サウスベイへようこそ!

January 28, 2017 § 8 Comments

When I moved to Utsunomiya, unsurprisingly, I met a lot of Japanese people. By the time I left in 2000 I had met a bunch more. A lot of them were cyclists. In fact, some of the very first people I met were cyclists, Tokyo riders like Ken Iijima and Miki Yamamoto.

One thing was sure. When I met Japanese cyclists they were like cyclists everywhere, and the first order of business was to try and drop the new guy. Whether they did or whether they didn’t, people were always super friendly. It was sometimes hard to remember names at first but eventually I did. I still have dreams about going into Tsunakawa Cycle, or getting pounded in Shinrin Park by Wada-san.

The racing was friendly, too. Guys would rip my legs off but afterwards they would always come over to talk and help clean up the blood.

Over the last few years a group of Japanese riders has sprung up in the South Bay. There is a contingent that shows up every week for the Donut Ride and the Wheatgrass Ride, guys like Koji, Hiro, Satoru, and my son in-law, Torazo. Some of them have been riding for a few years but others are veterans.

What’s noticeable about the J-contingent is that they’re unobtrusive, unfailingly friendly, and they show up like clockwork. I noticed that in Japan, too. People would take something up and then they would stick with it. Maybe it’s because their society has a bigger emphasis on social interaction than ours, on groups instead of individuals, so once you start riding in the South Bay you meet the other Japanese riders and they get to know each other and somehow having a group makes it easier to continue. It’s also more fun.

These guys all love riding bikes, and they are tough, too. And friendly. Welcome to the South Bay.

END

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 23: Brokedown palace

January 27, 2017 § 9 Comments

I get tons of emails every single day asking for training advice. The last one I got, in 2013, was this one:

“Dear Wanky: I just turned 57 and am getting the feeling that I am not as strong as I used to be. I also seem to have lost some recovery. Any suggestions about adaptations I should make as an older athlete?”

Wow. Just wow. The delusion in this one is strong.

So first things first: There is a book called “Fast After 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of Your Life.” Joe Friel has been selling some of the best, most highly refined snake oil on the market for years now, and if you are uninterested in facts and a slave to mythology, this book is a good place to start, despite the fact that the first three words in the title are a bloviating lie.

But back to your question. It’s true that you’re not as strong as you used to be, but only in the sense that this sentence is true: “The surface of the sun is slightly warm.” In short, the best way to analyze your present and future performance potential is through the metaphor of a worn old old shoe with toes poking out the end and holes in the sole, with the last bastion of protection between your feet and the rocks, nails, glass, and sharp edges of pavement being a ratty old sock.

And no, you haven’t lost “some” recovery. You have no more recovery. You are a slowly depleting battery in a Chevy Volt that is 10,000 miles from the nearest electrical socket.

Nevertheless, here are some key differences between the near-dead athlete (you, and by the way you’re NOT an athlete), and a young person.

  1. Young Person thinks, “When can I ride?” whereas Old Shoe thinks, “Do I have to ride?”
  2. Young Person rides miles per hour, Old Shoe rides hours per mile.
  3. Young Person does back-to-back-to-back hard rides, Old Shoe does back-to-back-to-back naps.
  4. Young Person rides scantily clad in the worst weather, Old Shoe bundles up for sunny days if it dips below 60.
  5. Young Person trains, Old Shoe explains.
  6. Young Person longs for trick, full carbon gear, Old Shoe longs for a top 10,000 on a Strava KOM.
  7. Young Person’s shaved legs look sexy, Old Shoe’s shaved legs look like hairless tree bark.
  8. Young Person has sex after riding, Old Shoe hires someone to have sex for him.
  9. Young Person populates calendar in January with all the races he plans to do, Old Shoe populates calendar with excuses for all the races that he’s not going to do.
  10. Young Person looks fresh and great in worn out kits, Old Shoe looks worn out in great fresh kits.
  11. Young Person keeps a training log, Old Shoe hopes for a morning log.

Hope this helps.

END

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It goes to eleven. Unfortunately.

