Ill health

April 21, 2017 § 36 Comments

I’ve noticed that cyclists seem to get sick a lot, and bike racers, crazy sick. One person gets a cold and then everyone gets it. You’d think that with all the fitness and healthy lifestyle, especially the deep-fried kettle chips, bike racers would never get sick. But they do.

And if they’re not sick, they’re hurt. You don’t hardly have to ask a bike racer how they are doing. They will never say, “Great!” or “My legs are off the hook!” or “Amazing!”

Instead they will tell you about their whooping cough, or their dysentery, or their inflamed urethra, or their separated shoulder, toothache, etc. I know that Tour de France riders are so fit they constantly hover between immaculate form and dropping out of the race due to a summer cold. Apparently the fitter you are, past a certain point, the weaker your immune system.

I never say never, but I’m never sick. Maybe once every couple of years I get a legit cold with sniffles and an annoying fever, but the last time I was in bed due to illness was a long time ago. There was the time in 2015 when I broke my nutsack and got laid up for a short while, but other than that, pretty much nothing. And although I always feel gutted after a hard ride or race, it only takes a day or so to bounce back and feel great again.

One reason I don’t get sick is that I’m never really all that fit, certainly not razor fit. The only way my belly muscles would ever get cut is if I shaved them with a rusty razor. So there’s no way I’m going to ever be hovering on the precipice of supreme fitness with a compromised immune system.

The other reason is that growing up I was a filthy little kid. I bathed once or twice a month until I was thirteen. The only way to get the dirt and grime off was to sweat, and in Texas we did that a lot. Our dog Fletcher was covered in fleas and the fleas always had a secondary feast on us. Plus there were ticks. Sometimes you wouldn’t find them for a week or so, until they had swelled up into giant green blobs that exploded like blood bombs when you popped their abdomens. Then the head would stay lodged under your skin and get infected, and you’d usually end up cutting open the infection with a filthy pocket knife to drain the pus. As a little kid bonus my brother and I would always sniff the other one’s festering sore. “Gross!” we would shriek happily.

We had lots of cats, and they’d scratch us and bite us pretty regularly. Nothing is nastier than a cat scratch. The giant red welts would last for days and sometimes get infected. Outside we’d get stung by everything, mosquitoes of course, but also honeybees because we loved to try to catch them and put them in jars, bumblebees, and yellow jackets. Nothing was more fun than pelting a giant yellow jacket nest with rocks and then running. No matter how many times we learned that you can’t outrun wasps, we’d do it all over again.

My point is that as a child I must have developed a very strong immune system as an alternative to being dead. I’m sure I got sick, but I sure don’t ever remember it. What I remember is playing sick to get out of school, but that only worked a few times a year.

As a cyclist I think a lot of my immune system strengthening comes from water bottles. There is nothing as nasty as a water bottle. You can try to clean them as much as you want, but the manufacturers make the nozzles so that they can’t really be cleaned. They’re like mini-toilets that can’t ever be flushed. Finally it just gets so disgusting that you throw it away and buy a new one, otherwise, who would ever replace a water bottle? I never do that. I will drink from a nasty water bottle until the rubber rots off. What’s a little gangrene or encephalitis?

Between my water bottles and my mediocre fitness, I hope to not encounter sickness for many years to come. But you can still tell me about yours.

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Washed up seals

April 20, 2017 § 16 Comments

 

“When I was watching, I almost couldn’t understand how that small gap could be so nearly impossible to close. But I did understand because that gap has been in front of me so many times before. The cool thing is when you do close it.” — Steve Tilford.

I had great legs for Telo last night, which I chalk up to the last two weeks of time-trail training. It seems that 60-minute efforts are thoroughly miserable but they make you stronger. And they do help you close a gap.

Before the race I told Derek that I had great legs. “The first rule of having great legs is to never tell anyone you have great legs.”

“My legs feel awful,” I said.

“Really?” Derek asked.

Bike racing has lots of rules. One of the rules is don’t buy a poster from http://www.allposters.com unless you see it first. I have always liked Albert Bierstadt even though he is considered hokey by real art lovers. His work is overdone and drippy and maudlin, supposedly. I love his pictures because he really did paint the beauty of the West. If you think it’s overdone, that’s because you’ve never seen nature in its grandeur. He’s not overdone, you’re underdone.

