Canyon Bob flogs again

February 20, 2020 § 3 Comments

If you don’t know Bob Spalding, you haven’t been around long.

He heads up a long list of hitters who have put themselves out to pasture, by which I mean he no longer shows up on the Donut and other South Bay beatdowns. He used to.

I wish I had a quarter for every time he has dropped me into the wood chipper. Along with Craig Leeuwenburgh, Canyon Bob was one of the guys you always depended on to slap you up one side of the head, then the other, then punt you out the back.

Except not always.

A lot of the time he’d refuse to drop me and just let me sit, towing me to the top. And he was a monster of a time trialist. Basically, Bob did really well at anything that required huge quantities of really stupid pain. BWR, you name it, if it was unbearable he was all in.

And what was different about Bob was that he always did it with good cheer. Never a nasty word for anyone. Rather, he always carried a pump. Not for himself, because he never flatted, but for you. And you. And you.

Yeah, he’s the guy who would stop his own precious ride to pump you up because you were out of C02, or hadn’t brought any in the first place, or didn’t know how to change a tar, whatevs. On the original RIDES TO THE ROCK, Bob would slink off the back to push some lubbering slob over the rollers, or would slink off the back to fix someone’s tar, or, when things were running well, would go to the front to pull for a hundred miles or so.

Then he stopped coming. No Flog. No BWR. No Donut. Nuthin’.

Oh, he still rode. And he rode a fair bit. Just not with us. And I get it. There comes a time when you have to lay down arms. It’s not fun anymore. Too much ball-busting. And way too sketchy. “Do I want to die at age 57 on the Donut? Nah.”

But for all that, once a year or so Bob makes it out to the Flog, whether to test his legs or to remind himself that he’s still old, I dunno.

Last year it took him a couple of laps to warm up, and then he was kicking my ass again, hauling me up the hill. “Come on, Seth.” Always with a smile.

Today Canyon Bob showed up again on the Flog. He suffered like a dog that had two legs run over by a truck and was being chased by a pack of hungry wolves. I don’t know how many of the other people knew him. Certainly none knew him like I did.

How well do I know Canyon Bob?

One time on the Man Tour, about Day 4, I woke up and did my morning business and out came a bucket of blood. The red kind. That had never happened before.

I saddled up and we rode lickety split for a few hours until it was time for a pee break. I wandered over to a bush and checked my shorts. Sure enough, someone had been murdered in them. “Hey Bob,” I said, worried, “could you come check this out?”

Bob is a health care professional. “Sure. Whatcha got?”

I showed him the business, all of it. “You’ll be fine. Just got a loose valve. Should tighten up here directly.”

And it did.

Not a lot of friends will eyeball the broke plumbing in the middle of a hard ride and give you an on-the-spot diagnosis.

But Bob did.

Towards the end of the Flog today, he was looking real wore out. But you know what? He wasn’t complaining. He never does. Instead, when I passed him he just grunted, “Good job, Seth.” He meant it. He always means it.

For himself, he just throws a leg over and gets the job done, no drama, no excuses. There’s a lesson there.


The Dick Line

July 25, 2019 § 13 Comments

Submitted by our war correspondent from the trenches. Warning: May offend male cyclists. Hopefully, anyway.

MANSPLAINING: A delightful mixture of privilege and ignorance that leads to condescending, inaccurate explanations, delivered with a rock solid conviction of rightness and that certainty that he is right because he is the man in the conversation.

Webster’s Third International Dictionary of Reality

MANSPLAINING: Of a man; to explain needlessly, overbearingly, or condescendingly, (typically when addressing a woman) in a manner of thought to reveal a patronizing or chauvinistic attitude.

Encylopedia of Common Knowledge


I think maybe I have ‘splained this all before, but before I was a cyclist, and I’m still not entirely sure that I see myself as this, I was a runner. I spent many hours a week running alone in the mountains (Gasp! Isn’t it dangerous for a woman to run alone, much less  in the mountains?) and I got pretty good at it.

I was not running as part of a group organized by men, running with a “mentor” of any kind, on a team run by a board of men who instructed me on proper running mechanics and training, or under the tutelage of a male coach, i.e. a moach, or any other coach for that matter.  But somehow, all alone, by myself, without any input from anyone aside from me and my own education/understanding of exercise science and physiology, not to mention the direct knowledge of my own body and how it worked, knowledge gained through decades of athletic competition in multiple sports, I was able to train myself such that that I became fast and skilled enough at this running thing (i.e. averaging 6-ish minute miles for long distances with lots of hills) to win or podium at the races I entered. And I did not just win/podium the women’s category, but the overall category. Yes, that’s right. I beat the men. On some occasions I beat all of the men, and on all occasions I beat most of them. Imagine that?

What’s more, for a few years in my young life I was a wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. I managed to be good enough at this  male dominated and incredibly demanding fire thing to make it onto a Hotshot Crew. In a hyper-militaristic environment, riddled with hazing, dictated by  hierarchies based on physical conditioning and strength, where a strong work ethic was required, and with your daily position in the social schema determined by insane competition at the highest and most demanding levels, I was able to stand out enough to be put in a position of authority. Me, a woman. Often times, the only woman. Put in charge of men, in potentially life or death situations. Who knew? 

I thought I had this life/training/athletic thing kind of down. And then …

ENTER CYCLING. I became a “cyclist” after I was spotted early one morning Riding a Bike While Female by a Man on a Bike. This Man on a Bike and I had a bit of a battle going up Via Campesina, and even though I was Riding a Bike While Female, I impressed him enough for him  to think maybe it was statistically significant that I could do this super complex bike thing kind of decently, but with a little “help.”

Although I explained to him that I was a personal trainer at work, had a sports background, had just completed one of the hardest full Ironman competitions on the calendar and had been a pretty successful runner, Man On A Bike thought that even so, and in consideration of my current state of ignorance since I was some sort of athlete but not a “cyclist,” i.e. a blank slate, he believed that with the combination of  full immersion therapy into a team of knowledgeable men and some moaching, my cycling could probably be capable of improvement.

