“Common” sense

December 4, 2017 Comments Off on “Common” sense

We held the final stage in our club’s first ever Galactic Championship bicycle racing series on Saturday. The results were impressive: 52 out of 267 club members signed up to race. There were also a fair number of members racing cyclocross who couldn’t attend, so the total number of Big Orange Cycling members who pinned on a number was probably around 62 riders, a record in absolute numbers and in percentages (23%).

Below are the stage results and the overall:

 

Careful analysis indicates that I got my butt kicked. Hmmmm.

But there were some other things that, if you have any involvement with a bike racing club, might be useful lessons. Here were the main ones:

  1. The best way to get people to race is to provide your club members with intra-club races where they can experience racing in a safe, supportive, fun, educational, social atmosphere.
  2. Creating these racing opportunities is the only way to combat the divisiveness of “racer” and “non-racer” factions within a club.
  3. When the board supports and participates in this kind of event, most especially by board members themselves racing, members who have never raced will show up and try out racing. Nothing speaks to credibility in bike racing like racing your fuggin’ bike.
  4. Everyone loves it. First-time riders gain massive confidence, experienced riders have a blast and mentor others, and your club can have a series of social events organized around your club’s mission: bike racing.
  5. Many members in Big Orange don’t understand that we are a racing club; they think we are a social club that has racers rather than a racing club whose social events are organized around racing. This doesn’t mean everyone races or has to race. But it means that clubs continually reinforce their racing mission by giving people the opportunity to race. Whether they take the opportunity is their choice.
  6. Many members can be encouraged to race by having club races and by giving members the opportunity to first volunteer and “check it out.” I spoke with one member who was unaware that in a time trial riders went off one by one. I spoke with another new member, whose wife DID NOT KNOW that we are a racing club, and he wasn’t entirely sure about what that meant, either, other than he “didn’t want to do crits.”
  7. Shoot for at least one series a year, two if you can swing it.
  8. Have a format that lets people showcase very different skills. We did: 1k TT, hillclimb, 10-mile TT.
  9. Use formats that exceptionally safe, like TTs and hillclimbs.
  10. Don’t allow aero equipment! It will let everyone feel like they had a level playing and not that they were the losers in an arms race.
  11. Tell your new members explicitly that you are a racing club and that you will be encouraging them to race. Not hassling or pressuring, but encouraging through role modeling, education, and annual intra-club series opportunities.
  12. Most racing clubs have no problem recruiting non-racers. But your mission should be to give them the opportunity to race.
  13. I met so many people!!!!!
  14. Sponsors should be urged to show up and help out at club races. They will get to meet their customers, learn about bike racing, take pictures, and understand the value of their sponsorship.
  15. Set a number or percentage for members in 2018 to pin on a number. You’ll never hit a target you don’t aim for.
  16. Don’t be surprised if your event turns out to be the best bike racing you’ve ever done in your life.

Our event went off because board members Greg Leibert, Grey Seyranian, Don Wolfe, Michael Barraclough, and Geoff Loui signed off on it and raced. Patrick Noll did the timing and all of the organization. Kristie Fox brought food, put up tents and chairs, arranged catering, and helped with all aspects of organization. My wife Yasuko, and Jay Yoshizumi, took tons of great photos. Chris Gregory made killer winner necklace awards. Delia Park, Jodi, Jason, Lauri Barraclough, Stephanie Nowak, Mark Maxson, Kevin Salk, Andrew Nuckles, Tom Duong, One Stop Windows and Doors who donated their parking lot for the race, Greg Leibert, Connie Perez, and many people who controlled traffic at the chicane. And of course the wonderful party that Geoff Loui again hosted at his beautiful home put an amazing cap on a great race series.

Check out these these 200+ photos courtesy of Yasuko Davidson!

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and pay to support what you might otherwise take for free. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

 

It’s only a thousand meters

October 29, 2017 § 30 Comments

The fruits of thievery are success.

Velo Club La Grange has for years put on an intra-club race series. It consists of a 500-meter race on the track; you can use a road bike. Later in the year there is a 20-km TT on PCH; you can use your full TT geek rig. This is the only time you will use it all year, btw. The series finishes with the legendary Piuma Hillclimb. It’s about three miles long, it’s steep, and hard.

A small handful of people (think Trump hands) worry that bike racing is dying or perhaps dead. In the “old way,” it certainly is, by which I mean that there is no new crop of young people getting USAC licenses. Why would they? When you race bikes you will get hurt. Better to raise your kids in a safety cocoon than have them learn about risk, injury, danger, and reward.

At the same time, a number of race organizers keep chugging along, here to survive another day on the fumes of past participation, and on the super-charged fuel of the modern fondue ride, which is actually a great concept. You can charge people $160 to ride the roads they can ride for free, everyone wins, and if riders are ambitious and do the long course you can make sure there’s no water left at the last four rest stops.

