I’m all pent up

April 18, 2017 § 14 Comments

Last year I decided that I was going to cap my riding at ten hours a week. I figured that if I’m getting older and tireder and can’t recover, then why the hell am I riding so much?

You’d be amazed at how hard it is to go from riding 5-6 days a week down to four, or sometimes three. But what’s really amazing is how hard it is to get in ten hours once you make that your limit, especially in only four days.

The other thing is how pent up I get, in a good way. Good-bye groaning legs. Good-bye to the “don’t wanna ride but have to” blues. Good-bye “easy day.”

Instead, all I want to do is go hard. Of course I always used to want to go hard but often couldn’t, or what I thought was hard no one else did. Friday Coffee Cruises used to be the best because I could cruise, coffily. Now I’m counting the hours between rides, or what’s worse, the days.

And what’s odd about that is now having three days during the week where cycling doesn’t happen. I haven’t had so many consecutive bike-free weekends in decades. Whichever day I don’t ride is like an extra day in the weekend because it’s not only a day off work, it’s a day off from having groany legs. And when Monday comes around, there’s no epic anything to recover from.

My last ride was on Saturday, doing a new fetish I call time trailing. If someone told you “Hey, Freddie, from now on we’re going to do one 60-minute all out effort every week!” what would you say? Aside from a New York hello, that is. I’m so pent up that I can’t wait.

We rode so hard on Saturday that two people got physically ill afterwards and have remained so. I felt so wobbly the rest of the day that even sitting hurt. And there were new areas I’ve never felt pain in before, in this case my eyelids. You are doing something wrong when your eyelids hurt. How in the world do you tire out an eyelid?

I slept nine hours whereas I usually sleep seven. I slept through my alarm the next day even though I usually bound out of bed at five. But you know what? By midday Sunday I was feeling pretty good. That’s weird. We even dashed over to the site of the Lake Elizabeth Massacre and snapped some poppy photos. Me spending Sunday looking at flowers? Who have I become?

What’s weirder is that when the Monday spinaround invite came on Sunday evening I had to tap out my regrets and my finger was trembling. That’s how bad I wanted to ride. Now it’s Monday and I want to go smash. There is so much energy coursing through my legs right now that every ten minutes I have to take a deep breath and say, “Only x more hours until Telo.”

I think that when you do a little bit and it’s intense, and you don’t follow it up with a bunch of long miles or other stuff, it makes you a lot fresher than just riding a lot, particularly when you are a worn out old shoe to begin with. As Richard Meeker used to say, “Masters racers train too much.” I’m not sure he’s the best person to quote when you’re trying to up your racing game, but even a rotten apple can have a good seed or two.

The down side to riding less is that you have less fun. But the up side is that when you’re on the bike, it is miserable as hell.

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Time trailing

April 16, 2017 § 22 Comments

There is a time in every cyclist’s life when they realize they suck at time trailing. This is usually right after the first one. If there’s ever a second one, the realization of the first is always greatly enhanced. Quitting typically ensues, or worse, triathlons.

I remember my first time trail, the Texas state TT in 1984. Mike Adams won it, 40k in just over 48 minutes. It was incredible. He went on to get 4th at the national TT that year, racing against some of the best riders in the golden age of U.S. cycling.

Billy Riffe had told me beforehand, “Don’t go out too hard, but it’s your first TT so you’ll for sure go out too hard.” I remember my time. It was a 1:04. I flew the first ten minutes then spattered all over the pavement and got passed by my minute man, 2-minute man, 3-minute man, 4-minute man, and a bunch of stopped-counting-men. Those were in the days when Bob Lowe and Terry Wittenberg were absolute crushers in the time trail.

Mike Adams had super trick TT equipment: a Campy freewheel and two Campy rims. The front had the miraculously low spoke count of under-20, and I think the rear was 28. His 22-pound steel bike probably weighed a pound less than everyone else’s. What an unfair advantage.

Aero bars hadn’t been invented, nor, for that matter, had aero. Everyone hunched over the bars and pedaled furiously. That was it. And it was called the race of truth not because you could spend $15,000 and purchase speed, but because the only meter of your efforts was you.

