Flog physiology

March 14, 2019 § 5 Comments

I rarely, I mean never, write about actual sciencey trainingy sporty stuff as it relates to bicycling. I don’t know anything about it, I don’t care anything about it, and I always fear that facts will delude people even further into thinking that their avid hobby makes them special, different, better, or worst of all, athletic.

However, the weekly Flog Ride that goes off every Thursday does have some sciencey type benefits, and every week after the ride I send out a little email recap to everyone who participates in which I berate, cajole, praise, offend, encourage and suggest better ways to do a ride that is voluntary, unorganized, unowned, and like all such rides a random happening of riders who have all assumed the risk of riding on public roads with other bicyclists and cars.

This past week Kristie Fox penned a particularly excellent description of the Flog Ride’s “lead-out” section, so excellent in fact that it hardly belonged in the weekly email, and as it smacked of science, reason, training effects, and applicability to the sport of cycling [OXYMORON ALERT], I thought it appropriate to re-post it here, especially as it contains a brief history of time and the Flog Ride.

THE FLOG LEAD-OUT AND WHY IT MATTERS

When the ride first began in October of 2014, it was six continuous laps, essentially a race, with no regroup at the top of the golf course. In order to make the ride safer, a regroup was added in the parking lot at the country club, with a neutral descent down to Malaga Cove Plaza, keeping all riders together for the start of the next lap. The effect was that, instead of a steady-state and uninterrupted solo chase effort by each rider for the duration of the six laps, the ride became an interval session, a near-VO2 or threshold interval for 5-7 minutes, repeated six times.

This change increased the intensity of the efforts but shortened the duration and added a rest period. Essentially, it changed the structure but conserved the overall energy expended on the ride. This is shorthand for, “It was still a brutal beatdown.”

Of course, it also made the ride more “social,” as in the original iteration if you got dropped, which everyone did except for Stathis the Wily Greek, you were by yourself for six laps.

The lead-out that now exists at the start of each lap is intended to provide the same intensity. Prior to the introduction of the lead-out, the effort began at or before the right turn onto PV Drive North leaving Malaga Cove Plaza, and the fast descent out of the turn propelled the group at a very high rate of speed to the bottom of the climb up PVDN. If you were not at or near the front on the turn, catching up to the leader took a high power output because the interval began at the turn.

Of course due to traffic there was also separation as one or two riders could squeeze through and the others were left to chase. Hard.

Seth loved to attack out of the turn here and force the others to chase. After some screaming between Seth and G3 last year, the group decided that a neutral turn onto PVDN was a better option for the ride due to traffic safety, but the slow start was compensated for with the addition of a lead-out.

The lead-out was intended to conserve the energy of the ride: Its function was to get the group back up to the pace they would have been at had everyone been shooting the turn balls out, sprinting to the bottom and then clawing their way up the climb. Again, the goal was conserving the overall energy of the ride and maintaining the difficulty of the effort. The first climb had always been an all-out or threshold effort. In the new formulation, the lead-out goat sacrificed herself to the other riders by setting a pace comparable to what it would have been in previous years with the fast descent and attack up PVDN.

Without this element of an initial hard effort up PVDN, the ride would have lost one of the most challenging parts of the course.

For those who are trying to win the lap point atop the golf course, this crazy hard lead-out also made each lap more strategic. You had to decide whether to go full gas with the lead-out and take advantage of the gap it created, as may riders would certainly get shelled, or sit back in the chase and see if you could make up ground by holding a steady effort a-la Cobley and not going into the red, then smacking down whoever remained on the wall. The lead-out also gave riders a chance to get on the leaderboard by awarding them a half-point in an environment where the same coterie of riders generally tended to scoop up all the lap points. It was, in other words, a trade-off: You give it your all and you’ll get a half-point and the ride’s intensity will be preserved. You, unfortunately, will be fucked atop PVDN when your lead-out ends.

Sciencey stuff

The PVDN climb is a:50 to 1:30 effort, depending on who’s leading. Intervals of this duration and intensity are some of the hardest from an energy standpoint. They straddle the line between glycolytic and aerobic thresholds. Performing an all-out, supramaximal VO2 effort of this duration requires a minimal amount of passive rest before an athlete can perform another effort of a similar level, and even more active rest, which is what we do on the Flog. If you can do the lead out and still latch onto the group at the top, win the lap, or outsprint any of the leaders at the golf course bumps, you have not done an all-out, supramaximal effort, in other words, you have not done the lead-out.

