Book of Revelation

November 17, 2012 § 6 Comments

As I was pedaling questions
This morning in the mist
A striking scene revealed itself
And struck me like a fist.

The sun, already risen
Seared the hanging clouds away,
Blazing blue the sky
As if re-ringing in the day.

Back home I ran a cloth
Along the links I’d stretched and strained
And noted, of the questions
Only answers clear remained.

Up the Hill, and down again

November 16, 2012 § 10 Comments

PV Bicycle Center is celebrating its fourth year atop the Palos Verdes Peninsula with, among other things, a hill climb featuring the legendary Switchbacks. The race goes off at 9:00 AM at the bottom of Palos Verdes Drive East. Victims meet at 8:45 AM to sign up and receive last rites at the parking inlet off Palos Verdes Drive South, just west of Palos Verdes Drive East. The first rider goes off at 9:00 AM and then successive riders leave at thirty second intervals. Category winners of the hill climb will receive a $50 gift certificate to the shop, and a supply of Athlete Octane.

At 10:00AM riders will regroup back at the shop for prizes, product demos by Marc Pro, free samples from vendors such as Athelete Octane, and for the chance to check out the shop’s 2012 clearance sale.

Guest of honor

This is all well and good, of course, but the real attraction to this event is that you’ll finally get to meet Craig Hummer. Craig is best known to Tour de France fans as the dude who provides color commentary with Bob Roll during the annual July extravaganza that is the Tour. However, here on the Hill, he’s known for something else: Not mixing with the proletariat.

Despite being a phenomenal athlete, the dude refuses to do the Pier Ride. Never shows up on the Donut. Avoids the Holiday and Wheatgrass rides like the plague. Instead, if you want to hang with Craig, you have to troll the Hill or Westchester Parkway long before sun-up, where he’s most likely to be found doing what he lives to do: Search out and destroy your Strava KOM’s.

Yep, this wanker likes to find an area KOM and then devote his life to claiming it. In fact, he used this stealth technique to steal one of my most-prized segments called “The Big One,” a segment I created and owned until it was discovered and ridden by another rider. In short, although Craig wouldn’t be caught dead riding with you, he’ll snatch and crush your Strava dreams under cover of darkness, and his coup stick of KOM’s dangles with numerous climbs around the peninsula.

Although I don’t have any intel on whether he’ll be hanging around after he blazes up the Switchbacks, chances are good that if you have a motorcycle or a net you can delay him long enough to get answers to your most burning TdF questions. I know I’ll be hanging around to find out when he’s going to show his stuff on the NPR.

I’ll take the goofy jogger any day

November 15, 2012 § 36 Comments

I don’t believe in heroes. I don’t believe in gods. I don’t believe in heavens or hells. I don’t believe in things that transcend nature. I don’t believe in miracles. I don’t believe in anything that can’t pass the Missouri motto simply because I live in a continual show-me state.

These are just a few of the casualties of the hard boiled atheism, devout skepticism, and jaundiced slant of my world view. It’s a view that is basted with cynicism, flavored with sarcasm, and lightly sauteed with reflexive disbelief. If I don’t think you’re lying, I can’t possibly believe anything you say.

The unbearable heaviness of miracles and the heroes who work them

Heroes are so unremarkable, precisely because they’re so heroic. What else can Superman do, but save the bus from plunging into the turbid waters below? As my favorite blog and Facebook troll, Mr. Troll.I.Am Stone would say, “Yawn.”

For me, the levers that work my mind into a bleeding froth are the ordinary people with whom I daily or casually connect through cycling. Guys like Keith Dodson who, in case you couldn’t guess, is a wanker. I know he’s special to his family. His mother likely thought he was extra special, perhaps the specialest little boy ever born.

To the rest of us, though, he’s just another Long Beach freddie, a planet who revolves around the sun that is Martin Howard, a flailer who pounds the pedals ’til he blows, then laughs at the ridiculous fun of it all, then washes the whole thing down with pizza and beer.

If you can’t enjoy a few pedal strokes and a few laughs with Keith, there is something profoundly fucked up with your wiring. He’s as regular as they come, exceptional in his regularity.

How ordinary? He jogs, for Dog’s sake

Yesterday, as Keith jogged down the jogging path for joggers on the San Gabriel River jogging path, right there in the heavy element broth before the toxic river meets the poisoned waters of the Port of Long Beach, he heard a loud noise and watched in disbelief as a pickup burst through a chain link fence and slid off into the river.

The driver began trying frantically to escape through the rear sliding glass window, but his shoulders were too wide. The power windows had shorted, and he was trapped inside.

Keith then disproved the theory of evolution and laid waste to the notion that only the smart ones survive. He grabbed a big rock, sprunted fifty yards to the sinking truck, and did the unthinkable without thinking, ran the wrong way down the one-way street of survival of the fittest: He dove in.

The driver tried to kick out the window, but couldn’t. Keith tried to bust the window, now underwater, but couldn’t. After two more futile attempts, he finally smashed through the window…with his fist.