Based on the size and shape of my “muscles” he assumed I had done very little cycling (he was right about this detail) and therefore knew nothing about … well, anything really, especially the things I told him that I knew about already, i.e. sports and training. He gave me his card and told me to email if I was interested in doing some more riding. Against my better judgment, and nature in general, I did. In our first email exchange, Man On A Bike told me  many things, including how much benefit there was to being on a team of men, but that in the process I would get a lot of “mansplaining.” I had never heard the term “mansplaining” before. However,  this turned out to be one of the most truthful statements Man On A Bike has ever made to me. Perhaps the only one.

What I discovered very quickly was that  even though we women seem to function just fine on our own in life, the attainment of self sufficiency being one of them, Riding a Bike While Female subjugates such impertinent details to the knowledge and superiority of the Man On The Bike. Even when faced with undeniable facts of who you are, what you have done in your life, your education, your career, or the fact that you  actually “appear” to be stronger than the Man On The Bike, Man On The Bike will mansplain reality back into manquilibrium for you both at 186K per second.

Riding A Bike While Female puts one in constant jeopardy of various types and manifestations of mansplanation, and they come in various forms. Here are some that I have experienced:

“The Dick Line”

Around nearly every man on the bike is what I call the Dick Line. I see it as a sort of Mason Dixon Line of cycling. As a female, you are supposed to be aware through osmosis or DNA electromagnetism of the inherent  boundaries of the Dick Line. Crossing the Dick Line puts you in Dick territory, and is strictly forbidden. This is how The Dick Line violation unfolds.

You are Riding Your Bike While Female when you encounter a Man On A Bike. Man On A Bike is slower than you. As you continue to pedal, you pass him. As you are doing so, you cross his Dick Line and  his Dick Line alarm is activated. Man On A Bike’s mansplaining mode  jumps into action by forcing Man On A Bike to stand up on his pedals and frantically flog himself to a point on the road ahead of you, once again re-establishing his Dick Line and manquilibrium. Unfortunately Man On A Bike is red-lined and slowing to a crawl at the moment his Dick Line is re-established, creating once again a risk of another boundary violation with woman who is Riding A Bike  While Female, so  he makes either an  abrupt right or left turn off the road to avoid  the confrontation, or gets a “mechanical” and has to “stop.” Under these new circumstances no one can be positive that his Dick Line was actually violated, and manquilibrium is restored. 

Message: Women are not allowed to be faster than men without consequence.

“Pacing Governed By Genitalia”

When Riding A Bike While Female, one must always be aware that it is not necessary to ride as fast, or dare I say it, faster, than Man On A Bike. In fact, to even desire such a thing as riding as fast, or (gasp) riding faster than Man On A Bike is sort of “crazy” and will require some form of mansplaination to reestablish manquilibrium. As a woman Riding A Bike While Female, our highest aspirations should reach no further than riding as fast as the other females, or within some determined range that can be found on gender divided scoreboards based on mph or Watts per/Kg. But certainly, expressions of the drive to compete with Man On A Bike or, for sure, competing directly with the man, is off the table and will be shut down through various mechanisms.

 If at any point during your time Riding A Bike While Female, a verbal statement is made by you implying that you will be someday be as fast as Man On A Bike, you can expect responses similar to these: “You will never be as fast as me,”“You will never beat me on a climb,” “You will never win Telo,” “If you want to be faster you will have to do x-watts per/kg and you will never do that,” and my personal fave fave, “Why do you want to be as fast as me? You only have to be as fast as a  Cat 4 woman.” If you happen to be Riding A Bike While Female and accomplish some of the previously stated impossibilities, you can expect the following: “So that’s how its going to be, huh?” “I’m slowing down to wait for my teammate,” “I just took a pull,” or my fave fave “I would  be way stronger than you if I trained harder.” 

Message: You need to stay weak because, penis. 

“Inverted Encouragement”

Occasionally, such as everyday all the time, on some rides, i.e. on all rides Riding A Bike While Female, you might be good at it. Being good at bike riding  will activate the Mansplain Hustle, an interdisciplinary mode of mansplaining that requires quick yet rehearsed thinking on the part of Man On A Bike. This is a particularly creative and complex  mechanism of mansplaination with multiple vectors, thinly disguised as “encouragement.” In truth, The Mansplain Hustle of Inverted Encouragement is simply the mansplaination of factual reality back into the fictional genre of manquilibrium that puts the man back in the position of authority by flipping events inside out to make the women’s accomplishment appear to be the man’s act of chivalry. Here are just a couple of examples:

“Good Job” The Good Job affirmation must be given to a woman by Man On A Bike any time she is passing his Dick Line and he is incapable of generating the energy to activate his flogging mechanism and ride away from her to an unknown point ahead. Good Job establishes manquiliubrium by letting you know that this is a special occasion, like Christmas, or your birthday, and that it only comes once a year and is totally a gift from him, not attributable to anything you have done of your own volition.

 “You’re doing better this week!” This Inverted Encouragement is often done at the end of an interval, at the end of a ride or the top of a climb, when Man On A Bike has been soundly beaten by woman Riding A Bike While Female. The purpose of this messaging is just like the one above, with the added bonus of reminding the woman that the previous week she was not as good or as fast as Man On A Bike. This once again implies that this is a special occasion and was merely a gift from the man that will be rescinded the following week when normalcy will once again be initiated. What is most sinister about this form of “encouragement” is that this is almost never the case. Generally, the woman was better than Man on a Bike the previous week, but Man On A Bike assumes that Riding A Bike While Female is taxing out the tail end of the woman’s skill set and resources, including memory, and she won’t recall kicking his ass the week before. Manquilibrium is reestablished via gaslighting. 

Message: You deserve an award just for being out here. So calm down and stay back there.

