Casablanca, Morocco 25 years ago Pt. 8 - conclusion

The final diary entry:  

Friday:

Today I got up at 9:20am, ate breakfast, then went to bed. I re-awoke at 11:30 and went for a ride at 12:00. I rode with Mike. We seem to get along OK. It’s only when Aaron is around that he ignores me. Aaron told me he hates Azdine – right after I said he was really nice. No one I know would be so abrasive. I have to put up with things like this all the time, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of Morocco – of being accosted at every step by poor greedy starving people. On my ride I noticed a huge pipe going out to the ocean – I never saw it before because always the tide was high, but at this time it was low and riding past, I was hit with and incredibly powerful smell. It was sludge – pure human waste – there were hundreds of thousands of gallons of it just spewing out – making the whole bay brown.

After the ride, I ate lunch – the best one I have had since I’ve been here – steak and French fries.

I then went with Azdine to the market to look for shoes. We went to many places – he even took me to expensive places downtown – too much for me – 300 durhams for a pair! So we finally found a pair I liked. He wanted 240 for them. Azdine got him down to 160, but he wouldn’t go lower, so we started to leave. He went to 140. I was ready to buy, but Azdine made me leave – I didn’t understand. He then explained – “We go back and offer 120” – so we did and I got a $50 pair of shoes for $12.

We then started to go back to the bus and I stopped to look at some watches. One in particular caught my eye. It was really slim and expensive looking. I asked how much – just out of curiosity. He said 200 durhams. I was really surprised.! So I bargained him down to 150 durhams and I bought the other possibility for a graduation present – an expensive watch!

So we left and I paid for the bus fare again (a whole 44 cents for the both of us). Then I showed everyone what I bought. Instead of dinner here at the hotel, we went around the corner to the Italian restaurant. It was so good – I’m really tired of lamb and liver. I had a pizza and an order of lasagna. After this I returned to my room and read “The Son of the Morning Star” – I’m pretty far – I’ll probably finish it before we leave. After that I’m going to see how far I can get into the “Lord of the Rings.”

Then Azdine came down and we talked, and then went to his room and talked until 1:00am.

Oh, when we went to the market I brought a pair of jeans to sell – they were too small anyway. Anyways, Azdine wanted to look at them, so he pulled them out of the bag. Immediately, without exaggeration, over 20 vultures converged on them and almost started fighting over them. The kept shoving money into Azdine’s pocket and then trying to take them. But none of them offered enough – cuz they were just going to take them and sell them themselves. So finally I grabbed them and quickly walked away. A boy had tried them on yesterday and liked them so I took them to him and sold them to him for $8 – the jeans were 2 years old.

Azdine told me in his room that there are 4 kinds of people here – the rich, with 4 houses and 10 cars. Then the wealthy – with 1 house and 1 car.

The two previous are rare. The working class are the third – which has an apartment and not else. He said the average worker makes 1000 durhams a month. That’s $110 a month. He says that their apartments cost 600 durhams a month on average, so that leaves $45 a month to buy food and clothing. And this is the richest city in the richest country in Africa.

The final class is the unemployed. They are 50% of the population. He said that they rob or beg to get money, and they fish or steal corn for food. Many times have I seen desperate faces gathered around small fires with corn placed on top. It always comes out black, but that is what these people eat.

He makes 1000 durhams a month but he doesn’t have to pay for food or a place to stay – the hotel provides that. I asked him what he does with his money and he said he puts it in the bank. He said that after he gets a promotion, he will take the money, buy a house, and get married.

(Azdine works 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He makes $100 a month, $4.22 a day, or 35- 40 cents an hour. At my Stanford Library job, I will make more in 1 hour than he makes in a day.)

Saturday: The Big Race

 

Today I got up at 12:00pm then ate lunch. Then I went out and watch the line up and start of the road race.  There were 184 riders. The King was there – sitting on a pavilion next to the starting line. I watched the start and took pictures for Clark.

I then started walking to the far end of the course. The farther I went from the hotel, the more obnoxious the people became. I decided I was absolutely sick of all this “attention”. Everyone had something to jabber at me as I went past. A cop

(here’s where it ends)

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One other undocumented event is worth noting. The closing ceremonies were held at a new developed aquatic center complete with swimming pools and a high dive – 10 meter platform. For some reason I became obsessed with jumping off the platform – I had always wanted to jump from the 10 meter, but never had the chance. So after instigating some “dares” I climbed up with several Americans, French riders, and I think a few Moroccans.

In my suit and tie, I jumped and plummeted into the pool. I don’t remember if anyone else followed my lead, but I do remember that the noise from the pool area drew the attention of Craig, and some of the Moroccan royalty. I remember Craig looking pissed even as a lower member of the Royal family shook my dripping hand, saying something in French that I interpreted as being, “I’m happy you American’s are enjoying our facility.” After that Craig didn’t say anything, and I finished out the evening sitting on towels someone found for me and shivering a bit. Still, I had a small silent pride for daring to pull off the stunt.

