Into the Wild  photo-Jeremy Kershaw

Into the Wild photo-Jeremy Kershaw

Guest Article: Zen and Getting Your Ass Beat

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This is the kind of guest article I love. It is also the first proper report of the 2014 Heck to reach the Velominati bunker. The V was strong at the 2014 Heck with Velominati flying across the Atlantic from Scotland and old school road trips from the East coast. This is the reason this site exists. We all like to get in over our heads and barely survive the day. Upon beery recuperation the excellence of the day can be seen, N+1 considered anew and one’s love of cycling has expanded. You could be lighter, you could be fitter but screw it, you have an almost proper bike and suffering with your fellow cyclist is the best. Thanks to @PeakinTwoYears for the tale, may you slay all in 2015. 

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

This year was my intro to gravel riding. I got sucked in I mean interested because racing the Heck of the North (video teaser) in Minnesota of all places with Velominati sounded like a gas and an excuse I mean reason to acquire a gravel bike for riding logging roads in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains of Washington state, near my home.

Therefore I told myself, last winter, that I would train for the Heck, that I would lose V kilos, that I would do intervals. I told myself all that all spring and then all summer.

Have I mentioned to any of you in person, this year, what a fabulous year it was for coastal kayaking on the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in the Discovery Islands of British Columbia? That I paddled with a curious and personable whale?

Then suddenly came October, and I was flying to Minneapolis with @G’rilla. @G’rilla was looking fit. I took his measure with discreet sidelong glances at the gate at Sea-Tac and burped up stomach gasses from a buttery scone.

I knew I had a tough day coming.

A certain teacher of Buddhist practice said that two things are really important to do: 1) show up, 2) take the consequences. Allow me to illustrate: first, if you’re going to the Heck, you should go with a clear intention to be really present to the Heckness of the Heck, however that might manifest itself. Second, if you did Sweet Fuck-All by way of training for the Heck, you should take responsibility for your choices, pack your fat gut into your big-boy bibs, and get on with the suffering in a spirit of grateful acceptance.

On the warm-up or shake-down ride the day before the race, @G’rilla, @Marko, and @The Engine dropped me on the climb up from the shore of Lake Superior or Gichigami, and I was even more confident that I had a tough day coming. On race day, during the 9km controlled roll-out, again climbing gently up from the lake, I was breathing with more gusto, with more force, than I could have wished, and I was fully persuaded””utterly convinced””that I had a tough day ahead of me.

Once up on the plateau above the lake, I felt much better, and my enjoyment of the first trail section (genuine single-track, with just enough slippery wet tree roots to make it feel a bit like home) inspired a treacherous false sense of well-being. It was the only place on the course that day where I was passing more than passed. For much of the rest of the day, flogging myself through bogs that other riders kept referring to as “trails,” I missed that section grievously.

At some point, I was relieved to find that @Marko had throttled back to find other Velominati to ride with (i.e., to assist). I wound up spending a good part of the race with him, mostly on his wheel, conversing a bit while trying to maintain a pace somewhere between not annoying the hell out of him and not absenting myself from the last two hours of the race. @Marko embodies the best of La Vie Velominatus, and riding with him was by far the most enjoyable aspect of the day.

At the checkpoint two-thirds of the way through, @Roger joined us, and soon those two were off to finish the day on their own terms, leaving me to work through the straightforward karma of my spring and summer in dignified solitude. I say “dignified” because I was alone so no one could hear me whimper or moan or sigh. That is, they couldn’t have had I done any of those or similar things.

I ended the day three-fourths down the list of finishers, but I console myself with the ratio of finishers to DNFs, the latter a number unknown but, given the numbers of finishers and available starting slots, shockingly high. And the camaraderie at the pub afterward””such a pub, with two such fine IPAs, in such a small town on the shores of Gichigami of all places””was precisely proportional to the difficulty of the course and the conditions. (Did I note that it was fucking cold and windy and wet? Did I touch on the stream crossing a tenth of the way into a 170km course with sub-freezing wind chill? On how many km’s involved pushing or carrying one’s bike through water and submerged moss and mud and God knows what all was underfoot?)

But the thing””the very best thing””about this experience, was the thoroughness of the ass-whipping I took. I showed up, and I took the consequences. I suffered like a dog, all damned day, and my time sucked. I had nothing to say at the end of day other than that I’d showed up, finished, and suffered like a dog.

And the effect was a kind of rebirth.

