Start stalking

December 27, 2015 § 16 Comments

People are funny. If you give them a good tip they ignore the hell out of it, like the weird black mole that’s been blossoming on my shin and now looks like a rotten cauliflower that is oozing goo and has probably metastasized to my liver.

I went to the doctor a while back. “How long has that been there?” he asked.

“I dunno.”

“Long time? Short time?”

“Short time I guess. It was a gash and how it’s just some dried blood under the skin I think.”

“If it changes at all or doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks come back and we’ll take a look at it. Don’t ignore it.”

That was a looooong time ago and I ignored the shit out of it even as I noted its terrifying growth profile. So now that it is about the size of a child’s bowling ball and has learned to read and write and can even say its name, I finally made an appointment to go back to the skin doc.

I know what he’s going to say. “Well, Mr. Davidson, you’re dead now.”

And I know what I’ll say. “Who cares? My leg’s still jacked and I can’t ride for beans.”

But you? You won’t ignore some sage advice, will you? Because I’m going to give you some. Here it is: Go stalk Daniel Holloway’s ride schedule and follow him like a bad case of Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Here’s the deal.

Daniel is the best bike racer in America. That’s not hyperbole or exaggeration. He won 345 races this year, half of them only pedaling with one leg. He races against the fastest lead-out trains on the continent and smokes them like a brat left overnight in the BBQ cooker.

But, whatever. This isn’t nearly as important as the fact that he’s in LA through the end of January, and what’s more important, shows up on most of the dork rides–NPR, Donut, etc. In other words, you have a chance to ride with the country’s winningest pro. And in other other words, five minutes spent riding with Daniel is worth 500 hours of Internet coach time and bike forum chat room palaver and Strava auto-titillation.

Unlike lots of supermen, Daniel has time for DLU, Dorks Like Us. Have a question you’ve always wanted answered? Daniel will answer it. He may be wrong, but at least you’ll be getting it from a pro.

Plus, he’s friendly. He intends to get in his workout, which often means all you’ll see is a tiny dot vanishing in the distance, but other times he’s pedaling around at DS, dork speed, trying to burn off the same cheesecake and lard-covered-butter cookies that you are.

Best of all, and most mystifying is when Daniel shows up on the NPR. Best because NOW IS YOUR CHANCE. Mystifying because when he hits the jets hardly anyone even tries to follow.

Dude! Pedal harder, please. This is your free coaching lesson. Even if you hang on for .0001 seconds, you will have gotten a better workout and will have seen what kind of acceleration it takes to escape the gravitational pull of 75 hackers pounding with a tailwind.

Better, if you’re like Smasher and manage to grab his wheel when he goes, he will absolutely beat your face in. All you have to do is hang onto his back wheel while he gins out 450 watts for four laps. You can do this, really, you can’t.

I know that you have a carefully planned workout regimen that is going to allow you to place mid-pack next year, but at least while Daniel’s in town you need to toss that plan out the window and follow this guy around, bothering the snot out of him with stupid questions. In addition to being a complete wizard with regard to tactics, he’s knowledgeable beyond belief when it comes to aero equipment and riding position, and has an ability to read a field that you won’t believe.

Of course I fully expect you to ignore this, because good, free advice is just that way.

END

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 15: Endeavor to persevere

December 26, 2015 § 20 Comments

Starting tomorrow or the day after we’re going to be awash in resolutions for 2016, but in reality every cyclist has one and one resolution only, and it’s this: “Stop eating during the holidays.”

This is impossible, and the intensity of the desire to stop eating is perfectly balanced with the insane quantity and quality of lip-smacking yummies at every turn. How about the bastard who gave me TWO pecan pies, one for my birthday and one for fucking Christmas?

FUCK YOU, Smasher, you fucking fucker.

What about the “friend” who gave me a “Merry Birthmas” packet of homemade chocolate smunchers with nuts and sugar and butter and chocolate and powdered yumminess?

FUCK YOU, fake friend!

What about the wife who bought my son a fucking Baskin-Robbins Giant-Sized Oreo Ice Cream Cake, served it on Thursday, and then on Friday dragged out a 10-lb. chocolate-and-strawberry birthday cake flanked with cream, sugar, frosting, and a giant chocolate placard that read “Happy Birthday, I love you”?