“Let me explain to you body, your job, your life, pretty much just let me explain”

Every time you are out Riding A Bike While Female, you can expect Man On A Bike to consider this your first day on earth. So if you are Riding A Bike While Female with Man On A Bike (or even a man who owns a bike and isn’t riding it), nothing you have done before that day counts in terms of knowledge or experience. For example, if you tell Man On A Bike that you are a personal trainer, have been for over fifteen years, that you began studying Exercise Physiology at the age of 14, that is has been your lifelong passion from the time you began competitive figure skating at age eight, that you at one time owned your own gym where you were individually responsible for training each and every person who walked through the door, that you taught every type of fitness class that could be taught, and that at your current company you were in the top 50 of over 3000 trainers world wide, you can expect him to try to explain to you, in great and pompous detail, what a fitness interval is.

When you try to interject some of your actual knowledge on intervals, Man On A Bike will, in the most unconvinced-of -your-self-described-background and condescending voice he has at his disposal, ask  if you in fact really, actually know what a true  interval  is. When you again remind him of your background, tell him that there is more than one type of interval, and ask to which type was he referring, he will become completely convinced that you are as ignorant as he thought and will not believe that you do truly know what an interval is until you have broken it down for him in PubMed terms that he himself, does not understand. At which point he will mansplain the situation back to manquilibrium by saying “ Smart, strong and funny. Great combo.”

 Message: The Dick Line is Overarching.

One glimmer of distinction from this sad state of affairs is that here, on our local Thursday AM Flog Ride, where we have no gender prizes, the women have no interest in gifts and, hopefully, the men have figured out not to offer them up. Although some of the above actually did take place on this ride at some point in the past, a conversation was overheard on La Cuesta last week at the Flog that made me smile. Man On A Bike was heard telling a woman who had been Riding While Female that she was very strong and that he hoped to, at some point, be good enough to get on her wheel. He offered her no advice, gave no critique, and neither did she to him. It was simply an exchange between two equals. As it should be. Who knew?


Runnin’, gunnin’

May 30, 2019 § 1 Comment

We had a pretty good flogging this morning, but then again, the Flog Ride is always pretty good, and by “good” I mean “bad.”

Three new riders showed up, one a super nice guy named Lloyd, and two younger fast guys who were there to set the course on fire. They had that “Outta my way, wankers,” look; great whites showing up at a guppy tank.

Google 1 also made the trek over from the West Side, and the fast guys either didn’t know who he was or pretended. Wes and Denis were also there, hunting for points, as was Google 2, who showed up just as we were rolling out. Frenchie, Billy, Fisherman, Scotty, me, K-Vine, Canyon Bob, and a couple of other riders rounded out the chopping block. Ivan the Terrible was absent, noticeably, despite promising to show up and celebrate his Tuesday Telo win by smashing us again into pieces.

Kind of like the #fake #trainingrace Telo, the Flog Ride is good because it gets a good mix of riders, old brokedown flailers and sleek young racehorses. Google 1 and Google 2 are the latter, and from the gun it was strictly a battle to see who could finish closest to second place after Google 1.

The fast young fellers had the lead quickly removed from their pencils because Google 2 is a woman, and she blew past them every lap as if they were on pogo sticks and she was on a Ducati. Somehow their come, see, conquer plan didn’t quite work out, although they tried very hard, breathed a lot, gnashed their teeth, and pushed as hard on their little pedals as they could. Like a lot of floggers, they decided they were late for something and had to get back, because they somehow missed the final haul up La Cuesta, with its 143% gradient.

Denis rode crazy fast, as did Wes, but no one was fast enough to stick with Google 1 when he stood on the pedals. It’s impressive to ride with someone(s) who can strip you down to nothing without even seeming to try. Of all the things I like about road cycling, I like that aspect best.

We had a bunch of peacocks on the course spectating, which was fun on the wet hairpin, and by the time we finished, we were finished.


If you liked this post, click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

Flog physiology

March 14, 2019 § 5 Comments

I rarely, I mean never, write about actual sciencey trainingy sporty stuff as it relates to bicycling. I don’t know anything about it, I don’t care anything about it, and I always fear that facts will delude people even further into thinking that their avid hobby makes them special, different, better, or worst of all, athletic.

However, the weekly Flog Ride that goes off every Thursday does have some sciencey type benefits, and every week after the ride I send out a little email recap to everyone who participates in which I berate, cajole, praise, offend, encourage and suggest better ways to do a ride that is voluntary, unorganized, unowned, and like all such rides a random happening of riders who have all assumed the risk of riding on public roads with other bicyclists and cars.

This past week Kristie Fox penned a particularly excellent description of the Flog Ride’s “lead-out” section, so excellent in fact that it hardly belonged in the weekly email, and as it smacked of science, reason, training effects, and applicability to the sport of cycling [OXYMORON ALERT], I thought it appropriate to re-post it here, especially as it contains a brief history of time and the Flog Ride.


When the ride first began in October of 2014, it was six continuous laps, essentially a race, with no regroup at the top of the golf course. In order to make the ride safer, a regroup was added in the parking lot at the country club, with a neutral descent down to Malaga Cove Plaza, keeping all riders together for the start of the next lap. The effect was that, instead of a steady-state and uninterrupted solo chase effort by each rider for the duration of the six laps, the ride became an interval session, a near-VO2 or threshold interval for 5-7 minutes, repeated six times.

This change increased the intensity of the efforts but shortened the duration and added a rest period. Essentially, it changed the structure but conserved the overall energy expended on the ride. This is shorthand for, “It was still a brutal beatdown.”

Of course, it also made the ride more “social,” as in the original iteration if you got dropped, which everyone did except for Stathis the Wily Greek, you were by yourself for six laps.

The lead-out that now exists at the start of each lap is intended to provide the same intensity. Prior to the introduction of the lead-out, the effort began at or before the right turn onto PV Drive North leaving Malaga Cove Plaza, and the fast descent out of the turn propelled the group at a very high rate of speed to the bottom of the climb up PVDN. If you were not at or near the front on the turn, catching up to the leader took a high power output because the interval began at the turn.

Of course due to traffic there was also separation as one or two riders could squeeze through and the others were left to chase. Hard.

Seth loved to attack out of the turn here and force the others to chase. After some screaming between Seth and G3 last year, the group decided that a neutral turn onto PVDN was a better option for the ride due to traffic safety, but the slow start was compensated for with the addition of a lead-out.

