The Paper Kenyan's take on history, running and random adventure
Martin Dugard is the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing Lance (Little, Brown), a behind-the-scenes look at life at the Tour de France. His dispatches have appeared in Sports Illustrated, Esquire and GQ.
Didn't mean to be dramatic, but there's been a lot of personal and professional stuff going on over the last month. Re-invention is the buzzword, and let's just say that between the movie and a new script (and a potential new side project I adore, it's been hard getting my bones over to the Tour. I've been running more than ever, writing more than ever, BBQ'ing every night, and appreciating the Stone IPA (also worth noting: the Stone 30th anniversary ale), and basically salivating every morning as I watch the Tour and wish I were there.
No. Salivating is the wrong description. Pacing. Furious, anguished pacing, while maintaining a running commentary. Think Captain Kurtz meets cycling. It's hard not to be there.
Got a nice email from Hummer, responding to something I wrote in CHASING LANCE. He was in Barcelona, watching the sun rise. Love Hummer. Thanks for the words, Craig.
I'm finally going. There will be a new site for the Alps, a new look to my writing. I love VeloNews and I am a fan of the more staid sporting publications, but I don't think anyone does the Tour like we do it here.
My friend Mike Cutler at Canon has loaned me one of their new cameras. Desperately trying to figure out the techie photo/hi-def stuff. Would make a nice upgrade to the usual coverage.
In reading Chris Horner's latest comments about the Tour, in which he hopes that his injuries suffered at the Giro will heal in time for him to race with the Astana squad, he notes that he wants to help either Contador or Lance win. Hmmmm. This is a sea change. For the longest time, Astana has made it clear that Lance is not really a Tour contender. His performance at the Giro has changed all that.
Horner also reports that he's racing at 139 pounds, down from his usual 145 to 150. He says this accounts for his dominating performances. Good for him. That's skinny, to be sure. But when you're 37 years old, going on 38, that's called doing what it takes to stay in the game. Good on Horner.
Speaking of staying in the game, Bernhard Kohl's graphic descriptions of his blood-doping in the days leading up to the 2008 Tour have to be rocking the cycling world -- indeed, all of the sporting world. He talks about the systematic doping process, which began nearly a year before the Tour. Beyond that, he speaks about a dog's breakfast of testosterone, human growth hormone, caffeine, and other performance enhancers used before the Tour began. This includes the banned new EPO, Cera. It seems clear that doping is such a huge part of the cycling culture, and that the riders are so dependent on doping as a lifestyle choice, that it's going to take years to eradicate this problem -- and even then it will remain a vigilance issue.
Should we care? Should it be taken as a matter of faith that performance enhancing substances are part of sports -- ALL sports? Should we just expect that everyone's doing something?
I say no. And here's why: I don't like the asterisk. I like pure, unadulterated superhuman effort. The Greek philosopher Aristotle considered sports to be the closest the common man comes to contemplation. The rules of the game, the flow of the action, the drama of an unexpected outcome suck us in to the point that nothing else matters. We are watching the human form intertwined with the spiritual, which is what happens when emotion and passion overcome mere physicality. The human form of the body is limited in so many of us, and so it makes us feel empowered to watch others elevate this earthly form to its most optimal.
Aristotle considered contemplation to be the highest of human undertakings. So while we might still find ourselves enthralled by a competition in which doping is allowed, we certainly know in the back of our minds that it is not pure, and that it is not an elevation of the earthly body. Rather, it is merely a distortion and a manipulation that ultimately detracts from the drama.
Yesterday was the first time I've felt like an athlete in forever. Ran long in the hills, close to 2 1/2 hours. Made sure to tempo the last two miles to keep it honest. Earned the extra hours of sleep I enjoyed this morning.
Of course, I did nothing at all today. The best of intentions... Watched the Pre Classic on NBC, was suitable enamored of the skill of those elite athletes (and suddenly realizing how close one of my athletes is to actually competing at that level. A few years, dozen seconds and she's there. So close...), did my usual venting about the poor coverage of distance races (cut away to a commercial after two laps, come back midrace with no explanation of what's happened, then cut to an interview with a sprinter, and then returning to show the final kick), and basically just got inspired. Inspired to do nothing, you could probably say, but inspired nonetheless.
Now I am watching the Dauphine, which pretty much makes this an ideal day. Later there will be BBQ and a household of family to celebrate the return of my son from his first year of college. Seriously -- and I don't say this very often -- i don't mind the missed workout one little bit.
The Tour is getting close. Smith has asked me for a definitive answer about whether or not I will be posting daily missives for Active. Tomorrow I will call and give him a firm yes. I wish I could relate to all of you what this means, in terms of financial and logistical commitment. A trip to France is obviously not cheap, and the days when I did this as a loss-leader are long gone. More on all that as it progresses, but I'm going. I've even planned my cross-country team's mandatory three weeks of training without a coach (mandated by local officials to make sure the kids don't get overtrained; also known as the "dead period") around the Tour. Nothing says a group of athletes are following the letter of the law than having the coach out of the country, with whereabout firmly accountable through the glory of the internet.
Finally, I was going to write on the tall poppy syndrome today (when one poppy rises above the others, those poppies try to cut if back down to size), but I realized that I would rather not waste my time on the lesser poppies, thank you very much.