Gifts in passing

September 17, 2018 § 4 Comments

I went to the funeral of Iffioka Nsek on Saturday, a guy I’d never met. I know his sons through bike racing, but not well. I met his youngest son at this year’s Belgian Waffle Ride, where Ama finished first overall on the Wafer and obliterated second place by almost six minutes. The elder son, Imeh, is a similar force on the bike and a familiar face at the races.

Our cycling community is relatively small, and Iffioka’s death at age 51 affected me. There is a time to forego your oh-so-important Saturday bicycle ride for things that actually matter. This seemed like one of those times.

We drove up to Walnut and the campus of Mt. San Antonio College. I wondered why the memorial service was being held there instead of a church or funeral home.

The things in front of you that you don’t see

The on-ramp at the 405 and 110 was shut down, which delayed us. Then, the off-ramp from the 91 to the 605 was shut down, so we got delayed again. We were some of the last people to arrive at Mt. SAC, and we ended up in the wrong parking lot. There were only a few cars.

We walked through the campus to the performing arts center. A few other stragglers were signing the guest registry. Then a moment later we entered the auditorium. I blinked. It had a capacity of about 500, and except for a handful of empty seats towards the very front, was standing room only. We hurried down and sat, even as people continued to arrive, cramming the aisles.

I looked for familiar faces, expecting to see an audience filled with bike racers, and there were quite a few, but by far and away they were people from the “other,” non-racing world. It began to dawn on me that Iffioka Nsek, this guy I’d never met, was more than the father of two nonpareil young athletes. How had I never met him?

The mentor

I’ve been to many memorial services but never, ever to one like this. The first handful of speakers on the program spoke with a grief and intensity that had the entire audience in tears. But what was more incredible was the long line of people from the audience, almost two hours’ worth, queued up to share their memories and their gratitude and their grief.

What was incredible was that everyone told the same story. Iffioka had come from Nigeria to California, graduated from high school in Culver City, gone to Mt. SAC on a track scholarship, gotten a job with the college after graduation, and never left. He had built their IT department and computer network, and for twenty-eight years had been an institution within the institution, not just because of his genius, but rather because of his character.

The people who spoke were varied beyond belief. Co-workers, high school teachers, people he’d only met recently and people he’d known as a young boy. What astounded me was the way Iffi had maintained so many relationships over decades, while continually building new ones, each friendship as deep and sincere as the other. He was the guy who would answer the phone in the dead of night, send you a 200-line code solution to your problem in a matter of minutes, and go back soundly to sleep. He was the guy who you’d call asking to buy a bike part from and wind up in a 3-hour conversation about life.

Iffi had answers, and when he didn’t have answers, he had laughter and happiness. He was joyful, overflowing with love, and always so eager to see YOU. One of countless moving stories was about how Iffioka had sold a server to a young man on Craigslist, then worked with him over a period of months to get it set up and running properly, then guided and mentored him into a successful IT career.

Or the story told by his college track coach about how he’d recently gone over to the former coach’s granddaughter’s house, completely set up and installed her home network, and in four hours had formed such a bond that when the girl found out about Iffi’s death she had collapsed in tears.

These and stories like them were the tip of the iceberg. Iffi who had helped a young man start racing. Iffi who had helped an old man start racing. Iffi who knew everyone on the bike trails. Iffi who only had words of encouragement and love for those who tried, and acceptance for those who didn’t. Iffi whose life was passionately devoted to his wife of 28 years. Iffi who doted on and lived for his sons. Iffi who drove the boys to school without fail. Iffi who demanded intellectual rigor and hard work from his sons. Iffi who on the day of their birth recited their lineage to his sons. Iffi who immediately and forever earned the love and devotion of his in-laws. Iffi who laughed at success, who laughed at failure, who met each day with a brightness and brilliance that challenged the sun itself. Iffi, a giant among men, distinguished not by great wealth or worldly success, but distinguished by devotion to family, devotion to work and those around him, devotion to the human race.

I am hardened to death and the words that people conjure up to deal with their loss and grief, but through my tightly shut eyes and achingly bowed head, I wept, thanking this man I never knew, thanking him for his life, thanking him for the gifts he had, in passing, left for us all.

END

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Circle of Fun

September 14, 2018 § 1 Comment

Circle of Doom was created six years ago by a small group of slightly deranged riders led by Rahsaan Bahati who wanted to extend the already slightly deranged Montrose ride, so they headed up Highway 39. Highway 39 goes up, indeed.