Time trailing was an art, and I, like almost everyone else, was playing with finger paints on butcher paper while the good riders were painting oil portraits on canvas. If you wanted to time trail well you had to master the urge to go out hard, and meter your output based on perceived exertion, which is a fancy way of saying “know how much you hurt and how long you could continue hurting at that level before blowing.”

What was so vicious about time trailing was that the only way you could get that knowledge was by doing a ton of time trails, which meant spending much time unhappy and alone, and snotified.

Nowadays time trailing isn’t an art. It is first and foremost a shopping experience because no matter how good you are, if you don’t buy aero you will go much slower than even much weaker people. It is secondarily a digital experience because nowhere in sport is a power meter more critical than in a time trail. When you know your FTP (and you can’t time trail well without knowing it), the power meter sets the absolute limit as to how hard to pedal.

It goes without saying that the use, care, and feeding of a power meter and its software require intensive study, an Internet coach, and lots of time spent in a chair, unlike days of yore when it required lots of time spent in a saddle, drooling blood.

Of course there are a thousand things that can get in between the power meter and your brain to gum up your performance, but no successful time trailist today can succeed without learning to use a power meter. The best assessor of perceived exertion will never approximate the accuracy of the strain gauges. Money and computers don’t guarantee success, but their absence guarantees failure.

Knowing I’m a terrible time trailist, I made up my mind to do the state time trail on May 29. And before doing it, I decided to practice. But since time trail practice is like training in the basement, only more embarrassing because people can see you, I invited some friends to join me.

And you know what? We all sucked pretty badly, but it was hella fun! The Colquhouns a/k/a The Brothers Grimm, Patrick F., Paul C., Delia P., Kristie F., and I went out to Westchester Parkway and did a 60-minute time trail.

Kristie and I went first, PP&D went a minute later, and The Brothers Grimm a minute after PP&D. The Brothers Grimm caught us well before we finished the first lap, but over the course of the hour we clawed them back, only to have them finish another couple of minutes up. PP&D had a great time, working out the kinks in team time trailing.

It was really fun having several riders out on the course, chasing and being chased. Afterwards we rode over to the new coffee shop in Manhattan Beach, Nikau Kai Waterman Shop and Cafe, and enjoyed some amazing coffee, an amazing vibe, and a fun debrief. Here’s what we learned:

  1. Time trailing sucks.
  2. Time trailing is hard as nails even when you suck at it.
  3. Time trailing with your friends is awesome.
  4. Talking about time trailing over great coffee is so much fun that we’re going to do it again. Join us?

20170415_tt_practice

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I’m not judging

April 15, 2017 § 2 Comments

I’m evaluating.

Different people obviously enjoy different things about riding bikes, and you can tell a lot about what they like by the rides they do. Here are my rides from last week:

  1. Saturday Donut beatdown.
  2. Sunday 60-minute TTT practice with Kristie.
  3. Tuesday Telo fake crit with real vomit pieces.
  4. Thursday Flog intervals.

I’m doing TTT practice again today and no matter how I look at those rides about the only thing they have in common is that they aren’t any fun. It’s obvious I don’t like fun, or spoken another way, not having any fun is a lot of fun.

The Flog ride that we do on Thursdays is the least fun of any ride I have ever done. It’s in its third year and I wish I had a quarter for every person who has done it once. This past Thursday I felt awful, as I hadn’t recovered from Telo. The reason the Flog ride is so bad is that it is six hilly 5-6 minute intervals, which is not fun, but since you do it with a group, each lap is a mini-race.

Because we’re bike racers we keep score in our heads each lap, which is silly. We regroup in the parking lot after each interval, descend a twisty road to the start, and do it all over again. Everybody keeps score and strategizes how to win the interval, or at least how to delay the droppage as long as possible. Like I said, silly.

The fastest lap times ever recorded were when Daniel Holloway and two of his teammates came out and did it. I love it when people say “Holloway’s just a sprinter.” So ignorant. That guy, in addition to being clean as a whistle, is good at virtually every aspect of bike racing. Stathis the Wily Greek did the Flog ride religiously before he retired at the unripe age of 30-something. He won every lap almost every time, including the horrible 13-14% grade up La Cuesta, the climb we do the last lap on and where we take a glory group photo at the end.

