May 15, 2015 § 42 Comments
Nothing is less inspiring the tales of already-skinny people about how they got skinnier. What inspires us are the people who came to cycling as way to deal with major health problems, and through cycling overcame them. One of those people is a South Bay regular, Dan K.
Below is his story, mostly in his own words, with a dab here and there of mine:
I was 250 lbs and in trouble. Every December, my doctor said the same thing. Cholesterol, high. Blood pressure, high. Fatty liver disease, just around the bend. And if you think it’s terrible having your kids say, “Dad died from a heart attack,” imagine them saying “Dad died of fatty liver disease.”
My doc would tell me I could carry on and get ready for a lifetime regimen of drugs, or make a change. I’d dutifully hop on the elliptical trainer, lose a few pounds, and then with Christmas and the New Year come roaring back to “normal.”
By 2011 I’d injured my back and had constant sciatic pain. I could hardly sleep. I also had periodic blinding pain in my side. I made a special trip to the doctor, got some codeine and PT, and went back to functioning with a legal Rx drug dependency. But I realized after three months that this was no way to live the rest of my life. So I finally decided, truly decided, to change.
I’m an engineer so I started with the numbers, and that’s ultimately where I finished. I knew that the most important thing was not what I weighed today (can’t change that) or what I will weigh tomorrow (can’t really change that), but the trend line, i.e. what I will weigh next week or next month. Next month is something I can change. Incremental changes today could push the trend line of my weight and of my health in a positive direction. I knew I wouldn’t be healthy next month, but I knew I could be healthier.
I also realized that willpower is a finite resource, but it’s also like a muscle. In order to improve it, you have to stress your willpower towards the point of failure. The muscle and the will become stronger, but only if you exercise them.
Next, I challenged myself. I set a goal to start swimming for at least 30 minutes a day, every day, and to avoid eating junk and highly refined foods. The first day in the pool was a challenge. I don’t think I did more than seven laps. It was awful. But I came back the next morning and did eight. Within a few weeks, I was swimming farther and longer.
What’s key is that I didn’t turn myself around overnight. This was no 30-day success story.
Did I go swimming every day? No.
Did I eat healthy food every day? No.
Did I move in a positive direction more days than not? ABSOLUTELY. This was crucial because my goal was to move the trend, not to reach some magical end-point. In a sense, I made my objective goal—exercise every day–harder than my real goal, which was to simply move the trend line.
When I saw the doctor six weeks after staring my “new” life in mid-December of 2011, things were better. I was down to, um, 235 lbs. BP was down a bit. Liver was still chubby, but perhaps not as fatty. Yet I was still on the wrong side of the healthy line and I was still in pain. So the doctor renewed my prescriptions and encouraged me. More importantly, I was able to encourage myself because I had entered the magical positive feedback loop. I could see that the trend line was heading in the right direction, and I wanted to keep it up.
My first bike ride on August 14, 2012, on a crappy old mountain bike, was 4.5 miles in 30 minutes over some “hills” near home. I think my heart rate must have been 190, and I thought I was going die. But I went out again on the 16th and cracked out nine whole miles. That Sunday I rode to the Strand and up to the end of Manhattan for a whopping 16 miles. I was slow but I was having fun. By the middle of the September I had made it to Ballona Creek, then Venice, then Santa Monica by October.
A year later my body was in a better place. My weight was 220. My liver enzymes were “good.” My cholesterol was normal, my back pain was gone, and I was off the prescription drugs.
I celebrated, bought a road bike, and started going farther and faster. Eventually I found Seth’s blog and started riding in PV. In February 2013 I pedaled out to where one of my aunts lives, and made it halfway up Hawthorne Blvd. I thought I was going to die, and got a ride home. A week later I sucked it up, made it around the peninsula, up and over the Switchbacks (13:48) all the while thinking the climb would never end. I’d occasionally see a mini-peloton go by and I’d try to latch on, though I always seemed to blow up in 15 seconds. But I was getting stronger.
In July of 2013 I was down fifty pounds to a “svelte” 200. I gutted up and took the plunge, telling myself “It’s time for NPR!” I still remember getting blown off the back on Vista del Mar during the neutral rollout. The next time I blew up on Pershing Hill, the first earnest surge of the ride. A week later I got axed on Pershing proper. Then, I played roman candle on the overpass, followed by exploding a week later on Lap 1.
