Book Recommendation: ‘The Secret Race’

TSR-cover1

For one of my classes we’re reading a lot about Lance Armstrong and doping in cycling (oddly, not much about it in other sports), so I re-read one of my favorite books on the topic, “The Secret Race.”

Yes, there’s a lot that’s been said on the subject by a lot of people with varying degrees of nuance and sophistication. Out of all that, I would add to my general list of readings I find interesting about cycling and doping: “From Lance to Landis” and the whole USADA investigation. But, “The Secret Race” is still one of my favorites and one of the most detailed descriptions of how things were in professional cycling of a certain time (and still are to a degree I’m sure). Doping is a part of how things were, a large part, but it is not the only part. Losing stupid crazy amounts of weight is a pretty big part too. Oh, and training.

The main reason this doesn’t read to me like just another professional athlete tell-all raking in the money from their own misdeeds is because Daniel Coyle, who wrote the book with/for Tyler Hamilton, is a good writer and a good reporter. He confirms facts and puts in rare footnotes what other information you might need as a reader. The other important reason is that I don’t think Tyler Hamilton is necessarily trying to cash in. I think he’s trying to make a confession of sorts, a coming clean, etc. I think he feels really bad about the lying, but not as much about the choices he made in the first place. Which is interesting. I mean it doesn’t take a psych student to watch his 60 Minutes interview and know that he was wrestling with a lot of demons.

If you really are interested in the sport and in sports, in the questions of how to address doping, instead of just depicting the problem as an individual problem, which makes it easy to dismiss as a moral failing instead of examine as a systemic failing, if you’re really truly interested with an open mind, then I’d suggest reading the book.

At one point, in passing, Hamilton writes/dictates-to-the-writer that he’s known some great guys who decided to dope and some really shitty ones who didn’t. And that’s probably true.

Riding in Malibu

Latigo Canyon - complete with motorcycles
Latigo Canyon – complete with motorcycles. tim/Flickr

 

This is where we rode this morning: the Malibu Mountains. It was a long way up and then down a little bit and then up some more and then down, down, down. Most of the roads were pretty great — no cars, long steady climbs, nice scenery — but then we had to jump briefly on a busy through road and make a left turn off it. And, Justin almost caused a massive seven car pile-up walking his bike in the crosswalk across the highway/canyon road/whatever. Which he wanted me to know: he was completely in the legal right to do.

I also continued to have my same struggling I’ve been having lately. It was hot and I had a hard time breathing, something down here makes my throat all dry and closed up. And for over two hours I saw a heartrate just a few beats shy of what is my all-out one-hour race heartrate. Except we weren’t going all-out one-hour race pace. So, clearly the feeling shitty is not just in my head.

Still, I’d recommend: PCH to Yerba Beuna Road in Ventura up to Mulholland Hwy over to Katan Rd and then down Latigo Canyon. (You can also do it in reverse.)

The Many Attitudes About Cycling

This morning I rode down PCH (Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1 if you’re not an Angeleno) with a friend. She recently moved down here from Marin too and she was raving about how much nicer people are in LA. She had just been back up in Marin a couple weeks ago and got sworn at, honked at, and yelled at while riding her bike. Her argument was that people in Marin are entitled and people in LA are much more laid back.

My argument would be that people in LA haven’t seen enough cyclists yet to hate them.

Yes, I have had some terrible, shitty, faith-in-people-crushing experiences while on my bike, and Steve has had more than me. And largely all that hatred and anger from those people isn’t because of me. It’s because of them and their issues. But it’s also because they’re doing the same kind of mass stereotyping thing that people who make racist or sexist judgments do. ‘I’ve met some asshole Asian people, therefore Asian people are assholes.’ Or: ‘I see a lot of cyclists and they clog up our roads and that one got in my way that time and I saw another one blow a stop sign and they’re annoying, therefore all cyclists don’t deserve to be on the road.’

It’s a hatred that comes from familiarity. Ideally, eventually, that familiarity will breed resigned acceptance. But, right now, I know that there are bike lanes and bike sharing and good bike routes and places you can get in a long ride in the Bay Area, but I also know that means there are people on those routes who don’t want to see one more fucking cyclist.

In LA, I don’t know that there are bike lanes and bike sharing and good bike routes and places for a long ride on the weekend. However, where you do ride, the people are still more befuddled and amused by you than annoyed. It may be how the first person who ran the Grand Canyon was treated. Now, there’s too many damn runners.

