I had a memorable experience recently on one of my favorite trails. Perhaps I should rephrase that… I had what I suspect was a memorable experience – I actually have no recollection of the incident at all. It was on my absolute favorite trail in the greater Sacramento area – in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I won’t say where, because it already attracts too many riders. Sorry – I hate it when people do that, but I get about 10,000 views a month and I don’t want even a small percentage of that number adding to the traffic.
The first thing I remember was departing from the parking area – I was about 100 yards away from the start when I realized that I had forgotten to put on my gloves. I figured, “what the hell? This is a pretty non-technical ride – I’ll just keep going.”
My next memory is of me standing over my bike, wondering “where am I? What am I doing here?” I quickly realized that I was on a mountain bike ride, but it took me several minutes just to recall what trail I was on, or which direction I was going. I had my sunglasses on, my helmet on (thank God), and was looking at my bloody knuckles. At that point, I realized that I must have crashed. I started trying to piece together the ride – where was I coming from? Where am I going? Did I drive here? I remembered that I had forgotten my gloves – a point reminded to me by the condition of my hands, but that was about it. I didn’t know what day it was, or why I was even riding (as if I needed to have a reason to ride my bike) – it seemed like I needed a reason. I felt the tightness on the skin around my eyes that you feel when blood dries. I could feel a little knot on the outside of my left eye socket and could see blood on my fingers when I touched it. I had scratched up forearms, and could feel tenderness on my left shoulder. Figured that I must have gone over the bars and landed on my head and left shoulder. I was still very dazed, as I started to ride back towards the car, but had no plan as to what I was going to do next. When I got to the car, which was about a mile and a half from the crash area (I think), I put on my gloves, and started off again.
I don’t believe that I was thinking very clearly, as what I should have done (obviously) was to go home or get to an area with cell coverage so that I could have someone come get me. Probably the last thing I should have done was to re-start the ride. My decision making skills were a bit off, I guess you could say, because on the most technical part of the ride, where you have to ascend over some pretty substantial roots – I went for it. This is a about a 20-foot stretch that is virtually unrideable for someone of my skill level — up or down. It’s very narrow and twisty and is cross-crossed by pretty substantial roots from a large oak tree. Bad idea. I was again thrown over the bars, this time landing on my thigh and ribs — each on a separate root. Ouch.
I was pretty damaged by that, but I took some time to recover, and then kept on. I don’t know if I was just determined to finish the ride or just didn’t quite know what was going on. At that point, I was definitely damaged goods. My thigh was really hurting, as my femur had taken a direct hit from a very prominent root. I limped (literally) through the rest of the ride.
When I got back to the car, I could assess the damage. I look like I was in a bar fight – my left eye was pretty black & blue. When I looked at my face, I had blood around both eyes. As it turns out, my right eye area was fine. I think that I must have been lying there for a while, as the only way the blood would have gotten to the right side of my head was by running down across my eyes as was I lying there, out cold. My left shoulder was a massive patch of road rash. I had a dent in my helmet about 45 degrees out from my left eye.
I realize now that I was concussed from the crash, and should have pretty much ended the ride immediately rather than risk further injury. At a minimum I should have had someone check me out soon after the crash. All-in-all, I was in ok shape. I drove home and waited until my wife got home before cleaning up – for maximum effect. I got the expected “what the hell happened to you?!” I was looking for.
Its been months since that crash. I still have no recollection to the first part of the ride, or the crash. I think I lost about 10 minutes. I can’t even remember where I was on the trail when it happened. My only reminder is a small lump on the outside of my eye socket and the road rash scar on my left shoulder. Somehow, my sunglasses were fine. I didn’t rip my jersey. I’ve replaced the helmet.
Since the entire first part of the ride is a very simple stretch, I have no idea what led to the crash. I was riding alone – which I often do. Luckily, that trail gets a decent amount of traffic – so someone would have come upon me had I been incapacitated. It’s an area thick with mountain lions and coyotes, so perhaps I would have been awakened by a hungry scavenger. It does make me re-think some of my solo rides on trails that are less popular, or rides on trails during the week when there are few riders. Live and learn. Luckily.
I get constant reminders that being a 240-pounder is not the ideal weight for this sport. The most regular occurrence is whenever I go uphill. Gravity loves me. It embraces me. Gravity makes love to me.
