As a confessed Lance Armstrong supporter and historic defender, I am struggling with how to feel about recent events. There have always rumors swirling around Lance, and just about any other rider since I’ve been paying attention to the sport. The one thing that has always kept me behind Lance is the lack of evidence.
Growing up in the United States, I was always taught about the golden rule of the presumption of innocence. Certainly this is not the case in many countries. Just being accused of a crime in some garden spots is enough to drag you out of your house for a summary execution.
In seeking justice here, it has always been that there had to be guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and the benchmark by which that established has always been with evidence – circumstantial or otherwise – with physical evidence being the key. Someone’s word alone should not ever be enough to convict. You can have eyewitnesses, prison snitches, scorned lovers, whatever all coming out against you and unless there was something more, some evidence that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, linked you with the crime, you got off.
Certainly, it appears, the number of people rolling over on Lance Armstrong is pretty high. A lot of people who were closely associated with him are claiming that they saw him or discussed with him, or were a party to, his alleged doping. This is my struggle. Certainly, I have to question my assertion of Lance’s innocence.
What makes thinking about Lance as a tarnished rider so painful is the smugness of the people piling on, the people who take such joy in hero destruction. These are the same types of people who love to rummage through history and find reasons why the people that we put on a pedestal aren’t so great. Thomas Jefferson: founding father, visionary thinker, statesman, architect of the Declaration of Independence? Well, if you want to admire a slaveholder, go ahead, you racist!
There are so many people who feel that life has not been fair to them, and that had only luck shone on them like it did for others, that their fates would be different — they might be the ones that people remember and talk about. They might be on television, or someone would request that they come speak at their event, or have a photo taken with them. This is a common thread, it seems, to those that take glee in tearing others down, that don’t believe in heroes. Sometimes, people closest to the heroes are the ones in whom jealousy burns the hottest.
Well, I for one do believe in heroes, and the power of them in motivating and raising the human spirit. Heroes do great things, and change the world in the process. All of my heroes are human beings. I expect that they have flaws and human failings – but so does everyone, and that’s not remarkable. I focus on what makes people remarkable, memorable, special.
Like it or not, what has happened is going to mean the destruction of Lance Armstrong and, more importantly, everything he’s built. This means a significant blow to the LiveStrong organization, and its ability to leverage Lance Armstrong’s brand to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and change the lives of countless people. This had become Lance Armstrong’s primary activity – to use his name and image as a tool for the common good. LiveStrong is such an incredible organization, its not going to be the same without Lance. I work with non-profits, and have served on the boards of several, and am the founding director of one now. I know how hard it is to fundraise – it’s essentially the lifeblood of the organization. Its easy to find deserving candidates for a non-profit to help, it’s very difficult to get the money to do so. Lance Armstrong was LiveStrong’s fundraiser in chief. I think that this is part of the problem for Lance – he became too big, too famous, too admired. In some people’s eyes, he just had to be taken down, regardless the amount of time and effort it took. I think that perhaps these people should now dedicate their energies towards the common good, like Lance Armstrong had.
Who’s going to do that heavy lifting now? Travis Tygart? Greg Lemond? Tiger Woods? Michael Jordan? Wait – those people already had a chance to use their names at their peak to help others at this level, and chose not to do so. Lance Armstrong dedicated his entire brand, and much of his time and energy towards this non-profit – at the height of his powers and ability to have an impact. What other individual has done this, athlete or otherwise? He didn’t wait until he was past his prime, and wanted to remain relevant, still grab a bit of spotlight and remind people of his former glory – he did it from the beginning.
At least the has-beens and never-weres are happy now. They think that they’ve got their man. And, for what? For you people, I ask: Who is helped by this? How does this make your life better in any way? Do you think anyone is going to want to interview you once the dust has settled? The only reason you had currency was because there was a hero to be destroyed. You are Monica Lewinsky. It’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle. It’s too late to save LiveStrong from a devastating blow that it will not recover from. But, you’ve succeeded. Sleep well.
How many people can say that they rode in a peloton with Nelson Vails – 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist for 1000-meter pursuit, or Alexi Grewal 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist for road racing, or John Howard, multiple-times winner of the US National Road Cycling Championship, and holder of the world land motor-pacing speed record (152.2mph), or Mike McCarthy, 1992 World Pursuit Champion?
Me with Nelson Vails, one of my heros, and a heck of a nice guy.
Not many. But, you can add my name to that list. Thanks to a very special, very memorable ride I did this weekend to benefit the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame – in their inaugural Gran Fondo event.
The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame is in Davis, California, the self-named Bicycling Capital of the United States. It houses a wonderful array of bicycles dating back to 1832 – a bike with no seat or pedals, but upon which you would put your saddle (apparently, your horse saddle), then push yourself along. It became all the rage in Europe.
One thing I wish the Hall of Fame had more of is detailed biographies of each inductee. One can only imagine the incredible stories that accompany many of the people who rose to the pinnacles of cycling over the years. Certainly, if the Hall of Fame inductees that were present for the inaugural Gran Fondo are any indication, the stories would be… interesting. These are some colorful folks. Apparently, people who are genetic freaks that can push themselves harder than the next genetic freak in grueling demonstrations of endurance in less-than-mainstream sporting endeavors are strange people. But, more on that later.
Since this was the inaugural event for what I hope becomes a wildly popular annual tradition for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame (USBHOF), it was a bit off people’s radar. It was also competing with the Tour De Cure fundraising rides that were going on the same day, as well as other rides. As a result, it wasn’t sold out, and probably came up short of expectations. Perhaps part of the weakness in demand is the fact that Greg LeMond was supposed to be there – that almost kept me from signing up (not a fan). But, to my relief, Greg once again demonstrated his brilliant brand-building ability by not showing up. I think the ride was better for it. Certainly less argumentative. I was expressing my own glee that he wasn’t there, when one of the inductees launched into a defense of Mr. LeMond. “Greg is actually one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He’s just not a good businessman.”
Say what you will about Lance Armstrong (as Greg LeMond does) – I happen to be a huge fan – but if he’s anything, it’s a great builder of his personal brand. When I think of Armstrong, I think of winning, overcoming adversity, dating smoking-hot rock stars, and of the Lance Armstrong Foundation (if you think otherwise, keep it to yourself). When I think of LeMond and I think of jealous, bitter, argumentative jerk with one of the highest VO2Max ratings of any human ever recorded. The admiration that I had of him in my youth has faded. Google the phrase “Greg LeMond lawsuits” and you get 63,800 results. As a blogger on Bicycling Magazine noted, LeMond is such a good litigator that suing him would rank up there as #3 on Vizzini’s list of Classic Blunders: the most famous of which is ”Never get involved in a land war in Asia,” number two is “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” and the third is now, apparently, “never sue Greg LeMond.”
The ride starts and finishes in downtown Davis, in the same park where the USBHOF resides, and the park had room for 1,000 riders. I don’t know how many people signed up, but it still had plenty of room. That didn’t stop the organizers from putting on a top-notch ride. This was definitely one of the best-supported rides I’ve done. They had an incredible number of support vehicles, and California Highway Patrol at every major intersection stopping traffic for the riders. I hope that they continue with this next year, as it was a lot of fun. It felt like a race.
As the riders were gathering at the start of the ride – gran fondos have a mass start, not the people rolling out at whatever time they please in a normal century ride — with riders milling about – a number of them were wearing the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame Legends Gran Fondo jersey. I bought a jersey as well, but thought I’d put it on after the ride to see if perhaps I could get some autographs on it, without asking someone to sign a nasty, smelly, Clydesdale-sweat-soaked jersey. I noticed that some of the people’s jerseys were different. Some had stars or colors on them, and name on the side. That’s when it hit me – these were the guys from the Hall of Fame. They had made a custom jersey for each inductee. Right in front of me is Nelson Vails – a hero of mine since I was a kid. Now, he’s literally on the bike in front of me at the starting line. Of course, I had to introduce myself. “Nelson Vails! You are a hero of mine!” Nelson turns around and I introduce myself to such a gracious, humble guy. He was so pleased that I had introduced myself. He has a camera with him, and took a photo of me and him together. He actually took more photos of me with him than I did. Nelson is my kind of guy – a former sprinter. He’s thick. I’m proud to say that it would be a contest between he and I as to who “let himself go” more – me or Nelson. But, the guy is spectacularly nice and I can’t begrudge a guy who is enjoying life perhaps as much as I. He seems like a guy that you’d like to have a beer with.
I look over, and see a little guy, with little chicken arms. This guy’s got a full beard, and no front teeth. I figure, they, this is Davis – probably some homeless guy that wandered into the crowd. Come on, now, you’d have made the same mistake: an emaciated guy, full beard, no teeth. In Davis, California. It’s a lock – 99% chance it’s a homeless guy.
He’s got a vest on, so I can’t see that he’s also wearing one of the Hall of Fame Jerseys. A few minutes later, they announce him as Alexi Gewal. 1984 Olympic Gold Medal winner. I’m stunned.
The incredibly enthusiastic and fun Jacquie Phelan, after the inner tube hula skirt was given away. Don't know what's causing those lumps under the tights, though....
Then there’s an older lady, wearing a helmet circa 1980, with sunglasses that have a little leather beak to protect the nose from the sun. She’s got frilly lace dangling from her gloves, and is wearing a sparse hula skirt over her tights that is made of inner tubes. She’s got this massive personality – wildly eccentric. Of course, she has a Hall of Fame jersey on too. Her name is Jacquie Philan. What a character!!! As nice a person you will meet.