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25 years later, sitting around w/ Stefan and Scott at a cafe in San Francisco we reminisced over our adventures. For each of us, we realized that this trip, despite its hardships and culture shock,  laid the groundwork for a perpetual wanderlust. Being 17 and unsupervised in North Africa, the souk with its shiny treasures, the shanty town slums, the contrasts of  royalty and slums - something about the sights, smells and experiences - and some unique attribute of our own personalities melded together to form a lifelong passion for travel. In the annals of "really living" and the supporting thesis that you can "make time" or "kill time" we also found that these 7 or 8 days had filled a much broader expanse of our memories, and that with the patina of time, those days have become years of living memory. Further proof came in the form of the impressions and value of shared experience: 25 years later, friendships that were formed in just a few days and in quiet moments watching the Atlantic crash upon the rocks, were rekindled as easily as if we had been childhood friends for years.

PS: Stacie - if you ever read this, I want my Moroccan leather jacket back...

Casablanca 25 years ago Pt. 7

Days 2 through 10 of the never ending junior world trials began the next day… The next 10 days were hell. Each day I headed to the track for a new set of seemingly arbitrary evaluations, (though the first day Jamie didn’t show up.) Standing starts, flying 200’s, motorpaced 200’s, side-by-sides jumps from corner to corner, all head to head with Jamie, all potentially determining a trip to the world championships. Each day brought about another version of the trials. It quickly became clear to me that Jamie was unaware of his “shoe-in” position (if it were real). If Eddy and Craig had already chosen him, they didn’t bother to tell him, so each day we both showed up with something to win, and something to lose.

The worst part is that we often timed each other… For example, in motorcycle-led 200m sprints, Anje would ride the motorcycle and wind it up with one of us following and the other timing. Then after an appropriate rest, we’d switch places on the bike or with the watch – and Anje would write down the times in between.  

I felt good on the bike and felt I performed well, pulling up to the side of the motorcycle after significant accelerations, but my times were mid-tens (10.4, 10.5) – at least according to the watch Jamie was holding. 

When I timed Jamie, he performed well, 10.2, 10.3, so I asked Anje to pick it up in subsequent rounds.

He did so, but still, my times were slower… at least according to Jamie’s stopwatch.

Finally, Craig showed up, and Jamie and I both did a few more  traverses around the track. This time Craig had the watch. Jamie went first with a good time, and then I lined up behind Anje. He winked at me and said in his thick accent, “If you stay me, no matter what watch says, you are fastest.”  He lit it up on the motorbike and we accelerated through corner – tilting completely sideways and continued accelerating hard down the final straight and into the finish.

“10.2 Carney,” Craig said, “9.9 Coyle,” and Anje winked again. Craig also smiled at me after Carney sulked off. It seemed he wasn’t necessarily in Jamie’s corner either and was just following orders.

Finally, a week or so after the trials, the announcement came from Craig: “Coyle, Carney, you both qualify for the junior world championships.” Jamie and I were both immensely relieved and for a period our rivalry was subsumed by our relief.

Still my distrust of the coaches, the process, and the team underpinned the trip I had finally earned… and it showed up in the diary of my 17 year old self...

(On a lark, I decided to search for Jamie on the internet - now 25 years later. Since 1986, we've only met once - summer before last at the Downer's Grove Nationals. Jamie was super fit, but not racing. I had just finished the cat 2. race and come in third. We shook hands. He noted my finish. And then he started, "you know I retired last year, but decided to jump in a stage race up in the pacific Northwest a few weeks back - good money - and I ended up winning the whole thing!" Nothing had changed.

Here's a race from 2006 on the track - a "Keirin" that is led out by a motorcycle until 2 laps to go. If you start a around 3:00 in, you can see the carnage begin. Jamie is in 2nd and backs off the lead rider with 1 lap to go (looking, looking) and then accelerates, riding another up the track and then crashing him...a simple mistake? Then, after the finish Jamie gets cruely taken down for no reason after the finish by another rider... (slow-mo at 6:30)or, if you read the comments...or watch the father of the other rider at 6:51?) No.. nothing has changed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGnLDr6jRSI]

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Back to the diary: Casablanca 1986

My repechage was a 4-up, taking only the winner. In it was an Italian, French, and Australian. I started 4th (highest) and since you can’t go slow on the banking, I ended up 4th on the pole. On the back straight I jumped into 2nd behind the Australian. He led at a decent clip until 1 ½ to go when all of a sudden the French rider sailed to the front. If I would have realized he was going for it I would have jumped but I just thought he was going to the front – until I saw the gap he had. Instead I waited – cuz I thought he would sit up and the Australian would get on his wheel.

As it was, he got a gap and by the time I realized he was going for it, the Italian had gone around me.

I then jumped and by the corner was coming around the Aussy. He rode me up – for no reason really, then I passed him. The French and Italian riders were long gone. I caught but didn’t pass the Italian – bridging 50 feet to him on the last lap. The French rider won by 40 feet.

I was out.

