Stammtisch

June 12, 2001 (www.slowtwitch.com)

My bruders in the land of 800 kilometer weeks will understand this term better than most. It's where I come from - an endurance drinking fraternity.

Those of you who have drunk over the years are part of this family too. Working out and drinking go together. So does racing and drinking. Win or lose or DNF - there's always a reason to drink. Not that I've ever needed a reason. To me drinking is soul food. It gives the soul strength to surface and have a voice. But mostly it helps me to forget! Traveling the world as a professional triathlete has afforded me many luxuries, none finer than a tremendous range of drinking scenery, beverages and partners.

Want names? I can name-drop with the best of 'em. It won't even cost you a few rounds trying to drown my taciturnity. Got a nice little drop of Pinga here from my recent adventures in Brazil.

I feel very fortunate to even be able to remember most of my breakthrough sessions, where I've reached a better level of understanding of the world without the use of peyote or LSD. One of my heroes––Carlos Santana––once used a famous quote from the infamous Harry Callahan. Regarding the use peyote he said that "a man's got to know his limitations." I've always felt the same about booze but have never really been able to put it into practice.

Bruders––it’s grown to be a long list: Gary Petersen, Tom Gallagher, Mark Montgomery from the early days. Rick Wells––in a class of his own. Two times world tri champ and undisputed top dog of drinking. #1 Hall of Famer. One time at a press conference at The Bud Light Columbus triathlon Rick queries the race organizers about possibly replacing the water pitchers on the table in front of us with some of the sponsor’s product. Three pitchers later we'd had one of the most eloquent press conferences in the history of triathlon. We're off towards downtown having decided to forgo dinner, then the race, the sport, our women, and sleep.

When Rick won the world champs in Perth to the tune of OZ $15,000 he had many of his best mates there. The carnage was spectacular. I had good reason to drink too, having finished a miserable 9th. Had an amazing session with Erin Baker's boyfriend at the time. Guess she must have forgotten about my little part in that one––she was so angry with her man for disappearing off to the next stop in the celebrations.

Ken Souza often relied on my sage advice. As a mentor to many proteges over the years I often preached from the pulpit of the barstool. Even a sage needs to rest sometimes, especially if he's just done another 90-miler with 8,000 ft. of climbing. Along with our direct link to the cosmos––Bob Meyer––we often solved the eternal mysteries of estrogen over the course of an evening. During one of those sessions Kenny had ten Black Shag stouts. The next day after stumbling out for a run in the snow and turning his ankle quite severely he promptly limped/hopped home, packed up his van and drove 16 hours straight back to California to see his woman. Obviously he had forgotten everything.

A couple of years before that, at a training camp we did together in Vail in June, he took my advice and went to "ice" his aching legs in the river behind the hotel. The water was moving pretty fast and it was about 34 degrees. After asking me a few times if it was OK for his skin to be a bit crunchy I told him not too worry, and after he got out could he trot down to the shop and get us a few more beers as it was his shout? I blame the lack of oxygen at that altitude for a lot of my errors in judgment. I don't think I ever truly acclimatized.

In Vancouver one year Kenny and I were rooming together and Erin Baker was in the room next door. After the race we had a couple of dozen, had packed the bikes because we both had early flights the next morning. Feeling rather forlorn after a bit of a dry spell for both of us we gamely decided we were going to toss to see who should go over and give her a good, solid shag. But we couldn't find a coin so we just watched some more TV instead.

Mentoring and drinking do go together. I've often thought of myself as a college professor dispensing pearls of wisdom to his brightest students after a few drinks. In Nice the day after the race where I once again finished second to Grip I hadn't yet begun my training for Hawaii. This was a bit unusual for me. I usually started the day after Nice. Somehow this particular year I missed the day after the race all together. My young friend Chris Miller and I resumed our post race binge late in the morning and we were discussing the possibility of hitting every drinking establishment in the south of France. He broached the subject of his irritating blister. He said he didn't want to drink too much because of this huge blister. He said it was REALLY bad. Apparently his nylon running shorts had removed several layers of skin from his member and it had scabbed over. I told him not to worry about it…

Every single one of my contemporaries without exception have been known to lubricate. My first visit to Dave Scott's place in Davis was after he had won his first Ironman on Oahu. My training buddy Dean Harper and I figured we'd try and pick up a few tips from the master. I only vaguely remember learning much except that he trained a lot and ate a ton of healthy stuff. What really left a lasting impression was the fact that he had a lot of generic beer in his fridge. I remember thinking that this guy not only had just won the Ironman, he drank beer labeled BEER. I had never seen that before. He probably had it trucked in by the pallet. He instantly became one of my heroes. Years later in '85 Dave and I toasted antiquity in Avignon after a race there with a couple of 2-liter steins. Little did we know what lay ahead. We toasted his salubrity on his 40th with a tanker of margaritas thinking that surely we were done racing Ironmans.