That was the start – about 15 minutes of sitting amongst 12 true legends of American cycling – people that I would be riding with for the rest of the day, and (because Greg LeMond didn’t show), some of the most easy-going, most approachable people you would ever want to meet. These are not former NBA or NFL players, these people probably didn’t grow up being pampered and told how special they are by parents, coaches, schools, boosters, scouts, college presidents, team owners, sponsors, agents, etc. These are as close as you can get to normal people who happened to be blessed with amazing athletic gifts and accomplished amazing things. It was really cool to be there with them. The Hall of Famers present were (click on the names to go to the Hall of Fame profile):
Michael Aisner Alexi Grewal Jeanne Golay John Howard
Ruthie Matthes Mike McCarthy George Mount Jacquie Phelan
Dale Stetina Wayne Stetina Stu Thomsen Nelson Vails
I’ve only done one other event that used the Gran Fondo moniker, and that is Levi Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo out of Santa Rosa (a wonderful, albeit crowded ride). This had a similar flavor in that it’s a timed event. So, it becomes a somewhat informal race. Informal because there’s nobody enforcing any rules, and not too many people are “in it to win it.” In the USBHOF version of the Gran Fondo, everyone has a timing chip and they attempted to keep track of who was doing a 63-mile distance, and who was doing the 92-mile version. Each group had a time trial – a five mile section about 12 miles from the finish line. So, for people like myself doing the 92-mile distance, the time trial starts at mile 80, while those doing the 63-miler version, the time trial started at around mile 51.
One thing that stood out about the ride was that there was a tremendous amount of wind. And, given that this ride was in Davis, it meant that the wind was coming across vast expanses of farm land with little to slow it down other than the odd 230-pound cyclist (yes, I’ve been told I’m odd. Maybe I was Hall of Fame material and didn’t know it). A well know maxim about wind on a long ride – it always seems to be either a cross wind or a head wind. You’re grinding it out into the wind at 14-15 miles per hour for what seems like an eternity, then you turn away from the wind and fly at 30+ MPH for a few minutes, then back to a cross or head wind. The wind was so strong that some riders turned back and made the 63-mile course into an unofficial 30-mile course (notably two Hall of Famers). Some 92-milers decided to do the 62-mile course. Without any way of knowing, the organizers have timer chip data all over the map. When I turned to do the second 30-mile loop that made up the 92-mile course, it seemed as if I was the only person doing 90 miles. I didn’t see a soul for quite a while. I was the only person at the rest stop until one or two others showed up. So, when I look at the timing chip results, I don’t know who did a slow 62-mile loop, and who did a 93-mile loop. Given my competitive nature, I will probably have to endure many sleepless nights not knowing how I did that day against my fellow riders. More counseling is likely in order.
The wind really sapped my strength – with the cross wind hardly being any more pleasant than the head wind. By the time mile 80 came, I came upon the dreaded sight: the time trial starting gate. One of the organizers shouted “time for the time trial!” All I could think of was “oh, goody!” Think of Ben Stein saying “oh, goody” and that’s how I felt. I definitely wasn’t up for going balls out for 5 miles into a strong cross-wind. For the first half mile or so, I decided that I would just pick up the pace slightly to see what I could sustain. Then, something happened: I saw someone ahead of me in the distance. That’s always terrible news. Because of the must-pass-rule, I was compelled to catch this person. I had no choice. As I came upon this person, it became apparent that this person must have been doing a “slow 60” because I passed him with a considerable difference in speed. It was invigorating. I kept the pace, and I soon saw two more riders ahead – these are long, straight farm roads, and even though I could see them, these guys were probably a mile ahead of me. So, I started to reel them in. Despite the strong cross-wind, I was maintaining about a 23-MPH pace. I thought that was pretty good considering how beaten-down I was feeling from the wind. These must have been two more “slow 60” riders because I blew past those guys at a pretty good clip. Onward!
I was feeling pretty crappy at this point, but my speed was still doing well. I decided to get a bit more aerodynamic, and went down on the drops. This is a bit of a no-no for someone with a bad disc in his lumbar. Whatever – I knew that they were going to post the results, and that I’d have to have at least a respectable time on the time trial portion to defend my honor later on. I dug deep. I could see the end of the course in the distance, probably a mile or so up the road. I kept digging. I was getting very hot, and my back was starting to get to me, but I kept low, and kept pumping. Finally, I cross the line at about 25 MPH. What a relief. At this time, I am hopeful that a good result awaits.
At this point, I was feeling like absolute crap. I’d put everything I had out there for about the final three miles. I limped to the next rest stop and recovered a bit. I was overheated and because I went to the drops for the last 5 minutes my back was killing me. I need to just cut off the lower part of my handlebars to keep them from tempting me to use them. It would reduce weight, wind drag, and make me look cool – like my bike had steer horns.
Going for a respectable time in the time trial was a foolish idea for me. I was already not feeling great, and with the strong wind, and it being a fairly warm day, I was pretty much done. I still had 7 or 8 miles to go, and although it was level, I wasn’t feeling like a strong finish would be wise. I limped back — which included about four miles on a bike path that was more like a black tarp over a massive stretch of tree roots. That felt great on the old back – like getting kicked in the ass every few seconds.
I found out today that my timing chip didn’t register at the damn time trial finish. So, no official time for me. All of that suffering for nothing.
I got back to the car, cleaned myself up a bit, changed jerseys, then realized that I didn’t go through the finish gate. Crap! I grabbed the bike and rode through the finish line. That probably cost me a bit of pride on the finishing list, but what the hell – I was extremely distracted by the fact that I had an ice chest full of beer in the car. One six-pack of Lagunitas IPA, and one six-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I challenge any of you not to be driven to distraction by an ice chest full of great beer after 90 windy miles on a bike. I don’t know that it’s possible not to fall prey to it’s call. I think that I heard the Sierra Nevada actually signing Bavarian love songs as I approached the car.
Back at the car, I crack open the ice chest and start serving beers to my friends who did the ride with me. They all wimped out and just did the 60-mile course. “Too much wind!” they whined. “I didn’t want to make (fill in the name) feel bad!” Yeah, yeah. Figures, but that’s not the way I roll. I sign up for the 90, I do the 90. In fact, if they announced at the start, “We’ve decided to add a third option: the 180 miler.” I’d have had to have done that. I have issues.
Over beers, one of my buddies was retelling the story of when he was at one of the rest stops, and in comes Jacquie Phelan. She pulls a brodie in the dirt and gravel, throwing rocks and a cloud of dust up into the air. My buddy says, “that’s a killer brodie you just pulled off!” and Jacque shouts in reply, “Oh, honey, why the shit did I do that?!” This is in her polka-dot Specialized Ruby road bike, her lace gloves, the inner-tube hula skirt, and the sunglasses with the leather nose-protecting beak. Must have been quite a scene. Turns out she found most of her success on a mountain bike. I guess that makes sense – you have to be a little crazy to be a top mountain bike racer, or at least a little crazier than the rest.
After the ride, there was an organized autograph session, where all of the USBHOF inductees would sign autographs. Because it was not oversold, you could actually spend quality time with each of them. It was really a great time. I donned my jersey, and had Nelson Vails, John Howard, Mike McCarthy, and Alexi Grewal sign it. I was able to talk to each of them, and learned a lot about each of them and what they have done since retiring. Most live “normal” lives, other than Alexi Grewal who attempted a comeback to professional cycling at age 50 – not in senior brackets, but up against the young guys! Alexi now works on timber frame houses, and makes custom furniture in Loveland Colorado.
I will definitely be a part of the 2013 USBHOF Gran Fondo and will help promote it. I love the concept and it’s for a great cause. I hope to see you there next year!
Bookmark the site: http://www.usbhof.org/gran-fondo-home
I had a close call with a car this month – one of the closer ones in a while.
It was on an early season metric century – rides I do because they allow me to safely ride roads that I am too wise to ride alone. The comfort of doing a large organized ride is built on the idea that, with so many bikes on the road, drivers will be aware, and somewhat resigned to the fact that they will need to share the road.
Every now and again, there’s the extremely important individual. Far too important to wait for an opportunity to safely pass – these people are racing to urgent activities – some people become agitated. The several seconds that would be required to wait for a safe passing opportunity is far too high a price to pay. That heart transplant recipient will likely die on the table if the heart surgeon in the Toyota Camry behind you is forced to allow an oncoming car to pass before proceeding to pass you at a safe margin. They must go on. Time is valuable. Lives are at stake. You shouldn’t be riding a bike on a road anyway – roads are for cars.
My latest brush with disaster came on one of my favorite spring rides, through the California Sierra Nevada foothills outside of a town called Ione. These are rural roads that loop through the ridges and valleys, and take you across several dams that hold back large reservoirs. You pass the back side of Camanche Reservoir, New Hogan Reservoir, and finally, Pardee Reservoir. Pardee is my favorite, because you ride on narrow, one-lane roads on top of the dam, and it has a very rustic feel.
There are two dams that you ride over at Pardee, and the second one has a stop light to mediate traffic and prevent cars coming from opposite directions at the same time.
Pardee Dam Road is a typically country road in this area. Pretty narrow, with a bike lane that is comprised mostly of the white paint stripe on the right side of the road – the “fog line.” So, there’s the paint stripe, and then 1-3 inches of pavement, then dirt or a gully. Because of this, we ride single file, and in particularly narrow parts, where the generous 3-inch margin slims down to a mere 1 inch, I am dangerously close to the edge. I’m experienced enough to ride on the paint stripe, and not be nervous. I want to demonstrate to cars that I am doing my part to be a good partner on the road, and giving them as much of the road as possible. This is a habit born of many years of riding solo on narrow, winding country roads. I try not to inflame the locals.
