Monday, January 14, 2019

False Positive

Well would you look at little Virginia having himself a proper winter like a big boy!

Most years, when it comes to snow, the Commonwealth underperforms.  Not this year.  At least, not so far.  One thing that we as Virginians are really good at in the snow?  Driving around in it.  Not actually the skills and experience needed to drive in the snow, but just making the decision to drive in the snow.  We are awesome at making the decision to go out anyway.  And crashing our cars, it turns out.  But snow itself?  Not so much.

Americans as a whole, we are highly prone to the false positive, the things we think are true about ourselves but really are not.  Take, for example, our (in)ability to drive in the snow.  To (not actually) hold our own democratic elections.  Triathlon (in general.)  We think we can do all of these things, but in reality...

Add this to the long list of things that we think we can do but we can't.  
I'm not trying to drag you down here.  No, indeed, the false positive is a wonderful thing, essential even.  So many of life's greatest adventures happen only because we overreach...and then we just have to figure it out.  Looking at a good map will do this to you.  In fact, some of the best worst days, especially on a bike, were driven by the false positive, and they happened when some guy just like you looked at a map very much like this one and said to himself, yeah, I can do that in a day.

Without the False Positive,  for example, Pantani 2010 never would have happened.  I woke up that morning with more than a foot of snow on the ground, and rumors were flying around that there were two county snowplows plus a front-end loader stuck up on Simmons gap somewhere.  You'd have been better off with a dogsled than a bicycle that day, and I pretty much assumed no one would show.  Then, right around 10 AM, The Rooster, Jimmy McMillan, and an assortment of really hard Richmonders pulled into my yard in a monster truck with studded tires.  And away we went.  

And wouldn't you know it - it was awesome.

If it turns out that the best days are actually the worst days, or the worst days are actually the best days, or some kind of combination of the two...then without our own poor judgement and lack of genuine self-awareness, who would ever ride up brokenback on a road bike in the first place?
Don't answer that.

These, and other great riddles of life itself, to be addressed in the coming weeks as the clock ticks down to Pantani2019.  So go ahead and delete your weather app.  The forecast only calls for one thing, and it's up, up, up.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Pantani 2019: February 10th at 10 AM


The Pantani ride is Sunday, February 10th at 10 AM.
That's a scant 30 days from this very moment if you don't count Saturdays, which I don't, because on Saturdays I don't work, I don't drive a car, I don't fucking ride in a car, I don't handle money, I don't turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don't fucking roll.
Which leaves me only 30 days to "train" for Pantani, and by train I really just mean try to put enough miles in between my ass and the saddle to make at least the first 2 hours of the whole experience tolerable.  After that, not so much.

And, let's face it...turning 40 and riding Pantani as a 40 year-old probably means that very early in the ride, I'll start questioning the relative morality of the whole thing.  Why, indeed, do we insist on doing this to ourselves, every year, in February, with nigh-zero training, at maximum threshold for 4+ hours.  What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things?  Am I even here or is human life actually just a simulation?  What exactly does cheap whiskey produce at lactate threshold that makes my legs feel like this?    And so on.  Deep, existential shit that you only find at the bottom of the emotional hole that you dig for yourself on Pantani Sunday.  Hopefully I'm on the other side of Fox mountain before it happens.

The rest of you, I'm honestly not sure.  Every year we roll down Markwood Road at the start, all 100+ of us in recent years, and I look around at all of you derelicts and I think to myself, who ARE these people.  Like, literally, many of you I don't even recognize.  But you pile out of the woods for this thing, for whatever reason, and for that I...thank you?  Is that accurate?  Do you thank me?  I don't think so.  Realistically, we should give each other a loud, resounding, Fuck You given the circumstances.  But we never do that, do we?

Anyway, it'll go live on Feb 10th, Sunday, at 10 AM from the Paranormal Field, whatever it is, and what will be will be.  Go ahead and jot that down on your calendar.  Remember to dress fancy, pack whiskey, and try not to think too hard about what it is you're about to do to yourself.