Where heroes fear to tread

However ordinary and plain and pedestrian and flailing Keith may be as a Long Beach freddie, he’s an exceptional man in the real world. He’s profoundly loved and depended upon by his family. He’s respected by his peers. He’s a giant among men in the non-lycra world of family, work, and friends, which is to say the only world that matters.

This was a problem, because the water was about to claim him, and he was getting ready to die, and that was going to be a loss for the people who loved him, who depended on him, who respected him, and who rode with him. He was getting ready to die because he had succeeded too well. The window had smashed open, and the inrushing water had sucked him partially into the cab.

“This is it,” he thought. “I’m getting ready to drown in some dude’s underwater pickup truck.”

Or not.

With a strength that Hercules would have easily mustered, but an ordinary wanker wouldn’t even know where to start looking for, Keith thrust himself against the onrushing water and patiently waited for three or four seconds while the water pressure equalized. You know, those quick three or four seconds underwater when you’re drowning and a drowning man is clutching you in a death grip and the truck you’re tangled up with is dragging you to the riverbed and out to sea. Those three or four seconds. The ones that prove relativity with more power and eloquence than any Einsteinian formula ever will. The ones that last about ten billion years each.

Impossibly for a mortal, Keith then wrestled the other drowning man out of the cab, and as lifeguards will tell you, this is where the amateur rescuer always becomes the second drowning victim of the day.

But not today.

Breaching the surface, a second ordinary, suit-clad office worker who had watched the whole thing on his first day at work in the Wells-Fargo bank building came plunging into the water, slacks and dress shirt and shiny banker’s shoes and all.

He and Keith got the driver out alive. Then they got themselves out alive. And after the cops and ambulances and news media came and did their thing, they went back to work.

They went back to work like the ordinary, pedestrian, unexceptional men they never were, and immediately became again.

Pass the tweezers, please

November 14, 2012 § 48 Comments

There we were, hauling ass down PV Drive North into the sweeping, slightly off-camber right turn up to the reservoir climb, and sitting on the point I swung out as far as possible to 1) hold max speed through the corner and 2) show off my awesome, ‘cross-inspired cornering skills.

‘Cause when you can rip through loose sand and gravel at speed, smooth tarmac ain’t shit.

Just as I reached max lean, the front tire started to slide. “This is exactly what happens to me in ‘cross,” I thought, out-of-body as it was, feeling the pavement grind up into my hip and right elbow. “And it’s gonna hurt.”

Iron Mike, who had been far enough off my wheel to avoid the crash, couldn’t help staring slack-jawed at the carnage, so instead of neatly avoiding the mess he smacked into the median at 2 mph, tumping over like a clunky lamp, one foot unhooked.

I twisted my neck to see who was going to run over my head.

No one. The braking and hollering were in full force. Thank goodness I’d decided to avoid that dangerous ‘cross race in San Diego and stick to the safety of the Sunday Wheatgrass ride.

Timing is everything

I came to rest in the middle of the lane and was surprised to see my good friend Bruce, clad in jeans, leaning over me. “You okay?”

The South Bay Wheelmen were staging their annual club hill climb, and I had arrived just in time give a lesson in safe bike handling. The whole team had paused to watch bits of flesh, tattered kit, and a thin sheen of blood spatter up in the air.

The guy in charge of sign-in said in a loud voice. “See? That’s what I don’t want any of you idiots doing.”

The bike crash on the group ride is a beautiful thing. Everyone’s personality leaps out in high relief at the moment of crisis, and our group was no different. Neumann sprinted away up the hill with another IF wanker, thrilled to finally have a chance at getting KOM and putting into practice his lifelong motto of “All for me, and me for me!”

Patrick sequestered my bike, straightened the brake, and had soon loosened the bolts to straighten the stem. Craig and Bruce were fixing the front flat that had caused the crash, and Bob, after giving me the physical once-over, stood ready to air up the tire. Chris stood at the ready to help, and Fussy, after making sure Iron Mike was okay, provided running commentary highlighting Mike’s awkward fall. Joe stared at my elbow, in the throes of broken-joint flashbacks from the fall that had cost in excess of $75k to rebuild his elbow joint.

As Bruce carefully checked the brand new Gatorskin, he said, “Aha!”

We all looked. “There’s the culprit!” he said.

We couldn’t see anything. “Here, run your hand on the inside of the tire.”

Sure enough, a sharp pin prick was coming through, almost invisible. After more working and worrying, we got it slightly out, but not enough to grip and remove. It was a tiny piece of wire from a car tire.

I tried to pull it out with my teeth, but after scrimshanking a few deep scores into the enamel, gave up. Bruce looked around. “Anyone have a pair of tweezers?”

People guffawed. “Yah, sure, man, right next to my pedicure set.”

“Fuck, Bruce, nobody carries tweezers on a bike ride.”

Bruce surveyed the group, unfazed. “Anybody have a pair of tweezers?”

Silence, and a few more laughs ensued.

Then New Girl said, in her small voice, “I do.”

We were stunned. In a moment she produced a perfect pair of splinter-pulling tweezers, and in another couple of moments the wire was yanked.