The whole time people helped and encouraged me. Manslaughter would yell at me to pedal hard and get back on. The Wily Greek pushed me physically as I was coming unhitched, numerous times. Eventually I stuck on the whole NPR from tip to tail. You can talk about climbing the highest mountain all you want. For me, toughing out that ride from start to finish was huge … and I did it!
For the next 18 months I stabilized around 195, gaining muscle mass and losing fat. I ran a marathon, rode some centuries, and did some epic climbs. I’ve gone from that to a current weight of about 175, and in addition to the NPR I also do the Flog Ride, and even completed the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride.
How would I sum it up?
- Lie to yourself. Set a goal harder than what you need to achieve so you have some room to screw up.
- Set an exercise schedule and a calorie budget and follow it, accepting imperfection in all things!
- Follow the weekly-monthly-annual trend, not the daily fluctuation.
- Mix endurance rides with beatdowns like the NPR, Flog Ride, or Donut.
- Ride with wankers who are faster and stronger than you!
- Accept that everything hurts the first time, but that each time you do the same thing it gets a little easier. Or perhaps you just go a little faster, which is even better.
- Use free resources out there! Check out the “Hacker Diet,” a free e-book and an engineer’s guide to weight loss, and MyFitnessPal, which can help you know how many calories you’re downing at a sitting.
- Do what you enjoy! If you hate the activity you will quit.
- Start slowly!
- Find a peer group. Most cyclist types are nut jobs and love new people to hang out with, partly because more people means a higher probability someone will show up for the ride, and partly because they’ll enjoy breaking your legs.
- Real results will take a while.
- Changes occur inside before the things that everyone sees on the outside!
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May 13, 2015 § 25 Comments
Wire reports have confirmed that Wanky Meister pulled off an upset 4-lap solo breakaway victory on the Tuesday NPR, crushing the dreams and splattering the tender egos of some of SoCal’s fastest and finest. Cycling in the South Bay caught up with the ride’s participants to get their perspective on this once-in-a-lifetime athletic achievement.
CitSB: What’s your take on Wanky’s epic win?
Vapor: Epic? That dude ain’t shit.
CitSB: Eyewitness accounts have him winning the NPR in a solo 4-lap breakaway by more than 75 seconds, with a certain unnamed former national crit champ unable to close the gap.
Vapor: Listen here. That rusty old butter knife is old, slow, weak, and dumb. What else do you want to know?
CitSB: Who else was in the chase group?
Nation’s No. 1 Beast: I was.
CitSB: Whoa! Didn’t you win the pro field sprint at Dana Point two weeks ago?
No.O.B.: Yeah. So what?
CitSB: And you couldn’t reel him in?
No.O.B.: Come on. We weren’t even trying. That guy rides about as fast as a broken washing machine.
CitSB: Who else was chasing?
JusWills: We weren’t really chasing. Just riding tempo. We all have a big race coming up next week. You think we can’t chase down some old grandpa with hairy legs? Really?
CitSB: Witnesses say he did pretty much leave you guys gagging on fumes.
Manslaughter: Hey, I didn’t even know he was off the front. Like, I saw him on the Parkway and figured he was off the back, chasing, and I was like, “Man, he’s never gonna catch back on.”
CitSB: And then?
Manslaughter: Then I realized it was us who wasn’t gonna catch back on.
CitSB: Was there any discussion in the peloton about bringing him back?
Dawg: Wanky? Naw. No one cares about him. We let him go. We weren’t even trying. Plus he ran all the stoplights.
Major B.: Yeah, he ran them ALL. We only ran most of them. Why that idiot even shows up, all he’s gonna do is ride by himself?
CitSB: Maybe he wanted to try and put everyone to the sword?
Cat 4 Dave: It didn’t count anyway. He attacked on Vista del Mar.
Cat 4 Dave: We didn’t even see him go.
Cat 4 Dave: Plus, even though we didn’t see him, we let him go.
CitSB: Video footage shows the field shattered on lap two, and on lap three there were four separate chase groups and a big clump of riders who looked very sad.
NJ Pedalbeater: I have to admit, we went pretty slow today.
Manslaughter: It was the slowest NPR ever. I’ve never gone that slow on the NPR. Never.
