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I watched a video on YouTube the other day that labeled Lance Armstrong cycling’s greatest fraud. How true is that though?
Look, I’m not going to try to explain away what Armstrong did. He doped and he’s a cheater, he lied about it. On the other hand, has anyone ever not lied about it until they were absolutely f***ed into a corner? No. He also did just like most in cycling back then – lest we forget the huge French doping bust the year before he first won a TdF. There’s no doubt and no arguing against the fact that he cheated, but cycling’s biggest fraud?
Please. Let’s back off from the hyperbole for just a second.
Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist of all time, was caught doping three times more often than Armstrong (that’s 3 for Eddy, 1 for Lance). In 1998 a French team was caught with a whole entire car-load full of dope. If you actually listen to those in the know, the vast majority of teams were doping back then, it was just what you did. There’s a truckload of athletes in the mix with him, too. Cyclists, football players, baseball players… Take your pick.
See, here’s my problem: With all of the hyperbole surrounding Armstrong, and the “he is the worst cheater ever” crowd, it never rises above emotion. There’s no reason he’s the worst ever, he just is and I’m at fault for some crazy reason because I actually need a reason, not just a bunch of emotion.
I watched that whole documentary and I didn’t see anything that resembled evidence making him “worse” than any other of the cheaters except… that he was a better liar than Floyd Landis. Floyd admittedly sucked at lying.
In other words, take the emotion out and you’ve got another doping cyclist and a great liar. Just like every other doping cyclist. Except Floyd Landis.
Armstrong isn’t cycling’s greatest fraud – any cyclist who dopes fits that bill.
Call him the sport’s biggest “liar, liar, pants on fire” or even “cycling’s nastiest meany pants” but he’s no more a fraud that everyone else who cheated… which is basically almost every pro.
Look at it this way, prior to 2007, I know of two male pro cyclists who didn’t cheat. Two. Greg LeMond and that other guy. I don’t remember his name. Ironically.
One final note… if you have to hate Armstong, hate him for this:
I was on steroids for a little more than a week for poison ivy. I have no idea why they put people on steroids for poison ivy, I just know it took the itch from 11 down to a reasonable 6. It was unbearable at 11. Spinal Tap 11.
Being a cyclist and being on steroids was an incredibly interesting experience as fitness goes. I now understand why the Pros cheat. The difference is not small – and I wasn’t even on the good stuff.
Now let’s bring the downer into this first. Stay on roids too long and your body will eventually kick you in the groin. Figuratively and literally. Diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, etc., etc., holy moly, etc. Now, this is just for steroids used to treat medical issues, anabolic steroids are a whole different mess but I’m going to keep it simple because I’m not a doctor… and the chances are, you aren’t either. The following is my experience with being on Prednisone for nine days, cycling all the while…. With a gnarly poison ivy rash. Hey, you’re gonna itch anyway, may as well do it with a smile on my face.
Day one. Height 6′ tall, on the nose. Weight 180.5 pounds. Three 20 mg tablets of Prednisone. The itching from my poison ivy didn’t subside right away but I felt an extra jolt of energy that was surprising. I went for a ride that evening and it was AMAZING. I was pressed for time so it was only 16 miles but it was supposed to be an easy pace in preparation for the big weekend. There was no speed record but the easy 16 miles only took 50 minutes (19 mph pace).
Day two. Weight 181. Three more 20 mg tablets of Prednisone. On waking I noticed I didn’t hurt. No muscle aches, no pains, no “age pain”, and the itching of my poison ivy was mercifully reasonable. I woke up at 2:00 am, for no good reason, but I felt quite amazing. I had half a day’s work done before I would normally wake up on a Friday. My energy was through the roof. 39 miles with my wife and friends, 18.3 mph. I spent most of the ride up front.
Day three. Weight 187.5 pounds. Three 20 mg tablets of Prednisone. 187.5 pounds?! Seriously? Yep. Woke up at 2 am again. Still, I felt awesome and we were getting into the big weekend miles. I did freak about my weight though. I did a search on the internet to try to figure out what the hell. Turns out weight-gain is common. Damn did it suck though. 60-1/2 miles, 18-1/2 mph pace, I spent a TON of time up front. No pain, no soreness, the whole ride, I felt spectacular. Indescribably spectacular.
Day Four. 187.5. Two tablets today, the dose starts to diminish. Up at 2 am again. This is getting freaking old, in a hurry. On the other hand…. UNLIMITED POWER!!!! That 60 miles yesterday should have hurt… something. Nope. Zero pain, zero creaks… I feel like I’m 20. My energy is still through roof. Another 48 miles and change, up front much of the ride. Trying to make up for the lack of sleep at night with naps now. I’m tired but have too much energy to sleep more than 4 hours at night.