But I digress.

Velo Club La Grange’s intra-club race series is a template for encouraging people to race, for developing and discovering nascent racers in the club, and for ensuring that the DNA of their organization as a racing club does not degenerate into a social media contest about whose bike is newest or whose selfies are awesomest. Being a free template, I stole it under cover of darkness and transported it, kicking and screaming while tied up in a burlap bag, over to Team Lizard Collectors HQ.

Of course some of the lizard collectors weren’t impressed. “Who needs a club race?” and “This will steal attention from my #socmed posts!” and “How in the eff will this promote my sock brand?” and of course “But I don’t raaaaaace!” were all valid and legitimate objections to the scurrilous suggestion that a bike racing club should have a bike race.

However, the Team Lizard Collectors board is composed, unfortunately, of bike racers, and with the exception of online porn nothing gets them salivating like the prospect of a bike race with trinkets. So they signed off on the cheap imitation of Velo Club La Grange’s Excellent Adventure, and a misbirth was born. Here was the plan for the Big Orange Galactic Championship series:

  1. 1,000-meter TT at Telo. No TT bikes allowed.
  2. Latigo hillclimb. Bring your secret motor, you’ll need it.
  3. 10-lap TT at Telo. No TT bikes allowed.

Several lizard collectors wondered about the 1k event. “It’s too short!” and “It’s too long!” and “It’s too easy!” and “How come I can’t bring my wind tunnel-tested TT rig?” and “But I don’t raaaaaaace!” were all valid and legitimate objections to the scurrilous suggestion that a bike race didn’t have to be so complicated that its inherent complications would create its demise and allow club members to go back to their normal business of lizard collecting and selfies.

However, here were the answers:

  1. Give people a short race and it will encourage them to try it out.
  2. If you think the kilometer is easy, please come show us on race day.
  3. TT rigs have ruined time trialing. They allow you to literally buy speed, they require redundant equipment, and they take one of cycling’s best and safest events out of the purview of the casual rider. TT bikes also make the safest, easiest, and least stressful discipline horribly dangerous for newbies by putting them on twitchy, deadly, unsteerable dorkbikes. Plus, TT rigs look stupid AF and are crazy expensive clothes hangers.
  4. Don’t raaaaaace? No problem. Come ride one thousand lousy meters with a number pinned on, and with your time being compared to everyone else on the same course on the same day under the same conditions, and forevermore you will be called a bike racer. It’s that simple.

Saturday came and went, and 36 members from Team Lizard Collectors’ 300-member roster showed up to compete, several of whom were doing their first race and first time trial ever. Most impressively, four out of the club’s five board members raced; talk about putting your board where your organization’s goals are. Instead of organizing it so that everyone got a trinket by dividing the event into categories of age/weight/gender/astrological sign/religion, there was a women’s category and a men’s. That was it.

The event was a huge success. Riders came out who otherwise would not have. New riders raced their first race. Non-favorites whipped ass on the favorites. Certain people discovered an affinity for short, fast efforts, and with it they garnered real respect, not virtual kudos on Strava.

Best of all, the event shored up our club’s DNA. We’re a bike racing club, open to everyone, racer or not, but with a mission to increase bike racing and to give everyone the opportunity to learn about and participate in this awesome sport. If you run a club and haven’t yet put together one of these series, now might be the time. It’s a blast. And I’ll even loan you the burlap bag.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

 

Wanker of the Year

October 18, 2017 § 13 Comments

The best moment of the 2017 South Bay Cycling Awards never happened. Greg Seyranian, winner(?) of the un-coveted Wanker of the Year award, prepared a lengthy acceptance speech prior to the ceremony in the event he won.

This alone qualified him for the honor.

But the speech was never given. He emailed me a copy and so I give it to you now. I hope he’s not too pissed.

g33

Seth,

Per your request. Speech A. I was prepared to deliver it, but when I got to the Wankys I realized the audience only had a 10-15 second attention span, so I decided to go with an impromptu short and spicy version.

Greg

THE KING’S SPEECH

So when I was nominated for this award I went to Seth and I said, “Wow, I’m so honored to be nominated for this! King of Wankers! I’m not sure I’m worthy of the title.”

And Seth looked at me sideways and he said, “No, dude, this is supposed to be an insult more or less. Probably more.”

And I said, “Well how could that be? Aren’t we are all wankers?”

And he said, “Yes, but look around you. Some people out there still don’t think they’re wankers.”

“Come on!” I said. “Really? How could that be? Who out there prancing around in their clown suit underpants thinks they’re not a wanker?”