As a result of this effort, if done correctly,  you will be in a state of oxygen debt, rapidly trying to replace oxygen stores in the muscle. This means deep heavy breathing that would not allow for acceleration. Gasping for breath. In addition, the first 45 seconds rapidly use stores of phosphocreatine and glycogen, with a smaller contribution from aerobic pathways. Return of these stores to levels that would allow another high effort to begin  requires more than 3 minutes of passive rest and up to 9 minutes of active rest. It would be impossible to recover from a true lead out and still have a good performance on the same lap, because as the amount of time of passive rest required to recover would put you at the wall on Campesina. If done properly, you may not even be recovered by the next lap. Even with the proper amount of passive or active rest, both mean and peak power decline after the first interval if subsequent intervals are performed immediately following the prescribed rest periods. That means that if you have done an all-out effort, your peak and mean power will be lowered somewhat for the rest of the ride.

So why would someone want to volunteer to do the lead-out if peak and mean power will be compromised? Because this is a training ride, and we all have aspects of fitness we are trying to improve. Although you will experience some decreases in power, there are some adaptive reasons doing even more than one lead out can be a good fitness tool. Plus, you’ll earn, yes, EARN, a ½ point.

The anaerobic power  reserve (APR) is an overlooked component of fitness that contributes to performance. The APR is measured by the difference between maximal sprinting speed and speed at or just below VO2 max. The greater the reserve, the more rapidly the athlete will fatigue. We want to develop power and be capable of sustaining it over time. We want to increase our maximal power, and then close the gap between that power and our speed at VO2 max. That is how we get faster and less fatigued over time.

Let’s say your weakness in this equation is  maximal power. Using the lead out as a way to increase your maximal speed/ sprint ( by doing more than one per lap) will develop maximal power and also cause increase your ability to perform at or above VO2 max. If you are using the lead-out for this purpose, you need to take advantage of the rest of the lap and the proceeding lap as a rest phase in order to fully develop this system.

If your weakness is V02 max, you will want to use the lead out in the opposite way: As a catalyst to increasing your time at VO2 max over the course of the ride. This will extend your endurance and speed at VO2, and the bottom end of the APR equation. You would do this by performing the lead out at maximal effort that approaches or reaches VO2, then attempting another effort after a short active recovery period of one to three minutes, depending on your fitness level. Yes, your effort will have less power and add to your overall level of fatigue, but you are developing your resistance to fatigue at VO2, which is a different fitness component than power. The more minutes you spend at VO2, the more this system will develop.

If you do both of these types of training methods, over time your pace  and endurance at VO2 will increase, in addition to your maximal sprint pace. This translates into better race and group ride results, more points, and a lot more pain.

_______________________

END

Good days on a bad ride

February 7, 2019 § 6 Comments

Our trusty correspondent from the planet Mxyzptlk recently drafted this most excellent piece of training advice and disseminated it to members of the Flog spam list newsletter. It was so good I thought I’d re-post it here; it’s applicable to every miserably hard regular group ride or training race that you do.

Based on 3+ years’ experience doing the local Flog ride, it’s excellent advice.


To Flog, or not to Flog? Just a few weeks into the 2019  Flog season, and, already, this is the question.

It is 5:00 AM.

Dark.

Cold.

Possibly raining.

You are miles from the start at Malaga Cove.

It will be a long, miserable ride there.

You will arrive to enjoy six fun-filled laps, during which you will be mercilessly flogged, to no apparent purpose.

Pulling a shift on a trireme as a galley slave is starting to sound good right about now. And then, there is your pillow, gently whispering “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!,” and maybe even playing this song in your ear.

I have never claimed to like the Flog. In fact, I would tell anybody who asked that it was my least favorite ride, ever. That I dreaded it. Got pre-Flog anxiety every Wednesday, and was never sure I wouldn’t back out of until I actually arrived at the fountain on Thursday morning at 6:35 AM, pointy-sharp.