FUCK YOU, treasonous and perfidious wife!

That doesn’t even begin to count the “invitations” to parties loaded with cookies and goodies and cake (you bastards know who you are), the boxes of chocolates and goodies from the Big Island Gout Factory, and the sorry dungheads at Quill Office Products who sent a fucking can of Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookies along with an order for ink toner.

I’VE RUN OUT OF FUCKS! I’VE RUN OUT OF FUCKS!

So bottom line is you’re already deep in a calorie hole that a Caterpillar couldn’t dig out of, and you barely have a garden trowel. So all you can do is try to slow down the giant vacuuming sound your mouth makes every time someone drops off a new load of diet-destroying sugary goodies, destined to make you happy and miserable all at the same time, with the misery attaching mostly to your tummy and butt and thighs and hanging around waaaaaay longer than the happy, which really only lingered on your tongue for a few seconds anyway.

Here, then, are your pre-New Year’s Resolutions, designed to get you safely through to Jan. 1, 2016.

  1. When someone offers you something to eat, snarl and say “FUCK YOU!” Bite their hand if you have to.
  2. Throw away all the food in the house. Now. All of it. Don’t worry, by 9:00 PM tonight there will be a whole new pile.
  3. Pour out all the booze. And milk. Pour out everything except what’s in the faucet.
  4. Open your “cycling energy” drawer and toss everything in a wrapper or bottle, except the Percocet.
  5. Decline all invitations, go nowhere.
  6. Don’t let anyone come in.
  7. Pull the covers up over your head.

And remember, after Jan. 1, you’re on your own.

END

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Birthmas ride

December 25, 2015 § 20 Comments

I drove over to Manslaughter’s house this morning. He had one of his $20k mountain bikes ready, one with the little seat lever thingy that lets the saddle go way down. I needed that to get my leg up and over so I could sit on the bike.

Riding on a trainer isn’t like riding on a bicycle. For one, riding is a lot harder. For another, the wind was blowing at 20 mph. And there were huge piles of sand on the bike path. And my legs had no strength after five weeks of couch flopping and two weeks of trainer spinning.

Plus, on the bike path I had to climb a giant hill. After the ride, sitting around at Starbucks with Manslaughter and Jeff the Runner, we gave this massive hill a name. Jeff christened it “The Widowmaker.”

It is located about 27th Street and you have to wonder how the bike path engineers got the design approved. It is a killer and I barely made it up and over. Here’s a picture of me hammering it like a beast about 100 feet before I crest the top.

sob

“Do you need a push?” Manslaughter asked.

“I can make it,” I gasped. I dug deep, real deep. As Prez would say, “This is where the gains are made.”

Once we got to the top I rested to catch my breath, legs burning like crazy. Then we turned around and rode about four miles in the other direction. Then we turned around and rode about three miles in the other direction, which put us back at Manslaughter’s.

I was wiped and would have put it on Strava except it would have gotten flagged by everyone. Anyway, my work for the day is done, and I’m worked.

Best Birthmas present ever, Manslaughter. Thanks.

END

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The escape bicycle

December 24, 2015 § 12 Comments

When I was a kid I used my bike for everything. It took me to school. It took me to 7-11. 7-11 was a convenience store that was open from 7:00 AM until 11:00 PM. Every other store in Houston opened at 9:00 and closed at 5:00, or maybe 8:00 if it was the Sharpstown Mall.

And only 7-11 was open on Sunday. Back then people had weekends.

The 7-11 was where all the bad kids hung out because it had a pinball machine. Pinball machines were super expensive. They cost a quarter but you got five balls and if you were good you got a replay until they switched out the machine.

One of the worst kids at the 7-11 was Tommy van Pelt, but we all called him Tommy van Pound because he like to beat people for fun. He didn’t care if you were older or younger, bigger or smaller. He once even beat up an adult.

He smoked of course even though he was only thirteen, and he got free cigarettes. His mother was crippled and always sent him to the 7-11 to buy cigarettes. As payment he always kept two packs for himself.

“Don’t your mom care you’re stealing her smokes?”

“Fuck her,” he’d say.

I liked the pinball machine but scrupulously checked to see if van Pound’s bike was leaning against the window glass before I went in. He had beaten me up a couple of times and they weren’t like my brother’s beatings, where he always held something back.