I was really disappointed – I thought I was as fast as or faster than most of these riders – I just didn’t do it. The East German beat everyone in the 8th final by 2 bike lengths, finishing 5th overall. I had to settle for about 16th.

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Wednesday:

Today I got up at 12:00pm. I ate lunch then walked down to the beach. There were trillions of people there once again. Today is some funky holiday – the King’s 25th year of reigning or something. His palace, or one of them, is near our hotel. I then ate lunch, then read, then went to the track. The East German who barely beat me won his first ride against a Russian, then lost his second, then won the third. In the third ride, he led it out and the Russian didn’t come nearly as close as I did to winning. I should be in the top 8 at least. The East German is now top 4!

 

After the races I ate dinner, then went out to the rocks then started writing.

Oh, yesterday, Craig took us all out to eat at the Hyatt Regency. It is the nicest hotel I have ever been in. The floors are all highly polished black marble, and everything was lavish and highly decorated. It was like a palace. I had a shrimp/lobster crab salad, a “Copacabana”, and a sirloin steak. For the finale it was a banana split – the only ice cream I’ve had since I’ve been here. It was great.

Thursday:

Today I got up at 11:30. I took a shower and ate lunch. For the appetizer they had 5 fish. Head, fins, eyes, everything but scales. I picked at it for awhile. It tasted OK, but it wasn’t worth the effort to pick the meat off the bones.

Anyways, after this I went with Anje and Craig and Yuri to the bazaar. Anje wanted a leather jacket like mine. We searched 6 leather stores – but not one had one like it – even the place I bought it from. It was the best one – and I got it. Anje bought another one instead – for $50 – cheap. It is nice but not like mine.

I tried to trade my Levis, but even with them the first two shops wanted 600 Durhams and my jeans. So we left. Back at the hotel I got ready for a ride, but discovered that I didn’t have any wheels. I found my front wheel  - it was on Stefans’ bike. My rear was nowhere to be seen.

So I finally borrowed Clark’s wheel. But it really bugged me that they would take my stuff without asking. I rode hard, doing the road course twice, but extending it down the coast – past the city to the other side. I went fast and when I was finally almost finished, I got a flat – a mile from the hotel. Since it wasn’t my wheel, I took off my shoes and carried it back to the hotel. The sidewall had blown out.

It made me mad because my tires would have been just fine. I later found out that Aaron took it. He bugs me – he is always negative. He is almost exactly like Carney – sometimes worse – always bragging about something and telling you how bad he’s going to beat you. Definitely just like Carney.

This girl Lisa the the OTC was telling me that she was in the Sports Med. Building the day after the World Team Trials and that Carney was in there, and that he had just had them test him for an iron deficiency, mono, and a couple things including anemia. He just had to have an excuse for me beating him at trials. She said he didn’t believe it when the tests came back negative and that he wanted to be tested again.

Anyways, the sprint finals were tonight – I was stranded here at the hotel with a flat and no wheel, but I heard about them.

For the 5-8 final there was 2 Russians- including last year’s world champion (I guess the drugs wore off) a Japanese racer, and an East German I rode against. The East German won, Japan 2nd, and the Russians 7th and 8th. I should have been in there! Third and 4th was between a French rider and an East German. The East German won both rides.

For first and second it was the really fast French rider (11.23) and the Russian Kilo World Champion – he was in position to win two world titles in 2 days! In the first race, the Russian led it out, then rode the Frenchman up – but he still came around and won. In the second ride, the Frenchman led it out and the Russian came around him!

They must have been so tense for the final ride. The Russian led on the pole, and the French rider sat back 5 bike lengths, almost taunting him to Kilo him. So he did – with 1 ½ laps to go he took off. It seemed clear that this was his favorite place to go because he could accelerate that long.

The Frenchmen jumped, but he didn’t close. With ½ lap to go, he was gaining quickly now, but still far back. He was three lengths back there, but caught him near the end of the corner. He then came around and passed the Russian by less than 2 inches. I guess it was pretty awesome. The 200m time – even after 1 ½ laps of sprinting – 11.5 – incredible.

Dinner was lame lamb so we decided to hop over to an Italian restaurant the Kirkbrides had discovered. It was awesome. I had lasagna and a stuffed Calzone and chocolate ice cream. Scott, Stef and an I then went out on the rocks but I got soaked walking out. I stepped in a hole while wading with my pants rolled up, and found myself up to my waist. That’s all that happened today. I miss Stacie. I haven’t gotten her a souvenir yet either.

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Next up - final diary entry from the 1986 Junior World Championship in Casablanca , Morocco, and an evaluation of the Moroccan society, income, and classes.

Casablanca 25 years ago Vol. 5: The perfect race part 3

Two starts and two crashes. As I disentangled my bike from Jamie’s for the second time my blood was boiling. I was tempted to respond to the taunts but I kept my mouth shut. In the process of returning to the start line the steam burned off and instead of being furious, I was radiating with a new kind of energy…

Back up on the line I clasped each hand calmly over the bars and waited. Below me Eddy B. and Craig were giving Jamie a serious talking-to. No one had bothered to talk to me.

