April 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
The tarck is a place where you go ’round and ’round, but nothing ever changes except for you, who gets tarder and tarder until you quit, most usually dejected at not having reached whatever hopeless goals you began with. It is, like life, a metaphor for life.
I’m locked into the weekly Friday tarck session of your worst nightmare at the newly re-branded Velo Sports Center in Carson. Fridays were once a happy time when I would meet up at Malaga Cove with Howard Hughes, and with Jack from Illinois (not his real name) when he was in town. We’d pedal over to Hermosa and watch Chief get dressed, which was its own form of entertainment, and often lasted well into the morning. Then Chief would make the monster 250-yard pedal down to CotKU, we’d quaff a cup of coffee, sometimes delaying the inevitable with a ride around the hill, but usually going straight into the office, and Chief would, if he’d been in trial, engage in some long-distance “punitive riding” up the coast.
That’s all a distant memory. Now on Fridays I am bound to the Habitrail from Hell, where, by virtue of having rented a locker, I am now forced to use it once a week or feel the gentle yet steely reproofs of my lockermate who, by the way, has terrible designs on me. Although he’s only been cycling for a few years, and is older than an igneous rock deposit, he is fierce, fast, canny, disciplined, and focused beyond belief.
The opposite of me, in other words, who is smiley, slow, clod-like, lazy, and scattered to the four winds.
Each Friday we do a 40 or 50 or 100-lap warm-up on the blue line, alternating every two laps. With ten to go I take the front, we drop down to the pole lane, and I try to fend him off in the final 500 or 250 meters. He’s never come around me except for the time he miscounted and passed me after the final lap, but he’s, like 287 years older than me and comes close to beating me every time. Each time he’s just a little bit closer.
So now I go to bed every Thursday with worry on my head that’s the size of a block of granite, and I wake up at 5:00 AM each Friday wondering only one thing: “How’m I going to keep that bastard at bay again today?” This is, by the way, why Eddy retired from cycling. He couldn’t take the incessant pressure to win. [No snide comments, please, about how beating an octogenarian in a warm-up isn’t “winning.” My coach, @captaintbag1, has already advised me that since I totally suck and can’t win anything of significance I should choose events that I really can win, even if they’re just totally faux races. This is one. Rather, this is the only one. So shut the fuck up now.]
Anyway, we weren’t the only ones at the tarck this morning. Here’s who was there and what was done by them, a nice little passive voice construction that will hopefully piss at least someone off who works in the Language Arts field, which, when I was a kid, had the really weird name of “English.”
Oldasdirt: After 99 laps, with one to go I jumped hard, opened up a few bike lengths, and just managed to stave him off. It didn’t feel like a victory so much as a reprieve from the inevitable execution.
CM & W: How often do you see an older brother doing what older brothers are supposed to do, i.e. helping a sibling instead of pounding the living snot out of them? CM took his little sister out on the tarck and they had a fantastic workout. She is a little motor and we will be seeing her in a stars-and-stripes jersey soon. Of course I acted like a dick when I yelled at CM not to cross the tarck with his cleats on, even though it turned out that he had been wearing the proper rubber clogs. You see, I crossed the tarck once in my cleats and Johnny saw me from, like, three miles away and read me the riot act. So for the past year I’ve been looking for someone I could read the riot act to, but just ended up accusing the innocent. CM was cool about it, though, as I immediately apologized.
Kurt S.: Have you ever watched a rocket lift off? Kurt was doing starts. Whoever’s going to beat him at nationals this year better bring an engine in their down tube, because Kurt is absolutely flying.
Katherine: Parent of CM & W, she was out there getting in a solid workout with the guys.
Jack K.: Most people think Jack lives at the tarck, but he doesn’t, or at least he’s not paying rent. Jack is the most consistent early morning tarck rider and jaw flapper in SoCal. If he can’t talk about it, that’s because the words to do so haven’t yet been invented.
Niva: Joined me and Oldasdirt midway through our warm-up, then dropped us without so much as an effort with four to go. I don’t know what she’s training for, but I’m putting my money on her to win it.
Bigdude in blue: Dude just pedaled around the tarck and looked happy as a clam doing it.
Since I only did the 100-lap warmup with Oldasdirt I got into the office early. Which is a bad thing. Right?
