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Monday, May 24, 2010

On The Dope

With the Floyd Landis allegations of rife doping on the pro tour set to cast a pall over this year's Tour de France, I thought I would dig up an article on some of the tricks top athletes and movie stars use to perform beyond their natural abilities and keep the paydays coming.

Outside Magazine did a great article a while back on the different performing enhancing drugs in which an amateur athlete puts himself through a regimen of drugs on the DL to see how the chemical cocktail could improve his performance.

"OK," the doctor said when we settled into his examination room. "What do you want to be?"

I looked confused, so he explained.

"You want to be bigger? Leaner? Faster longer or faster shorter? More overall endurance? You want to see better?"

"See better?"

"Human growth hormone does that for some people. It improves the muscles in the eyes." He tried again: "So, what do you want?"
This was quite a concept. Freud wrote that anatomy is destiny, and here was a doctor giving me a chance, in my late forties, to alter my body in the most fundamental way. It was strange, but also strangely alluring.

As a lifelong athlete, I have done my share of hard training for wrestling, cycling, running and fitness, and at no time did I ever feel inclined to try ANY type of supplement. I have always believed in receiving all my essential nutrients from the miracle drug called... food. I even resisted the allure of Creatine in the 90's and Whey protein. I just figured that if you couldn't get what you need from eating food, you're not going to get it. I have often simply organized my diet around the properties of the foods rather than the simple appearance, taste or whatever food lust I feel at any given moment.

The only time I have been aware or doping and steroid use was a guy I used to wrestle against, who gained 30lbs in muscle mass over a year and had stretch marks from the rapid growth... and after coming to Taiwan.

When I first moved into town and got settled, my friend and I decided to seek out a gym to keep fit. There were few gyms in Taichung at the time and most were really expensive. We finally found a gym that charged NT5000 for a year and was run by the former ROC weightlifting team from the glory days of the 1960's when Taiwan's diplomatic warfare was being fought on every international venue including the Olympic Games. The gym was in a concrete basement with no A/C and only rotating ceiling fans. The equipment was often homemade and made of steel and concrete molded in coffee cans. The ancient "Coach" would sit in the back doing calligraphy and occasionally shout for no reason.

We'd go in for two hours a day, four days a week and recover from some intense workouts over Taiwanese steaks. We were getting strong and ripped. I was 120lbs benching 7 sets of 7 reps at 210lbs... but I wasn't getting big, only strong.

The gym attracted gang enforcers and rabble as well as a small group of young guys who wanted to be weightlifters. We'd watch them come in looking like sticks and after a few months they were Atomic-Powered Supermen. The only thing we could see for sure was that they would get really big, really fast and disappear into the bathroom with their kits before working out. It was just kind of understood that these guys were getting a little extra help to prep for their competitions. Probably nothing exotic, just animal steroids or something, but they were surely on roids and had easy access to cheap performance enhancing drugs.
They were easy to get and no secret in the gyms of Taiwan.

Evening Ride: 5/24/2010 (72kph)

I had a pretty good night ride tonight. I saw an opportunity between rain storms to get a good ride in and took it. Hopefully Wednesday will pan out as well and I can get a few more hills in my legs for the month.

I put in a faster time today than last time and the new cleat position is beginning to pay dividends in conserving energy. I still need to build up a little more strength in my hips for the new position, but it feels great.

My climb was averaging 14mph (22kph). I felt pretty good about that. Maybe a little less energy than I wanted, but the climb also comes before I really have a chance to warm the leg up.

The big improvement came in my descent. I know the hill and where the manhole covers are, so I can hit it with more confidence. When I can be sure no cars will cross my path I can really open it up. That is just about 72kph and I still had a little more in the legs for that.

My fight down Hsitun Rd. stayed in the mid 20's (40's) and the sprint down Wenxin edged the 30's (50's). I think I held back a little at the end. Shame on me. Now I feel much better and can face the rest of the week.