I had been there nearly a week, had won every race, and yet despite being a favorite to win the only spot for the U.S. team at the World sprint championships, Craig had only said hello, and I had yet to even meet Eddy B.

In the first days I timidly waited for my opportunity to talk to this legend (Eddy B.) but with each passing day I realized it was not a meritocracy – other criteria were being used to evaluate the riders. Despite winning 17 races the prior season I had not even been invited to the spring camp. No U.S. team coach wanted anything to do with me. Now I had skinned up shins, knees and elbows thanks to their “favorite.”

Head down on the line I waited for the gun. Where before there was fear, nausea, and doubt now there was clarity. “No way I lead this out,” I thought, “and… no way he beats me.”

Jamie moved forward from the line at a relatively brisk pace without the usual theatrics. A stern warning from the referee did the trick and we managed to complete the first lap without mishap. However, halfway through the second lap, just upon entering the relatively flat section of the backstretch, Jamie stopped. I locked my legs and skidded to a halt next to him, both our bikes angled slightly down the track, bodies rigid and standing up, forearms and legs providing a contracting set of forces that compensated for the gyroscopic effects of the wheels. A “track stand.”

A few seconds ticked by and we hovered motionless. Then 30. Then 60. Now the crowd of junior riders assembled for the trial began to voice their opinions. “C’mon! Race!” “Hold it and race in the dark!?” “Want a slurpee, slurpee?” (7-11 riders were known as the slurpee team.) “C’mon Carney, kick his ass and lets head to the arcade!” “Coyle, Coy-le, Coy-ale!” I could hear my best friend at the camp, Rich Hincapie (brother to George – the Tour de France great) chanting and building energy for me. Now I could hear Clark, Rishy Grewal, and others.

Still we balanced and ants trickled through the cracks and the sun beat down on our backs and we grimaced and waited. I had no intention of taking the lead. I could-have and would-have waited for hours. I was calm.

Perhaps sensing this, 3 or 4 minutes later, Jamie pretended to sprint, but merely pushed away and I followed casually. I felt that odd sense of “knowing” and instead of my vision narrowing it widened and I could see the track ahead, the track behind, the boys in the crowd chattering and still we had over a lap to go.  I followed Jamie’s wheel pretending I was in his thrall.

The bell was loud as we crossed the line and it brought with it anxiety and acceleration. The junior racers and general audience had come to their feet roaring in anticipation. We paced by the blue finish line and entered the corner gaining speed, Jamie’s neck swiveled, eyes darting every half second to gauge my position. I waited, stalking. This was it - predator and prey. We filed neatly through the corner and as I waded through Jamie’s draft he accelerated.

Around the corner and there it was – the horizontal line of the 200 meter mark, and suddenly, oddly, Jamie slowed - tight on the pole lane. I rolled up next to him, wheels overlapping. He smirked and then began to accelerate again, out of the saddle but head angled to the right, watching me continuously. I rose from the saddle as well, but allowed my momentum to keep me just even with his hip, playing his game.

We proceeded down the backstretch gaining speed but still only at 24, 26 mph,  Jamie always watching, gauging. The plan was now explicitly clear – he intended to utilize our overlapping wheels to  ride me up the track and then dive back down before I could respond. I knew when and where it would start.

I knew too, what I would do.

150 meters to go and we entered steepening confines of the final corner. As predicted, Jamie began rising from the pole lane as the slope began to increase. Watching my wheel, he climbed from the pole lane up through lane three, rising toward the fence, starting to accelerate as he readied for the final pounce…

I beat him to it.

As we neared the top of the track I pushed my bike forward while slowing my pedal stroke. Under his watchful eye, I prepared my escape - my wheel staying even with his seatpost even as my center of gravity retreated. At the top of the his arc, just before the impending jump I thrust my bike backward and body forward to clear his rear wheel. Head down, shoulders up, I breached my handlebars between my knees, hands narrow on the stem, twisted sideways and cut left down the track.

I cleared his wheel by 1/8th inch plummeting down the track. Throwing the bars forward and re-gripping the drops, I put every single shred of energy, fear, hatred and pride into the muscles and electrons surrounding my legs and heart. Out of the saddle my tires tore against the surface of the track with the beautiful sound of ripping paper. 

Like Han Solo I sat down and hit hyperspace as the backdrop blurred and the track streaked by in a hum.

Octaves rising I was head down hitting 200 rpms down the final straightaway. I knew, just knew, that no-one, just no-one could sustain that kind of onslaught. It was a crowning moment, an emblem of every single one of my limited strengths. Never in my life had I been mind-gamed or out-jumped. Here, in the most important race of my life, my arch-enemy had just overplayed his hand. I had dropped the ace, and the roar of the crowd answered my move. With a surge of pride I raised my hands from the bars to celebrate victory and dared a peek to my right just prior to the line.

Sure enough… no Jamie. To the rear, no Jamie – and then… the Joker as trump card...

