Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ghost-written Race Report - Central Coast Circuit Race

NOTE: This post is rated PG-13 for mild strong language.


I got a strange offer from a bike club pal on Saturday: his leftover lunch in return for my ghost-writing his race report. You may have read a few of my own race reports in these pages (here and here and here, for example), but I’ve never written somebody else’s before. I love Mexican food and a literary challenge, so I accepted. Sean described the restaurant to me (I am always encouraging my teammates to dwell on food in their race reports), and later sent me his notes about the race, encouraging me to embellish freely. I turned his accounts into the following report. (It might seem irresponsible to cover an event I didn’t even attend, but I’ve been to enough bike races to know the truth about them, even if I have to guess at some “facts” and contrive others. Meanwhile, Sean’s notes—which comprise about a quarter of the report—gave me a solid nonfictional starting point.)

By the way, the response from the club was interesting. Sean e-mailed the report from his account, and a number of guys apparently didn’t grasp that I wrote it. The result was that it got a lot better response than anything I’ve sent out myself; two guys called it the “best race report of all time.” If I had my own marketing department, its leadership would have to be worried about the Albert brand.

Race Report - Central Coast Circuit Race

I [i.e., Sean - ed.] drove down w/ Ken in his Prius. I felt really good, doing that. Finally, a slight easement to my liberal guilt. Plus the dashboard, or more precisely the top surface of it that heads out toward the windshield, is really deep. I wanted to climb onto it and take a nap because I heard that Bernard Hinault often napped before time trials. But of course he’d have been going to races in some tiny Renault.

We stopped for breakfast at this tiny little shack. All they had was stinking black coffee, pre-packaged pastries, and the “house special” which they called “huevos al baño.” I didn’t realize until I was thinking about it later, my stomach roiling, that this translates “restroom eggs.” But Ken’s pastry looked even worse: it left a little ring of grease on that giant dashboard.

Mark drove the “magic bus” carrying Ryan, Tony, and Matt. At least, they call it the “magic bus.” The only thing that makes a bus “magic” is if it helps you pick up chicks, but those guys were already at the race when we arrived, and they weren’t attended by any chicks. Mark was racing an early race, prior to the other trio jumping into the M35+ 3/4.

Ken and I rode the M45+ 3/4. This was “the only decent and Christian thing to do,” according to some guy in the line at registration. I’m still trying to figure that one out. The field was 31 riders, of which 28 finished. One guy who dropped out had dropped his chain and just bagged it. Another guy dropped his habit. His habit of racing? No, a nun’s habit. He was naked underneath. This caused a crash, which is why the third guy dropped out. Later he said he broken his duodenum. I guess he’s of the Andy Schleck school (just like the guy who dropped his chain, come to think of it).

The circuit covers part of the old Ft. Ord course. One hour race, or 5 laps of the 4.3 mile loop. No free laps—believe me, I asked. It was upper 60s, sun like a big egg yolk, a yellow one, like from those queerly uniform eggs you get at Safeway that are $1.49 for 18 and they seem to always be Buy One Get One Free, which makes you wonder what new cost-cutting measures the hens were subjected to. There was a headwind in the Stairmaster section of the course (so named because you feel like you’re getting nowhere, which turns out to be true).

I led the race from the gun for the first mile, mostly because nobody wanted to come around me, no matter how slowly I rode. I think they were all afraid, because I was exuding Command Presence. It happens sometimes. I had to make some self-deprecating jokes before anybody would pull through. The only other time I led was coming through the start-finish area with one lap to go, having followed two other guys who made a meager break attempt a half-mile earlier. But actually by that point the whole field was upon us “like a gorilla on shit,” in Riccardo Riccò’s parlance. (Riccardo who? Exactly!)

There were only a few such break attempts during the race, and nothing really sustained or vicious. I should point out that there were some vicious attacks, but they were all verbal. One guy yelled, “Hold your line, Davis!” (Like us, the Davis team has bright orange jerseys.) I turned to him and said, “It’s EBVC, you stinky douchebag!” Only then did I realize there actually was a Davis guy wobbling all over the place. I called him something even worse, and he started crying. I almost felt bad but mostly I felt big. Not like big as in Godzilla, but important, you know?

But the pace was okay. I only really felt in trouble maybe once during the race, when someone was trying to get away on the series of nasty little rollers. I should have let the guy go, because he was obviously a wanker, wearing a sleeveless jersey with armwarmers (hello?) and then I thought, wait, why would they even let him race without sleeves? About this time I began to think I’d imagined him, and as soon as I thought this, he was gone—probably absorbed by the pack, but possibly by my subconscious.

