Money talks

January 21, 2016 § 23 Comments

Last year I put up some cash primes in a couple of local races. It wasn’t a huge amount, but $4,000 in cash primes is a lot more than what people here usually race for. The result was that entries doubled compared to the year before and the races that had the cash primes were fast, furious, and strung out from corner-to-corner, start to finish.

But what was interesting is that the big turnout in the men’s fields wasn’t matched by the women, whose fields were small. Where the guys were champing at the bit to haul in some extra dough at season’s end to pay for a slightly nicer cardboard box, the women weren’t, even though the primes were identical for men and women, something that’s a unicorn in bike racing.

Prior to plunking down the cash I had several people tell me that it was wasted money. “The women won’t show up to race because they don’t care about the money.” I was advised to give the women a token amount and put the rest of the cash back into the men’s fields, which would result in more attendance and harder racing.

I refused out of principle. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

In the second race there were 20 women who started in the P/1/2/3 field as compared to four the previous week. Given that it was the end of the season, that was pretty solid turnout–and the women raced hard for the primes, and most of them showed up specifically because there were $100 bills on offer, ten of them in a 40-minute race.

This year I’ve started out with another $2,500 in cash primes for this weekend’s CBR in Compton, and again I’ve matched the men’s P/1/2 field and the women’s P/1/2/3 field with identical prime amounts. So far six women have pre-registered; I’m betting that at least thirty will show up to race. That’s a solid women’s field in SoCal for a local crit.

The people who say that women aren’t motivated by money are wrong. The reason that women turnout is depressed isn’t because women don’t like to make money racing, it’s because the sport has refused for years to give women equal earnings. Year in and year out women are told that because they don’t race in sufficient numbers they don’t deserve equal prize lists.

This is exactly what opponents of Title IX said back when the federal government required equal funding for college athletic programs. Once the money kicked in and women’s programs had funds to travel, hire coaches, and pay for equipment, participation soared. Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than a few hundred bucks at a local crit to energize thousands of women to take up bike racing, but it’s worth trying to equalize payouts and primes for a lot of reasons.

First, it’s fair. The women who show up, even though they are smaller in number, should be treated equally.

Second, it sends the message that women’s racing isn’t an afterthought, it’s a key part of the day’s events.

Third, over time it will increase women’s participation.

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Gitcher Belgian on

January 20, 2016 § 11 Comments

BWR_Social_FBLINK

It’s that time of year. Oh, wait, no it isn’t.

That time of year is Spring, April  24, 2016 at 8:00 AM sharp.

What now is, is the time of year when you sign up for the Belgian Waffle Ride far enough in advance so that you think you’ll be ready for it. The good news is that you will be! The bad news is that you won’t.

This year’s edition, the fifth, features another leisurely spin through the gentle rolling hills and well-maintained road surfaces of North San Diego County. As in past years, the BWR will be pain-free, fun, easy to complete, and filled with happy conversation as you pedal long miles side-by-side with friends, catching up on family news and philosophizing about life, dark matter, and what’s really going on with Chinese stocks.

Of course there may be one or two riders with a different agenda, and who, rather than seeing the BWR as a casual LSD pedal, see instead a painful mix of dirt, tarmac, water, gravel, and rocky sections buffered on all sides by difficulty, epic challenges, and extremely tough riding conditions.

But what do they know?

Well, they may know this …

Although each BWR has been more monumental than the one before, the 2016 edition is the toughest yet. At 144 miles, it is the longest, has the most dirt sectors, and rarely traverses an intersections. The complexity of the course means that there’s something there for everyone, except those who really want to stop. For them, there will be six major and six minor aid stations, some of which will offer tequila or Belgian ale while still offering water, Coke, and event-sponsored beverages.

Some of the sections are so hard you’ll have to walk unless your name is Phil Tinstman or Neil Shirley. Some of the heroic dirt sections from past years such as Black Canyon, Canyon de Oro, and Lemontwistenberg will rear their ugly heads, but the new challenges of Lusardi and San Elijo also await. The rock garden of Lake Hodges has to be traversed in both directions this year, same as the Mule Trail. Perhaps the best feature is the Highland Valley beatdown, five miles of unvarnished climbing hell out to Ramona where you can contemplate forging ahead or calling it a day.