“Well, take a look at most of those Cat 3s and Cat 4s and masters profamateurs, not to mention the guys and gals who drink more coffee than race their bikes.”

“Well shit, shouldn’t we tell them?” I asked.

“No, no, most of them have pretty fragile egos that would crumble like a house of cards, it’d just be cruel. Let them have this award instead. Dog knows they’ll never win anything else.”

And I saw the wisdom and the humanity of this, so I agreed. But I was left to ponder what then did the award really mean? And I wondered whether or not I should be insulted.

I had a pretty good guess, since Seth was involved. It must mean that, as Wanker of the Year, you’re not as cool as the rest of us, which was a relief, because I already knew that. Because I’m a super dork. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s cool. I mean, you can’t get a Ph.D. in the sciences without drinking heavily from the fountain of nerd. So it made sense, me being nominated for Wanker of Year, because I’m a nerd surrounded by a bunch of jocks. I must stick out like a sore thumb!

But then I thought, “Wait a minute, I was introduced to cycling by my fellow grad school nerds. And aren’t half the South Bay cyclists socially-challenged engineers and scientists employed by the AeroSpace Corporation or the DoD? These guys are ALL a bunch of nerds playing jock! So what’s up with a bunch of fellow nerds calling out another nerd?”

So I thought back to the previous winners: Brad House. Denis Faye. Seth Davidson.

And it dawned on me. All these guys are *loud mouthed* nerds! Aha! You see, being a loudmouthed nerd is a major violation of the agreement nerds strike when they participate in sport: thou shalt not call attention to thine nerdom, and therein lies the wankdom, because there’s nothing a nerd hates more than experiencing a modicum of coolness only have some idiot ruin it and drag them by the hair, kicking and screaming, back to nerd-town.

What’s more, all those guys I just mentioned aren’t simply loud, they are men of action. They are nerds who place themselves front and center. They are guys who stick their necks out to get things done. Guys who walk the walk when it comes to helping keep the sport of cycling alive, not through glorious podium shots sprinkled throughout Facebook and Instagram, but by risking shame and scrutiny in the menial task of promoting and supporting and fighting for cycling.

Look at Brad House. Twenty-five years of service to cyclists in the South Bay, host of dozens and dozens of racing events, and rabid advocate of cyclists’ rights, especially when you don’t want him to be. A guy who, despite his frayed shorts, open nut-sack air braking technique, and 2nd Amendment fanaticism, nevertheless races his bike week after week. And he’s a member of Big Orange.

Or Denis Faye, another Big Orange member. The man who launched the heart-wrenching, sentimental, and simultaneously idiotic Burrito Challenge to honor the memory of a dear, departed friend. The man who secured Big O’s largest cash sponsor. The man who formed the Big Orange Dirt Squad, which has brought nothing but fame, glory, and honor to Big Orange. Denis is the first guy to get in your face when he senses injustice, who won’t leave it alone until the wrong is righted. And he’s a guy who races his bike all year long, on the road, in the dirt, and through the beer-goggled haze of the cross course. He will probably be shouting and jumping onto the stage uninvited during this ceremony to make some sort of point or other.

Finally, there’s Seth Davidson, the Mack Daddy of Wankers and perhaps the loudest mouth concerning all things cycling in the South Bay. The guy who refuses to kowtow to the status quo. The guy least afraid to speak his mind, especially in the service of justice and safety for his fellow cyclists. And Seth is the first guy to put his money where his mouth is in the service of this great sport. Yet he is the guy who has literally defined cycling wankerdom by being a giant, in your face, loud-mouthed nerd who constantly kills the cool buzz. But he is nevertheless the champion of all things cycling and racing, and he goes out and races his bike week after week, despite breaking his nutsack every off-season and diametrically reconfiguring his training and racing philosophy every other year. Finally, like Brad and Denis, he’s a proud member of Big Orange Cycling and was one of its founding members back in 2009.

So the question is: am I a loudmouthed, nerdy, man of action, still willing to race his bike, who supports the sport of cycling and is a member of Big Orange? You’re damned right I am!

So I’m honored to receive this award on behalf of all my fellow friends who wanted this award secretly but didn’t get it, on behalf of Big Orange Cycling, clearly the king when it comes to wankers, and on behalf of all you poor souls out there who still don’t understand that you too are nothing but wankers. One day you shall know the truth and it shall set you free, but not today. Thank you!

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

Train ’em up

August 26, 2017 § 11 Comments

Last Sunday we were fortunate to have Brian McCulloch and Joy Duerksen-McCulloch come to the South Bay and put on a riding clinic. Brian just finished the Tour of Utah and earlier in the year raced the Tour of Taiwan. Joy is a long-time pro racer on the SoCal and national circuit. They run Big Wheel Coaching in Redlands, and are absolute professionals in the realm of coaching and teaching.