Just as we are approaching the first of the two dams on Pardee, I see in my mirror a car approaching – he’s going pretty slow, probably 25 miles per hour, because he’s just inching past a buddy that I am riding with. He’s probably 12-20 feet behind me, and I notice that the car is kind of close. Within a few seconds, the car is beside me. And, when I say beside, I mean clooooooose. Probably within an inch or two of my handlebars. I was stricken with some serious sphincter pucker at that moment. I’ve had a lingering phobia of having my handlebars hit by a side mirror, and falling beneath the car and being run over by the rear wheel. I actually was almost sucked beneath a large delivery truck a few years back. Similar situation, the damn truck driver was inches away from me, and passed me very slowly. There was about three feet of clearance under the back end of the truck, and it acted like a vacuum. That experience occurred as I was riding alongside a cement barrier, so that was truly terrifying. It was all I could do to control the bike. The situation this month was less scary, as the car was a Toyota Camry (as it turns out), and there’s probably be only enough room for a body part – like my arm, or my head. It was also on the open road, so there was no vacuum effect. But, the guy passed pretty slowly, so he was there for what seemed like several seconds.
Despite that, it was a significantly nervous moment, and I let the guy know it by shouting at him as he passed. Once he was past, my buddy told me that he was just as close to him as he was to me, and that he had actually hit the car with his hand to try to get him to back off a bit. But, he kept going and did the same thing to me.
Knowing that it could have ended up with me in the ditch at the side of the road, or – per my nightmare – had some part of my body run over by the Toyota-driving dufus, my blood was boiling. It is so frustrating to see how people behave when they think that there can be no consequences. Like people who post comments to news articles on-line, or spew unbelievable low-life knuckledragging smack while playing Xbox Live (oh, yeah… I’m a Call of Duty FREAK).
The guy went on and disappeared around a bend. Having done this ride before, I knew that we were coming up to the portions of the road that cross the two dams holding back Pardee Reservoir. I told my friend that up the road about a half a mile, there was a chance that the guy would have to stop at the red light, where the road chokes down to a single lane. If there was traffic coming from the other direction, and the light was red, the guy would have no choice but to stop. We both humped it and it warmed my heart to see that, as I came around a hill, Mr. Toyota Camry was idling at the red light.
As I came upon the car, I went out to the driver’s side of the car.
As further proof of his high intelligence, he left his window down about an inch. So, I did what any rational person would do — I took my bottle full of Cytomax and squirted it into his window and onto the side of the guy’s head. I then squirted Cytomax all over his car, and went to the passenger’s side of the car. I beckoned the driver to join me on the side of the road. “Do you want a confrontation? I shouted? Come on out!!! Let’s have a confrontation!”
I must admit that I was proud of the mental clarity that I was able to demonstrate at that moment. I figured that if he did in fact get out of the car and, I would predict, I kicked the living shit out of him, that I might be at least a little protected legally. “Your honor, I asked him if he wanted a confrontation, and that if he did, he should get out of the car. He got out of the car – clearly he wanted a confrontation. I did what any reasonable person would do, which was to beat the crap out of him.” I must admit that I cannot see any good fight starting with a statement as clearly dry as “do you want a confrontation?” You almost never see that in a movie.
He didn’t seem interested. I tried again. I didn’t understand it – certainly, someone as important as he, or as agitated that he must have been to have been forced to share the road with cyclists would liked to have the chance to give me a piece of his mind. He acted as though I wasn’t there. It was almost as if he was afraid that without the ability to use his several thousand pound cage of metal and glass, he felt that perhaps his advantage might have been lost — that his chances against a 6’3” 240-pounder looked better from a moving vehicle. Go figure.
The light turned, he pulled away, and I gave his car one last shot of Cytomax.
I’m hoping that he learned a lesson from this little exchange. I know I did. From now on, I’ll ride with a full can of bear spray. It might not make the car sticky, but it would definitely be an attention getter coming through the side window.
A recent experience reminded me of my favorite part in the movie Year One. In a spoof on the biblical Cain & Abel story, Cain thinks that he had successfully killed his brother, and portrays it as an accident, or self-defense, or both. He looks upon his brother and in pretend anguish, he shouts “oh! What have I done?” When Abel recovers from the blow and tries to rise, Cain smashes him yet again with a rock, and wails, “oh, God, what have I done… again?” He smashes Abel again. “What have I done some more?” For a third time, Abel recovers, and lefts his head. And, for a third time, Cain bashes him in the head with the rock and asks “what have I continued to do?” It’s freaking hilarious.
David Cross is one of my favorite comedic actors, I’ve loved watching that guy since his HBO series Mr. Show. He does a spectacular job yet again in Year One.
That part of that movie was playing in my brain this week when I did something that I swore I would never do again. I put my bike on a Computrainer. And then, against my instincts and better judgment, I pedaled.
Oh, god! What have I done… again?
That humor of that scene was the only thing that kept me from jumping off of the bike and murdering my friends who talked me into the spin session. If I had seen a large rock somewhere in the spin center, it might have been enough to push me over the edge.
My friend Chris who owns the Computrainers and runs the spin classes had invited me and another buddy over for a private session. Lucky me.
As I am preparing for the ride – I put my bike on the trainer, attached the cadence meter, said a prayer. I also haul over two large fans and situate them about five feet in front of my bike. One of the most miserable things of riding a trainer is the lack of adequate air movement. I start cooking from within. This time, I would mitigate that. It was about 65 degrees in the building, so I felt confident that I would not overheat this day. The fans are normally in front of the class of eight, and the Computrainers are set up in two rows of four bikes each. I put my bike in the front row so as to be as close as possible to the fans. This is only the second time that I have done a spin session, and the first time, I was only getting an occasional share of an oscillating fan. Not nearly enough, and it contributed greatly to my misery.
When we first set up the bikes, and the course was announced, I knew that this was going to be a particularly unpleasant session. We were going to ride a simulation of Richter Pass – an 18-mile section of the Canadian Iron Man route. About 1300 feet of climb. The course takes a little over an hour.
One of the measures used to gauge the difficulty of a ride is feet of elevation gain per mile of distance. So, 1300 feet over 18 miles is 72 feet per mile, which is “moderate” in my book. Many of my training rides are at the “difficult” level which to me is 100 feet of climb per mile. It’s a major component of the SuperClydesdale “misery index” on a ride. I call it the Gravitational Disadvantage (GD), where:
GD = elevation gain (feet) / distance (miles)
Yes, I have a minor in mathematics.
The GD is important only when riding with riders with fewer… gravitational issues. In this case, I’m coming in at a relatively slim (for me) 228 pounds. My fellow riders are both sub 200. I’m giving up at least 30 pounds to one, and 40 pounds to the other.
The Computrainer knows the difference. Each rider has a profile that includes their weight. The trainer then sends this information to the “load generator” to make it simulate the effects of gravity. I’ve been called a “load generator” myself, but for different reasons. During my recent “cleanse” I was a turbocharged load generator. Professional grade.
The spin session is set up as a course where everybody can see where they are on the elevation profile, as well as their stats: speed, cadence, watts, percentage of grade, etc. Most important to the experience is that you can see exactly where you are vs. your fellow riders, as well as how many feet you are behind the rider immediately “ahead of you” on the virtual course. So, naturally, that means one thing: this is a race. Now, it’s hardly a fair race, given that the course is called “Richter Pass” and it is mostly a climb, and I’m significantly heavier than my fellow riders. I absolutely hate entering contests that I know I can’t win before it starts. That’s the main reason I’ve never auditioned for America’s Got Talent or American Idol — I have no talent.
The weakness of the Computrainer for Clydesdales is that the load generator doesn’t simulate wind resistance or gravitational attraction (outside of on the climbs). A Clydesdale has two primary advantages: wind resistance, and power. On level ground, we have power that can really propel us faster than smaller riders who have to fight a much higher resistance to weight ratio. Similarly, on descents, gravity’s love for Clydesdales will propel us to the point that we can actually pull away from lighter riders rather easily, as they battle the wind resistance. On many rides, I can coast downhill as fast as my lighter riding partners can pedal. If the Computrainer was to be realistic, the load generator would actually become a motor on a significant downhill. I could really power through and make up the significant distance I give up to lighter riders on the climbs.
So, on a hilly race course like Richter Pass, I get nothing but disadvantage. It provides me more resistance than lighter guys, yet the lighter guys are able to descend just as fast as I am. On the flats, I get no advantage whatsoever. Now, you might be wondering… what does that matter? You’re doing this for a workout, right? Silly, stupid person. Yes, you.
The Computrainer spin classes are nothing more than a vehicle to facilitate an athletic competition. Any training benefit derived should be considered purely incidental. And, since spin classes are attended by competitive males, the results of such a competition are significant and serious. Egos are damaged, fragile notions of self worth are questioned. I’m heading off to therapy as soon as I am finished writing this.
I think that it’s best that I not participate in these rigged sessions. Only if my profile can be split off from fellow riders, perhaps a “special needs” profile that just has a timer. I want to ride on a different course than everyone else, I will just happen to be in the same room. Nobody can see my stats. It’s only fair.
As it was, I was a very unpleasant participant, intent on ruining the experience for my fellow riders. I had a bout of CCTS mid-way through the session, when it became apparent that (a) I was miserable, and (b) there was no way that I could win.
