. Strychnine grinding up each roller with the nasty efficiency of an industrial food processor.

As I struggled at the back, bladder almost bursting, I could only think enviously about the pee stop at mile 20, when MMX had urinated while riding his bike, splashing a fine, 12-foot film of hot piss along the public bike path and most of his hand. “Why can’t I do that?” I wondered. Several miles later, when I watched him absentmindedly wipe his nose and mouth, I wasn’t quite as envious.

By mile 39 the lead group had less than fifty riders, many of whom were already gassed from the 100mph run-up to the first sprint followed by the inhuman attack up the mile-long gravel road that looked like it had been paved with artillery shells.

The schmoes who had showed up uninvited to bandit the ride had long ago been crushed and shat out the back, and those who had shown up with minimal preparation were already well into the most miserable day of their lives, including the first time they ever rode an aluminum road bike.

During the neutral portion I had found myself next to a giant dude in a purple jersey. “Name’s Fred,” he said, with a perfectly straight face. “I’m a track racer from back in the day. Mounting my comeback.”

I looked at him to see if this was part of an elaborate joke. It was and it wasn’t. “I don’t think there’s a velodrome on the route today,” I offered.

“Yeah,” he muttered. I never saw him again.

The crazies come out when it’s muddy

My next companion was the guy who would have won the psychedelic batshit jersey if one had been on offer. In preparation for the 124-mile deathfest and its 9,400 feet of climbing, he had shown up with his hairiest legs and his best single-speed bicycle. “I’m a ‘cross dude, dude,” he said.

“Really?” I thought. “I mistook you for a retard.” He turned out to be very much the badass.

But the most amazing person of all was the rider from Los Angeles who had shown up to bandit the ride and shamelessly help himself to all the goodies. He too was quickly shed.

Legs burning as I hung on the back, I realized that I could either force myself to hang for another fifteen or twenty miles and then be completely wrecked, or I could drop off the back and pee so that my bladder didn’t rupture. It’s amazing how easy a hard ride becomes when you get off your bike.

After remounting, I settled into my own pace, and the remnant grupettos from the wanker rear guard began to pass me, first in ones and twos, and then in small groups. Like the old sailor in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, I tried to warn them of what awaited.

“Yo, Swami’s dork! Have you done this course before?”

“Nah. Why?”

“Because you’re going too hard. You will implode at mile 80, or before, and have to cheat to finish. Ease up now, while you’re still behind.”

They nodded and zoomed off. I saw them all again, of course, many miles later, in varying states of collapse and disarray.

The end of reality bleeds over into the impossible and false

Keeping my own steady pace I hit the bottom of Couser Canyon, and three quarters of the way up the climb realized my bottles were empty. With less than a quarter mile to go to the top, I spied a blue support pickup parked on the side of the road. “Got any water?” I called out.

“Sure do!”

I hesitated because I was carrying my rad CalBikeLaw.com bottles. I didn’t want to give them up, but I didn’t want to carry them empty, and I didn’t want to collapse from heat prostration. As I slowly rolled by I reluctantly handed the guy my bottle. He thrust the replacement in my hand. It was icy cold. I glanced at the logo. It said CalBikeLaw.com.

Before I could fling the bottle away like some talisman from the Twilight Zone, the two dudes were giving me a mighty push to restart me on the climb. The water was life giving. The bottle was brand fucking new. I never saw them again. I recounted the story to Junkyard, who smiled, rolled his eyes, and made the loopy finger motion around his ear.

Fast forwarding to the post-broom Hilda faux turn, the grupetto turned left onto DIRT ROAD at mile 66.98. With the exception of the lead group and a few other individuals, most of the BWR victims missed this turn. They were easy to spot because their bikes, legs, and shoes were devoid of thickly caked mud and slime at ride’s end, and because the first words out of their mouths on completion wasn’t “Oh my fucking Dog, that dirt road with the 18% sandy wall and the narrow, deep river crossing with a rock ledge drop off and trench mud embankment on the other side followed by 1.5 miles of the nastiest, bitterest, slidingest, badassedest unpaved mud pit known to man was AWESOME!!!”

Instead, they would say in a very purple jersey sort of way, “Oh, yeah…I, uh, did that. It was the wide water thingy, huh?” or “I dunno I just followed everyone else.”

I just followed everyone else

Problem is, my everyone made the turn. We launched down the mud to the rock ledge and mayhem ensued. People slid to a halt, fell off their bikes, toppled over, yelled, cursed, and rode exactly like you’d expect roadies to behave when greeted by wet mud.

Except for Singlespeed Nutter and Purple Jersey Andy. These two dirt dogs flung themselves into the water, hammered up the other side, and quickly gapped everyone else by a hundred yards. As I hurtled down the embankment, unable to see the water, I only thought one thing, back from the day that Filds tried make me a ‘crosser going around the golf course, and me trembling every pedalstroke of the way: “Just go fast!!!”

So, fast I went. So fast, in fact, that the only thing I heard when I launched into the river was “Holy fuck!” from some wanker who was lying in the mud and whose head I almost took off with my rear wheel. I landed full force on my front wheel in the water, and to my shock the bike of its own accord rocketed up the other side. I pedaled. The bike went faster.