NJ Pedalbeater: Although looking at me Garmin now we do appear to have been averaging 31 on the first lap.
Manslaughter: Really? Well, it felt slow.
Boozy: That’s because you were on Josh’s wheel all morning, and he hasn’t ridden since January.
CitSB: Isn’t this the first time in NPR history that anyone has ever held a solo 4-lap breakaway?
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April 30, 2015 § 41 Comments
I received this letter yesterday:
Notice of Revocation of License
Dear Mr. Wankmeister:
We, the Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior of the New Pier Ride, regret to inform you that after an emergency plenary session which was convened via Facebag on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 from 2:00 PM until 11:35 PM, you are henceforth prohibited from participating in, observing, commenting on, or otherwise involving yourself with any and all activities associated with the bicycle ride occurring twice weekly, on Tuesday and Thursday from the hours of 6:40 AM until 8:00 AM, and commonly referred to as the NPR or New Pier Ride.
This ban, effective immediately, shall continue until further notice and shall be enforced without right of appeal. You may, if you so desire, do independent laps around the Parkway with Nancy but only between the hours of 10:00 and 11:00 AM in such small and easy gears as may be, and always are, selected by him.
It was brought to the attention of the Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior that your actions Tuesday last were among the most abominable, dangerous, hazardous, anti-safety, and despicable in the annals of our illustrious event, such that even the cavalier attitude and disrespectful riding habits of former attendee Josh A. and the previously excommunicated Wily Greek are deemed to be pale in comparison.
The general charges laid against you we hereby set forth as follows:
I. That on the morning of April 28, 2015, at approximately 6:37 AM, you appeared at the starting site for the NPR with what eyewitnesses have independently corroborated as a “mean, unfriendly, hostile attitude clearly intended to make other participants feel uncomfortable and perhaps sad.”
II. That after exiting the alleyway onto Vista del Mar, you intentionally assumed a hostile and unfriendly position on the drop portion of your handlebars and were seen to shift your chain onto the larger of your two chainrings while simultaneously lowering your chain onto the smallest rear sprocket. Eyewitnesses have confirmed that it was an eleven.
III. That immediately after passing the traffic signal at Grand Ave., you “hunkered down” and “began hammering like a maniac.” More than fifty of the assembled august personages who you later were heard to disparage as “wankers” generously offered to hop onto your wheel but you refused their assistance and pedaled away.
IV. That, being deprived of a rear wheel, the august personages of the peloton were rudely forced to give chase at a time during the ride when each of them was normally accustomed to friendly chatting about wattage, training plans, and other important items, and that this chase made each of them tired, induced burning sensations in their legs and lungs to which they were were not accustomed except on such days as Daniel H. and the aforementioned Josh A. are present.
V. That, with the exception of your despicable henchmen Surfer D., Man S., Tumble W., and a handful of other reprobates, the remainder of the decent and dog-fearing peloton were forced to continue painful pedaling without a wheel to sit upon all the way to the light at Pershing, which made each of them unhappy and uncomfortable and sad.
VI. That, rather than politely stop behind the long line of cars queued up at the light and give the noble and extremely pleasant wheel-followers in the peloton a chance to rest and attach themselves to your rear wheel, you blindly, recklessly, dangerously, and meanly sped through the narrow chute between the cars and the large brick wall, thereby endangering all who attempted to follow, and forcing the safety-minded and decent personages of the peloton who would otherwise have gladly assisted you by attaching themselves to your rear wheel, to come to a complete halt which further enhanced the unfair, illegal, dangerous, and unsportsmanlike gap you had created by willfully pedaling your bicycle hard in the manner of Josh A., who thankfully does not come here any more.
VII. That, once on Pershing, you continued to exploit your cruel, dangerous, and unfair advantage by repeatedly pushing down hard on the pedals such that when the decent and hard-working members of the peloton who had expended so much energy to reach you finally approached, each and every one of them was tired and felt meanly used and sad.
VIII. That, once the hop-in wankers atop Pershing who always wait there so they will not have to rush up the small bump on Pershing merged with you, additional bad-mannered henchmen such as Hair W., NJ P. Beater, Jon D., Man S., and repeat offender Surfer D. pushed the pace even harder until the fair and honest members of the peloton, unable to pull through and unable to sit on a wheel, opened up large-ish gaps and wreaked havoc amongst themselves, causing extreme unhappiness, sadness, and considerable discomfort.