The only way you’ll find out, of course, is to do the dance and sign up for yet another year of full-gas pedalmashing. Better yet, if it’s your first time you can toe the line and discover what’s so fun about slamming a great waffle-egg-bacon-coffee breakfast, riding hard, competing against the best, capping off the ride with more good food and even better beer, then collapsing in a heap and hoping like hell you thought far enough in advance to arrange for a ride back home.

Registration is here: https://bitly.com/bwrreg2016.

Over the next few weeks I’ll put together a series of training plans tailored to the different needs of the various BWR participants. For now the simplest plan is also the hardest: Ride yer fuggin’ bike.

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Are you addicted to cycling?

January 19, 2016 § 41 Comments

As someone with a bona fide addiction, I considered this question from a fellow rider as we two-by-two’ed our way up the Switchbacks today.

Here are my thoughts: First, with regard to Lemmy from Motorhead, David Bowie, and now Glenn Frey, please stop acting like the world just came to an end. These were wizened, drug-addled, head-banging, groupie-groping, career rock musicians, for dog’s sake. Did you think they were going to live to be a hundred? Most of them, especially David Crosby, are lucky they ever saw thirty. Fact is all of their work has been preserved in something called “recordings” and no matter how dead they are, their complex 3-chord arrangements and inarticulate, off-key, guttural grunts will live forever.

And here’s my big prediction: As time passes, they all will die except for Keith Richards, who has been dead since 1969. If you want to get upset about someone dying, why not focus on the children being starved in Syria?

Where were we? Oh right, rock ‘n roll, Keith Richards, addiction.

So my buddy suggested that cycling was an addiction, and I rebelled a bit at that. For me, an addiction is something that you habitually do to deal with a problem, and that effectively treats the problem, but after treating the problem it leaves you with other, worse ones.

With regard to drunkenness, its purpose is quite simple: Silence unpleasant thoughts and replace them with pleasant ones, or better yet, with slurred goop. You see, my head is full of Rated B thoughts (“B” is for “Bad”) and I would rather they were not there. Drinking makes those thoughts go completely away, replacing them with happy thoughts or goop, and it does so immediately. No foreplay, no asking permission, no beating around the bush. Drink one, buzz. Drink two, bigger buzz. Drink three, everything unpleasant is in the rearview mirror and disappearing quickly from sight.

Drunkenness is an addiction (for me) because after accomplishing its objective–obliterating the unpleasant–it runs out of steam and after each treatment session replaces the odious thoughts with even more odious ones. This requires more drinking, until eventually something breaks or someone breaks down.

I suppose cycling could fit this pattern of addiction for some people, but for me (and I think addiction is personal rather than, say, malaria, which infects all its victims under identical conditions) it is not.

To apply the same test, cycling is an activity that silences unpleasant thoughts and replaces them with happy ones, so it starts off looking like an addiction. For me, the happy thoughts are the happiness of beating the living snot out of a real or imagined adversary and watching them struggle, shudder, crack, and crater into a puddle of demolished self-esteem. There is an amazing happiness that comes from riding people off your wheel or jumping around them when they are at the end of their rope, driving a stake through the heart of their hopes and aspirations. It is a very warm, very fuzzy feeling, especially when you know the person well or they are a close friend, to see them wriggle on the end of a meathook and slowly, painfully expire as they gaspingly breathe and groan.

Of course more often than not it is the other person driving the stake through me and I’m the one getting shelled, the one spiraling backwards, legs broken like a wayward SpaceX rocket flopping awkwardly off its landing barge and into the dark, cold, bottomless sea. But even being on the receiving end of the club serves the purpose of taking away bad thoughts and replacing them with good ones: It is pleasant to give it everything you have, to empty your mental and physical tanks, to greedily grasp for the unattainable, to feel the iron bootheel on your skull after pushing yourself to collapse. It’s a glow that some call endorphins, others call “taking the bit between your teeth,” and others refer to simply as “You’re fucked up, dude.”

