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.
February 20, 2016 § 25 Comments
Not everyone has this problem.
It’s 6:00 PM on a Friday night. I’m alone. The one thing I’d really like to do right now is have a drink. This is different from people who just want to “have a drink.” When I say “have a drink” what I mean is “Have a whole bunch of drinks, tonight, tomorrow, and every day henceforth until blotto forever.”
There are a bunch of reasons not to do that. But you know what’s more important than reasons not to do it? People.
There are people who, wittingly or not, are my guides. Some are people I barely even know and watch from a distance, awestruck. One is a guy named David Wells. He’s from the East Coast, and showed up one day in the South Bay full of good cheer.
He did the local rides, established himself as someone who knew how to pedal a bike, got fitter week by week, and then joined Team Lizard Collectors. We all figured that the way he rode, he’d be ripping up the local races as soon as January rolled around.
But he didn’t. Instead, he took a scary level of fitness and shared it. He created a ride called “Thursday Night Thunder” where people of any ability level can get help learning the skills that we leaky prostate profamateurs have had for decades and done a lousy job of teaching.
At TNT you can practice descending, jumps, attacks, recovery, tough intervals, and friendly competition all done with kindness, encouragement, instruction, and enthusiasm. If you are riding with Dave and you’re not having fun then you’re doing it wrong.
There are so many club riders who want to improve but who don’t want to do it in the race crucible, or who don’t want to risk life and limb to learn how to maneuver in a group, and there are so few expert riders who will regularly carve out time to nurture, teach, encourage, improve, and enthuse.
What does Dave’s brand of human excellence and goodness have to do with Friday night and nothing between me and the refrigerated shelves at the supermarket around the corner?
As it turns out, everything.
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January 29, 2016 § 14 Comments
Wanky training methods, scientifically tested to the highest standards of homeopathic remedies and divining rods, were recently challenged by a rider who derided my methods as “crap” and “utter bullshit.”
Of course I didn’t pay any attention to him because he was totally unable to explain the difference between “crap” and “utter bullshit.”
There are lots of technical areas around fitness and profamateur leaky prostate underwear racing, but a question I get asked a lot is, “How do I know when I’m peaking?”
Generally this is easy to answer because you’re riding everyone off your fuggin’ wheel, but most profamateur leaky prostate underwear racers get plagued by this question at night, or on the pot, or after a triple Italian sausage with pepperoni and mayonnaise extra large pizza with a gallon of IPA, so putting them on the bike and doing the “Ride ’em off your wheel” test isn’t practical.
Instead, I use the “You’re so vein” test, and it mostly only works with men. If you’re a woman and you pass the “You’re so vein” test then you should get yourself immediately to a cheeseburger.
The human vascular system is composed of veins, arteries, and stuff. The arteries take blood to your muscles, the veins take it away, and the stuff is complicated. For now we will ignore the arteries and stuff.
As you get fitter you get veinier. Sometimes you aren’t even fit and veins, like the beach thongs of spring, are popping out all over. These unfitness veins require surgery, are considered unsightly, and are called “varicose” because it is very coarse to show up with them at a beauty pageant.
Bike racer vein fitness is different. It comes from hard interval training, sprint practices, time in the gym, and a rigorous kimchi-date-broccoli-oxygen diet. Once all these things are done right, you’ll start getting veins in the normal places. But it’s not until you get veins in the special place that you know you’re really fit.
The fitness vein, whose visibility proves you are peaking and generally awesome, is called the left external iliac vein. It is a big old garden-hose blue vein that runs from your abdomen down into your junk and through your pelvis. In normal times, which is to say “putting gobs of peanut butter in your vanilla ice cream times,” this vein is hidden under a protective layer of lard.
As you get fitter and scale back on the snacks, the fat gets murdered by the muscles and carted off to the adipose burial disposal system, a/k/a “Mr. Poop.”
Pretty soon the forces of muscle have conquered the field of fat and your twelve months of abstemious living and pure hell are about to pay off because you’re going to get a top-10 in the Tuttle Creek Road Race next weekend in Lone Pine, where there are never more than ten entrants.
After enough peanut butter has been scrubbed away, this puppy starts popping out on your abdomen. It is bluish-green and when you touch it, it goes boiyong-boiyong. Your wife will say it’s gross, but when you tell her that women can never see theirs because they have too much tummy fat, she will smack you with the frying pan before sneaking off into the bathroom, locking the door, and hoisting her nightgown to see if she can find HER left external iliac vein.
Don’t say anything to her when she comes out if you value your life.
Anyway, that’s our fitness post for today. If you’re like Boozy P., who used to have lifetime franking privileges at the craft brewery next door, then woke up one day to find the brewery had moved, you may be on your way to cycling fitness. And yes, it’s okay to be vein about it.
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