January 25, 2017 § 34 Comments

Last year I did a grand fondue, Phil Gaimon’s Gran Cookie Dough, very big ride, one of the biggest, the best in fact. I rode really fast, faster than anyone else, bigly. Lots of people complained. Losers. Nasty, disgusting losers.

I sent Phil a copy of my best selling book, Cycling in the South Bay, which has sold hugely millions of copies. It is the best selling book ever, it is fantastic, you will love it. Best sports book ever, bigger than the Bible.

We got to talking about his grand fondue for 2017. Great fondue, absolutely the best. People say it’s the best. There were over a million people at the last one, I saw them myself. And the people who say that Levi’s grand fondue had more riders are liars, despicable nasty liars, some of the worst people on earth. I’m at war with those people now, I’ve won Phil’s grand fondue with the fastest time ever, much faster than Santa Monica BMW. Losers.

My people tell me that the people who did Levi’s grand fondue all cheated and didn’t even pay. I am paying for an investigation to have them banned from bicycles, really terrible people.

But Phil and I decided to talk some more about his grand fondue so we picked a place to meet, Philz. Coffee shop in Santa Monica. Hugely famous place, the best. I’ve been to a lot of coffee shops in Santa Monica, but Philz is the best. Others are terrible, lousy, bad service, surly waitresses and you can’t even grab them by the pussy. I can grab them by the pussy, they will let you do anything to them if you’re famous.

But parking in Santa Monica is terrible, the worst. Nasty, despicable parking and so many unemployed street people. They are disgusting, dirty former army people, they stink. So I put my bike in the back of the car in order to park and then ride my bike to meet Phil at Philz. Bicycling is hugely popular now, great, it’s the best, and I’m the best bike rider out there. Really, the best. My doctor says I’m the healthiest and strongest bike rider he has ever seen. I have huge watts, too. Massive watts. Much bigger than Phil’s watts. Phil is a nice person, but tiny watts. Just look at my hands. Tiny Watts Gaimon.

I parked the car and took out my bike to ride it to meet Phil at Philz, very popular place, the most popular place in California, great coffee, the best, but my SRAM battery had been removed from charging and I was stuck in the eleven. SRAM is a terrible product, made in China, very bad people, terrorists. Without the battery which no one had told me to put back in I had to put the chain on the 59, a huge gear.

I have the best watts, huge gears, really, the biggest. Phil’s gears are much smaller than mine. Tiny Watts Gaimon. Poor Little Tiny Watts Gaimon. Nice guy, but tiny watts, baby watts actually. My Strava KOMs are much bigger than his. Tiny KOMs Gaimon. Good guy. Loser.

Some people have said to me, “You can’t ride such huge gears,” but that is a lie. Despicable news media. I can push the biggest gears and that’s not nearly as big as the ones I will push later on next year’s grand fondue, Phil’s Gran Cookie Dough Fondo.

When I met Phil at Philz, which by the way is a fantastic coffee shop, the best, he asked me about my huge gears, obviously they were huge, much bigger than his, giant gears, round ones, the best. But we need to keep out SRAM Chinese products if they don’t allow our electronic shifters to be sold in China, 35% tax and we will build a wall and Xi Jin Ping will pay for it. Out of his allowance. A huge wall, in fact, Americans are tired of buying Chinese electronic derailleurs. They are rapists and criminals.

Phil was surprised at how huge my gears were and he said so. “Huge gears, massive,” he was impressed and people say that those were the biggest gears since David Perez, bigger than his by far.

Great day but terrible SRAM product, defective. Complete fraud.

END

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A little leg-opener

January 22, 2017 § 29 Comments

I learned a great phrase in Book IV of my textbook, “Practical Chinese Reader,” which so far hasn’t been practical or even much of a reader. In addition to chapters called “I Want to Open a Law Office” and “The Foreign Son-in-law Spends the Spring Festival in the Countryside,” this series hasn’t been in touch with my daily experiences.

Until yesterday, when something happened in my life that finally fit with a new Chinese vocabulary phrase, 宁静致远, which means “Quietly achieving over a long time.”

Because that’s exactly what Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride is. It’s been going on so long that no one even remembers when it started. The earliest photos are from 2003, and it predates that by years. Of course Dave often can’t remember what he had for breakfast, so it’s no surprise that he can’t remember into the dim past of the late 1900’s.