One thing cannot be argued – it’s hard to beat the ass-kicking available in a spin class. It’s balls out for the entire time. No coasting. No cruising. You are 100% for the duration. Temping to repeat if I can get my brain around the disadvantage. Like so many other disadvantaged peoples, I guess it just means that I’ll have to be that much better to beat them.
At the end of the session (1:10 for me), it felt like I’d pulled an ass muscle. I couldn’t sit comfortably for a while. That was a new experience for me as well. I hobbled off and had a beer – or was it three???
I came out of the holiday season feeling a bit off. I’d been drinking tremendous amounts of beer and wine, not eating that well as I went on party duty. My energy levels felt low, and my climbing legs were gone. Part of that is the extra 10 pounds I’d managed to put on since Thanksgiving. Yes, gravity is cruel.
I was enjoying the beer and wine in particular. Tremendously. It was soooo good. I’d been splurging a bit on the wine, and going somewhat upscale into some pretty good wines, and each night, the wine was a welcome cap to some pretty hectic days. I was starting to feel like perhaps I was enjoying the alcoholic beverages a bit too much. It just sounded too good. I was starting to fear that I was craving it, and was thinking of going cold turkey and do a weeks-long break from any drinking.
That was before my lovely wife approached me with a topic she had come across in one of the magazines she reads. The idea is to undergo a weeks-long “cleanse” – to dramatically change your diet for a few weeks, in theory to drive out toxins from the body. Since I think that the idea of detoxifying is a total bunch of crap, I was at first not too excited about it, but my wife was interested in it because she was also feeling somewhat low-energy and just generally “blah.” She’s a bit impulsive, and the idea of doing “something completely different” is usually very attractive to her, but this seemed like a harmless enough program. She read the recipes to me, and they all sounded edible, so I figured what the hell? At a minimum, I’d get the break from the alcohol for a few weeks.
The program is, in a nutshell, three weeks long in duration, with each week having different food options. You start off with the most dramatic phase, and in week one, you can only eat fruits and vegetables. The good news is, you can each as much as you want of the foods you are allowed to eat. In week 2, you can add beans and lean meat (lean chicken or fish). In week three, you can add small amounts of whole grains. So, the things that you are without for the entire three weeks are alcohol, dairy products, breads or anything with flour, etc.
Given that I’d be three weeks without dairy or gluten, I thought that this could be a great way of finding out if I was lactose intolerant or allergic to gluten. I figured that if I felt significantly better, then I could later do programs that are dairy free or gluten-free to see which of the two I had problems with.
What a stupid idea. I was constantly hungry. I was eating entire fields of lettuce, only to be hungry an hour later. I think I personally cause a vegetable shortage in the greater Sacramento region. Stores shelves were bare. Prices skyrocketed. A general panic ensued.
And the monotony! How many combinations of ingredients can you do? After a while, it’s just a salad that tastes just like the other salad you just ate. I found myself adding all sorts of nuts and dried fruits just to give me something to chew on.
I told a friend of mine that I was eating almonds by the pound. It was one of the few foods that seemed to satisfy me. He warned me that too many almonds were bad, that they contained some toxin that build up, so no more than an ounce a day is advised. Turns out, there is some truth to that, but the concern is around raw almonds, not the roasted ones I was eating.
It did turn out that eating too many of the almonds — even roasted — had some side effects, primarily the tremendous craving for a steak with blue cheese crumbles.
Probably the most impactful aspect to “the cleanse” is what it apparently cleanses: your colon, the toilet paper isle at Costco, the produce department and your local supermarket. I’ve heard of peeing like a race horse. I was pooping like a race horse. It was simply amazing. I didn’t know that my system could even hold that much, or process it that quickly! I could save a lot of time and inconvenience just by taking the salad ingredients and just dumping them straight into the toilet.
This has a big impact on your lifestyle. I can’t stray from civilization too long – I need a toilet! I went to a theater show with my family (I know, not manly, but I promised my wife). I couldn’t even enjoy the show – I had to sweat it out until the intermission. I have bowel Tourette Syndrom – occasional offensive outbursts. “Can I get special seating near the theater door? I’m on an all-veggie diet!”
And, speaking of horses, I now know why there’s so much horse crap on the mountain bike trails. I’m sure that a horse would prefer to poop in private, but can’t – they’re on veggie-only diets. They have no control – it just comes out! I think that the lack of meat in a horse’s diet has left them with no bowel control, and I’m convinced that one of the marks of the upper species: control of bowel movements. . One might note that most if not all species without bowel control are prey animals – I prefer to be on the top of the food chain.
I think that I’ve also answered the question as to whether or not I’m lactose intolerant. One well-known symptom of lactose intolerance is flatulence. I think that, in fact, I’m non-lactose intolerant: I need lactose in my diet or I suffer flatulence. Combine that with the freight train of a bowel system, and you’re really setting yourself up for a great time. Sharting anyone?
While the most troubling thing about the “cleanse” is the requirement of keeping in close proximity to a toilet, I also have struggled with very low energy levels. During the first week, I had periods of dizziness. I felt like I had a low-grade flu or something. I felt like the vegetarian lion on Futuram, where the hippies forced the poor beast into a more enlightened tofu diet so as to save the planet. I feel like that lion.
My chicken salad was the best meal I’ve ever eaten. Better than the $500 steak dinner I had in December at Morton’s of Chicago. Absence does indeed make the heart (and stomach) grow fonder.
Week 2 brings the addition of beans and lean meat, primarily chicken and fish. It’s incredible how wonderful all of those things taste after a week of pure veggies. I pity vegetarians. I now understand why they are such miserable people (and lions). Vegans and vegetarians are pale, housebound, unhappy people with chafed bums.
The ongoing bowel issues persist. I think that I need dairy or something to slow me down. During week 2, I still couldn’t ride or run – don’t have the confidence that I can stray that far from the toilet. My bowels have me under house arrest.
Still hyper-regular. I’ve gathered enough confidence to go on my first bike ride, about mid-way through week 3. I stayed close to home, and alerted my wife to stay close to the phone. A bowel emergency might erupt. I might need her to come pick me up.
Luckily, the hour-long ride ended without incident.
My confidence up, I did a longer ride yesterday. I felt better than I expected, but the energy level was still somewhat low. I felt like my endurance was fine, but didn’t feel like I had much power. Just felt kind of “blah.” 36 miles, strayed farther than I had in 2-1/2 weeks. Very nervous throughout, fingers crossed, sphincter clinched.
The ride ended without incident. Enjoyed a delicious chicken salad afterwards in celebration.
The “cleanse” ends tomorrow. The only reason I finished all three weeks is because I told everyone I was doing it, and I cannot ever go on record for having quit something in the middle. Just like the Death Ride. I would have gone straight back to the car after pass 2, pass 3, and pass 4, but I told most of my friends I was going to do it, so I had to either intentionally crash, or gut it out. I gutted it out.
My wife stayed with me to the end, so she shares the same sense of accomplishment of this self-flagellating diet.
If I see another salad in the next week, someone might get hurt.
I think the biggest mistake was the duration. Three weeks is a very long time. Just think that I missed drinking alcohol during several NFL playoff games and the Super Bowl!!!! How bad was that timing?
If I were to ever attempt any sort of “cleanse” I think it would have to be a week or less. Anything longer is a significant change in lifestyle that you really need to understand and be prepared for.
On the plus side, I have lost about 10 pounds over the three weeks. I wasn’t intending on doing this to lose weight, but it’s a great benefit, considering how much pain and suffering (and pooping) I endured. That said, there are many easier and more appealing ways to lose 10 pounds, such as cutting off a limb or becoming seriously ill. It would be easier and more pleasurable to donate organs to lose weight than to do this: I know how I can cleanse my liver: get rid of it!
Pacelines are fun and exciting, and can be really exhilarating as it allows sustained speeds that are impossible outside of a peloton. Since most of us are not peloton-ready (I was unceremoniously replaced on BMC’s team just prior to the 2011 Tour de France – go figure), pelotons are a common “thrill ride” for the recreational cyclist.
It should never be forgotten that pacelines are freaking dangerous. Every year, I hear of a few crashes within my area related to pacelines. Most of the time, it’s inexperience of riders that can manifest itself in any number of ways:
- Sudden change of pace by a rider
- Failure to call out obstacles
- Lack of respect for the responsibilities of being the lead rider
While a paceline is fun, you are depending on the people in front of you to do the right thing.
I’ve come very close to crashes when people in front of my suddenly braked without notice. I’ve done the same thing to other riders, I’m sure.
I just got back from visiting my good friend Chris. He’s a long-time riding partner and one of the nicest people on the planet. He’s enjoying day #3 in the hospital recovering from a number of injuries, headlined by a disclocated hip. Just typing “dislocated hip” makes my stomach tingly with sympathetic discomfort. A shiver runs down my spine just thinking about it. The hospital won’t release him until they are certain that he’s safe to go home.
Chris’ malady springs from items #2 and 3 above. His first mistake was riding in a paceline with a stranger. Pacelines are risky enough with people you ride with frequently. At least with riding buddies, you know their habits, and have (hopefully) a comfort level with their ability and willingness to call out obstacles and know the wisdom of refraining from sudden braking. A cool, steady pace is nice too, but predictability is critical.
Like a formation at an airshow, where the formation follows the leader, if the leader makes a mistake or has a problem, the entire formation pays the price.