Anyway, I bought one of his paintings called “Seal Rock.” I bought the poster for $10 because the painting’s $7,900,000 tag was out of my price range. My daughter and wife immediately said it looked horrible, and it was a pretty lousy reproduction, as if someone had fallen asleep with their finger on the “saturation” button. Still, I wasn’t about to throw away ten bucks so I hung it on the wall.

My daughter looked at it. “Well at least it fits with the other cycling stuff.”

“It does?”

“Aren’t you always talking about clubbing seals?”

She had a great point, and using that clever reasoning we now have another cycling work of art to go with my 1990 World Championship banner and my poster from the 1957 worlds held in Spain. So cycling poster purchase Rule #1 is Make Sure It Is Related to Cycling. And this one was because, seals.

There weren’t many baby seals at Telo yesterday. Mostly they were people I’ve never beaten before. But since I had great legs I planned to beat them anyway.

“What’s your plan?” Eric asked me.

“Hammer from the gun.”

“That’s not a winning plan.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Well, if Frexit shows up, he’s going to win. And Josh or Derek will make the split with him. So one of us covers Josh and the other covers Derek. That way one of us will make the split. They’ll still beat you, of course.”

“Makes sense. What about just following Frexit?”

“He will tire you out then counter while you’re putting a lung back in and you’ll miss the split. Like every week.”

“Okay.”

The race started and we went easy for three laps. Then Aaron strung it out. It was a small group, maybe 25 riders, which is bad at Telo because there’s nowhere to hide. The headwind stretch was its usual howling headwind. My legs felt beyond good, like I could go with anything.

Daniel Park started the attacks, and pretty soon Frexit went. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm so I forgot about marking Derek and Josh and went with him. It was hard but I was okay. Then there were a few more counters and we were about thirty minutes in and suddenly I wasn’t okay. Just as I came off the front a huge counter came with Frexit, Derek, Eric, Josh, Bader, and everyone else in a line, one of those grim-faced lines.

I got dropped and was in a chase group of about ten riders. We were all pinned. The leaders were about fifteen riders or so and they simply vanished. I recovered a little and started rotating hard along with Jon Paris and Tony Wang. Then Scott Torrence began putting in some massive efforts. He had been following wheels and had a lot in the tank. He finally put in one huge pull about the time that the leaders sat up.

That effort closed the gap and as we rushed up onto the tail of the leaders I could see that they were all sitting up and gassed. It was a case of a break going so hard it tired itself out, or it had too many people to get organized, or both. We caught them just before the right-hander into the driving headwind, so I swung wide and kept punching, which turned out to be the winning move, just not for me.

I was now in a break with Derek and Attila, who is ostensibly my teammate, but neither one of us can sprint. Then David Wells came across a hellish gap solo which made it 3-to-1 but still terrible odds because although Heavy D has a good finish, he’s not as fast as Derek.

We were in tactical hell. If I quit driving the break we’d get caught by Frexit, Brexit, Aaron, and Eric and my meaningless fourth place would go to meaningless-minus-four-places eighth. It’s funny the kind of loser math you do when you’re about to get your ass kicked. But if I kept my foot on the gas Derek would cream us in the sprint. He had no incentive to drive the break because he had two teammates in back, one of whom could likely close the deal. However, he wanted to keep the break going just enough to stay away from Frexit, who’d beaten him soundly last week, especially since the chance of losing to the three of us on Team Lizard Collectors was zero.

This is where if I’d have been a bike racer I would have taken the risk of getting caught and forced Derek to work harder. Instead I attacked him, which he easily followed, and neither of my teammates was able to counter, so we were back where we started, with the added disadvantage of having removed all doubt from Derek’s mind as to our respective energy levels.

On the final lap it was hopeless, so I told Attila I’d lead him out but he’d have to close the deal. That was wasted air, of course, because the only deal he closed was beating me for third. Derek attacked before the end of the chicane and came through the last turn clear. Heavy D gave him a run for a little while but Derek’s kick was too much.

The rest of the field, at least the part that hadn’t quit, finished in twos and threes. Everyone’s face looked green. I’m certain that’s the first time I’ve ever beaten Frexit or Brexit. Even though it seemed successful from the vantage point of instigating the break, driving the break, and getting one of my best Telo finishes ever, it was still loser math, fourth out of four with three teammates in the break.

