Ride Ride Ride Your Bike, Slowly Up The Road, or the Futility of Unchasing The Dream. MKA Wants His Cake and Kupcake, too

January 21, 2008

About a year ago MKA came home from UCLA Medical in savage pain. He screamed and cried and carried on something fierce and wasn't even exaggerating it too much. It hurt so bad his 5 year old Vivvy Joy took one look and started bawling and shrieking: "They cut my daddy's leg off!" 

MKA got a good dose of bad voodoo and pretty much decided he'd had enough. He spent the last year just wanting to feel good. He certainly didn't want to jump back into a sport in which the ultimate mission is to see who can generate the biggest immune response. All that bravado about "suffering" somehow lacked the same appeal. MKA was tired of the inflammation, palpitations, pinched valves, and insanity - the collateral damage -- that haunts anyone sick enough to crave "peak form."

So he took up wave skiing and kayaking, each a fine way to find balance and enjoy solitude without having to join a nut-case cult. Billy of course mocked the notion that MKA's shelf life had expired, predicting that one day that he'd return, just as a mosquito may taste the wine but always comes back to the blood. MKA no longer saw himself as a blood-sucking ass-kicker, though. He just wanted to sleep in, eat cake without guilt, and get in touch with his feelings. To underscore his willful appreciation of all things soft and fluffy, Max Kash Agro even changed his nickie to "MK Kupcake."

This worked for a while, but before long something seemed off. At Fred Park Natz, when the gaps inevitably opened, old foes began giving unconsented mercy pushes. When MKA fell off the back on climbs, former sworn enemies began to slow down sympathetically. Jaggoffs MKA never even noticed back in The Day began inquiring earnestly about his welfare. Now it's nice to be treated well but the sudden humanity came as a shock to MKA's reptilian system. Yes, MKA needed those pushes and slow downs, and they even felt good - for a moment-but the price would be paid later.

MKA had been programmed to go it alone, do it his way, avoid favors ("loans"), and foster division. He had created the persona of a bleeding arsehole fueled by raw garlic, anger, bellicosity and shiny rotten stank. Now he had found himself a meek and wanting object of charity, a pink bellied lamb alive only by the good graces of sharp toothed meat-eaters. 

At the same, MKA began thinking about what fun it would be to have all the trappings of a cyclist without actually putting in the blood, sweat and tears. For years he had resisted the shiny trinkets. His monthly rent in Austin Back in the Day -- $130 -- had always been a benchmark. If a bike part cost more than two months rent, he didn't need it, and wouldn't buy it. But lately, his mind had been invaded by the troubling thought of purchasing a very expensive set of Italian shoes. Worse, he began looking longingly at … shoe covers. Pritty white shiny spotless shoe covers. 

And then, just the other day, like a flash of lightening, MKA got a wake up from T.S. Fuggov, the newly crowned Fred Park Champion and fledgling Labor fingerling. Sensing MKA's struggle, and perhaps tired of watching the big fish of yore decay and rot, Fuggov emailed a clip of Alec Baldwin's cameo from Glen Garry - you know, the brutal scene in which the slick closer from downtown makes grown men cry. "Put that coffee down!" "F*** you, that's my name!" "… Only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted. You hear me you fuggin' faggots?" Ahh, the poetry. The adrenaline rush. The thirst for power, the power to humiliate, ridicule, crush-yes, topound idiots

A Tale of Two Dreamers

MKA was wanting, and now he wanted another taste. He had been off the boat long enough. He was ready to go up river, this time, all the way.

Two words: Training Camp. The lure of lycra. The oatmeal for brekkie, the hot kawfee, the numb-nut banter, the draw of spontaneous attacking, of dropping the weak, of teaching lessons… MKA had been invited to come up to Sonoma and ride with Kool Aid, an otherwise intelligent colleague who had taken a sip of the 12k cocktail a year ago and was now hopelessly addicted. MKA phoned up his old mentor, Der Hiptler and ordered him to stop whatever nonsense he was doing in Redwood City and pick him up at the Charlie Brown airport in Santa Rosa the next day. 
This looked good. MKA was searching for a New Way. In Der Hiptler and Kool Aid, he would witness both ends of the spectrum. On one end, Der Hiptler, the unkillable leather-faced hellboy who recruited MKA into this contemptibly stoopid yet unshakeable sport decades ago. On the other, Kool Aid, a legal boy wonder who got fed up with the stuffed shirts in the white collar world and vowed to pursue a more rewarding career as a self-sponsored professional cat IV dreamweaver. The crafty coon and the eager beaver. Grittiness ("training's overrated") and Prittiness (white Sidi Ergo IIs with "adjustable Heel Security System that prevents power robbing heel lift…" at $564 per).

