The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 24: Recovery tips

February 12, 2017 § 4 Comments

Well, the accolades have been pouring in after yesterday’s tour de force at the UCLA Road Race, like this one:

“Great job out there Wanky, your 12th place out of 22 riders makes it an almost-top ten, and a solid top 5% of all participants (Trump math). As your fan out here in Ittoqqortoormiit, I was wondering if you could share some Wanky Post-Race Recovery Tips for those of us who are wondering what the Complete Wanky Racing Package looks like?”

Thanks for the subtle inquiry, but there’s only one person who gets to gaze admiringly at the Wanky package, and it isn’t anyone in Ittoqqortoormiit, sir. Or any sir, for that matter.

With regard to recovery, however, I’m super glad to give you some tips, tips that, if assiduously followed, will one day allow you to get some great Top Five Percent Trump Math results in your local bicycle race and underwear contest.

  1. Facebag stretches. First step to restoring health and vascular vitality after a hard race is checking out all the people who might have posted pictures of you struggling off the back or other glory shots. Solid 3-4 hours of Facebagging, minimum.
  2. Jaw limbering. Call up a friend who didn’t do the race and gently exercise out all the kinks in your jaw by telling them every detail about the race. Bonus points if they’re engaged in a family activity or standing in line at Disneyland with a screaming kid in one hand and a diaper bomb in the other. Gold stars if you can use the words “super hard,” “incredibly hard,” “so fuggin’ hard,” and “dude, unbelievably hard” in every sentence.
  3. Bounceback calories. You probably burned 1,00o to 1,500 hundred calories in the race, so here’s the replenishment math: book1
  4. Carbon massage. If you didn’t win, you clearly need more equipment. If you won, you clearly need to reward yourself with more equipment. Post-race you must dedicate a couple of hours to shopping for new full carbon doodads that are 100% carbon and made exclusively of carbon and also contain 100% aero.
  5. Hasthtag push-ups. Since you’re a profamateur it is crucial that you say nice things about the products and services you don’t deserve and may not even actually use. This will relax your wallet and allow much new swag to enter your garage/man cave/bedroom.
  6. Calendar pilates. Now that you’ve done one race you can brag for the rest of the season that you are a bike racer. No recovery is complete without a search of all 2017 upcoming races and finding excuses not to go to any of them.
  7. Obligatory lunch out. In order for your muscles to recuperate from the stress of racing, it is imperative to take your S/O out for lunch so that she/he will let you go do the same thing next week. [Practice notes: Refrain from any race recaps or mention of anything pertaining to bikes. Refrain from complaining about how you can’t “lose that last five pounds” even though the waitress keeps asking if you’d like an extra basket of bread. DO ask her how her day was. DO pretend to listen. DON’T suggest she take it easy on the extra bread. DO try to lock her into permission for the next race when the check comes, but do it nonchalantly: “Wow, that’s an expensive lunch. McDonalds has gone through the roof!! But you are worth it times a million, honey! By the way, I’m doing the Fifteen Days of Meat Strings starting next Friday and will be gone for a month at the altitude training camp in Italy. Is that okay, honey-buns?”

END

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Saturday, bloody Saturday

February 11, 2017 § 20 Comments

I love racing against Jeff Konsmo, and have raced against him countless times. Jeff has never raced against me. Whatever Jeff does in a race affects me profoundly. Whatever I do in a race doesn’t affect him at all, except for that moment when he looks over his shoulder and sees a tiny dot in the distance.

That’s me, Jeff!

My favorite race to race against Jeff where he isn’t racing against me is the UCLA Road Race. I love this race because it is very predictable and at my advanced age I do not like surprises.

Here’s what always happens. I ride my bicycle very earnestly in November, December, and January. During that time I gain lots of confidence because, group ride.

Then I show up for the UCLA Road Race, which is the hardest race on the calendar and the hardest race in the galaxy of leaky prostate races. I warm up, chit-chat with friends who are going to tear my legs off, preen a bit, and do a book signing or two. (This really happened. An awesome dude named George came up to me on the start line and asked me to autograph my world-famous book, “Cycling in the South Bay.” I blushed, and it’s that slight diversion of crucial blood flow that partially explains what happened next.)

Then the race starts and Jeff Konsmo goes to the front. Jeff is beautiful. He has no spare anything. Every part of his body is perfectly joined together to do one thing: Ride bicycle uphill fast.

When Jeff gets to the front, which he does after the first 100 yards, he coasts because the first 300 yards are downhill. Then the road begins to go up and Jeff begins to pedal. The more the road goes uphill, which it does for the next five miles, the more he pedals. Suddenly the happy old oysters are not happy anymore.

There’s no more conversation.

The clump becomes a bit streamlined.

Then it becomes single file.

Then holes begin to appear as if mortars had fallen into the ranks and scored a direct hit.

