March 26, 2016 § 45 Comments
Everybody quits racing eventually. I know I will. Like Keith Richards, who seems to have the expiration date of irradiated food, THOG is still racing, but he’s gonna quit banging bars one day, just like Richards is going to quit banging bars on the neck of his guitar.
Most bike racing quitters wake up one day and say, “Fuck this, I’m done.” All of the facts that were so obvious to the rest of the world for so many years suddenly become obvious to them. The scales fall from their eyes. The blind see.
Bike racing travels the arc of the human relationship, which studies show is this:
- Wow, she is hot.
- Wow, I want to spend all my time with her.
- Wow, let’s move in.
- Wow, my life is now complete.
- Wow, I wish she wouldn’t complain so much.
- Wow, how come she has cellulite?
- Wow, I guess we’re just not right for each other.
- Wow, I’m so done with you can I stay here until June because I can’t afford the security deposit on a new place yet and will you take the dog?
When you quit bike racing it usually starts with money or doping or existential angst or a big crash or all four, to wit:
- I can’t believe I paid $130 to race San Dimas, spent three days away from home, tacoed a $1,500 wheel, had my 45-minute “race” shortened to 35 minutes, and watched Konsmo win the overall, the TT, the road race, the KOM, and the green jersey still fail to cover his entry fee.
- Everyone is on drugs except me, and I am, too.
- I’m a grandfather now and my legacy is going to be … 42nd at Castaic Road Race in the leaky prostate 50+ category?
- I won’t be able to walk again until November after going down in the sprunt for 12th. WTF am I doing?
Unlike the Rolling Stones, though, who do a farewell tour every few years, or the Eagles, who retire by dying, bicycle racing quitters quietly sell their excess baggage on eBay and slink away. It’s a lot like retiring from the porn industry. One day you’re swimming in three bodily fluids at once, shimmering on everyone’s cell phone, and the next day you’re wearing baggy faded jeans, a floppy hat, and joining the Sunday birding walk over at the botanical garden. You’re fucking done, or more literally, you’re done fucking.
Me, I see the handwriting on the wall. I’m never going to win a big race, and even if I did, at age 52 THERE ARE NO BIG RACES. I might win a really tiny, little, itsy-bitsy race if I can get Nick Brandt-Sorenson to make me some of his really “custom” bibs and maybe get me on a program of “ultra-custom” jerseys.
But before I quit I’m gonna do just one more race. Yeah, that’s it. Just one more.
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March 24, 2016 § 45 Comments
I rolled out of the apartment and onto Hawthorne, heading downhill towards the Tuesday night training crit that no one takes seriously except everyone.
I was in the right-hand lane as I went through the light. There was a lady in a red hybrid, not a Prius, so don’t go hating on my Prius. She thought to move over into my lane, saw me as she started coming over, and jerked back into her lane.
Then she gunned it (yeah, you can gun a hybrid, B.B. gun anyway), passed me, chopped into my lane, slammed on the brakes, and made a hard right into the Pavilions parking lot. I was pretty pissed almost being mowed down and then re-pissed at having to keep from slamming my face through her rear windshield, so I followed her.
She never noticed me behind her and kept gabbing away, hands free, not only from the phone, but from the steering wheel, too, as she periodically threw up both hands and hollered into her speaker. I followed her past the Pavilions, past the Rite-Aid, past the Starbucks, past the Jamba Juice, down the little driveway, down the ramp, and into the Spectrum parking area. She found a space and whipped in, yakking the whole way.
Her window was halfway down so I pulled up next to her and didn’t start screaming, which is almost a first for me. “Hi,” I said.
She gave me a blank look then remembered who I was. “Hello.” Her face was stiff.
“You almost killed me back there when you swerved in front, cut me off, slammed on the brakes, and turned into the lot while you were talking on the phone.”
“Well,” she said, “you bikers are so hard to see and you are so unpredictable.”
“That’s true, but you saw me when you first tried to change lanes and I was going at the speed of traffic in a straight line.”
“You bikers … ”
“Us bikers are just like you,” I said. “Except in my case; I’m older. And all you have to do is slow down, let me pass by, and then change lanes just like you’d do if you were next to a truck or a bus.”
“But you’re not a truck or a bus.”
“True, but I’m entitled to the protection of the same laws they are.”