Tommy’s were vicious and he didn’t care if he broke out your teeth and he’d kick you in the head when you were on the ground.

My best friend in 8th Grade was Bobh Brunnell. That’s really how his parents spelled his name. Bobh was like every kid in Houston, he liked to blow shit up, but unlike the rest of us he actually knew how.

One day Bobh came over to my house with a record album. It was 1978 in the summer. “Hey, man, check this out.”

I looked at the cover. It was four weird dudes in makeup. “Looks stupid,” I said.

“Fuck you it’s the best music ever.”

“What’s their name?”

“Kiss. Can’t you fucking read?”

“That’s the dumbest name ever.”

Bobh put the record on my parents’ record player. We weren’t allowed to even look at it because we broke everything, so we only used it when they were gone. “How about THAT?” he said as the music blasted.

“It sounds like shit,” I said.

“You are a dumb bastard who don’t know good music from shit. Plus the bass player blows fire out of his mouth.”

“The fuck you say.”

We didn’t have YouTube or cell phones or cable TV or BetaMax or VHS but Bobh had been prepared for my skepticism. He took out his fan magazine and it showed Gene Simmons spitting fire.

“That’s pretty fucking cool,” I said.

“I figured out how to do it,” said Bobh.

“The fuck you say.”

“Let’s go out in the garage.”

Nothing good ever happened when you left air conditioning in the summer for the fiery humid heat of the closed-in garage. We left the house and went out into the backyard with the gas can. “You are gonna burn your fucking face off,” I said.

“The fuck you say. I been practicing.”

“Practicing on what?”

“Down at the pool. You just have to know how to spray right. It takes a lot of practice to spray right but once you get that down you just light the spray and it whooshes up like a motherfucker.”

“You are gonna get burnt all the way down to your dick. You ever done this before?”

“No but I ain’t worried.”

“I ain’t either but I ain’t the dumbass drinking gasoline, either.”

Bobh had filled his mouth with gas until his cheeks bulged. I handed him the lighter and stood way off. With a mighty spew he lifted up the lighter and lit the gasoline. It made the biggest fireball you ever saw, but was all gone before the flame could travel back up the stream and burn his face off his head.

He was beaming with pride. “I told you I could do it.”

“You are a crazy and dumb fuck.”

“Want to try?”

“Fuck no.”

“Chicken.”

“I’d rather be a chicken than fried chicken,” I said.

The rest of that summer we worked on burning things with Bobh’s oral blowtorch until he developed huge bloody mouth ulcers from having gasoline in his mouth all the time. By that time we had found a magic shop on Bissonnet that sold flash powder. I had a model car collection I had built over the course of my lifetime, so we spent several weeks blowing it up car by car.

We learned that if you crammed the flash powder into a tiny space it blew shit up. I had a Super-8 movie camera and we would tie a car to a string, load it with flash powder, and drag it along until it blew up.

When we ran out of cars we decided to blow up the Bellaire Swimming Pool. We planned it down to the smallest detail, including our getaway bikes which we would lean up against the side of the building. Once we’d launched our attack we’d sprint away to freedom.

There was a big counter atop a brick wall. Bobh went to the counter with me and started talking with the girl who was working the register. I pretended to drop my money and then crammed the flash powder bomb into an open chink in the bricks at the end of the little wall that we’d scouted out beforehand.

Then I lit the fuse and we ran like hell. In broad daylight, of course.

Everything went according to plan except that when the bomb went off, instead of knocking out a few bricks it blasted out the side of the wall. If anyone had been standing near it they would have had their legs blown off.

We didn’t know any of that because we were already on our getaway bikes. But we didn’t get far because we had to cross the park, whose grass was wet and muddy and soggy so that our tires sunk into the muck, and worst of all, who should be standing there smoking a cigarette but Tommy van Pound. “What are you two queers doing?” he said as he grabbed the bars of our bikes.

We were both shaking with fear. The blast had made a huge sound.

“You two queers done something and you’re running the fuck away, aren’t you?”

By that time the pool people were upon us. They took us back to show us the damage and they had even called Champ Undermiller, the guy who ran the city gym and pool.