William Todd Buckley, Steven Salazar, Layo Salazar, and Eyob Berhane didn’t know what they were getting into that first Circle of Doom …

Once arriving at the junction of Highway 39 and Highway 2, the riders were flummoxed because all GPS and cell phone signal had evaporated. Confusion reigned, and no one could decide which way back was fastest, a crucial consideration because they were already five hours into the ride. The result was an 8-hour “adventure,” and like most bicycle adventures that end in nothing but pain, dehydration, cramps, curses, and misery, the riders unanimously decided that they would do it again, ditch the getting lost part, and invite other suckers good friends to join them.

The Circle of Doom was born, if “born” is what happens when bad ideas become disasters that are then shared with unsuspecting victims.

Chalk talk

The first and most notable feature of the following Circle of Doom was the practice of carrying along a big piece of chalk. As riders quit, gave up, begged for a diaper change, or slunk back home without completing the ride, their shape was chalked out on the road to memorialize their collapse.

Prez chalked out early and he chalked out often, but in subsequent years fewer and fewer riders rolled over like a harpooned whale, and Circle of Doom has become a doable beatdown, now with support.

2018 is the second year as a bona fide event with sag and support, and the cycling community has rallied together to suffer together, all the while sharing great stories and laughs. What began as a very simple way to bridge the gap between bike racer and bike enthusiast has become a community-wide embrace of a hard, miserable, totally doable and fun bike ride.

Going in circles

Circle of Doom makes a complete loop, and got its name from the event’s timing around Halloween. The ride’s popularity stems from the fact that it is hard as nails and broken glass, but it’s not technical, and anyone who prepares can finish it. For riders based in West LA, the South Bay, and Long Beach, the ride is a great chance to leave the normal ride routine and experience the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains.

The ride’s growth has been aided immeasurably by Rahsaan, who is more than a stand-out rider. He’s also a world-class babysitter and knows how to push at the right time, cajole, encourage, jibe, and make pain fun. The number of fondo-type rides in LA is tiny compared to the cycling population, so there is naturally room for growth.

At the end, though, it’s the same as it was at the beginning, to fulfill the oldest mantra of bicycling: If you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Working with Methods to Winning, Circle of Doom helps fulfill the mission of a good time on the bike while also doing it safely and giving back to the communities that make cycling exist in the first place.

Icons helping icons

The 2018 Circle of Doom starts and finishes at Velo Pasadena, one the premier bike shops in America and the long-time standard bearer for bike racing in the northern L.A. area. After the ride survivors will enjoy music, food, vendors, and awards, or they will sit around with dumb stare on their face as if to say, “WTF just happened?”

The answer, of course, is “Circle of Doom.”

Register here. Register NOW.

END

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Ebb and flow

September 12, 2018 § 7 Comments

Rides come and go, they ebb and flow. The last two times I’ve done NPR I could only think, “Man, times have changed.”

NPR used to have 60+ riders even on Thursday. Tuesdays had more, everyone was fresh from Monday’s rest, and it was filled with hitters. You could expect the Tuesday NPR to be either single file for four laps, or hugely surgey with a crazy sprint.

No more, apparently.

Yesterday’s group was tiny, maybe a thirty-rider peloton that shrank over the course of the ride. Most telling was the fact that the last two rides I’ve been able to get away and stay away for four laps. Anytime you can’t catch a 54-year-old grandpa on a short ride like that, you have what is known as a very slow ride.

At the end yesterday, Frexit hunted me down and passed me at the last light, but the pack was still well more than a minute back.

NPR’s regular crashes got old, I guess, and some of the last pile-ups were huge. But more importantly, people have gotten old and quit. Or maybe I should say “older.” You still have guys in their 80’s like Jim and Tim out doing laps, but a whole generation of fast people who are now in their late 30’s and 40’s have simply quit NPR like the bad habit it is.

Gone are days when the Sausage Cam captured all the excitement, spliced and put to music.

Gone are the days when the sprunt involved Davy Dawg, Hair, Destroyer, Rahsaan, Pischon, Sausage, Cam, EA Sports, Inc., and half-a-dozen riders good enough to be there but not quite good enough to win.

Gone are the insane pulls by Dave Miller and Head Down James, the hopeless attacks by Richard Whose Last Name I Don’t Know, the shouting by Leibert … “We’re only going 28! Get off the effing front if you can only do 28!”