December 7, 2011 § 2 Comments
Splimsy O’Mulligan, the world-famous Irish advice columnist from County of Kerry lists these five keys to living a vibrant, fulfilling life:
1. Get out of your comfort zone.
2. Try to excel at things people say you’re not suited to.
3. Rub shoulders with the very best.
4. Charge the morning.
5. Fail publicly.
In other words, get up at 4:30 a.m. (#4), ride down to the Home Depot Velodrome in Carson, climb up on the 45-degree banking (#1), take up match sprinting (#2), practice in the morning when Johnny Walsh, Roger Young, Dan Vogt, and Paul Che are on the boards (#3), ride like a dork (#5).
Charge the morning
Sleep, like a discriminating taste in wine, is your enemy. Both will rob you of things that you can only do early in the morning. The only way to truly defeat sleep is to get up. We live right next to the finest tarck in the country, and it’s now open from 6:00 a.m. in the morning. No matter what the weather or what time of year, the climate-controlled spruce boards are waiting for you to roll your bike around on them. Beginning in 2012, the tarck will operate like a fitness club, where you can ride as often as you like for a reasonable monthly fee and have daily access to the weight machines. And your excuse is…what? You need another hour’s sleep?
Get out of your comfort zone
If you haven’t done it in a while, tarck riding is simply stressful and unnerving.If you’ve never ridden the tarck before, it’s terrifying beyond belief. There you are, locked in a wooden cage, forced to ride your bike at the top of a 45-degree bank where the consequence of going too slowly is to slide ignominiously down to the bottom with your ass full of splinters. No brakes, no gears, people whizzing by in close proximity, 6-person pacelines whipping up the speed until the riders are foaming at the mouth, inches from destruction, the slightest mistake capable of knocking down everyone and earning the undying hatred of all your fellow riders, constantly trying to figure out how to get on, how to get off, how hard to pedal, how to slow down without crashing out the person behind you…this and a million other things make tarck riding a completely different universe, and no matter how skilled you are on a road bike, the tarck will make you feel like the incompetent clod that you are in real life.
Try to excel at things people say you’re not suited to
If you’re a fast finisher on the road, give the pursuit a whirl. If you’re an endurance rider, you can practice being a sprinter. You will suck, but the tarck gives you the opportunity to try new types of riding in a controlled environment. No one will laugh at your attempts because to those who know what’s really happening on the boards you’re already marked as a flailer, and it has nothing to do with your event. The other reason people won’t laugh at you is because, unlike road riding, the tarck riders are a friendly and welcoming community. They’ll help you change cogs, adjust your bars, patiently answer any question, and give you helpful advice like, “If you’re going to ride your road bike here through LA in the pitch black early morning hours, get a red blinking light for the rear, you idiot.” Once you show up a few times they’ll remember your name, and no matter how long between visits they’ll always be glad to see you again. At the tarck you can be part of the crew just by showing up.
Rub shoulders with the very best
The Home Depot Velodrome is like a world-class birdwatching wetland during migration. If you hang around, there’s no telling what will show up. Olympic champions? Yep. National champions? By the dozen. World champions? Those, too. In addition to the international superstars who occasionally race at the tarck, there’s a regular stable of coaches and competitors who are over-the-top good. Roger Young, Tim Roach, Connie Paraskevin, Johnny Walsh, Keith Ketterer, and any other number of phenomenal tarck riders regularly hang around the Carson boards. The U.S. National tarck team is in regular attendance as well. Of course with all these great riders, you’ll feel like a complete kook, but that’s okay: you are a kook, and as long as you don’t crash anybody out, it’s all good.
Road cycling lends itself to building the biggest castles in the sand. There you are, pedaling around PV or riding the canyons in the Santa Monicas thinking about this race or that race or the next stair in your stepping stone to greatness, imagining that you really can race a bike, or that this year is gonna be the year…etc. Then you go to some poorly attended race in Ontario, finish 55th, and slink home with hardly anyone the wiser. On the tarck, though, your suckage is seen by all and becomes part of the velodrome’s institutional memory: “Oh, there’s Wankmeister on his borrowed Bianchi again. Haven’t seen him since last year when he got yelled at by Walshie for stumbling down the track in his cleats like an idiot even though there’s a giant sign that says ‘Remove YOUR CLEATS.’ Hmmm, looks like he’s still clueless, let’s take a look. Yep, there he is, can’t hold a line, spinning like a sewing machine, yo-yoing off the back. What a wanker!” Like elephants, the tarckies never, ever forget.
So what are you waiting for? You’re gonna love it.