In those days every town had a Champ Undermiller, a guy in his 30’s who’d grown up there and hadn’t made it as a pro baseballer or footballer so he coached kids and managed the public gym and pool. He was a nice guy and an asskicker at the same time.

“Bring these two to my office,” he said.

We were taken to the gym and shoved into Champ’s office. Champ was staring at Bobh in disbelief. “I coached you since you were five,” he said. “And this is how you repay me?”

“I’m sorry, Champ,” said Bobh.

“Sorry? Sorry about what, for Chrissake?”

“Sorry for blowing up the swimming pool.”

“Oh, fuck the swimming pool. We’ll fix that. That’s not what I’m pissed off about.”

Bobh, who’d been hanging his head, looked up. “What are you pissed off about then?”

In a combined look of rage and disappointment and disgust, he pointed his finger at me. “I’m pissed,” he shouted, “because after all I’ve done for, all your parents have done for you, and the great life you have ahead of you if you want it, you’re hanging out with HIM.”

END

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Lost in planet scroll

December 14, 2015 § 12 Comments

Cracked pelvis ehab and recovery have their benefits: Lower grocery bills. Less laundry (waaaaay less laundry). Zero monthly bike equipment expenses. And of course, fewer showers. Waaaaaay fewer showers.

But the downside is extra time. People evolved having to scrounge and scrape from dawn to dusk. They don’t do well at all with extra time. This is why they invented war and writing and art and television and Facebag and the Twitter, to kill all that extra time.

The excess hours have caused me to sink into the cesspool of planet scroll, where I scroll down the Twitter endlessly. That’s where I came across Planet Fitness and Shushanik Gabrielyan. Planet Fitness is a gym that caters to first-time and (very) occasional gym users.

It discourages gym rats, squat racks, grunting, and it only has up to 80 pounds of free weights. Everything is done in a nurturing “judgment free zone.” No one is made to feel inadequate or intimidated by some ripped fitness freak who is curling a Smart car.

In case the workout experience tires you out, once a month Planet Fitness offers free pizzas and bagels. And free Tootsie Rolls 24/7 at the counter. It’s hard to say whether they’re successful, but they have over 1,000 franchises and are publicly listed.

Shushanik Gabrielyan is a young woman who graduated from high school and is now suing the Glendale Unified School District. As a member of the school’s water polo squad, she was subjected to workouts in which her coach Casey Sripramong conducted drills that were “extremely intense and egregiously inappropriate,” and that even left her “pushed to the point of exhaustion.”

With regard to Planet Fitness, gym rats hate the place. “Worst gym ever.””It’s not a gym.” Etc.

With regard to Shushanik, comments generally hover in the region of disbelief. Suing a coach because her workouts hurt and made you sore? Really? I mean, really really?

And the answer is really, yes. But the bigger question is whether or not Shushanik and Planet Pizza herald the onslaught of the zombie apocalypse, and if they do, how in the world are we going to battle it with nothing but pizza-and-bagel gorging candy-asses armed with Tootsie Rolls, and the occasional whiny “athlete” who’s upset because she had to sweat?

Alas, if it were only limited to gyms and water polo squads! But it’s not. Competitive cycling is awash with Shushaniks–from thin-skinned juniors who can’t handle losing to glass-ego masters who foment a revolution because they’ll have to (Gasp!) compete against 35-year-olds instead of 40-year-olds.

This begs the question, “Is there anything wrong with being a cupcake?” Of course not, just as long as you understand that the purpose of cupcakes is to be eaten.

And then there’s the bigger picture. Planet Pizza claims that its business model ($10 monthly membership) accommodates people who need a gym to help them get ready to go to a gym, but that’s utter bullshit. Planet Pizza’s clientele are like every other gym’s clientele: They sign up and don’t go.

However, unlike CrossFit and SoulCycle and all the other ridiculously named, mirrored meat markets, at $10/month it’s easy to maintain your membership at Planet Pizza without actually going, almost like having a $2.99 blog subscription that you never actually read.

This is one reason Planet Pizza hasn’t raised its rates since 1999. The other reason is that when you discourage actual “gym rats,” i.e. “people who use what they’ve paid for,” you eliminate the gym members who wear shit out.