I looked at her. “Why in the world are you carrying tweezers on a bike ride?”

“Because…” she said.

“Because what?”

“I thought somebody someday might get a super tiny splinter or piece of glass or wire in their tire and wouldn’t be able to get it out without some tweezers. Isn’t that great?”

“No,” I said. “It isn’t great. It is awesome beyond belief.”

Onward and upward

I pedaled up to Norris, who was glumly waiting for the ride to resume. “Sorry, dude. You okay?”

“That’s gonna cost me.”

“Oh, crap. How come?”

“My front derailleur is broken.”

“Really?” I looked at his front derailleur, which was in pristine condition and appeared to be completely unharmed. “What about you? You okay?”

He pointed to his shin, where he had already affixed a small band-aid, covering up the tiniest of nicks. “Wow, dude. Heal up.”

I felt a horrible stabbing pain in my right leg, and finally looked at the gaping hole in my shorts. The skin facing the hole didn’t look so bad, but I peeked under the fabric higher up and saw a nasty strawberry smear that was going to be oozing and draining and scabbing all over my pants for the next week or two.

Then I took a deep breath and looked at my elbow. I’d gone down so fast at such a deep lean that the fall had peeled my long jersey sleeve right up to mid-bicep. The road, or something, had ground a neat hole through the armwarmer I’d been wearing under the sleeve. I bent my arm and looked. Down in the hole was something kind of white and pale looking, along with big clots of blood and bigger flaps of skin.

Did I mention I’m a wimp?

There are wimps, and then there are wimps

I have the pain threshold of a 2 year-old. The dentist has to give me morphine just to clean my teeth. I hate the sight of blood. I feel waves of pain at even the thought of broken bones, stitches, surgery, needles, you name it.

The time I got my thumb caught in my track bike chain and ground off the tip was as horrible to me as if someone had slowly burned out my eyes with coals, or forced me to vote Republican. When I had a tiny cavity drilled out in Japan, the dentist sternly told me to “stop quivering like a child.”

Yeah. I’m a gutless wuss.

Fortunately, so are most other male cyclists. No matter how brave and tough they are when attacking, or climbing, or sprinting, the minute they get a boo-boo they whine and wail and complain as if they’d lost a leg to an IED. With the exception of my buddy who broke his neck, spent five months in a halo, and then had screws bolted into his neck and never said anything other than, “I’m fine,” when asked about his condition, most cyclists are whiny hypochondriacs who milk their injuries, minor or major, into the finest whiny cream.

Nonetheless, there was a ride to finish. So we set off up the hill, and I noticed for the first time that we had a new member. He was riding an orange steel Volkcycle with cantilever brakes, rakish chromed steel forks, lazy brakes, and bar-end shifters. He was a teenager, and this was his first group ride, apparently.

“Yeah, dude,” I thought. “Welcome to cycling. We crash on the first turn, it’s just how we roll.”

Craig, Bob, Paul, Vince, and I  emerged together from Homes and Gardens, and then Bob and Craig towed me to the top of the Domes. I went down to the bottom of the Switchbacks alone and checked out my elbow again. “What’s that white shit down there?” I thought. “Blood isn’t white, is it? Unless those are white blood cells…” I wished I knew more about biology.

Glass Church and home

Bob, Craig, and I escaped on the Glass Church roller, were brought back for the sprunt, and I turned off at the top of Hawthorne to go home.

“How was a ride?” Mrs. WM asked.

“It was awesome.”

“It don’t look on no awesome. How come you butt meat hanging outta that biker flap?”

“I took a little spill.”

“Don’t get all those blood pieces onna bed and carpet. How come you always falling offa bike? Every since cyclingcross you coming home all bruising and cutting and bleeding and falling offa bike. And tearing up onna biker outfit butt flaps and that’s costing big money.”

“But ‘cross is really upping my skills.”

“It’s upping onna doctor repair bills, that’s what it’s upping on. Oh goodness! What’s onna elbow?”

“That’s just road rash, but it’s a little deep.”

“Here lemme see onna that. Oh goodness! You get onna doctor now! That’s blooding everywhere!”

“I think it’ll be fine with some Tegaderm and a little peroxide.”

“You musta hit onna head with a hammer. Thatsa blood hole with a bone pieces inside I can see white bone pieces! Oh goodness!”

“Will you give me a ride?”

“Onna doctor? You fall offa your bike without none of my help, you can get onna doctor without none of my help.”

She had a point, so I showered, doused the hole with peroxide, slapped on some Tegaderm, ate lunch, and went to the Doc in a Box.

Sorry, I’m just a licensed physician with 20 years of training

The Doc in a Box wrinkled her nose. “Ewwwww!” she said, peeling back the Tegaderm. “When did you do that?”

“This morning around 8:30.”

“Why didn’t you come right here? It’s almost one o’clock.”

“I wanted to finish the ride.”

She looked at me like I was an idiot. “Didn’t it hurt?”

“Hell yes it hurt. Canyon Bob and Craig were ripping my legs off the whole way up to the Domes.”