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However long it’s been going on, it shows no sign of letting up, as each year a new crew of idiots combines with an old crew of sadists to set forth on a death march through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. What’s most meaningful, though, is that each year Jim and Nancy Jaeger open their home to a random assortment of strangers, and then the combined forces of Steve and Gina Jaeger, Cindi and Heather Rogers, Lynn and Carly and Macy Jaeger arise long before dawn to make mountains of French toast, bacon, and scalding hot coffee. The love and effort and work that they put in to create the best day on a bike every single year is amazing, and their compassion at that time Stern-O clogged the toilet with four pounds of toilet paper so that he’d have a rear end clean enough to eat off of qualifies them for sainthood.

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Of course DJ’s idea isn’t to provide you with a hearty meal that will get you through the upcoming 117-mile beatdown, it’s to stuff you with bread, sugar, and plenty of grease so that when the sugar crash hits at Mile 20 you will climb into a tiny little hurt locker that gets put into a trash compactor and squeezed, harder and harder, for another five hours until you cry, quit, or take a break with Bull at the Santa Paula all-you-can-eat Mexican-and-Chinese buffet. Or you take Uber.

The key to a successful FTR is having enough new suckers riders, and this year we had a bumper crop. Of course there was the usual assortment of wankers who canceled the night before due to a sniffle or a diaper rash and the grim realization that all their bold talk was going to be tossed into the incinerator at Mile 100 a/k/a Balcom Canyon (Fireman, Johnny Boy, Dogg, Big Tex), and there were the stalwarts who couldn’t toe the line because they had broken legs (G3), infirm bladders, gout (Gussy), consumption (Iron Mike), extreme old age and vast wealth (Stern-O), congenital lethargy (Elron), degenerative tenacititis, a terrible illness that gradually reduces once-tenacious bike racers into soft and easily crushed buttercups, unable to withstand the slightest hint of adversity (Martin, Turtle, Hair, Manslaughter, too many to name), those who would absolutely love to have made it gosh they were so looking forward to it but kiddie soccer (MMX, G$), and those who did it once out of grim obligation and take me off the list now please (Phil, Randall).

FTR was the cornerstone of my 2017 race season, a building block upon which all others would rest. As my coach told me back in 1984, “You suck and you’ll never improve,” and I’ve been building on that for years.

After having tried to get beyond the “you suck level” of competition via the kimchi diet, the coffee diet, the beer diet, unemployment, 100% carbon made of full carbon that is pure carbon, Rugged MAXX II virility supplements, huge intensity + huge volume training, power meters, Garmins, training by sensation, nose breathing, and finally super low volume of everything except sleep, I decided to try the “leg opening” method of race prep.

Leg opening requires you to do one brief, 15-20 minute semi-hard effort the day before the race, and then spinning for an hour two, max. The idea is that with some moderate intensity and loosening of the spiracles, your pump will be primed for excellent performance on race day.

So naturally a 117-mile smashfest finishing up Balcom Canyon would be perfect. What could go wrong?

What went wrong

The first thing that went wrong was Skippy’s bike. By the second stop light out of town his chain refused to stay on the cogs, throwing the chain every time he put any torque on the pedals. By the time we had ascended the first obstacle, a tiny bump on Stockton Rd. that was won for the first time in decades by someone other than Roadchamp, Skippy was in tears.

I, on the other hand, was behind him and watched him dismount and howl in frustration. “That’s it!” he yelled. “I’m calling Uber!”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“My chain! It won’t stay on!”

“Is it new?”

“Brand new! I put it on last night!”

“And the cassette?”

“What do you mean?”

“Is it new, too?”

“No. Why?”

“Oh, no reason,” I said, as I sprinted away to catch the group.

Fortunately, Skippy was able to put it in his 34 x 32, the only combo that kept the chain on the chain ring. I say “fortunately” because nothing makes for a better FTR than watching a hapless newbie about to ride the rest of the day in mini-gears, with a high likelihood that even if he made it most of the ride, he’d have to dismount on Balcom Canyon and walk the half-mile, 18% grade in his cleats.