The clinic was in two phases. First we practiced various techniques for riding in a paceline. Later we simulated bike-to-bike contact on a grass surface at a local park. The clinics were geared to beginning-intermediate level road riders, but there was excellent instruction and practice that proved useful no matter what your riding level. The bumping and rear-wheel contact exercises created numerous breakthroughs for almost every participant.

Does your club offer training clinics? I belong to Big Orange Cycling, and in addition to the Cycling Savvy classes that we offer free of charge to members throughout the year, we also offer skills clinics that focus on various aspects of riding. We draw on the expertise of our members and we also hire private coaching for these clinics. The next clinic will feature Methods to Winning on September 30, a racing clinic put on by Rahsaan Bahati and Charon Smith.

If your club doesn’t offer ongoing education and skills training, please consider doing so. It helps new members get comfortable with the rules of road riding, improves intra-club communication, attracts new members when the clinics are open to the public as ours are, and it is perfectly in line with the mandates of most 501(c)3 organizations. Most crucially, it educates riders about how to become safer riders.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.

south_bay_cycling_awards_poster_2017_final

Disrespect your elders

July 10, 2017 § 20 Comments

The sidewalk was hot enough to fry the frying pan after incinerating the eggs. There was a nasty crosswind howling across the desolate course, which was strewn with construction equipment and port-a-potties, doors ajar as they wafted their sweet aroma through the spectators’ area. The final turn led to an impossibly bitter finishing climb that topped out at 6% at the line, where the sweltering audience would be able to inspect the bits of puke dribbling down the racers’ chins.

To quote a famous bike racing film: “Dozens of spectators. Hundreds of dollars on the line. And the stakes? Medium.”

It was Mike Hecker’s and Tom Fitzgibbon’s 805 Criterium, a labor of love that showed the depravity of older men. I took one look at the course and the boiling, stretched, agonized grimaces of the riders toiling up the grade a mere five laps into their race and knew it was going to be a day of bliss.

The race was held a half-block or so from the Amgen Campus in Thousand Oaks; so in addition to the complimentary wheel pit, the wrench services by sponsor Win’s Wheels, and the crack bike injury lawyer services offered by Derryl Halpern, there was also a special EPO pit where I could drop off my syringes in the event I started running low on oxygen uptake receptors mid-race.

Before the race began I carefully reviewed Steve Tilford’s racing principles, thoughtfully taped to my top tube. I only needed to review Rule 1: Don’t Fuggin’ Pull. Before the race I had spoken with Head Down James, who had relentlessly attacked but was never able to make it stick. “No breakaways,” he said. “The group’s momentum on the downhill will peg you back.”

“Then why did you keep attacking?”

Head Down James looked at me blankly. “Dude,” he said. “Because it is fun!”

The 45+ Leaky Prostate Profamateur Full Carbon Made of 100% Carbon race went off, shortened from 50 to 40 minutes due to a terrible accident a couple of races earlier. I sprinted to the back and began fighting aggressively for last place with another fat, slow, and stupid looking racer who looked a lot like Anthony Reguero. It took a while for me to establish my dominance at the end of the chain.

A long way ahead in a galaxy far, far away, Off the Front Wars were taking place as Pat Bos, Tony Brady, and countless other real bike racers ripped away from the field with incredible displays of amazing power. All I noted was that Matt Carinio, that dude who won that national crit title that one time, was fighting hard for next-to-last place and wasn’t interested in the heroics up ahead.

Before the race I had felt him out for his condition. “How’re the legs?”

“Just trying to find some form,” he egregiously lied with a straight face.

“Really? Because judging from your legs you can probably stop looking.”

He laughed. “No, I’m riding for fitness. Hopefully I can come around later in the season.”

The great thing about bike racers is the way they shamelessly lie in the face of indisputable facts. First, it was already later in the season. Second, he was obviously in peak form. Third, no one “rides for fitness” in a steel smelter. Whatevs.

With two and a half laps to go, one of the hopeless breakaways got caught immediately before the final turn leading up to Barfnpuke Hill. I had done nothing the entire race. My legs felt great. The hill had taken nothing out of my legs. The field was looking at each other, calculating the math for “When do I start moving up without getting stuck too far forward?”

I hit it hard. With five or six Big Orange teammates back in the field, I knew it would have to be decisive in order for them not to chase me down, as our key team tactic at Team Lizard Collectors is “Never chase anything but orange!”

My strategem worked. As I flew away from the tired, wrinkled, sad, scabby, pickle-faced old men, Rahsaan Bahati and Tom Fitzgibbon in the announcer’s booth began screaming something that sounded incredibly similar to “Wanky wins the $50 cash prime!”