Running a gym requires continual equipment maintenance and replacement if you have a contingent of heavy users, and the stuff isn’t cheap. It’s much easier to stretch the life out of a treadmill that’s never used, cf. your Lemond indoor trainer gathering dust in the garage, and the lifespan of the equipment affects every gym’s bottom line. Problem is, excluding heavy users to focus on members who never come gives the lie to Planet Pizza’s marketing ploy. They don’t exist to help the uninitiated get fit, they exploit suckers. Which is kind of the same thing.

Worse, this type of behavior, once accepted and entrenched, makes it unexceptional when an athlete sues a school district for making them uncomfortable and sore. I shudder to think who Gabrielyan is going to sue the first time she has marathon sex. The promise of “all gain, no pain” and the cynical sale of gym memberships-cum-pizza ties in perfectly with people like Gabrielyan who are outraged that progress requires discomfort, discipline, and, yes, nut-crunching misery. Donut Ride, anyone?

Of course there’s an easy solution to all of this: Quit scrolling.

END

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One of a kind

December 12, 2015 § 32 Comments

A buddy came by to help me drown my recovery sorrows in cookies and ice cream, and talk eventually turned, as all conversations about Cycling in the South Bay eventually to, to Certain Friend.

“You know,” he said, “Certain Friend was one of a kind.”

“Yes, he was.”

“Certain Friend was the only guy with whom you could be riding, or a couple of times it happened walking down the street, and someone would just appear from nowhere, a stranger, and start screaming at Certain Friend.”

“Those tales are epic.”

“They’d totally go off on him. ‘You are a complete asshole!’ and ‘I know you, you are the biggest jerk!’ And you know what was amazing? Certain Friend never even knew who they were.”

“Yep.”

“He’d offended and insulted so many people that the South Bay was literally teeming with enemies, the vast majority of whom he’d only vaguely known and completely forgotten.”

“Certain Friend was a legend.”

“One of a kind. Certain Friend made people hate his fucking guts just by opening his mouth. And you know what?”

“What?”

“We have fewer and fewer one of a kind characters like Certain Friend. Things have gotten more homogenized. Polite. No one wants to offend. Certain Friend had ‘IDGAF’ on his birth certificate. I miss that dude.”

I kind of agreed. “Yeah, I do, too. But he really was an asshole.”

The next day I went to my first physical therapy session. For three weeks now my recovery regimen has been this:

  1. Lie in bed.
  2. Sit in desk chair.
  3. Sit on couch.
  4. Sit at dinner table.
  5. Lie in bed.

Casey, my buddy the PT who runs Independent Physical Therapy just around the corner, helped me onto the bed. He’s a super guy and a great physical therapist. He started to check my range of whimpering. “How does this feel?”

“Ouch!” I snorted.

“But I’m not touching anything yet.”

“I’m a big believer in prophylactic whimpering.”

After doing a thorough once-over to make sure my ROW was sufficient to allow me to pedal, I got on the recumbent bike.

I pedaled slowly, expecting shooting pains in my leg. There were none. I pedaled a little faster. Nothing but the stretching of muscles and tendons and ligaments that had shrunken up like dry rubber bands. Then I felt blood rushing into my legs. It was the most amazing and beautiful feeling I’ve ever had.

seth_and_casey

seth_rehab

After an hour I went home. I’d been invited to a party that evening but had decided not to go unless my leg felt really good, which it did. This would be the fifth time I’d been outdoors in the last three weeks.

I got to the party and immediately began talking with my friends. Everyone was super kind and solicitous and I got to give the organ recital over from scratch each time someone asked how I was doing. No one seemed bored, and I loved wallowing in my own trough of stoic-but-pitiful-but-on-the-mend-but-in-pain-and-yes-thanks-I’ll-have-another-slice-of-pie.

The time flew. And then, just as I’d texted Mrs. WM to come pick me up, a woman walked up to me, scowling and mad.

“I know you,” she snapped. “You’re the blogger.”

I was seated with a cracked pelvis, my crutches were out of reach, I didn’t carry a concealed weapon, and this clearly wasn’t going to be good. “Yes?” I said.

“Well, I’ve read your stuff and you know what?”

“What?”

“You’re an ARROGANT ASSHOLE! That’s right, you’re an asshole. A big, ugly, stupid, blathering, rude, arrogant asshole. And I want you to know that.” Then she crossed her arms defiantly and awaited my reply.