More details to follow, so stay tuned.

Up, up, up.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Democracy is a drop ride.

There are a couple of really basic life lessons that you learn from Tuesday Night Worlds, and they apply today more than ever, and I'll try to spell them out here in a way that White Anxiety can understand.

1)  If you show up to a fast road ride and you get shelled, that's your fault.  Don't blame the guy at the front, drilling it, for the fact that you cannot keep up.  He has trained his ass off.  If you're unhappy with your fitness, or you're pissed off that Coal jobs haven't come back yet, then start training.

Don't blame the ride.

2)  In a similar way, don't misunderstand something very obvious about that guy at the front...he is not Hispanic.  Take Will Leet, for example.  Or Jeff Bezos.  Goldman Sachs.  The Clinton Foundation.  All of them are very, very white.  Like, among the whitest people to ever be white in a white country and a white town full of white people.  The only thing brighter than Will Leet's new chromed-out road bike is Jeff Bezos enormous, growing, very bald white head, both of which you can now see from outer space.  So if you're trying to infer in some bizarre way that your lack of performance is about race, or that you've been maligned by someone who doesn't look like you, look again. The people with all the watts, just like the people with all the money, left to right...white people.

I went and voted this morning at 7 AM, shortly after the polls opened, at the same elementary school where my kids are in first grade.  In the parking lot, the sheer volume of confederate flags, Trump T-shirts, and InfoWars inspired bumper stickers caught me by surprise.  I just didn't think that, 2 years into this administration, that I'd be wading through a crowd of Still-Angry Rednecks, in the rain, to vote my conscience beside them.

Democracy is like a breakaway with too many guys in it.  It works OK for a while, but eventually, people stop doing their part.  One guy wants to sit on, which prompts another guy to do the same, and before you know it the 10 minute lead you had on the rest of the world has been reduced to nothing as you attack each other in the name of...well, you're not sure.  But that guy wouldn't take a pull.

Adding people to the breakaway doesn't help it, and so it occurred to me that I honestly don't care if you vote today.  At this point, if you need some kind of convincing about the need for your political voice, then this probably isn't the right move for you to mark anyway.  It's just not clear to me that adding another 30 million vindictive, angry, partisan voters to what we already have here will actually improve anything.

But the minute you see Will Leet go up the road, you better jump on that train, and so will I, and maybe your friends can come too, if they want to work.

See also, Voting, and welcome back to the United States of America.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The PARANORMAL. Saturday, 10.20. 4 PM.

The PARANORMAL is tomorrow.  10.20.  Race starts at 4 PM, but assholes without costumes will begin to be singled out by 3 PM for hazing and ridicule.  So if you're coming without, get there early, and prepare to be berated.

Also, the kids race is 3 PM.  ISH.  Because wrangling 30+ costumed delinquents on bikes is not easy or timely, so get those rascals there by 2 so we can stuff them full of candy and get them soaking wet in the creek first.

For the next 1.5 hours or so, you can still sign up online here.  After noon, no mas.  But we'll still take your money and provide you with a number and free beer on Saturday at your leisure.  So just know that we are here for you and we cherish your attendance, even if you are a disorganized piece of shit.

Someone asked me yesterday how long the course was.
And so I sent them this:

And then they asked me how long those laps will take them.  And I guessed: 1 hour per.