“I mean your elbow. Didn’t it hurt?”

“Oh, that. Yeah, it hurt like hell. That’s why I’m here.”

“But if it hurt so much why didn’t you come directly here?”

“Because I don’t like pain. And I knew that whatever you were going to do, it was going to hurt.”

She shook her head. “No, it’s actually not. This wound is too deep for me to suture, especially because of all the gravel and grease down in the puncture. I’m sending you to the ER where someone with more experience can sew you up.”

On to the next one

Doc #2 didn’t flinch. “Yep, that’s going to need a deep scrub. Lie down.”

I lay down.

“If it really hurts let me know and we’ll anesthetize it for cleaning.”

“It hurts like a mofo.”

“But I haven’t touched it yet.”

“So it’ll hurt even worse once you do. Shoot me up, doc.”

“Okay. This is going to hurt a little bit.”

He lied, of course. It hurt like having a needle plunged into your elbow joint.

The numbness took over and he started to scrub. I could feel the pieces of meat being soaked and rubbed and washed and sponged. Even though it didn’t hurt, I imagined how much it would have hurt without the painkiller, which made it hurt awful bad.

“Okay, we’re done.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes. You did great.”

“I didn’t feel a thing!”

“That’s why we use anesthetic, you know.”

Crash. Bleed. Publicize.

Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to take grisly photos before the suturing and post them on Facebook. The comments came rolling in, from the heartfelt “Get well soon!” to the “Wanker!” to the prize-winning reminiscence of Marco Vermeij about the time at the Kenosha crit in ’89 when he sewed up Randy Dickson’s gaping wound with a needle and thread from a tubular patch kit. Randy, of course, needed the quick repair so that he could do the next race.

I reflected on my own frailty when compared with the broken necks, shattered elbows, snapped femurs, and on-site surgeries performed with nothing more than spit, callused fingers, and the implements found in a cyclist’s toolbox. I reflected on the faux toughness of the modern rider, equipped with all the latest stuff, but sorely lacking in the oldest stuff: Grit, tolerance of real pain, the will to keep going, and the tight-lipped contempt that tough guys have for acknowledging injury or pain.

I never had been, and never would be, one of those few men who Fields used to approvingly nod towards and declare that they were “made of stern stuff.” But maybe one day, if I kept falling off my bike and doing those nightmarish ‘cross races, I’d at least be made out of semi-stern stuff.

That would be something to brag about, wouldn’t it? And no one would have to know that I’d gone out and bought myself a nifty little set of ladies’ eyebrow tweezers…would they?

A Tale of Two Beaches

November 10, 2012 § 10 Comments

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of ignorance, it was the age of folly, it was the epoch of faithlessness, it was the epoch of disbelief, it was the season of darkness, it was the season of night, it was the winter of hopelessness, it was the winter of despair, we had misery before us, we had disaster behind, we were mired in sand, we were pinned by the wind, in short, we were not characters in a Dickensian epic about the French Revolution, we were racing ‘cross on the beach in Oceanside, California.

And you’re not even going to have to read 700 pages to find out how it ended: MMX finished first. I finished last.

Yet our paths to victory and defeat could not have been more different, which, I suppose, explains our respective outcomes.

The team huddle

A few moments before the race I huddled with my ‘cross mentor and team leader. “What’s the plan?” I asked, eagerly.

MMX gave me a steely look. “For you? Try not to fall off your bicycle.”

“Oh,” I said, a bit disappointed. We had no other teammates in the race and I’d hoped that, if only on this day, I’d be a sort of lieutenant. “Anything else? I mean, like tactical strategy stuff so’s I can, like, help you win and stuff.”

He looked away briefly, then focused his full attention on me. “I’m going to give you some advice.”


“When you sling your bike over your shoulder on the run up…”


“Try not to spear your testicles with the chainring.”

“Uh…got it.”


Then the race started and I mostly never saw him again.

Just add sand

Roughly coinciding with the invention of tequila and the bikini, the beach became a travel destination. For millions of years, however, beaches were loathsome places that no living creature sought out or stayed at for long.

The beach is where the relentless wind and wild ocean meet land, and they do so with such ferocity that they grind everything into sand. The mightiest rocks? Ground into sand. The largest continents? Ground into sand. Cliffs and mountains? Ground into tiny little fucking microscopic grains of sand.

The beach is where animals scurry momentarily in a wild dance to avoid being eaten as they seek refuge beneath the waves or cover in the vegetation farther back from shore. The Little Penguin does its daily death race against the marauding gulls as it slips from the water’s edge and dashes across the sand to its warren. The baby turtle hatched beneath the sand runs madly across the exposed beach to the safety of the ocean and life.

It is only on the sand that they find death, that awful strip of no-man’s-land where no green thing grows, where no structure gives shelter, where the unending war between ocean and landmass have been, and will be, fought until the end of time.

It ain’t just the critters…

Whether it’s the sands of Iwo Jima or the beaches of Normandy, humans have regularly killed one another on beaches. Beaches have been the point of ingress for marauding armies for thousands of years, a weakness for defender and invader alike.