She nodded. “Yes, I see that.”
“It might slow you down for a few seconds, but actually it probably won’t.”
She nodded again. “Next time I’ll give you room. I’m really sorry.”
I smiled. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”
“Have a nice day,” she said hopefully.
I rode off thinking that I’m not angry enough anymore. Probably time to quit bike racing.
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March 18, 2016 § 18 Comments
I’ve never overslept for a bike ride.
“Wanna come over to the firehouse and have a cup of coffee?” Fireman texted me.
“Sure,” I texted him back.
Fireman now works around the corner from my apartment. Unlike the Inglewood station, where he made 20 runs in a 24-hour shift, up here on the Old Folks Peninsula he makes about one, and it’s usually to get a cat out of a tree or help someone find her bifocals.
I hopped on my bike and rode over but showed up at kind of the wrong time, which was dinnertime. The firemen were all seated around a big communal table eating the most delicious pot of Mexican meatball stew that one of the guys had made.
“Help yourself,” one of the firemen said, kindly shoving a big bowl over towards me.
“Thanks but I have dinner waiting at home and probably can’t go home full.”
One of the guys shrugged. “Have two dinners then.”
I looked at their broad shoulders, thick forearms, and powerful hands and realized that this wasn’t a manorexic dinnertime with cyclists munching a lettuce sandwich and half a glass of water. It was dinnertime with a bunch of men.
My buddy Fireman came to the rescue. “He was just swinging by for a cup of coffee.”
Everyone stopped eating and looked at me. One of the guys casually said, “There’s still a cup or two left.” Something was happening but I didn’t know what. “If you want it.”
“Sure,” I said before glancing over to the counter. The coffee, and there wasn’t much of it, was in a beaker with millimeter gradations. Everyone watched.
“It’s pretty strong,” said the guy.
I shrugged. “I like my coffee strong. Is this coffee special?” Stupid question. Of course it was. It was made in a fucking beaker. And what was the first thing they taught you in science class? Don’t ever, ever, ever drink anything out of a fucking beaker.
“It’s my firehouse espresso,” said the guy. “It might keep you up.”
A couple of the guys cracked slight smiles behind their concrete veneers. “Just a little,” one fireman said.
“Yeah,” said another. “You might be extra alert for a little bit.”
“What they’re saying,” said the captain, “is that you’ll be hearing hummingbird farts on the other side of the hill.”
Now it was a flat out dare. “Shoot,” I said. “I’ve had plenty of strong coffee. I can drink two or three espressos and go straight to sleep, no problem.”
“Well then, let me pour you a cup.” The blue-clad barista picked up the beaker, sloshed it once for a stir, and poured out two thimblefuls in a tiny, tiny cup, which he then microwaved for a few seconds.
“That’s a pretty small cup,” I said.
“There’s enough for seconds,” he said.
Everybody pretended to go back to dinner as I threw down my coffee in a gulp. “Man,” I said, “that’s good stuff.”
“Let me pour you another,” said the fireman, and he did, and I drank that, too.
“How do you make this?” I asked.
“Oh,” said the fireman, “I don’t really ‘make’ it. It’s more of a process.”
I nodded. After a while Fireman finished eating and we went outside. “Dude,” he said, “you won’t be sleeping tonight. Or tomorrow.”
“It does feel kind of strong.” I reflected for a moment that I’d just downed two of something that alert, professional, large dudes who do dangerous shit for a living and who stay up for days at a time drink in order to stay awake, and that when they drink it, they only drink single servings.
I went home feeling kind of antsy. Bedtime rolled around at ten and I still felt antsy. Everything seemed really loud. I opened my Chinese book and memorized fifty kanji in about ten minutes. Then I cleaned out Mrs. WM’s desk and my bike and wrote a blog. It was only 10:30.
By eleven, a time of day when I can’t stay awake under any circumstances, I crawled into bed. I could hear the neighbors talking three units over. At twelve I got up and worked for an hour, completing a day’s work in sixty minutes. At one I lay back down and listened to the sounds from another neighbor’s video game. At 1:30 I got back up and read two magazines cover to cover. At two I ate an apple and red fifty pages of Ulysses. At three I went to bed again, and at four I went to sleep.
Note to reader: I have stayed up an entire night only once in my life. Now, twice.