Gnarly. Don't be fooled. This man has never been happier. Don't believe me? Put a cigarette butt out on his forehead. He won't even flinch. Years of suffering fools in this stoopid sport have left him in a permanently semi-vegetative state.
A little background. Hiptler, we know, has fought all the major wars. He's been strafed, ambushed, gassed and left for dead, but he keeps coming back. He knows it's stoopid but he also knows he's good at it despite not having the will to train his butt off like the new crop of upstarts every season. For Hiptler it's always been mind over matter. He said it best about a decade ago down in Dallas when he decreed that the more his Uberman adversary (Blue Chip) trained, the less he would train, so he'd get even a bigger kick out of beating the big man with the big bucks and the big heart-lung lab numbers. That kind of deranged and defiant cockiness had always appealed to MKA, who had been raised to believe that success was the result of neither luck nor cunning-it was simply a matter of brute plowhorse labor.

And yet, MKA mused, at 46 years old Hiptler must have found a way to keep it fun. MKA knew that Hiptler never left the house without his palm sized pocket camera. Every ride had become an eye-popping adventure that must be mapped and charted. Since moving from Texas, Hiptler has spent countless hours searching the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains for new trails, redwood trees, wayward turkeys, and magical gingerbread houses. True, he still hotly contests every city limit sign (some swear that Hiptler studies Google Earth aerial photos for the precise location of every sign before every ride), but overall you wouldn't call what he does between races "training." He certainly doesn't "suffer." And he's not afraid of the kind of food you ate as a kid at the matinee - flicks, gummy bears, M & Ms and Mountain Dew.

Gnarly. Don't be fooled. This man has never been happier. Don't believe me? Put a cigarette butt out on his forehead. He won't even flinch. Years of suffering fools in this stoopid sport have left him in a permanently semi-vegetative state. 

On the other hand, I had come to know that the obsessive-compulsive upstart Kool Aid did not believe in chance, or grit, or any form of sloppiness. His faith was in the experts. If the experts told him to ride one legged for 45 seconds at 230 watts on a 6% grade, that's what he'll do. If the experts told him to convert to Mormonism and avoid beer, wine, tea and tits, that's what he'll do. If the experts told him to avoid stirring his oatmeal with a wooden spoon, on account his upper body muscles would explode like the Incredible Hulk, he'll hire a domo to do the stirring. Keep his weight down by hotboxing a pack of smokes? Yes. Inject cancer cells in his nutsack to emaciate the upper body? Of course. You get the picture. 

And this isn't a slender white-shoed aristocratic milksop like George Plimpton. Kool Aid amassed a fortune refusing to surrender or back down to the worst of the worst. Big Oil, Big Asbestos, Big Idiots - didn't matter. But when it came to his new profession, he's a self-described babe in the woods. Why would anyone so smart, creative, rich and otherwise tenacious surrender all of that to become a 12k Dreamer?

Snap Out of It! In search of motivation and role models, MKA shoots His Idiocy shooting the idiots. Bodega Bay, CA.
The Kool Aid Enema

It's in the name: Kool Aid. It's this damn sport. It draws you in and won't let go. Some of us can't sit on a bike without dreaming of pounding a pretender's head in. Others can't sit on a bike without challenging themselves to "be the best," whatever that is. It appeals to the competitive spirit. If MKA goes for a ride by himself, he's fine - at first. In about 30 minutes, he hates it. It's boring. All the little aches and pains manifest and cumulate. He can't wait to get home. Used to be he thought about stopping at Starbucks in San Clemente to lounge around in his shammy and look The Look. When he was able to overcome the comforts of home and go for a spin, all he could think about was hurrying back to put his inflamed ass on ice.

But here's the rub - and this is what today thanks to Hiptler and Kool Aid MKA knows to be true. Riding with company's better. See? Riding solo = training = torture. Riding with Company = competing = rapture (defined as absence of misery). Now there are purists who would say one can ride with company and not compete. Balderdash. You put two humans in a padded cell and it won't take long before they've established a "pecking order," which eventually will translate into the commission of unspeakably heinous crimes. The key is not to avoid "competition," which can be fun and glorious and enriching, but avoid "training," which always leads to self loathing, despair, burn out, resentment, willful frailty, imperious sugar cravings, dwarfism and mental retardation.

Hmmm. The babble. [MKA re-reads the above] The stuff we tell ourselves to justify surrender to temptation. What harm can one little drink possibly cause, the alcoholic tells himself. So now bicycling is OK as long as it isn't "training," but training is OK as long as it's with a buddy or in some manner "social," which renders the exercise more like "competition," which is both natural and energizing, as long as it doesn't become a cocaine craving obsession. Ferchrist! The crap we tell ourselves. Here's MKA searching for The Unifying Principle to justify his return, if that's what he's doing. Starts as a "toe in the water" but in no time he finds himself fully immersed in the warm bath of the 12k dream. Friends, it's not a bath, it's quicksand. The more you struggle with it, the more niceties and nuances you use to negotiate with it, the deeper it pulls you down. 

