Hamilton’s The Secret Race

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France
Tyler Hamilton

This is one of the best book on the culture of pro-cycling. It’s also one of the best books on the mechanics of doping, especially, in endurance sports, and on the psychology and pressure that can lead a good kid far astray in pursuit of his ambitions.

Tyler Hamilton was one of the premier cycling stars of the late 90s and early 2000s coming up through the ranks to join Lance Armstrong and the all-powerful U.S. Postal team for its dominance of the Tour De France and the other big stage races. Hamilton started off, as all these guys did, as a talented rider. But in the pro-peloton of the 1990s, talent wasn’t enough. Not long after hitching his star to Armstrong, Hamilton began doping, first with EPO, the legendary performance enhancing drug which was rampant in endurance sports in the 90s, and then with blood doping – the practice of removing your own red blood cells and then reinjecting them to increase your red blood cell count.

For a while, Hamilton was seen as the next Lance Armstrong, a rising star in a sport of rising American popularity. Then he got caught. And while he denied his crimes (and cynically raised money from fans to fight the charges), he eventually confessed to years and years of systematic cheating and was banned from the sport.

I’ve followed pro-cycling for much of my life. From the time Greg LeMond won the tour, I’ve been hooked. I followed Hamilton’s career very closely and when he said he was clean, I believed him. How naïve.

After the revelations started to come out about Hamilton, and Armstrong, and Hincapie, and every major American cycling star of the era, I felt angry with the lot of them. But this book does a lot to humanize these men* and the pressures they were under. Right or wrong, they felt they needed to do it. They felt everyone else was doing the same thing. Of course, this is self-justification, but it’s also likely true. Was every rider in the peleton doping? No. But all of the riders with a shot at winning were.

That’s the ugly truth and one I’ve come to embrace as central to understanding the sport. To follow cycling serious is to follow cheating, and specifically doping, seriously. There has always been a secret race. And this book, more than any other I’ve read, gives you an insight into that aspect of the sport.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

 

*Except Armstrong, Armstrong is a socio-path who, this book makes clear, ruined people’s lives with little regret.

2015: My Physical Year

What is there to say about my physical year? I did more than I did in 2014, but still not nearly enough. It’s never enough. I could beat myself up over that, but instead, I’ll let the numbers do the talking.

Running

  • I ran 1383.6 miles in 2015. That’s about 300 more than in 2014. I was shooting for 2000 (again) and guess what? I failed (again).
  • Those 1,383.6 miles were spread across 176 sessions, for an average of 7.85 miles per run. In total, I spent a little over 228 hours running.
  • Nearly half my running (631 miles) was done in Prospect Park where I ran 80 different times.
  • My longest runs were my two marathons, Vermont City and New York City. I also ran one other race, the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

Cycling

  • For my fortieth birthday this year, E got me a very nice bike. So far, I’ve put 416 miles on it.
  • I also put 206.8 miles on my dear old Pista for a total of 622.8 cycling miles in about fifty hours.

Swimming and other stuff

  • I swam a bit this year as well, not much, but some. It ended up being only about 5 miles in only about three hours.
  • In addition to my running races, I also did the New York City Triathlon, which I loved, and which I hope to do again this year.
  • I also did the occasional body weight work, but not enough to really track.

Conclusions

I had high hopes of this year, but again did not meet them. I think in the coming year, I need to revaluate how much time I really have, and how much commitment I genuinely have, and set my goals appropriately. But that’s for a post for a later day.

Training Totals – Week Ending 10-20-2013

Ran a little, biked a little, climbed a little.  Enjoyed myself for the first time in months.  Sore as hell from my return to climbing and body weight training — which is nice.  Looking forward to doing a little more of each in the coming week.  I’m a sucker for the feeling of a sore muscle.  Its the feeling of getting somewhere.

The Numbers.

 

Run: 8.5 in 1:20:10
Bike: 18 in 1:32:49
Climb: ~1:45
Strength and Flexibility: ~00:45
Total Exercise Time: ~5:30
Hebrew: 1:15:00

 

The Return of the Training Totals

The statistics page for this website makes clear that no one cares about my weekly training totals.*  That’s ok, if I was in this for the hit count I’d be posting about sideboobs and Miley Cyrus, not ultrarunning and ancient cultures. 

Anyway, for the seven or eight of you who care how I spent my time this week, I present the return of the weekly training totals.

This is the first week in a long, long time where I felt like I actually did some running.  Its nice when work is slow.  The only run that was of any quality was yesterday’s 13 miler.  But heh, miles are miles. 

This week, I’m on “vacation” meaning I am not in the office, and hopefully I will only be working occasionally.  I’m looking for my first fifty miles week in months, plus some hiking time.  Shit, maybe even some swimming.  We’ll see.

