Teenage boys talk trash. That’s just biology. The smart ones are tactical about it, and then there’s 15 year-old Graham.
I got fat in my mid-teens. I cut P.E. In favor of a drawing class, and started eating all the time. Once I realized I was sneaking up on 200 pounds, I decided to start exercising again. (You don’t burn calories at a drawing table, I discovered.)
So I set up a bike and trainer in our workshop out back, dropped an Offspring album in the CD player, and started pounding out circuits in the evening. The worst of the weight melted off over the course of months, and my confidence grew.
Around this time, my dad and sister were participating in a series of bicycle criterium races in Southern Cali, and we went down there about once a month to cheer them on. I think it was April or May of 2000 when, after a few months of spinning (and a 50-miler in Mexico where I blew a tire), I was feeling pretty damn bulletproof.
I’ve heard it said that humanity and the lowest form of bacteria are only about 10% different when it comes to genetic coding, or something to that effect. I don’t know, ask a scientist. The thing that sticks in my head is that all life on Earth comes from the same biological stock, and once you start narrowing that by phyla and genus and class and all that, we have a ton in common with our fellow mammals.
An apt simile, then, would be to say that I was like a wolf, territorial, anxious to assert dominance and demand the respect of other teenaged boy wolves with bad musical taste. The problem was, I had never actually been in a wolf fight, but I had imagined it a TON while spinning in a workshop after dark.
When I saw other teenage boys warming up for their own crits, I started talking trash about how they were skinny California twerps and I could totally wreck them on a bike. It didn’t take long for my family to get sick of me repeating this, and before I knew it, I was wearing my dad’s spare jersey and cleats, sitting on his 20-pound aluminum racer, surrounded by 150-pound Twerps, waiting for the race to start.
(They let you do that if you sign a waiver.)
It was essentially 20 laps or so around a city block where there was an elementary school in West Covina. The race started, and I went off like a cannon, smoking those twerps and giving them a good view of my (imaginary) sculpted posterior. I was awesome! I was unstoppable! I was gonna win this thing SO HARD!
20 laps, you say? Why not just end it at half a lap? Cause that’s when I blew up.
Soon the Twerps were lapping me. Then again. Then again. Before long I was almost lapped out. On my 10th, they were on their 16th. By their 20th, I think I had completed 12 or 13. If you’re grading that, I scored a 65% on a Can Your Cardio Cash The Check Your Mouth Just Wrote test.
As for my mouth, it was back at the van with the rest of me, choking on a baker’s dozen of hot, fresh, gooey STFUpcakes.
It was the kind of story that became family legend before the ink had even dried. To this day, we’ll get together as a family to hang out or play games, and we’ll all start jabbing each other, and then we pull out our Universal Argument Enders, and mine inevitably goes to “Yeah? How ’bout that bike race?”
Frankly, that’s as it should be. It’s important to overcome those parts of your biology. I mean yeah, we need to eat and sleep and challenge ourselves in between, but it’s also important to get kicked in the huevos every now and then so you remember what you’re made of. Otherwise you end up being that guy sitting on the couch watching TV with both hands stuck in Pringles cans, making fun of Olympians who only come in second.
Don’t be that guy. Go lose a race once in a while!
Then shut up and get back to work.