Monday, January 30, 2006

Turn off, tune out & drop in

An interesting training weekend in BOCOMO, which for the uninitiated stands for Boone County Missouri. Saturday was a day for the plugged-in crowd and Sunday was an old-fashioned throw-down that turned epic.

Saturday morning dawned wet and getting wetter. The radio forecast was for rain off an on all day long and colder temps. When I first look out, the rain is pouring down. About mid-morning I get a call from Josh (there can be only one) Johnson, and he’s all manic talking about how we’ll push the noon ride back to 2:00 p.m. and show up rain or shine. He qualifies it by saying Ethan and Nolan will be there. He says we can at least get in a big tree loop. As I listen to this I’m looking out my front window at the falling rain and the thermometer on my front porch that is straining to feel 40 degrees, and I’m repeating, “No way, dude.”

I tell him about a vow I made to myself a few years back after getting caught in the rain at about the top of Easley Hill (about 15 miles) when it was just about 40 degrees, and how it was more painful than the worst ass-whippin’ I ever received. This, of course, does not dissuade Josh for an instant, like as not owing to the fact that he obviously has never had his ass whipped good and proper—but, as they say, that is another story.

So he’s going on and on, getting ever more manic, about how people will hear that we’re riding in the rain and they’ll be totally psyched out ‘cause they’ll think we really are crazy, and on and on like only his alter ego butthead can do. So right away I can see there is no point in trying to reason with him and tell him okay we’ll see you down there. I’m guessing he will make about two blocks in the cold rain and come to his senses.

When two o’clock hits, I pull to the curb in front of CycleX in my car with Pam’s new bike on top as she needs them to dial it in. The rain has momentarily slowed to a drizzle, and standing there wearing a rain jacket and a grin with a bike between his legs is none other than Butthead. And of course every word out of his mouth is flipping me shit about asking myself the question. I let it all roll off like water on a duck. Then two more people (Luke M and Aaron Bolton, aka Commander Klink) roll up and Butthead gets even louder. I put my hand on his shoulder and tell him not to go, that riding in cold rain could make him sick and this one day could cost him two weeks of training.

They all roll away laughing. I think they’re crazy. They weren’t crazy, they are just more high-tech than I am. They had all checked out the radar on the Weather Channel and had a pretty good idea that the rain was over, or at least there was a big enough window to get in a ride. Also, they had cell phones so that they could call someone in case of an emergency. I have neither cable nor a cell phone. So I rely on old-fashioned methods such as looking at the sky, putting a finger to the wind and being circumspect and not letting my ass hang out so much that an emergency is likely. So I guess being an anachronism cost me a training ride—really, though, it’s a small price to pay.

For Sunday’s ride we did a Mokane loop, which ended up being 100 miles and change. There was big wind, big gears, big hills, wailing and gnashing of teeth. As Phil Ligget once described a big tour leader’s jersey wearer who was bonking hard off the back of the pack, it was a day people learned a few things about themselves. And I’ll repeat myself here by saying that if Luke M keeps up his mileage through the rest of the winter and spring, he will have a breakout season. He will give some people fits, and not in small measure ‘cause Butthead will be hauling a one-two punch of Luke and Joe Hill up to quite a few finish lines.

So, you might be asking yourself, what makes just a 100-miler an epic ride? First, this is still January and we’re still in Missouri, and second because Aaro Froese hauled a good deal more than 200 lbs across the entire loop—using big legs with not many recent miles in them. Epic. Later.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Tits & Ass

Let me put it this way, if indeed it is true that adversity breeds character, then after the past two noon rides, I got it in spades. I got dropped so hard both days that there is only one cliche to accurately describe it: "A hard turd down a deep well."

Really. Man, I was tired heading into it all and I knew what was waiting for me. And I was not disappointed. I got my money's worth. Right here I have to give props to Butthead. The temps barely cracked the freezing point on both days and we did 4.5 hours on both days, and he called the routes. Can't believe it. Both Ethan and Butthead were loving it. Every person who didn't show up only heightened their enjoyment. I will be totally honest right here and say there is no fucking way I would have done that kind of mileage in that kind of weather had I not been coerced into it. And really it worked out okay as long as you kept moving and didn't have too many mechanicals. This weekend, we all made some big deposits into the old springtime savings accounts.