Instead of raising my hands to the sky, I put them on my head. There he was, 50 feet back, freeing his feet from the straps and then pedals windmilling, legs splayed widely as he looked quizzically down at his bike…. He had aborted when the win was out of reach - and now the theatrics again - an invented equipment failure. He coasted across the line then immediately dismounted, inspecting his bike and pedals from the side.

It was effective – no celebration for me. At least one more round before the chance at desert, sands, and bizarre bazaars. And... Jamie was fresher for pulling out.

Back to the Diary, 1986

Sunday:

Today I got up with difficulty and ate breakfast. I then rode my bike for an hour – once again getting lost. I ended up riding right past the market place (bazaar) – packed as usual. I then saw the Hyatt Regency – right across from the bazaar. Then I rode right past the Libyan Arab Airlines – scary – but some strange part of me was tempted to go paint an American Flag on the wall.

I was first up in the 200m time trial and I sat around for 2 hours watching pursuits after my warmup. I tried to warm up on rollers, but then I got a flat in my front. I didn’t climb the banking until the last lap which was wrong. I had to climb before jumping, which took away the impetus of my jump, so basically I jumped up the track, then had nothing. I was dead before I started. My time was terrible – 12.31. I was not very happy. The next 2 times were slower, but then came a rush of good riders. I was really worried about the qualifying. I had to beat 9 of the 33 riders to qualify.

The next 6 riders were all in the 11’s – a Russian did 11.3 – a whole second faster. The Moroccan riders were very slow – all in the 13’s. But the crowd cheered them anyway.

With 12 riders to go I still had to beat one to qualify. Jamie rode 31st. Then I beat a Korean – he rode 12.37 – Ahhh – sigh of relief. Craig had said that if we didn’t make the top 24, he would send us home. I’m sure he meant it for me… but what about Jamie? That’s what I was worried about the most. Jamie rode a 12.52. He was stunned – devastated. He didn't make the cut. I’m sure he’ll blame it on the diarrhea he had though. I ended up 20th – but I could do much better. Oh well…

After it was over I returned to the hotel, chatted with Azdine and wrote all this – goodnight.

Monday:

Today I got up at 12:00 noon. I then ate lunch then went for an hour ride. I was once again struck by the extreme poverty of the people here. The apartment complexes are horribly run-down. 50% of the people here are unemployed. I talked with Azdine again during lunch. Yesterday I let him borrow my jacket and I was really worried about it the rest of the day – although needlessly. I was just suspicious after seeing how Mustafa turned out.

After my massage today I rode to the track. We missed Mike’s ride. He lost with a slower time than yesterday – a 3:43. He was pretty upset. The other guy only beat him by 2/10’s of a second. I guess they both relaxed at first then at the end Mike kicked, but then the other guy kicked also.

Everyone predicted that Aaron Frahm would do a good kilo, but I knew that he wouldn’t do that well, because I’m riding so slow as is everyone else because of the low altitude and humid air – our bodies have not adjusted yet. Anyways, the first rider did a 109.8 – very fast for this track – an Italian. Aaron rode a 1:12.20 – the slowest of the first 5 riders. The Moroccan rode a 1:18.6. They are so slow – I feel bad for them. The guys were bummed about Aaron’s kilo – we have the technology, but not the speed. Aaron had a rubber skin-suit, funny bike and disc wheel. The Spaniard after him did a 108.7 without anything – not even a funny bike – normal, stock everything – he ended up third. A Russian (who else) won and a Pole was second. Their times? 107.7 and 108.1. 

After the races we went back to the Hotel. Dinner was excellent, starting with bean soup (no beans – just mush – good!) and a shishkabob of some fish – it was great. Azdine gave me two.

After dinner Azdine came to my room. He wanted some help with his English class. I helped him figure out some pre-test dittoes. He is really nice. I found out he has a room on the top of the hotel. We talked and then exchanged addresses, and he wrote in Arabic in my other book. Then Craig said I had to go to bed so goodnight.

Next up - the conclusion of 'the perfect race' and racing the fat Bulgarian...

Casablanca 25 years ago Vol 4: The Perfect Race Pt. 2

1986 Diary - Friday: The opening ceremonies were very different. The stands were packed – dignitaries and athletes on one side, and spectators on the other. The spectators were packed in extremely close – Americans never get that close – strangers were practically sitting on each other’s laps.

In the center of the velodrome were approximately 500 brightly dressed dancing girls who formed groups in circles and danced and sang between events. Also, a solid line of girls in pink pants and white shirts ringed the track (which doubles as a dog racetrack – having the pulleys and everything for the mechanical rabbit as well as kennels right next to the second turn.) These girls did nothing that I could see. While waiting the King and his son came and sat down along with 50 body guards. They started the ceremonies by introducing the King to the public, and then jabbering away in Arabic about god-knows-what for 10 minutes. Finally some bands played in the infield – small groups either banging on drums or cymbals and dancing faster and faster – I needed a camera! Hopefully I’ll get pictures from Stefan or Dave…

We were supposed to ride 2 laps “in our sweatsuits for ceremony” said Craig, so we brought our road bikes and normal shoes. It turned out to be a 20 lap points race with track bikes, cleats, and helmets. We are so uninformed. I could have won some money if I had only known. A Russian broke away (with 3 teammates blocking) many of the other teams didn’t know about it, and those who did, only the Moroccans had more than 1 rider (2) beside the USSR w/ 4.