I caught sight of Ms. WM on the sidelines, who was swooning as she realized that after more than thirty years her husband was, instead of worn-out excuses, finally going to bring home actual cash from a bike race. The gap was huge, it was now two laps to go, and the only way they would bring me back was with an organized team effort. Since Team Lizard Collectors had inexplicably decided not to chase, the work was left to Pat Bos and Team Don’t Fuck This Up Bart Clifford.

With one lap to go I was still clear and the five or six fans paying attention were cheering wildly, or at least somewhat lukewarmedly. With a final shuddering push, Pat and his henchmen hunted me down like a mangy cur, put the bootheel on my neck, and listened to the popping and cracking sound of my cervical vertebrae as the life and fight slowly seeped away.

Unhappily for them, instead of having sat up and gifting me the awesome victory, they were now left in the sad situation of having brought Matt Carinio, fully rested national champion who’d been at the back all day, Dave Holland, fully rested Big Orange Lizard Collector who has a massively fast finish, and one other fully rested dude to the bottom of the hill.

Carinio put away his nail file, folded the Sunday paper back into his jersey pocket, adjusted his glasses, did a couple of mini post-up practices, unclipped the leash and let go with what is often referred to as a “sprint.” Brian Davis got second, Dave got third, and Team Don’t Fuck This Up Bart Clifford watched as Bart, totally gassed from his team’s chase, kicked hard for fifth. Moral to the story: It’s better to get beaten by a national champion than a worn-out, broken down, wheelsucky, desperation-move Wanky.

After the race Ms. WM, recovered from the shock of winning fifty whole cash U.S. dollars, propped me up beneath the tent, doused my head with cold Gatorade, and firmly instructed me rest.

“Rest? We’re going home.”

“No,” she said. “You gonna race the 35 little boy race.”

“Like fuck I am,” I said. “It’s not for four hours, it’s already 100 degrees, and they’ll all be fresh. Fuck that.”

“You gonna go out there and get onna more fifty dollars. Thatsa good bike racin.”

“Honey, I won my first $50 cash prime in 33 years. Lightning won’t strike again today. Trust me.”

Four hours later I was lined up with a smaller field. A younger field. A fresher field. An angrier field. Fortunately, the wind was blowing lots harder and it was now 105 degrees. “Don’t worry,” I told Holland. “A break won’t stick. All we have to do is suck wheel and when they get pissed, flash our AARP cards. I’ll lead you out and you can show Charon and Bahati what the word ‘sprint’ means.”

Holland rolled his eyes. “Please don’t get anywhere near me in the sprint,” he begged.

The whistle blew, the race started, and coming up the hill on Lap 1 Charon and two dudes attacked. “Don’t worry,” I told Holland. “It’s way too early. They’ll be coming back.”

Charon and his breakmates then put a minute on the field and Charon won the race by six furlongs.

Twenty minutes in, things were getting desperate. A chase group of five was up the road, including John Abate. Another group of about fifteen riders was also up the road. In the far back were Holland, I, and fifteen other idiots all wondering why it was so hot, why our lungs were on fire, and whether anyone would notice if we sat out ten or eleven laps and then hopped back in.

As we hit the bottom of Barfnpuke Hill I knew it was now or never, and most likely never. Somehow I got across to the chase group. Holland made it too, but later realized that he had a dentist’s appointment and was not seen again. Everyone in the third chase group got a case of acute reality poisoning as the facts indicated the race for them was over, and if they stayed they would feel terrible and be ridiculed by their wives for finishing 20th, or ridiculed by their wives if they gave up and quit. So most of them quit.

Now I was with Rahsaan, Brandon Gritters, and a large person in an orange outfit (not with Team Lizard Collectors) who was delusional enough to think that we could catch the break. He began shouting at me to pull through, not realizing that he was large, young, and a perfect draft, and that the only way I would pull through is if he had compromising photos of me and someone’s pet goat.

“Pull through!” he yelled, breaking the rule of Don’t Talk. I silently hunkered down, enjoying his width.

Soon other unhappy bicyclists, all twenty years my junior, joined the chorus. “Pull through!” they yelled, treating a tired grandfather like some stupid draft animal. I hunkered some more.

As we hit the bottom of the hill, the one person who had not broken the rule of Don’t Talk, Rahsaan, downshifted and accelerated hard. I hopped on his wheel as he dragged me out of the trench, through the concertina wire, through the mortars, past the bayonets, through the mustard gas, into the barrels of the .50mm Brownings, and somehow, miraculously, onto the tail of the second chase group.

Orange Shoutypants Dude learned two vital lessons: (1) Save your air for pedaling, not bicycle racing instruction. (2) Wanky don’t pull.