And on that note, let me predict right here that if Luke Mussleman manages to stay on his bike as he has been doing thus far this winter, he is really going to surprise some people this season. A couple of other big surprises for the regional racing community this season will be the Columbia juniors and the Columbia new dude, Greg Soden. All of these guys are doing the kind of training bases you don't often see young guys doing and they will be flying when the Dogwood trees start having sex.

The other notable occurrence this weekend was the emergence of a guy named Kurt Mirtsching. He's been showing up for the past couple weekends on a hulking commuter bike. The dude would get dropped, but would always fight back on. You knew he was strong, but he had this mental block about light-weight racing bikes. But he kept showing up. So this weekend Brinker loaned him a sweet little dura-Ace-equipped Specialized to ride and the dude was like a new man. Don't know to what degree he'll get the bug, but if this guy wanted to race, he could race. To all who don't recognize the name, if you have ever spent time in Columbia, you have no doubt scarfed down some of his pizza. Kurt runs Shakespeare's.

Oh yeah, the tits and ass thing was just a gimmick. Luke and Butthead have photos, so I have to bait and switch. Later.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Winter Weirdness

So I just got a message from my homeboy Butthead asking me if I asked myself the question ("The" question being "Am I just being a pussy?") this morning and rode to work. My answer, then, would be yes, no, and go fuck yourself. Allow me to explain.

The ride to work, for me, is a seven-hour KATY Trail odyssey that necessitates rising at 4:00 a.m. and night riding in sub-freezing weather for three-plus hours, then three-plus hours on the return, which includes at least two hours in the dark and a trail that sometimes turns to quicksand, so you have to exit and hit the pavement, which involves doing battle with 200-lb nocturnal critters who love to run into the pathways of 2000-lb metal critters who love to do 70 MPH on backroads.

So you don't just jump out there and "do it," fuck you very much, Nike folks. Anyone but either a teenager or a total idiot knows you gotta do a little planning before attempting shit like this. And that's not so bad. I don't mind that. It's just what you do, if you work 50 miles away and you want to get in some mileage during the week.

So last night I made an extra trip to the bike shop to pick up an extra charger. Then I take that to a co-worker's house to take to work for me. Then I make sure my battery is charged at home. I get in a weight workout. I do some routine maintenance on my bike to get it ready for the morning commute. I manage to get some chores done, read the paper, eat dinner and lay out exactly 17 articles of clothing (the forecast is for low 20's in the morning, warming to 50's by afternoon--MO is schizophrenic), and necessary carry-on items such as emergency tail lamp, power bars, emergency hand warmers, money, ID and lighter gloves for the return trip. Then, I set the alarm for 3:50 a.m.

After the passing of the urge to hurl the alarm clock against the wall, I get up and start the winter cycling dressing regimin. After about 20 minutes of tugging, zipping, stuffing and adjusting, I stick a small water bottle filled with warm water in the back of my jacket so that just maybe it won't freeze solid by halfway there and then I'm out the door. The bike is all ready to go, I even have it down off the storage hook and leaning against the workbench. I stick my headlight battery into the bottle cage, secure it with the velcro strap and wrap the cord to the light and check it out. It works and I'm ready to roll. I push the bike about one foot and realize that the fucking rear tire is flat.

At this point I do someting my mother taught me, which is I count slowly to ten. Otherwise I would have slammed that bike into the workbench and probably broke my foot kicking it, because I immediately knew there was very little chance that I could change that 89.5C tire in time to make it to work. In short, I was all dressed up at 4 in the morning with no place to go.

Yes, I was about as pissed as you're ever gonna see me, except maybe when I gave Butthead that little love tap to the solar plexus up in Omaha. So I thought about this: I got a buddy who use to have to spit on his leg just so's he could wipe his ass (scroll down to "Legend of Dan"). Then I went back to bed. Later.

Monday, January 09, 2006

An early spring is written in the ditches

Looks like we might have an early spring, thanks to the sharp eyes of Meathead and some good work by Luke Mussleman. On Saturday's noon ride this weekend, these two connected to make a much-needed sacrifice to the porn gods. As the group topped the Harrisburg hill, Meathead spotted the porn in the ditch and Luke turned back to retrieve it, then made a fairly difficult bridge back to the group and distributed the goods for all to peruse en-route.