My alarm went off at five but I didn’t, and I missed the Thursday Flog Ride. First time for everything.
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March 5, 2016 § 50 Comments
Sitting up here high and mighty atop Mt. Palos Verdes, I look down upon you in the South Bay and can say that I am truly worried for your souls.
Not your immortal souls that are going to be consigned to the hell of eternal angel harps and no coffee and a ban on masturbation, or those immortal souls that are going to burn in the other hell where I’m told we will have to watch the Republican candidates debate naked for eternity, no …
I’m worried about your mortal soul. Yes, yours. It’s the one that gets cobbled together by nerves and genes and environment, and then crumbles and dies with the rest of you at an average age of 82.1 for women and 78.3 for men.
Your mortal soul, after about age 12, is fed on and grows by only two things: The books you read and the people you meet. And I’ve concluded that you’re not reading many books these days. This is the only reason any of us could have watched any of the proceedings affiliated with the current presidential campaign. We simply don’t read enough books.
Not just any books. Hard books. Wrinkle-in-your-forehead-forming books. Books with long words, complicated ideas, and page numbers that go up to 600 and beyond. Those books, dear friend, are the only possible salvation for your withering mortal soul, a soul that is slowly drying, cracking, and peeling off like an old scab from the incessant diet of Facegag, Instaham, Netflix, and, yes, insipid little blogs like this one.
There’s a fix, though. It was offered up to me by a 11-year-old. Here it is:
About a year ago I stopped reading. The book on my nightstand, Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” was so boring, dry, dense, and crammed with tiny print that each attempt to complete it was like the third lap of Boulevard RR in the snow on two flats.
The problem was simple. Even thinking about plodding through that book to the end made me want to never read anything again. Of course I couldn’t throw it away, admit defeat, and move onto “40 Years of Mad Magazine: Anthology.” Nope. I’d paid for it, started it, and put it next to my bed. So I kept it there, lying to myself that I’d finish it one day.
A year passed and that day never arrived. And the problem was that I had a big Rubbermaid storage container out on the balcony filled with books, unread. And I couldn’t open it up and grab a new one until I had evolved through Darwin’s albatross atop my nightstand.
Everything ground to a halt. I even began reading Internet news.
Then one day I was coming back from the Tuttle Creek Road Race with Attila the Hun. We were talking about his precocious daughter, who is twelve. “She writes down in her diary every day that she read 25 pages. That’s her daily book diet. 25 pages a day.”
It was so brilliant! I didn’t have to finish Darwin, or Ulysses, or Gravity’s Rainbow, or any of the other 3,000-lb. books lurking in the rubber tub. All I had to do was read 25 pages a day.
So I did. And the beauty of 25-a-day is that since everything is a multiple of 25, you always know where you left off. After a very short while I’d read all of Darwin, understood a tiny fraction of it, and moved on. Meursault: Contre-Enquete followed, then Le Feu, and finally I mounted Ulysses for the first time in almost thirty years. In 28 days I’ll be done with that, too, and it’s all thanks to a 12-year-old daughter of a bike racer.
We can do this. Your mortal soul is worth it. I’m even thinking about coming up with a new app called “Vellum.” It will have KOB’s (King of the Book) for people who have read the most in a week, and will have KOP’s (King of the Passage) for people who have read a particularly gnarly segment in the least amount of time. I could even have Joe Yule design some loose-fitting reading kits with “Seth Davidson Book Injury Lawyer” emblazoned on the pink smoking jacket lapels, and get FastForward to come up with some full carbon e-Readers that are 100% carbon.
It sounds crazy. It is crazy. But force-feed yourself those 25 pages, starting today. You’ll grow muscles in parts of your brain you never even knew you had.
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March 4, 2016 § 28 Comments
Before the Flog Ride yesterday morning I was chatting with Steve-O. “How have you been feeling?” I asked. Steve-O had taken six months off more than a year ago after getting hit by a cager.
“Good,” he said, pausing, “but my fitness doesn’t seem to be coming around.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m always the last one up this damned climb.”
This Damned Climb is the five-minute interval that we do six times on the Flog Ride. Everyone is poured into a blender and then a hand grenade is tossed into the container while the blades are on “extra high.” Riders get ground up and struggle or straggle to the top of This Damned Climb where everyone re-groups in the golf course parking lot, descends, and repeats.