Making it worse is when some squeaky-voiced little hill monkey passes me, dancing on the pedals, chirps out a “good morning!” That’s when I battle Clydesdale Climbing Tourette Syndrome.
Other times are the mechanicals: snapped frames, bent seat rails, snapped/crushed seats, cracked wheels, bent wheels, broken chains, pinch flats, overheated rear wheels (and accompanying burst tire) from trying to slow my fat ass down on a long descent.
The snapped spindle of the Eggbeater 3
Another view of the pedals – once I removed them
My leg. That top cut is actually pretty deep
I had a new and unpleasant and mildly painful mechanical problem last week when one of my Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 pedals snapped. Lucky for me, it snapped about ½” out from the crank, so there was still a sharp stub of pedal axel to shave my leg with. You could say I cut it a little close — no stiches required, but a nice little gash. It’s a week and a half now and I still have a nice scab clinging to me.
I’ve noticed that you can judge the depth of a cut by how long the scab takes to fall off. A minor little scrape, it may be a couple of days. Something more substantial like major road rash will likely clear off in a little over a week id properly attended to. So, having the majority of the scab still there after a week and a half means it was a little deeper than I originally thought.
This was on my third season on these pedals. I check them regularly to make sure that the axels are not bent – I figure that if its bent, it’s a sign of metal fatigue and time to replace the pedal. In this case, no warning, just a sudden snap as I stood up on a short descent. My foot immediately was in the dirt. Luckily, I wasn’t going all that fast, or it could have been a disaster. This trail I was on at times is on the edge of a very steep, rocky hill. I can only imagine what could have happened if I’d have had that happen at speed over one of these areas. Since I love to go fast, It could have been on a rocky descent at 20 miles per hour. That would have ruined my day.
As it was, it just ruined my ride. I was about three miles into my ride, and had to limp back as best I could, at times doing the one-legged pedaling routine as if I was doing a pedal stroke drill on my road bike. I can attest that its very difficult to ride a mountain bike with one pedal.
I sent the pedal into to Crank Brothers. I was thinking “crap – that damn spindle is about ½” think shaft of chromoly steel!” I got an email from Danny Valencia, and he acted concerned, stating:
“The issue you have encountered is very uncommon. Because of this we want to get as much information as possible to document the issue and prevent it from happening. Here are some of the details we would like you to outline for our records. What is the weight of the rider with any/all gear they carried at the event of the issue?: What were the trail conditions(i.e. Rocky, Drops, Flat)?: Was this product being used on a Hardtail?: Was this product being used on a Single Speed?: Were you climbing or descending during the event of the issue?: How many hours of ride time has the product had since it’s last maintenance?: Thank you for your time.”
Through this carefully crafted note, I could tell that they were very concerned. At any rate, Danny was concerned. Concerned enough to have to go to the spa apparently, as shortly thereafter I got another email:
spa and rebuilt w/ new springs and spindles
Why would Danny need to go to the spa? I’m the one that crashed. I’m the one that cut my leg. I should be going to the spa! Perhaps that’s not what he was saying?
So, at least they are apparently rebuilding the pedals for free (I think). I like that. Certainly at 240 pounds, I can’t expect things to last forever.
I think that its incumbent upon heavy riders to check our equipment regularly, and perhaps give it a time limit. I’m think for these pedals, probably replace the spindles (axels) every two years. Crank Brothers sells rebuild kits and replacement spindles. Now, I’m going to be even more diligent about checking the pedals before every ride.
Its also important to note that us heavy guys should not use titanium spindles. I already knew that, and the Eggbeater 3 has a chromoly spindle, so I had already given myself that best chance of success. A titanium spindle will not be rated for a Clydesdale. Most if not all that I have seen have published weight limits on the titanium pedals.
Solo rides give you a lot of time to think. Nobody talking to you – its just just you and your thoughts. I ride solo quite often, not just because I’m anti-social, but to get some good solid thinking time. I think I’m pretty close to a cure for cancer.
Nothing interrupts a good session like a surprise from a bad driver, and I’ve noticed a pattern: Toyota drivers are the worst drivers on the planet. Not all models, mind you, because different models seem to attract different types of drivers, but having that ugly “T” logo on the back is a sure sign of incompetence at some level.