The lead-out was intended to conserve the energy of the ride: Its function was to get the group back up to the pace they would have been at had everyone been shooting the turn balls out, sprinting to the bottom and then clawing their way up the climb. Again, the goal was conserving the overall energy of the ride and maintaining the difficulty of the effort. The first climb had always been an all-out or threshold effort. In the new formulation, the lead-out goat sacrificed herself to the other riders by setting a pace comparable to what it would have been in previous years with the fast descent and attack up PVDN.

Without this element of an initial hard effort up PVDN, the ride would have lost one of the most challenging parts of the course.

For those who are trying to win the lap point atop the golf course, this crazy hard lead-out also made each lap more strategic. You had to decide whether to go full gas with the lead-out and take advantage of the gap it created, as may riders would certainly get shelled, or sit back in the chase and see if you could make up ground by holding a steady effort a-la Cobley and not going into the red, then smacking down whoever remained on the wall. The lead-out also gave riders a chance to get on the leaderboard by awarding them a half-point in an environment where the same coterie of riders generally tended to scoop up all the lap points. It was, in other words, a trade-off: You give it your all and you’ll get a half-point and the ride’s intensity will be preserved. You, unfortunately, will be fucked atop PVDN when your lead-out ends.

Sciencey stuff

The PVDN climb is a:50 to 1:30 effort, depending on who’s leading. Intervals of this duration and intensity are some of the hardest from an energy standpoint. They straddle the line between glycolytic and aerobic thresholds. Performing an all-out, supramaximal VO2 effort of this duration requires a minimal amount of passive rest before an athlete can perform another effort of a similar level, and even more active rest, which is what we do on the Flog. If you can do the lead out and still latch onto the group at the top, win the lap, or outsprint any of the leaders at the golf course bumps, you have not done an all-out, supramaximal effort, in other words, you have not done the lead-out.

As a result of this effort, if done correctly,  you will be in a state of oxygen debt, rapidly trying to replace oxygen stores in the muscle. This means deep heavy breathing that would not allow for acceleration. Gasping for breath. In addition, the first 45 seconds rapidly use stores of phosphocreatine and glycogen, with a smaller contribution from aerobic pathways. Return of these stores to levels that would allow another high effort to begin  requires more than 3 minutes of passive rest and up to 9 minutes of active rest. It would be impossible to recover from a true lead out and still have a good performance on the same lap, because as the amount of time of passive rest required to recover would put you at the wall on Campesina. If done properly, you may not even be recovered by the next lap. Even with the proper amount of passive or active rest, both mean and peak power decline after the first interval if subsequent intervals are performed immediately following the prescribed rest periods. That means that if you have done an all-out effort, your peak and mean power will be lowered somewhat for the rest of the ride.

So why would someone want to volunteer to do the lead-out if peak and mean power will be compromised? Because this is a training ride, and we all have aspects of fitness we are trying to improve. Although you will experience some decreases in power, there are some adaptive reasons doing even more than one lead out can be a good fitness tool. Plus, you’ll earn, yes, EARN, a ½ point.

The anaerobic power  reserve (APR) is an overlooked component of fitness that contributes to performance. The APR is measured by the difference between maximal sprinting speed and speed at or just below VO2 max. The greater the reserve, the more rapidly the athlete will fatigue. We want to develop power and be capable of sustaining it over time. We want to increase our maximal power, and then close the gap between that power and our speed at VO2 max. That is how we get faster and less fatigued over time.

Let’s say your weakness in this equation is  maximal power. Using the lead out as a way to increase your maximal speed/ sprint ( by doing more than one per lap) will develop maximal power and also cause increase your ability to perform at or above VO2 max. If you are using the lead-out for this purpose, you need to take advantage of the rest of the lap and the proceeding lap as a rest phase in order to fully develop this system.

If your weakness is V02 max, you will want to use the lead out in the opposite way: As a catalyst to increasing your time at VO2 max over the course of the ride. This will extend your endurance and speed at VO2, and the bottom end of the APR equation. You would do this by performing the lead out at maximal effort that approaches or reaches VO2, then attempting another effort after a short active recovery period of one to three minutes, depending on your fitness level. Yes, your effort will have less power and add to your overall level of fatigue, but you are developing your resistance to fatigue at VO2, which is a different fitness component than power. The more minutes you spend at VO2, the more this system will develop.

If you do both of these types of training methods, over time your pace  and endurance at VO2 will increase, in addition to your maximal sprint pace. This translates into better race and group ride results, more points, and a lot more pain.



Good days on a bad ride

February 7, 2019 § 6 Comments

Our trusty correspondent from the planet Mxyzptlk recently drafted this most excellent piece of training advice and disseminated it to members of the Flog spam list newsletter. It was so good I thought I’d re-post it here; it’s applicable to every miserably hard regular group ride or training race that you do.

Based on 3+ years’ experience doing the local Flog ride, it’s excellent advice.

To Flog, or not to Flog? Just a few weeks into the 2019  Flog season, and, already, this is the question.

It is 5:00 AM.



Possibly raining.

You are miles from the start at Malaga Cove.

It will be a long, miserable ride there.

You will arrive to enjoy six fun-filled laps, during which you will be mercilessly flogged, to no apparent purpose.

Pulling a shift on a trireme as a galley slave is starting to sound good right about now. And then, there is your pillow, gently whispering “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!,” and maybe even playing this song in your ear.

I have never claimed to like the Flog. In fact, I would tell anybody who asked that it was my least favorite ride, ever. That I dreaded it. Got pre-Flog anxiety every Wednesday, and was never sure I wouldn’t back out of until I actually arrived at the fountain on Thursday morning at 6:35 AM, pointy-sharp.

For some reason, it isn’t as fun as some other rides. No, that isn’t right. It isn’t fun at all. NPR starts at the same time Thursdays, but because you are going fast, it’s a blast. Oh, and you can hide in the group, and if you get shelled you just catch your breath, cut the course, and hop in with the group when it comes swarming by on the other side of the Parkway. They’re called “hop-in wankers” for a reason.