And then they asked how many of those laps would be during the day and how many at night (requiring lights) and, in a flash, I was transported back almost two decades to 2003 in the way that memory tends to suddenly, without warning, place you elsewhere.  And here's that memory:

In 2003, I caught a flight from Colorado to Virginia to come spend time with family and race The Paranormal.  This might have been the 2nd annual Paranormal  I'm honestly not sure of the year at this point, but I was in my early 20s.  Back then, the race was held at Panorama farms, but the format was pretty much the same - costumes, 4 pm start, 1 hour laps, etc.
And so I lined up at 4 PM for my very first paranormal, but there was a delay of some kind.  Maybe rain?  Maybe just inefficiency.  But, whatever the cause, it was an overcast, grey evening, and the race didn't actually start until almost 5 PM.  I did 1 lap, came through the transition, got back into the woods for lap 2, and it was pitch dark.
So my plan of 3 day laps and 3 night laps suddenly became 1 day lap and 5 night laps.  Which, back then, was a huge problem because a) lights really sucked back then and b) this was v-brake, hardtail, 26er era.  2.1 inch tires - I was running the legendary smoke and dart combo for those that know what that is - pumped up to 50 PSI so you didn't pinch flat on the wet roots.  It was recipe for disaster.  Around 9 PM, on my last lap, there were probably 10 racers on the course whose lights had burned out and were just fumbling around out there with pin lights trying to find their way out of the woods.  That's just what night riding was back then.  Anything over an hour was asking for trouble, and 5 hours of night racing was a bridge way, way too far.  Somehow, my lights kept it together, but my legs did not, and I, too, barely made it out of those woods in one piece.

So, back to reality, 2018 and the race is tomorrow, and you want to know how many night laps it'll be?
I will just lie to you the same way I lied to my 23 year old self:
Three.  1 hour each.  Easy as that.

Hope to see you there, kid.
Up, up, up.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Paranormal Costume Idea # 345,190

Floyd Landis with the munchies.  At a 7-11.  With $750,000.

I've written about Floyd Landis a few times, as well as the complicated emotions that we have, as fans, for someone who not only put pro cycling on the map for us but also kind of ruined it.

And still, I can't help but like him.  Throwing away $750,000 that he probably never should have had anyway...because, why not.  It's a strange world we live in, getting stranger all the time.

Paranormal Costume Idea of the week - Floyd Landis at a 7-11 with the munchies and $750,000.  GO.

You really can do anything you want, world.  But make sure you get your costume ready.

Up, up, up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What-What. What. WHAAAAT?

What-what?  What.  WHAT?

Those of you who have been reading this blog for greater than 12 months know exactly what what-what, what, WHAT means.

Time to pop some tags.  The paranormal is coming.  October 20th, 4 PM.  E-Rallys-Ville.
Getcha' popcorn ready.

The first thing you do is sign up.  That, of course, is the easy part.

Then, I guess you have a quick look at the course layout, acknowledge that you lack the fitness to even watch Keck ride around this thing for more than like 15 seconds, and then, the real work begins.

And no, I'm not talking about training.  I'm talking about putting together the most fantastic, semi-safe-to-ride-your-bike-in costume you can muster in...gasp...1 month.

This requires some thought:
Macklemore vs T-Rex on an MTB.
Slutty Catgirl vs Hello Kitty.
Evel Knievel vs Dr. Octopus.
What kind of costume are you?  This is not a game.  It requires careful consideration, and a clear assessment of your you want to actually race your bike without the risk of getting your costume-appendages caught in someone else's drivetrain?  No.  No you do not.  Because what fun would that be?

To further complicate the annual costume conundrum, this year we finally have a verifiable account of what, precisely, Donald Trump's penis looks like.   So you've got that to sort out, emotionally and otherwise, and then you have to figure out if it's something you'd want to race your bike in for 6+ hours.

Have we hit rock bottom of whatever this is yet?
No.  No we have not.

Look, it was already hard to imagine a Paranormal where half of you derelicts were not a) drunk and b) dressed as something phallic and/or offensive anyway.  So I don't guess a costumed Mario-Toad/Stormy Daniels team riding a tandem and sneaking off into the woods together should come as a real surprise to anyone at this point.  It's sad, sure, but if the past is any indication, things can always get worse.

And we'd still ride it anyway, wouldn't we?

Prove it to me, Toad.

Sign up, up, up.

Friday, August 3, 2018


God forbid we fix our own shit.
Let me explain myself.