But I was often hurting during the race. It’s a tough little course, the Reno of circuit races (as in “biggest little city in the world”) and as we all know, if the road goes up, Sean pretends to struggle but it’s all a big mind game (which some of you seem not to have yet figured out). After our races Ken berated me for telling Ryan that the course “wasn’t that hard, no real climbing, just a little stairstep on the backside.” At least, that’s the ostensible reason Ken had for berating me. Really I think he was just sore at me for saying his car was “cute, like a golf cart.” But that’s just how I roll. I call a spade a spade, to its face, and sometimes I call a club a spade.

Ken also covered one break attempt previous to mine, and said it really took a lot out of him, not just as an athlete, but as a human being. It was interesting to me that he found the front side of the course, and its long false flat, by far the most difficult part of the course, while for me there’s no question—it’s that stairstep on the back side that kills me every lap. Ken is what English majors like Dana would call an “unreliable narrator.” The more you heed his comments the further into the weeds you find yourself (or “farther,” as an English major would pompously interject).

So it came down to a field sprint. I knew that to finish well I needed to be very near the front when we made the second to last turn, into the longish, fast descent with one more turn before the 200m uphill sprint. Knowing and doing are two different things. Actually, they’re three different things. The knowing, the doing, and the separate act of knowing, which is like a spectator, standing aside (figuratively speaking) to measure the philosophical distance between knowing and doing. I guess I was doing too much of this third thing because before I know it everyone else was clogging up the downhill like un-flushable Maxi-pads in a swirling toilet, and it was absolute mayhem, with guys who tried to go too early dying and sitting up and stretching their backs and sighing as others behind tried to move up and past them, all at the same time. I hit the brakes more than a few times, and it was only in the final corner that I was able to get around to the outside and start a kind of semi-sprint, knowing that it was futile, that in fact life is futile and we’re all just hamsters on a wheel pretending we’re getting ahead when actually anything worth having in life was probably all used up before we were even born. Still, I moved up from about 20th to 13th at the finish simply by the fact that this was a criterium, and I am Davis Phinney, and no of course neither of these statements is true but I dare you to challenge me on them because you weren’t even there, you armchair director sportif.

Ken finished 19th. But at least he can live with himself.

For lunch we hit this little Oaxacan joint. (I’m talking about a restaurant, not a doobie.) We chose it because I thought “hit this little Oaxacan joint” had a ring to it. I caught Ken mouthing the words in the rearview mirror and before you smirk, go try this yourself. Elvis couldn’t look cooler (and not just because he’s dead). The restaurant, which is in Seaside, is called La Tortuga Torteria and they feature these entrees called huaraches, or at least they call them that, but really they’re more appropriately called “pupusas” but I wasn’t about to correct anybody. There were photos of the food on the wall, which is normally an indicator of a terrible restaurant, but I was feeling bold after keeping down the huevos al baño from earlier, and besides, they were black and white photos, which is kind of ingenious because as faded as they were at least the foods weren’t the wrong colors. The photos had to be from the ‘70s or earlier.

The waitress didn’t speak any English but somehow communicated that we could choose what kind of meat I wanted on my huarache. I said “pork” but there were like six variations, one which was cooked with either pineapple or urinals (as I said before, my Spanish is spotty) so when she got through describing the second one I said I’d take it, even though I hadn’t understood or even heard what she’d said. She was mumbling and blushing—I think she wanted me. Anyway, the portions were absolutely huge.

As you can tell perhaps only somewhat from the photo, a huarache is basically a stuffed, folded-over corn tortilla big enough to fit over a human head. It’s filled mainly with a layer of beans, and then all this other groovy stuff, like the meat, is piled on top, along with cactus. I asked for the spines on the side, which Ken hassled me for, like I’m some kind of wuss, though he didn’t even order the huarache. I don’t know what he got—just some big mess of stuff drenched in mole sauce with these giant raw onion slices on top, and boy am I glad he didn’t eat those raw onions because driving all the way back with the windows down would really hurt the gas mileage, even in a Prius. Anyway, the food was delicious. The corn tortilla was crispety and crunchety and chewity and coarse and dense, the cactus tangy without burning my lips off, and it all kind of came together in a very authentic way that made me desire, oddly enough, to stop at Chipotle on the way home and punch somebody in the face.

Well, it was so much food I couldn’t even finish it, so I dropped by that one guy’s house, the tall skinny guy on the club (I know, that doesn’t exactly narrow it down) and I said he could have the leftovers if he’d ghost-write this race report for me. He jumped at the opportunity—all he was doing was losing to his young children at Scrabble anyway. 

He divvied up the huarache three ways, finding it remarkable that it was so tough he had to move it to a cutting board and use a big serrated knife on that bad boy (maybe huarache is the right name after all), and then his wife appeared out of nowhere and he had to share his part with her. One daughter said, “The cactus is extremely disgusting. Slimy and bitter.” That judgment didn’t keep her from eating every morsel, and when her sister said, “I don’t like it” and bailed, she asked for her portion. Denied!  His wife praised the tortilla as being “very homemade-tasting.” Easy for her to say. She didn’t even race!

No comments:

Post a Comment