I’ve been doing two interval sessions per week and liking it, a lot. I ordered a Veloforma frame. I’m stoked about riding like I haven’t been since nineteen eighty fucking nine. I’ve barely been in my kayak for the last three months. Next year, I’ll still be a middle-aged short fat guy, a year older. But I’ll be less slow, and I’ll be having more fun, even when I’m taking it in the fucking bibs. Because getting your ass beat, and being really present to the beating, can be a blessing and a rebirth.

// Guest Article // Racing // The Rides

  1. Nicely written, and thanks for bringing back fond memories of a great day on the bike! Meeting the cool crew of Velominati there was indeed a highlight. Looking forward to more. Cheers!

  2. Articles like this reaffirm what this group does for me and for so many. So well said and inspiring me to keep riding even harder than ever. I am going to get my ass kicked this year but I will keep working and coming back if as long as I can keep spinning the pedals !

    Love it!

  3. Fond (now) memories of Fools Gold out of Dahlonega GA. 80 kilometers and 2200 meters per lap. My MB at the time was a single speed hardtail. Longest MB training ride had been 50K, and that in good conditions.

    It rained all week leading up to Fools Gold, and most of the event. Single speed was a bad choice for the heavy climbing, but at least I got to pick my gear and it was reliable. Derailleurs locked up on many other bikes. Mud eventually took out the brakes, leaving me to scrub off speed by weaving on downhills, and walking a particularly steep one.

    They canceled the race after one lap. I finished mid-pack relative to the starting field, but near the back of finishers. Limped in beyond frustration with my clothes moderately clean due to rain, and my bike’s bottom half clean from swollen streams. Ruined the brake pads, chain, and headset.

    Have not entered a MB race since. I don’t mind weather risk with road events, but decided that singletrack has a dark side I would rather not chance.

  4. I am honored by the story. Thank you for taking part in something I hold so dear, this Heck of the North. I do hope to see a strong showing in 2015 for what I plan to be the best Heck yet. Thank you again for taking the time to get your ass kicked in our neck of the woods. Sincerely, Jeremy Kershaw, director of The Heck.

  5. @Nate

    Awesome. Been hoping for a report.

    I need an ass whupping like this as I have been straying a bit from the Path lately.

    I have been straying from the Path lately. God I know how that feels. I’ve had opportunities to get out but right now I’m just not feeling the love. Last time I felt like this, I re read Le Métier and it sorted me out. Better dig it out again

  6. @RedRanger

    Fantastic writing mate. brings back some great memories. Unfortunately I was a DNF at the HOTN, but in the process I got some ok pictures of the event.

    Some to share then?

  7. @PeakInTwoYears

    This article fails in a crucial way-really, the worst way in which it could fail. It fails to focus on the relationships that were either formed or strengthened over that weekend.

    It would take me nineteen times the word count-I calculated this, after the fact-to describe my interactions with and affection for all of the Velominati (and a certain Scottish VMH) I rode and/or hung out with that weekend.

    I love these people.

    So, so true… making the change from virtual to reality is a great complement to the actual bike riding.

  8. @Teocalli

    @RedRanger

    Fantastic writing mate. brings back some great memories. Unfortunately I was a DNF at the HOTN, but in the process I got some ok pictures of the event.

    Some to share then?

    I uploaded some. But they aren’t showing up on vmobile. No idea what that’s about. Maybe @frank can help us out?

  9. @RedRanger

    I saw two sets yesterday afternoon on my phone, but they went away.

  10. @the Engine

    The flag of Awesome.

  11. Why is it that the beat downs offer us the best life lessons?

  12. [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/RedRanger/2015.02.01.13.34.49/1//”/]

  13. Fuckin A! Can I actually post now???

    Awesome Ride Peakin!!! Did the check points have food or water or was it all self-supported the whole day?

  14. No shit!!!

    As Jack said, “I’mmmmmm back!!!” (at least at home–work computer still hates the site)

  15. So would a standard cyclocross rig/tires be OK for this ride or would you do anything different? Curious as I am considering lining up for it

  16. @GogglesPizano

    So would a standard cyclocross rig/tires be OK for this ride or would you do anything different? Curious as I am considering lining up for it

    I’ve ridden it only once, but I can’t see why one would choose anything other than a regular ‘cross bike and tires appropriate to the level of flooding on that particular day.

    Some of the trail sections last fall would have suggested paddle wheels rather than tires, but I think most people’s fork clearance would have precluded that option. I heard it was much wetter the year before.

  17. @PeakInTwoYears

    @GogglesPizano

    So would a standard cyclocross rig/tires be OK for this ride or would you do anything different? Curious as I am considering lining up for it

    I’ve ridden it only once, but I can’t see why one would choose anything other than a regular ‘cross bike and tires appropriate to the level of flooding on that particular day.

