Race Report: SoCal Cross Week #1: Verdugo (and some history)

Oh, did I mention I’m racing the shit out of some cyclocross this year? (Full disclosure: “racing” is subjective and it’s done in the 4th category, the slowest possible)

First, the history piece. At the end of 2011 I picked up one of my Dad’s old bike frames from his days of touring and racing and converted it into a malfunctioning single speed. Despite coming from a family that was semi-cycling obsessed when I was very young, I hadn’t ridden a bike with any seriousness since the late 90s (mountain) and I hadn’t been on the road since the early 90s.

In early 2012 I got a proper bike, again, and started riding. A lot. It was shortly after that that I decided what I really wanted to do was start racing ‘cross. I bought myself a very inexpensive Blue, and built it up around Christmas in 2012, too late to do any races that year, but I started to practice and learn some things in anticipation for 2013. I remember practicing on Valentine’s Day.

My Mom got sick in July of 2013, but I thought learning to race and racing might bring me some much needed distraction. It didn’t really work out that way. Sometime in late August or early September I went to an organized practice by our local race promoter/coordinator. It went ok, but I was still wildly inexperience and not in cyclocross shape by any stretch of the imagination. On the way home, I drove through a Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru for a Diet Dr. Pepper, and ripped my bike off the roof of my car. I was calm at the time but inside, with everything going on, I was melting down. I wrote off the season. More practices and practice races, but no real races. My Mom had her massive surgery in mid-September and passed away in November, never recovering, and I was coaching Soccer for my Son at the time and struggling at work and home. No time for anything else, but it’s fine. Priorities.

I made racing cross a priority in 2014. I did a handful of races and finished last or close to last in each. I was ok with it. I got lapped every single race by the front half of the field. Nonetheless I had fun and I knew it was about learning how to actually race, but I wanted to get better. Badly.

So, this year. I resolved to lose weight and just get better at this damn sport. As of the first race of the year, today, I am down 30-35 pounds since the last race of 2014. My riding on the road has improved, but I had fully planned to practice skills much more and do more work on intervals etc. I’ve been running and that has been improving and has helped a lot. However, I really should have been doing more cross-specific practice and training. I also, thanks to two awesome friends I have made in Washington DC, Jon and Travis, I was able to join a really, really cool team who do a lot for cross locally on the Mid-atlantic seaboard, Crosshairs Cycling.

Today, I raced. The first of 2015 at Verdugo Park in Glendale. I sucked, and I DNF’d.

The day started off shit, I actually got up at 2:30am, unable to go back to sleep, and decided to do my leg/vascular-opener ride for about 40 minutes and 10 miles. Nice and easy, but in the dark. I ended up double-puncturing because of bad rim tape on my clincher/training set of wheels and had to walk home about a mile and a half, at 5:30 in the morning. I got home, fixed everything, and realized my race wheels which I run tubeless, had lost a lot of air overnight and need more sealant added to it. No time to take care of that now, I am running my clinchers.

I got to the race nice and early, my mood started to shift to the positive. I had a good warm up. I saw lots of lines in the pre-ride that made sense to me through learning and practicing; predicting ruts, cutting apexes in turns, going tape to tape, running a little further before remounting when i needed to, etc. It’s not an ideal course for me, there is LOTS of soft dirt, a shitty bending sand pit, and drops I have to run instead of ride. Not ideal, but I felt ok. It was pretty warm, but not too hot. I felt sort of confident. I was using knowledge gained from the holy bible of cyclocross training.

In the call-up for my group, I got into the first row. Now last season this meant I was getting passed and shelled out the back on the hole shot before the first turn. It didn’t bother me much last year, I was learning and expected it. I wanted better this year.

I got a good start, but still bobbled by not clipping in quick enough. Nonetheless I jammed it out and didn’t really feel my heart rate rising too much either. I kept on the tail of four riders who got an even better start than me, and took a look over my shoulder.

