I hate Phil Collins. There, I said it. Though it feels pretty good to get that off my chest, I do admit I feel a slight twinge of guilt saying it…I do definitely hate him though. The reason I feel a touch uncomfortable is that it isn’t entirely his fault that I feel the way I do; at least not directly. In fact, his involvement ends where he had the audacity to compose the song Sussudio, and for that, I simply cannot forgive him because it was used, quite effectively, as an evil weapon of torture against me back in college.
It all happened at the beginning of Christmas in my second year when the dude occupying the room directly above mine in our residence apartment block, went home early (how he managed not to have any exams I do not know, but he was on the football team, so maybe that had something to do with it). At the time, I wasn’t exactly the biggest Phil Collins fan, but I could tolerate the odd tune, and, strangely, I had no issues whatsoever with Genesis. I had, on occasion, mentioned that he wasn’t exactly my favourite performer, so it wasn’t exactly a secret. The guy above me, Sean Doherty, had heard me complain from time to time and decided to torment me right at the beginning of a stressful week of exams. The apartment complex we lived in belonged to the college and each identical building was four floors high. I lived on the third floor of the ‘Sawyer’ building and Sean lived on the fourth, with the floorplan of each being exactly the same. Just before heading home, Sean recorded Sussudio back to back to back, filling both sides of a 90 minute cassette (if you are younger than 45, google it), placed it in the player of his boombox, flipped the switch that would make it so that as soon as one side of the tape was done the machine would automatically play the flip side, pressed play, cranked the volume up all the way, placed the machine face-down on the floor so that I could hear it clearly through the ceiling, and then drove home to spend Christmas with his family.
When I returned to my apartment after hockey practice and entered my room to start studying for my Calculus exam (which was a colossal waste of time seeing as how I hadn’t been to that class since September. I was hoping, frankly, for a miracle which, ultimately, did not happen. I ended up with a grade of 19% which was 18 more than I deserved), I could clearly hear old Phil belting out the Su…Su…Sudio. Though I didn’t like the tune at all, it was a neat little distraction from getting started with the studying process. As I listened to the song near its end, I allowed my mind to be diverted from trying to figure out constraint equations to attempting to predict what song Sean was going to play next. At this point I did not know he had already gone home for the holidays and I figured he was just playing music while he studied. I was, however, hoping it wouldn’t be another Phil Collins ‘classic’. When the song started up again, I was a little perturbed but figured Sean wanted to give it one more play before buckling down to focus on the books. As the song finished a second time and started anew, I understood that Sean was just playing a harmless prank expecting me to take the bait and go upstairs to complain, knowing that would lead to a conversation and, most likely, a couple beers. I didn’t fall for it and pretended to study some more, but once ten or fifteen rotations went by, I was contemplating how to (A) return the annoying favour, and (B) murder Sean. Patterns in the song began to emerge and I began to hear several instruments that you generally do not notice but fill out the composition, and eventually I was able to predict every chord change, every riff and could anticipate when a new horn would announce its annoying presence. This was slightly more interesting than Cal II, but that did not stop it from testing my patience. The later it got, the more my poise deteriorated and by bedtime I was close to losing my shit. After stomping upstairs to hammer my fist on the door to the apartment above offered no resolution (it appeared they had all gone home…damn football players), I went back down to my room and tried to get some sleep. By midnight I officially hated the song. By 2AM, I officially hated Phil Collins. By 3AM I hated the British…all of them, including Winston fucking Churchill, Charles Darwin, and even the Beatles…every single one of them including Pete Best who, up until that point I had felt a little sorry for, but, thanks to Sussudio…well…fuck him too. When my alarm went off at 6AM (you’ll notice I did not say, ‘when I woke up’, for that would imply that I had slept which I, most certainly, had not), I rushed over to the apartment of the Residence Advisor to get him to open Sean’s room so I could aggressively shut off the music and urinate on his pillowcase. He refused, claiming that it was not an emergency. I made it to 2PM whereupon I decided it was time to do something about the situation. I opened my window, climbed out and scaled the aluminum siding up to Sean’s window which, thankfully, was not locked. After sliding the glass open, I made my way into his room whereby I located the radio, walked over to the opening and without turning it off, launched it forcefully four floors down to the sidewalk causing it to stop playing the infernal song and shatter into five large pieces. Unsatisfied, I marched back down to my room to retrieve a hockey stick, which I took with me outside, and bludgeoned what remained of the cassette player. When I was done with it, there wasn’t a piece larger than a Triscuit left. Now, thanks to Sean, whenever I hear Sussudio playing in a shopping mall or an elevator, I reflexively freak out like Kramer upon hearing the voice of Mary Hart.