    Some of the trail sections last fall would have suggested paddle wheels rather than tires, but I think most people’s fork clearance would have precluded that option. I heard it was much wetter the year before.

    That bog really killed me mentally. Looked like it was just wet grass but my foot sunk to me knee.

  18. What I mean to say was I was knee deep in mud.

  19. @RedRanger – I thought that was just pirate talk.

    @the Engine – Oh, aye.

  20. Inspirational stuff, many many thanks for sharing. Reminds me of my first Sportive, great intentions bad implementation… Still, like you it was heart warming to finish and not join the ranks of “DNF’s”.

  21. @PeakInTwoYears

    Great! Loved every recounted minute of this Heck experience. And this is something to look to in the future.

  22. Sounds like a wild day in the saddle. Good work for showing up even though you knew your form was lacking and even better work on finishing when you could have easily quit.

    Would love to do a ride/race like this. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Good report. Salute.

  24. @Jeremy

    I am honored by the story. Thank you for taking part in something I hold so dear, this Heck of the North. I do hope to see a strong showing in 2015 for what I plan to be the best Heck yet. Thank you again for taking the time to get your ass kicked in our neck of the woods. Sincerely, Jeremy Kershaw, director of The Heck.

    Jeremy,

    Chapeau for organizing such a wonderful event! The energy at and around that race is very positive. The area and the course are beautiful and unsparing. I hope to return. Not this year, I’m afraid, but soon.

    Warm regards,

    David

  25. @Buck Rogers

    No shit!!!

    As Jack said, “I’mmmmmm back!!!” (at least at home-work computer still hates the site)

    We were missing you, @ChrisO was having to post without actually reading the article first to sub for you.

  26. I haven’t been able to post since the site’s upgrade. Which means the quality assurance algorithm is really working well.

    Thanks for the story, Pi2Y. Brings back good memories of a 21-hour road trip each way with @CanuckChuck and @Roger and the awesomeness of putting faces and ride time together with the screen name and scribblings on this here website. So glad to meet Marko, G’rilla, Sir Engine (and his better half), Red Ranger (who is not red in the least), plus Dave and Tom who were the first non-Minnesootans to finish the race.

    Well, riding together was not really happening at the back end: 10 1/2 hours in the saddle and officially DFL, at least until they bent the rules to count the finish of another guy a full hour behind. Canuck Chuck gets all the credit for dragging me through that last off-road section at dusk. Chapeau Chuck!

  27. Love it! @PeakInTwoYears there’s nothing better than signing up for something way outside the comfort bubble and then finishing.

    Okay, maybe there’s few things better and I might have been engaging in a fair amount of hyperbole; regardless, there’s always a good story that comes of it.

  28. @xyxax

    Well, if I hadn’t first slowed you down in the first half of the event, I wouldn’t have had to drag you through the last section at dusk!

  29. @PeakInTwoYears

    Congratulations on the ride, and thanks for giving us a look at this ride/race.

    I’ve been wondering about the amount of time that I waste online. Not reading or researching, but straight-up wasting. Any number of nights I’ve stayed up too late and then thought to myself that I should have spent another hour on the trainer instead, and tried to go to sleep earlier.

    I think I need some of that “present-in-the-moment” to kick me out of my inertia. Cheers for finding it yourself.

  30. @DeKerr

    Love it! @PeakInTwoYears there’s nothing better than signing up for something way outside the comfort bubble and then finishing.

    Okay, maybe there’s few things better and I might have been engaging in a fair amount of hyperbole; regardless, there’s always a good story that comes of it.

    Well, yes, I can think of one or two things I like better, but that gets personal.

    You are one of several persons here who witnessed my execrable fitness level this year. If you come down for the second annual Hurricane Cogal, I promise I will be less fat and slow. And you, no doubt, will be just as gracious and witty and quick on the bike.

    With your same fine taste in Canadian whiskey. /cough/

  31. @cognition

    I’ve been wondering about the amount of time that I waste online. Not reading or researching, but straight-up wasting.

    Dude. I’ve done little else all morning.

    Second annual Hurricane Cogal! Another go at that epic descent?! Right??

  32. “I had nothing to say at the end of day other than that I’d showed up, finished, and suffered like a dog.

    And the effect was a kind of rebirth.”

    You can’t get more Zen than that – Chapeau!!

  33. Nice write-up! Hard to read about all the “fun” – I was registered then work got in the way and I was a non-starter. Looking good for this year though!

  34. @wiscot

    I was sorry you couldn’t make it–was looking forward to meeting you.

  35. @PeakInTwoYears

    Second annual Hurricane Cogal! Another go at that epic descent?! Right??