Some people found it demoralizing to get smashed every single lap by Stathis, but I didn’t. I love that kind of riding because it is so real. You don’t dangle in between delusion and reality, you get reality force-fed down your throat. Stathis was so much better than you even on his worst day and your best day. Like the Alabama rednecks used to say about Bear Bryant, “He can take his’n and beat your’n, or take your’n and beat his’n.”

Most people don’t like that, I guess.

Anyway, I felt awful from the start. Greg Seyranian’s fitness is really coming around; he blitzed us on Lap 1. Then he started hard at the bottom of Lap 2 and led out the whole lap, and then dropped us at the end. Then on Lap Three he led out the lap and I sat on and managed to pass him at the top. Lap Four he led it out again, and Josh Dorfman uncorked a nasty attack that no one could follow. Lap Five Mike Hines attacked us all on the mini-wall past the stop sign. I hung on somehow. Mike is a masters world champion on the track. He has these accelerations that just break you.

On Lap Six I quit and went home, which I hardly ever do. I had a deposition later that morning, but that’s just an excuse. The reality is I apparently had had a little bit too much fun.

20170413_flog

201702_flog

You can see how steep the finish on La Cuesta is, plus Kevin Nix staring at his front wheel, Denis Faye looking dazed. Only Casey is smiling but he’s always smiling.

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#Frexit

April 14, 2017 § 10 Comments

Another frustrating Telo Tuesday. Not that that’s unusual. They have been consecutively frustrating now for about ten years. Not much reason for that to change.

Evens Stievenart, our adopted French hammer, is one of the best riders in California and one of the top marathon-endurance riders in the world. He won the 24 Hours of LeMans last year, bike version, and has his sights trained on 2017, too. Glad I’m not the target.

He showed up at Telo, our Tuesday night worlds, and said he was very tired. “I’m very tired,” he said. That didn’t mean anyone else had a chance of winning, it meant he would win with different tactics.

His usual tactic is to attack into the wind each lap. Finally people get tired of riding in the gutter and they give up. Then he rides off by himself or with one or two others. Then he beats them in the sprint.

My problem is that I’m not fast enough to follow the crazy hard attacks when the good guys are fresh, and I’m not strong enough to break them when they’re tired. My bandwidth is straight up mediocre.

Derek Brauch was there; he’s never an instigator, that’s not his style. Instead he’s a conservative. He doesn’t waste energy, reads the race, and invariably goes with the winning move. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him miss it at Telo except for one race last year when he said, “Go with Cowan if he attacks from the gun.”

Cowan attacked from the gun, I didn’t go with him, and “Head Down James” stayed away solo for the entire sixty minutes. The races are always harder and better when Velo Club LaGrange shows up, that’s for sure.

Last week I had followed every one of Evens’s attacks, about twelve of them. He finally got tired of me shadowing him, sat up and drifted to the back. Then he attacked on the final turn and smoked everybody in the finish, everyone who hadn’t crashed, that is. Afterwards he texted me, “You followed me so much I almost called the police for stalking.”

He has a good sense of humor.

This week I had crazy good legs, which is always a bad sign. It means I will squander them in pointless attacks, which I did, starting with an attack in the neutral zone with Michael Smith. We got caught after a few laps, then he broke a seatpost and was done.

I kept attacking but Evens and Derek were filing their nails. When I sat up for a second, after about thirty minutes, Evens attacked and took Derek with him. We never saw them again. Evens did most of the work then outsmarted and outsprinted Derek in the finish. I don’t know how you outsmart Derek. He’s the savviest guy out there, period.

No one wanted to chase because, I don’t know. Aaron Wimberley was there and he had a teammate up the road. Eric Anderson was there but he wasn’t going to chase the break so Aaron could sprint him fresh. Josh Alverson would normally have bridged solo but not today. In most races you know when the winning move goes because everyone kind of heaves a collective sigh. The fight goes out of the group.

With four laps to go I thought we had three so I figured I could at least give my teammates a three-lap leadout. I wondered at the end of lap three why no one was coming around. “Dang, maybe they can’t.”

But of course they could. I saw Emily holding the one-to-go card and was gassed. I probably made a d’oh-ing sound. They kicked me out the back on the headwind section and I finished last. I learned again that if I have good legs I should ride at 80 percent and wait.

It also occurred to me that if you have to learn the same lesson over and over and over, maybe you aren’t really learning.