In Chris’ case, he didn’t realize that the guy he was following was a moron. Chris assumed because the guy was incredibly fit and had racing team apparel on, that he was experienced and knew his obligations at the head of the paceline. Wrong. These guys were keeping a pretty good pace (23-25 mph on a twisty bike trail). Suddenly, the guy made an emergency maneuver, and left Chris staring at a steel 4×4 at the edge of the path. He basically led Chris, who was 3” behind his wheel, right into the pole. Chris didn’t have time to react, nor did the guy behind him. The dumbass in the front gets away unharmed, and the two guys behind him hit the pavement. Luckily, only Chris hit the pole. Frame snapped in two. Disclocated hip, probable torn ACL, probably rotator cuff injury. To make matters worse, Chris’ house is full of stairs. He’s going to be struggling mightily for a while.
So, some lessons learned:
- Don’t paceline with strangers, unless they are your new teammates on your professional team
- Don’t paceline on a bike path. Too narrow. Not meant for high-speed rides.
- Ride mountain bikes instead of road bikes. When I hit an obstacle, I want it to be my fault.
The elevation profile from my New Years Day sufferfest.
I resumed a tradition today that was interrupted last year by bad weather and a momentary coming to of senses.
It started in 2009: my bike club goes to a nasty stretch of road called Beatty hill in El Dorado Hills, CA. It’s 3/4ths of a mile of pure nasty climb (12-16%), and the tradition is to appear on New Years Day, and climb the damn thing one time for every year after 2000. So, in 2009, I did it 9 times. In 2010, 10 times. Last year, it was rainy and cold, and I threw in the towel. Not a hard call. Probably 45 degrees, rainy, and I am going to get up at the ass crack of dawn to go and torture myself for 2 hours? Not something to easily wake up for, particularly after a night of drinking.
This year was different. It was an actual race. 2 hours to see who could do the most repeats. Immediately spotting this as an evil plot to make the big guys look bad, I signed up, but with the intent of boycotting the actual “race.” My goal was to do 12 repeats, whether it took me 2 hours or 2 days. 12 repeats up Beatty for a guy my size is aggressive.
My conditioning is has slipped this year. I had a very busy summer, a time normally spent going from one endurance ride to the next. This year, I decided to make a traditional brick pizza oven in my yard. I’ve always wanted one, and once I started the foundation, I felt like I had a gun to my head to finish it before the Northern California rainy season arrived.
[ Turns out, I had plenty of time. This winter, following one of the wettest years on record, is turning out to be extremely dry. ]
The pizza oven is mostly done – just aesthetics to complete in the spring. It’s sweeeeeeet!!! Gets up to 900 degrees and cooks authentic Italian pizzas in 90 seconds. Unfortunately, it sucked a lot of my riding time up, as I could only really work on it during daylight hours. So, as my pizza oven went up, so did my weight. Probably at least 10-15 pounds over where I would have finished the summer.
I had a New Year’s party at my house last night, and it was a pizza party. It takes 60-90 minutes to get the oven up to the proper heat. The bricks inside burn turn from black to “clear” which means that you see the true color of the bricks. When the entire dome of the oven is clear, it’s ready to cook pizza.
My evening started off by lighting the fire on the floor of the oven chamber. My own private tradition is to have a drink as soon as the fire is lit – that sounds safe, right? Fire and drinking are always a safe combination. So, I am two beers into the night by early evening – and the party doesn’t start for another hour or two. I slow my pace down a bit – I’ve got a big ride tomorrow, so I have to be thoughtful right? I switch to wine, and have a glass of a nice Miraflores Zinfandel.
Once the fire is going, it’s time to prepare for tomorrow’s big ride. Given that I am heavier than I should be and not quite as fit as normal, I make the decision to use my Death Ride Bike – my old climbing bike. Since switching to the extended (195mm) cranks on my S-Works, I haven’t ridden this bike. Not one time. I don’t need it – there’s so damn much power with the long cranks. But, my fear is getting the best of me, and I cannot stand the thought of failing to do the 12 repeats. I told a bunch of people that I was going to do the 12 repeats, so it had to happen. I decided to dust off my Rocky Mountain. It had literally been 18 months or so since I last rode it. Both tires were flat, the thing was caked with dust. On it, I installed my life-saving 13-30 cassette that I ordered from Harris Cyclery specifically for the Death Ride. It has a low gear as big as a pie plate, so it can be my safety net. I cannot fail. I’d have to move.
But back to the pizza/New Years part. As people show up for our small New Years get together, everyone is bringing nice wines, and we ended up with a couple of bottles of Champagne (er, California sparkling wine). Of course, this cannot go to waste. Nor can a bottle of Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet (93 points – kick ass) that I opened to celebrate the occasion. Needless to say, I was drinking quite a bit. I probably had at least 6 glasses of wine and 2 glasses of Champagne (er, California sparkling wine).
It was hard to say no. So I didn’t.
- Jack, have another glass of wine? Uh, yes!
- Jack, want some Champagne? Certainly!
- Jack, another slice of pizza? Of course!
And then there was a “desert pizza” which is a normal pizza crust with a sweet sauce, topped with pears and figs. Of course, I am all for eating several servings of fruit per day, so I have to have a couple of pieces of that. I ate like a bear. It must have been a spectacle.
All the while, I had this little voice whispering to me. “Jack, you have to haul that fat ass up Beatty 12 times tomorrow.” I think that’s what some people call a conscience. Or common sense. I’ve never been accused of having either, so I kept going. I think of it as a gift.
My saving grace what that the ride started late this year: 10AM start time. I could get a reasonable amount of sleep and have a shot at being somewhat fresh.
I got to bed at a reasonable hour, but woke up at around 5AM. Still buzzed. I knew that this was a huge red flag, but went back to sleep and got up at 8AM. Actually, felt fine. Whew! Despite my relative lack of conditioning, and the copious amounts of alcohol and food consumed the night before, I appeared. I was shocked. I think when I showed up, some of the people who don’t know me must have thought, “yeah. Right – this beast is going to do hill repeats up Beatty?” I picked a couple of these nay saying gawkers out of the crowd and ate them – that seemed to shut everybody up, so I never heard a peep.
I parked around 3 miles from Beatty to give my legs at least a few minutes of warm-up.
I began my first ascent up Beatty and realize that I hadn’t lubricated the chain. It’s incredibly dry. So, the damn thing immediately starts that creaking whiny, clanking noise like a Sherman tank in the North African desert in the movie “Patton.” Great – that won’t get old. It’s not shifting the best either. I consider climbing off to make adjustments, but I was determined to stay on the bike, stay pedaling, and just keep moving to get this torture over.
Whenever I am undertaking an endurance event, I have learned to stay within myself. I need to keep the pace manageable, and not be influenced by outside forces. My pace was…. slow.
At one point, I discovered that these two women in yoga pants were actually walking up the hill on the opposite side of the road, on a morning fitness walk. They appeared to be going about the same pace I was. Hey, they did look fit. But, the fact that they seemed to be keeping my pace was a bit humiliating. I had to beat these walkers up the damn hill! That went without saying – but, I needed to keep my pace. I couldn’t abandon my strategy. I looked over and could tell that they were fairly attractive ladies, and when I speaking to them, I’m afraid that I ended up in a bit of a Freudian slip. I meant to say, “hey, don’t make me look bad in front of my team!” but instead it came out as, “Hey, you f—ing whores! I bet you aren’t doing this hill 12 times are you? Well I am! And I had a lot to drink last night!”
Slowly I did inch past them.
Another low point was being passed by someone on a Bike Friday – one of those folding travel bikes. All I could think of was “are you kidding me?” As it turns out, that person was there to watch the repeats, not do them (at least not all 12). So, pace was not a concern to them — that took a bit of the sting out of it. Still, that’s the sure sign of trouble. Any time someone on a folding travel bike passes you, you’ve got issues. It felt like I was driving in a Nascar event, and getting passed by a Prius. It’s not right. I probably could have knocked them over, and beaten them to death with their ridiculous bike, and the police would understand (it was simply overtly disrespectful – I had to do it). Of course, I’d have to catch them first.
Me about 15 pounds heavier than normal, grinding out a hill repeat up Beatty. Ug!
I was definitely among the slower ascenders out there. People actually participating in the race were all 150-170 pounders. Some less. I know for sure that I was the biggest guy out there. By far. There’s pride in that. Not everyone did 12 repeats either. In fact, a lot of people just did “the most they could.” I don’t even know what that means.
While I was likely one of the slowest ascenders, I was probably the fastest descender. Gravity is funny that way: just as it has its claws into me as I fight my way up the hill, it virtually sucks me down the road. My top speed was 53.2 MPH, the thrill of which certainly made the brutality of the climb somewhat more palatable.
After 10 repeats, I could really feel the muscles tightening up. I texted my wife and told her to fire up the hot tub. I’m going to need it. On number 11, I’m thinking, “wow, I feel pretty strong.” Maybe I can do more! But, once I started 12, I knew that was it. 12 was very tough. I think knowing it was the last one made it tougher for some reason.
In 2010, on my 10th one, I was convinced that I couldn’t do more. That was 2 years ago, when I was in much better shape and at least 15 pounds lighter. Obviously I could have done more than 10 – but knowing that I only had to do 10 made doing any more seem improbable. I think I did learn one thing this morning: the higher the goal, the higher the achievement. By aiming lower 2 years before, I had artificially restricted myself to a lower total than I was capable of. I’m sure next year, when I have to do 13, the ceiling that I set today at 12 will seem much easier.
Today was quite strange, participating in this event thought up by small people for small people: I only passed one person in 2:30 minutes. Yet, I got passed by almost everyone. It was a total suspension of the no pass rule (which I expected), and made me feel like I was in some strange opposite universe, where up is down and the good guy wears black. Very disconcerting.