There aren’t many times in your life when everything around you stops except you. It happened that day. The wankers up ahead just froze. I picked their perfect line and as my bike jumped and jolted up behind them I muttered, “Coming through!”

Purple Jersey Andy looked back in terror. “Holy shit!” he yelled “That’s his breathing!”

The noise coming from my lungs was so deep, so racking, so nasty, so fraught with spit and snot and spray and flecks of flesh that I fully expected to have to get off and poke my lungs back down my throat. But I didn’t. Wankers 1 and 2 vanished. I hit the wall and just went harder. Before I could even vomit it was over, and the crippled, broken remnants that were still wiping the mud off their asses might as well have been in Waco.

It’s the only badass thing I have ever done on a bike. It’s certainly the only badass thing I did on the BWR, because the rest of it was a nasty slog to the finish, overtaking one shattered rider after another until I hooked up with Mad Stan and Daffy Dave from the Wolfpack. They worked me over for miles, their shiny bikes proof that they’d avoided the muddy test of mettle, and despite shellacking them on Questhaven, they rode me down after Double Peak and we finished with A Day in the Life of Ivan Stefanovich, the long-haired Swami’s dude who had knocked over twelve bikes and three helpers at the last feed station as he fought off the LA Bandit Cheapass Fuckstick for the last swig of Coke and the last fistful of pretzels. He had passed me on Double Peak like a man on a mission.

Only the strong survived

The BWR got its inspiration from Dave Jaeger and his annual French Toast Ride, a 118-mile death march held every January before Boulevard RR. No one in the SoCal peloton exemplifies the qualities of toughness, fairness, good humor, and great perspective as well as Dave. So it’s fitting that when The Bone, Lars Boom, and Shirley Temple crushed everyone into fine bits of powder and then, like Cat 5’s getting lost on a square office park crit, wandered off course and failed to complete the entire route, it left Jaeger et al. to claim the winner’s jersey.

Nonetheless, the way The Bone, Lars, and Shirley dispatched everyone else who even pretended to contend, and the fact that their deviation was completely unintentional, earned them all the coveted King of the Waffle jersey and matching SPY waffle shades.

Rules still being rules, this meant that the next group of three finishers were the actual wieners of the event. That Dave was able to pull on StageOne’s incredibly beautiful yellow jersey, a jersey nicer than anything you’ve ever seen at the TdF, was proof that there’s a force for transcendental fairness and goodness in the universe. Nice guys sometimes rip your nuts off by the roots, stuff them down your throat, and, yes win.

Steve Klasna and Brent Prezlow joined with yellow jersey wiener honors, Phil Tintsman took the points jersey, and the hardman jersey was shared by MMX, Tintsman, and Zinc Oxide.

The color purple

The Belgian Waffle Ride started with a basic tenet: There will be winners, losers, finishers, and non-finishers, and they will be determined by relying on each rider’s honesty, sportsmanship, and personal integrity. After the laughter subsided at the ridiculous notion that a bunch of scuzzball cyclists would do anything other than lie, cheat, and steal when swag was at stake, it was emphasized that the concept of “It’s okay if it’s MY dog” doesn’t apply. Follow this link for the instructional video. This was of course ignored.

The Belgian Waffle Ride was also unique because on the one hand it was billed as a true hardman event, but on the other it counted Stern-O as a participant. Those who have ridden with this softman of cycling know that despite having been banished from California and sent to live with the horse people of Santa Fe, a city whose cycling community has in turn banished him and forced him to ride in the desolate wasteland of Albuquerque, no cycling event exists at which Stern-O cannot garner the lion’s share of the attention. Worse, his time spent trawling the tumbleweeds, saguaro, and meth shacks between Lower New Mexico and the cultural epiphany that is Tucson mean that when he shows up he’s in particularly fine form.

Whether by chasing down beginning cyclists and berating them for their choice of bicycle/color of jersey/pretensions to athleticism, by instigating a confrontation with a violent motorist and then leaving the mayhem for others to deal with, or by simply whining about his back surgery/broken teeth/brain replacement therapy/AARP membership status as the reason he flailed and got dropped, when Stern-O rides, people take notice.

The BWR was no different. In an event designed to rely on the integrity of the participants, the Man in Purple floated to the top like the very biggest and smelliest chunk, while the participants could only stare in shock like a hapless economy class passenger stuck next to the toilet door on a 13-hour flight. Some observers noted that Stern-O had been strangely absent along the muddy road of death. Others remarked that although he rode manfully through the water after the third water crossing, he fell into the mud after crossing it in the manner of a complete dirt noob, resulting in a boo-boo to his knee. Stern-O’s reported comment? “That ought to get me the hardman jersey!” Still others noted the fact that he actually rode up on G$’s wheel later in the ride was proof positive that he’d shorn at least a hundred and twenty-four miles off the125-mile route, as the day that Stern-O chases down the Gazelle of SoCal is the day that a one-legged sloth outruns a Secret Service agent to a Colombian whorehouse.

