Ya gotta eat!

Guest Article: Tomorrow Belongs To Me

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@Steamy is on fire here, so listen up. Cycling is a stern task master. She asks too much of your time. She asks you to eat but not too much, not too little. Saturday night talk is cheap; it’s what happens early on that dark Sunday morning that counts. Carpe the hell out of that diem, Velominati.

VLVV, Gianni

For an historian, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the future. It’s a work thing: a longstanding interest in how past societies imagined their futures. And why we (still) don’t have jetpacks. The history of the future is a fun way to geek out on science fiction and new technologies and still call it work. I teach this stuff, too, and so have a wild collection of past futures material I can bring into the classroom. The future doesn’t need to be some far-distant utopia or dystopic landscape. It is often the mundane—or the simple practice of planning ahead. The other evening, the “future” playlist came around to Shane McGowan’s rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” It’s a pretty ragged recording—his love song for Glasgow, one of three dirty old towns to which he owes his allegiance (four, if you include New York). Good Irish jigs typically are ragged, but McGowan must have been in especially poor form that day. He’s slurring and stumbling through the song: barely coherent. The braggadocio—that soibealta—that gives him his traditional swagger is missing. He sounds broken. Tired. It’s like he’s going through the motions. A jour sans, perhaps. You have to wonder if the producer wasn’t tempted to come into the booth and say something like: “Y’know Shane. Dis isn’t very good. Why don’t we try in da mornin after ye’ve sobered up a bit?” Or maybe he did and this is the next morning after another spree.

Goodness knows, I’ve had mornings like that on the bike. (This is actually a short essay on cycling and not a music review: this is a cycling website after all and I don’t know shit about music). My hips are stiff, my knees won’t bend, my shoulders are wracked with knots. I can’t muster the energy to get my socks on. Some mornings, the very act of selecting bibs and jersey are enough to put me off. The alchemy of riding says that all these ailments disappear within minutes of clipping into the pedals, but that doesn’t make the morning preparation any less of a struggle. And on some days, I’m perfectly capable of talking myself out of a ride altogether. But as the weather warms in the northern hemisphere and each day is welcoming for a ride, I find my form turning the corner. And with that corner, new incentives emerge to get on the bike and rediscover long forgotten fitness. The elusive promise of la volupté is tantalizingly close. Maybe tomorrow will belong to me. Or the next day. Or the day after that. “As long as I am riding/Tomorrow belongs to me…”

But there’s another catch. That form comes not just from cultivating your Rule #7 compliant time in the sun and measuring your rides in vertical metres, but also from showing a modicum of restraint at the table—and in the times away from the table. Food and drink are my undoing. They are a perpetual temptation. I was taught to finish my plate. The rules were less clear on how much food to load on. And there are evenings where a second glass of wine sounds like a very good idea. I’m good with brownies. I’ve never met a ginger & molasses cookie I didn’t like. Pie? It’s better fresh; eat it now.

And this is the poisonous promise of tomorrow. As I approach peak fitness, it’s easy to excuse another snack. I’ll ride that off tomorrow. I’ll shed the last 3kgs next week. Mañana. Always mañana. There’s a beautiful optimism that accompanies that attitude. But it’s laced with a venomous mirage. Hell, I should know. Professionally, I’ve been brimming with potential for nearly twenty years. That’s nice, but delivering on that potential would be better. There are days when I climb on the bike and the world is almost my oyster. But they’re fleeting, ethereal, and just out of reach. They’re near impossible to replicate without the devotion, discipline, and grinta required to see the job through. If I could identify which of my molars was the sweet tooth, I’d tear it out. In some psychological circles, experts say that we treat our future selves as strangers to whom we owe nothing. Which is to say not very well. If we ever invent time machines, my future self is coming back to kick my past self in the ass.

I’m not going to go all carpe diem on you, but tomorrow you will die. And if not tomorrow, then the next day. Or the day after that. If you’re into the afterlife, I’m pretty sure there are excellent pelotons in both heaven and hell. And if the bell tolls, you want your guns locked and loaded, not a week away. If the idea of a life after death doesn’t work for you, well: this is all you’ve got. Ride and be fantastic doing it. Riding is about sacrifice. There is no earthly reason why anyone should willingly choose to inflict such pain on oneself. But riding is also a battle against your own inner demons. It’s about conquering the voices in your head, the self-defeating detractions. Free your mind and your legs will follow. But free your mind from the temptations. And resist the notion that you can undo today’s trespasses tomorrow.