Night Loop: 5/24/2010

Night Loop: 5/13/2010

Death On Wheels: A Cycling Guide To Taiwan's Most Dangerous Cars

6: Toyota Altis

The Toyota Altis comes in at a close number six mainly because of the large numbers of them on the roads. The Altis is considered to be a decent car and it is often driven by young professionals as their first car bought for them by their parents as a graduation or wedding gift. Often, Taiwanese parents will buy big ticket items for their children to insert themselves into a relationship or purchase filial piety. At risk of sounding cynical, these gifts are a means of extending parental control over children once they have left the home. The Altis is often driven by self-important young people who still feel like the world should revolve around them and they drive like it.

5: Taichung Taxi

Taxis in Taiwan are known to be driven by hoodlums and maniacs and in Taichung we have the best of them. I have been in taxis that hydroplaned trough city streets in rain storms. One amphetamine addled driver buzzed a police station making play gun shot noises while he waved his arm out the window as if shooting a gun. He later took a freeway offramp at about 70mph toward a brick wall... with his hands off the wheel. My mother was not amused. Taxis are aggressive bullies of the road that use brute force to negotiate traffic. The taxi only made it to a 4th place standing for the fact that they are easily seen, universally recognized as a hazard and the drivers must receive some sort of licensing.

4: Mitsubishi 4x4 Van

The scourge of the mountain roads is the Mitsubishi 4x4 minivan. These are usually encountered during mountain rides and in the countryside. The owners jack these terrors dangerously high for such a narrow wheelbase and then take the mountain roads at very high speeds. There is an overall sentiment of invincibility on Taiwan's roads where the concept of fate reigns supreme. These little bastards have it is spades. If they don't hit you they may tip over on you. An added danger is the higher possibility that the drivers are not licensed and often totally wasted.

3: Toyota Zace

The Toyota Zace haunts dreams and comes with a devil may care attitude. Just look at it and you know immediately how it is driven. "Just look at the bones!"

2: CMC Mini Truck
The dreaded CMC minitruck ranks second on the list as it is cheap, easily obtainable and the preferred transportation for many of the occupations that are fueled by alcohol. It is the Saturday Night Special, the Zip Gun of Taiwanese automobiles. Anyone can hop in and drive one of these trucks and they may or may not be insured. These little devils shoot out of side streets and sweep across six lanes of traffic at full speed. They are cheaply built and lack many of the safety features that can be found in most other modern vehicles. Blue Death.

1: Nissan Cefiro

The reigning champion is the dreaded Nissan Cefiro. Of all the dangerous vehicles listed this one tops my list as a danger to cyclists. It looks like a reasonable, modern vehicle that should be no more dangerous than any other, but I have a theory. The Nissan Cefiro is designed to evoke the classy and elegant lines of the more refined European luxury cars. They are obviously emulating the big daddy of Taiwanese status symbols; the Mercedes, but for a much lower price point. Those who would like a Mercedes and can not afford one pick up a Cefiro. They have the same feeling of entitlement on the roads as those with the European luxury cars, but they also have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder that they are not behind the wheel of a Benz or a Beamer. They drive with anger and arrogance. They truly would like to imagine they are VIPs on their way to an emergency meeting in Geneva. The Cefiro owners lay on the horn, weave, speed through lights and make creative turns. They are also "classy" enough for the middle aged man who goes out with the boss and returns home drunk. The Cefiro is a staple of the KTV and "Entertainment Center" parking lot. I have seen more shithead Cefiro drivers than any other in my 12 years in Taiwan. That is why the Cefiro speeds off with the prize for the Most Dangerous Car To Cyclists In Taiwan. Congratulations Cefiro... you earned it!

T-Mosaic's Child Prodigy?

Sometimes I go off on how you'e never too old to get into cycling. And that is true.
On the flip side... you're never too young either.

Check out these photos from T-Mosaic's ride out to Hsi Tou and the little guy on his Louis Garneau Kids roadie. Right on!