The hotel clerk looked at me and then at my traveling companion, who, like me, was smelly and unshaven.
“Would you like two queens or a king?”
“Two queens,” we said together.
Fireman and I had spent the day at our profamateur team training camp listening to an extensive and detailed series of presentations on the importance of careful nutrition prior to important races. After finishing a huge meal at Denny’s, we waddled over to the hotel.
It had been a tiring day. All 80 team members had showed up to collect their racing glasses, team uniforms, nutritional supplements, and team burritos. Since the biggest and toughest road race of the year was the following morning, we did a casual leg-loosening 50-mile spin that required sustained 350-watt efforts just to stay on a wheel.
After the lectures broke up I ended up standing next to a very pretty young racer on our women’s team. One of the crusty old fellows on the 85-plus masters team was trying to chat her up with this winning icebreaker.
“So,” he said, “I just bought a new set of full carbon wheels, which are full carbon.”
She smiled politely, wondering why she was spending Friday afternoon in a nursing home.
I decided to take a stab. “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Seth.”
She shrank back, which was a bad sign. “Are you that Wanky bogging dude?”
I looked around for King Harold, hoping I could blame it on him, but he was arm wrestling Bull for the last of the cheese scrapings in the bottom of the nacho tray. “Um, yes,” I said.
“You almost killed me, dude.” She wasn’t smiling.
“I’m sorry.” What else could I say?
“I’m from New York.” Her blazing eyes were drilling into the back of my skull, which was actually awesome because she was so hot.
“I moved out to California five years ago and got into cycling and decided to do my first race.”
“That’s awesome,” I said, wondering from which direction the haymaker was going to come.
“And my first race was Devil’s Punchbowl.”
“Oh,” I said. “I guess not so awesome, then.” Punchbowl is the root canal-plus-rectal-drilling of all races in SoCal.
“I was really pumped and fit for that race. I didn’t know anything about cycling or racing or the races or anything, and a friend sent me a link to your blog about Punchbowl.”
Now I knew where she was going, and it was along a mined road that was going to end in a plunge off a cliff. “Oh?”
“Yeah. I thought it was serious, you know, like how to do well at that race. You remember what you wrote about aspirin?”
“Aspirin. You said that because of the altitude a rider should eat half a bottle of aspirin to ‘thin the blood.'”
“I said that?”
“You said that.”
“But surely no one would have been stupid enough to eat an entire half bottle of aspirin before a bike race. I mean, how could you even do it.”
“I crushed it into powder and dissolved it into my water bottle. Then I drank it.”
“Wow,” I said noting that she had ignored the first part of my observation. “Then what happened?”
“I won in a solo break on last lap.”
“Then I began vomiting uncontrollably, spitting up blood, ruptured an artery in my throat and almost bled to death.”
“Yeah,” I said, “but you won!”
I was so excited for her that I missed the haymaker, which came from the left.
Back at the hotel I called up G$, the guy who had told me so many years ago about taking two aspirin the morning of the race. “Dude,” I said. “You know how you told me to take two aspirins before high altitude races like Punchbowl?”
“We gotta up the dosage.”