IX. That, once on the Parkway, you and your henchmen continued your bad habits and reckless disregard for safety by running red lights and continually pedaling so hard such that the decent and honest peloton could not get close enough to sit on your wheel, assist you from the rear, and helpfully come around you at the finish.
X. That, in addition to your dangerous red light running and mischievous pedal pounding, you formed a final group consisting of yourself, Hair W., NJ P. Beater, Old F., and First O., refused to slow down or stop for traffic signals such that the honorable members of the august peloton could attach to your rear wheel and assist you from the back or otherwise float to the front and lower your unfriendly pace such that they could diminish the pain, discomfort, sadness, and general feelings of antipathy aroused by you in them.
XI. That, in addition to refusing to slow down and thereby forcing the august personages of the peloton to choose between chasing in earnest and suffering additional discomfort and sadness, or to give up and cede the victory to your unethical and dangerous riding and thereby diminish each of their feelings of self-worth, and thereby making them sad as if they were on a ride with Josh A., you insisted on continuing to ride like a maniac from Pershing all the way back to CotKU, thereby depriving the august personages of the peloton the opportunity to voice their displeasure, critique your awful behavior, provide you with useful training and racing tips, and castigate you for causing them so much needless danger, discomfort, and generalized feelings of sadness.
Therefore, be it know by these presents, that you are hereby excommunicated from the community of the New Pier Ride, that your seal clubbing license is peremptorily revoked, and that we, the members of the Standing Committee, will ensure that your behavior is monitored through Facebag postings and private email exchanges.
The Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior of the New Pier Ride
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April 1, 2015 § 18 Comments
I don’t do the New Pier Ride much anymore. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning a massive group of idiots meets up at Westchester Parkway and races for four laps. The “idiots” part I totally relate to, and the “races” part I relate to even more. But after the ride was suspended last October due to construction, a different routine began for me, and the only thing harder to change than a routine is a well-glued-on tubular. In the freezing rain. Bare-handed.
Simply put, the NPR has its pluses and its minuses.
- Happens punctually twice weekly.
- Lets you suck wheel if you’re too weak to GTTF.
- Lets you get in a solid workout before work.
- Lets you suck wheel if you’re too lazy to GTTF.
- Intense sprunt finish the last 400 yards after sucking wheel for four laps while you refused to GTTF.
- Plentiful opportunities to suck wheel and let others GTTF.
- See your friends.
- See your enemies.
- Hide and cower in the back, sucking wheel as you chat with friends or curse enemies.
- Epic post-coital coffee at the Center of the Known Universe, where you deny ever having sucked wheel and brag about how you incessantly hammered at the front.
- Lets you think you’re getting stronger as you suck & cower at the back.
- Occasional appearance of really good riders who drill it from the gun and shatter the field.
- Occasional appearance of really good riders who drill it from the gun and shatter the field.
- Almost impossible to shake the wheelsuckers due to stoplights.
- Fresh-legged wheelsuckers who try to kill you in the sprunt finish.
- Rare but crashtacular Fred-and-bike-pile-ups.
On Monday I got a special request from Sausage to come do the NPR. Svein the Unhandsome, a Norwegian national masters champ and all-round dickstomper was in town for a vacation. When he lived in LA, Svein the Unhandsome had a policy of “kill the men and sell the women and children into slavery,” and Sausage was hoping that I would come out and relive good old times with the gang, which had never been good.
The morning of the ride there was a bit of nervousness on the Pier as we stood around in the gloom and evaluated each others’ body fat percentages. “Did ya see Hollywood’s Facegag post?” Sausage muttered to me.
“He suggested that the South Bay wankoton should have an extra cup coffee before the NPR.”
On cue, up rolled Hollywood with his mile-high henchman, Mack Cassin. Hollywood had flatted out of the San Dimas Stage Race and had some, uh, excess energy, as we soon found out. The punch up Pershing immediately split the field; only Svein the Unhandsome could hang. Thankfully, a stoplight gave us all a second chance.
With torrid stomping of the dicks and clubbing of the baby seals, by the time we hit the Parkway more than half the field had implemented NPR Strategy #1: race across the street and hop in with the leaders when they came tearing back by. Josh calls these folks “hop-in wankers.”