The badge of the incompetent driver
I think poor taste must be a strong indicator of bad driving.
Poor taste – because Toyota has become the Buick of this century. Nothing more bland than a Toyota product, but addition to poor taste, it’s old age that is a predictor of Toyota ownership. Toyotas are like buffets to the old folks – they just cannot resist them. It used to be for much of my life that if you saw a Buick coming, it was “watch out!” I think those Buick people all died — replaced by Toyota Camry drivers. If there’s one car that is synonymous with incompetence, lack of self awareness, and probably some stage of glaucoma, it’s the Camry. They must have coupons in AARP Magazine, or volume discount offers at assisted living centers. Perhaps at the hospital the conversation might go something like, “well, as it turns out the glaucoma surgery is not covered by your insurance. But, if its any consolation, I can get you a good deal on a Camry.” Doctors used to be notorious for having “partnerships” with labs (for bloodwork, x-rays, etc) that they had an equity stake in. I believe that the industry has clamped down on that – but nobody ever thought to make sure that they don’t have a minority stake in a nearby Toyota dealership!
I have shared my learnings (evidence is too solid to use a lesser word like “observations”) with friends and challenged them to prove me wrong. I mostly get, “well, yeah, it makes sense – the most bland vehicle on the market, probably attracts the most bland people.” Does bland equal incompetent? That seems a cruel leap. I’ve worked with many people who lack personality, but I don’t know that these people would be running me off the road. As far as I know, Harry Reid has never committed vehicular manslaughter. I don’t think its bland – its taste, and it’s the type of person attracted to whatever vibe Toyota’s been putting out for the last decade or so. What do I think of when I think of a Camry or a Corolla? Not much, really. An amorphous blob. Certainly, Toyota did a good job for many years selling dependability. Apparently, that means you have to wear depends to own one? Who values Toyota dependability above all else? Incompetent drivers apparently. They surely wear sensible shoes as well.
While these people might be acutely attuned to perceived quality, they apparently don’t have TV’s as they didn’t see the news stories about Toyota drivers screaming for their lives as their cars raced out of control due to accelerator problems. Normally, its other drivers that are screaming for their lives as Toyota drivers weave by. Slowly.
Speed is the other aspect of the incompetent driver. Although I think that often, its just a total lack of situational awareness, and a lack of respect for other people that leads to their OJ-Simpson-style slow-speed wanderings. They truly don’t know that 15 cars are lined up behind them, that their blinker has been stuck on since last week, that the 1000-foot buffer between them and the vehicle in front of them is only when it’s an emergency vehicle with lights & sirens blaring.
As a cyclist, it’s terrifying at times. I had my own near-death experience with an incompetent cyclist-hating Camry driver last year. This was before I had really thought through the Toyota thing. Had I put two-and-two together earlier, I would have simply pulled to the side and let the oncoming Camry driver pass. It’s really more reckless on my part for attempting to cycle on a road anywhere near a Camry driver – what was I thinking? It’s my fault, really.
Here’s the call to action, as I do believe that its time to act legislatively. Call or write your legislators. Let them know of the road rage being instigated by these…. people. Just think of the public good, reducing the accidents that these people cause (they are never actually in the crashes they cause — like Inspector Jacques Closeau from the Pink Panther movies. He’s totally oblivious to the chaos surrounding him, and even less aware that he’s the cause of it all).
Toyota drivers need to have a separate level of scrutiny with vehicle registrations, driving tests and renewal of driver’s licenses. Just the fact that you own a Toyota might very well be enough to suspend driving privileges, and perhaps even drag off your butt-ugly car to the wrecking yard. Sort of a “cash for clunkers” program, but we’ll call it “safety for the masses.” No cash – just melt down the car so that a proper vehicle can be created. The DMV person shouldn’t even give the Toyota owner a damn driving test. If they go out to get in the car, and it’s a Toyota, just a “oh, I forgot my note pad. I’ll be right back…” then call the authorities for an impound.
Now that you have been made aware of this situation, I challenge you to prove me wrong. As Sherlock Holmes advises: don’t watch, observe (or more correctly, he admonishes, “you see, but you do not observe”). Start seeing if you also notice this pattern. It’s amazingly consistent. And, something has to be done.