No one else made it across except for Eamon O’Reilly and Gritters. Now there were three up the road and about nine riders. Everyone else in the bike race had quit in disgust or was flailing, lonely and in pain, around the windswept hellhole of a course. We were only halfway through. And if you want to know what makes people in a 35+ bike race angry, it’s having a 53-year-old hairy-legged old fellow tagging along. It’s very hard for 35_ fellows to convince themselves that they’re any good when they’re riding with someone who isn’t, especially since every time through the start-finish the announcers would shout, “There’s Wanky, somehow hanging on by a meat thread! Boy, these guys must suck if they can’t get rid of that worn out old shoe!”

The obvious solution to this shameful disgrace was to begin attacking the elderly, which they did. However, a lifetime of wheelsuckery and general meanness somehow allowed me to hang on, even as the group got smaller. With a few laps to go all pretense of pride vanished and the young, strong, handsome, fast young fellows submitted to the incredible humiliation of having me pull them around the course.

“This is all being caught on camera,” I told them as they refused to rotate through. “Rahsaan, they’re going to take away your national champion jerseys when this video gets out,” I added.

Finally, Rahsaan and Gritters, after resting comfortably for a while, responded to my last-ditch attack with a hard counter at one lap to go. I was left with four other riders, none of whom felt inclined to pull. Why should they? We were probably the last five riders in the race. Rather than fighting for a shred of self-respect they would be duking it out for, uh, sixth. Somehow, that’s better than last.

With a few hundred yards to go they all found legs and a new lease on life. I got tenth out of the eighteen corpses who finished the race, the only wanker to have completed two full races on a punishing, miserable, excruciating, stupid, meaningless, regret-and-invective-filled day. Everyone else had quit.

My best race ever, or at least since Telo.

805_phil_beckman

Copyright 2017 by Phil Beckman; Purchased with Commercial Use License.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

The incredible heaviness of other people’s training

December 28, 2016 § 37 Comments

I used to have a friend in real life who vanished from Facebag one day. “Yo, dude,” I said. “What happened?”

“I couldn’t stand all the happy people.”

“What do you mean?”

“Everyone was surrounded by a loving family in a beautiful home with a new bike and a cute dog. My life felt like shit.”

“It did?”

“Oh hell yeah. I was like ‘There’s no way that all 1,500 of my Facebag friends are that happy.’ You know? Divorce and suicide and drunkenness and jail and cheating on each other and debt and getting fired and loneliness and you know, reality. But even though I personally would see a friend at AA, there he’d be smiling on Facebag as if he weren’t on the knife edge of suicide and collapse.”

“People want to be happy.”

“I get it. But it made me feel like a loser. So I’m out.”

“And?”

“I feel great. No more time spent looking at other people’s happiness. I can focus on my own miserable fucking life and how to make it better.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. So for someone on Facebag it may not mean a lot when I get through Christmas without having a screaming match with my parents, but for me that’s progress. Feels great. My success is mine. Don’t have to compare it to some dude’s Ferrari that his wife bought him for the holidays so he can drive the fucking twins to Harvard en route to cashing in their billion-dollar winning lottery ticket.”

After that, every time I ran into Friend, he really was happier, and each time I asked him if he missed social media.

“Oh sure,” he’d say. “Like I miss having my big toe gnawed off by a pit bull with rabies.”

So I recently joined my club’s Strava page. On Strava I don’t follow anyone because I only use it to keep track of mileage. I don’t ride with a Garmin or a power meter or a heart/jock strap, don’t know how fast I’m going, how far I am from home, or when I’m getting back. I don’t give a fuck how far anyone else has ridden or how many KOMs they’ve harvested or how many miles they rode this week or month or year. Why not? Because crappy though it may be, my training plan has remained the same over decades:

  1. A little > nothing
  2. Ride with people when you can
  3. Go hard

As you’d expect, the results haven’t been spectacular, except in the one simple metric that matters, i.e. I’ve kept riding all my adult life, with almost zero interruptions. As people I used to ride with and race with have fallen off the radar screen and gone over to the dark side of Cheesecake Factory, unlimited servings of alcohol, or even triathlons, I’ve kept plodding away. Without any goals, without any targets to hit or to miss, and with nothing but the pleasure of riding a bike to keep me going combined with congenital meanness, it’s kind of worked. I’m hardly the last man standing, but many have come and gone and I’m still at it. Wish I had a nickel for every cycling enthusiast who was going to keep riding until he died and quit after five years with a quiver of bikes, a closet full of kits, and a garage turned into a professional indoor training space-cum-mechanic’s lab.

In other words, just plodding the fuck along, immune to the awesomeness of everyone else, works for me.