Hollywood and Mack took turns braining the baby seals, with some hard efforts by the Unhandsome, the Wily Greek, and a single cameo appearance by Sausage, who looked like he’d had the skin removed. Huge gobs of droopy, gooey snot hung up in my mustache and beard, mixed in with flecks of bloody spit and pieces of twice-eaten oatmeal.
The collection of hop-in wankers grew and grew, but the merciless clubbing never abated. Gaps opened. Heads hung. Teeth gnawed stems. Brown stains sprouted in the chamois of many.
On the third lap Hollywood, the Wily Greek, James C., and I sprunted away. After a few moments it was just Hollywood, with me plastered to his rear wheel as he inexorably went faster and faster, his club raining nail-studded blows on my head and balls, the gobs of bloody spit dangling into my chain, and my field of vision shrinking and shrinking until it became a pair of tunnels focused exclusively on the rear wheel and triangle of his bike.
Locked in the lethal hanging-head position I knew that I should look up. What if there was something in the road? What if he was headed straight for a brick wall? What if I died?
None of it mattered. I was so completely filled with pain that I had reached a perfect state of detached consciousness: no anger, no fear, no sadness, no happiness, no future, no past, only pain, the vessel filled up and slopping over with pure pain, a giant body-wide root canal being performed with a hand drill and a rusty pocket knife.
Then we hit a light and reality returned, along with the chasing wankoton.
As Billy Stone would say, some went faster, others slower. Someone won, the rest did not. Svein the Unhandsome was seen crawling back to finish his vacation on his hands and knees. Cat 4 Dave had curled up in a small bush and was chewing on leaves and pieces of bird nest. Chunks of the hop-in wankers were strewn about the Parkway like bits of corn in an explosive bowel evacuation.
Back at the Center of the Known Universe, we all bragged about how great we were. “You coming out again on Thursday?” Sausage asked.
“No,” I said. “This ride is too easy for me.”
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August 14, 2014 § 28 Comments
I had been faithful to her for years. There have been other girls who I’ve looked at, sure, but she was the one to whom I remained true.
Then a couple of years ago Sausage whispered to me that there was a smoking hot babe over on his side of town, told me she was “really special” and that she would “really get your pulse up.” I didn’t pay much attention at first, but over time I couldn’t resist the temptation. After all, one woman, no matter how wonderful, can’t satisfy you all the time. It’s natural to want variety, to do things a little differently, to feel the touch of someone different and new.
Sure, I knew it was wrong. But today I snapped. I felt terrible as I sneaked out of the house extra early this morning. My wife must have known something was up, because she said, “Isn’t it too early for the NPR?”
I mumbled something, got dressed, and switched off the light as I made my guilty escape. After a frenzied ride up the bike path, I met her. There on 26th and San Vicente, the morning not yet fully broken, there she was, ready for the taking if only I was man enough to handle her.
Sausage was in the middle of the group that whizzed by. He winked. “Finally came to get some, eh?” he said.
I nodded, no longer guilty, no longer afraid of the treachery I was about to commit. To the contrary, I was burning, on fire, the blood pounding through my veins as we met for the first time. The way she roared downhill on San Vicente, so smooth, so fast, so racy, it was a dream.
Then it all changed in an instant. Suddenly she was going up, up, up, with Manzila blasting at the front, shattering the group as it launched up her curving, sloping surface. I was panting from the exertion, exploring her, feeling her out, looking for that rhythm that comes when two bodies, in synch, pulsate with the pounding.
The first time it was awkward, I’ll admit it. I’d been so accustomed to my lover of all those Tuesday and Thursday mornings that I had a hard time adjusting to her raw, jagged uphill contours. I’m embarrassed to say that I was so excited that I finished too quickly the first time, giving out before I should have, with a dozen or so riders ahead of me. I knew she was unsatisfied.
We sat on the corner at Sunset and regrouped. I looked at Gareth, still out of breath. “What’s her name?” I asked.
“Amalfi,” he said. “Her name is Amalfi.”
“What a beautiful name,” I thought to myself, but before I could repeat it we were off again. This second time around, a group of three wankers launched on San Vincente. I followed. This time I wasn’t going to finish early; no, I’d hold it strong and steady and even, driving her and driving her until she was satisfied, too.