Then the universe becomes a black pinhole of the rubber in front of you, washed over by the roar of your own gasps.

This is when I look up and see that Jeff is still on the front and I am what is affectionately known as “off the back” followed by “way off the back” followed by “time to re-analyze my winter preparation, especially the part where I insert the delusion of not getting dropped into my race plans.”

This year, however, was gonna be different. I had trimmed my riding schedule down to four days a week. I had reduced my tummy rolls from four to two. I had won the NPR last Tuesday when no one else showed up.

THIS YEAR AT UCLA WAS GOING TO BE MY YEAR.

Then the race started and Jeff went to the front and it was Wanky redux all over again. Less than ten minutes into the race my heart rate had been jacked up to 220 and I’d been mercilessly smashed out the back. So much for reducing my training to improve my fitness. But this year something different happened. After getting shelled by Jeff’s torrid pace, a group of other shellees came by. I latched on and they dragged me over the climb and then flew down the descent at speeds so insane that the post-ride ritual of checking one’s skidmarks revealed some impressive stripes.

And hallelujah! We made the right turn and reattached to the small band of leaders. Unlike years past, where reattachment was simply a preamble to permanent disjunction, I hung on and hung on and hung on.

Through the start/finish climb I hung on.

Up the climb the second time I hung on.

Through the start/finish climb I hung on.

Up the climb the third time I hung on.

Through the start/finish climb I hung on.

Then as we began the final climb on the final lap it became real. I was going to finish the race with the lead group for the first time ever. All the DNFs, the 38th place from last year, the litany of bitter defeats were going to be made up for on this glorious day. All I had to do was make it up one last time.

The course goes up for a couple of miles and then makes a right turn, where there’s an endless stairstep ascent to the top. That right turn is crucial because if you make it there, it’s followed by a brief downhill where you can catch your breath and get ready for the final five minutes of being completely pinned.

I saw the right turn, put my head down, and flailed for what seemed like a minute or two, hanging on like one of those tiny little meat strings that attach a baby tooth to the gum right before the tooth is ripped mercilessly out by a piece of twine that your brother has tied to the door. As the meat string stretched I looked up and saw in horror that after pedaling for so long we had only moved a few yards, which either meant that I was in so much pain my brain had begun distorting time and distance, or that we were moving at .00000002 miles per hour.

I put my head down again and pedaled for an hour, the meat string twisting and twisting as it yanked on the shrieking nerve. I looked up and saw we had moved ahead another ten feet.

After a couple of days I reached the right turn. The stairstep loomed. But Jeff, who had sat on the front for two solid hours, pounding the field into shredded meat strings until only a handful of mauled riders remained, was out of accelerations. There was zero chance that he would put in one of the vicious little kicks at the end designed to snap the meat strings and further cull the herd.

As we approached the top I finally knew what it felt like to be in the running, theoretically at least, for a podium spot at the hardest race I’d ever done. After years of trying, years of failure, years of gnashed teeth, and years of broken meat strings I was going to crest the climb, bomb the descent, pedal along the rollers sucking wheel at every opportunity, and then unleash my tremendous 165 watts of seated sprinting power on the unsuspecting suckers who had dragged me along for the entire day.

Two hundred yards was far but the top was right there and nothing was going to dislodge me, especially because I knew that if I got gapped out here I’d never reconnect with the pack once the crested the climb.

Then I noticed something troubling. That something was named Thurlow, and Thurlow had looked back and surveyed the situation.

If you don’t know Thurlow, don’t worry. He doesn’t know you either. I’m sure that in his normal life he is a kind fellow, a gray-haired, avuncular old chap who says “thank you” and “please” and offers his seat to pregnant women on the bus.

But on a bicycle he doesn’t do any of those things. On a bicycle he is simply the greatest road racer in this country’s history. Olympics, check. La Vie Claire, check. Won every major U.S. race ever, check. Kept winning at the local pro level, check. Kept winning at the masters level, check. Still wins more races than he actually participates in, check. Terrifies other riders by looking at them. Speaks only when necessary, and it’s never necessary.

And the sad news is that Thurlow is a moving, living lesson in how to race a bike and you are the blackboard on which the lessons are going to be written. With a knife. Expressionless, taking in all of the peloton’s motions with the lifeless eyes of a shark, Thurlow sees all, knows all, understands all. And when the eye of Thurlow alights on the cockroach hiding at the back of the group, the cockroach who has never done a thing all day except gasp while waiting to sneak into the kitchen and steal some crumbs in the darkness, Thurlow only has one reaction. Stomp the roach until its yellow guts are forced from its very eyes. And stomp it now.

As Thurlow stomped, the remaining riders avoided getting shelled as they struggled to match his acceleration, which was vicious, and after a few seconds of disarray each rider found a wheel, gasping, and they labored together over the top of the climb in a ragged file of grim desperation, after which they all raced together to the finish.

All but one, of course.

END

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