Gone are the guest appearances by Daniel Holloway, Justin and Cory Williams, and the regular appearance of women like Lisa, Chris, Tink, Suze, Katie D., Lolo, Michelle, Marilyne, and a whole bunch more.

And of course there are the aged ones who have simply moved into convalescent homes with Italian gentlemen. Kramer, Yule, Spalding, and dozens of others whose names I no longer even remember and whose features are kind of a blurry blot, like watching a face through a rainy window pane.

END

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Mammoth Grand Fondue 2018

September 10, 2018 § 10 Comments

The last time I blogged I was patting myself on the back for submitting to the reality of hypoxia, infirmity, bad form, and the daunting nature of a 102-mile slugfest at 8,000 feet as I made the brave decision to do the shortest ride on the menu.

This time I would pat myself even harder but I’m too oxygen-deprived to reach around.

Saturday morning I got up and went down to the start of the gran fondo. More than a thousand riders were queued up and they rolled out at 7:00 AM, pointy-sharp. Some of them I saw a mere 4.5 hours later as I was finishing my own baby kitten 4055 mile ride. But the great, overwhelming, vast majority of those faces I never saw again.

This is because seven, eight, nine or more hours is how long it took most to complete this beast, by which time I was well into my fifth bottle of Pelligrino and even deeper into my third nap.

Running with the baby kittens

The reduced-calorie, low-fat, baby kitten sub-fondo of 4055 miles started at the same time as the 75-mile ride. I was at the very back of more than five hundred people, and we started at 8:30.

Whereas the tension at the full fondo start was so thick you could cause angsty Old Masters Bicycle Racers to fall over by saying “Boo!” the baby kitten fondo had all the tension of a joke from Reader’s Digest.

Compare and contrast:

  • Full fondue: Rictuses galore
  • Baby kitten fondo: Smiles galore
  • Full fondue: Stravver, Wahoo, timing chip, Garmin, Deep Blue data
  • Baby kitten fondo: Let me push the stopwatch function on my Timex. Okay, go!
  • Full fondue: Hell on a brass rivet
  • Baby kitten fondo: Two fully-stocked sag stations on a 40-mile course. With bacon.

Naturally, the baby kitten fondo had a down side, which was having all of the full fondo people sniff in disgust when you said you weren’t doing the big ride, but that all got paid back in spades when you wandered in a couple of hours later to no buffet line, full servings of everything, plenty of seating, and a noontime nap.

Dad’s in charge

The only real problem of the 40-mile baby kitten fondo happened when I turned right instead of going straight, taking my companions on a 15-mile detour.

“Are you sure this is the right way, Dad?”

“Heck yes.”

“But isn’t that Mammoth over there?”

“This road will take us there.”

“But it’s going the opposite direction in a straight line as far as the eye can see.”

“Look, kid, this is your first fondo, right? Just follow Dad. Plus, it’s a whipping tailwind and crazy fun downhill!”

Eventually I noticed that all of the riders we were passing had green number plates, whereas we baby kitten fondo-ers had blue number plates. So we slowed down and asked some dude, “Hey, is this the 40-mile route?”

“No, it’s the 75-mile route.”

“Where’s the 40-mile route?”

“About eight miles back that way.”

“Into that headwind and up those mountains?”

“That’d be the one.”

With the additional fifteen miles we ended up with a 55-mile ride instead of a 40-mile ride, but the timing chip in our number didn’t give me a lick of extra credit for being a bonehead.

mammoth_seth_results

The best fondo ever

Despite the ignominy of having done a 4055-mile baby kitten fondo at just under 11.9 mph, nothing could erase the joy of getting passed by the leaders of the big fondue, who knocked out 102 miles in under 4.5 hours. Rudy Napolitano got second, coming in behind Brandon Baker, twenty years his junior.

The main chase pack blew by us as well, 23 riders with salt on their jerseys and pain on their faces as they jostled for position with ten miles to go. Greg Leibert, James Cowan, and several of the usual suspects made up the group as they waited to pounce on each other at the bottom of the 4-mile climb leading up to the finish.

We baby kittens were only waiting to pounce on the pulled pork.

And nothing was as cool as crossing the finish line mostly un-tired, ambling over to the food line, and critically gazing at the stained faces of the riders who had wrung every last watt out of their legs to do the entire behemoth in five hours and less. After taking in the wreckage, we walked back to our bikes, where a complimentary donut tent had been erected by the Westin Hotel.