We hit Chainbreaker Corner and I pounded with a frenzy. My breakaway companions sagged and heaved their shoulders. Their wad was shot. Alone I soldiered on until Gareth caught me, then dropped me. I struggled back on, grinding away, not done yet. Then Manzilla came by. I latched onto him and he dragged us to the final hundred meters, when a gaggle of four or five riders swarmed by us at the end.
I was wasted, wrecked, spent, and she was, too. I know she liked it, but as we waited again at Sunset to regroup I could tell she wanted it one more time. And I promised that I’d give it to her.
Again on San Vicente I launched with three others, except this time Gareth went with us. By Chainbreaker it was “just the two of us,” and it was this final effort that was most exhausting, most painful, yet most beautiful and satisfying of all.
“Oh, Amalfi,” I said, as I pounded and pushed and thrashed, sweat pouring off my face, grunting and gasping and moaning, amazed that I had this third effort in me, amazed that Gareth hadn’t spit me out the back and left me for dead, amazed at Amalfi’s grace.
And that was the end, just Gareth and I sweating and heaving atop her.
On the way home I was flooded with guilt, but also with a sense of love and, yes, conquest. I would never abandon my dear old lover NPR; Tuesday mornings at 6:40 were still for her and her alone. But now that I had tasted the forbidden fruit of the Amalfi Ride, now that I had buried myself in the triple climax of her six minutes and thirty seconds of pure ecstasy, I knew I would be back for more.
Would NPR understand? I hope she will. I’m only human.
March 7, 2014 § 29 Comments
Wankmeister’s ass hurt, the kind of butthurt that felt like his saddle had been forcefully wedged somewhere between L1 and T9 for an hour or so. Even though he was curled up in bed, coughing chunks of dark green phlegm, his legs still ached the deep ache of “you are too old and weak to exert yourself in this fashion and expect anything other than collapse.” The roots of his teeth hurt, always a bad sign. Most worrisome, his headache had sunk down below his brain and had morphed into a deep throbbing at the back of his eyeballs.
Wanky wondered if he’d ever had sore eyeballs before from a bike ride. He hadn’t.
Don’t roll NPR when you’re droopypants
The morning had begun with the most ill of omens, an incredulous interrogation by Mrs. WM. “You not goin onna NPR?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“You crazy? You been droopy alla week with cold and coughin and fluin and spittin onna washbasin and onna toilet seat. Why you goin onna ride so soon after bein droopypants?”
“I’m better now. I need to ride.”
“You ain’t better now you still all sick and still coughin because you woke me up alla night spittin, you was spittin an chokin like a cat spittin four hairballs outta his butt.”
“That would be shitting, then, not spitting.”
“You was doin that too and you wasn’t turnin on the high fan because it stinked up alla hallway and even inna kitchen.”
“Honey, I’ve been off the bike for a week. I’m losing fitness.”
“What you’re losin, you’re losin onna your mind. An you’re gonna come back home even bigger droopypants you watch, an askin onna “hot tea” this anna “leg rubbin'” that but I ain’t doin it.”
Etymology of the South Bay seal hunt
Few know that the concept of baby seal clubbing on the New Pier Ride was invented by Bull Seivert, also known as “KitchenAid” for his thrashing, mashing, mixing, heaving, whaling, pig-fucking-a-greased-football pedaling style that, when observed up close, makes you wonder whether the bike wouldn’t go faster if he flipped over on his back and rowed the thing in the air with his giant hams. Bull is known far and wide for his fearless, senseless, single-minded charges to the front, charges so filled with fury and strength that he typically explodes halfway through the ride like a giant blood sausage overstuffed with snot, sweat, and sputum.
However, by the time that KitchenAid rolls over like a great, bleeding, wheezing harpooned whale, the hangers-on, suckers-of-wheels, waiters-for-the-sprunt, and all other manner of lower life forms have been beaten into a lumpy pulp of quivering flesh and bone. It was after one particularly memorable thrashing that Bull compared the pack fodder to a raft of baby harp seals, innocent, bleating, helpless, chubby, doe-eyed and defenseless in the face of the murderous, blood covered drunks swinging their hooked clubs, matted as they were with the blood, gore, and fleshy pieces of their victims.