After it was over, I chatted with some of the other teams’ riders – mostly Australia and Japan before returning to the hotel for dinner.

After dinner, Scott, Stefan, Greg and I went out to the ocean. We sat on the rocks for awhile as the tide started to come in (drawing of the beach/rocks). Then Scott and I went out to the end of the rock promenade and sat on a rock that jutted far out into the breaking waves (drawing here). At first the splashes went up straight over our heads and then returned straight down - we were surrounded by a temporary white wall of water - and it appeared we were getting soaked, but we weren't. But after a while the waves got higher and higher until one big wave swamped us. It was a lot of fun. Scott is a really fun guy.

When we returned, Scott discovered that he had locked his key in his room, and that the only way to get in was to climb from my balcony to his - but there were two rooms in between. We both went - just for the adventure - but the second balcony had a man in it. Fortunately his back was turned and he didn't see us before we turned around - we couldn't go that way... But then Scott devised a scheme. He climbed to the first balcony, and then got ready to go to the next. As soon as he was ready, I walked down the hall and knocked on the 2nd room door. While the man got up, Scott moved.  Upon opening the door, I could see Scott traversing the balcony giving me the sign - "stall!" - he hadn't gone all the way yet - there was a chair. So I looked surprised and asked the man if he spoke English. He said, "a little," so I talked to him for a minute and then said "au revoir" and Scott was already back in the hall through his own room. It was a fun adventure/scam – Ferris Buhler would have been proud.

Saturday:

Today I got up, went to breakfast and then took the bus to the market w/ Stefan. Before leaving we talked to 3 pretty Moroccan girls for a while (Stefan did all the talking – in French.) I guess they told him they liked my eyes and thought I was very tan – my skin was darker than theirs. I heard them say “magnifique”.  Anyways, once inside the market we walked for a while before meeting a very nice man who spoke English. He told us that he would show us all the best places and haggle for us. We were suspicious, but at least he kept all the people off of us. He took us to a “caskan” factory.

 

His name was Mustafa. I bought my mother a beautiful lavender 2 piece caskan – embroidered. We later found out that Mustafa was pretty much taking us to only the places where his friends worked – he didn’t take us anywhere else – it made me mad. I think I may have paid too much for the caskan and the robe I bought myself.  I paid $20 for the caskan and $10 for the robe. I also bought a knife for $25. It is curved – really cool. I bargained it down from $50. This lady with a baby tried to beg 1 durham (15cents) off us and we gave her nothing, but it was good we didn’t – we needed it for the bus ride back. I also bought a scarf of really nice cloth for $3.

 

Stefan went crazy – he bought all kinds of stuff – jewelry, silver, bags, a caskan, scarf, etc. he borrowed $25 from me and 40 durhams too. Mustafa grabbed a t-shirt I had bought to trade and later he informed me it was his – I had “given it to him for a souvenir.” He later tried on one of my 7-11 hats and when I tried to get it back, he got violent. I was totally sick of the place after all this, especially when the storeowner of the knife place asked me for a little flag for a souvenir, and when I wasn’t looking he took 3 – all of them. I finally got them back though (2 of them.)

We finally got out of there although 5 Arab shopkeepers followed us out trying to sell Stefan silver.

Upon returning, I took a nap then went to watch the TTT finish. It was really cool to see all the teams finishing and especially cool to see the good old stars and stripes coming up over the hill. From where we were on the hill, we could see a half of a mile, and it was 4-5 people deep on both sides as far as we could see.

 

After this, we talked to some teams again. I really want to trade my U.S.A. sweats for the Italian sweats – they are so nice.

We then left for the track. We (Jamie and I) warmed up with the team pursuit. We then did 4 jumps in which I pretty much beat Jamie easily even though he was riding a 45 and I was riding a 47.

Then we each did a 200m time trial. I did a 12.14, and Jamie did a 12.42. Apparently they painted the 200m mark wrong because we couldn’t be that slow – both of us.

We then returned and ate and chatted with Azdine the waiter. He is really nice – he speaks a little English, and has offered to take us to the market. He does think I got a good deal on my leather jacket – I do too. He really likes it. It’s the best! I still have $48 left – not much huh? But the jacket is worth more than I have spent so far so that’s ok. Tomorrow I will write postcards – goodnight!

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The Perfect Race Part 2: 

Nothing had changed in Jamie’s attitude when he lined up next to me after our first aborted race. The referee’s vague warning was issued with a wave of his hand and a complete lack of eye contact. It had little effect and I faced the same leer with now whispered challenges. We rolled off the line.