“How about a donut?” the nice person asked.

“Why, thank you. Don’t mind if I do.” I plucked out a chocolate-glazed donut dusted with sprinkles, and chewed it lovingly as more broken riders trickled in. I licked the frosting off my fingers. “May I have another?” I asked as a warrior practically fell off his bike, staggered to the grass, and collapsed.

“By all means!” said the nice person.

So I did.

END

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Into thin air

September 8, 2018 § 3 Comments

Many years ago I lived in a mountain town, Dillon, Colorado. I had run out of gas driving back from Oregon to Texas and had run out of money as well.

I parked and asked a dude who was walking by where I could find a job. “In the summer? In Dillon? Nowhere. Everything’s closed down.”

I walked for a couple of miles until I came to Keystone Ski Resort. It wasn’t shut down. I went up to the front desk. The main lobby was deserted. “Are you hiring?”

The clerk, who was about my age, gave me a quick look. “For what?”

“Anything. I’m out of gas and money.”

“You could try La Brasserie, our cafe. It’s over there.”

“Thanks,” I said, and walked over.

The manager was standing at the entrance, bored. The restaurant was a cemetery. “You hiring?” I asked.

“Yeah. We need a dishwasher. Can you run a dishwasher?”

“Sure.”

“Okay, come on back to my office.”

“Our dishwasher just got sent to prison,” he said.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Norm. Norm Phlebbets. He got in through the roof, went through an air duct, broke into the main office a couple of months ago, cracked the night safe, and made off with over $100,000 in cash.”

“How’d they catch him?”

“He didn’t have a car. He was just walking along the highway with a suitcase stuffed full of cash.”

“Oh,” I said. The manager didn’t seem surprised at the craziness of the story. This was my welcome, I later realized, to mountain living, where thin air, lots of mushrooms, and not much to do makes everyone completely insane.

With age come scars

One of the most insane things I did during my tenure in Dillon was the Bob Cook Memorial Hillclimb. I was a Cat 2, and when we hit the first turn, before the road had even kicked up, I was shelled. Over the course of the next little while I was passed by the 3’s, the 4’s (there were no 5’s), the women, and then the “veterans.”

I quit at the halfway mark, coasted back down to my truck, and drove back to Dillon.

What I learned from that bike race I put to use when we arrived in Mammoth on Thursday in preparation for the 25th Mammoth Gran Fondo. The lesson? There ain’t no air up here.

We checked into the very nice St. Anton condos, got dressed, and went for a short 15-mile ride, avoiding as many hills as possible, which wasn’t possible. Back at the room it felt like someone had dropped a 500-lb. safe on my head.

“This fondo,” I told Yasuko, “isn’t going to be pretty.”

You’re doing the full fondo, right?

On Friday morning I got up early, ate, coffeed, and was out the door at seven. I climbed up Minaret Rd., a mild little 6-mile ride, taking baby kitten breaths all the way. At the top I descended to the Reds Meadow campground, a trailhead for insane people hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, or trekking over the hills into Yosemite, you know, kind of like how you’d walk down to the store for a carton of milk, except it takes weeks, you carry all your own shit, and every hundred yards or so there’s a pride of hangry bears.

I u-turned and did the 8-mile climb back up. If you do no ride in Mammoth but this one, you’ve seen one of the most gorgeous vistas there is to see. The road was deserted; I saw five cars. But the climb back up was challenging since here, as well as in Mammoth Lakes proper, someone had left the door open the night before and all the oxygen had escaped.

I kitty-breathed it home, ate a second breakfast, and took a long nap.

At one o’clock I was leading an “easy” 20-mile tune-up ride from Footloose, the main bike shop in Mammoth. “Are you ready for the fondo tomorrow?” I was continually asked.

“Yes,” I replied without wavering.

Then, invariably: “You’re doing the full 102-mile fondo, right?”

“Wrong. I’m doing the mini baby tiny reduced-fat sub-fondo, a/k/a the Piccolo.”

“You are?”

“I are.”

“How come?”

“There is no air here, anywhere, and I know because I’ve looked for it. And I don’t do well without air. In fact, by my calculations, the 40-mile Piccolo, starting at 8,000 feet, will be the rough equivalent of riding 700 miles at sea level. On a Big Wheel.”

“Are you sure you’re not just copping out?”

