Watching Professional Endurance Sports Events Is Weird

Thursday night, I went to the HOKA ONE ONE Middle Distance Classic (a name which maybe helps explain why track meets are hard to turn into bigger sporting events). It was fun before it started pouring rain. It was also $10 if you didn’t have a student ID. Perhaps unsurprisingly, or maybe surprisingly depending on your point of view, there were about 200 people in the stands.

Even Justin, who was with me, asked if there was anyone big there. Um, yeah, like a bunch of Olympians, some Olympic medalists, World medalists, etc. He agreed he had heard of some of the names I was listing.

The weird thing, if you think about it, is even the people you can’t name, who won’t make it on even the most niche coverage, have to train a LOT to be that good. You train and you train and then you go to a random track at a small school in the suburbs of Los Angeles, warm-up jogging around the neighborhood, then run as hard as you can in front of a few hundred people until it starts pouring rain. Go ahead and try to explain that job to a career counselor.

After graduation on Friday and some celebrating on Friday night, we then rode up Mt. Baldy on Saturday to watch the Tour of California. We made it on TV, though I don’t know if you can see us through the crowds on the side of the road:

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Then, after going for a run Sunday morning at JPL, which is right by the Rose Bowl, we went down to watch the end of the race at the Rose Bowl. I thought we wouldn’t be able to get close, but we basically just parked down the street and walked up.

It actually was really exciting. Peter Sagan, who is best known as a sprinter, managed to do well enough up Mt. Baldy that he ended up just three seconds out of the overall lead. This is crazy. And if he placed in the top three at the last stage (or at the intermediate sprint during that last stage) it would give him enough of a time bonus to take back the overall win.

He actually managed to do it by just millimeters at the line. See, it was genuinely exciting. But it’s hard to explain or to get anyone who doesn’t know about this stuff to care.

I know a lot about triathlon, like for real, a lot. But then I’ll peruse the new TRS Triathlon website (which I actually mostly like) or the ‘Twitch or, god forbid, the ‘Twitch’s forums, and I think, ‘Shit, I don’t know that much.’ I don’t obsess about what every single pro is doing or who did what when or gear, man do I not care about gear. Yet, there are people who do, and in a way you’re riding your bike around a mostly empty Rose Bowl as hard as you can just for those people.

Professional endurance sports are weird.

 

Tour of California Comes through Marin

Yesterday, we biked up Diablo and drank beers that I had stuck in my jersey pockets and in my water bottle cage.

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I got a hot dog, which was possibly as exciting as watching the race. And then thousands of spectators in costumes, with varying degrees of ability and sobriety, all descended down the hill mixed in with racers trying to get back to their cars.

Today, we watched the Marin stage. (I tried to attach a video, but couldn’t from my phone.) It was much more low-key, possibly because drinking at 8:30 am doesn’t sound that appealing.

Tour of California!

Steve and I are headed over to the East Bay to watch the Tour of California stage that’s finishing on Mt. Diablo. (Fun fact: I can bike up Mt. Diablo in 1:03. Steve can do it in something under 50′ — I dunno 46 last time he did it a few years ago? He’ll probably be mad at me now if I got that number wrong.)

Mostly, I’m just going to cheer Nate on, hopefully get some beers and burgers and maybe a free ice cream again from people setting up tents on the side of the mountain, and meet up with Courtenay to ride up the hill. It’s like a cyclist version of a parking lot pre-game rager. If you want to join, the road up the south side of the mountain closes at 2 p.m. to cars. North side stays open the whole time to the ranger station halfway up, where the two meet. The riders are supposed to hit the bottom at 3 p.m. I’ll be somewhere around 3/4 of the way up?

Sunday, the race comes through Marin for the last day’s stage. I wrote all about what the general viewer needs to know (roads will be closed!) and where to watch.

I’ll be out covering the race and spectators and the scene on Sunday. So, you can also find me if you want to make it into the paper or something.