This was the finale of the match sprint trials for the 1986 Junior World Championships and most of the 70 or so other junior racers had turned out to watch - most of whom had already competed in their own events. Unlike other events where riders could qualify for several open spots on the national team in said event and win an all expenses paid trip to Africa, in the match sprint there was only one spot. It was a 2 out of 3 series showdown with winner-take-all.  Jamie and I had already raced 6 times that day: 3 mano y mano matches where a third race was unnecessary - we were both undefeated.  

The trouble had started upon my arrival – the national team coaches had wanted to own all the practice times and use those practices to “evaluate” riders, but my coach Roger had other ideas and after a verbal showdown with Eddy B. he demanded some time on the track for me and a few other 7-11 riders (“slurpees” as they called us). I was glad he had created space for me to train, but felt even more isolated from the U.S. team and coaching staff who had failed to invite me into the fold. I was not ignorant of the fact that these same coaches would become my future team were I successful. Meanwhile across the track I could see Jamie working directly with Craig, Anje & Eddy. Clearly they had determined that he had the talent they were looking for and had invested a lot in his success.

This was an old rivalry. The days are long in the summer of youth and hence its shadows stretch longer across the seasons. The fact that this match - this head to head combat - had started at age eight was the equivalent of the 100 years war. Jamie and I had always been at odds. From my very first race in the rain around the Dearborn towers nearly a decade prior we’d been evenly matched in talent – but with temperaments that put us at odds. http://johnkcoyle.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/clair-young/

Six years and decades of memory prior Jamie and I had matched up at our first national championships for the “midget” category in San Diego in 1980. The clear favorites of the bunch, the rivalry extended to our parents as well, with Jamie’s dad taking repeated opportunities to provide intimate and intimidating details of Jamie’s training regimen, diet, preparation and successes with my own father in the early days prior to the event.

Having faced similar posturing at prior races, my father decided to strike back in his own way the night before nationals began. He stopped at a local bike shop to pick up a cardboard bike box to fly my bike home after nationals, but instead of leaving it in the room, he boldly set it out on the deck of the sprawling motel we were all staying at, taping it carefully closed as though it were a new bike straight from the factory. Sure enough Mr. Carney saw it and my father calmly explained that it was my new, custom made, superlight race bike from Europe (rather than the 20 year old repainted steed I was riding). My dad and I chuckled about Jamie's dad's curiousity about that box for years.

Jamie and I were closely matched in those first nationals but I came out the victor, and he a close second. These competitive clashes continued to play out over the years – as did the contrasting approaches and personalities. Jamie was the extrovert – the fun trash talking ‘typical’ sprinter. I was more like the typical road rider – independent and relatively self absorbed – but without the endurance. I wished I could fit the mold of one or the other but I didn’t yet know what my strengths were.

Rolling forward for round 2 of race 1 of the Junior World trials Jamie was again slightly in the lead. As the banking steepened, he suddenly looked back at me, grinned, and then steered up the track. My front wheel hooked sideways and even as gravity pulled me toward the concrete, it also pulled my front wheel down into his rear wheel we both collapsed again into a heap at the bottom of the track. We'd raced twice and only progressed 90 feet total. The raspberries from the road rash were starting to shine in the heat.

This time the referee’s warning was stern – another incident and Jamie would be relegated. We lined up again and this time my coach waited until Jamie pulled to the line before rolling me to the start line well above him.

The starter raised his gun…

Really Living: Casablanca, Morocco... 25 years ago (vol 1)

After nearly a year long hiatus primarily due to work demands, I'll be re-launching this blog over the coming weeks and months. I say re-launching vs. re-starting because I will be re-branding it as well. In the next few weeks this site will be re-named "Really-Living" and will be re-organized around that concept. I will also try to post regularly - shooting for every Thursday. Discovery: A gift from my 17 year old self:

My basement last summer: grey light slanted through the sliding glass doors and pooled around puddles of warmer light under the bare bulbs and their dangling strings. Squatting in a far corner I sorted through piles of books, shoeboxes heaping with old letters, and a plasma globe from the 80’s. There, under a pile of receipts for products long since gone was a pair of unlikely objects. I had a sense of déjà vu as I drew them from the bottom of the box, a sudden wave of haunting intimate knowledge yet unfamiliarity: a tiny spiral bound notebook, and a thin red hardbound training diary bound by a rubber band. Two 25 year old gifts from my 17 year old self – jaggedly scrawled journals of my first two trips to compete in the world championships – first, the 1986 world speedskating championships, and  second, the 1986 junior world cycling championships.

Of the two artifacts, my curiosity was piqued the most by the latter. Africa, Morocco, Casablanca – the scents and sounds came flooding back - torn pages of memory now whole: senior year of high school, graduation, the 7-11 cycling team, Eddy B., the Colorado Springs Olympic training center, and a return to a familiar yet alien place where I was yet an outsider. A dozen 17 year old kids dropped in North Africa with little supervision absorbing the sights and sounds of a completely foreign culture... Then… yes then, a sudden smile, a memory of that day that preceded it all: the heat, still air over shimmering concrete, and the crisp latticed shadow of bicycle wheels on the velodrome, and the “perfect race” an exquisite combination of adversity and triumph, surprise reversals, and vindication.