For some reason, it isn’t as fun as some other rides. No, that isn’t right. It isn’t fun at all. NPR starts at the same time Thursdays, but because you are going fast, it’s a blast. Oh, and you can hide in the group, and if you get shelled you just catch your breath, cut the course, and hop in with the group when it comes swarming by on the other side of the Parkway. They’re called “hop-in wankers” for a reason.

On those other rides, few know if you are hanging on for dear life. There is anonymity in the back third. And getting sucked along by a 60-strong peloton, if you have the basic fitness you don’t haveto go hard if you decide you don’t want to.

No such luck at the Flog. As Yoda said, “There is no hide.” Your struggles and place in the hierarchy are known, and rarely improve. Where is the reward for all this humiliation, droppage, and pain?

No one loves the Flog

A few people over the course of the  three years I have been doing the Flog have claimed to love the ride. These proclamations amount to a kiss of death. When anyone starts claiming to love the Flog, and begins gushing testimony to the ride’s training effect, it is a guarantee that that person will quit the ride within weeks. No one who is doing this ride and intends to continue doing it can develop feelings of love for it. If you do, you will for sure not be around in a month or two.

But you can learn to embrace it, with all its unlovability, using some Jedi mind tricks. Let me share them with you, though, like the Flog itself, the explanation is long, painful, and hard to endure.

When I first started flogging in 2016 I was new to cycling, had only very recently graduated from tennis shoes to cleats, and had never even heard of “group rides.” To say that I had a hard time on the Flog would be an understatement. I finished each lap as part of the group Michelle Landes called “ The Caboose,” meaning the very last couple of riders to finish the lap. Every lap was an immersion into intense self-flagellation, my single hope being simply not be the last rider in the caboose to arrive at the regroup.

Even pedaling hard as I could, tasting blood in my throat, I still came in last by a fair margin at least half the time.

Doing worse isn’t progress

I went home all that first year extremely defeated, never feeling like I was getting any better, never looking forward to being part of the Flog and facing my lack of cycling fitness gasping for air in the country club parking lot.

I did 2017 much the same way, never feeling like I was making any progress, with little sense of accomplishment week in and week out. I continued to go, however, because taking time away from the Flog never translates into less defeat; you only get further behind with each week that you miss. But when 2018 rolled around and I was facing another year of the Flog, and many mornings of cold dread, I decided to change my relationship with this ride.

I looked at my strengths and weaknesses and decided to focus on only one of them for the whole year. My nemesis on this particular ride had always been the first bump on PV Drive North. I could never even come close to staying with the leaders on that bump and always crested the top with an insurmountable distance between myself and all the other riders.

However, I was always able to make up some ground on the next section, the climb to the golf course. In 2018, I focused only on trying to stay with the lead group up that first hill, and that was it. This meant that I was going to have to abandon any hope of making up ground on the second section, as well as any attachment to where I finished after each interval. I had to give up the racing aspect of the ride, because staying with the lead group on that first hill was going to leave me unable to do anything but blow up once I reached the top.

Instead, I gained small victories each week by staying with the group further and further up the hill, until finally, I was able to stay with them the whole length of the climb just one time.

Let me tell you how that felt, after three years of getting shelled at the start of each lap, then finally hanging: It was amazing.

Eventually, I was able to do it more than once per flogging, as the ride consists of six laps, and then three times, until by the end of the year I was consistently staying with the main group up the climb on almost every lap, and sometimes even having a little energy to push the pace again somewhere near the end of the lap.

Instead of going home from every ride feeling defeated and like I was not making any progress, I went home feeling good about my efforts and improvements, even though staying with the group on that initial climb cost me so much energy that I still sometimes  finished the lap in last place.

Compartmentalizing your gains

By breaking down my goals into small victories I was able to change my feelings towards the ride. I found a way to make each ride a reward. Being able to approach the ride with personal goals instead of as a race to not be last,freed me from the defeat that plagued my commitment to the ride, and allowed me to look forward to going, regardless of how I did within the scheme of the Flog hierarchy each week.