I made the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas last week to check out the little slice of heaven formally known as Interbike. For those of you who do not know what Interbike is, it’s the annual kick-ass all-things-bicycling convention in the US. For those of you who know what it is, but not lucky enough to go, … ha ha ha! I was there – and you were not. It’s good to be me. As expected, it was phenomenal. And, as an added bonus and, being a native Las Vegan, I was able to catch up with my college buddies that I hadn’t seen since my last Interbike, and I drank way too much beer (wait… that’s not possible).
After my first night, I hung out in Atomic Liquors, a formerly dodgy bar on Fremont Street that oscillates between hip and a crap hole. In the 1960’s it was hip, then a crap hole, and now once again hip. Atomic is likely to oldest bar in Vegas, since they have a bad habit of bulldozing anything cool or old and erecting some monstrous Trump-style tower.
I used to say I was a “Vegan” rather than a former Las Vegan but that word was co-opted and destroyed by self-righteous people convinced that (a) they are better human beings than I am, and (b) that they are going to live forever. Now I have to say I’m from Las Vegas, as “vegan” is synonymous with skinny, pasty, unhappy loser.
This year I went to Interbike with a few primary objectives related to big & tall riders, as well as identify new developments, trends, and things that I find interesting or compelling. As a result of my quest, and instead of writing a massive, sprawling, rambling article (like some of my sentences above), I’ve decided I’ll break the Interbike update into shorter articles on some of the topics I pursued. So, I will have dedicated articles in upcoming weeks including:
Your Next GPS
As discussed in a previous posting on the death of my Garmin GPS, I wanted to see what’s new in the GPS and bike computer market. What I found took me in a different direction than I was expecting, and I’ll be evaluating the new product available from Wahoo Fitness that allows you to have all the features of a full GPS device, all via your iPhone. Look for a review of this device in upcoming weeks – very interesting and I think something that represents the future of mobile fitness devices.
Disc Brakes for Your Road Bike
Really? Really. A bit heavier, but since weight is not nearly the same issue with us as it is for smaller riders (the bike is much less a percentage of the total weight with Clydesdales than with lighter riders), it assures solid braking without overheating. Seemed like most wheel manufacturers had some sort of disc option either available today or coming out soon. Cyclocross features transposed onto road bikes.
Chains for heavy riders
I walked the isles to talk to manufacturers of chains. After yet another ride-altering chain break 2 weeks ago, the topic was still fresh in my mind, and I wanted to see if there’s been any new developments in chain technology and any reason to have hope that anyone but Wipperman is taking the issue of chain strength seriously. Unfortunately, there still appears to be only one option in the market for heavy riders: Wipperman, and their 10sX chain is by far the strongest on the market. I’ll be posting another write-up on my recent chain experience, some lessons learned, and why every big strong rider should be using Wipperman chains.
Rocky Mountain Mountain Bikes
Spent some time with Rocky Mountain guys, and talked to them about their mountain bike frame geometry that helps transfer force to the rear wheel rather than to the suspension. Very simple, yet elegant design that should make a huge difference when it comes to climbing efficiency. As big guys, Clydesdales need every watt transferred to the power train just to drag our fat asses up the hill, so I found this pretty interesting and compelling. The Rocky Mountain guys are passionate as well, unlike the SRAM guys who seemed to be more interested in talking amongst themselves than to people at their booth. The Rocky Mountain guys really want to you know what makes them special. As a long-time Rocky Mountain rider on my road bike (a market that they exited), I was happy to see these guys with such a great lineup of mountain bikes. Look for a write-up soon.
I spent some time with one of the product R&D guys at Specialized and we had a great conversation, some of it worth noting for large manly riders like us. Since 90% of my bikes are Specialized, I was keenly interested in what the options may be for heavy riders in the Specialized line, and have some insights to share there as well. Garmin Visit As promised, talked to the Garmin guys and asked/confronted them about the quality of their mounting brackets. This is the same bracket that I affectionately call the “GPS ejector seat,” apparently designed to force you to need a new GPS sooner than you expect. I was less than impressed with the discussion with the reps at the booth, and even less impressed with the invalid discount card that they gave me as a consolation prize. More on that as well.