Beaches are the sites of slaughter, and today’s ‘cross race at the US Marine Corps tactical vehicle training site on Camp Pendleton was just such a killing field. As a wholly unskilled ‘crosser, I knew the race would be packed. All season my fellow racers had complained about the boring, easy, non-technical nature of the races.

With its 22+ mph headwind along the exposed shoreline, its brutal 100-yard climb up a sheer sand wall, its death-defying full-on descent into a knee-deep sand strip followed by a crazy hairpin turn, its second hard ascent immediately after the barriers, where you had to remount on an incline, its second fast downhill through a curvy, sandy drop that ended in another huge sand pit with a 180-degree turn, and with its bitterly hard and fast tailwind section…this course had it all.

“This,” I thought “is going to bring people out of the woodwork! It doesn’t get any nastier than this!”

With the addition of rainstorms in the forecast, cold temperatures, and the pitiless, exposed nature of the course, this would really attract all those racers who were sick of the boring and easy courses and who really needed a tough challenge in order to distinguish themselves from all the loafers and newbies and wannabes whose only skill was pedaling quickly through soft and grippy grass.

Where is everyone?

I was shocked at the start line to see only a handful of riders. “Yo, MMX,” I whispered. “Where is everyone?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Everyone?”

“Yeah. All the people who wanted a tough, fast, technical course with bad weather.”

He gave a bitter laugh. “You’re looking at ’em.”

We blasted off the line and rode in a tight pack through the sheltered, hard packed tailwind section until the first sand crossing, where the course emptied out onto the beach.

The group shouldered their bikes and ran across the deep sand, which was like, uh, running in deep sand. I was the last rider through, and the pack sped off. With a huge effort I bridged. MMX sat on the front, driving the pace as we all huddled in fear of the howling headwind.

Huge clumps of kelp provided extra bunnyhop fun, but I was already having so much fun that I couldn’t fully enjoy the jarring smack of seaweed getting thrown up into my face and spokes. Shortly before we reached the end of the headwind section, MMX, Mike McMahon, and Brad Stevenson pinched off the rest of us, kind of like a pesky bowel movement that’s hung around for just a second or two too long.

My group then hit the second sandy dismount. I came to a complete halt, even as I could see MMX flawlessly dismount at speed, shoulder his bike, and run up the sandy wall.

Thinking about my testicles and the chainring, but also about being the last rider, I finally chose honor over reproduction and draped the bike half-assedly over my shoulder. This was where it hit me: I’m running up a sandy mountain while carrying a bike when I could just be riding a bike along, say, a paved road.

The last time I actually ran, as in “moved my legs quicker than a walk in order to speedily arrive at a destination” was in 1982. I remember the night well, but that’s another story. This story was an incredible reminder of how slow you run when you’re 48 years old and haven’t run in thirty years.

There were short fat dudes with tiny legs blowing up that thing twice as fast as I. I wasn’t just the slowest, I was also the most awkward, and I was also the most gassed, having already been dropped once and time trailing back onto the group.

I looked and sounded so bad that one of the hecklers asked, genuinely, “Are you okay, dude?” Then, because it was a ‘cross race, he added, “And if you die, can I have your bike?”

Meanwhile, back at the front

MMX now had his breakaway companions sitting on his wheel, and after giving them ample opportunity to come up to the front and enjoy the scenery, he realized that they weren’t going to take the invitation. On the fourth lap disaster struck in the way it always does racing ‘cross: One small mistake leads to a bigger one which leads to an even larger one which leads to sailing out of control way too fast into the sand trench and falling off your bike, which is what happened.

The break jumped and left MMX in the dust, or rather in the sand, forcing him to chase the entire 5th lap. Since the two leaders weren’t working together, MMX caught back on the shoreline headwind section, took a quick breather, and then charged first up the wall in order to hit the downhill at full speed with no one in the way, get to the turn without having to pedal, pedal through the turn to the dismount, and then remount in the big ring, power up the hill, and gap the two chasers.

On the last lap, MMX overhauled a group of 35+ A danglers, and drove them over the sand with none willing to take a pull. Coming hard into the soft sand dismount before Mt. Everest, teammate Garnet attacked the last 150 yards on the beach all the way to the dismount, sending MMX through the sand and up the wall first. This, with a fast remount, gapped the chasers and sealed the race, giving MMX his first win of the season on what was indisputably the toughest course on the calendar so far.

Lessons learned

Afterwards I made my way through the throng to congratulate MMX. “Great job!” I said.

“Thanks, li’l buddy. How’d you do?”

“I was lapped by the 35+A leaders, including D-Mac.”

“Hm. You were with us there for a few pedal strokes. What happened?”

“I kind of fell off the pace in the first sand bog and had to chase back on. Then I was gassed at the run-up and had to lie down for a few minutes. So, like, could you give me some pointers now?”

“Sure. On the big run-up and remount, never let anyone by you on the run up; you have to get to the remount first. Did you at least beat the other guys in your group on the run-up? That’s key.”