    If I haven’t moved by then, I’m all in. Hell, if you can ever vouch that the road is dry, I’ll come out there and do it any time between now and then. I miss riding in the mountains.

  36. @GogglesPizano

    I rode on a hard tail mountain bike (26″ wheels) modified with a rigid carbone fork, some bar end drops, and Sammy Slick tires. Worked well on the trail sections, but I would have preferred a proper CX bike when on the tarmac/gravel roads and the wind was howling.

  37. Wind? There was wind?

  38. @cognition

    I’ve been wondering about the amount of time that I waste online. Not reading or researching, but straight-up wasting. Any number of nights I’ve stayed up too late and then thought to myself that I should have spent another hour on the trainer instead, and tried to go to sleep earlier.

    This is one of the reasons I have started commuting again to work/study on my bike. Its a good way to rack up some k’s and motivate yourself.

  39. I feel ya. Getting my assed kicked is my specialty.

  40. Boy, COTHO’s at it again with the lying: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/feb/03/lance-armstrong-let-partner-take-blame-for-car-accident

    What a guy . . .

    Speaking of which, did we ever do a V and Anti-V moments of 2014?

  41. @wiscot

    I’m absolutely sick of hearing about him now. It’s all the BBC Sport has had on the Cycling page for weeks.

  42. C’mon guys, if there was any question he wasn’t a kind, sharing chap, this has cleared it up! I love it when my mates, or VMH, let me take the blame for breaking the law. It’s what makes the heart grow fonder!

    The bonkers thing is when really rich people are too cheap to hire a driver or call a cab. Dumb, broke college kids, okay, though I still wish you wouldn’t drive drunk. But millionaire athletes or celebrities? No excuses. Then again, maybe his personal wealth really is taking a hit…cabs can be pricey.

  43. @Kieran

    @cognition

    I’ve been wondering about the amount of time that I waste online. Not reading or researching, but straight-up wasting. Any number of nights I’ve stayed up too late and then thought to myself that I should have spent another hour on the trainer instead, and tried to go to sleep earlier.

    This is one of the reasons I have started commuting again to work/study on my bike. Its a good way to rack up some k’s and motivate yourself.

    That’s why I like to lovingly refer to this community as Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Cycling* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).

    Instead of searching through various bike forums, scoring them for information and wasting hours of your time, just come here once a day, sit in the paceline for awhile, and you won’t need to bother with any other cycling sites. It’s awesome. Plenty of technical talk, plenty of experts, but the added bonus of an ongoing history lesson. You’ve now streamlined your online time.

  44. @RobSandy

    @wiscot

    I’m absolutely sick of hearing about him

    Thank you.

  45. @wiscot

    Speaking of which, did we ever do a V and Anti-V moments of 2014?

    Ohh…. I have a nomination!!!!!!!!

    Ok, it’s not from 2014, but it is SOOOOOOOO Anti-V that dates no longer matter (and I can’t believe I only found out about this now):

    Riccardo Ricco tried to escape being drug-tested at the Tour de France by running away from his escort, according to the head of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD). Ricco, who tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO after winning two of the opening stages, made a break for freedom while being taken away for testing but was foiled when his path was blocked off by a traffic jam.

    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2008/jul/22/tourdefrance.cycling2

    He literally RAN AWAY from drug testing. Genius!

  46. [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/roger/2015.02.05.22.16.52/1//”/]

    i look fat. in my defense, i was layered up like the damn michelin man. but in all honesty, i was stuck in a car listening to stories of ebola for 2 days straight, so i ate, and ate, and ate.

    pub was classy, nothing but the finest taxidermy in all of minnesota graced the walls and poles

  47. Speaking of excuses for getting your arse kicked, went to donate blood the other day & was told my haemoglobin levels put me in a range they would normally associate with being anaemic…can I now claim I “climb well for my blood values”?

  48. @Ron

    @Kieran

    @cognition

    I’ve been wondering about the amount of time that I waste online. Not reading or researching, but straight-up wasting. Any number of nights I’ve stayed up too late and then thought to myself that I should have spent another hour on the trainer instead, and tried to go to sleep earlier.

    This is one of the reasons I have started commuting again to work/study on my bike. Its a good way to rack up some k’s and motivate yourself.

    That’s why I like to lovingly refer to this community as Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Cycling* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).

    Instead of searching through various bike forums, scoring them for information and wasting hours of your time, just come here once a day, sit in the paceline for awhile, and you won’t need to bother with any other cycling sites. It’s awesome. Plenty of technical talk, plenty of experts, but the added bonus of an ongoing history lesson. You’ve now streamlined your online time.

    Agreed. I don’t think it is possible to ‘waste’ time here…

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