While wildly claiming to have completed the course ahead of his betters as he swooped in to snare his finisher’s tee-shirt, his finisher’s bottle of commemorative ale, and his finisher’s BWR jersey, Stern-O failed to produce his number with the proper hash marks, and, what was worse, claimed to have assaulted Double Peak when he was seen sneaking past the turnoff to this bitterest of climbs while glued to the wheel of…oh shame!…a triathlete. In a later document entitled, “Affidavit and Declaration under Penalty of Perjury Regarding the Performance of Stern-O on the Belgian Waffle Ride,” he was even audacious enough to claim that after slinking away from the finish area before being awarded the ignominious purple jersey in absentia, he went off in search of Double Peak in order to find it and climb it.

Unfortunately, he was unable to locate this mysterious hidden landmark, as it’s only the highest point in San Diego County and looms 1,666 feet over the city of Carlsbad like a single rotten tooth jutting out from the sunken gum off an ogre. Plus, he had to hurry back to New Mexico in order to spend time with his family.

As a result, Stern-O received the dreaded purple jersey, an item of clothing reserved for the lamest rider of the entire BWR. On the plus side, it comes with a matching pair of purple sunglasses. If you ever want to see the whole ensemble in action, though, you’ll have to head out to the byways of America’s desert meth labs, as rumor has it that Purple Freddy Gregg will not be invited back.

So how hard was it, really?

Compared to the recon ride, which was shorter, which I failed to complete, and which had no unpaved roads, the BWR was oddly enough a piece of cake. Had I just failed to adequately nourish that fateful day back in March? Had my legs been unprepared for the rigors of the course that fateful day? Had it been a terrible mistake to match efforts with the likes of MMX, Victor, and Purple Parks? Yes, yes, and yes.

The real secret to finishing this grueling course turned out to be simple: Eat lots of cheeseburgers and fries the day before, and realize that I was a wanker amongst men with no hope of following the leaders, and ride accordingly by never going into the red. Towards the end, after the last heart and lung transplant station, I fell in with a guy named Scott who, with the exception of the purple-clad Wawansea wankers, had the ugliest jersey in the peloton. We stayed together through Bandy Canyon, the place of my earlier undoing, and Via Rancho, the place of my spiritual death, and through most of Elfin Canyon, where the battering of the Wolfpack duo finally kicked him out the back. I would have felt a shred of sympathy had he not drilled nails into my head the last forty yards up Bandy.

More than the difficulty, this ride was memorable for its striking natural beauty, for its snow-encrusted mountain peaks, for its leafy green Spring foliage, for its streams, its chiseled rock faces, its piercing blue sky, and most of all for the mob at the last aid station that frantically fought for food as their last ebb of strength and morale failed them before the longest, hardest, most brutal and unforgiving part of the ride was to pitilessly crush them into broken and whimpering fools.

To SPY and the people who made this great event happen, including the wearers of the yellow, green, blue, polkawaffle, and hideous purple jerseys, I’d say thank you. Once the tubes have been removed and I’m well enough to get out of bed.

For further reference:

Nicole Duke’s BWR blog post

Complete results (I’m #131 and not at all bitter about all the cheaters who cut the course and finished ahead of me).

Official recap by MMX (prepare to be scolded by Dad, who is disappointed that you cut the course, took the swag you weren’t entitled to, and in general proved yourself to be a lying, cheating, thieving little turd).

NPR: raging Bull, chicks & spinning Major

March 9, 2012 § 5 Comments

Yesterday’s New Pier Ride:

“Yo, Wankmeister…could you just once post something with less than 10,000 words?”

Ok!

Bull Seivert, raging nonstop at the front.

NPR by the numbers: 70% never get within 50 yards of the front; 80% never take a pull; 90% of the work is done by five people…or less.

Chicks galore. WM loves bootylicious bike rides filled with women out trading punches with the guys. Girls: no ride is so fast that you can’t park behind some fat dude and draft like the Selective Service. Join us!

Major Bob OUT OF THE BIG RING the whole way down the bike path!!

StageOne takes a series of hard pulls, blows out left knee, right elbow, and chin joint. Splattered blood and joint tissue stimulate idea for new kit design.

G3 calls Wankmeister a pandering douchebag on his new blog (http://flailingandhopeless.wordpress.com), and calls out Wankmeister for calling out G3. Thanks for the props! (Gussy notes that two lame bloggers are now blogging about each others’ lame blogs).

Chief sighting!!! Former master of all he surveyed, now confined to the Saturday kiddy soccer reservation, the legend nonetheless lives on.

Quotable:

You shoulda been here Tuesday. It was so much faster than today.
When I get a flat I just go down to Helen’s and we fix it together.
I’m not making your NPR wanker list, am I?
Am I going to need this? (Holds up tire tool).
I really don’t know how this works. (Holds up CO2 canister).
Whoops!
Is BWR as hard as you’re making it out to be on the blog?
BWR isn’t really 9,200 feet of vertical…is it?
Will anybody really finish BWR?
I was going to do BWR, but it just doesn’t look like much fun.

Okay. Under 10,000 words. Done!

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