I had a gap. A good one. Probably 3-4 seconds before the first turn. After the turn, leading into the barriers, I extended it by a second or two. By my standards, I was flying.

During pre-ride I never ran the barriers, never looked at them, never knew where they were. I came in on them WAY too hot, and didn’t brake enough or dismount quick enough, or some combination of the two. I was desperate to hold on to the gap I’d already gotten. In cyclocross, position is everything. It was stupid of me. As Jon later commented on my instagram “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Rationally, I know this. I’ve read it in the cyclocross bible tons of times, practiced this way, etc. In the heat of the moment, it never occurred to me. I knew the course a bit, and I knew my limit and I would have been wiser to give up a few places and go smooth…picking people off, or just getting passed through the course.

Instead, disaster. I clipped the first barrier, crashing between the two, and taking out some riders with me. Face down in the grass and amid the screams of “GET UP CROSSHAIRS KEEP RACING” I dislodged myself from other riders, tried to remount, and realized I’d dropped my chain. Got off, got chain back on and started jamming. While the entire group passed me in the interim, I was able to get onto the back thanks to a long straight away immediately after the barriers and a turn. Didn’t do much good though as the crowd was pretty thick with some of the features (deep dirty, twisty, terrible sand pit with a 90 degree turn in the middle of it) and eventually I got caught behind a crash and never was able to get back on.

Before that, I had to run up some stairs and I realized how I’d strained my knee considerably in the crash, and it was a knee that was already bothering me thanks to riding with a lower saddle the day before (bad idea to change fit the day before a race). I came around to where my wife and kids were waiting with a bottle handup of water for me, and picked off a couple of women’s riders from the group that started in front of us, but the men were in the distance to me. Feeling my knee swelling and realizing this was the first race of the season, I pulled the plug after one lap. It’s a long season and I was pretty worried how my knee really felt. Sitting here this morning, it’s better, but not great and I’ll stay off the bike today.

They say cross takes at least 3 seasons to “get.” I definitely felt more confident in this race. I had no nerves, and no expectations. Just wanted to do better than last year and I had the sole goal of finising on the lead lap with the group I start with, even if it was at the very tail end, 7 or 8 minutes down. Based on the lap times I heard, minus the big crash and getting caught behind the second one, even on a course that didn’t suit me, I think I would have accomplished that or at least come pretty close. I have pretty modest goals, I think.

This next week’s track is much more favorable to me, and then I get a break for two weeks until the next time I toe the line. I’ve got some priorities in training over the next three weeks before that particular race. Namely: practice, practice practice. I’ve got at least one “organized” practice with some race intensity this week, hopefully two. I need it. Live and learn right? Fight another day? All that shit. It’s a long season and only #2 for me. Brush it off and get back out there. Gotta work on those barriers. I’ll leave you with a video of my main dude handing me some water during my only lap. See you next week (and every week thereafter) with another race report.


Episode 002: Erika Aguilar, KPCC – Three and Two and One

Erika Aguilar the Orange County reporter from KPCC joins me on the September episode of “Three and Two and One”  to discuss Latino identity, America, moral responsibilities, bringing people together through the power of food, and happiness (or the unachievable quest for it). Erika is typically on the other side of the mic, so this is a new experience for her, she’s also a friendly native Texan who is handy with great conversation. I really enjoyed our time together and hope you do too.

You can download the show here!
Subscribe on iTunes!
Subscribe on Stitcher!

You can find Erika on Twitter @erikaaaguilar

The show is available on both Twitter and Instagram @321Podcast, and I’m @dgafterdark on both as well.

As always, thanks for reading and listening.


Carve Your Name Soft Across My Lungs

I know I am far from the only one that loves Beach Slang. Here’s an acoustic set James did for NPR Tiny Desk.