But, despite the agony, I did grind out 12 repeats.
Some statistics: 22.4 miles, 4612 feet of climb.
For a big guy who’s played a lot of sports, running has become a problem. I used to run quite a bit, but the toll it takes on knees can be significant. Some of my older sports injuries like meniscus tears, ankle sprains, and high ankle sprains, have forced me away from running on a regular basis.
Not that I was ever a true running enthusiast. Running sucks. It’s boring and inefficient. It should really only be done by women that don’t own running bras, and only when I’m present.
As I’ve grown accustomed to saying, significant injuries don’t heal, they just hide for a few years. As you age, they come back, and leave you feeling as though you just finished physical therapy on the original injury. They lurk, waiting for the right time to present themselves, then they pounce. They remind you of your mortality, and of how foolish you were in your youth, that phase in your life when you thought that you were immortal.
While running does, in fact, suck, it’s an amazingly effective workout. You can get quite an ass-kicking in an hour. That’s the downside of road riding: it’s so damn efficient. It’s hard to get a real workout in an hour. Who do you know that goes out for a 20-mile ride? Some out-of-shape fat ass, I’ll bet? If I go out, it’s at least 30 miles, and probably anywhere from 40-70 miles. That’s just what it takes to feel like I got a workout. If afterward, I can walk up a flight of stairs without complaining about it, then I didn’t get a workout. On my road bike, It’s usually a several hour ride with significant climbing to get me there. On my mountain bike, at least 90 minutes. With running, a 30-minute outing can kick my ass. Certainly my size has something to do with it. Gravity is a mean mother, and running is a constant battle. My 240 pounds bouncing up and down is an incredible bout of inefficient jostling of meat. I’ll bet it looks like I’ve got a baby carrier full of angry cats strapped to my chest as I run. You know, those cloth slings that women (and the occasional unfortunate womanly man) wear to keep their infants close by as they walk? Throw about 5 large, pissed off cats in one of those, strap it to your chest, and then I think you know what it looks like when I run. Luckily, I don’t have sensitive nipples.
I spent this Thanksgiving in southern California – Carlsbad to be precise. I didn’t have the ability to bring a bike, so I found myself at my in-laws, sans bike, and wanting to create some significant calorie banks to allow me to fully partake in the Thanksgiving feast without (too much) guilt. That, and my goal of getting a good cardio workout at least once every three days to keep my fitness level from degrading too much. More often is, clearly, better, but the three-day max seems to at least allow for maintenance of fitness when time gets scarce. My wife is a long-time runner, and we did two consecutive days of running along the beach. These were significant to me, as I rarely run. On Thanksgiving morning, we did 3.2 miles, and on “black Friday” we did 3.6. I was proud of myself because I am doing it pretty much cold turkey (no pun intended) – these were runs #3 and #4 for the year. So to belt out two runs on legs that don’t run, I was pretty happy. I was also able to push my wife to her limits as far as pace goes, so it would seem that all of my riding doesn’t leave me totally unprepared for the occasional run. I’ve done long rides with runners (my wife included), and they always seem to fare well, so I was pleased that it seemed to work the other way as well. Professional courtesy among the muscle groups I guess.
People with willpower disgust me. And, people with crazy, silly levels of willpower worry me.
Some of the simple pleasures I enjoy in life are good beer and good wine. And cigars.
This year, one of my primary riding partners decided that he was going to give up alcohol. Entirely. I’d rather hang myself.
He revealed his move one day after a ride, when we normally go grab a beer to celebrate a good ride. “Oh, not for me, I’m not drinking anymore.” I stared back at him like he had just grown a third eye or something. I asked him what brought about this change… was he drinking too much? Was his wife drinking too much and he was going dry in support of her? Did the doctor tell him that he needed to make dramatic changes to his lifestyle?
Nope. It was all for “fitness.”
Okay. .. fitness… I don’t get it. This guy is never going to be a racer — he doesn’t even want to race. Yet, he’s slowly removing things from his diet. Big things. He’s eating lots of veggies, very few breads, more “unprocessed” foods. It’s like he’s going “paleo” – that pathetic new diet trend that has people wanting to go back to the good old days… apparently, the “really good, really, really old days.” You know, when life was so free and easy: the Paleolithic era. All that a guy had to worry about back then was the real basics of the hierarchy of needs: food, water, shelter. And getting stabbed with a stick. Or getting the flu. Along with that crazy laid-back lifestyle went a life expectancy of probably 20 years or so.
I expect that he’ll give up fluoridated toothpaste soon in favor of salt, or ground up nuts or something. Needless to say, my buddy has moved to my “second tier” of riding partners. Last time I rode with him, he just went home after the ride rather than hang out. Fun.
I confronted him somewhat on this whole fitness strategy. I told him, he’s already pretty damn fit. He’s probably easily in the top 1% of all Americans with respect to his fitness level for his age. He’s going to have the Occupy Wall Street folks camping in his yard if he’s not careful. Instead of protesting the capitalist gluttony of Wall Street, he’ll have an assortment of “the 99%” – other people not so fit, who will demand that he exercise less and drink more. Maybe take up smoking. He’s making them feel bad about themselves. Interestingly, like at OWS, Michael Moore will show up at my buddy’s house as well.
At any rate, he’s gone way too far, stretching this arbitrary goal that he has towards a higher level of fitness, with no particular end point in mind. Just more fit. Whatever he is now, he just wants to be more fit. There’s got to be a fitness equivalent to anorexia. If there is, he’s developed it. I googled “fitness obsession” and found an article on Fitness Bulimia. While my buddy is not quite at that level, he’s headed in that direction, in my view. Give up alcohol? He might as well have sold one of his children. Same level in my mind.
Me, I prefer to experience the breadth of things that life has to offer. I drink wine, I enjoy a beer or two after a hard ride. Or three.
I also enjoy the occasional cigar. In fact, I recently joined a cigar club, where I keep a locker. Like my old gym locker, this locker is humidified – but not by gym shorts. This is a proper cedar-lined space, where I can store cigars and a bottle or two of my favorite Tequila, scotch, or my new thing, Japanese whiskey. Yes, I want it all. Life is short and I enjoy the ride.
For me, fitness is important. And, like my buddy, I am in that top 1% as well. Easily. While I pant and wheeze trying to keep up with the little guys up a steep hill, I can pretty much ride the wheels off of the damn bike, even if I am heavier than I probably could be.
All things in balance. Don’t take things so seriously. It’s okay if you are not at 7% body fat.
Getting old sucks. As my doctor says, as you get older, you no longer “bounce.”
Not that I’m an old codger, but I am definitely developing a grey streak in the front. Of my head, that is.
I can certainly attest to the lack of bounce. I went down like a sack of potatoes – rather hard as my slow friend described it. I thought I bounced. I shot straight up, restored my dignity, then kept riding at a pretty good clip.
But, as I said in my last post, by the end of the ride, I was pretty sore, and by the time I got home, I couldn’t raise my left arm.
After nearly two weeks of this – on top of regular large doses of ibuprofen – occasional periods of ice torture (known as “icing” in some circles) – I still had about 90% of the symptoms. Can’t raise the left arm. Can’t point the left thumb down (a surprisingly accurate tell of shoulder issues). Time to go to the doctor to see what’s up.
At this point, my external scrapes and bruises are totally gone. That’s when I figure my internal healing should be felt somewhat – if the bruises on the outside have gone away, the bruises on the inside should certainly have made progress as well. But, joints repair slowly. I know that.
The doctor runs me through the same tests that he did right after the crash. Pretty much the same result. Not good. He thinks that there’s a good chance of a rotator cuff tear. Ug. I know that this could end up with surgery. I hate surgery.
But, I can see my snowboarding season slipping away. Maybe if I act immediately, I can still get some runs in before the end of the season.
Next steps: physical therapy, MRI, and a trip to the orthopedic surgeon for some additional G2.
I need to bounce. The doctor means “bounce back” when he says we don’t bounce. He says I need to back off a little as I get older because I won’t be able to bounce back like I did in my 20’s. Duh. But, I want to balance risk with joy. I ride with a lot of people who are so afraid that they seldom if ever take any chances. What’s the point of living if it gets to that?
My son watches a lot of snowboard and skateboard videos. These are people that are on the other end of the spectrum. They live life as if they are immortal. They are so banged up and thick with scar tissue that I hope that they go out doing what they love because they are using up so much of their bodies that they are going to be invalids by the time they are older.
There was a great phrase that came out of one of these guys who was interviewed. He said that he wants to keep going until he’s “so broke off that I can’t do it any more.” I thought “wow!” that’s a very clear statement of understanding — I believe he gets it. Not only does he understand that he is going to eventually be broken beyond repair, but that he wants to live his life to that edge. Never mind that he’s in his mid-20’s and doesn’t fully appreciate that the life expectancy for his generation is probably 81 or 82 years old. He’s going to live the last 50+ years of his life in near constant pain. All of those joint tears, contusions, etc., will make him a slow arthritic troll by the time he’s 50.
So, that’s the other extreme. Like most anything, somewhere in the middle is probably where I want to be. I want to get my thrills and have fun, but not to the point that I won’t be able to walk or raise my arms above my shoulders.
I realize that this is just a minor bump in the road. I’ll be back soon. It’s not keeping me off the bike, just making me think a bit more. Not a good thing on a mountain bike. Nothing good comes from overthinking.