Bike training during the wintertime in the Province of Quebec is like being chained to a front row centre seat at a three and a half hour Sussudio-only Phil Collins concert. I fully understand that there are some serious positive benefits to working out on an indoor bike trainer, and that there are some lunatics out there who actually prefer it, but I am quite sure that most people would agree that cycling outside is far more enjoyable. That is, if you have the choice, which, in Quebec, you do not. Now there might be one or two people reading this from the UK, Australia, or one of the US states below the Mason-Dixon Line who are thinking, ‘winter training isn’t that bad. Just go outside and wear a jacket’. With all due respect, and please understand that I am more than just a little envious of your climate, but fuck off. You have no idea. Where I come from, winter cycling involves being in a dark, musty basement on a road bike made stationary by the turbo trainer and staring mindlessly at YouTube videos on a TV screen. Every. Single. Day. To make matters worse, I do not own a ‘smart’ trainer that is hooked up to an interactive cycling platform like Zwift, which permits riders to train and directly challenge themselves against other indoor cyclists from all over the world (even the stupid ones who live where it is warm enough to be outside). No, my trainer is not ‘smart’ at all; it sits at the back of the remedial class, with all the flip phones and pagers, smoking cigarettes.
That being said, the winter indoor season begins on a welcoming note. It initially feels kind of good to get on the trainer after the summer and fall. It is, after all, the ‘off-season’ and thus there is comfort to be had knowing that the first several sessions do not need to be as lengthy as what you’ve been used to. Ninety minutes is doable. There is also a different, ‘new’-feeling pre-workout routine indoors, and no need for any route planning or special clothing selection. There is so much less to think about. For a couple of months, you come to learn the exact sound the chain and cogs make, and you can tell which gear you’re in just by the frequency of the barely audible clicks the links make when they gently rub up against the derailleur. Because you haven’t watched a YouTube video in months, there is a fresh, virgin cache of them from which you can choose to distract yourself from the fatigue and tedium going on beneath you. By month three you know exactly how many sips of Gatorade and water you’ll need for each of the five workouts you do (and you only do five…in fact even that is being generous; it’s more like three). By the end of the third month, you have run out of ‘new’ things to watch, you can recite by rote the winners of the previous 20 years of grand tours, Spring classics, and Kona Championships, and you curse out loud at the screen to your favourite Youtubers for coming out with videos that last less than 40 minutes and call them ‘lazy pricks’. By February you dread every trip down the stairs to the ‘pain cave’ (in fact you would really like to punch all people who actually call it a ‘pain cave’ saving the best blows for those who post pictures of them on social media), even if it is just to do the laundry, which, of course, occupies the same room and is just about as exciting. Then March rolls around and you tell yourself you need to do a couple of ‘longer’ sessions a week and you hope that will mix things up just enough to bring some of the spice back to your cycling, but on your first ‘long’ ride you quit after 30 minutes because you cannot bear the thought of wasting three hours of brain numbing torture staring at another documentary about Lance Armstrong. By the end of March, though you know you need to train for that June season opener, you pray to a God you only half believe in that the trainer will break so you won’t have to get on it. By the beginning of April, every time you mount that piece of shit, motherfucking, stupid, son-of-a-bitch, asshole of a fucking fucker fuck stationary bike, all you can hear through your earbuds (even though you have cued up another episode of Rich Roll telling you to meditate for 45 minutes every morning, like you have the fucking time for that) is Phil Collins belting out verse after verse of Su Su SSudio.
Then, like a miracle, the third week of April brings warm weather and sunshine, grass, flowers, and dry, open roads allowing you to finally go outside and ride to your heart’s content. Your bike hasn’t been tuned up since the previous June, the drivetrain makes strange squeaking noises and it feels like someone has borrowed it and adjusted your seat without telling you, but you don’t care. You are so happy.
Unfortunately, because this is Quebec, April 20th brings a snowstorm and you are forced, once again, to make that long trek downstairs, with a dirty scowl on your face, for another dreaded indoor session. As you look at the dark room, delaying turning on the light while trying to muster the courage to proceed, you curse the universe (and Canada in particular) for inventing snow. Then, when you finally turn on the light and the beams allow you to see your bike standing on the trainer, you swear that, just for a moment, you see Phil Collins sitting on it watching the official MTv video of himself singing Su Su Fucking SSudio.
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