There are real, neurological underpinnings for leveraging motivation in this way, and they are tied to activating reward centers in the brain. One is referred to as Go/No Go learning, which operates on both the Pavlovian and operant levels,  whereby you choose to do or not do something based on the probability of a positive or negative outcome. There are multiple ways in which this works, but the two most favorable conditions to learning and motivation are “Go” outcomes as opposed to “no go” outcomes. In other words, seeking reward in the framework of “Go to win” or “Go to not lose” (both are coded as a reward by your brain), makes you ride better.

Through activation of  specific parts of the brain, people learn better under conditions of reward, so viewing any action as a potential reward as opposed to punishment or failure will ultimately lead to better learning and higher levels of intrinsic motivation. Can you say dopamine?

There are multiple ways this Jedi mind trick can be done:

Create a reward scenario for yourself when things come out better than expected. Often I am exhausted with sore muscles from demands of my job, which impacts my cycling performance. I used to avoid hard rides when I felt that way, because I didn’t want to face a poor performance. Now, I go out and ride anyway and view the outcome through the lens of riding better than expected under the conditions, so I can go to a ride and feel good about what I accomplished, even if it was not as strong as the week before. Why? Because my frame of reference has converted failure into a reward.

Push your reward further out in time. Make your goals based not on this February or March, but as far out as the last week of the ride in August, as I did when I focused on accomplishing just that one aspect of fitness for the whole year.

Make your reward simply the act of showing up in order to maintain the fitness you have. This is reinforcing the “Go to Not Lose” aspect of learning. People continue to strive when they put themselves in an environment where they perceive their actions as efforts to maximize gains and minimize losses. Feeling as if you have been proactive by minimizing loss  will activate your reward centers and motivate you to continue. You win just for showing up.

Break the ride down into small components that address specific training outcomes, and focus on improving in just those areas. Seeing improvement each week, or even on each lap, will activate reward centers and increase motivation. Here are some sub-Jedi tricks to help accomplish this!

  • Improve your 1 minute effort by going hard on the first hill.
  • Improve your 4 minute effort and VO2 max by going all out on just the section between the bottom of the dip on Paseo Del Campo and the Valmonte stop sign.
  • Improve your final sprint by going all out on the last two Via Campesina  bumps, even if there is no one around you or, if you already do that, try starting your sprint at the Valmonte stop sign and carrying it through the bumps.
  • Try to stay with either the lead group or a rider ahead of you as long as you can before getting shelled.
  • Try to do the whole ride as low cadence big ring training.
  • Choose to focus on one of these aspects each lap, and make the ride a comprehensive training day that addresses all aspects of fitness.

In  Pavlovian and operant systems, reward leads to vigor, whereas punishment leads to inhibition and reinforcement of fear pathways. If you want to stay motivated, especially within the context of  a task that is difficult to follow through on, creating a system of small rewards can keep you moving in the right direction. When I disassociated viewing the Flog through the negative filter of a race leading to inevitable defeat, I began to experience new motivation and drive to get up and out the door at 5:50 AM on Thursdays, without the overshadowing dread of previous years. Best of all, I started to see improvements that I had not seen in the past.

In other words, resist making the ride a simple exercise in racing to the finish lap by lap, week by week, year by year. If that happens, you will end up like many others, touting the value of the Flog to enhance fitness, glorifying its worthiness to you personally, and then fading like a distant memory into the Flog history of ex-riders, afraid to return and face the reality of a truly hard ride.


END

Weird is good

January 31, 2019 § 7 Comments

Mrs. Takahashi died last month. She was in her mid-80’s, and lived across the street from us in Utsunomiya. She was what folks in small town Texas call a “character.” She smoked and didn’t care who saw it or if was unladylike. She said what she thought, even when it mostly pissed people off. And she dressed up.

When I say “dressed up” I don’t mean formal clothes, although she would have been equally at home in a barn or at an inauguration ball. Mrs. Takahashi had that one thing that hardly anyone has, and that can’t be bought.

She had a sense of fashion and a sense of style, and let me tell you, friend, she didn’t get it out of a magazine.

Nope, Mrs. Takahashi was more likely to get her fashion items out of a trash can or at a rummage sale or as pre-teen hand-me-downs than she was to buy something fashionable from a store. Two days after we’d thrown away some of my daughter’s purple-and-star-spangled pajamas (daughter was ten), we saw Mrs. Takahashi wearing them with a red turban, bangles, and a sweeping orange cape. She was on her way to the vegetable stand. In bright red, CFM heels.