No. Nothing since had ever topped it. Not any of the following world championships, not the Olympics or the medal race. No, the “perfect race” of that summer possessed all the elements of a McKee plot – the inciting incident, progressive complications, crisis, and resolution. Never again would the outcome of a race so utterly possess all facets of my existence. More to come on that race, but first the denouement: Casablanca, Morocco. (Pictures complements of Stefan Spielman, journal is un-edited except for punctuation)

The creased binder creaked as I eagerly opened to the first page of the journal and read those first words, penned by that familiar stranger. Walking backward into a dream I read:

(Tuesday) The plane flight was 6 1/2 hours and I didn't sleep at all. We left at 8:00pm from New York and arrived at 7:30am in Casablanca, Morocco.

The people at the airport treated us very well, although they didn't speak English. We drove through a dry wasteland - shrubs and dead grass - to our hotel on the outskirts of downtown on the ocean. I wish I had a camera - there are so many strange sights and smells. Men hold hands with men and women with women - a social custom that apparently you do with friends.

It is flat here for the most part. The people here are generally very dark skinned and many seem to have some black as well as arab ancestry. There are also some full blown african natives here. About half of the people are wearing long shawls in town while the rest have 'normal' clothes, but the further from downtown you get, the more the traditional dress gains a monopoly. The traditionally dressed women usually wear hoods and veils.

Armed and unarmed soldiers are stationed occasionally on the highway and in the city. There are nice modern buildings in town, but there are a lot of rundown chipped stucco apartment buildings too. There are some nice houses, but otherwise the average household dwelling consists of a small vegetable garden surrounded by a white painted wall on three sides and a shabbily built flat-topped, low-roofed house comprising the fourth wall. The floors appear to be dirt. There are also houses made of cheap corrugated sheet metal rusting into the dirt - very poor.

The people seem to like us very much - I'm not sure if it is because we are Americans or because we are cyclists. After unloading our stuff, we set off to find a place to eat at 10:00am. Apparently restaurants serve meals only at certain times, so we went to three places before being able to get someone to serve us food.

When we arrived at the hotel, no one spoke Arabic or French in our group so we were having a hard time. We weren't making much progress until a young man - approximately 22 years old - very nice looking with nice clothes (casual) and a cheerful attitude introduced himself as Mohammed and told us he would help us. He helped us unload and get our rooms and found us a restaurant. He kept asking us about "Rock and Roll" and if we liked Chuck Berry, E.L.O., or Ray Charles. He was very entertaining.

He explained that he was an English major at the university and that he wanted to be a translator someday, so he was practicing. When we finally found a restaurant, Mohammed ordered for everyone. While we were waiting for the next 15 minutes we were accosted by approximately 17 "street sellers" selling sunglasses, chains, ornaments, wallets, and shoe shines. I was smart enough to give a definite no and look away, but some of the guys looked at the stuff, while others would say no and then watch the men with interest in their eyes. Some of the guys (Mike and Greg especially) got rude - which didn't help much. One of the peddlers had open sores and pustules all over his body - talk about culture shock! The man selling sunglasses was trying to sell them for $25. Before he left, he was asking only $5.

Mohammed and the owner finally drove them off so we could eat. Lunch was composed of French Bread (very good - it comes with all meals) and steak and French Fries with Coke or Orange juice to drink. I  had Coke - I wasn't going to risk getting sick. I ended up eating a Shishkebob someone had ordered (Stefan) as well. It was pretty good but everything has a weird taste.  The smells are weird too - our Hotel has this strange musty smell. Scott says it is incense. After lunch we slept until 4:00pm then got ID cards for worlds, then went for a ride.

The people loved us - everywhere we went people would wave – hundreds and thousands of them (a far cry from a ride earlier in New Jersey prior to Somerville and Nutley where after 100 “hello’s” only one small boy returned our greeting) . They also all had something to say – everyone would always wave and yell something in French or Arabic. We rode 20 miles – first we went to the track then South along the coast, and then finally around the 8 mile road course loop which is relatively flat with one 180 degree turn and was marked with arrows painted on the road.

We then went to eat the correct time at the hotel. At one point, as we returned our bikes through the parking garage, we came upon our hotel staff removing dead chickens from the trunk of the car – bodies complete with feathers intact and simmering (festering?) in the heat in the trunk. No surprise, we had French bread, bean soup, an omelet with spices, and – of course – chicken for the main course w/ apple pastry for dessert, all with mineral water to drink – pretty good!

After dinner, Stefan, Scott and I went out to the beach, walking down the shiny cobbled steps to the sand. Every night about 8:00 it gets cloudy and foggy until morning – whereupon it clears up – all the cars have yellow headlights for the fog.  The tide was coming in and we climbed around the ruins of some old castle or other building, then sat on the rocks that the ten foot high waves were crashing on. We looked across the 1000’s of miles of water back to home. It was really beautiful.

I’m going to bed – its still Tuesday.

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Next up: Where Mohommed is arrested and dragged away by his hair, screaming...