Yes, there are cycling group rides here. Safety in numbers! But, there isn’t the sheer quantity of weekend warriors and casual riders and commute bikers that you see in the Bay Area. That has meant that the main problem for me has been the problem you have with tourist drivers up in Marin: they just have no idea what to do with bikers on the road. While it’s not really their fault, it can actually be more dangerous for you sitting out there in the open on your bike with just some plastic on your head for protection. Biking around LA, which has mostly been commute biking for me and a little bit of training now, I’ve come across so many people who just aren’t sure why I’m in the road or what I’m doing or how they should react. Mostly, that’s fine and we can work it out. Tons of drivers have been weirdly thankful when I’ve moved over so they can make a right turn on a red light. But, every time someone gets mad because I need to get over to make a left turn or I have to come into the right lane so I don’t get doored by a parked car or they can’t get by for 30 seconds on the narrow street, every time I worry that this is just building up the resentment. And I don’t know how to avoid that.

What bothers me, though, isn’t the difficulty of finding places to ride or of getting around by bike. I’m not even really that bothered on a personal level by the angry hatred or the casual confusion. Those are problems, but they’re problems that will resolve themselves in the long arc of history. Hopefully.

No, what really bothers me so far about LA is the general attitude of dismissiveness in which that arc of history will never be able to plant roots and take hold. So many people keep raving to me about how great the culture is here and there’s so much to do and so many places to go and there’s something happening every week. True. Great. Fantastic. Then, the conversation usually has me next saying that yeah, but do they know any good places to ride, because so far it seems like biking is sort of rough here. You have to deal with a lot of cars — which isn’t just an annoyance thing, but a danger thing — and if you want to get away from the traffic and congestion then you have to drive really far to start a ride somewhere — which is fine for the weekend, but not a good use of time for weekday training. And, bike commuting can be really hit or miss — as in hope they miss and don’t hit you. And, every. single. time. I say this or ask about biking or mention open space or want to know how to get around, the local says ‘oh, yeah, well that’s just LA’ or ‘LA isn’t really a cycling place’ or ‘it’s a car culture, get used to it.’

That’s what really pisses me off. As if these are not even legitimate concerns worth having. As if they don’t even warrant a counter-argument. That’s an attitude towards cycling I’m not sure even allows a place for cycling to exist within it.

Buy: Orbea Ordu TT or Cervelo TT or Race Wheels

I’m actually finally selling my Orbea Time Trial bike, which has totally been sitting in my living room for years now. I was going to sell it last year. And, then, I decided to do triathlon again. I rode it like six or seven more times as part of my “comeback.” Then, I got a new bike. And, it’s simply sat there for months.

At least it had a friend: Steve’s Cervelo TT.

And, even though we need the money and we do NOT need the bikes (or the race wheels), both of us have been way too busy to do anything about that. (But, if you think about it on an economic level, it would have probably have been a better use of my time to work on selling the bikes, in terms of the money per hour, than to actually slave away at work.) Anyway, I finally, finally posted the bikes and wheels for sale today. So. Snatch that shit up.

IMAG0358

2011 Orbea Ordu XS

I bought this Ordu in March 2011 and raced it until September 2011. I then decided to quit triathlon, but couldn’t bring myself to get rid of my bike. It sat in my living room and rode it six or seven times in 2013. I’m finally selling it. It has just around 900 miles on it, no crashes. There are a few minor nicks of the paint around the back wheel drop, but no scratches or any damage to the bike. (It’d be hard to damage while it sits in the living room.)

I bought it for around $3,400. Asking $1,700 without the wheels – or best offer. I have two sets of race wheels I can also sell — either for $1,000 (details at bottom).

2011 Orbea Ordu
Black and Silver
Size: XS (I’m 5’2″)
Frame/Fork: Orbea Ordu
Crankset: Shimano Ultegra
Aerobars: Profile Design Ozero
Stem: 3T Max Pro
Derailleurs/Chain/Shifters: Shimano Ultegra
Seat: Selle SL t1
Pedals: N/A

IMAG0345

Dura Ace Cervelo P2 SL – 51cm

It’s a few years old at this point, but Cervelo was so far ahead on the TT bike tech front that it stacks up well against all but the newest models of many of competing companies. Plus the bike is about as adjustable as they come, so you can put yourself into a super aero position. $950, without wheels. Minor cosmetic scuffs on bar tape and front derailleur, otherwise the bike is in very good condition.