In addition to Skippy, the old boys’ network, which was now a droopy old men’s network, had invited a woman rider after the only other female participant in 2003 promptly gave up cycling forever. I had suggested Iron Maiden as a newbie invitee because it seemed like having a ride where the only people who got ridden to pieces and kicked to the curb were men wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t we also get a woman out there who would implode, beg for a sip from our water bottle at Mile 110 while both legs cramped, and then get left for lost in Camarillo at ride’s end because she didn’t know the Jaegers’ address? I’m all for equality, yo.

However, Iron Maiden, who’d only been biking for a year, was suspicious. This is because to date everything I’d told her had either been completely wrong or an outrageous lie, frequently both. “Is this something I can do? The farthest I’ve ever ridden is 50 miles.”

“No problem. You can race twice the distance you train.”

“But I only train 25 miles a couple of times a week.”

“It’s not a race. It’s a fun ride.”

“It is?”

“Sure. Just friends going out for a pedal. Plus it’s a no-drop ride.”

Her antenna went up, because in her short tenure she had learned that “no-drop” was bikerspeak for “kill the weak.”

“No, thanks. It sounds too hard. Maybe next year.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I didn’t figure you’d do it, being a woman and everything.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, nothing. It’s too hard for a woman now that I think about it. Only one woman has ever done it.”

“Fuck you,” she said. “I’m doing it.”

“Good call. Plus there’s no way you’ll be last. Junkyard is going to be there.”

She brightened. Having Junkyard on the ride was the ultimate form of pace protection. “I’ll just stay close to him,” she said. I forgot to mention that Junkyard had been doing 500-mile weeks preparing for FTR and was in top form.

Giants of the road

Perhaps the next worst decision of the ride was when DJ asked me who else to invite. “Someone who can do it, but who will fit in. A good dude.”

“Oh, that’s easy. Garrot. He’s great.”

“Garrot? WTF kind of name is that?”

“He was a Marine in the Special Forces. Or maybe it was the Ordinary Forces.  Or maybe the Special Ed Forces. I’m not sure. Anyway, he’s totally mellow and chill. Good dude.”

“I’m trusting you here, Wanky,” said DJ, which isn’t the first time that people have been led astray by climbing that particular decision tree.

I had forgotten to mention that Garrot only had two speeds, “on” and “off,” and I’d never seen the “off.” A short ride for Garrot was 150 miles. Plus, he was a monster climber. Plus, he had a fierce sprunt. Plus, he was always pleasant and kind, especially when slitting your throat.

And then there was the revelation of the Tour, a/k/a Taco Wagon. Taco Wagon had impressed all in 2015 when, in a driving hailstorm, he had spied a taco wagon and took down half the peloton as he skidded out in his haste to get a burrito, or to shelter himself under the taco wagon’s awning, or both.

This year he had come with a mission, and it was a mission that would clash with Garrot’s and eventually become a battle of the titans. After taking the Stockton KOM, Garrot fell victim to superior road knowledge, and Taco Wagon took the Fillmore sprunt. We had an interlude where Bull took fifteen minutes to change a tire and spiced it up by also yanking out a rear brake pad. In exasperation, DJ flatted too in order to show Bull how to properly change a flat. But no one, including Junkyard, knew how to use Junkyard’s new CO2 inflator, and twelve cartridges later we’d used up all of our air and DJ had used up every epithet he knew and had to start back over with the various combinations beginning with “f.”

The race to Ojai

Bull, Iron Maiden, King Harold, Junkyard, Pilot (who had already lost an engine and was scanning for the Hudson), and I were all immediately dropped on the climb heading towards Ojai. Radio reports confirmed that Taco Wagon took the Ojai sprunt, as Garrot didn’t know that the key to Ojai wasn’t a city limit sign but simply raising your hands when you got in front of everyone else. Now it was a blood feud.

As we droppees pedaled into Ojai, cold, tired, thirsty, hungry, and already beat to snot a mere forty-seven miles in, we were incredibly excited at the prospect of some more Barbie food, a toilet, and ten minutes of rest. Unfortunately DJ was on a schedule that had been delayed by his and Bull’s tire changing lessons, and we got zero rest and only seven or eight thousand calories of Hostess donuts to get us into Ventura, which was a billion miles away.