And yet …

It is this process that differentiates cycling from alcoholism, because after the ride, or rather the mauling, I’m a better person. I’m easier to deal with at home and at work. I’m more sympathetic. I think more clearly, especially after the 2-hour post-ride REM “nap” and 4,000-calorie lunch. And along the way there is a reduction in quantity or intensity or both of unhappy thoughts. When things are really clicking, solutions appear that were invisible before. On top of all this, there’s a residue of physical health, as long as I don’t fall off my bicycle or hop onto the hood of an oncoming truck.

In contrast, any self-respecting addiction leaves an “after the party” set of problems that revolves around the twin challenges of getting out of the gutter and wiping the puke out of your hair. Which isn’t to say that cycling can’t be an addiction for some people, as we all know the person who rode his way out of a job, out of a family, and into state prison as a result of too much cycling. Oh, wait–no, we don’t.

In other words, carry on cycling. While you can.

END

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Make enemies quick!

January 18, 2016 § 10 Comments

The SCNCA board of trustees election is underway, and you can’t vote. Isn’t democracy great?

What you can do, however, is lobby. The way you lobby is this:

  1. Find out who on your USAC-registered club is the SCNCA “team representative.”
  2. Pester that fucker to vote.
  3. Pester that fucker to vote for the people you want to see on the board.

At some time in the future the SCNCA may allow direct elections, where the actual racers get a direct voice in the organization they fund. This will be about the time that you can buy unicorn farts out of vending machines. Until then, let’s lobby.

This election is an important one because the entire 9-person board is up for election. The candidates have all self-nominated and posted their statements here. Your team rep must vote by January 27, so please begin pestering him or her now. Below are my recommendations.

  1. Chris Black. He has raced, coached, promoted, and officiated. He’s a thorn in the ass of USAC but has the tools and the vision to improve SCNCA. Plus, ex-cop.
  2. David Huntsman. He has raced, is an expert in non-profit governance, is a lawyer, believes in transparency, and has played a huge role in getting the current board to resign, hire a lawyer, and hold new elections. He’s also a board member of OC Bike Coalition and has a kid who races.
  3. Omar Lozano. Omar has promoted some great races, has actual skin in the game, and is a crucial bridge between the mostly white SCNCA/USAC status quo and the massive potential pool of US/Mexico Hispanic bike racers. His Adrenaline GP events are super. Without the needs of promoters taken into account, there are no races.
  4. Armin Rahm. SCNCA and USAC critic. German bad-ass. Intelligent and has been around the SoCal racing scene forever. Incredibly accomplished athlete. Strong voice for riders and an articulate voice for what it is that riders want and need.
  5. Matt Wikstrom. Great bike racer. Smart dude. Makes his living in the arena of professional sports management and athlete agency. In other words, a highly accomplished amateur bike racer who works with the finances and mechanics of professional sports for a living. Could we use that at SCNCA? Uh, yes.
  6. Justin Williams. Young. Great bike racer. Respected voice for athletes and a fantastic bridge for the woefully underserved African-American community, which has huge numbers of recreational cyclists in LA who need to view bike racing as something that is available, welcoming, and a great opportunity for them.
  7. Dorothy Wong. Racer and promoter. She’s the single force behind the entire ‘cross calendar in SoCal. Incredibly accomplished, puts on an entire season’s worth of races, friendly, deadline-oriented, pro in every respect.
  8. Sean Wilson. Life-long racer, huge promoter of junior racers and junior racing. Junior team director and advocate who has pulled together numerous statewide events to try and build consensus for solutions that will increase junior racing and therefore secure the future of the sport.
  9. Jan Luke. Jan is committed to implementing the reforms that were begun when SCNCA hired an attorney, held an election to successfully revise its bylaws, and put the current election process in place. She’s running for a 1-year term and would be a good choice to see the reforms through.