On those other rides, few know if you are hanging on for dear life. There is anonymity in the back third. And getting sucked along by a 60-strong peloton, if you have the basic fitness you don’t haveto go hard if you decide you don’t want to.

No such luck at the Flog. As Yoda said, “There is no hide.” Your struggles and place in the hierarchy are known, and rarely improve. Where is the reward for all this humiliation, droppage, and pain?

No one loves the Flog

A few people over the course of the  three years I have been doing the Flog have claimed to love the ride. These proclamations amount to a kiss of death. When anyone starts claiming to love the Flog, and begins gushing testimony to the ride’s training effect, it is a guarantee that that person will quit the ride within weeks. No one who is doing this ride and intends to continue doing it can develop feelings of love for it. If you do, you will for sure not be around in a month or two.

But you can learn to embrace it, with all its unlovability, using some Jedi mind tricks. Let me share them with you, though, like the Flog itself, the explanation is long, painful, and hard to endure.

When I first started flogging in 2016 I was new to cycling, had only very recently graduated from tennis shoes to cleats, and had never even heard of “group rides.” To say that I had a hard time on the Flog would be an understatement. I finished each lap as part of the group Michelle Landes called “ The Caboose,” meaning the very last couple of riders to finish the lap. Every lap was an immersion into intense self-flagellation, my single hope being simply not be the last rider in the caboose to arrive at the regroup.

Even pedaling hard as I could, tasting blood in my throat, I still came in last by a fair margin at least half the time.

Doing worse isn’t progress

I went home all that first year extremely defeated, never feeling like I was getting any better, never looking forward to being part of the Flog and facing my lack of cycling fitness gasping for air in the country club parking lot.

I did 2017 much the same way, never feeling like I was making any progress, with little sense of accomplishment week in and week out. I continued to go, however, because taking time away from the Flog never translates into less defeat; you only get further behind with each week that you miss. But when 2018 rolled around and I was facing another year of the Flog, and many mornings of cold dread, I decided to change my relationship with this ride.

I looked at my strengths and weaknesses and decided to focus on only one of them for the whole year. My nemesis on this particular ride had always been the first bump on PV Drive North. I could never even come close to staying with the leaders on that bump and always crested the top with an insurmountable distance between myself and all the other riders.

However, I was always able to make up some ground on the next section, the climb to the golf course. In 2018, I focused only on trying to stay with the lead group up that first hill, and that was it. This meant that I was going to have to abandon any hope of making up ground on the second section, as well as any attachment to where I finished after each interval. I had to give up the racing aspect of the ride, because staying with the lead group on that first hill was going to leave me unable to do anything but blow up once I reached the top.

Instead, I gained small victories each week by staying with the group further and further up the hill, until finally, I was able to stay with them the whole length of the climb just one time.

Let me tell you how that felt, after three years of getting shelled at the start of each lap, then finally hanging: It was amazing.

Eventually, I was able to do it more than once per flogging, as the ride consists of six laps, and then three times, until by the end of the year I was consistently staying with the main group up the climb on almost every lap, and sometimes even having a little energy to push the pace again somewhere near the end of the lap.

Instead of going home from every ride feeling defeated and like I was not making any progress, I went home feeling good about my efforts and improvements, even though staying with the group on that initial climb cost me so much energy that I still sometimes  finished the lap in last place.

Compartmentalizing your gains

By breaking down my goals into small victories I was able to change my feelings towards the ride. I found a way to make each ride a reward. Being able to approach the ride with personal goals instead of as a race to not be last,freed me from the defeat that plagued my commitment to the ride, and allowed me to look forward to going, regardless of how I did within the scheme of the Flog hierarchy each week.

There are real, neurological underpinnings for leveraging motivation in this way, and they are tied to activating reward centers in the brain. One is referred to as Go/No Go learning, which operates on both the Pavlovian and operant levels,  whereby you choose to do or not do something based on the probability of a positive or negative outcome. There are multiple ways in which this works, but the two most favorable conditions to learning and motivation are “Go” outcomes as opposed to “no go” outcomes. In other words, seeking reward in the framework of “Go to win” or “Go to not lose” (both are coded as a reward by your brain), makes you ride better.

Through activation of  specific parts of the brain, people learn better under conditions of reward, so viewing any action as a potential reward as opposed to punishment or failure will ultimately lead to better learning and higher levels of intrinsic motivation. Can you say dopamine?

There are multiple ways this Jedi mind trick can be done:

Create a reward scenario for yourself when things come out better than expected. Often I am exhausted with sore muscles from demands of my job, which impacts my cycling performance. I used to avoid hard rides when I felt that way, because I didn’t want to face a poor performance. Now, I go out and ride anyway and view the outcome through the lens of riding better than expected under the conditions, so I can go to a ride and feel good about what I accomplished, even if it was not as strong as the week before. Why? Because my frame of reference has converted failure into a reward.

Push your reward further out in time. Make your goals based not on this February or March, but as far out as the last week of the ride in August, as I did when I focused on accomplishing just that one aspect of fitness for the whole year.

Make your reward simply the act of showing up in order to maintain the fitness you have. This is reinforcing the “Go to Not Lose” aspect of learning. People continue to strive when they put themselves in an environment where they perceive their actions as efforts to maximize gains and minimize losses. Feeling as if you have been proactive by minimizing loss  will activate your reward centers and motivate you to continue. You win just for showing up.

Break the ride down into small components that address specific training outcomes, and focus on improving in just those areas. Seeing improvement each week, or even on each lap, will activate reward centers and increase motivation. Here are some sub-Jedi tricks to help accomplish this!

  • Improve your 1 minute effort by going hard on the first hill.
  • Improve your 4 minute effort and VO2 max by going all out on just the section between the bottom of the dip on Paseo Del Campo and the Valmonte stop sign.
  • Improve your final sprint by going all out on the last two Via Campesina  bumps, even if there is no one around you or, if you already do that, try starting your sprint at the Valmonte stop sign and carrying it through the bumps.
  • Try to stay with either the lead group or a rider ahead of you as long as you can before getting shelled.
  • Try to do the whole ride as low cadence big ring training.
  • Choose to focus on one of these aspects each lap, and make the ride a comprehensive training day that addresses all aspects of fitness.