But first: A Legend:

 Map of Earlysville, 1864
In 1864, with the Civil War raging around him, Link Evans was a slave at the Bleak House Plantation in Earlysville. He was a blacksmith, having learned the trade from his father, also a slave.  Bleak House was originally owned by the Michie family, of Michie Tavern fame, the original Michie Tavern having been located right at the Buck Mountain end of Bleak House Road before it was moved over to the foot of Monticello, decades later.  At that time, Bleak House Plantation was an active plantation, harvesting everything from corn to cows to tobacco (no cotton though) - even during the darkest period of the civil war.  The whole operation was run on the labor of the 41 slaves that lived there.  
Bleak House Plantation

Link Evans had something that few of the other slaves at Bleak House had though.  Because in 1865, the Civil War ended and Link was a free man, and he learned that his skill as a Blacksmith - learned under the oppression of slavery - was the key to his financial future.  Back then, before the bizarre reality that is Amazon-based consumer delivery, when something broke that you needed, and you couldn't just order a new one online, you fixed it.  And so much of the stuff that you actually needed in life - plows, horseshoes, nails, etc - were metal, all made and fixed by your local Blacksmith.  So suddenly, lucky enough to have a skillset that he could monetize, one day in 1865 Link was a free man, and he set up shop right there in Earlysville.  Link Evans Rd, right next to Broadus Wood School, marks the site of his home and shop - where you took all of your stuff after the civil war and paid Link to fix it.

Link's Home

Flash forward 150 years.  Amazon is the world's largest internet company by revenue and has a market cap of 874.19 billion dollars.  If you happen to break anything - ANYTHING - you can buy a new one online with 2 snaps of your finger - and it will literally arrive at your door in 48 hours.  Meanwhile, the great pacific garbage patch, where a small percentage of our broken shit goes to rest, now spans 617,763 square miles, 3 times the size of the country of France.  Despite those numbers, Peak Consumerism is still, by most estimates, decades away into the future.

This is Freedom?
As a form of escape, I ride over to Bleak House Road pretty much every Thursday night, and I participate in a 3+ hour night ride with a group of hard, fast mountain bikers who, themselves, are seeking the same kind of catharsis.  I say I participate in this ride, and I mean that.  I used to lead it, but these days the level of speed and endurance is way, way up - and I'm basically just hanging on most of the time now.  We end the ride, every Thursday night, riding back down Bleak House Road, past where Link Evans was emancipated, and I can't help but wonder what Link would say if he could see us.
So, this is Freedom?

My backpack, which I've used for all of my big Thursday night rides for the last decade, has some problems.
1)  The bladder.  It's completely ripped.  This is a camelback, sans camel.  So I'm always finishing this huge night ride on empty.

2)  My saw (1).  This is actually a two-part problem.  This ride, the trails we tend to ride are a little, shall we say, interpretive.  This is the fringe.  A 6 inch wide half-track with some trees down here and there is about average, but other trails, you need a saw to open them up a little just to even get through.  But my pack lacks a good spot to store my gigantic handsaw, so I've been just mashing it into the main pouch for about 5 years now, like a light saber, and hence, the torn bladder.

3) My saw (2) - Also, my saw itself is broken.  Again.  This time, though, it's the handle and not the blade - so I think I could fix it if I had the ability to craft the proper size chassis for it and remount the blade.

4) My shoes -  I make a brief effort to craft a spot on the outside of my pack with some straps to hold my back up saw (yes, I have two) but the straps I need to use are actually holding the sole of my shoe on.  Complications, one leading right into the other, and I miss dinner, fix nothing, and just barely make it out the door in time to join the guys on the other side of Bleak House Road, just past Link Evans birthplace, where he was a slave but he could fix everything.

And right way I've got problems.  Even going up the first hill, my head isn't right, and so I stop to eat something but the bars I stuck in there last week appear to have fallen out the bottom of the pack, so I settle for some expired peanut butter nabs.  Not good.  It's a cloudy night, so we turn the lights on early, and for three hours I'm yo-yo'ing off the back of the group, their lights a distant speck through the trees and fog.