Day Five. Two tablets. 187.5 pounds. Four hours of sleep. Again. My wife is starting to notice that I’m irritable. I have zero patience. Rain day so no cycling. Legs feel frickin’ awesome – hell, my whole body feels amazing. Lack of sleep is really getting to me, though I did manage an extra hour.
Day Six. Same thing. Carbon copy. Mountain bikes because it was too windy, cold and crappy.
With Day Seven the dose dropped again and I gained another hour of sleep. Still heavy and feeling chubby. I felt awesome though and my weight did start to drop again. Down to 185. Day Eight I was down to 183.
The big change came on day 10. No more steroids. 58 miles on the bike and the last ten miles hurt. I feel like me again and that’s kind of a bummer. There is no desire to try to “get more”. I know me better than that. Tomorrow is going to be tough. Another 60….
61-1/2 actually, and it did hurt. 210 miles in six days, due to a rain day and a short Tuesday. I can feel it too.
That is the difference and the allure of steroids; Exercise doesn’t hurt the same. I’m 46 years-old, and a young 46 at that, but I’m no spring chicken. When I put in a hard workout, I pay for it. On Prednisone it was all push, no pay. All I can say is I wish I could feel that good naturally.
How good, specifically? Good enough I no longer fear poison ivy. In fact, I might have to make getting a poison ivy rash part of my normal springtime training.
I’ll bet you think I’m kidding.
Actually, I am, but only barely. The pull to recover fully and quickly, with a cherry on top of a good jolt of energy (on par with a few good cups of coffee, that doesn’t fade after 30 minutes) is strong… and my livelihood doesn’t depend on my performance on a bike. I just ride for fun. To put a bow on this post, I was better off ignorant of the benefits of ‘roid use. It was easier to maintain my righteous indignation.
How did team Cannondale’s conversation go?
“M’kay, we’ve got the typical Cannondale cool green kit. Now let’s work on the dome cover.”
“Hey, how about a POC lid? Let’s go with yellow, one that’s too fat and makes our riders look like they’re riding in a Super Mario Brothers video game….”
“You mean a dome cover that makes our guys look like they’re wearing a mushroom top on their heads?! BRILLIANT!”
Normally I try to reserve my personal opinion because I know what I think does not matter, not even a little bit. In the case of this monstrosity of a helmet, I feel pretty safe though.
The POC dome cover is, inarguably, the ugliest helmet on the planet. It’s so ugly, it’s actually impossible to look cool wearing the lid. Marcel Kittel, arguably the prettiest cyclist in the peloton, couldn’t look good in that helmet. It’s that impossible.
Humorously, that stupid lid costs better than $240. Dude, my daughter, when she was five, had a Finding Nemo helmet that was cooler than the POC dome. Seriously.
After seeing that helmet at the front all day in Stage One, I’m calling for renaming it the POC WTFWYT Aero Helmet (What The F*** Were You Thinking).
Damn, that’s one ugly melon protector. It deserves its own Velominati rule. Just sayin’.
Today’s post will be rather short and sweet as my wife and I went out last evening, for a bike ride and dinner, to celebrate being a couple for twenty years.
On August 19th, 1995 we went on our first unofficial date together. We met at a dance, danced the night away and went to a local boat launch to drink coffee and learn something about each other. We talked for several hours, about Elvis and the Beatles, about Star Wars and sobriety.
As fate would have it, Jessica was the woman God made for me, as I was the man He made for her.
We’ve been through good times and bad. We’ve been richer and poorer. In sickness and health. My wife has been my best friend since that day; my hot, smokin’ babymama (in the Elvis sense, not the seedy “mother of my babies”).
We would go on to marry, to make a commitment to God and have wonderful children and build a beautiful life together… Through faith, hard work, and dedication. Forsaking all others, till death do us part.
Our successful marriage didn’t come easy though. It took struggle, work, compromise, understanding and doing a whole lot of stuff for the other that we didn’t want to do – and it ultimately took making a conscious decision to be married, not two people living single but together. As my good friend Mike once said, “Jimmy, sometimes you wanna throw ’em like a dart but you just gotta love ’em”. Truer words have never been spoken.
[ED. Just in case you’re wondering, my drink is an Arnold Palmer – half-and-half lemonade and iced tea. Also, an hour before the photo of my wife and I on our mountain bikes was taken, it was raining. I was CERTAIN that I’d finally get a day off… Well, it cleared up so we went for an easy 14 mph spin down the dirt road, ten miles out and back.]
I’ve developed and started a new training plan for cycling that’s going to be awesome! I will become a better, faster cyclist because of it and I am posting it here, for the benefit of all new cyclists that they may reach, even exceed, their goals.
To start, a decent cycling base is a must. Start before the snow melts (if you happen to be unlucky enough to live where it snows) on the trainer. Alternate hard efforts (30 – 45 minutes) incorporating intervals, medium efforts and easy efforts. For the easy days, concentrate on high cadence (100+ rpm) and perfecting a “circular” cycling pattern in easy gears.