I glanced over at the crutches and wondered how far I could get before she tripped me and pushed me down the stairs.

“Thanks,” I said, “and Merry Christmas to you, too.”

Ms. WM picked me up curbside a few minutes later. “How was the party?”

“I learned something about myself.”

“Really?”

“Yep. I’m one of a kind.”

END

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 14: : It gets easier, you just go slower

December 10, 2015 § 29 Comments

One of the greatest lines in old man cycling lore was coined by Greg Lemond, and we’ve all tattooed it on our foreheads for those mornings when it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dark, it’s nasty, it’s punishing, plus it’s all those things outdoors, too.

Here, of course, is the mantra: “It doesn’t get easier, you just go faster.”

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, or farther, if you’re still stuck in that further/farther grammar debate that was resolved in the last century. And to find the ludicrous falsity of the statement we need look no further/farther than Greg himself.

He’s so slow now that I could beat him with one leg tied behind your back. And talk about going easier … that guy shows up on charity rides and practically has to be pushed. On the flats. He’s bigger than the cargo hold of a C-5 Galaxy, and far from gutting out the pain as he suffers like a dog, when he pedals he looks happier than vegan at a tofu slaughterhouse.

So today’s atheist old fart cycling clinic, the mantra is this: “It gets easier, you just go slower.” This idea that you’re a fitness machine on an ever-ascending scale to the summit of Mt. Eddy is a big, fat, stinking bucket of rotten dogsbodies, and in today’s workout regimen you’re finally going to remove your head from the swill and take a breath of fresh air.

To recap: You are older each day. As you age you become irreversibly weaker, Meeker notwithstanding, and then you die. This can’t be prevented by strengthening your core or RuggedMaxx2 vegan organic sex pills.

The “easier and slower” mantra perfectly comports with the natural collapse of all physical and mental systems as you age. Even if you’re Todd Hickman and pumped full of stanozolol, you’re still going slower than you did when you were 25. And if you’re going faster at 45 than you were at 25, it’s because you weren’t very fast back then, or perhaps you were dead.

I can hear the wailing and teeth-gnashing now. “Uh-uh! I PR’ed the Strive segment by my mailbox! By five seconds!”

“Studies show that [insert ridiculous claim here]!”

“Older riders have better endurance!”

Blah de blah de blah de Bladi.

In response, please note that there are a host of parameters to measure your slowness, and the best one is your placing in UCI Pro Tour races. Oh? You don’t do those? Well then you’re so slow that you’re way behind last place. You know how people deride second place as the “first loser”? If you’re not racing the Pro Tour you’re the zillionth loser. (Pro tip: Masters racing isn’t equivalent to the UCI Pro Tour .)

So here’s how you integrate the “slower but easier” methodology into your training regimen, customized for your decaying body and mind.

  1. When doing intervals, which, by the way, you should not be doing at your age, and for which you should frankly be ashamed of yourself, as soon as you start to “feel the burn” in your lungs or legs, douse the fire by pushing down less hard on the pedals. It will feel better and you will go slower.
  2. When climbing out of the saddle and you’re “on the rivet,” sit down and get “off the rivet.” Inhale deeply as you  push down less hard. Get off your bike and sit on a guardrail. See how many bird species you can identify in the next thirty minutes. See how much easier it got?
  3. If the peloton begins ramping it up for a sprunt, move your hand from your drops to the hoods and then to the tops, and  pushing down less hard on the pedals until you are by yourself which will be immediately. You will be going much slower and your groin parts will be feeling lots better, plus you will not be the guy skidding on his gums after Wanks McGee chopped his wheel to take the imaginary victory. Genteelly remove your cigarette case and enjoy a Virginia Slims.
  4. Set up your indoor trainer with the 95-inch TV monitor for a simulated interval sesh on a hilly stage of the Tour, and program it for at least four hours. Then set up a card table with a catered 12-course sushi and fried chicken and chocolate cake lunch with leftover tins of Danish butter cookies. Turn on the sim program, pull up a chair to the card table, and see if you can eat all the food before the program ends.

There. You’ve gone easier, and you just went slower. A shit ton slower. Didn’t that feel better anyway?

END

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