“Life’s tough, but life’s really beautiful as well, and I hope yours is that. More on the beautiful side…”


I am glad music still moves me now the way it did when I was 7 years old buying 45rpm records at Gemco. I’d save every dime I earned around the house to get a Men Without Hats or Michael Jackson 7″ record. I’d come home and file them away in a Star Wars themed record box I had. With a little handle and golden clasp and I’d carry it around the house and organize and reorganize my sonic treasures.

I remember kids at school telling me they didn’t really care about music. I was dumbfounded. I was collecting records before I collected baseball cards. My Mom found so much solvency for her own soul through Elton John, Super Tramp, K-Earth 101, and others. Music was important to me early, often, and continuously. Hell, I built my first career around working in music without any experience, just the end of a pen and a pad of paper and when it was called for, a little bit of business smarts.

My taste in music has shifted, or evolved, or matured, or maybe just changed. I was on a steady diet of punk rock in my late teens and early 20s until a fateful trip to St Louis landed me in front of a memorial to Miles Davis which shifted a lot of my attention to Kind of Blue, and like many before me, many since, and many to come, that record cemented interest in jazz for me. Around the same time I got heavily into reggae thanks to a certain box set.  I’ve got band influenced tattoos, some of them are flat out logos. I can still play a little guitar and fantasize about writing some songs and recording a solo record. Maybe I’ll finally do it in 2016.

Lately I have been really into the Kids Don’t Follow Podcast (yes, named after the Replacements song) and it’s reminded me a bit of the love I have at my core for indie and punk rock. Still I find a lot of beauty in lots of different music that 10 or 15 years ago I’d have scuffled at. It’s ok. It’s a big world full of great music of all different genres and the worst thing you can do is have a closed mind to any of it.   Hell, I’ve heard Dave Matthews songs that are bursting with heart and amazing musicianship. Music rules. It keeps you young and feeds the soul. It’s beautiful. Life is still beautiful. Stay into it; music and life. For many of us, the two are one in the same.


Rabbit Rabbit

Talked out and now I’m feeling crowded.
All the errands in the world won’t save us now.
Rained in and I won’t come unclouded.
There’s a stillness in the air.
I pray for sound.
We’re too smart to watch TV.
We’re too dumb to make believe
this is all we want from life.
And I’m too dumb to talk to you.
You’re so quick to listen to me.
I’m saying nothing you don’t know.
Nothing you don’t know.
Walked out and I won’t be rerouted.
If I don’t go outside today, I never will.
Too old not to get excited
about rain and roads,
Egyptian ruins, our first kiss.
I love you more than I ever loved
Anyone before, or anyone to come.
Someone said your name, I thought of you alone.
I was just the same, twenty blocks away.
Blew twelve and kissed the thirteenth finger.
“Rabbit, rabbit,” on the first.
I hold my breath.
Did tricks I hoped you wouldn’t notice.
A superstitious hyperrealist.
I’ll make you mine.


Sunday Morning Coming Down


This photo is entitled “Meh.”

In what feels like a previous life, say 15-18 years ago, I wrote for various punk rock and alternative music magazines. Like many of my peers and brethren I capped off regular columns with “End Notes,” items I wanted to mention that didn’t really fit in the theme of whatever I was writing about. This post is sort of a version of End Notes for my week.

First off, THANK YOU to everyone that has listened to, subscribed, rated, reviewed, or told a friend about Three and Two and One. I am terribly grateful for all of the feedback I have gotten from the debut episode, which has been overwhelmingly positive. Again a huge thanks to John Holzer for being the first guest and helping teach me the technical know-how needed. The big debate now is how often do I post a new show? It’s looking realistically like the fourth Thursday (evening) of the month is manageable, but a few people have told me they’d like to see two shows per month. That’s a lot of production time leading up to a recording, which in an of itself takes about two hours for set up, record, and breakdown. We will see, but in the meantime please subscribe, listen, rate and review! Thank you so much. Stitcher availability coming very soon.