“I’m sure I am copping out. However, when I’m on my third plate of pulled pork you’ll be 80 miles in, dessicated like a prune, out of water, out of food, and riding into a 20 mph headwind as you climb the final two thousand feet or so. You will accomplish much and get an awesome finishing picture, but you won’t really appreciate it until you’re out of the intensive care unit.”

An easy 20

We left Footloose and rode onto U.S. 395 headed towards Convict Lake. The wind was closely related, perhaps a twin sibling, of the winds that used to caress me in the Texas Panhandle.

Hot.

Howling.

Relentless.

We got to Convict Lake, turned around, and experienced the joy of a tailwind for a short way until it turned right back into a headwind. Greg Leibert and I sat on the front, he smiling and chatting, me pinned and barely able to turn the pedals.

As we struck the bottom of the 3-mile climb up to Mammoth Lakes the wind redoubled, the road jolted up, and our “easy” ride disintegrated into a horrific honkytonk beating. I didn’t bother to look back. People were either on our wheel and miserable, or somewhere else and miserable.

Some dude who had been nestled on our wheels waited about a mile, then attacked viciously. Greg easily closed the gap but I didn’t easily anything. Danny Lupo breezily came by, dragged me for a bit before I cracked, then recovered, caught the guy who had gotten it started, and clawed my way back to Danny and Greg’s wheels.

They were chatting, which reminds me of something: Everyone should have a cycling friend like Greg, who’s always there to remind you that no matter how well you’re going, you aren’t going all that well.

Attacker dude finally fell off just before we got back to Footloose, and there I was, my 20-mile “tune-up” ride having left me completely destroyed.

Back at the condo I crawled into bed for the second time that day and slept deeply. I awoke to aching legs. The 40-mile fondo on Saturday was starting to look like the smartest move ever.

END

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A sincere plea to all my dear friends

September 6, 2018 § 12 Comments

Dear Your Name Here:

As you know, cancer leukemia diabetes ingrown toenails is a horrible disease, a silent killer that kills silently, with hardly any noise, okay, maybe a gurgle or two but mostly silently.

What you probably do not know is that in America more than 2% 55,000 a billion 102.5% of all children suffer from this genetic acquired contagious infectious picked up on dirty toilet seats affliction.

In the past you have known me as a father son grandfather niece employer cross-dresser debt collector unemployed dirtbag, and it is through cycling that we have become lifelong friends acquaintances lovers stalkers #socmed mavens people who barely know each other but both wear Rapha.

Today I’m writing you not only as a cyclist but also as a philanthropist do-gooder beggar spammer haranguing sonofabitch in order to ask you to help me conquer this scourge. Even as I write spam my whole email list post on Facegag blog Instagram, more than 300 3,000 300,000 3,000,000 a gazillion children have contracted this life-altering illness blight disease ding on their SAT scores.

Here’s how you can help me help the children:

Next Halloween Friday the 13th All Saints’ Day Druid Crucifixion Ceremony Day of the Dead Sacrificial Goat Month, I will be riding my bike from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to Los Angeles San Diego Tijuana Guadalajara Lima Easter Island the Moon in order to raise money for research that will cure this disease buy me a new carbon seatpost get me a first class upgrade give me an excuse to go fuck off for a week with my bros under the pretense of doing something noble.

The ride itself will be difficult challenging epic undogly more amazing than Admiral Perry’s conquest of the Incas, and will require a degree of tenacity ferocity cupidity fecundity that is every bit as intense impressive amazing thesaurus-exhausting as those little children who struggle every day with their illness unwashed ears hair that won’t part down the middle.

With your financial support dedication allegiance fealty mindless devotion knowledge of those dick pics I have saved on my iPhone, I hope to raise enough money to eradicate cancer Alzheimer’s obesity acne badly spelled emails. Although to the untutored eye it merely looks like I am enjoying a week on the bike enjoying a beer bacchanalia enjoying every lap dance between here and San Francisco, in truth it has been a huge sacrifice commitment self-flagellation #socmed orgasm for me to pedal in a fully supported sag procession for over five days 500 miles ten billion light years eternity while I grittily pedal for the cure hangover medicine chamois cream Medal of Honor.

I know that due to our friendship mutual contempt wife swapping you will want to support this worthy cause scam fraud banned activity across state lines. Please take a moment hour lifetime of clicking on broken links to donate whatever you can at least $500 enough to make me not share those dick pics.