“Well, there were a couple of big clumps of kelp that were having a bad day. I beat them. Why’s it key, anyway?”

“Because of the climb after the remount. You don’t want to be behind some slow wanker going up the hill. That can ruin your race.”

I thought for a minute about the two or three people who had been stuck behind me on the hill, and whose race had been ruined. Maybe time to change the subject? “So, that run-up was really hard, huh? I mean mentally and physically.”

“Psychologically I looked forward to it on every lap. Others dreaded it or used it as a place to take a breath or quit, but it’s often a good place to attack, even on foot.”

“Attack? On foot?”

“Sure. Couldn’t you see how badly people were hurting a few steps into the dismount?”

“I think I was one of those people. At the run-up after the barriers this one dude kept asking me if I was racing or just doing a course recon.”

“What’d you say?”

“I don’t remember anything except barfing on his shoes.”

“The run-up is also key because you can take very good stock of your opposition there. I could tell on the big dismount they were struggling. Body language, posturing, speed; all of it.”

“I guess my body language was that way, too. Lying down in the kelp and crying and everything probably tipped ’em off, huh?”

“But you have to save enough for the last lap. I rode the fastest time on the last lap; that’s where you get the separation. Gearing’s important, too. Big ring after the barricade, for sure. How about you?”

“I used the no-ring.”


“Yeah, I think I kind of walked, sort of.”

“Really? Bummer. What’s all that sand and blood on your knees?”

“I might have crawled a little bit. Not far. Just a few yards.”

“This course allows for great psychological tactics, too, because the sand is so demoralizing. It zaps you of everything, and then grinds you up with the battering headwind. How’d you fare in the sand?”

I sat down and took off a shoe, then turned it upside down. “Like this.” Out came a cascade of sand.

“Wow. How’d you get that much sand in your shoes?”

“Walking knee-deep in sand, mostly. And lying down. Didn’t you at least have to walk a lot?”

I could tell he was trying to be nice, but that the truth was getting ready to win out. “No.”

“Sorry I was so useless, man.” I felt like crap.

He clapped me on the back and grinned. “There’s more to racing ‘cross than winning.”

“Really?” I brightened. “Like what?”

“Losing,” he said with a laugh.

I laughed too, giving a clump of kelp a vicious kick. “Loser!” I said to the kelp, and I meant it.