Mt. Casitas

Although I had been sandbagging like crazy helping the slower riders all the way to Ojai, my true goal for the day was to have a convincing climb over Casitas Pass. The problem with my goal was that in order to achieve it, I’d have to drop DJ, who I’d never dropped before, Garrot, who I’d never dropped before, and Young David, a 22-year-old who I’d suckered into coming but who was mostly flaying everyone alive. Plus, I’d have to keep Roadchamp in view, a virtual impossibility on the uphill but not out of the question on the descent, as he was famed for the descending skills of a one-legged turtle.

Garrot attacked early and dropped everyone, but had to contend with a bitter headwind, and more importantly with Aston-Martin, a quiet and friendly hairy-legged freddie whose palmares included several national titles as a collegiate rower. Roadchamp jumped and dropped everyone but me, as I had cagily held onto his jersey. Reaching Garrot, Roadchamp kicked again and I wished that I too had put on a brand new chain the night before.

Garrot saw me struggling and attacked, leaving me for dead. I paused and soon enough up came Taco Wagon, pounding like a madman with Aston-Martin in tow. We sat on his wheel, used him up like an old snotrag, and then Aston-Martin jumped. I easily went with Aston-Martin for three or two whole seconds before blowing disastrously. Taco Wagon scooped me up with Garrot in tow, Aston-Martin up the road, and Roadchamp a glimmering dot up in the Crab Nebulae.

Taco Wagon faltered and I engaged my bottom bracket motor, chasing up to Aston-Martin and, incredibly, dispensing with Garrot. A bunch of lies and extravagantly false memories ensued, and we comprised the final threesome over the last part of the climb.

However, we were soon overhauled on the descent, spanked for our temerity, and crushed in the sprunt for the Santa Barbara County Line.

Junkyard runs out of spare parts

After that, a bunch of stuff happened, most of it fast, or probably really slow, but we’d passed the halfway mark and I was done. Iron Maiden looked like Tin Maiden, or maybe Aluminum Foil Maiden. “How are you doing?” I asked, solicitously.

“Screw you,” she said.

Aston-Martin, DJ, and Garrot found the front all the way into Ventura and pounded our entrails, where we stopped at the Circle K, America’s nastiest convenience store. Fortunately, it had none of the things we wanted, like a toilet, but one of the things you learn quickly on FTR is that tradition reigns, and just because something is a terrible idea means nothing. Surfer Dan sidled up to me. “Dude,” he said. “We’ve passed a hundred cool coffee shops with real food in Ventura. Why are we stopping at this dumpster?”

“Urgle,” I said. “I mean, tradition.”

“Tradition? What’s tradition about NO PUBLIC BATHROOMS?”

“Tradition is forgetting the reason for something you’re afraid to change.”

Surfer rolled his eyes, swung off at the Sckubrats, had the only square meal of the day, and continued the ride without ever having broken a sweat.

The climb out of Ventura is gradual but murderous, like eating opened safety pins. Somewhere along the way Junkyard began running out of spare parts. First it was a lung, then a ventricle, then a kidney, then a right leg, but it wasn’t until a big puff of smoke came out of his butt that I realized things were serious. With a couple of perfectly timed pushes from friends he dug all the way to China, hung on, and made it through to Santa Paula, setting us all up perfectly for Balcom Canyon.

There’s not much to say about Balcom Canyon except this:

  1. Roadchamp annihilated it.
  2. Taco Wagon fell over and into a barbed wire fence.
  3. Skippy walked it.
  4. Junkyard, defending his hard-won last place, hitched a ride in a passing car and arrived without mussing a hair.
  5. Everyone else wanted to puke and die rode gallantly, and put in a pathetic masterful performance.

With only fourteen miles to go to the barn, I turned to Iron Maiden. “How are your legs?”

“Tired but I’m okay. You?”

“I’m cramping.”

“Where?”

“Both legs. Same time. Oh, shit.” I did the little wheezy-sheezy crampy moan.