In  Pavlovian and operant systems, reward leads to vigor, whereas punishment leads to inhibition and reinforcement of fear pathways. If you want to stay motivated, especially within the context of  a task that is difficult to follow through on, creating a system of small rewards can keep you moving in the right direction. When I disassociated viewing the Flog through the negative filter of a race leading to inevitable defeat, I began to experience new motivation and drive to get up and out the door at 5:50 AM on Thursdays, without the overshadowing dread of previous years. Best of all, I started to see improvements that I had not seen in the past.

In other words, resist making the ride a simple exercise in racing to the finish lap by lap, week by week, year by year. If that happens, you will end up like many others, touting the value of the Flog to enhance fitness, glorifying its worthiness to you personally, and then fading like a distant memory into the Flog history of ex-riders, afraid to return and face the reality of a truly hard ride.


First Flog

January 4, 2019 § 5 Comments

I got up Thursday morning at 3:47, which was thirteen minutes earlier than I usually get up, so I went back to bed and slept in until the alarm. I had already put out everything I needed to make the pancakes and coffee, so at 4:00, pointy-sharp, I dully stumbled into the kitchen and brewed the black magic and fried up the cakes in the skillet.

I checked the temperature which was 47 degrees, knocked off ten for the wind chill, and figured it would be a cold and pitch-dark and painful Hello, Kitty welcome to the first flogging of 2019. Although it’s officially numbered as Flog #72, that’s pretty a much a #fakenumber, as the ride began in October of 2015. Rather than go back and try to figure it out, I made up a number at the beginning of last year and have continued counting from there.


Everyone gets anxious for the first flogging, kind of like they get anxious for the second, third, and etcetera, because it is a drop ride. I never get anxious. I know that droppage is all that exists in my immediate future. And past.

Team Origin had been training hard in the off-season for this in-season training ride, which itself is a training ride for the California road racing season which no longer exists, at least if by “road racing season” you mean a season that has road races.

Anyway, Team Origin put its best feet forward except for their dear leader’s, who had also trained extra hard for the training ride but decided at the last minute to experience the training race intervals from beneath the comfort of his eiderdown blankie. One member of Team Origin’s recruits, the formerly famous Wily Greek, had difficulties with his timepiece and arrived late, however, hitters “Didja Get My Note” Fernandez and Baby Seal were primed and ready to go.

Training hard to be ready for the training ride

The first Flog lap of 2019 was won handily by Didja Get My Note, and second place was nearly sewn up by Baby Seal until he tried to shift from his small ring onto his big ring, or from his big ring onto his small ring, or, what ultimately happened, from some ring onto his bottom bracket, which resulted in immediate loss of momentum and caused his bike to decelerate into my front wheel, nearly precipitating a bicycle falling off incident.

I considered stopping to help (joke) before sprunting by. In the parking lot we all stood around and watched Oscar get off his bike, stagger over to the curb and gloriously vomit. The initial discharge appeared to contain bacon and eggs, but the later stages of expelled matter were pure liquid, and spattered his shoes like any great work of modern art.

Any training ride that begins with a hot bucketful of puke is a good ‘un.

Didja Get My Note then took the next three laps until Surfer, all cutely bundled up in girl’s tights, a scarf, and a wool beanie, began reinforcing the message that Pornstache had delivered at last week’s Donut Ride: Team Origin may have scooped up a bunch of Team Lizard Collector riders, but it scooped up ALL THE WRONG ONES.

Surfer easily took Lap 5, which saw Didja Get My Note pedaling at 5mph in a side-to-side motion that looked like a rudderless ship in gale. The queen lap, La Cuesta, was also taken handily by Surfer,which is different from taking a handy by Surfer. Given that Team Origin, after an entire off-season of training for the training ride, had already cratered by Lap 5, and that Surfer, who hadn’t ridden since July, had gotten in his base miles for the year in the first four laps and was now ready to crush, we could all safely agree that Surfer was well on his way to defending his 2018 Flog title.

Honey hush

Everyone went home frozen and dejected, except for Oscar, who had achieved every cyclist’s dream of losing five pounds on a 90-minute ride. Baby Seal shook his head. “You’re never ready for the Flog,” he said. “Ever.”

I gently stroked his head and told him it would be all right. “Next week you’ll be lots fitter.”

“I know,” he said. “And so will everyone else. So the hierarchy will be the same.”

He had a point. It was looking like a lonnng time until August.



Yeah, but did you celebrate?

August 31, 2018 § 7 Comments

Most of the time the ride finishes, you go home, take off your stuff, and get on with the day. And most of the time that’s okay.

But you owe it to yourself and your fellow riders to celebrate every once in a while. Celebration is one of the hallmarks of humanity. People who celebrate are people who have stopped for a moment to live. People who celebrate are, like a great pianist who creates music in the space between the notes, creating happiness in the pause between the motions.

We finished Flog v.4, arbitrarily numbered #71 out of laziness, even though technically it’s more like Flog #140, and repaired to the Yellow Vase Cafe to celebrate, quickly, with coffee and some awards.

But this Flog was special and therefore deserving of celebration for another reason. The ride’s founder, Joe Yule, after an absence of four years or so, showed up to see how his children were getting along. Joe’s heart recently went on vacation, causing a bit of concern to those around him, but with a new defibrillator/pacemaker/carburetor/aerator/crankshaft installed, the docs say he will unquestionably live until Sunday.

When your heart stops for the better part of 30 minutes, you are quite happy with Sunday, thank you, and maybe Monday while you’re at it. And when you make it through something like that, well, your celebration means just a little bit more than everyone else’s.

Bottom line is that Joe did the ride and regaled us with the true original honest-to-goodness real story of How The Flog Ride Came To Be, and I was lucky enough to have my camera switched on to video:

After the tale was told, parts of which were actually true, we turned our attention to prizes and trinkets.