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A most subversive marriage

April 9, 2017 § 17 Comments

hillside_wedding

It’s not often that the referee marrying you says “batshit crazy” or “I hope we didn’t offend the baby Jesus.”

It’s not often that two people are married by a man proclaiming “the power vested in me by the Internet.”

It’s not often that two people get married in their underwear.

It’s not often that the underwear marriage is witnessed by a hundred friends. Also in their underwear.

It’s not often that humor and warmth spill across an entire rocky slope during a wedding.

It’s not often that the words joining two people are so truthful, considered, and well said.

It’s not often that you meet two old friends for the first time on their wedding day.

It’s not often that the mother of the bride climbs 2,000 feet on a bike to attend.

It’s not often that a wedding gang sneaks over a hundred people into a park with the most beautiful overlook on earth, surgically marries the participants, then flees under cover of broad daylight, saving at least ten grand in rental fees.

It’s not often that those witnessing a wedding are bathed in sweat after a two-hour ride through brutally hilly terrain.

It’s not often that the tears are so genuine and the laughter so true.

It’s not often that two lovers trust the words binding their union to a bearded, uncouth Armenian wearing a pope suit who speak so deeply from the heart.

It’s not often that the shining star finds the blazing fire.

It’s not often that she finds him.

It’s not often that he finds her.

And when they do, it’s beautiful, forever.

flowers_and_sea

pope_gregory_the_orange

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Quick fix

April 5, 2017 § 9 Comments

Yesterday at 1:01 PM I got a phone call from Ms. Robinson of the Palos Verdes Homes Association. “Mr. Davidson?”

“Yes?”

“We received your letter regarding the racially restrictive covenants and wanted to let you know that those were amended quite some time ago.”

“And filed with the county?”

“Yes.”

The polite and professional Ms. Robinson then gave me the date, number of the recorded document, and number of the amendment. She explained that the reason the association had whited out all of the CCR booklets was because they were somewhat historic, being the original ones printed when the city was formed, and because there were so many of them that reprinting and replacing wasn’t as practical as whiting out the racist language.

When I mentioned that a resident had come in a few days ago and asked about it, and had been told that the covenants hadn’t been amended, she told me that she would speak with staff to clear up any misunderstandings.

I told her that my title search hadn’t come up with an amendment to the racially restrictive covenants, but armed with the document number and amendment number I said I would try again. She very graciously responded that if I either couldn’t find it or if the documents that were returned had discrepancies that I should contact her and they would figure out how to proceed.

Far from being defensive or angry or upset, she acknowledged the ugly history of the covenants and told me that the association had cooperated with a researcher to provide background about the covenants as they related to the community’s design by the Olmsted brothers.

I sent off the information she provided to the title company and within a couple of hours had the result. The Palos Verdes Homes Association had indeed amended their CCRs in 2000. The amendment_no_214_to_declaration_of_establishment_pv_homes_association is here, and reproduced below as JPEGs.

I suppose it’s still indefensible that it wasn’t until the 21st Century that the racial language was deleted, and it’s pretty lame that a community as wealthy as this one is too cheap to print out new CCRs–especially when the whited out language is sometimes still visible–but seventeen years ago isn’t exactly yesterday, and however incrementally slow, progress is still progress.amendment_no_214_to_declaration_of_establishmet_pv_homes_association_Page_1

amendment_no_214_to_declaration_of_establishmet_pv_homes_association_Page_2

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Coffee cream cruise

April 1, 2017 § 26 Comments

Special Ops and I went for a coffee cruise today. We did the Super Wanky Power Loop with Kickerz, hopped the chain link fence at La Venta Inn, went down VdM, on down to Haggerty’s, up the Cove Climb, back up VdM, up Highridge, and up Whitley Collins.

Or as Joann Z. would say, “Just turn left.”

Then we descended Monaco to Hawthorne to PV South to Sea Beans. It was sunny and warm. Some dude was pulling up for valet service in his $200,000 BMW sporty car thingy wearing a matching jogging suit. Michael and I looked at all that money and quietly got free refills of our $1.87 small coffees.

Many years ago Johnny C. had told me about tubeless tars. They were, according to him, “Way better than clincher tars.”

“How come?” I had asked.

“Because no tubes. Just like a car.”