The baby seal analogy stuck, and the truism of the analogy was such that entire contingents of NPR riders began referring to themselves as “baby seals.” Like their namesakes, they relived the brutal clubbing of their furry friends each and every Tuesday. Only a few of the most daring pinnipeds, creatures with names like Sausage and Poopsie, ever raised their flippers in victory at the NPR. The passion play remained forever writ in stone: The giants clubbed and the baby seals rolled over in a bloody trough of shame, pain, and defeat.
Carrying the hunter’s club to the seal’s own demise
Winter before last, on a cold and rainy morning that had less than twenty riders on the NPR, Wanky had stopped at the alleyway exit to take off his rain jacket. The pack kept going but one baby seal stopped. It was a weak and barely developed juvenile seal, Phoque de Paris, who was in his second season of riding. Phoque accepted his place in the clubbing hierarchy so completely that he had purchased a baby stuffed seal and strapped it beneath his saddle, just in case there were ever any doubt. There wasn’t.
Wanky fumbled with his jacket, got it stuffed in his jersey, and the pair, hunter and prey, set off in chase of the peloton. Wankmeister wasn’t feeling great, and his less-than-great sensations were enhanced by Phoque’s madman time-trial mode along Vista del Mar, battering into a nasty, miserably cold crosswind. “What the Phoque?” he wondered at this sudden display of speed and power by a heretofore undistinguished baby seal.
Phoque never swung over, and barreled for several miles until the pack was in sight. With one huge final effort he got to within a couple of hundred yards. By now Wankmeister was quite warmed up and he noted Phoque’s shoulders as they swayed and sagged, his head beginning to evince the tell-tale “cranial droop” of a tired rider. Thankful and profoundly appreciative for Phoque’s selfless effort, Wanky took out his club, inspected the shiny, sparkling, unblooded tip, and jumped as hard as he could around Phoque to close the gap. Unable to follow the sudden burst, the hapless baby seal, after doing all that hard word for a friend, found himself alone, shelled, and hopelessly dropped as the pack rode away.
Wankmeister wiped off his club and went on to a glorious NPR victory that day, which he dedicated to “that little phoquer who waited for me.”
When the club swings full circle
Now, many moons later, Wanky reached the Center of the Known Universe and greeted his fellow riders. The chief talk that morning was whether or not the angry psychotic homeless person would be waiting to ambush them in the alley, and what the best response would be if he challenged the group again with his fists. Most agreed that the bragging rights attached to 60 healthy grown athletic men beating the snot out of an insane poor person were minimal, and although a certain “fun” quotient was mentioned by one or two, the consensus was to take evasive action if he appeared.
Wankmeister’s cold/flu/bronchial infection/ovarian cyst reminded him how bad he felt, how right his wife had been, and how he should have stayed in bed. When the group turned onto Vista del Mar, he realized that in his current condition the only sane thing to do would be, of course, to attack. So he did.
Unbeknownst to our hero, however, there is a sacred rule espoused by those who are famed for never attacking anywhere, ever: “Thou shalt not attack on Vista del Mar.” In retrospect, when he was curled up in bed, Wanky wished that he had known about the rule if only so that he could have enjoyed breaking it. By the time he passed Imperial, a nascent break had formed including Bull, Phoque, Lamchops, Brewmaster, and Ronan the Mini-Barbarian. The first time that Phoque pulled through, Wankmeister noticed something that surprised him. Beneath Phoque’s saddle there no longer dangled a stuffed baby seal.
After a few rotations Lamchop had been seasoned, fried in the pan, and served up with a sprig of parsley. Mini-Barbarian decided to go back to the pack and get civilized. Brewmaster’s yeast infection had gummed up his pedalworks, and there were soon only three riders left. After one rotation KitchenAid began to suck and heave, and each time Phoque swung over for Wanky to pull through, he couldn’t. “Hey, fucker!” yelled Wanky. “I can’t pull through if you don’t slow down!” Shrugging, Phoque kept the gas on.
Dragging the corpse
They raced up the small hill on Pershing, with Bull still hanging on for dear life, unable to take a pull. In his pain-besotted misery, Wankmeister cursed his friend and teammate. “Pull through you sorry fucker, I don’t care how much you’re hurting,” he muttered to himself between mighty exhalations of snot that were immediately absorbed by his dripping mustache, then drooled into his mouth or into his beard.