I’m down only .8lbs this week, but that does put me at 31 pounds overall, and this was the first week in which everyone actually took notice which is nice. 10 more pounds until I get dunked for body fat testing and then recalibrate my weight loss goals. My hunch is I have about 30lbs to go to hit 10% body fat, at which time I will be lean as fuck, but not really skinny like a racing cyclist.  Still, looking forward to it. Despite all the mental shit I am going through, I am totally locked-in and not likely to be derailed this time.

Speaking of cycling, I went out to a cyclocross practice on Wednesday that was littered with Category 1 and Masters racers and frankly, for my first time on a cross course in a year, I felt ok about it. I was a little demoralized initially trying to keep up, but then I realize that that shouldn’t be my goal with this group (I am a category 4/5 racer) and that instead I should be trying to learn, being realistic within my goals, and just trying to soak in as much as I can from both observation and conditioning that comes from hot-lap race intensity.

Now speaking of the mental shit, I started off the week pretty well. This was going to be the first full week without an appointment with my therapist (I go back tomorrow at 9am – she was booked for the entire week). Things began to pile up in my head culminating with a very difficult Saturday. It sucked but it is what it is. I feel a little better today post-training ride and with a run coming up this afternoon, but still not great. Hopefully better after tomorrow’s appointment.

I had started a post about the connection between maturity and sexuality, discussing fantasy and reality and how an adult (me) comes to terms with it all, but it was the first time when I’ve felt a bit too vulnerable and a bit too close to actually discussing some of the topics in therapy publicly, so I am going to shelf that for now. Let’s just say there have been some marked changes in who I am as a person over the last seven or eight months, and this is a place where I’ve had a significant shifting, some might even call it growth. Even journaling this much is stretching me.

I still owe you, my loyal two or three readers, a post about our camping trip a few weeks ago, complete with photos shot on a proper camera. All apologies, but I took about 600 pictures and maybe want to post 5-10. It’s coming soon, I hope.

Progress on my novel has been slowed as I’ve gotten the Podcast business kind of figured out. I am hoping to start picking up on it again tomorrow as it’s a rest day from cyclocross training.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Street Fair Week here in Old Towne Orange, generally my favorite week of the year. I hope therapy gets me off on the right foot for it.


That’s it. Currently listening to Ted Leo, about to go for a run, take a dip in the pool, and watch Fear the Walking Dead (and I think I am going to sneak in a Maple Leaf cookie shake) and dream of Autumn.

As always, thanks for reading and listening.



Episode 001: John Holzer – Three and Two and One

John Holzer joins me for the debut episode of Three and Two and One and a conversation about songs that make us cry, how the media handled the attack of a homeless man in Boston, and how we handle it when people let us down. John’s a great conversationalist and we could have gone on for hours and hours.

Download Episode 001 here!

Apple should be finished approving and indexing the show shortly, so that you can subscribe via iTunes.

You can find John at Four Brewers or on Twitter and Instagram @johnholzer

The show is available on both Twitter and Instagram @321Podcast, and I’m @dgafterdark on both as well.

Special thanks to my good friend Peter, my dog Ezra, and the Wild Parrots of Orange.

I’ll be back soon with a blog post about sex and love, and details on our next guest.

As always, thanks for reading and listening.


Episode 000: Introduction – Three and Two and One

Hey everyone-
Three and Two and One – Episode 000: Introduction is now posted and available!

It’s just a couple of minutes of me discussing the idea for the show and what to expect. Episode 001 featuring John Holzer of Four Brewers (and formerly New Brew Thursday) podcasting fame is the first guest and will be available this Friday, August 28th. All new episodes will be posted early in the morning (Pacific time) on the last Friday of the month.

I owe John a huge debt of gratitude for spending a good portion of his Sunday in my garage helping me setting up and teaching me all of the technical aspects of the podcast so I can work on it on my own in the future. Thanks John, you’re one of the good guys.

You can listen to the show below or subscribe on iTunes! (link coming shortly)

Directly Download the MP3 Here

As always, thank you for reading and listening.