Dan Cobley was Flogger of 2018 for amassing 60.5 points; next closest had a piddling 33.

Kristie Fox was Flogette of 2018 for being the woman who flogged hardest and most often. She missed maybe one flogging all year and was there in sickness and health, in sadness and in joy, but it being the Flog, mostly sadness.

John Labib was Floghead of 2018 for being the man who flogged most. John missed two flogs when he went to watch the World Cup somewhere. He will go down in flogfamy for his honest question, “Can I keep doing the Flog after it ends?” Yes, John, you can.

Salvador Bravo was Jumpin’ Jack Flash for most improved flogger. He just got better and never gave up.

Bob Reichman was Happy Camper for flogger who was always in the best mood with no good reason for being so.

Finally, Ivan Fernandez a/k/a My Pony Boy was honored for best Flog lead-out, where, instead of burying himself to the top of PVDN, he made a mockery of the entire ride by leisurely pedaling to the top at about 8 mph. And if there’s one thing a true flogger loves, it’s a mockery.



It won’t be over before you know it

August 30, 2018 § 7 Comments

Today ended Flog v.4, Flog 2018, or simply That Stupid Fuggin’ Ride.

Here is its obituary. Please read it in a silent place where you can appreciate the solemnity of this sad time.

Flog v.4, ladies’ man, man’s man, natty dresser, devourer of carbon and roto-tiller of dainty egos, died on Thursday, August 30, 2018

“Floggy,” as he was known by his friends of which he had none, and “Stupid fucking ride” by everyone else, was hated by many, despised by some, detested by others, reviled by a handful, disliked by those closest to him, and genuinely loved in 2018 by a mere 80 riders, most of whom are listed on this spreadsheet. Even they didn’t think much of ol’ Floggy, as most participated once or twice and never came back.

The riders in Floggy’s life were numerous, but few if any of the relationships lasted, and none was meaningful. He particularly fancied tough riders, uncomplaining, down to earth, humble people who thought chewing through 200 yards of stinking shit was a “good time.” These people meant a lot to him because of the way they started tall and proud and were eventually torn down into tattered, beaten, humiliated quitters who simply stopped waking up early enough to make the ride or shamefully shuffled over to NPR.

Floggy loved his mom Jeff Fields, who with the help of her sisters Randy and Scott Dickson, taught Floggy that if you aren’t miserable early and often you’ll never be happy. Floggy was reared in what used to be called a broken home but nowadays is simply referred to as a “shithole filled with psychopaths.”

Floggy’s cousin from Amsterdam, Marco Vermey, occasionally dropped in to help with the childrearing duties that involved hundred-mile rides in the rain, in the cold, in the heat, on flat tars, through nail storms, and across broken glass deserts on his hands and knees. Some say this is where Floggy learned his misanthropic ways, but others simply said he was born an asshole and so would he die.

In California in the grand year of 2014 during construction on Westchester Parkway, Floggy began working at the golf course in toney Palos Verdes Estates, where he quickly developed a new reputation that was much like his old reputation, in other words, bad.

Joined by ne’er do wells such as Stathis the Wily Greek, Head Down James, Stravver Jr., Emmy Sue, Derek the Destroyer, Michelle, Hair, Davy Dawg, Boozy P., Captain, Canyon Bob, Toronto, Crowbar, and a handful of other misfits, Floggy quickly grew from an enjoyable informal ride among friends to a fringe exercise in self-mutilation that people only attended in order to quell their inner demons through grimacing, sweating, and droppage.

Floggy loved droppage and never met a rider he couldn’t drop. Although there were countless elite riders who were disciplined by Floggy and sent home packing, before he died Floggy happily reminisced on having taught his mortal enemies a few things about life:

  • Quit making excuses.
  • You still suck.
  • It doesn’t get easier, you just go slower.

And Floggy’s key lesson in life, which for all but a few insomniacs and chronic worriers was ultimately unteachable: Get your lazy fucking ass out of bed.

Yes, Joey, he’s talking to you.

Floggy’s greatest regret was not being able to sucker more suckers into showing up at the Malaga Cove Plaza fountain every Thursday at 6:35 AM pointy-sharp for a drubbing that, once endured, none ever seemed to forget. As South Bay Baby Seal once explained it, “There’s something about getting up in the morning and riding over to the Flog that makes you keep riding over to somewhere else.”

And Floggy tried everything to bring more and bigger idiots under the tent, including a completely fake points rating system, useless trinkets, insincere compliments, and a spammy email chain designed to make people think that somehow it was all worthwhile.

It wasn’t.

Flog v.4 never really cared about anyone, which was his secret to life. He never opened doors for old ladies, gave money to the homeless standing on the 405 entrance ramp at Artesia, he blasphemed daily, never donated to worthy causes, obstinately refused to patiently teach life lessons to young children, and certainly never encouraged budding cyclists to pursue their passion unless their passion was quitting. To the contrary, Floggy could most often be heard Thursdays saying “Don’t talk to me,” or “Shut the fuck up,” or “Your turn for the lead-out and quit sandbagging, you motherfucker.”

Some people, generally those with substance abuse problems, found this endearing, but normal cyclists avoided Floggy with fear, disdain, and contempt. These same riders jealously read each Stravver segment and held exciting #socmed discussions about when they would be ready to do their first Floggy.

They never were. As Floggy never tired of saying, “This ain’t Facebook, asshole.”

Yet for all his failings, and they were so numerous that a special Google algorithm developed by floggers Dan and Bryant broke in half trying to index them, Floggy was dependable, and deep down, way down, way way way down, he was appreciative of each person who put it all on the line, even if it was only for a lap, or for half a lap, or, like Joey, for a brief glance out of his upstairs window at passing floggers before rolling back over for another game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Floggy excelled at 1-minute and 5-minute intervals, making people vomit, inducing migraines on Wednesday night, generating endless excuses for lazyasses too lazy to get out of bed, engendering neuroses, and fostering fake enthusiasm, but the thing he did best was show up and lead through example. No one was unhappier than Floggy, and week in, week out, a small cadre of oddballs endeavored to match his misery.