By the time they hit the Parkway, KitchenAid’s beaters had been reattached and he started to pull through. The peloton was a distant memory as Poopsie, Sausage, Hallpass, and Finnhead bitterly complained and gnashed their teeth about the early attack while they had been discussing gear-inches, motorcycle protective clothing, and drag coefficients. They angrily made plans to impugn the integrity of the breakaways, people who had none, on Facebook. “Just remember,” Finnhead said to Poopsie, “it’s easier to complain about a breakaway on FB than it is to chase it down in real life.” Then they all went to the back and Instagrammed each other’s kits.
The three-man breakaway, however, was completely unconcerned with Finnhead’s gnashing teeth or with the long, detailed complaint that Sausage and Poopsie would draft and mail to the New Pier Ride Advisory Board and its director, “Toofs” Prettytree, one of the staunchest advocates for fair, honest, riding on the NPR and dental work and wheelsucking. The breakaway was concerned with something much more important: Not becoming a one-man breakaway, as Phoque was drilling and grilling like an insane combination of dentist-turned-Texas-BBQ-chef.
Phoque kept the torrid pace up for minutes at a time, pausing only to catch his breath while Wanky leaked tears and prostate juice all over his bike and while KitchenAid kept staring mindlessly at his Garmin, hoping that it would say something other than YOU ARE COMPLETELY FUCKED NOW. It didn’t, but deep in the throes of cranial droop KitchenAid slammed into Phoque’s rear wheel, creating a nice brown stain in Wanky’s shorts that would take several hours of hard scrubbing to remove. “Keep your fucking head up and quit looking at your fucking computer!” Wanky roared, but it wasn’t a roar, it was more of a whimper, as Phoque was driving the pace into the wind again and the two cabooses needed every bit of oxygen to pedal.
Swing. Thud. Swing. Thud. Swing. Thud.
If you’ve ever been in a break on the NPR with four laps to go, you know the meaning of hell. 99 times out of 100, you’re going to get caught and when you do, you will be wrecked. However, Phoque didn’t appear to care, and he swung his club at Wanky and Bull with abandon. The blood flowed.
“So,” squealed Bull. “This is how it feels.”
“Ouchies,” whined Wankmeister. “My prostate juice is sopping my shorts.”
“Oh, did that hurt?” Phoque asked solicitously. “Let me give you another one.” And he’d pound away. Occasionally the chasing peloton would come into view, with Sausage and Finnhead and Toofs seated comfortably at the back, adding new points and sub-points to their detailed legal polemic that would be posted after the ride. Poopsie tried to drive the pace, but as an inveterate baby seal his efforts were for naught, and anyway, while the chasers got hung up at the occasional red light Phoque & Co. had full advantage of the NPR’s Three Breakaway Rules, which are as follows:
- Never stop.
- Do not stop.
- Stopping is prohibited.
Finnhead and Toofs made note of this and added it to the long list of infractions being compiled, to wit: “Faux breakaway cheaters and early attackers in neutral zone furthermore didn’t stop but we had to stop at all the lights so there.”
“Be sure to add that we almost caught them anyway,” said Finnhead, comfortably sitting in the very back as the break continued to put huge amounts of time on the pack.
It pays to have friends in high places
Even with their gargantuan lead, the breakaway would have succumbed had Wankmeister’s SPY teammates not sat at the back of the peloton and refused to assist with Poopsie’s doomed chase. Before long even Poopsie, he of the detailed report to be submitted to the Rules Committee, threw in the towel. Finnhead, realizing that his usual zero probability of winning had been reduced to negative numbers, focused instead on the 38 mph max speed that he would reach by sitting on others’ wheels, and chalked it up as a win. Sausage planned to purchase the Parkway in his next M&A acquisition and jail all future rule breakers.
As they sped up towards the bridge on the finishing lap, Phoque finally swung over. He was starting to look winded and well-tenderized for a late attack, the kind that would be quick and hard enough for him not to respond to, and the kind that would leave him gasping for air as Wankmeister claimed another glorious victory. It would be a nice “don’t forget your elders” touch to pay Phoque back for the relentless clubbing he’d administered the entire morning.
“Hey, man,” Wanky said as he passed.
“You ever won the NPR?”
Phoque shook his head. “No.”
“Well, wanker, you will today.”
And he did.
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