Interbike and playing hurt

Once you see this sign abandon all hope

The Interbike bike show for the working media is a complete shit show. There’s really no other way to explain or sugar-coat it. Each year I went as an editor I could have written a post about all the shenanigans that occur: from the photo shoots in our hotel room, to hanging out to all hours of the night with various pros, but I thought I’d pick this story out of the hat.

The first year I attended as working media I was actually excited about attending. I was going to hang out in Las Vegas and see the latest and greatest bike stuff. What more could I want? By day three I was destroyed from all the walking from meeting to meeting. At one point my BFF who works at another magazine saw me collapsed on the floor behind a booth and severely reprimanded me. I tried to explain to him that I was exhausted. This wasn’t exhaustion due to late night partying, but from the whole day of zig-zagging the expo floor, bouncing from one appointment to another and subsisting on free sugary energy drinks and heat-lamp cooked hot dogs. I’ll always remember what he said, “Suck it up! Everyone here is playing hurt!” The following year I promised myself that wasn’t going to be “that guy” who pulled the ripcord on day three.

The years following “playing hurt” became my motto and I lived it. Back before Cross Vegas dominated the Wednesday night scene there was the epic Sinclair party. And as I look back at it I wonder why it was such a big deal. We were all crammed into an overflowing nightclub at the top of some casino, with music so loud you couldn’t talk to the same people I had to have meetings with throughout the day. However I had a plan. We would arrive at the party early as I knew that later in the evening trying to get to the bar would be an almost impossible task. From there phase 2 of my plan was that I would immediately start pounding drinks to take advantage of the open bar. By the time it was 11:00 I would have drank myself mostly sober and be able to continue with that night’s activities, whatever they may have been. However, it all went horribly wrong.

The show floor - where the magic happens

As planned Tim and I got to the Sinclair party with passes in hand and I headed to the bar. A few British journalists were already there with probably the same idea I had: take advantage of the open bar, pound free booze and then take off. I started drinking and chatting. I know a few of them – in particular Ellis Bacon of Pro Cycling. Ellis is a great guy, but whenever I see him I can’t help myself by saying, “What’s shaking Bacon?!” With a few drinks in me I’m now over the top with my enthusiastic greeting. I’m sure to this day he probably considers me that ugly American. But seriously, I can’t be the only one who has said that to him? When the open bar ended I thought I was done too. However by this time the marketing people have started to arrive and began handing me free drinks. Before I knew it I was plowed. There have only been a few times when I was black-out drunk. This was one of them.

I vaguely remember getting into a taxi to get back to the Venetian hotel where we were staying. I awoke to the room spinning and the uncontrollable urge to get everything out of my stomach immediately. For the next couple of hours I hovered by the toilet praying to God that he would end my life. Tim graciously stepped up to cover my morning appointments. Finally around 11:00 AM I could stand up and make my way to the show floor. I dragged myself down and started to make my appointments. At one point I felt something trying to come up and I hurried to the men’s bathroom. I quickly walked over to the nearest one, trying not to make it seem that obvious I was going to hurl. I rounded the corner, entered the bathroom and was hit with the stench of vomit mixed with urine and other human waste. The floors were slick with god knows what and every counter top was wet. And you can forget about paper towels. In the far stall I heard the unmistakable sound of someone bent over a toilet yacking their guts out. I’ve smelt all kinds of foul odors from dead bodies, baby shit to burning flesh, but few things smell as bad as that bathroom did. It was as if I entered Dante’s fifth layer of hell. I choked back any urge to vomit and quickly spun around on my heels. I would rather at this point go to the PowerBar booth and stick my head into their garbage can to puke then stay in that hell hole of a bathroom.

At one point I caught up to my friend and I told him what had happened. He had done something similar but he was not looking that worse for wear. It was then that I realized I was still a rookie at playing hurt at Interbike.

The following years I calmed down a bit when attending Interbike. I met some great people at the show and did some more normal mature activities like going for a drink instead of emptying every bottle behind the bar. It also helped that I talked a lot of shit about how I was going to win Cross Vegas and was trying to impress at the industry criterium race, so I needed to at least keep myself in check.

I didn’t attend the 2009 Interbike because I had just left ROAD and to be honest I didn’t miss it. I thought I would, but the thought of walking up and down the aisles listening to advertisers drone on about whatever product they have, no longer holds the same magic for me. That said, it looks like I’ll be attending the 2010 Interbike in some sort of media capacity and I expect to have plenty of stories to tell.