I’m wounded — not just from the heart-wrenching decision to remain home rather than make the annual pilgrimage to Interbike – but a more superficial type of wound. Interbike 2011 will forever haunt my soul, causing me to be just a little darker, have a little less energy, a loss of that spark – I may end up being that guy at the party, kind of wandering around, not making eye contact, occasionally lingering in isolated corners, reflecting on what could have been. You may see me on a street corner, carrying a cardboard placard, asking for money. Despondent, my working days behind me, my sign – scrawled in crayon – might read “Please help! Missed Interbike 2011! Had ticket!” I think people would get it.
This injury will, presumably, heal. This is just, probably, a rotator cuff.
These types of injuries are the silly ones. They are what can happen when you ride a mountain bike with a slow person. Not that a slow person ran me over, or knocked me down, hell – they’d have to catch me first. This was because I was trying to preoccupy myself while waiting for a much slower rider to catch up. What the hell else are you going to do? I could bring my iPad – it’s got 3G. I could watch movies, or play Words With Friends. Problem is, it’s 1st generation, and I couldn’t be seen in public with aging technology. What would the slow guy think? “He may be fast, but at least I have the iPad 2.” That wouldn’t do.
I could nap, but I hate sleeping out of doors. Bugs.
Instead, I decided that I would try to hit every rock, bump, and item of interest on this trail. Eventually, this led me toward a lack of consideration as to the landing zone of the jump.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best jumper. With all of my previous sports injuries (ankle, knee, shoulder), a long day of jumps can set me up for some serious discomfort later on. All of those old injuries remind me that they are still there – subdued, but still there. I don’t know that a joint ever really heals. It pretends to when you are in your 20’s, but as you age, they make themselves known. So, it’s not that I’m un-athletic, and unable to jump, its just that I am somewhat inexperienced at it.
So, about a third of the way into the ride on a twisting little single-track section of the trail, I hit a smallish rock. It sticks up about 12” at a tempting angle – I make a last-second decision to try to launch off of the rock. Unfortunately, since it was a last-second decision, I didn’t consider the landing all that much. The trail slopes away from this rock, and I landed on the edge of the trail. The front wheel immediately slid out from under me and I went sort of diagonally off the bike, landing on my left shoulder, and into some rocks and grass.
My slow friend was right behind me at that point. A bit embarrassed by crashing off a simple little rock, I shot straight up, and got right back on the bike. I was thick with stickers – they were everywhere. I didn’t want to make a big production of the fall. It really seemed pretty minor. I quickly resumed the ride. I almost repeated the exact mistake about 100 feet up the trail, but was able to stay on the bike. My balance certainly seemed a bit off.
At the top of a hill, I stop and take stock. I take off my Camelbak, and make an effort to remove some of the stickers from my clothing. There were hundreds, under my shirt, down my sleeves, under the Camelbak, under my shorts. No biggy – brush them off, and keep going.
I did the rest of the ride at a pretty brisk pace, just stopping and waiting for my friend every half mile or so. I still did every feature on the trail, including a large rock that I had never done before. No problems, just flew and had a great time.
When I got back to the car I noticed that my left shoulder was getting a little stiff. By the time I got home, I couldn’t raise the arm.
I went to the doctor for a quick opinion, and he says that I need to wait a week or so, to see if it’s just inflamed or if I need an MRI to determine if I’ve done some serious damage.
I had my right shoulder scoped about 10 years ago. This feels just like my right shoulder did back then. Right now, just icing it, taking ibuprofen. Hopefully, this will fade away.
I am despondent.
Since I left the convention hall in Las Vegas last year, I’ve been looking forward to Interbike 2011.
Alas, it was not to be. My actual life has gotten in the way. I had to stay in NorCal and work at my real job — some crazy busy projects underway and I ended up not being able to justify taking the time to satisfy my velo fantasies.
Now, I will have to do my research the hard way — by conversing with manufacturers and fellow big guys one at a time.
Not only do I not get to see all the latest, greatest equipment. I don’t get to drink until I vomit into my (or somebody else’s shoes). I don’t get to walk the streets of Vegas, and hang with my peeps. I don’t get to wait for 2 hours for a chance to ride a demo bike in the withering heat of Boulder City, standing in the blast furnace that passes for a pleasant summer breeze in the Mojave desert.
I don’t get the see the Felt booth babes (last year was impressive). I had three times as much beer than I would have if it they were wearing more clothes.
I just am beside myself. People are texting me about the sessions they are in, the “Interbike special deals” that they are taking advantage of. I know that they are doing it to make me even more miserable and its working.
I was going to Interbike — and you weren’t!!! Life is not fair. I think I need to run out and buy a new bike just to take the edge off of this incredible cloud of disappointment funk that I am going to be wallowing in for the next several weeks. Or months.
I’m getting a little giddy. It’s that time of year.
Back to my home town. Back to all things bike. I get to divorce myself from reality, and wallow in the bikey goodness that descends upon Las Vegas every year.
That, of course, can only mean one thing: it’s time for Interbike. And, like before, I’m going.
… and you’re not.
Interbike is like ComicCon, but for fit people, people with friends, and people that have at least a reasonable shot of having a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Actually, Comic-Con looks like it could be pretty cool. But, only if I could hang with these people.
But, enough disparaging others. For now.
Interbike has replaced that hole left in my psyche left by the discovery that Santa Clause was… my parents.
Imagine a massive convention center filled with every bike and bike component manufacturer on the planet. What could be better? If you think you had a plausible answer to that question, then you suck.
I am getting pumped! I haven’t decided if I will bring the bike and drive down, trying to do a ride along the way, or just fly in. Being from Vegas, and having attended Harvard of the Desert (a.k.a., UNLV), I still have some college buddies that live there and hopefully I can coax them out for a ride along some of my old routes (Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston, or the Lake Mead Loop).
I plan on, once again, investigating issues near and dear to Clydesdales.
If you have anything that needs investigation, a product to research, whatever… send me a note, and if it strikes me as something of general interest to the gravitationally challenged, I’ll pursue it.
I had the most bizarre ride this weekend. In all of my years of road riding, I’ve never had a situation like this. Maybe this is a mountain-biking phenomenon: a magical flat that could not be repaired.
I went riding with a couple of buddies on a common out & back trail we do. It’s got butt loads of rocks, but very little in the way of climbing, so it’s a fun ride – probably 15 miles. A “quicky.”
We got to the top of a small climb, and the rear tire felt a little squishy. I check the tire, and it’s low. I figure I’d pump it up to see how long it can hold air before I commit to fixing the flat on the trail. If it’s a slow leak, I figure I’ll just pump it up a couple of times on the ride, and fix it when I get home.
Not wanting to waste a CO2 cartridge, I borrow my friend’s manual pump.
I try to attach it to the stem, and after a second or two of hissing, realize that it’s a Schrader valve – my friend had used it to pump up a ball for his kid, and had switched it from presta to Schrader. I’m a little cranky, because now it’s totally flat. Mountain bike tires don’t require the pressure of a road tire, but there’s so much air volume, that it takes forever to pump it up, especially with the little crappy $20 girly-man pump that my friend had brought. He converted it back to a presta valve and I began pumping.
Lesson learned: carry a quality manual pump in addition to the CO2. CO2 is for convenience, I can handle the weight of a manual pump as well. At 240 pounds, what’s another few ounces?
So, I spend what seems like 20 minutes inflating the tire. As I remove the pump, I can hear a faint hiss. I’ve got a damn leak. Fast enough to hear — no waiting to fix this. No problem, I’ve got a spare tube.
I take off the wheel, pull out the tube, and feel around for whatever may have punctured the tube. Nothing. Pump up the tube, find the hole – a very small pin-prick of a hole. I do the normal routine, I map the hole in the tube to the spot on the tire where that part of the tube was. No sticker. I try the other direction, in case I lost track of what side of the tube came from what part of the tire. No sticker. Okay – must have been a quick “in & out” type of thorn or something. It came through the tire, put a hole I the tube, then fell out or remained attached to whatever evil vine produced it. I did the inspection again just to be sure.
I got out the spare tube. It’s a 29er tube. I’m on my 26er today. F!
No patch kit. Bonus.
Oh well, next, I borrow a tube from one of my friends. Brand new tube – perfect. Since I spent 20 minutes pumping up the tire just prior, I figured “what the hell – I’m using the CO2 this time.” It does its magical goodness – and the tire is pretty much where I like it within about 2 seconds. Phenomenal.
Put the wheel back on the bike, and as I am locking the hub, I hear that damn hiss again. Arg!
At this point, a few other riders pull up and ask if we need assistance. “Does anyone have a real pump?” I ask. And, they do. They also have a patch kit. And, one of these guys has several CO2 cartridges taped to his frame. This guy’s a genius! Despite seeing that he had extra CO2 cartridges, they seemed somehow off limits. It felt like it would be downright rude to ask for a CO2 cartridge — crossing that line.
Take off the wheel, take out the tube, and this time there’s a little slit in the tube. Not sure if it’s a manufacturing defect, or what, but since I used nothing but my hands to mount the tire, and it went on easily, there’s no way that I could have torn the tube. As usual, I had inflated it tiny bit to keep it from twisting as it is mounted, and to insure that it will not get pinched under the bead of the tire. I chalk that one up to just bad luck.
Not ready to resort to the lowly task of repairing the tube, I get another new tube from my second riding buddy. Perfect!
Once again, I check the tire. This time, I am like a TSA agent groping an elderly traveler. There’s no way that there’s any foreign object in that thing . I put in spare tube #2. Pump it up using the “real pump” and within minutes, I’m good to go.
Take off the pump and…. I hear the thing hissing! Crap! Mother f-er! The stream of obscenities was, I’m sure, impressive.