Mrs. Takahashi always looked stunning, too, and beautiful even with her busted up nicotine teeth and her nine decades of life. Because beauty comes from within, whatever she wore radiated, and she wore whatever. No detail was too fine, no unusual or strange item was unworthy of at least being considered as clothing or an accent piece.

Bike fashion

Cyclist fashion of the Rapha-roadie-group-ride variety is about as fashionable as any of the things you buy at a department store. It’s boring, uniform, and tailored after a “look” that is not very attractive, i.e. the look of a 25-year-old male climber on the pro tour with an eating disorder.

By definition it’s unfashionable because everyone else does it, but it’s also unfashionable from an aesthetic angle as well: There is no attempt to cobble together your own eclectic items, scavenged out of a dumpster or bought at Goodwill, and press them into something that is uniquely you. With conformity comes boring anonymity.

But the mores of bike fashion that get handed down within bike clubs don’t represent the great mass of people who cycle. Most riders wear whatever, down to the flip-flops or bare feet they use to push the pedals. Shirtless Keith? Cutoffs, work boots, and a bare torso, yo.

It’s only when you poke your head out from under the covers that you see, for example, the crazy variety at a Los Angeles Ciclavia, some 100k riders strong. Variety, imagination, beauty, fashion, and style run amok when cyclists are freed from the disapproving frowns of those who cannot countenance socks (white) with cuffs less than six inches, not to mention the pathetic fashion douchebaggery of the Velominati.

Greek tragedy

Here in the South Bay we are as cursed with the monotheism of bike clothing as any other cycling clique. Although my helmetless form is a kind of blow for freedom of cycling as well as for freedom of fashion, it pales in comparison to the Wily Greek.

Once a slave to the smallest details of #fakepro fashion, Wily took a sabbatical from cycling, discovered his inner freak, and now shares it with us every time he rides, which is a lot.

Ski goggles. Yellow nose ring. Ear studs. Down Jacket. Backpack. Bleach blonde hair. No helmet.

One day I asked him about the ski goggles. “Are you trying them out to see if they are better than glasses?”

“No,” he said, just before he rode me off his wheel.

“Why are you wearing them, then?”

“Because they look fucking weird, dude.”

The heir to Mrs. Takahashi. We need more of that.

______________________________________

END

My goggles and backpack are better than your goggles and backpack.

It won’t be over before you know it

August 30, 2018 § 7 Comments

Today ended Flog v.4, Flog 2018, or simply That Stupid Fuggin’ Ride.

Here is its obituary. Please read it in a silent place where you can appreciate the solemnity of this sad time.

Flog v.4, ladies’ man, man’s man, natty dresser, devourer of carbon and roto-tiller of dainty egos, died on Thursday, August 30, 2018

“Floggy,” as he was known by his friends of which he had none, and “Stupid fucking ride” by everyone else, was hated by many, despised by some, detested by others, reviled by a handful, disliked by those closest to him, and genuinely loved in 2018 by a mere 80 riders, most of whom are listed on this spreadsheet. Even they didn’t think much of ol’ Floggy, as most participated once or twice and never came back.

The riders in Floggy’s life were numerous, but few if any of the relationships lasted, and none was meaningful. He particularly fancied tough riders, uncomplaining, down to earth, humble people who thought chewing through 200 yards of stinking shit was a “good time.” These people meant a lot to him because of the way they started tall and proud and were eventually torn down into tattered, beaten, humiliated quitters who simply stopped waking up early enough to make the ride or shamefully shuffled over to NPR.

Floggy loved his mom Jeff Fields, who with the help of her sisters Randy and Scott Dickson, taught Floggy that if you aren’t miserable early and often you’ll never be happy. Floggy was reared in what used to be called a broken home but nowadays is simply referred to as a “shithole filled with psychopaths.”

Floggy’s cousin from Amsterdam, Marco Vermey, occasionally dropped in to help with the childrearing duties that involved hundred-mile rides in the rain, in the cold, in the heat, on flat tars, through nail storms, and across broken glass deserts on his hands and knees. Some say this is where Floggy learned his misanthropic ways, but others simply said he was born an asshole and so would he die.