All of this gear, by modern standards, should be thrown in the trash.  Click to buy and I'll have a new one in 48 hours.  Stop by the shop and get a new one to ride immediately.  And don't get me wrong - there is a place for that.  But something about those options makes me pause too.  For starters, despite their flaws, I LOVE my pack.  I love these shoes.  Nothing fits quite like the things that have conformed to your body by sun and sweat, over time.  And, nostalgically, the places I've been with this gear...I'm just not ready to give all of that up to memory yet.

Most importantly, I have this fear, that the hidden danger of this whole trash-the-old-buy-the-new consumerism basically amounts to this: we can no longer fix our shit.

And I'm not just talking about my pack or my saw or my shoes.  My fear is that the psychological shortcoming we have created - where we can't fix our THINGS - carries over to much more important areas of our lives.  Like our marriages, our relationships, our broken families.
The environment.
Democracy itself.
Indeed, when we lose the ability to repair...anything, it's going to be a huge problem when what we really need is gone and Jeff Bezos can't deliver us a new civilization.

Our night ride starts to wind down, thank God, because I'm a bonking, drippy mess.  We turn back onto Bleak House Road, right past the plantation where Link Evans grew up, and I am dropped again right away, about 100 yards back from the group, and it's pretty bad.  I'm head-down-hot-face, at the bottom of the proverbial hole.  If I can just get to the cars, I'll (hopefully) drink about a quart of water and eat something before I dive directly into the beer cooler, face first.  But as we round the bend just past the old plantation, the guys up ahead stop, turn around, come back towards me, and in their lights I see that there are two black bear cubs on the side of the road there.  Then another, and another.  And it happens pretty fast, and I'm so exhausted I don't really even react to it, but the cubs' HUGE PISSED OFF MOTHER BEAR comes loping out of the fringe of the woods, running straight towards us, and - about 10 feet from us - she ushers her 5 cubs up the side of a big white pine tree, though she, herself, stops short of actually climbing the tree.  No indeed, she just latches onto the side of that tree so we are face-to-face, and she gives us the stink eye as her cubs scramble around in the tree above her.  There's something hugely primal about this, but also, I find myself relating to this bear in a very human way - because she's clearly having one of those days you have as a parent when you've got insane quintuplets that won't stop tipping over trashcans and there are five of them and one of you and you've got places to be, and where the hell is your spouse, and I get her perspective, and I feel bad for her, but also I need to get the fuck out of there ASAP.  And I would, except I'm cramping and I feel so absolutely terrible at this point that I'm kind of just hoping she'll kill me and eat me.

It's a big, brave bear these days that has the ability to birth 5 cubs into this world and get them all to survive.

Bonking, cramping, but still alive and uneaten, my fight-or-flight response kicks in slowly, like honey.  The bear is stationary for the time being, just staring us down, and the sum weaponry of this potential conflict is our 2,000 lumens or so vs. about 30 inches of bear claws and teeth.  We are fucked if she comes off the side of that tree, but no one wants this fight less than she does, though, this wise old bear.  Like maybe her momma told her about how General Sherman said War is Hell as he wept and burned the South.  I stare at her for a moment and she stares back, and I wonder out loud:

I manage to get a foot back on my pedal and point the bike back down Bleak House Road towards the cars. The bear allows us to leave.  It's only a half mile back to the cars, all downhill, and as soon as we get there I'm headfirst directly into the beer cooler without a drop of water.  Relieved, I am struck by how slow my escape actually was.  In hindsight, I imagine the bear watching me painfully depart the scene of our encounter, surprised at how slow and soft I was, taunting me as I go, "Bitch, you better pedal that bike."

Really, Bear, I am better than this.  I will fix my pack.

That was two weeks ago, and my pack is right where I left it.  I don't know how.

But I promised you, Link, and I meant it.  I will figure this out.