ST and I have shared more than a few evenings ruminating over the perils that lie ahead for us and our sport. We've even put pen to paper afterwards to share our grandiloquent and sardonic wit to make a few bucks. At the time I'm sure we felt a kinship to Hemmingway and all of the great thinkers of our time. We're also better dancers when we drink. And better at giving awards acceptance speeches. Ever notice how your savior-faire oozes out, unstoppable with the right amount of chemistry working for you? The salient point here is that we drink. That's all. Perhaps I got sidetracked…

In Sater, Sweden after ST won another ironman we hopped in a borrowed Turbo Saab. In '85 this was a pretty bitchin' car. ST took the wheel and sped onto the motorway to get to dinner where we were to meet the new athlete liaison for the Hawaiian Ironman, Bob Bright of Chicago marathon fame. ST was feeling pretty good about crushing every one in the race and Bright was going to make us all rich we said to ourselves as the celebrations continued into the evening. ST's wife VT was in the front passenger seat and I was strapped in the back as he took it up to 220kph to "see what she could do." We went past a cop like he was parked on the side of the road (he wasn't) and he soon pulled us up and asked ST to step out of the car and come and have a seat in the back of the patrol car. VT and I thought he was going to be breath tested and thrown in the gulag in Lapland for 100 years. Turns out the cop was on duty during the race controlling traffic and he thought it was amazing. He had ST sign an autograph for his kid and asked him to slow down a bit and be a bit more careful.

Greg Lemond, Steve HED and I had more than a few in Kona Amigos as the Ironman raged on below us into its final hours. I was thinking at the time that perhaps Lemond was a better drinker than he was a bike racer. He was that good. We wondered aloud how we ever did what we did and how we had gotten so damned fat. Then we had another round.

Up in Alp D'Huez after the Iron Tour one year Ben Bright was shouting at just about every one in the bar. He had been living up there for over a year and was calling it home. He didn't seem to care that a beer cost about OZ $10. Simon Lessing proved he didn't have a hollow leg. We were all pretty shattered after 5 days of racing but as the night wore on we seemed to get our strength back. Gorgeous women appeared out of thin air. It’s a miracle we didn't get scabies. I blamed it on the altitude. The Australians have never cared how much money is spent at a good piss-up. Greg Welch is legendary for slapping a couple of hundred bucks on the bar and telling the bartender to just keep it flowing. It’s no wonder they've been the leaders in triathlon for so many years. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Ray Browning might just have a hollow leg. The guy has won 7 Ironmans yet never seemed to be too far away from a beer. The recycle truck that serviced his neighborhood had to make a special trip up to his house every week. And that's about 80 miles from town. Every time I saw him loading up the back of his car with more beer before going up the mountain he'd say something about needing more weight so that the tires would get better grip in the snow. Along with Mike Pigg and Christian Bustos we even made a few hundred bottles at one of those brew- your-own places in Boulder. Ray and I seemed to get through ours in a few days. I blamed it on the solitude.

Rum and coke. Gin and tonic. Southern Comfort and L & P. Margaritas, mai tais, daiquiris or Hennessy on the rocks. It’s all good.

My first jello shots were in the ex-pat watering hole district of Hong Kong. Journeyman Rod Cedaro sang his lungs out and the scalawag underage Kiwis I was sort of chaperoning somehow slipped away…

My 1st and last attempt to discern the subtle nuances of the various types of Sake in Japan was supervised by a wonderful waitress named"Kimi" who's navel made a magical chalice…

In St. Croix I missed the last boat back to town from a lovely little isle and donated my clothes to the poor before swimming back…

In Barbados I fell in love with a little lass named Ebony that was 9%…

In Brazil Wendy Ingraham taught me a new way to suck down limes with tequila. A better way. Gave me a glimpse of the new drinking experiences I have to look forward to. Journo T.J. Fry and I traded stories over a couple of glasses of the national drink––pinga. We talked of the greatest athlete alcoholics in the history of endurance sport. We discussed estrogen and the mental illness that comes with it. We took notes from each other. Look for the book.