“Cars don’t have tubes?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes. “Not since about 1938.”

“So what happens when you flat?”

“You never flat. That’s the beauty of them.”

I thought about all the times my Dad’s Galaxie 500 had flatted and all the curse words I’d learned watching him work a tire iron on a bunch of bolts that had been put on with an impact wrench. “Never?”

“Never.”

“What about when you roll over a cake filled with razor blades or ride through a glass field?”

“Oh, sure, sometimes you flat. If you’re doing something way crazy, sure, they’re rubber, they’ll slice. But basically it never happens.”

“Never?”

“Mine only flatted once.”

“Then what happened?”

“You just stick a tube in there like it was a regular tar and you’re good to go.”

“So it’s a tubeless tar that takes a tube?”

“If you want it to. But it never flats. Unless you are doing something way crazy.”

“How can it hold air if there’s no tube?”

“Just like a car tar.”

This stumped me because I had no idea how a car tar held air. In fact I had wondered about it since I was a little kid but was always too afraid to ask because I didn’t want people to think I was dumb. Er.

“How does a car tar hold air?” I asked.

Johnny C. looked at me like I was really dumb. “The edge of the tar makes a perfect seal against the rim. No air can get out.”

“How does it do that?”

“You put some sealant in it.”

“Some what?”

“Sealant.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s this liquid that sloshes around in the tar and when you put air in it the pressure forces the bead against the rim and the sealant closes off the infinitesimal gap and makes a complete seal so no air gets out.”

“What happens to the sealant when you get one of those flats that never happens?”

“They never flat, I’m telling you.”

“I know. But what happened that one time you got that flat that never flatted?”

“I just put a tube in.”

“With all the sealant?”

“You just kind of wipe it away. It doesn’t make that big a mess or anything. It’s not like your tar is filled with a gallon of white paint. Anyway, they’re the wave of the future. Five years from now no one will be riding tubes. They’ll all be tubeless tars. They never flat, and when they puncture the sealant fills the hole and seals it up, and if once in a million years you flat then you pop in a tube and you’re good to go.”

“I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I only switched to clinchers from sew-ups back in 2006 and am just now getting the hang of putting in the inner tube. I don’t want to have to learn how to change a tubeless.”

“But they never flat. There’s nothing to change.”

“Except that one time.”

“One time in three years. Think of all the money you’ll save on tubes.”

“Mostly I’m thinking about that one time every three years like clockwork I’ll be 50 miles from home covered in white paint.”

So anyway it was five years later and everyone hadn’t switched over to tubeless tars but a whole bunch of people had, especially ‘cross and gravel types, and Special Ops was one of those types.

We were feeling pretty good after the coffee and the jokes about the jogging suit and the car that cost $200,000 but had probably never been driven over 45 mph, and we were pedaling slowly along Crest, a nicely paved, smooth piece of asphalt that looked like it had been polished that morning with Kiwi shoe wax and buffed with a horsehair brush, so fine it was, and I was on the inside and am pretty sure neither of us was doing anything crazy or even mildly neurotic when pow! There was an explosion louder than a Trump tweet at 3:00 AM and it was followed by the sound of carbon scraping asphalt and how I didn’t fall off my bike from fright I’ll never know.

Special Ops his foot down and looked back at his rear tar which had blown off the rim and the road and his leg, which was covered in what looked like a gallon of white paint.

“What happened?” I said, trembling with much fear.

“Darned if I know.” He took off the rear wheel which was a major operation because these new bikes are all equipped with a slow release and the derailleur falls off when you take off the wheel which itself gave me an aneurysm but he had it under control except for the gallon of white paint that now covered everything, everything meaning his hands, legs, feet, bike, the shrubbery … it looked like Local 157 of the Painters Union had thrown a white paint party.

Special Ops did some surgery on the wheel but the tar wasn’t going to work even though we couldn’t find a hole in it. He shot it up with a couple of C02s and more white paint spewed everywhere.

“Are you going to put a tube in it now?” I asked.

He looked at me like I was really dumb. “It’s tubeless,” he said. “There is no tube.”

“Right,” I said. “I was just testing you.”

Luckily my apartment was nearby so I rode home and Ubered him to work. I think I am going to keep using my clincher tars for a while yet.

END

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