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My goals for CTS in 2016

January 16, 2016 § 24 Comments

Carmichael Training Systems, founded by exercise guru and former pro cyclist Chris Carmichael is looked up to worldwide for its ability to help people get the most out of their bodies. CTS recently published a fantastic list of six goals NOT to make this year, and since CTS has done the community a great favor by listing these six important “Thous shalt nots,” I thought I’d return it by giving them some goals for 2016. Chris & Co., you can PayPal me any amount you think appropriate.

  1. Expunge all Internet traces of Carmichael’s relationship with Lance Armstrong. Chris advertised for years as Armstrong’s coach and rode the syringe’s coattails all the way to success even though he was purportedly aware of Lance’s doping for decades. Fortunately, once Lance was revealed to be a cheater, a liar, and a fraudster, CTS has put more distance between Chris and his former protege than there are miles between here and the Crab Nebulae. However, inconvenient Internet links still exist that remind potential clients of Chris & Lance. For 2016, let’s get all those links deleted!
  2. Not dope any juniors against their will. Chris was sued by former juniors on the national team for allegedly force-injecting them with PED’s, leading to horrific injuries and side effects. Coach Carmichael is believed to have settled the allegations under a confidential agreement, so without admitting wrongdoing he was presumably able to pay off his victims without having this nasty chapter of cycling history attached to his Teflon brand. For 2016, let’s not dope juniors against their will!
  3. Sell another 50 containers of snake oil. CTS has mastered the art of selling people what they could get for free, i.e. bicycling fitness and health advice which anyone with a brain knows is this: 1) Ride more. 2) Do what you enjoy. 3) Decline the fourth trip down Ming Yang’s $4.99 All U Can Inhale Chinese Buffet.
  4. Double training camp reservations. The high point of any CTS sucker’s, er, member’s membership, is attending a training camp where you can dream of briefly rubbing shoulders with Chris or receive an extended jock-sniffing session with his old riding shorts. These camps are led by accomplished amateur and pro bike racers who think you are a fat, worthless pile of cattle crap even as they smile, wait for you on the clumb, eagerly paw at you for tips, and seethe at making $9.99 an hour while CTS is raking in all the cash.
  5. Expand the number of profamateurs who get full evaluations. Because you are a profamateur bike racer who may one day enter a Cat 5 race or get your Wanky Cat 2 upgrade after 25 years, it’s important to know your body composition. Whereas the typical Internet coach will just tell you, “Your body is composed mostly of water,” or simply “oxygen,” at CTS they will make you blow into a funny tube and pedal a bike that is stuck to the floor while trying to self-induce heart failure. They will take pictures you can post to show how much you suffered.
  6. Get more people to wade deeper into their cycling delusion. At CTS, after determining your body’s oxygen content (Hint: lots!), you can sign up for a life-changing experience that the rest of the world will regard as madness, i.e. sign up for a “tour” of sections of P-R, Flanders, etc. These will closely replicate the races themselves except that they will come with 4-star lodging, fine food, coach coddling, and lots of supportive emails to help you reach your personal best, even if that means riding 10k in rain along a cow path lined with pig poop.

But perhaps our biggest resolution for CTS is that it continues to succeed with its sports performance by ensuring that “CTS Athletes experience a 10% increase in sustainable power in the first 6 months of coaching.” If a 10% increase in power doesn’t translate into a happier, healthier life then nothing will!

END

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Corrupting the youth

January 15, 2016 § 41 Comments

I went to a beer-and-biker event last night at Strand Brewing Co., where I was joined by some of my friends from Team Lizard Collectors. They drank beer while I ate tacos and gazed longingly at their frothy hops.

But before they arrived I got there early. I get places early usually. You can sometimes get in trouble arriving early, but pretty much always get in trouble coming late.

At one of the tables was my buddy Joel Elliott. That’s not his real name, so don’t Google “Joel Elliott, Strand Brewing Co.” because it’s just a pseudonym.

He was sitting at the table with his wife, his wife’s friend, and five little kids. The kids were all well behaved, quietly playing UNO, chewing with their mouths closed, and waiting until being spoken to before speaking.

I sat down and Joel introduced me to the kids as “Mr. Davidson.” You know how much kids like being introduced to “Mr.” anything? Kind of like they enjoy the phrases “time for bed” and “I’m telling your father when he gets home.”