I’ll keep doing the TT practice and see if that helps. That’s the first time I’ve made the split at Telo in about a year. But as Derek likes to say, the determining factor in winning any race isn’t how you ride, it’s who shows up. Maybe next time I’ll send out a group email telling everyone that the race has been moved to Wednesday.

END

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Somewhat genteel request

April 19, 2017 § 31 Comments

If you subscribe to this blog, or are one of those people who periodically sends me a check, or who PayPals me a few bucks from time to time, or who jams cash into my sweaty palm after a bike race, thank you.

If you regularly read this blog, thank you.

If you regularly read and don’t subscribe, please consider doing so. You can click on the PayPal link in the upper right-hand corner, or mail me a check, or of course jam cash into my sweaty palm after a bike race. Or before, for that matter. I’d probably even take it during. Credit cards are fine too, but definitely not during the race.

One of the things that motivates me is knowing that there are people who think that what I write, even though they could read it for free, is worth paying for. That’s pretty high praise.

Subscribers are also the reason I don’t hawk space to advertisers. I’d rather be dependent on the collective judgment of a whole bunch of cyclists spread all over the world in small dollar increments than have to worry about the influence of one or two heavies when it’s time to talk about controversial subjects, advocate for safer streets, demand fairness from the cops, publicize protests, call out doping cheats, investigate the douchebaggery of various and sundry kooks, or blame my friends for not letting me win at Telo.

So there’s the hardest thing out of the way about asking for money, which is asking for money.

Thanks.

END

I’m all pent up

April 18, 2017 § 14 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END

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Hired Guns: Part 9

April 17, 2017 § 18 Comments

Part 9: Who is Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr.?

Last year when the bicycle protests in PV Estates got underway, a guy told me to “look out for Robert Chapman.”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“He’s this anonymous Internet troll guy who lives in PV and is a complete ass.”

I didn’t pay much attention, since “anonymous Internet troll” always equates with “coward” and since I had other concerns than playing Billy Goat Gruff. Before long, though, this link on the Internet came up, and it won’t take you more than a few sentences to suspect what I did: The anonymous troll author of this web site is seriously deranged. I’m no fan of the PV Estates cops, the council, or the city manager, but these vile attacks on wives, ex-wives, and children are sick, and they’re the product of a sick mind.

Is the author of this junk Robert Chapman? I don’t know for sure, but the bizarre language of the web site is eerily reminiscent of the bizarre behavior in the following police reports, all of which were returned as part of a public records request for “Emails or any other documents in paper or electronic format pertaining to the following matters: Activities or complaints regarding or connected with Robert Chapman.”

Remember all those police reports where an anxious bedwetter in PV Estates consumed countless hours of police time to investigate dogs? Tip of the iceberg …

Hundreds and hundreds of pages were returned as a result of my public records request; some of the documentation is truly bizarre, and I’ll be publishing all of it shortly. I hope you like stories about bald, droopy, middle-aged men prancing around in hot tubs.

But my interest in Chapman is actually specific to cycling. Why is the author of the PVE PD hate web site, whether or not it is in fact Robert Chapman, so torqued about the police department?

I’m torqued about the police because they unfairly target cyclists and harass outsiders. But the hate web site’s author lists a slew of reasons that even a cursory inspection reveals as subterfuge. After a bit of reading, a bit of googling, and a whole bunch of time spent reviewing crazy-talk public and court records, I may have unearthed the reason for the author’s venom, and perhaps his hidden-in-plain-sight identity as well.

This matters to cyclists because the same web site that is going after the organization and the individuals who make up the PV Estates police department is the same person who’s going after cyclists. Perhaps a little sunlight will go a long way to disinfecting his rotten attitude and chickenboy attacks. If not, at least people will be able to pin a face and a name on the donkey who is too cowardly to sign his own name.

But first, a continuation of the police reports and the truly dyspeptic personalities involved. If you’re a cyclist, you should ask yourself again: Can a police department that responds to people and complaints like this ever be expected to treat cyclists fairly, when it’s these very bedwetters demanding that the police “enforce” the laws against cyclists?

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Time trailing

April 16, 2017 § 22 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20170415_tt_practice

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I’m not judging

April 15, 2017 § 2 Comments

I’m evaluating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most people don’t like that, I guess.

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

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

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

END

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