“Where’s your water bottle?” she asked.

“I forgot it back atop Balcom.”

“I’ve still got some energy drink left. Will that help?”

“Yes.” I looked at her with pleading, big-doe eyes. “Can I have a sip?”

“No,” she said, and pedaled away. Then at the very end everyone dropped me on the golf course climb.

Tall tales

Back at the Jaegers’ home we ate, but not before Skippy complained about his chain some more. “Dude,” I said. “You killed it.”

“What do you mean?”

“You did the whole fucking FTR with a broken chain.”

“Yeah, but I wanted to …”

“Beat Roadchamp? Take a fucking number, buddy. You just did the most epic thing ever.”

“Yeah, but I …”

“Think about it. If you hadn’t had the wrong chain you would have just been another knucklehead out getting his dick stomped on a long bike ride. Instead you created an entire legend for an entire chapter of the FTR.”

“Really?”

“Really. Chapeau.” And for the first time all day I said something I actually meant.

A proper leg-opener

The next morning I awoke at 5:00 AM wondering who turned on the fire hydrant and who had beaten my thighs with a meat tenderizer while I slept. The hydrant, it turned out, was the deluge hitting SoCal, continuing the heaviest rainfall here in decades.

The stabbing thigh pains were apparently from my FTR leg-opener.

I put my bike in the car to go race. The closer to the race I got, the more my phone started to smoke with “I ain’t racing today, bro” messages. Our leaky prostate race captain, who had spent the last two weeks urging everyone to sign up and go race, rain or shine, had cleverly bailed at the last minute, leaving only the truly stupid to stand around beneath a freezing downpour in their underwear.

I could see why he abandoned us in our hour of need. There was zero feet visibility. The road was a river. It was raining meatballs. The risk of death and carbon destruction was high. The rewards were nil.

But–bike race!

And of course, Mrs. WM had said as I left, “It’s onna crazy rainin’ so you the only dummy and maybe win because other dummy all in bed.” Mrs. WM knew a thing or two about bike racing.

At the line there were only five other dummies, each clearly foiled in his race plan of “I’m doing this race because there can’t possibly be anyone stupid enough to do this besides me so I’ll automatically win and get $20.”

The race started and was miserable in a very fun kind of way and we went round and round until all the fun got washed off and we were left coated in hell and drinking each others’ rear-wheel spew and then we were numb and then with eighteen minutes to go I hit it and felt very tired and wheezy and suddenly it was sprunt time and everyone knows Wanky don’t sprunt and I didn’t today either, just pedaled a little harder and the other handful of numbskulls either gave up (unlikely) or weren’t strong enough (highly doubtful) or were unable to see the finish line due to the pounding sideways sheet rain (certainty) and somehow I notched a win and got a check for $50 which almost offset my $3,000 sponsorship of the race, and a sippy cup that says “Race Winner” and you know what?

I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. But I might shave a mile or two off the leg-opener.

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END

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What color are your butterflies?

January 20, 2017 § 4 Comments

Tomorrow is the big day. The big ride. The one you’ve been training for. Planning for. Buying lots of new everything for, especially carbon that is always pure carbon, made with 100% all-carbon fiber fibre.

“The hay is in the barn,” as G$ likes to say, “so relax.”

BUT YOU’RE NOT G$.

So you lay out your clothes and man are you selective. Those shorts with the white rear panels that give everyone a view of the gate when the sun hits them right? Out.

That beloved-but-stained heroine’s jersey from your KOM up Kidneystone Pass? Not tomorrow. Tomorrow you have to look fresh. New. Perfect.

And you’re not ashamed to sock measure, either, laying out your six pairs of identical socks and making sure that the right and left are exactly the same height.

Bike? Buffed and spiffed, chain redolent with the smell of fresh Wend chain wax.

Tars? New front, new back, filled up with brand new air, two spares and two cartridges in case Ms. Very Bad Luck strikes not once but twice.

Glasses washed, helmet wiped, phone charged, wallet crammed with money and credit card, Barbie food laid out, bottles topped off with super power drinky stuff, Garmin charged, alarm set, you climb into bed and lie there, eyes wide open, heart pounding, butterflies fluttering without rest.