But these kids were all well bred and made the briefest of eye contact before resuming their kid lives. I waited a couple of seconds. “All right, kids, listen up!” I said in my most authoritative voice. They all looked up.

“Now you don’t know me, but I’m a liar. The biggest liar you ever met. I’m 52 years old and I’ve been lying since the day I was born. I also have bad manners, chew with my mouth open, and like to spit.”

The littlest punkin gazed up. “How big a liar are you?” she asked.

“I’m a bigger liar than all the other liars in the world combined. I once told my principal, Mr. Smudgy Pigeonpants, that if he spanked me again my leg would fall off.”

“Smudgy Pigeonpants?” they cackled.

“Yes, and his assistant, Poopy Stinkyfeet, I lied to her too.”

“Poopy Stinkyfeet?” said one of the boys. “That’s not a real name.”

“Sure it is,” I said. “Are you calling me a liar?”

“YES!!” they all chimed in unison.

“If you’d called me a liar yesterday that would have been true, but after this morning I decided to quit lying and only tell the truth. I haven’t told a single lie today and don’t intend to.”

“But you just lied about that Stinkypants and Pigeonfeet stuff!” said one of the girls.

“Those lies didn’t count,” I said. “They were assistant lies.”

“What’s an assistant lie?” asked a boy.

“It’s a lie you tell to help you get to the truth. Now, then, go ahead and ask me anything and I swear on a stack of dead cricket abdomens that I’ll tell the truth.”

“What’s an abdomen?” asked the littlest girl.

“It’s like a stomach except on a cockroach,” said one of the boys.

“How old are you?” asked the littlest girl.

“437,” I piously intoned.

“LIAR!!” they all yelled, bits of food falling onto the floor and a general mess of the card game being made. One of the boys spilled some cold water on my feet.

“Okay,” I said, “I was lying about that but I won’t lie anymore, I promise. I learned to stop lying in prison.”

“You’ve been to prison?” the biggest boy asked.

“Oh, sure. Everyone in my family has.”

“Are you lying again?” asked the other boy, who had become something of a skeptic in a rather short period of time.

“No, sir.”

“What were you in prison for?”

“Killing people,” I said. “Forty of them. All at once. With a spitball cannon to the big toe.”

“LIAR!” they all roared.

“Nope,” I said. “I’ve got the prison tattoo on my left arm to prove it. It says ‘Corcoran State Prison for Spitball Murder, #20182718101838540582Azidy283521.'”

“On your arm?” asked the skeptic.

“Sure.”

“Show it to us.”

I was wearing a hoodie, a long sleeve sweater, and a long sleeve t-shirt. “Roll up my sleeve and see for yourself.”

They all pounced on my arm, knocking a taco off the table, smearing some salsa with the UNO cards, and making a general mess. They got the 12 sleeves of Christmas rolled halfway up. “There’s no tattoo!” shrieked the oldest girl, triumphantly.

“Sure there is,” I said. “It’s on the other arm.”

“LIAR!” they roared and attacked my other sleeve.

“There’s no tattoo here, either!” proclaimed the skeptic.

“You didn’t roll it up far enough,” I said.

They all turned to with great energy and violence, but there was only so far they could roll up the bundle of sleeves. Finally the littlest girl jammed her hand up the inside of my bicep. “I can’t feel any tattoo!”

“Oh, no!” I said. “Now you’ve got stinky hand!”

She sniffed her fingers. “Yuck!”

“That will never wash off,” I said, sadly.

“LIAR!” they all said.

“What’s your name?” I asked the biggest girl.

“Cassidy,” she said.

“That’s an incredible coincidence!” I shouted excitedly.

“What’s a coincidence?” asked the littlest girl.

“It’s when a bunch of things happen wrong at the same time,” said the biggest boy.

“How come it’s a coincidence?” asked Cassidy.

“Because my daughter’s name is Cassidy, too!”

“LIAR!” they all shouted.

“No, really, this time I swear I’m telling the truth. Her name is Cassidy except we spell it with an ‘a’ instead of an ‘i’ but we pronounce it the same.”