In California in the grand year of 2014 during construction on Westchester Parkway, Floggy began working at the golf course in toney Palos Verdes Estates, where he quickly developed a new reputation that was much like his old reputation, in other words, bad.

Joined by ne’er do wells such as Stathis the Wily Greek, Head Down James, Stravver Jr., Emmy Sue, Derek the Destroyer, Michelle, Hair, Davy Dawg, Boozy P., Captain, Canyon Bob, Toronto, Crowbar, and a handful of other misfits, Floggy quickly grew from an enjoyable informal ride among friends to a fringe exercise in self-mutilation that people only attended in order to quell their inner demons through grimacing, sweating, and droppage.

Floggy loved droppage and never met a rider he couldn’t drop. Although there were countless elite riders who were disciplined by Floggy and sent home packing, before he died Floggy happily reminisced on having taught his mortal enemies a few things about life:

  • Quit making excuses.
  • You still suck.
  • It doesn’t get easier, you just go slower.

And Floggy’s key lesson in life, which for all but a few insomniacs and chronic worriers was ultimately unteachable: Get your lazy fucking ass out of bed.

Yes, Joey, he’s talking to you.

Floggy’s greatest regret was not being able to sucker more suckers into showing up at the Malaga Cove Plaza fountain every Thursday at 6:35 AM pointy-sharp for a drubbing that, once endured, none ever seemed to forget. As South Bay Baby Seal once explained it, “There’s something about getting up in the morning and riding over to the Flog that makes you keep riding over to somewhere else.”

And Floggy tried everything to bring more and bigger idiots under the tent, including a completely fake points rating system, useless trinkets, insincere compliments, and a spammy email chain designed to make people think that somehow it was all worthwhile.

It wasn’t.

Flog v.4 never really cared about anyone, which was his secret to life. He never opened doors for old ladies, gave money to the homeless standing on the 405 entrance ramp at Artesia, he blasphemed daily, never donated to worthy causes, obstinately refused to patiently teach life lessons to young children, and certainly never encouraged budding cyclists to pursue their passion unless their passion was quitting. To the contrary, Floggy could most often be heard Thursdays saying “Don’t talk to me,” or “Shut the fuck up,” or “Your turn for the lead-out and quit sandbagging, you motherfucker.”

Some people, generally those with substance abuse problems, found this endearing, but normal cyclists avoided Floggy with fear, disdain, and contempt. These same riders jealously read each Stravver segment and held exciting #socmed discussions about when they would be ready to do their first Floggy.

They never were. As Floggy never tired of saying, “This ain’t Facebook, asshole.”

Yet for all his failings, and they were so numerous that a special Google algorithm developed by floggers Dan and Bryant broke in half trying to index them, Floggy was dependable, and deep down, way down, way way way down, he was appreciative of each person who put it all on the line, even if it was only for a lap, or for half a lap, or, like Joey, for a brief glance out of his upstairs window at passing floggers before rolling back over for another game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Floggy excelled at 1-minute and 5-minute intervals, making people vomit, inducing migraines on Wednesday night, generating endless excuses for lazyasses too lazy to get out of bed, engendering neuroses, and fostering fake enthusiasm, but the thing he did best was show up and lead through example. No one was unhappier than Floggy, and week in, week out, a small cadre of oddballs endeavored to match his misery.

None succeeded.

Despite his unfriendly, scowling demeanor, Floggy was open to all, and with the exception of That Guy, no one was ever publicly berated for being a dick. To the contrary, Floggy greeted everyone with a smile, a nod, and he was punctilious about names because he knew that no matter how nice he was in the beginning, one lap in and everyone would be sad face and hate his fucking guts, which was all he ever really wanted.

Refusing to brook challenges of any sort, Floggy was oddly open to suggestions, especially when screamed at him in fury. Changing from a race to intervals, beginning together slowly rather than speeding into traffic through a hot turn at 30, and gently descending rather than bombing the wet, peacock-filled hairpins were all changes to which Floggy angrily but eventually acquiesced.