That bumblebee don’t sting

November 9, 2012 § 28 Comments

Man the legs feel like crap how’m I gonna get home tonight quit whining maybe I’ll just cut out the bonus climb bullshit and roll slow as possible up VdM what kind of wimp are you you know the route home just do it I can’t do it my legs are destroyed and I’m not even riding hard you liar what is the NPR a cakewalk okay but no high mileage why’m I so wrecked because of your stupid diet this diet is killing me one day I’m conquering Mars and today I’ve got wet noodles for pistons ugh this bump by the high school feels terrible why is everyone bailing on Saturday’s ‘cross race because it’s in sand and lots of running I’m going to win that race you watch you haven’t won a race since 1986 unless you count Brad’s hill climb that wasn’t a race time trials aren’t races there he is that’s the first time I’ve thought about Ian today why’d he do it he could have called just one phone call he did call remember and you blew him off he never said anything about dying you knew you always know this part on Emerald is always the worst fuck my legs are awful today I’m just going straight up VdM no you’re not at least do the descent and Cove climb then decide can’t believe that I’m just a handful of points out of the top ten in the series that’s stupid I can’t even do a race without falling off my bicycle well it’s ‘cross right there ain’t no hundred-man fields in ‘cross or Meeker yeah no Meeker or Leibert or Anderson or Thurlow or any of the other sixty dudes who cross the line ahead of you on the road what’s that bitch think she’s doing it’s a stop sign you fool who’s the fool you’ve run the last seven of them is this a fricking headwind on Esplanade no way I’m just going up VdM no Cove or Embarcadero or Zumaya and sure as hell no Crest descent by Ralph’s and a re-climb finish on Whitley-Collins no way in hell shut up just shut up and pedal how can my legs feel this bad you wanna know it’s because you’re not fueling properly without the fuel the engine won’t run man she is hot even in pitch black she’ is smokin’ hot okay this is gonna hurt I hate this climb out of Rat Beach why don’t people surf at night because they can’t see the waves that’s why well what about some big spotlights for night surfing sell hot dogs and hot coffee and please shut up you’re delirious okay gonna go into my 25 and only nose breathe no mouth breathing damn I’m slow the first thing I’m gonna do when I get home is eat a ton of food no you’re not you’re going to eat exactly 300 grams of spaghetti with one tablespoon of olive oil and some garlic and a low cal salad that’s what you’re gonna eat quit whining you’ve parked the needle on 150 if you don’t give up now you’ll drive it down to 145 and then you can go into maintenance mode eat more then but you’re sticking to it now what’s the point of starving myself to get slower and weaker you’re not getting slower or weaker you’re just a tired whiny quitter man up and keep turning the pedals ouch that’s over okay VdM for sure no you’re gonna bail on VdM just go down and up the Cove climb just do it fuckit okay this is fast whoa I hate this outrunning the light anything in my way and I’m done there’s nothing in your way hog the lane okay made it now I swear I’m just going up in my 25 that’s all I got man those surfers are just finishing up there’s never any trash by the road here that’s PVE for you even the surf bums don’t toss their cigarettes this hurts shit this hurts nose breathe don’t go through the mouth I’m choking it’s so quiet out here nothing except my panting and never any cars I could be in the left lane and no one would know or care it’s funny these big rich palatial mansions and the lights are dark and the roads are empty all this beautiful real estate unused except for a few huddled surfers afraid to litter and a biker with broken legs wouldn’t it be cool if this whole area was multi-use housing with people on the streets and lights and parks and kids fuck that’ll never happen this is PVE this is what the rich like to own and have and keep and wall off and not use and die and leave it to their kids to have and keep and wall off and not use and leave it to their kids that’s the cycle of the rich done okay that wasn’t so bad liar it was awful yeah it was don’t let that idiot hit you now just cruise it no way I’m doing Zumaya okay but you’re going up Hawthorne then I hate Hawthorne those are your options Zumaya or Hawthorne devil’s dilemma okay it’s Hawthorne I hate that climb but it’s the quickest way home what about Embarcadero no way no way no way okay what about the Crest descent and reclimb by Ralph’s no way no way no way you can’t completely bail you gotta burn a few extra cals for that half a banana you’re going to eat with the yogurt okay then right on Crest but NO Whitley-Collins and I’m setting a new slow speed record up Hawthorne you watch I’m so done I don’t know how I’m getting home that asshole almost ran me over Jesus can’t he see my rear tail light and I’m not doing the Lunada Bay alley either fine just don’t hit anything here on Paseo and switch to high beam you’re outrunning the light again yeah but the high beam drains too quickly and then I’ve no light at all just run it for Paseo you’re going 35 now at least yep funny how David was so disappointed inconsolable to get second I’d give my eye teeth for second he really comes to win and he couldn’t be cheered but then when he found out his teammate got third he was as happy as if he’d won what a good guy that dude is a badass when are they gonna figure out what a mistake it was to put you on the team you wanker fuck I know pretty embarrassing oh well that’s cycling to perpetually show you how you don’t measure up it’s like golf just cheaper and worse accidents alright there Lunada Bay done now just steady to the light up Hawthorne and you can eat it’s just right up there what the fuck is that whoa dude what’s your problem fucker just sprinted by me and didn’t say a word didn’t say hello and he’s sprinting what’s he sprinting for damn that’s a bright headlight he’s just trying to show me how lame I am hell I know how lame I am he’s not even close to making that light he just blew by me so he could blow by me what a wanker to hell with him to hell with my legs I’ll catch up to him don’t do it that dude is fresh and aggro and he’s turning left on Hawthorne when the light changes and if you catch up to him you’ll be on his wheel and he’ll punish you and drop you and if your legs feel awful now wait until you’re a minute into the climb nah I gotta see who that is whoa what a wanker what the fuck is that yellow and black Hincapie stuff he looks like a frickin bumblebee the only person could ever pull off black and yellow was Prez and even he looked like the Pillsbury insect in it I’m gonna roll by slowly and say hi whoa dude ignored me fuck you dude too good to say hi sprint past me and too good to say hi to hell with him maybe it’s my pink socks nah he’s just a kook fine grab his wheel and sit ’til he drops you don’t put up with that bs that’s total bs never seen this dude before man he’s a night rider he’s got some legs and not an ounce of fat crap I shouldn’t be here he’s not very big so he’s going to climb like a beast he’s already climbing like one but his legs are just a bit short so maybe he’s not that good no he’s killing you now don’t let him hear your breathing he’s riding Di2 and that kit looks stupid but he’s blowing some coin on the nice rig and shaved legs and the Quark and the hard core lightweight night riding light system brakes are spotless look like new tires so he’s a detail dude he knows this climb perfectly oh dog he’s hearing me gasp he can’t be stronger than Kev just pretend you’re doing intervals with Kev and Davy and Lonergan up to the light you hung on with Kev you can hang on with this impolite rudester don’t crack ah hell I’m cracking no not tonight you gotta crack your legs were done when you started he can’t be superman just hang ’til the light and if he’s still got the juice sit up you can’t hang at this speed when the jack up comes he’s motionless perfect form and not showing any effort he’s killing me what a jerk if he starts to tire it’ll be in the shoulders or maybe his sides just a little twitch and sway, just a tiny bit and he’s human please nope solid as a rock this is killing me hang on wanker just a half-k to the light this hurts hey what’s that his right shoulder moved a little is that possible yep now the left just a twitch just a slight wobble he’s using his shoulders okay motherfucker I’ve got you now when we hit the light you better stand and dust me off there’s no way he’ll accelerate at the light there’s the shoulder again and my headlight shining right through his shorts man I can see up into his small intestine this fricking hurts Ian why’d you go without saying goodbye at least you could have say goodbye not some cold dead note why didn’t you say goodbye whoa what the hell is that the legs are coming around is that possible it is possible breathe deep he’s got a steady rocking going now he’s mine there’s the light it’s green awesome oh hell he’s standing up and accelerating no way who the hell is this guy hey he’s standing and pushing but he’s going slower chew on this motherfucker I ought to sit and wait but I’m not waiting chew on this you sonofabitch crap he’s on my wheel that didn’t phase him now I’m pushing the wind don’t sit down you’ve got the levers it’s all about leverage now don’t go into the red double exhale and hold the pedal at threshold how can I tell if it’s threshold without a power meter or HRM you know what I mean dummy keep it at pain-plus-two his light’s right there now he’s looking up your colon you smartass don’t feel so tough now do you relax keep the gas on whoa what’s that he’s breathing and he’s breathing hard oh little bumblebee where’s your sting it hurts now don’t it or is that your breathing idiot you’re the one gasping you’re right it is me his light is right there here’s the steepest part boom don’t look back boom keep the levers going boom don’t look back don’t ever even let him know you know or care he exists even though he’s your universe your Dog your galaxy your philosophy the center of your being don’t let him know you know or care boom keep the gas on there chew on that bumblebee where’s your stinger now did you lose it on the steep part oh yes he’s unhitched the light on the inside of my rim from his front beam is fading he’s done now pain-plus-three and put a couple of football fields between us boom done gone man this diet is working I’ve never felt this good after feeling so bad don’t ease up take the right on Crest and keep the gas on to Highridge and you’re home boom it’s dark again no cars nothing I can hear myself it’s so quiet take a peek back nope nothing he’s gone a different zip code county country of origin go upload that to Strava you wanker if only you’d said hello.