“LIAR!”

“I swear on a stack of old cockroach droppings that I’m telling the truth, really.”

“LIAR!”

“No, really.”

“LIAR.”

“I extra promise!”

“LIAR!”

I looked at the littlest girl, who had wedged her way under my left arm and who was perched cozily against my hoodie while sitting on my leg. “You don’t think I’m lying, do you?”

She smiled sadly. “You’re a big liar but you’re a nice liar,” she said.

“If that’s your daughter’s name call her up and let us ask her what her name is!” said the skeptic.

“Call her up! Call her up! Call her up!” they all shouted.

“Well, okay,” I said. I slowly took out my phone and, hiding the screen, dialed my daughter on speakerphone.

“Hello?” she answered.

A cacophony of little kid voices screamed, “What’s your name?”

My 27-year-old daughter, who grew up with a rather odd father, wasn’t the least bit surprised to be receiving a phone call from what sounded like half a dozen screaming kids demanding to know her name.

“Cassady,” she said. “Who is this?”

Dead silence. The kids looked at me in awe.

“Thanks, honey,” I said into the speakerphone, and hung up.

END

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Five types of people who will quit cycling

January 14, 2016 § 21 Comments

People get into cycling for different reasons, but what’s as interesting as the things that get people into it are the things that get them out of it. Have you ever noticed that there will be someone who’s “all in” for several years and then suddenly they just vanish?

Over the decades I’ve come up with some key markers for people who may not be sticking around.

  1. People who ride to race. Cyclists who get into cycling from the “sport” vector eventually burn out. No matter how good they are or how quickly they progress (and often because of it), they eventually realize that THIS is as good as they’re ever going to be, and from their vantage point that’s not good enough. For these people, if you’re not winning, you’re a sorry, worthless, rusted out Campy Nuovo Record derailleur spring.
  2. People who love equipment. Cyclists who are infatuated with the stuff and the clothes (incredible, I know, to be infatuated with clown suits) usually quit when they’ve bought everything there is to buy. Top of the line, of course. Closet full of Rapha, garage full of the sickest frames, a wheelset for every dining occasion, these collectors eventually get bored and turn their gaze and their checkbooks somewhere else.
  3. People who love “the group ride.” These riders are blown away when they discover the “wonderful cycling community” and make every ride, every function, every tryst. Then one day they realize we’re the same bunch of assholes they see at the office, only we’re wearing clown suits instead of Armani ones. Boom. Gone. See ya.
  4. People who are snobs. Snobs master everything and do everything at least once. They race, they cruise, they tour, they MTB, they ‘cross, and they have the sickest 1936 Schwinn Excelsior Motorbike, lovingly restored … the only common denominator is that they do it better than you. Then that moment arrives when they get out-snobbed and snap! There are suddenly three shit-tons of great deals on eBay.
  5. People who have The Big Crash. These riders happily pedal along, sometimes for years, thinking that catastrophic injury happens to other people. Then they get run over by a mobile coffee roaster and can’t walk right for sixty months. Significant Other points out insurance benefit limits, the downsides to unemployment, the relative safety of golf, and that’s all she wrote.

On the flip side, there are some people who never, ever stop cycling. They’re just as weird.

  1. People who love riding around. They don’t care on what or where or how fast or dressed in what. They may be faster than a midnight roach under the spotlight of the cracked fridge door, or slower than the apartment handyman when your fully loaded toilet blows up. Doesn’t matter. They just love to ride.
  2. People whose lives are a living fucking hell on earth. These people know that the only escape from hell is on a bicycle. They do triple centuries, double Iron-Persons, and RAAM. You can have their bike when you pry their cold, dead testicles (or labia) from off the saddle.
  3. Drunks. Drunks love bikes. It’s pretty darned simple. No one knows why.
  4. People who are super cheap. Nothing is cheaper than biking except walking and being dead. When done properly, riding actually puts money in your bank account. (We’re still working out the details of this and will let you know when it’s perfected.)
  5. People who never grow up. Sound familiar? I knew it would.

END

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