The Numbers.

 

Total Exercise Time ~ 6:15
Run 32.6 in 5:05:10
Bike 15.1 in 1:15:44

* even less people read the occasional stoic pieces.  Those too will continue.  Its my website and I’ll bore you if I want to.

Cycling 500,000 miles?

I’ve written about running legend Amby Burfoot’s website 100k lifetime miles before.  Burfoot keeps a sort of unofficial record of runners who have logged at least 100,000 miles in their lifetime.  It’s an impressive list.  Running 100,000 miles takes incredible dedication and years upon years of consistent mileage.  I started way too late in life to ever hit that number, but I return to the site often to be inspired by the dedication these runners exhibit.

Lately I’ve been cycling more, and this morning on my ride to work I got to thinking about Burfoot’s website, the incredible milestone for a runner that 100,000 miles represents, and I wondered, what is the equivalent for a cyclist?  What amount of mileage shows true, obsessive, dedication to the sport?

It has to be more than 100,000 miles.  But is it 250,000? 500,000? 750,000? 1,000,000?  I’m not sure.  In my googling, I have found only one person, Freddie Hoffman, who can credibly claim to have cycled over a million miles.  As of 2001, Hoffman had ridden over 1,200,000 miles.  That’s a lot of riding.  Accomplished ultra cyclist Danny Chew is pushing for one million miles.  He has already ridden over 700,000, but that has taken him more than twenty years.

Hoffman and Chew are clearly outliers.  They devote truly mind boggling amounts of time to riding a bike.  Their accomplishments are impressive, but not realistic for an amateur.  So what is an impressive, but attainable, goal?  250k seems too small; 750k too much.  Perhaps 500K the marker of life of dedication to the sport?  Veteran amateur cyclist Bill Bauer has ridden that much.  I imagine others have as well.

Me?  I’m too late to the game, and do not have the dedication to the sport to ever hit these impressive milestones.  Still, I can be inspired by these incredible performances to get back on the bike and put in a couple more miles.

Have you ridden some serious miles?  Comment or get in touch.  I haven’t found much online about this, and I’m dyign to learn more!

The Egoist on the Fixed Gear

Good friend and fellow cyclist Joe over at movement movement wrote a great post about his love for breaking the law on his bicycle.  The article wonderfully captures the romance of fixed gear bike culture in a specific place (New York) and a specific time (the early 2000s) but its conclusion that cyclists in New York should “fuck the law” is dead wrong.

There was a time when riding a bike through New York streets was a death defying act.  People really were out to get you.  I’ve had a cabbie throw a cup at me; I’ve  kicked an SUV after it swerved to hit my girlfriend, and I’ve gotten into more screaming matches than I can remember.  It used to be rough out there. I couldn’t blame cyclists, especially those who made their living on their bikes, for worrying more about getting home alive than the rules of the road.

I am going to give this gentleman the benefit of the doubt and hope this road was closed to traffic.

But New York has changed.  Now there are thousands of people cycling in New York every day and the city has accommodated those cyclists by building hundreds of miles of bike lanes, encouraging employers to support bike riding, and making the whole experience a hell of a lot safer and more pleasant.  Cyclists owe their fellow residents of the city a little civility in return.

The average New York Cyclists of today

When cyclists blow through an intersection, they’re not just endangering themselves.  They’re endangering the people in the cars around them and the pedestrians who have to dodge them.  They’re undermining the idea that cyclists are part of the fabric of New York and reinforcing the idea that all cyclists are dangerous, egomaniacal assholes who are not to be trusted.

Put simply –they are undermining the social contract that keeps this mess of a city from exploding.

This place holds together because, for the most part, New Yorkers treat each other with respect and obey certain social conventions.  We let people get off the train before we get on, we try not the block the doors when others are exiting, we treat each other with dignity – if not always politness.*  When a cyclist screams through an intersection, or hops up on the sidewalk, or speeds  her way through pedestrians crossing the street, she is not just breaking the law, she is disrespecting, and endangering, her fellow New Yorkers.  She’s putting her personal expression of “freedom” above her responsibility to her neighbors.

It drives me nuts.  And it drives me even crazier when this culture of rule breaking is associated with progressive politics.  As I have said before, how can I trust an Occupy Wall Street activist to create a better world when I cannot even trust them to treat an old lady crossing the street with respect?  Our behavior has consequences. Our personal freedoms are not without limits.  Our traffic lights are there for a reason.  Pay attention to them.

And get over yourself, dude, This isn’t 1987, and you’re not Kevin Bacon.

*And woe unto you who breaks these rules.  I hate you even more than I hate asshats on fixed gear bikes.