Floggy took fashion cues from no one. His signature look was plain tarmac, a hill on PVDN, a short false flat followed by five minutes of mind-bending pain on an undulating climb ending in a sprint for the second wooden backward-facing do not park sign across from the second entrance to the golf course right where the road peaks. He wore this attire no matter what, and the greatest compliment ever given to him was by Daniel Bonfim, who, on his first and last ever visit to Floggy, said this: “I’ve been on this road a hundred times and never knew it was this steep.”

Floggy didn’t like travel, didn’t speak any foreign languages, was bad at math, worse at arithmetic, spelled poorly, never kept a paying job for more than six months, and spent his life surrounded by phone calls from debt collectors and threatening letters regarding unpaid alimony and arrearages on child support. Yet for all of the self-induced failures and continual disasters that marked his personal life, Floggy’s public persona was as pure as the driven snow: “Show me your tired, huddled masses and I will beat them senseless until they hate cycling forever.”

Floggy despised phonies, especially of the cycling variety. Floggy believed that if you were on a bike you were winning, even with a motor and drugs, but if you were on a carbon bike with e-Tap and duded up like a bike racer, squeezed into an undersized clown costume and acting like a speedster, you should at least be able to heave your guts onto the roadside a few times a year. Floggy particularly hated racing bikes with fenders. No one knows why. He just did.

Because of his irrational fear that he would die best known as a cyclist, Floggy requested that his family not throw a cycling-themed funeral due to his hatred for the sport. Consequently, to spite him the family will hold a private, family-only service open to the public where everyone is requested to show up in their favorite bike outfit. Visitation will be held at Yellow Vase Cafe, Malaga Cove Plaza, Palos Verdes Estates, from 6:35 -8:00 on Thursday, August 30, 2018. In an especially mean twist by angry survivors, priority seating will be given to Italian Gentleman Riders.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you get your lazy fucking ass out of bed and make something of the day. The family would also like to thank the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch for inspiring Floggy to take out that whopping life insurance policy which his survivors will now spend the next ten years fighting over in probate court.

Finally, the family asks that in honor of Floggy you mark your calendars for Thursday, January 3, 2019. As a believer in the resurrection and the life, Floggy has every intention of returning as Dog the Undead King of the Zombies for Flog v.5. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and it still ain’t over.

END

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flogside_down

Shit you hear on the bike ride

August 23, 2018 § 25 Comments

We weren’t technically on the bike ride, but rather sitting at the coffee shop afterwards. Close enough.

It was somewhere between jokes about Starbucks’ supposedly superior pour-over coffee and ruminations on wedding rings that Fred Mackey let loose with the manliest sentence I’ve ever heard anywhere, and in less than twenty-five words at that.

One point assigned for each manlyism.

“My dad (1), who used to play hockey (2) as a goalie (3), once broke his wedding ring (4) when he caught a puck (5) with his hand (6).”

Top that. True stories only, please.

END

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mackey

Wheelsuckery

June 15, 2018 § 2 Comments

We were all leaning on our bikes in the Flog parking lot, having just completed a breathless loop around the golf course when Goggle said, “Wanky, you’re the biggest wheelsucker in the South Bay.”

This really hurt my feelings. On Lap 1 I had only sucked wheel the whole way until I got dropped.

On Lap 2 I had only sucked the lead-out goat’s wheel, then sucked Goggle’s wheel, then sucked Medium Banana’s wheel, and just as I was about to win the sprunt Ol’ Father Time, who had been sucking my wheel the whole way, dusted me like a mop. I thought there was honor among thieves, er, wheelsucks, but I guess not.

On Lap 3 I sucked Goggle’s wheel until he faded and then sat on Medium Banana the whole way and sneaked around him for the win, only being in the wind for those last few seconds. Except for that I had hardly done any wheelsucking.

The remaining three laps I sat in a lot more and sucked Goggle’s wheel all the way to about 1/4 of the way up La Cuesta, when he shed me pretty good, like a snake leaving behind its worthless old skin. Aside from all that, I hadn’t sucked wheel at all.

Back in the day

“Before I was old I didn’t used to suck wheel hardly at all,” I told Goggle.

“Like, what mythical era was this?”

“Back when I was, you know, 50 or 51. I never sucked wheel then.”