Yep, it’s those darned butterflies, and the more you skip and hop around with that big floppy net the less you catch ’em. What color are yours?

Are they gray butterflies of dread, certain that the whole thing is going to be a massive catastrophe?

Are they little pink butterflies that anxiously flap up to the door of the blast furnace and then skip back with their butts singed?

Are they terrified yellow butterflies, deeply concerned about falling, flatting, getting dropped, knocking someone down, getting lost, bonking, and pretty sure that it will be all of the above?

Are they blue butterflies of unavoidable fate, destiny locked in, the exact result unknown but who cares because it’s going to be bad?

Are they bloodshot butterflies of exhaustion, wondering how you’ll complete a 118-mile beatdown that finishes up Balcom Canyon on two hours of sleep?

Well, here’s a little secret.

It doesn’t matter what color your butterflies are.

Because everybody has ’em.

END

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The discomfort zone

January 19, 2017 § 27 Comments

One thing about cycling is that you eventually get into the discomfort zone. It’s different for every rider. For some it means >1% incline. For some it means any road anywhere near a car. For some it means descending Mt. Suicide at 60 mph with your hands off the bars.

And then in SoCal, for almost everyone it means rain. A lot of riders define the rain discomfort zone to simply mean a threatening weather report two weeks out.

I get it.

Facebrag pics aside, no one’s impressed that you rode around for three hours in a typhoon, just like no one would be impressed if you woke up and sat under a cold shower for an hour. Rather, they’d think you were an idiot. And they’d be what is known as “right.”

“Back in the day,” a time period that existed only in the minds of people who weren’t actually there, the “hard men of cycling” performed amazing feats in the mud, rain, sleet, and snow … and that was just their coffee ride, before cyclists even drank coffee, or at least before they drank it with soy, or at least in the days when they had coffee for a ride instead of having a ride for coffee.

I’m far from the oldest guy out there but no one I ever knew liked riding in shit weather. Some few people did it but for the most part when the weather turned foul they worked on a different aspect of training and fitness, i.e. beer combined with chips/salsa and TV intervals.

Still, everybody feels guilty when four raindrops fall and they all go out and spend $5k on an indoor Computrainer, like they’re too weak or not good enough or too soft. And that feeling gets worse after the first indoor workout, also known as the last indoor workout, because you can’t return the thing covered in sweat and body grease, and since you live in a tiny apartment it’s your new furniture. Leather couch, nice wooden dining table, indoor trainer. Sweet.

People sometimes ask me if I have a trainer. “Yes, and we’ve been married thirty years,” I say.

But here’s the thing. I actually like riding in horrible weather. I even have a little saying. It goes like this: “THE WEATHER TELLS YOU WHAT TO WEAR. NOT WHEN TO RIDE.”

Pretty spiffy, huh?

You may be wondering what I like about terrible weather. Well, here’s what I don’t like:

  1. Being cold.
  2. Being wet.
  3. Numb hands.
  4. Numb feet.
  5. Frozen face.
  6. Wet testicles.

I rode winters in Japan for about ten years and it was always very cold. One time my pupils froze during a ride. Another time one of my friends, woefully under-dressed, froze the end of his junk. We were good friends, but not good enough for me to help bring it back to life. “You’re on your own with that, dude,” I told him.

I rode a winter in Germany where it alternated between freezing rain and rainy freeze. I rode all four seasons in Texas, including a couple of years in Houston where it rains every other day, hard. Non-Texans have no idea what that means.

Every time I pushed my bike out the door and it was raining or snowing or the trees were blowing sideways, I thought the same thing: “I’m an idiot. I hate this. Why am I doing this?”

The answer was always the same. “I have no idea.”

Then I would do the ride and get home completely miserable. One time I had to thaw out in a hot bathtub. I will never forget how it felt as the blood returned to my hands and my feet and my. You want pain? That’s pain.

None of those rides ever made me stronger, tougher, smarter, or better in any meaningful way. All they ever made me was colder, wetter, number, and dumber.

Still, this morning when the rain started at 3:00 AM and kept beating down until the minute I left, it never occurred to me to bail. Why is that?