It’s a funny bit of conceptual chemistry—that the unbridled freedom of la volupté demands a Spartan-like rigorous adherence to discipline. A paradox, if you will. Discipline and temptation are two sides of the same coin. Lock the larder to unlock the guns: then tomorrow might actually belong to me.

// Guest Article

  1. My downfall is beer. Good malty Belgian beers. Got whipped by TMWTH today. Looking for solace in a glass of Saison.

  2. This is the article. This is the time. Think future self. Thnx

  3. @Kyle

    Oh yes…beer indeed. Many beers. There have been times lately that I’ve considered “herbal” alternates to beer, now that that option is legal here in Washington. But much like the bike calls to me on a daily basis, beers call my name as well. Such a burden….

  4. An article about restraint? Just as the V-Gear pre-order goes live? Now I’m even more conflicted than usual, and really want a brownie.

  5. Love love love that photo. Look at the Prophet’s face.

    Now to actually read the article…

  6. Great conceptual stuff to ponder on… I like it. Cheers, Steampunk.

  7. While on the first KT in 2012 we rode one day around the cobbles and bergs of Oudenaarde with a Belgian former semi-pro. His name escapes me but he was a tall, skinny, handsome bloke that, as you’d expect from a Belgian, was really put together on the bike. I asked him why he liked to ride. He said, “so I can drink beer.” This was also why he stopped racing. His life seemed to be in balance. “I ride so I can drink beer” has been my mantra ever since.

  8. @Marko

    While on the first KT in 2012 we rode one day around the cobbles and bergs of Oudenaarde with a Belgian former semi-pro. His name escapes me but he was a tall, skinny, handsome bloke that, as you’d expect from a Belgian, was really put together on the bike. I asked him why he liked to ride. He said, “so I can drink beer.” This was also why he stopped racing. His life seemed to be in balance. “I ride so I can drink beer” has been my mantra ever since.

    “I ride so I can drink beer”… and enjoy great big giant bowls of pasta with lotsa bread! cheers

  9. @Kyle

    My downfall is beer. Good malty Belgian beers. Got whipped by TMWTH today. Looking for solace in a glass of Saison.

    Bravo. If one pint is good. Shouldn’t 3 be better? Solace in an Alpine IPA Duet.

  10. I’m in a bit of a dilemma with this one. I realised about a year ago I’d got a bit chunky, and summoned all my restraint for a sustained period of about 6 months. That, along with massively increased mileage on the bike has seen me shed 11 kilos in the year.

    I am now Training Properly and increasing my time and intensity in the saddle further, and find my appetite has gone berserk. I also don’t really want lose much more weight. So I am trying to find the delicate balance of eating enough to keep my massive engine topped up with fuel, without putting on or losing kgs. For reference, that was over 3500 calories yesterday.

    And I haven’t started training hard yet…

  11. @Oli

    Great conceptual stuff to ponder on… I like it. Cheers, Steampunk.

    Name everyone in that photo. Go.

  12. Jam Rolly Polly and custard. I wonder in how many parts of the word that is simply not understood.

  13. Very nice! I enjoyed this piece!!

    I always feel good once on the bike, but I’m hitting the age where the day after 90 minutes of running on turf during my twice-a-week soccer involves a lot of pain. My feet, ankles, lower back and hip flexors are not happy campers. Bending down to tie my shoes or do up my buckles and dials is not easy.

    As for riding, I grew bored riding my commuter bikes to work, so I’ve been riding my road and cross bikes. Nothing quite as awesome as a bit of riding on a nice steed before the work day!

    Planning for tomorrow. I used to be pretty bad at that. I’m getting better. Thankfully after a few months of hard work on a project, the end is in sight. Cranking out work today, on a Saturday, should mean that by next weekend I can wrap things up. Can’t wait!

  14. I’ve learned never to talk about weight and eating around non-cyclists (and certainly NEVER around my VMH).

    Beer however, I can chat away to my heart’s content with nary a shocked look.