Now, time to stoop to the stranger’s patch kit. All he has are the crap self-sticking clear ones. But, they are better than what I brought (aka nothing). So, we patch the tubes (both of them), and I put in now-repaired tube #1. This time, I have both my friends check the tire, the rim, my prostate. Nothing! There is simply nothing in the tire. We bend it, try to force whatever may be concealed in the rubber of the tire to show itself, feeling for something all the while.
Put the tire back on. Seems to be holding! Hallelujah!!!
We’d been sitting on the trail trying to repair the tire for at least a half an hour, and it was getting pretty hot. At this point, we decide that instead of going to the end of the trail, that we’d just head back.
Not 50 yards into the return trip, the back tire is squishy again. Crap! Mother f-er!
I stop, and I probably have about 10 PSI. I figure, what the hell? At this point, I’ll just get up out of the saddle and ride slowly back. That didn’t last long. Within a minute, the tire was totally flat. Unbelievable. More obscenities.
I take out the tube, and it’s got a hole in a totally different area.
We are now down to a lone tube, one that has a borrowed patch on it. This time, I am taking no chances. I take the tire off, and hike down the hill to the lake and rinse it out thoroughly, just in case. I rub my hands over it, give that thing an impressive examination. I hand it to my friend, he does the same thing. Nothing. We re-examine the rear rim. As smooth as a baby’s butt. Nothing.
I put in the tube, and pump up the tire on the crappy little pump.
It’s f-ing hissing!!!!!!
I was speechless. No amount of cursing was going to make me feel better — I’d had it. No tubes left, no patches – not that it would have mattered, this thing was just toying with me. It was possessed!!! I didn’t know what to do – defeated by a small hoop of rubber!!!
We are about 5 miles from the trail head. I tell my buddies that I am just going to walk back. We discuss faster options, and it’s agreed that they will ride back to the car, and one of them will take the back tire off and the other will ride it back to me. Sweet. Good plan.
I figure I’ll just walk back and meet them somewhere in the middle.
After what seemed like a very long time walking, I’m hot, and I’m definitely ready to get this “ride” the hell over. I figure what the hell? I’ll just ride back slowly, stay off the seat to keep pressure off the tire, and just slooooooooooooooooowly ride back. I’ll ride on the soft dirt, and when I get to a rocky patch, I’ll get off and walk it to make sure I don’t damage the rim.
One thing that will really drive home just how damn slow your riding partners ride than waiting for them in a situation like this. It seemed like they must have gone to lunch or something. Maybe they did for all I know. My view of what was soft dirt that I could ride over, and what was a rock that required me to dismount seemed to… change as the ride continued. Pretty soon, I was only dismounting for the largest of rocks. The rear end of the bike was fishtailing around on the slightest of slopes. Despite that, my pace seemed agonizingly slow.
I recall Lance Armstrong completing the Leadville 100 on a flat 2 years ago. I felt like Lance. Just 90 pounds or so heavier.
The sun reflecting off of the trail and the rocks, and the fact that there is very little shade on this trail made time pass very slowly. I was melting. My slow-ass friends were nowhere to be seen.
By the time I saw my buddy with the tire, I was less than a mile from the trail head. My back tire at this point was in shreds. Any idea of riding to preserve my back rim was tossed aside long ago.
My buddy had at least one good excuse for the slow return. He had the tire strapped to his backpack, and he got out of the saddle on a climb, and when I went to sit down for the descent, the rim got caught on the tip of the seat. He ended up with his weight too far forward, and went over the handlebars. He had a nice contusion on his shin – a scrape with a massive lump underneath it. Misery loves company, so I took some relief at the site of that. Serves him right for riding so slow. Bad karma.
So, I take off my wheel and strap it to my Camelbak for the return. I pop on the new wheel, and ride back.
What should have been a 90-minute ride ended up taking the entire morning. When we got back to the car I was in a crap mood, and roasting.
Nothing that a couple of Sierra Nevada’s couldn’t fix.
I haven’t had the courage to examine the rear wheel to see if I trashed it. The rear tire is mutilated to the point that I will never be able to determine what was the source of my misery. Just as well! I need to burn that evil tire — It’s cursed.
So, my lessons learned:
- Carry a manual pump as well as my beloved CO2
- Strap several CO2 cartridges on the bike like the smarter guy who stopped to help.
- Carry a patch kit. Maybe two.
- Carry an entire case of tubes at all times. I’ll need a bigger backpack.
- Ride with faster friends.
I did something last week that is rare for me — rare because it can be incredibly unpleasant and downright unhealthy. No, I didn’t watch a Michael Moore film.
I did hill repeats, in 94+ degree weather. I think that I might have to check into a mental health facility to see if I represent a danger to myself or others. Clearly, a 240-pounder doing hill repeats in 90-degree-plus weather should rightfully have his head examined. Here’s the kicker: I did them two days in a row. I think that proves my mental defect.
I have a reasonably steep hill 1.1 miles from my house. It’s about a half mile long, and averages 7%. Not a ball-buster by local standards, but a challenge. It always is like a kick to the groin when I start out on a ride from my house. Minutes into a training ride, and I have to climb a half-mile-long 7% grade. Whenever I have friends over for a ride, they usually are groaning – “not warmed up!”
It was warm, but with the full heat of summer approaching, I need to start acclimating myself to riding in the heat. I figured, with the hill so close to my house, should I start overheating, I can get home without much additional climbing. Where my house sits, if I go more than a mile in any direction, I get into some serious climbing. I didn’t want to push myself to the brink of exhaustion in 90+ degree weather, then have to limp home over some long climbs.
A general rule for Clydesdales is to avoid riding in the peak heat of the day. This is normally to avoid overheating – either to a truly unhealthful level, or to avoid, in medical terms “feeling like crap.” Sometimes, after concluding a ride in the heat of the day, I’m pretty much destroyed for the rest of the day. Even a dip in the pool, while satisfying, will not restore a very high energy level.
On the first day, I learned a few valuable lessons:
- Always carry your phone
- Always carry a tube and a pump
- Don’t use your brakes too much on a hot day
- A new addition to the ride gear: oven mitts
Based on my “lessons learned” from these rides, the astute reader might be catching a glimpse of my experience.
My goal is a quick ride (less than an hour) with at least 2000 feet of climb.
I know that I need to moderate my pace so that I don’t explode, or create an issue in the heat. I’ve had to call my wife three times in the last 12 months to pick me up when I overheated by being too aggressive on the steep climbs. I’ve learned to watch for my keys: I go from roasting to goosebumps within minutes. I stop sweating. When that happens, I’m damaged. I’m ruined for the day. Just go home, jump in the pool, and then I’m cooked – listless. I feel like I’ve just donated half my blood.
So now, I watch for the signs. I have to guard against my impulse to go balls out on the climbs. That’s early morning activity – not something a Clydesdale should be doing mid-day in the heat of summer.
I can hear my tiny riding companions, “but, Jack, everyone gets hot. You just have to ride through it.” Really? Well polar bears get hot. Then they die. They are thick – like me. The thicker you are, the more you retain the heat. While we have more surface area, we also have much thicker cores. So, it just retains the heat.
Anyway, the hill repeats…
Surprisingly, I am feeling good. I am moderating the pace, but still getting up the hills at a good clip. But, in my effort to be safe and sane in the heat, I am controlling my speed on the way down so as to give myself recovery time. I figure if I take it easy, by the time I get to the bottom, I’ll have cooled down enough to go at it again, despite the heat. It works. I keep going, feeling pretty good. I’ve actually never done that before: braked on a descent. I am a speed freak, using my relationship with gravity – it’s very fond of me – to go down as fast as possible. I love speed.
So, I am being a good boy, riding the brakes, sacrificing all of the potential fun of the descent in order to keep cool . Works great, for a while. At the end of descent number 6, a deafening blast comes from my rear wheel. My inner tube has exploded.
It was so loud, I wasn’t sure at first what had happened. I got of the bike to check the tire. As I grabbed the tire to see if the side wall had been compromised, my forearm was seared when it contacted the metal braking surface of the rear wheel. It was literally blistering hot. I was amazed. The friction from the braking had heated the rear wheel so much that it caused the rear tube to explode – luckily, the tire itself was undamaged.
I reach into my pocket to grab my phone. No phone. In my haste, I didn’t bring the phone – “hey, I’m only a mile away, no need for the damn phone!”
I realize also, no tube. No pump.
I am going to be walking that 1.1 mile home – on the carbon fiber soles of my road shoes. Stupid. But, I grew up in Las Vegas. I have walked many a mile in my bare feet after flatting, and ended up with massive blisters on the bottom of my feet. I will take the chance of trashing the shoes.
That was about the longest 1.1-mile walk I’ve ever done.
When I got home, I take of the tire and find that there’s a 4-inch-long gash in the tube. No patch kit could have possibly fixed that. I try to always carry a spare tube as well as a patch kit, and the tube would have been the only thing that would have saved me on this day. Luckily I was only 1.1 miles away. Any further, and I would have been forced to hitch hike home.
The exploding tire incident adds further support for the Clydesdale rule of no hill repeats in 90+ degree weather (or even in milder weather in mid-day). If the heat doesn’t kill you directly, a blown out tire on a descent just might.
I think I need disc brakes on my road bike. Or, lobby the county to put in runaway cyclist ramps on all major cycling routes.
Or, better yet, just stop braking on descents. It’s unnecessary, and sucks the fun out of the ride anyway. I need to let gravity do its thing — embrace it — feel the love.