Here in Boone County, Missouri, we believe you must pay homage to the porn gods who reward you with an early spring. So on winter rides we always keep our eyes peeled for roadside porn. And once it is spotted, it must be retrieved, passed around and carried back to town. Then you may take it home for safe keeping, or you can stick it under the wiper of a friend's car or stick it in the mailbox of a married friend, or if it's homo porn you can make sure to deposit it somewhere on the abode of a heterosexual friend.

This Boone County ritual is not popular with everyone here. The women usually hate it in varying degrees. Some are downright militant about it. But we've never had that many women who make the noon rides, so they are forced to accept it, along with all the other manly things that are a part of the hard core training group--like nasty talk, roadside piss lines, occasional near throw-downs with chicken-shit drivers, belching, and farting. This sort of thing really helps the girls get a complete game on.

I can't remember such a quality stash of porn this early in the winter. Three DVD's and one had the title, "There's a cocksucker born every minute." Jeff Chattin really loved that one, and who couldn't appreciate an historical reference like that? This is a really good sign of an early, and warm, springtime here in Mid-Missouri. Why do we believe this? I couldn't say, but we've practiced this ritual for at least 15 years. I believe it started because we always had a group of horny guys spending a lot of hours on bikes and the only women we saw usually were shootin' us the bird from the window of a monster 4X4. In the winter you never see porn, but come spring it's like it's sprouting in the ditches--Robins pecking for worms beside a picture of a chick with a mouthful of schlong--talk about your appropriate juxtapositions. Seemed logical to start connecting porn sightings with the arrival of spring.

So we all owe Luke a debt of gratitude for being such a team player. His hard work on Saturday might have been directly responsible for making Sunday really look springlike. And the gas that was coming out of his butt all day even made it smell like a spring day here in the farmland of Mid-Missouri. Later.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

That Lovin' Feelin'

This past Saturday and Sunday, last day of the old year and first day of the new year, were my first real training rides of the '06 road season. So it was the return of that old familiar feeling. It's the feeling that everyone wants to avoid. Avoiding this feeling is easy--that is called natural selection. It really seems like it's the intelligent choice. The warmth of your kitchen, or your bed, or the coffee shop is way better than the open road and the saddle of a bike. But that's the siren song, for a true believer, now ain't it?

The other siren song would be goin' it alone. Ease into it. Ride smart. Base miles. Your own pace. Gadgetts. Bells and whistles. Computrainers. Secret training. Professional coaching. I don't know, I'm sure all this stuff has some merit, but mostly it seems it's designed to pry entry fee money out of your wallet and build up a lot of unreasonable expectations. Most of the guys who succomb to this stuff are doing it just to avoid the feeling.

The feeling, basically, comes down to getting your ass handed to you for about three or four solid hours. Your back feels like someone just dropped bricks on it, a flame ignites in your legs every time you stand--which seems to be every time the road rises--, your lungs are steak tartar, you're too hot one minute and too cold the next, you're blowing snot like it it's confetti, you're the only person who seems to have a little wheezy thing going on with every inhale, and all of this while you're just trying to hang on to the group's pace. You surely don't feel like a racer, and in fact you feell like you're getting dropped by everyone. And yet, when someone suggests a little bit longer route, you drop your head and go along.

Ethan calls this cold forging. He says it's unavoidable if your objective is to race come springtime. This makes sense to me. It's like the commercial for regularly changing the oil in your car--You can pay now or pay later. We have a lot of guys around Columbia who have raised this avoidance to an artform. They usually pay later and develop a sullen attitude in the process. Don't get me wrong, they're good dudes. But they try to avoid the feeling and then they end up with it anyway--when they have to pay an entry fee to get it. Then maybe they blame bike racing in general, like it's some kind of ridiculous pursuit, or an exclusive club that won't let them in.

So this weekend, as I looked around me and counted the faces of the people who will likely be pinning on numbers come springtime, I know I also was looking at most of the people who will actually be racing when they pin on those numbers, and it brought to mind an old expression: You gotta love it.