Blog Building. Sensing a pivotal moment, MKA snaps a photo just before Kool Aid strays from The Program and attacks without permission. Bodega Bay, CA.
Is it true that if you put two decent athletes into a room they will soon rip each other apart like rats in the proverbial behavioral sink? How can MKA say these things with such certainty? Is this the old arrogance rearing its horned head?

Perhaps. But MKA did in fact ride bikes with Kool Aid and Hiptler, and everybody kept all their body parts. We rode along the Russian River from Guerneville up over a range down into Bodega Bay and it was wonderful and gloriously frivolous. Kool Aid's domo dutifully read out for him the wattage, cadence, mileage, speed and brain cells burned. They wore the same kit and looked the part and every pedal stroke mattered. Hiptler did his part. He acted put off but rose to the challenge for every city sign sprint and everybody learned not to beard the sleeping lion.

Meanwhile, MKA remembered how much he enjoyed his role as the crabby Luddite with the hairy legs, hand me down kit and borrowed bike. Wouldn't it be fun, he pondered, to actually pound the upstarts? The dedicated disciples? With a little bit of …training (defined properly), it could all come back. 

And that's pretty much how it goes with old dreams that refuse to die. It's not an easy thing to heap praise on Billy, but he is after all a Reverend and blessed with the vision of a prophet. He may have got it right when he said MKA never could learn to love that wine, and call it blood…

So You Want to Be a Dreamer? MKA Follows the Money.

[A restaurant in Santa Rosa. MKA is sitting at a table with Kool Aid, his Domo, Der Hiptler, and A Celebrity Mutant. They are discussing The Way to The Life.]

MKA: Hiptler, how many years have you wasted on a bike?

Hipp: 23. 

MKA: How many races have you won, including Wednesday Worlds, but not including the Plano, Texas sign sprint?

Hipp: 690. 

MKA: How long did it take you to cat up from a IV to a III?

Hipp: Four weeks.

MKA: And how much did you spend on soigneurs, sportifs, gurus, domos, sherpas, chefs, Thetans, potions, powders, creams, or gadget upgrades?

Hipp: Twenty five cents.

MKA: How long did it take you to cat up from a III to a II?

Hipp: Six weeks.

MKA: And how much did you spend on soigneurs, sportifs, gurus, domos, sherpas, chefs, Thetans, potions, powders, creams, or gadget upgrades to elevate from a III to a II?

Put that Beer Down! Kool Aid learning from Celebrity Mutant the joys of water and lettuce. Later Kool Aid submitted stool sample to check for trace elements of cinnamon roll metabolites, a pro no-go.
Hipp: One dollar.

MKA: One dollar?

Hipp: I bought a Carbo Power, fruit punch flavored.

MKA: Did it work?

Hipp: Yes. It was a lot easier for me to put Carbo Power in my bottles than the Libby's Fruit Cocktail nectar.

MKA: What rules or principles have you lived by, Sir?

Hipp: Never glory pull. Never ride rollers. Never ride when it's cold. Pound Idiots. Don't read labels. Act as if you're in a low grade coma - no sudden movements.

MKA: Now then. Kool Aid, you have been a Cat IV for how long?

Kool-A: About a year, but I don't know anything. I used to be fat.

MKA: And how much have you spent on soigneurs, sportifs, gurus, domos, sherpas, chefs, Thetans, first class upgrades, potions, powders, creams, and gadget upgrades that go whirr and click?

Kool-A: I'm sure I don't know.

MKA: Ballpark, please.

Kool-A: I am a man of means.

MKA: How much?

$12k Blitzkrieg! Team Dream's version of a weighted down VW wagon. "We don't do road trips, and we certainly don't deal with checked baggage." Kool Aid, pro bike racer.
Kool-A: I try to emulate the lifestyle of a professional.

MKA: How much? Gobs? Obscene Gobs?

Kool-A: Let's just say, I'm at a place where I don't spend a lot of time "comparison shopping." I wasn't interested in a Lear Jet, or that island in the Tahitis, or that 007 yacht down in Monaco, the one owned by Pussy Galore. My five year plan is to be a professional bike racer.

MKA: So we're clear. You're prepared to spend whatever takes - what? $1 million, $2 million -- in order to wear the title of a $12k Dreamer?

Kool-A: Yes, you could say that.

* * * 

So where does this leave us? We have entered uncharted territory. MKA despises training, but does enjoy pounding idiots, himself most of all. Not sure what's ahead, but rest assured MKA will be following Kool -Aid's feverish pursuit of the fool's gold closely. Stay tuned.


Post Script

Kool Aid flew from Sonoma to Waco, Texas where he got 2nd in his first Cat IV Road Race of 2008. He appropriately called the guy who soloed the last 10 miles an "asshole." MKA holds out hope that the seeds of grittiness have been planted.

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