So when I joined the Big Orange Club Strava page I got a huge shock. Like, I suck. Not just the usual “Oh well, I suck,” that I accepted long ago, but the “Man, you are probably the worst cyclist in history and should donate your bike to an underprivileged fixie rider.”

The reason I suck so bad is that the club’s leader board is astounding. People ride 300+ miles a week and climb more hills than a Sherpa. It used to be satisfying to knock out 150 or 190 miles and think “Great week! Way to rock it, Wanky!” but no more. That won’t even get you up to the middle of the club scatter graph. Dude, if all you got is 200 miles a week, YOU SUCK and why are you hanging out with us?

At least that’s how it felt. And the following rationalizations, by the way, don’t work.

  1. My rides are quality, not quantity.
  2. Most of the people ahead of me on the leader board don’t race.
  3. Miles don’t equal speed.
  4. I dropped him and him and him and him and her and her and her last week and wasn’t even pedaling hard.

Those rationalizations don’t work for the same reason that my buddy’s observations about the imperfect lives of his Facebag friends didn’t work. When you see more miles and more climbing, it automatically makes you feel slower and less fit and more like a worthless slug. What’s worse, looking at some college kid with 389 miles makes me want to compete, even though it’s that very type of obsessive competition that I have never done and the avoidance of which that has allowed me to keep pedaling my bike for 35 whole years.

In fact, I even had it summed up in a little aphorism: “If you ride to achieve you’ll eventually quit. If you ride for fun you’ll ride for life.”

The huge challenge with cycling, especially as you get decrepit and your wife gives you birthday cards that gently make fun of your erectile dysfunction, is forcing yourself to roll out–not out of the house, out of bed. Once that battle is won, a fierce life-and-death struggle that begins and for most people ends with the gravitational pull of the warm pillow, everything else takes care of itself. But when you think that you’re already behind the 8-ball on Wednesday morning because you’ve only got 51 miles for the week and the club leaderboard has a dozen people already knocking on 150, it makes you want to give in to the siren song of “sleep more, ride later.”

The later, of course, never comes.

The other problem is that our club’s Strava leaderboard seems to feature people who are at completely different points in their cycling lives from me. Maybe they’re new or new-ish riders who are still on fire for all things bicycling. Maybe they have a coach. Maybe they are in their 40’s and doing their first athletic activity since high school. Maybe they’re trying to upgrade in 2017. Maybe they have one of those things, what are they called? Oh, yeah, goals. I’ve heard of those!

Whatever they’re up to, they’re doing something different from me, which is struggling simply to keep riding because nothing looks fresh and rosy and pink and fluffed when it’s in its fourth decade. I’m not fired up by having big miles or lots of climbing or racing or the Donut Ride or anything. My fire was doused in ice water years ago and all that’s left now is a 53-year-old bag of skin trying to slow the inevitable skid off the edge into the abyss.

Sure, I get fired up when I’m finally on the bike and pedaling, but that’s like saying I feel good when I win the lottery. Any fool can be happy when he’s doing something fun. But the trick is to get fired up beforehand, because without that you never make it out the door, and igniting the spark at 5:00 AM when you’re only seven years younger than a dead Princess Leia, two years younger than a dead Prince, the same age as a dead George Michael, two years older than a dead Michael Jackson, and eighteen years older than a dead Mozart, striking the flint is harder than you think.

And since the club leaderboard makes the battle with the pillow exponentially harder than it already is, I finally succumbed and hit the “leave” button on the club leaderboard. No offense, but I feel better already.

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

One tough cookie

November 10, 2016 § 17 Comments

So this was my first grand fondue, and it was a doozy. 18 billion feet of climbing, nothing but Santa Monica mountain roads, and a finishing kick on PCH.

It was the first ever Phil’s Gran Cookie Dough, a fondo that had lots of great stuff, but whose key feature was cookies. Not just any cookies. These cookies.

cookies1

They were so filled with butter and massive bombs of chocolate that when you held them to eat, the aftermath looked like you’d been digging in dirt up to your elbows. I’m not sure if they were chocolate chip cookies, or giant lumps of chocolate with a few crumbs of flour around the edges.

Whatever they were, I needed them, because I had signed up for the full 117-mile, 13,000 foot beatdown only to arrive and decide that as old and stupid and slow and crazy as I was, I wasn’t old and stupid and slow and crazy enough to throw down with Jesse Anthony, Phil Gaimon, Matt Wikstrom, James Cowan, Michael Smith, Katie Donovan, and all of the other etceteras who were doing the full route.