Wheels for Heavy Riders
Had some good conversations with Cole, Enve, Shimano, Roval (Specialized), and others and have a few recommendations regarding high-end wheels for the heavy rider. This may take a while to piece together. When I last did this “wheels for heavy riders” two years ago, it took about a month to piece it all together. This year, the analysis will be a little more focused.
I wrote a while back about how my Garmin unit flew off my bike and skidded into traffic. The Garmin mounting bracket snapped off the handlebars. The nylon/plastic on the original bracket was too rigid, and seemed prone to cracking.
I replaced all of the mounting brackets on my various bikes with new ones that appeared to be made of more durable, more flexible nylon. I lasted for a while, but a few weeks back it happened again, within about a ¼ mile of where the original incident happened. This time was a much closer call – I watched several vehicles pass over it, coming within what seemed like a hair’s width of smashing it to bits. It was pretty exciting really, although I would have preferred to have watched it happen to someone else.
This time, the blow of the fall was apparently too much, and my Garmin stopped working. I guess even a solid state device like that can only take so much. I was going pretty fast.
Garmin’s reaction is leaving me wanting.
When first Garmin tech support asked if these were Garmin brackets, I felt that perhaps they would take some responsibility for the situation. Why would they want to know if the mount was theirs unless they were assessing their culpability? “Of course, we’re responsible for making crap mounting brackets, so we’ll make you whole,” I was thinking. Unfortunately, Garmin sees this more as what we in sales call an “upsell opportunity.” I have a situation, a compelling event: they know I need a new GPS. So, they are generously offering me $110 toward a new unit, or they will exchange it for a refurbished unit of the same model for $110.
I’m feeling pretty wounded. The unit is a few years old, but I baby the damn thing. Never take it in the rain. The only scratches and nicks are from when it launches from the GPS Ejector Seat that Garmin calls a handlebar mount. I think that they should send me a re-furbished unit for shipping & handling charges. It’s their damn fault! I feel like the guy who’s car with the 60,000 warranty breaks down on the side of the road at 60,001 miles. It seems like it was designed to have a short life span. Riders are often flush with disposable income — who else would spend $5,000 on a bike, when you can get a $150 one at WalMart? Certainly, I’m in that camp. I blow a lot of cash on all things cycling, but at my core I’m pretty damn cheap – I used to boast that I’m the cheapest man alive. I don’t want to fork over another $400 on something that shouldn’t be broken. I certainly have no plans of spending another $380 (which is what I’d have to pay after my generous $110 VolumePills credit for the broken 705 I have) for a new Garmin unit. Perhaps with another manufacturer, but not Garmin.
I do feel that Garmin should rename the damn thing — It’s hardly a mounting bracket at all. A “temporary GPS restraining device” perhaps? I’m partial to “GPS ejector seat”, but “GPS replacement indicator” or “GPS refurbishment facilitator” might work. Perhaps they were already trademarked, and Garmin had to settle for the boring on utilitarian name.
Since going without the Garmin, I’ve started using the Strava app quite a bit – now there’s an app for you. It’s really well done – even the free version. All they need to do is add a speedometer and altimeter function, and I may not even need to get a new single-purpose GPS device. I can already buy a handlebar mount for my iPhone.
Note: make sure that the handlebar mount for the iPhone is not made by Garmin. If the handlebar mount for the iPhone were to break and send my iPhone tumbling into traffic, I’d probably dive in to save it, and worry about the cars later. Its one thing to lose a GPS – quite another to lose a smart phone so wired into your being. I think a little part of me has died every time I’ve dropped my iPhone into a urinal. Yes, it’s happened more than once.
You can compete against others on-line, as Strava will find others that do the same parts of your route, and then show where your times rank. You just hammered it on your normal loop – crushed it up the big climb! Yeah, right – you are 257th on the list. You suck. Worse, is if you choose to make your results public, everyone on the planet can know just how fat and slow you are. You suck.
One feature that I really enjoy and miss on the Garmin is its ability to display the current percentage of gradient on a climb. I have really come to use that – for what I don’t know. It’s really just a sufferometer – I want to know just how badly I’m being tortured. When I’m on a 16% climb, I want to know it dammit! While I don’t know if there’s much use for a sufferometer, it’s a good distraction at a time when you generally want something to keep your mind off the fact that your heart is starting to break through your sternum.