Gray Cervelo P2 SL Aluminum Frame – 51 cm
Fork: Carbon Wolf Time Trial, White Design
Crankset: Dura Ace 7800
Bar end shifter: Dura Ace 7800
Front Derailleur: Dura Ace 7800
Rear Derailleur: Dura Ace 7800
Seat post: Cervelo
Seat: Adamo ISM
Break Calipers: Cervelo
Bar extensions: Carbon vision
Bar clamps and pads: zipp

IMAG0354

Wheels:

$1,000 for either: Zipp 303 Tubular wheelset with wired powertap (used) and disc cover;
or, completely new, unridden Roval Rapide CL 40 clincher wheelset with new Turbo pro tires.
Cassette negotiable, tell me what you want.

Biking in the Wind

That’s not a metaphor. Yesterday, I actually biked 4:40 in really, really strong wind with Steve. Lots of people biked yesterday because it was a weekend in May. And, all these people were talking about the wind on the social medias and in person today. The wind was epic-ly bad.

But, I needed to ride 5 hours hard and I needed to ride long on my TT bike, so we did it anyway.

Biking in really, really strong wind is an interesting experience. If you have a power meter, then you could just go the effort you want to go. It doesn’t have to be harder; just go as hard as you were planning. There’s no reason biking in the wind has to be worse. But it is. It is miserable. You spend so much energy just staying upright and focusing on not crashing and remembering to eat and drink, even though that means you have to let go of your bike with one hand to grab the water bottle and you might get blown over when you do. A lot of work is spent worrying about getting blown over.

I couldn’t even hear Steve as we went through Chileno Valley. The wind was ripping. I rode in the middle of the road — since there were no cars out there — and got blown back and forth. My bike would suddenly jump two feet to the left and then come back. I’d bike at a slant against the wind, and then it’d suddenly change for a second. And, when we crested one of the big hill coming back into the wind, I swear my whole bike came to a stop.

But, we kept going.

And, 4 hours in, Steve decided to take my Garmin computer so he could see how I was doing. And, he decided I should ride “hard’ for 15′ because of the aerobic adaption, etc. It was rough. But, we kept going. Eventually, you get home. Eventually. And, then, I laid down on the couch and didn’t get up.

Biking in the wind.

Crazy Things I Thought On My 4+ Hour Ride

Lately, I’ve been doing my hard long rides with Steve. It’s been good because it’s HARD and because Steve and I talk about stuff — mostly about Tupac the Cat. And when I’m not talking I’m mostly thinking: ‘This is way too hard. I’m not going to make it.’ Over and over. Doing my hard long ride by myself today left me a lot of time for thinking. This is pretty much what I thought:

1. I am so good at riding my bike.
2. Oh no. Does my knee hurt? My knee hurts.
3. Stupid fast guys passing me. I hate people.
4. Oh, hey, I know them. Hey! I don’t hate you.
5. I am so good at riding my bike.
6. What if I crash?! I’m totally going to crash. That car pulling out doesn’t see me. And I’m going to flip over my bike and break my temporary teeth. Maybe I can get my hand up in time.
7. Did I just actually put my hand up to practice? I did.
8. Why is that guy staring at me?
9. Oh, I know him. Hey! I don’t hate you.
10. Yeah, he definitely hates me now.
11. Shit, this did not seem that steep the last time I went down it. Maybe it’s steeper when you’re going up. Maybe I went the wrong way? Could I have gotten lost on a route I’ve done dozens of times? Probably.
12. Shit, I was supposed to email that guy who hates me now and tell him if I was going to do the race this weekend. Hmm. I guess he figured out I wasn’t racing. And, he definitely hates me.
13. This is really far up.
14. So far up.
15. Shit, when was the last time I biked up this far? 2011?
16. No cars. Noooo cars. Nocar. NOkaaaar. Nokarnokarnokar.
17. That’s a lot of bikes coming this way though. A lot of bikes. What if they’re fleeing something? Like a giant mountain lion or a murderer? Oh, shit, shit. Didn’t that girl disappear somewhere around here. There’s probably a mountain lion on the loose. Or the Mt. Tam killer. Fuck fuck fuck.
18. Oh, it’s probably just a group ride.
19. Hey, I made it to the top!
20. It’s kind of cold descending. So cold. I’m freezing. Why didn’t I bring a jacket? I hope I can hold onto my brakes all the way down. My fingers shouldn’t hurt in April. Stupid mountain. Stupid microclimates. Stupid tourists.
21. Man, I hate tourists.
22. I wonder if there’d be a way to ban anyone not from Marin from coming to Marin on weekends. But, then, it’d totally disproportionately affect people who couldn’t afford to take off days during the week. It does offer a nice cheapish way to go somewhere for people in the Bay Area. Maybe we could just ban rich San Franciscans on second dates.
23. I am soooo good at riding my bike.
24. I’m totally feeling those sea lions sunning. If I did that right now, though, it might be weird. And also I wouldn’t get faster.
25. I need to get faster. Ahhhhhh. Freak out!
26. Climbing. Climbing. I am climbing. Climb climb climb.
27. No one is ever on this narrow road. They never expect bikes. What if I get hit by a car that’s too far over the line as they come around a turn. I’m totally going to get hit by a car. Fuck. That would not be good.
28. I think that pickup driver looked at me funny.
29. What if he came back and tries to kill me. Because he hates bikes or women or, really, himself.
30. I could totally get away though by going downhill. I’d just descend so fast and weave so he probably would miss when he tries to shoot me.
31. But, what if he turns his truck sideways to block the road, so I can’t go down. It is a really narrow road. And then he’d probably be able to grab me when I tried to get around the truck. Shit.
32. Oh fuck, fuck. Is that the truck coming back to kill me?? It totally is. I’m going to die. I hope someone comes along and I’ll yell.
33. Nope, just a tourist. Stupid tourists.
34. Go go go. Just push the last mile to the top. So fast! I am the fastest.
35. Shit, that pickup truck really did almost hit me.
36. Ride ride ride. I am so good at riding my bike.
37. Only 1:15 to go. I’m basically done.
38. Ooooh, I think the secret bakery that’s only open Fridays and Saturdays when it doesn’t rain might be open now. Let’s just coast over there and get some end-of-ride nutrition….

Cycling is Fun

8609400005_064cef9be8_o

Yesterday, I was supposed to ride to Santa Cruz with a bunch of girls, but Friday night I didn’t get home until close to midnight and the hassle of getting up early, getting to the city to meet people, biking down the coast, getting a ride back, probably be annoyed the whole time, just didn’t sound worth it. So, instead, I slept until 10 a.m. (yay!) and rode with Steve. It was definitely not easier.

I possibly made the mistake of telling Steve that I planned to do a 4.5-5 hour “hard” ride, so he wanted to make sure it was hard enough. I tried to emphasize that I really wasn’t worried about him not riding hard enough. But still. The first two hours were not fun. I saw over 200 watts way too many times and was feeling pretty done by the time we got to Chileno Valley, which is only halfway and where the tourists start to just disappear. But, I kept it together. Ish. Togetherish. The last 20-30 minutes were rough for me. Yet, I made it up and over the hill and home. And, then didn’t move much for a long, long time.

Cycling is fun.

Riding in Napa: Howell Mountain

This is where Steve and I rode yesterday, except in color:

Howell Mountain, from My Climbs.
Howell Mountain, from My Climbs.

We were in Calistoga to hang out, etc. (Though, I suppose, we could have saved the drive since we didn’t actually go to any vineyards, but just to wine shops and wine bars. It’s not like there’s a whole lot of benefit to wine being fresh…)

Then, we rode Howell Mountain yesterday. You should check out all the pictures and descriptions this guy has of the long Howell Mountain climb. Up until now, I had always been relatively unimpressed with Napa riding. Or, rather, everyone kept going on about the Silverado Trail and I kept staring at them like ‘you know it’s just a flat-ish, rolling, pretty heavily-trafficked road that you have to bike in the shoulder, which is often filled with crap?’ But, the climbs out of the valley are actually pretty cool.

It took me about 29′ stop sign to stop sign, which was me going quite moderately hard with Steve. And, if we had kept going, we could have gone all the way up, over to Pope Canyon, etc, etc. So, there’s more to riding in Napa than going up and down Silverado and stopping at wineries. Fyi.

Spoiled Much By the Weather

This is the forecast here for the next week:

Untitled

That’s pretty much as perfect as training weather can be. And, yet, today on my ride in the late afternoon when I went over the hill and it turned from sunny to overcast with a very light drizzle/mist, I was pissed. So mad. Who can possibly bike in these conditions??