Goggle rolled his eyes. “I rode with you then. You were an inveterate wheelsucker. Less finesse than now, but I sure never saw you from the behind. You’d be stuck to whoever was in front of you like a piece of toilet paper on a lady’s high heel walking out of the shitter.”

“Maybe I did suck wheel once or twice, but when I was in my 40’s I was always on the front.”

Goggle hadn’t started riding a bike back then because he was only four, so he didn’t say anything but he looked pretty skeptical, and with good cause. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. I was a pretty awful wheelsuck, and always had been. The only times I ever found the front were either by mistake or because I made the wrong move at the wrong time or I had quit or flatted or all of the above.

Wheelsucking for fun and profit

Of course my proclivity to hide has never correlated with success, but there aren’t any riders who’ve ever done well in the sport at the elite level who haven’t mastered the art of hiding for as long as possible. The strongest rider never wins, it’s always the smartest strong rider, or the strongest smart rider, and “smart” almost always means hiding until you absolutely can’t any more.

As G3 once told me after he had dropped me going up to the Domes, “This, Wanky, is a sport of conservation.” Apparently I hadn’t properly conserved.

The more I thought about it, the really good riders suck wheel all the suckin’ time. Destroyer is a fuggin’ ninja wheelsuck, until he isn’t and you are by yourself, going backwards as he vanishes on the horizon. Strava Jr. sucks wheel like a baby on a bottle until it’s Go Time, and then he’s usually alone. Same for G$. Even Daniel Holloway generally hides and hides and hides so that you forget he’s there, then suddenly he crosses the line first. Whazzup with thaaaat?

Eddy Merckx? He had a whole team of disposables who he would burn through until the time was ripe to hit the jets. Salbutafroome? A veritable wheel leech except for those last few kilometers, which, I’m told, are when it matters. Lance Drugstrong? Never hit the wind if he didn’t have to, and he made sure he hardly ever had to.

And please don’t tell me about Jacky Durand or those other epic conquerors who soloed from Kilometer 1. They’re the exception that proves the effectiveness of good pharmaceuticals, and they are outliers. Most of the time if you want to survive among your peers you had better scurry like a rat to the fattest, widest wheel you can find.

Oh, the shame of it all

Yet, it is shameful to cower and hide, abusing the person in front of you for his or her girth and superior wattage, only to dump him later or simply to tag along like a tick stuck in a damp, awkward crack, free riding the whole dang way. There is something noble about being the dumb loser who pushes the wind endlessly only to get swarmed at the end, the tough rider who shoulders the load while others make themselves tiny at the back.

“Go to the front!” we used to say in the South Bay, something that we said a lot more often than we did, except perhaps for Head Down James.

In fact, Destroyer once told me I was ruining an entire generation of racers by telling them to go to the front. “If you want to win, pounding the front is the last place you should be,” he said. “Towards the front, for sure, but grinding on the front? Dude, that’s how you lose races.”

“Yeah,” I’d say, “but we aren’t racing.”

“Wanky,” he said with a fatherly smile even though he was ten years younger, “you race like you train.”

END

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Brutal fun

April 20, 2018 § 6 Comments

Yesterday was the 51st Running of the Flog. Actually, there have more like 130 floggings, but for some reason I started counting late and so fifty-one is the number.

A solid crew showed up, except for me. I’ve been licking wounds all week from the Baby BWR beating and simply couldn’t face six laps around the PV Golf Course followed by an ascent of 18,000% Via La Cuesta, so I decided that instead of riding I would show up and take photos.

No kidding, five minutes before the ride started, down came the rain. The temperature plunged into the 40’s, which is plenty cold if you’re not dressed for it (only two riders were), and unendurable if it’s accompanied by buckets of rain. Several of the riders got early onset hypothermia. One jumped into the shower at home fully clothed and ruined his cell phone. One didn’t feel her feet again until noon. All were miserable beyond belief.

The Flogroll was comprised of Scotty E., Ken V., Fred M., Bob R., Trevor D., Kyle J., Salvador B., Mike H., Luke R., Kristie F., Greg S., and John L.

It was Trevor’s very first Flog, and he was one of the five riders who lasted to the bitter end. What a nice, warm welcome to hell.

END

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