I’m going to Interbike next week – assuming my life doesn’t get in the way (damn life!), and will look at Garmin alternatives, as well as talk to Garmin and give them a chance to redeem themselves. A company that makes outdoor equipment that is supposed to be with you in your adventures – then won’t stand behind the product that breaks is not a following good long-term business strategy.
Wow. What an adventure. I’ve been effectively locked out of this site since November of 2012 by a long series of technical issues that caused the site to be corrupted in the middle of a software upgrade. It sucks not having tech support – I used to be a developer years ago, but my skills are quite dull at this point.
It all started when spambots overwhelmed the site with bogus posts. Tens of thousands of get-rich-quick schemes, erectile dysfunction ads, and notifications of large amounts of oil wealth locked in Nigerian bank accounts, just looking for a friendly soul to assist in transferring money out of the country – just needing a bank account to wire the money to.
I’ve often wondered why spam exists. What fool has ever responded to a spam email, a spam text, or a spam on a blog? I cannot believe that it’s a cost-effective way of trying to scam a buck. It would seem simpler and more lucrative to simply bundle sub-prime mortgages, and pass them off as AAA securities. I guess that’s already been done.
Anyway, I have upgraded the back-end software of the site, got the database cleaned up and can again post, have people register, etc. The world will be a better place for it.
So much has happened. So many articles pent up.
Thanks for everyone e-mailing me about site issues. I’ve been working to get it all fixed but it just took longer than I thought to get resolved.
UPDATE regarding a previous defense of the sociopath Lance Armstrong. Since being effectivley locked out of the blog by spammers that ended up corrupting the database in November — I’ve been struggling to get it repaired and back on-line for many months. I’ve been having to stare at the site, and see my defense of Lance as my last statement on the matter, when in fact my views changed substantially when he admitted that he’s an immoral creep, er ah.. that he’d been lying all these years, vigorously working to destroy the careers and lives of anyone who accused him. I actually wrote the following the immediately after Lance admitted to cheating, but have not been able to post it until now. Pretend Lance just fessed up…
On October 22nd, I posted a rousing defense of Lance Armstrong. I have always felt that there were two criteria for establishing guilt in any situation: evidence or admission of the crime. For all these years, there were neither.
Lance Armstrong was, famously, one of the most tested athletes of all time, yet never caught. With a lack of evidence — with so many people stalking him — I felt obligated to give Lance the benefit of the doubt. Certainly in a criminal court, it would have been tough to convict him. It didn’t matter much to me what others said, even what other athletes said – as I’ve aged I have come to believe that people with little to lose and much to gain can and will say anything. In the dark world of athletic politics, I have a hard time believing anybody that might have an old score to be settled or a leniency to be gained. Since the stakes were so high – a man’s life’s work on the line – I felt obligated to give Lance Armstrong the benefit of the doubt.
Things have changed. Since Lance Armstrong has now admitted semenax ultimate male that he doped, I can only wish ill for him. I hope that the punishment is deep and profound. His name should be wiped from history like a Roman traitor – “Damnatio memoraie” is the Latin phrase, meaning “condemnation of memory” which was to erase someone from history for having brought discredit to the Roman State. Lance Armstrong has not only brought discredit to cycling, but to sport in general, to his country. He is a special kind of traitor.
Mr. Armstrong is supposed to be worth some $100M – and his former sponsors, teams, and other people that he so viciously attacked over the years for accusing him of doping – should go after it all. And I for one hope they get it.
Reading the transcript of the interview, it is apparent that Lance Armstrong is a sociopath. He doesn’t feel bad about his doping and deception, doesn’t feel guilty. He’s forced to come clean is all – and I believe he’d do it again if he were to return to competition.
In his mind, his many years of doping and blood transfusions just “leveled the playing field.” Well that could be, and if that were the case and he were caught or came out with it much earlier, then all might be water under the bridge at this point. People are forgiving to people worthy of forgiveness. But, he dug in. He fought terrifically. He fought like an innocent man would, and did it for a very, very long time.
He hurt many people who asserted his guilt – he took the fight way too far for a guilty man. At some point, a more honorable person would try to come clean and redeem his honor. But he has none. That’s why he could wait so long, until there was no place left to hide. He is beyond redemption in my mind. He’s beyond forgiveness.
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 Pokies 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.
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 Generic Viagra 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 Cialis, 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 Tramadol 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.