  15. @RobSandy

    Maybe not everyone (couple for @Oli to identify), but I’d say Motta (eating), ?, Gimondi (in sunglasses), Franco Balmamion, Jose Perez Frances, ?, Merckx, Franco Bitossi.

  16. @RobSandy

    Haha! Er, that’s Eddy Merckx in the Peugeot jersey, then it’s um…ah…that guy, you know the one…then that other dude, old whatsisname…and some other chaps.

  17. @pistard

    Shit, I can’t even SEE anyone in sunglasses!

  18. @Oli

    I’ve always loved this photo, and I have a slightly higher resolution version. Gimondi is just behind Balmamion in the Salvarani jersey.

    Now pretty sure of the other two as well. On Motta’s immediate left is Vittorio Adorni (Salamini-Luxor) and the rider visible between Perez Frances and The Prophet is Lino Farisato (Mainetti).

  19. Was it common for riders to munch huge plates of pasta while racing in t’olden days?

  20. @pistard

    Outstanding work!

  21. @Oli

    @RobSandy

    Haha! Er, that’s Eddy Merckx in the Peugeot jersey, then it’s um…ah…that guy, you know the one…then that other dude, old whatsisname…and some other chaps.

    My father hasn’t been able to tell me the name of the movie he watched over the weekend for about five years now. He’s not senile, he just can’t commit them to memory. Oh and…he’s such a cheapskate he mainly gets his movies from the public library, which isn’t exactly committing a lot of money to inventory…

  22. @Teocalli

    Jam Rolly Polly and custard. I wonder in how many parts of the word that is simply not understood.

    Rolly polly yourself in jam until you custard? Bah

    Great article!
    Recently I have begun to obsess. Obsess that I am not eating enough and so my guns have eaten themselves thin, but I have eaten too much, that I have a little too much round the middle compared to the withered sticks I call arms and legs. Surely inflicting this much pain should result in the Pro skeletal frame, no?
    I worked out I was eating to a ritual of 3 days around a big ride or group ride.
    Day 1 – I need to load up, I have a big ride tomorrow. Queue copious consumption of highly refined carbohydrates.
    Day 2 – Ride day – I need to refuel my aching guns. Queue copious consumption of highly refined carbohydrates, including beer. Especially beer. Because I deserve it. Right?
    Day 3 – Recovery day – I need to make sure I have enough stores back, I still feel tired, and I need to ride again. Must have lacked nutrition yesterday then. Queue copious consumption of highly refined carbohydrates in an effort to catch back up.
    Given that this is a 3day period and I ride 3 times a week, divided by 3, carry the 1…
    I’m fucked.

  23. @Beers

    A man after my own heart…

  24. This year I decided to loose the last of the spare tyre. I was going to smash the KOM this year (and I did just for the record!). So, since my weight had stagnated for 12 months or more, and I couldn’t figure how I would survive on less food, I paid for an expert opinion. Best $120 I have ever spent. Amoungst other fine tuning of my diet, he had me actually eating MORE!!, but only on days preceeding a hard/long day on the bike, then back to normal on the other days. The last few kilos literally dropped off.

    That’s the take away for me… eat today, what you need for tomorrow. I was eating the same every day, but not riding the same every day. On saturdays – which are 100km plus, and fast, I would eat well the rest of the day to “replensih stores” but then not ride on Sunday. Bad idea.

    The other trick was to tell the VMH who loves to bake; Put it in a container and hide it. Don’t offer it to me, I don’t want to know about it”. It’s easy not to eat it if I don’t know it’s there!

  25. My formula is quite easy, I ride to ensure I can eat & drink what I want. This does have me a little concerned about what might happen over the next 6-12 months when riding is at an extreme minimum due to the onset of twins…

  26. @Mikael Liddy

    My formula is quite easy, I ride to ensure I can eat & drink what I want. This does have me a little concerned about what might happen over the next 6-12 months when riding is at an extreme minimum due to the onset of twins…

    6000 + meters climbed in one day gets a few credits in the bank though.

  27. Excellent prose, as usual, professor. Thanks.

  28. Late to post this, but every time I see the title of Steamy’s piece, this comes to mind:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN7r0Rr1Qyc

    Powerful scene from a great movie.

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