Because when you finish and thaw out and eat a hot meal it is fun.

END

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How to ruin everything

January 18, 2017 § 30 Comments

Bicycling is generally a safe activity. Still, there is always someone out there who can, dog willing, turn a fun pedal into a total shit show. There was a bad crash on the NPR yesterday caused by some of the worst conduct on a bike I’ve ever seen.

Bottom line: If you are such a badass that you need to get off your bike and try to punch people out, you don’t belong on a bike. You belong in a cage on pay-per-view TV. However, I get that you really aren’t that tough, and that what you really like best is to act tough and leave everything around you broken and wrecked.

After watching the show that was put on yesterday, I’ve made a little handy-dandy set of bullet points that other people can use to ruin their local ride, and hopefully kill a few people while they’re at it.

  1. Being a Cat 3 makes you a total expert about bicycling, because you’ve been doing it three or four whole years and you won that Cat 4 race that one time and got on the podium another time and there was that time you won that prime and you always almost win the imaginary sprunt at the start of the third traffic island. Respect.
  2. Start every ride with a pack of Easy Offense Super Pissy Personality Fuses that they sell 2-for-1 at Bob’s Second Amendment Gun Shop. These burn almost instantaneously and can be ignited by virtually anything on the ride. A wobble. A swerve. A pine cone. A mismatched sock-and-armwarmer combo. Once someone sets off your hair-trigger fuse, you can go nutso. Super respect.
  3. Repeatedly yell at people. If someone yells back, light another Easy Offense Super Pissy Personality Fuse and go berserk. You don’t have to earn respect by riding at the front, upgrading, racing against your peers, winning hard races, or helping other people. That’s for losers.
  4. Never shrug anything off as if you were a grown-up. Grudges, blood feuds, battles to the death, that’s Cat 3 bike racing. That dude who called you a dick that one time? Enemy for life.
  5. Everyone respects a screamer, so never hold back. It also sets the tone for the ride. Your ride.
  6. A lot of the people on the ride are twenty or thirty years older than you are. Fuck those old wankers, they’re over-ripe for the grave anyhow, and being a tough guy means never taking into account how you affect other people, especially people who, when they fall off their bicycles and break, probably won’t heal up as quickly as you will. If they’re not dead yet you can help ’em along. They want a safe, fun ride? Get a tricycle.
  7. Never hesitate to pull over at a stoplight, get off, and rage towards the object of your ire even though you’re still drinking from a sippy-cup, wearing a diaper, and haven’t yet worn your first pair of man pants. Having six people restrain your 145 pounds of raging fury doesn’t mean you’re an immature dipshit, it means you’re a raw hunk of fighting man who kills with his hands. (Note: Don’t ever have a go at Marines like Big Steve or that ex-Special Forces dude who always seems like he’s in a good mood. You could take them for sure, but why bother when there’s easy pickings like that Cat 5 dude just learning the ropes?)
  8. All those losers who do the morning ride for a workout get up every morning and think “I can’t wait to go to the morning ride and get screamed at!” And that guy who cut you off that one time? He’s toast. And that other dude who didn’t pull through that one time? His ass is grass.
  9. Don’t be afraid to look behind you and shout at people while riding in the middle of the peloton. You have skills and plus you thought of another good name to call that guy who tried to get onto your leadout that one time.
  10. Don’t worry if, when you look back to cuss some dude out, you slam into the guy in front of you, fall on your face and break out your front teeth, knock down three other riders, destroy a bunch of (other people’s) expensive bike equipment, potentially wreck someone’s entire racing season, endanger the lives and livelihoods of the people there with a family and job (both of them), then lie on the pavement writhing in agony while people run to your aid, and while others risk their lives trying to direct the traffic that has no idea what’s going on and is rubbernecking at 55 mph  and weaving through a stopped group of 80 riders that has spilled out into the traffic lane, while you’ve ruined the ride, sent friends to the hospital, terrified everyone, called out the fire department, called out the county EMS, and generally left the whole thing in tatters. Shit happens and it sucks to be them.
  11. Post an apology on Facebag and you’re golden. Can’t they read? You SAID you were sorry.

END

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