None succeeded.

Despite his unfriendly, scowling demeanor, Floggy was open to all, and with the exception of That Guy, no one was ever publicly berated for being a dick. To the contrary, Floggy greeted everyone with a smile, a nod, and he was punctilious about names because he knew that no matter how nice he was in the beginning, one lap in and everyone would be sad face and hate his fucking guts, which was all he ever really wanted.

Refusing to brook challenges of any sort, Floggy was oddly open to suggestions, especially when screamed at him in fury. Changing from a race to intervals, beginning together slowly rather than speeding into traffic through a hot turn at 30, and gently descending rather than bombing the wet, peacock-filled hairpins were all changes to which Floggy angrily but eventually acquiesced.

Floggy took fashion cues from no one. His signature look was plain tarmac, a hill on PVDN, a short false flat followed by five minutes of mind-bending pain on an undulating climb ending in a sprint for the second wooden backward-facing do not park sign across from the second entrance to the golf course right where the road peaks. He wore this attire no matter what, and the greatest compliment ever given to him was by Daniel Bonfim, who, on his first and last ever visit to Floggy, said this: “I’ve been on this road a hundred times and never knew it was this steep.”

Floggy didn’t like travel, didn’t speak any foreign languages, was bad at math, worse at arithmetic, spelled poorly, never kept a paying job for more than six months, and spent his life surrounded by phone calls from debt collectors and threatening letters regarding unpaid alimony and arrearages on child support. Yet for all of the self-induced failures and continual disasters that marked his personal life, Floggy’s public persona was as pure as the driven snow: “Show me your tired, huddled masses and I will beat them senseless until they hate cycling forever.”

Floggy despised phonies, especially of the cycling variety. Floggy believed that if you were on a bike you were winning, even with a motor and drugs, but if you were on a carbon bike with e-Tap and duded up like a bike racer, squeezed into an undersized clown costume and acting like a speedster, you should at least be able to heave your guts onto the roadside a few times a year. Floggy particularly hated racing bikes with fenders. No one knows why. He just did.

Because of his irrational fear that he would die best known as a cyclist, Floggy requested that his family not throw a cycling-themed funeral due to his hatred for the sport. Consequently, to spite him the family will hold a private, family-only service open to the public where everyone is requested to show up in their favorite bike outfit. Visitation will be held at Yellow Vase Cafe, Malaga Cove Plaza, Palos Verdes Estates, from 6:35 -8:00 on Thursday, August 30, 2018. In an especially mean twist by angry survivors, priority seating will be given to Italian Gentleman Riders.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you get your lazy fucking ass out of bed and make something of the day. The family would also like to thank the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch for inspiring Floggy to take out that whopping life insurance policy which his survivors will now spend the next ten years fighting over in probate court.

Finally, the family asks that in honor of Floggy you mark your calendars for Thursday, January 3, 2019. As a believer in the resurrection and the life, Floggy has every intention of returning as Dog the Undead King of the Zombies for Flog v.5. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and it still ain’t over.




I’m not judging

April 15, 2017 § 2 Comments

I’m evaluating.

Different people obviously enjoy different things about riding bikes, and you can tell a lot about what they like by the rides they do. Here are my rides from last week:

  1. Saturday Donut beatdown.
  2. Sunday 60-minute TTT practice with Kristie.
  3. Tuesday Telo fake crit with real vomit pieces.
  4. Thursday Flog intervals.

I’m doing TTT practice again today and no matter how I look at those rides about the only thing they have in common is that they aren’t any fun. It’s obvious I don’t like fun, or spoken another way, not having any fun is a lot of fun.

The Flog ride that we do on Thursdays is the least fun of any ride I have ever done. It’s in its third year and I wish I had a quarter for every person who has done it once. This past Thursday I felt awful, as I hadn’t recovered from Telo. The reason the Flog ride is so bad is that it is six hilly 5-6 minute intervals, which is not fun, but since you do it with a group, each lap is a mini-race.

Because we’re bike racers we keep score in our heads each lap, which is silly. We regroup in the parking lot after each interval, descend a twisty road to the start, and do it all over again. Everybody keeps score and strategizes how to win the interval, or at least how to delay the droppage as long as possible. Like I said, silly.

The fastest lap times ever recorded were when Daniel Holloway and two of his teammates came out and did it. I love it when people say “Holloway’s just a sprinter.” So ignorant. That guy, in addition to being clean as a whistle, is good at virtually every aspect of bike racing. Stathis the Wily Greek did the Flog ride religiously before he retired at the unripe age of 30-something. He won every lap almost every time, including the horrible 13-14% grade up La Cuesta, the climb we do the last lap on and where we take a glory group photo at the end.

Some people found it demoralizing to get smashed every single lap by Stathis, but I didn’t. I love that kind of riding because it is so real. You don’t dangle in between delusion and reality, you get reality force-fed down your throat. Stathis was so much better than you even on his worst day and your best day. Like the Alabama rednecks used to say about Bear Bryant, “He can take his’n and beat your’n, or take your’n and beat his’n.”

Most people don’t like that, I guess.

Anyway, I felt awful from the start. Greg Seyranian’s fitness is really coming around; he blitzed us on Lap 1. Then he started hard at the bottom of Lap 2 and led out the whole lap, and then dropped us at the end. Then on Lap Three he led out the lap and I sat on and managed to pass him at the top. Lap Four he led it out again, and Josh Dorfman uncorked a nasty attack that no one could follow. Lap Five Mike Hines attacked us all on the mini-wall past the stop sign. I hung on somehow. Mike is a masters world champion on the track. He has these accelerations that just break you.

On Lap Six I quit and went home, which I hardly ever do. I had a deposition later that morning, but that’s just an excuse. The reality is I apparently had had a little bit too much fun.



You can see how steep the finish on La Cuesta is, plus Kevin Nix staring at his front wheel, Denis Faye looking dazed. Only Casey is smiling but he’s always smiling.



For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with flog at Cycling in the South Bay.