Just a few more data points…

November 6, 2012 § 23 Comments

I don’t if it’s true that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, but I know this: Nothing makes the pedals feel lighter. I’ve ridden better in the last couple of months than, like, in twenty years. Not faster…just better. Legs feel light, recovery comes sooner rather than later, big gears don’t feel so big, that sort of magical, dreamy thing.

Several friends have gently steered me out of the death spiral of manorexic dietmania. MM, Tink, and Laurie have all gently reminded me that the point of all this is not to die from malnutrition, or to become so wasted that the only major achievement of the day is “getting out of bed.”

The starvation + coffee mode was highly effective to rid me of the ostrich girdle, but as a long term approach, after about nine weeks I began to crumble. Fortunately, there is a maintenance method I’m discoverying, or at least that’s my hope.

The maintenance approach is this: Figure out about how much I’m going to burn each day, and adjust my intake accordingly. I’m five days into it, and the main problem is all the time it takes to actually figure out the caloric value to all the different kinds of food and varying quantities, and to estimate the caloric expenditure before the day begins. I suppose that’s why Dog invented 5:00 AM.

There are lots of apps for calorie tracking, but the apps don’t really drill the calorie count into your head, and you end up depending on the smartphone. Needless to say, as soon as you stop tapping and tracking, the diet goes out the window. Just like the breakaway, out of sight is out of mind.

A pencil and paper, a calculator, “how many calories are in…” Google searches on the smartphone, and use of the iPhone’s notepad are letting me create a foodbase, and more importantly are teaching me that I can build a basic diet and then expand or diminish (or totally wreck) it as circumstances require.

Here’s what today looked like, which is a riff on yesterday:

.25 cup oatmeal 150 cal
.25 cup raisins 130 cal
1tsp brown sugar 11 cal
Coffee w/1 tbsp 0% milk 6 cal
.25 cup Greek yogurt 32 cal
3 strawberries 15 cal
1/2 banana 53 cal
Coffee w/1 tbsp nonfat milk 6 cal
1 small Fuji apple 60
Morning total: 463 cal

2cans tuna 240 cal
2corn tortillas 120 cal
2 large eggs 180 cal
.25 cup nonfat milk for eggs 22 cal
4 tbsp salsa 20 cal
.25 cup Greek yogurt 33 cal
Small Fuji apple 60 cal
Coffee w/1 tbsp nonfat milk 6 cal
Coffee w/1 tbsp nonfat milk 6 cal
2 tbsp trail mix 75 cal
Afternoon total: 762 cal

4 oz spaghetti 400 cal
2 tbsp olive oil 240 cal
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese 27 cal
1 egg 90 cal
2 tbsp dressing 256 cal
4 tbsp dried tomatoes 70 cal
1 cup diced tomatoes 50 cal
1 cup sliced cucumber 16 cal
.25 large avocado 83 cal
1 tbsp Feta cheese 40 cal
2 cups green salad 18 cal
.25 cup nonfat Greek yogurt 33 cal
.5 large banana 55 cal
.25 cup blackberries 16 cal
Evening total: 1,394 cal

BMR: 1,800 cal
Ride: 1,367 cal
Gym: 610 cal

Calories out: 3,777
Calories in: 2,619
Deficit: 1,158
Weight: 152.5 lbs

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