“Flog,” of course, is “Golf” spelled backwards. And although the group re-groups, there is no Groupon for the experience. Everyone pays full price, plus double tastings of breakfast and bile.
“There’s a reason you’re last up This Damned Climb,” I said.
“What’s that?” Steve said.
“You’re really fuggin’ old.”
He nodded glumly. “I used to take three weeks off to go on a trip or because of work, then I’d come back, suffer for a few weeks, and I’d be right back where I left off.”
“There’s a reason for that, too.”
“You’re really fuggin’ old.”
“Is that all it is?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “You’re in your late 50’s, which is pretty much the same in cycling as being dead but not having decomposed yet.”
“So you’re telling me I smell good?”
“No, it’s more like you’re smell-less. When you get old and die like you have, your body quits making testosterone, which is why you don’t smell as bad and why Donald has to hold up his hands to convince the world that his tiny package isn’t tiny. But there’s another reason you’re always last up This Damned Climb.”
“The people you’re riding with are half your age. So when you flog yourself to regain a small percentage of what you lost while you were off the bike, they flog themselves–harder and longer than you can–to reach new levels of strength and speed that they’ve never before had. They are growing stronger against their previous high water mark, but you are withering and will never again be as good as you were. It’s downhill, but real fast and with a hard landing.”
“Is this supposed to encourage me? I did get up at 5:30 to be here for the 6:35 start, you know.”
“No, you didn’t. You were already awake at 3:00 AM for your fifth pee of the night.”
He laughed. “It was only my third.”
“And come on, Steve-O. You’re still faster than most people who ride a bike, and you’re fitter than 99.9% of the population.”
“But 99.9% of the population looks like it’s voting for Trump. So the standard for making good choices is pretty low.”
“Maybe. But no matter what you do or how you do it or when you do it, you’re still gonna die. So you might as well do what you like. ‘Cause I’m not getting any faster, either.”
The clock hit 6:34:59. “Let’s roll.”
And we did. Steve-O finished all six laps, and on a few of them he wasn’t dead last.
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March 1, 2016 § 36 Comments
When you get hit by a car you get hurt. The easiest injuries to take account of are physical. Broken bones, contusions, blood, and lots of pain let you know when you’ve injured your body.
But whether you get hit by a car or fall down in the middle of a crit, you almost always wind up with another kind of injury that is much harder to evaluate, diagnose, and treat. It’s the mental trauma that accompanies the physical injury.
Formally recognized as post traumatic stress disorder, as cyclists we’re all familiar with it in different guises. Here are a few:
–Fear of descending after a downhill spill.
–Fear of riding near others after you’ve fallen in a group.
–Anxiety about the proximity of cars after you’ve been hit by an auto.
–Anxiety about your tires/wheels/frame after you’ve fallen because of an equipment failure.
For many cyclists, these fears can be much more debilitating than the bones and torn skin that eventually heal. The joy and freedom of cycling, for many riders, vanishes forever after they’ve been clocked by a car and carted off to the ER in an ambulance.
I was so terrified the first time I descended the road on which I’d cracked my pelvis that I shook. That’s a road I’ve descended hundreds of times, but the first time after my fall it was a fearful new world.
One friend who took a nasty spill found her heart racing at 172bpm seven months after the injury … as she drove to the shop to get her bike repaired.
Whether you got hit by a car or slid out in a turn, these anxieties can completely ruin cycling for you. Along with that, you can lose much more than fitness. When the healthy lifestyle that often accompanies cycling is replaced by sedentary behavior, it can have a ripple affect that upsets work, family relationships, and the fundamental building block of your existence, your health.
From a legal perspective, this type of injury is compensable. A cager who whacks you and breaks your leg and bike is also on the hook for the resulting fear and anxiety that he has now brought into your life, especially when your PTSD wreaks havoc in your home and with your work.
But whether your trauma was caused by a motorist or your own bad judgment, your behavior should be the same. Fear and anxiety about riding should be treated by a licensed healthcare professional. “Get back on the horse” is the ultimate goal, but there are therapeutic ways to get there that are safe, healthy, and effective.
So if you find yourself unable to pedal after your physical injuries have healed due to anxiety or fear, get help.