Instead I chose the easy route, 88 miles and 10k of climbing punctuated with lots of rest stops. Problem was, this. And I’m not talking about the underwear:

back_strips

The previous Tuesday on the NPR there had been a rather brisk pace and upon returning home I realized that it had been so brisk I could no longer walk. Naturally, this led to fears not of paralysis, but to fears that it would affect my cycling. So I went back out on Thursday and rode a bunch more. The good news was that my injury didn’t impair my riding as long as I never had to get off the bike.

So on Friday I rode some more, took Saturday off, and did the grand fondue with what can only be described as wrenching pain every time I had to get off the bike and stand. Fortunately, a bike makes a great cane!

The ride started with a parking lot flat tire, where I used my only tube. “No worries!” I thought. “I never get flats.”

Then we rode rather briskly up Potrero, which isn’t really a climb so much as it is a 1-mile physics problem. (I failed physics. Then and now.) Over the top I soft pedaled, having set my strategy for the day: Give up, go slow, and eat cookies.

Soon I was joined by Frankie, Delia, and Lloyd, and we gaily chatted, gaily pedaled, and fell like marauding Goths on the first feed stop which overfloweth-ed with cookies. You’d be amazed at how grand fondue math works. It’s like this:

500 kcal expended + 1,500 kcal of cookies = make sure to eat more cookies at the next stop

That’s a real formula, perhaps with the multiplier of gels/sugar drinks/energy bars so that you finish the ride like I did, three pounds heavier.

About halfway through, my ride mates began having technical problems that involved flat tires and broken spokes, which was no problem because there were a pair of Mavic support cars trolling the course, changing flats, and getting everyone going again. The problem was that even though I’d been going slowly and eating bigly, after several hours in the heat it became clear that if I didn’t hustle I’d be going home in the sag van.

So I hustled.

Alistair Fraser and Tom Buffington, two fellows who were in for the full 117-miler, caught up to me on PCH and we turned up Mulholland together, each of us cursing Trump in our own special way, denying that such a person could ever win the presidency. After about a mile we were overhauled by a group that included David Steinhafel, Katy D., and five or six other young people who were clearly in a big hurry to get to the next chocolate chip cookie station.

Unfortunately, the station was at the top of a six or seven mile climb, and the pace was brutal. One by one riders dropped off, however, being a hop-in wanker who had joined the group after resting and going slow whereas they’d already done 80 miles of bitterly hard riding, I was able to struggle to the nasty top, clinging to the wheel of a 20-something kid with big frizzy hair who shredded everyone else.

He pulled over for cookies at the top and I dropped down the Yerba Buena descent. Yerba Buena was last paved in the late Paleolithic, and there’s nothing that feels better when you’re exhausted and in fear for your life than having your front wheel hit giant crack after giant pothole for mile after mile on a harrowing descent.

Kind of like being unable to get away from “that guy” in a crit peloton, the guy who is weaving and guaranteed to crash you out, the guy who no matter how hard you try to avoid but is always in front of you, I was continually hitting massive gashes in the road that I saw, avoided, and smashed into anyway. My rear tire finally succumbed and there I was, flat and out.

This is where you notice there are three types of riders in a grand fondue, and in life generally.

  1. The ones who pretend they don’t see you on the side of the road in your orange outfit holding a tube in your hand, helplessly.
  2. The ones who zoom by at 35 and say, “You okay, dude?” and are gone before you can sob, “No!”
  3. The ones who stop and help.

The great thing about cycling is that no matter how many times YOU may have been a 1 or a 2, there is always a number 3 because, yo, bike riders!

Peter Nesmith was my angel. He stopped, gave me his last tube, waited until I was sure the stem would fit through my all-carbon rims which were made of pure 100% carbon, and then continued on. However, I had misjudged the stem length and was soon standing with a properly mounted tire and tube and a fizzled C02 cartridge. My last one, natch.

Katie D. saw me, slowed, and did a number 3. Why yes, she did happen to have a valve extender. Why yes, she did happen to have an extra C02. Why yes, she would certainly help me get going again. Why yes, she would certainly show me how a pro descends. Why no, she would never see the fear smears in my shorts from following her wheel all the way down to PCH.

Once we got onto flattish, tailwindish roads, within smelling distance of the parking lot, we both got bumper fever, that sudden infusion of power and strength that comes from knowing the misery is almost over. None of the power and strength came from the tailwind. None. We were briefly joined by Patrick Barrett and Chris Miller, and some dude who had come down from Vancouver.

Back in the beer garden and barbecue park I wandered, dazed, eating the best pulled-pork sandwich ever, marveling at the people who had ridden 30 miles farther and finished two hours earlier, and wondering why I was having so much trouble standing. Must have been the cookies.

END

————————

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and support people who support cycling, on and off the bike. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. You can also visit my store on Shopify, which sells socks and patches and bar tape and stuff.

 

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Big orange at Cycling in the South Bay.