Your friend pal buddy best man parole officer,

Joe Bill Sam Bob Fred Arnold Daniel Jason

END

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Water

September 3, 2018 § 1 Comment

It is amazing how much you have to do to get ready for a bike ride. This is why cyclists are always late; there is too much to do to get ready, and they are too tired/lazy/disorganized after the last ride to put shit in order so that it’s ready to go the next ride.

This follows a basic rule of life: Time in the morning is very expensive, but time at night is very cheap. This is because at night you are already up, the day is finished, you have ample time, and you are doing nothing, telling yourself that you’ve earned some rest when in fact all you mean is “I can’t be bothered to see if I have any bibs in the dirty laundry hamper that don’t have skidmarks.”

Time in the morning is expensive, incredibly so, foremost because you are still in bed whacking the snooze button. Then when you do get up there is never enough time because in addition to all of the ride stuff, there is all of the life stuff, and none of it has been sorted for the day.

So you burn through the expensive time frantically while the cheap time was frittered away unused though it could have done everything that you can’t now get done before the ride.

So you are late.

This is a wholly non-exhaustive list of bike prep:

  1. Make the coffee.
  2. Air the tars.
  3. Wipe the chain.
  4. Lube the chain.
  5. Take a dump.
  6. Fill the bottle.
  7. Choose the bibs.
  8. Choose the jersey.
  9. Choose the socks.
  10. (For some) choose the helmet.
  11. Get your shoes.
  12. Get your gloves.
  13. Get your glasses.
  14. Get your phone.
  15. Get your wallet-thingy.
  16. Get your arm warmers.
  17. Get your tights or legwarmers depending on the weather.
  18. Put on #4-14.
  19. Put on sunscreen.
  20. Drink the coffee.
  21. Pour the cereal.
  22. Look for fruit.
  23. Get the milk.
  24. Eat the cereal.
  25. Look for Barbie food to take with you.
  26. Put the Barbie food in your jersey.
  27. Brush your teeth.
  28. Send out the “I’m running late” texts.
  29. Read all the “I’m running late texts” from your friends.
  30. Check #socmed.
  31. Take another dump.
  32. Update Facegag status.

If each one of these items takes 30 seconds, that’s 42 separate tasks, or more than 20 minutes. But we know that some of them take forever, especially 6/7/8, and we also know that some of the items don’t work out as planned, such as #2, which often becomes #2.a, “Cuss when you discover the tar is flat,” followed by #2.a.1 and its progeny, “Change flat/look for tube/realize there are no spares/yank tube from other bike/etc.”

The perfect bicycle morning happens when you only have to get dressed (everything is laid out), drink coffee, eat, dump, and roll.

Failure to prepare is preparing to be thirsty

I was on a bike ride about 24 hours ago and Ivan the Terrible started attacking the shit out of me. We were about 80 miles into a 160-mile day, and we still hadn’t hit Deer Creek, the first “difficulty” of the parcours. Ivan had shown up to the ride about 15 minutes late, which meant he had chased for about sixty miles before catching us.

He is determined, real young, real strong, and waaaay better than I ever was. The last training ride we’d done together he had dropped the executioner’s axe at mile 120, punched me out the back on PCH and left me to wander in the last forty miles alone, shot, sad and feeling every inch of my frailty.

Now he was throwing down 1,000-watt efforts to shed me, immediately dumping the other riders. Shortly after the third effort we hit the bottom of Deer Creek, which looks like this only lots worse because you’re not at home watching it on YouTube but rather grabbing for gears and wondering WTF just happened.

Although Deer Creek is “only” 2.3 miles long, after you crest it you begin what is much worse, the 2-3 mile section of constant short, steep punishing stairsteps. I had edged away from Ivan at the bottom, but about 2/3 of the way up he had passed me, and just before the top I caught up to him. He’d never been up Deer Creek before and had that shellshocked look on his face. He didn’t know about the punishing climbing that remained.

“Good riding,” I said. “That was a gnarly 60-mile chase.”

“Yeah,” he said.

“And those attacks were merciless. I could barely hang on.”

“Yeah.”

Ivan looked at me. “Is there water anywhere along here?”

“Not until Neptune’s Net.”

“How far is that?”

“I don’t know. An hour?”

His bottles were empty. My rear one was full and my front one about 2/3 full. It briefly occurred to me to do the humane thing. But then I thought about the searing, pitiless efforts he’d made to dislodge me, and the prior ride, where he had happily pulled the trigger.

“I think there’s a spigot over there,” I said, pointing to a big pipe. I rode on.

END

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