We Podcasted!

On Sunday my dear friend John Holzer, he of Four Brewers and New Brew Thursday fame,  came over and helped me record the first two episodes of Three and Two and One. After some minor technical difficulties that resulted in my receiving an electric shock from the refrigerator in my garage and necessitated the rushed purchase of an all new soundboard, we were able to record a short introductory episode (Episode 000) and an hour long discussion with John himself as my first guest for Episode 001. The introductory episode will be posted here and on iTunes mid-week and Episode 001 will be up on Friday. The goal will be to post new episodes on the last Friday of each month. The following week I will be posting a special bonus episode (already?!) of my appearance on KX93.5 Laguna on the Friendship Show on Saturday morning.


We discussed the brutal beating and desecration of a homeless man in Boston, songs that make you cry (including Taylor Swift), and when friends (or former friends) let you down.  John was a great first guest; introspective and personal. I think he sets a great tone for what I’m trying to accomplish with the show. What is that exactly? Conversation. An archive of conversations I get to have with people. My goal here is not fame or validation, its the process. It’s the activity in and of itself. The practice of interviewing and talking to people about things that are important to them is important to me, and in my history of appearing on podcasts, I really enjoy doing it.


Unfortunately, in the midst of all the setup John took the only pic and it was of me. I have one of John setting up the studio and teaching me how to do it in the future, but the file is too large to get it on here and I am a photoshop idiot.


Anyway as always, thanks for reading.






Update: Projects

Quick note to update my total of three subscribers (in Feedly, at least) on a couple of things I am working on.


Last Sunday I went out with Erika Aguilar from KPCC, our local Public Radio Station and NPR affiliate here in Southern California to begin working on a story about the explosion in the Homeless population along the Santa Ana River Trail, a cycling path to the beach that I ride on a regular basis. The idea for the story has changed a bit and we will see what comes of it, but it could be a really, really cool thing for exposure to just how dire our homeless situation is in Orange County and what we can do about it. Stay tuned to that, I will definitely be promoting it on my social media as we hopefully get closer to an idea on what is happening with the piece. We recorded and visited with the homeless over about four hours in 100F+ temperatures.


This coming Saturday, August 22nd at 9am PST I will be on Laguna Beach KX 93.5 to discuss homeless issues in Orange County, and the work I currently do around Domestic Violence. It should be interesting as the ACLU just announced they will be suing Laguna Beach for it’s treatment of the homeless.  You can check them out on Twitter at @KX935 or can listen live online here Saturday morning. A podcast of the show will be available shortly after.


And finally (no, really, FINALLY) on Sunday I will be recording the first two episodes of “Three and Two and One” the podcast I am starting. More details to come once I post the first show, but you can follow it on Instagram and Twitter for now.


And oh yeah, the book is coming along slowly but surely…the camping trip a couple of weeks ago derailed it a bit, but it’s back on and is definitely still happening. It’s a life-goal and now’s the time to achieve it.


My therapist is delighted when I can talk about all the exciting (for me anyway) and thought-occupying projects I can get my hands into.


As always…thanks for reading.



Yesterday I posted this picture across my social media.


The post was intended to show that I could now fit into a shirt I had purchased in 2010, and never been able to wear before, entirely due to the fact that I have lost nearly 30lbs.

The posts came with praise and kudos, congratulating me for the loss so far, saying I look handsome, etc. To me the most impressive part is that I am actually smiling for once (and that I wasn’t afraid to have a picture taken of me with some sweat stains on my shirt. Sorry, our house is like a sauna right now). Nonetheless, I very much appreciated everyone’s comments.