Once the snow melts and outdoor cycling can commence on a regular basis, I want to build frequency, concentrating mainly on building distance at first, then adding speed, or intensity. I am already an accomplished cyclist so I won’t have to worry too much about the technical aspects, but if you’re new, now is the time to work on important things like cycling in a straight line (I’m not kidding) and paying close attention to your surroundings while maintaining a consistent pace and tempo. The importance of this phase cannot be understated because it will come in handy later.
By mid to late spring, you want to be in decent enough shape and have enough miles under your belt that you can join in with the advanced group – an average of 18-19 mph is helpful, even necessary. If you’re not quite there yet, increase your intensity by short strides. Cycle at your normal pace until you warm up and then kick it for a stretch until you have to slow down to your normal pace. Rest for a few minutes and hit it again. Rinse and repeat – you will get faster, and in a hurry. To aid in this process, attack every rolling hill you come across. Instead of slowing down going up a hill, make it your goal to speed up. Now, in the advanced groups you should find that there will be three distinct groups: The racers, the mid-level cyclists and the slower crowd. If you’re not planning on racing, you want the mid-level group. They’ll be the one’s who hang on for the first 15-20 miles of the club ride but fall off when the pace really picks up. This is the group you want, this is the group I hang with. They should be just a little bit faster than you, but if you stay in their draft and take short (but fair) turns pulling, you’ll be able to stay with them. As the weeks build, work on taking longer pulls up front. Use the group ride as one of your hard efforts and solo rides as medium and easy efforts (same idea for the easy efforts as you used on the trainer – slower speed [16-17 mph] with a high cadence).
Before you know it, you will be faster. Not only will you be faster, you’ll be keeping pace with the 21-22 mph group and enjoying a very nice draft so you’re only going to be working hard when you’re second from the front and pulling up front. The rest will be 30-50% less effort.
Now, if you’re new to cycling, this plan might sound pretty cool. If you really don’t know anything about cycling, it may even seem revolutionary. It’s not. This is actually, pretty much, how I got fast on my own. It’s nothing special because there is nothing new under this sun, it’s just a matter of phrasing.
Look at the Galloway method of running and walking… You will not run faster if you walk. If walking for a few seconds every mile was faster, you’d see it practiced in competitive athletes. Walking is, after all, slower is it not? Well, not entirely because we hear of plenty of runners who knock time off of their personal bests by walking for a short time every mile or so. How could this be?
The Galloway method is just like any other diet or training plan. Joe Freil’s triathlon training plans, and all of the different methods of cycling: Hill repeats, cycling in a circle, lifting on the back stroke, “scraping mud off of your shoe”… They all work for one reason only. They’re all based on changing the one thing that boosts performance the most. Your mind. You only have to run at a hard pace for a mile before you get a respite. Then you do it again and again until you get to that last mile… This changes the focus to something much more attainable.
These training plans get you to believe the very most important thing: I can – or better, I will.
Special Thanks to Tisch at 90in9 for inspiring this post, you inspire so many cool ideas for my posts. I appreciate you greatly.
UPDATE: One last note… There is no such thing as “cycling faster with less effort”, unless you take the draft into account for “less effort”. The truth is, you get used to the harder effort – the “suffering” becomes the new norm. In other words, “it doesn’t get easier, you just go faster” – to borrow a quote.
Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time should be expecting a glowing review of Fruit Loops with marshmallows. While Fruit Loops with marshmallows are heavenly, that’s not where I was necessarily going with this post… Give me a little credit would you?
My favorite pre-ride cereal is Mom’s Best Cereals: Blue Pom Wheat-fuls. Blueberry and Pomegranate icing encrusted mini-wheats.
I like the stuff so much I’m even willing to overlook the fact that they have to charge more for their cereal to offset the cost of their silly decision to purchase wind energy credits against the fossil fuel they use to power their cereal plant. Talk about a twisted web of idiocy… Who knew they could top the Carbon Credit scam?
Anywho, unlike most cereals, it doesn’t take three bowls to fill me up. Just one does the trick, it tastes fantastic and doesn’t leave a nagging weight in my stomach. It’s what I depend on to fuel those long Saturday and Sunday rides: Mom’s Best Cereals Blue Pom Wheat-fuls.
On vacation, we’re staying in a house that has dish service rather than cable. Unfortunately the only channel that happens to be carrying the Tour is a subscription channel on the dish and we don’t get it. Having not seen any coverage since we left, I was missing it terribly. I tried Googling ‘TdF live streaming’ and much to my surprise, there’s an app for that. It cost me ten bucks but I’ve been able to watch both stages since I bought it and I’m getting my fix in… Awesome!
Watching the 100th running of the Tour de France on my phone: Priceless!