Later in the day, I posted this:



This was intended to show that not only had I lost weight, but suddenly I was capable of fitting into skinsuits (one piece cycling kits) without it looking completely terrible (although, to me anyway, still fairly bad). Again, this picture was received with lots of “congratulations!” “that’s awesome David!” etc, etc, etc…


What’s the point of all of this? Well, when I was younger, I was the quintessential awkward ugly duckling. I was never one of the cool kids. Even as a star athlete in High School, I spent my lunches in the library, and my Friday nights (when I wasn’t playing football) at home. I didn’t seclude myself to study (my grades were shit) or because I didn’t want to be social, but to avoid the inevitable daily embarrassment that comes with failing to be as cool as everyone else in a school filled to the brim with affluent families, while mine was broken and struggling to make it from month to month. Those kids had new Camaros and lifted pick up trucks and went to the River on the weekend. I didn’t have any of that. What I had was a job from the day I turned 16 and the looming reality of having to start paying my Mom rent the day I turned 18, and not having any idea what I wanted to do with my life (other than be a writer, and that didn’t seem to quite work out as I hoped). I couldn’t relate to them, and they couldn’t relate to me.


My track record with girls was equally as ugly. I had zero dates and I went to a total of two dances in high school, one was a “mercy ask” to a Sadie Hawkins dance (the girl didn’t even dance with me) and the other was a friend who really wanted to be there with someone else, but they didn’t ask her, and instead we hung out with them all night. I didn’t go to either Prom, any of the homecomings, nothing. My self-esteem was for better or worse, linked to my performance in sports (which was quite high) and my Mom’s opinion of me (equally as high), but that’s it. Aside from that, a massive void.


There’s a long story in between then and now. There’s my whole history in punk rock and the people I met, there’s my previous career working in entertainment (at times equally as humiliating and serving as a reminder that I was not cool), my wife who as of this Fall I’ve known for  20 years, been with for 18, and married for 10 and remains the only woman I’ve ever been with. Through that time, I evolved as a person (as is normal, I think) and became smarter, more mature, more connected, more centered, more motivated, maybe slightly more handsome. There’s getting tattoos, changing hair styles, learning how to communicate effectively. All positive changes, in my opinion.


Through that comes validation from all different angles and perspectives. People remind you that you’ve changed, evolved, improved. Most of this is probably a typical path of anyone’s life, I am not really sure (I am, to the best of my knowledge, only living one life) but I would imagine this is not totally uncommon.


When you start from zero, from the ground floor so to speak, and your self-esteem has been kicked down the street repeatedly over the first 25-30 years of your life, the incoming rush of validation once you start to get your shit together, is like an awakening of epic proportions. You drink it all in, and you keep going back to the well for more. You start to look for opportunities to get more validation. The expectation is that your family, especially spouse and kids, will probably overload you with validation by default, but it’s when everyone else starts participating that your ego starts blowing up.


Social Media is the ultimate bastion for this sort of frenetic endorphin-filled rush. You can post a photo of a new tattoo, a new shirt, a new pair of glasses, and its delivered: Immediate gratification and validation. I am as guilty as anyone in participating in this revolving door. As many times as I’ve tried to quit Social Media (and feeling guilty over this kind of attention-seeking is definitely at least partially to blame for repeated attempts and failures) I don’t, for a variety of reasons. Often times its because I simply like a lot of the people I connect with and it absolutely has paid off in the friendships I’ve made and the people I’ve met. I have to go to Sacramento for two days next month, and it took little more than reaching out to a friend I met on Instagram (but added on Facebook later and eventually exchanged phone numbers for texting) to connect me with someone else that could lend me a bike and serve as a tour guide for two days. Remarkable, isn’t it?


Nonetheless, the selfies, the bragging about fitness and weight loss, are all about validation, at least for me. My therapist talks about the “holes” I feel in my life and I go about filling them, and that maybe I should focus on what’s around me to fill them, but to be totally honest, I was in a pretty deep hole to start with, and that seemed to start to turn around in the last decade, but where does it end?

At one point will I be truly confident to the point where I’ve had enough?

Is it in addiction that will always have to be fed?

Am I the only one that sees it this way?