Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crashing is Fun

Of course, it really depends on what kind of crashing you are talking about.

Going downhill and your pedal hits a wall and you go over the side of the mountain? No, certainly not that one. Rest in peace, Wouter (One year anniversary of his tragic accident was yesterday).

Going uphill and your bike gets caught on some kid's musette bag? Definitely not talking about that.

Sprinting to the finish line and you crash into the barriers because you were looking down instead of looking where you were going? Ouch. No.

Crashing a party? YES. Crashing a marathon?

First, some backstory.

I had first gotten wind of a "crash the marathon" event on twitter. Someone I follow mentioned that they were training for dog tags at the marathon race. I didn't know what they were talking about, but dog tags instead of a medal sounds pretty cool. So I investigated some more. I later found wolfpackhustle.com and saw that they do a yearly "Crash the LA Marathon" bike race and some ungodly hour the morning of the Marathon, when the roads are closed to cars so that the marathon course can be set up. I thought it was a cool idea, followed @wolfpackhustle on twitter and left it at that.

As the days drew closer and closer to that fateful Sunday, I started seeing more and more twitter posts about the race. I started getting excited about it, but I didn't think I could afford an entrance fee for a bike race like this. Then I checked the website.

Entrance was free.

The Friday before the race, I signed up.

The next day, I went on the usual Saturday morning ride discussing with my fellow riders my plans for the following day. That evening, Alannah and I went to pick up my race packet. Once we got home, she went to sleep, because after dropping me off at the meeting point she would go straight to work. On a Sunday. Yeah, it sucked for her, but they needed her to go in, because she is the best hardware technician they have (Hi, Alannah!). Anyway, while she slept, I prepped and inspected my bike, and charged my bike lights.

On March 18th, Alannah and I woke up at 2:45 AM, got dressed, loaded her car with my gear, and we set off for Tang's Donuts.

That was a very cold morning. Thinking it would rain, I purchased full-fingered gloves the day before, since it was raining at the time of said purchase. It didn't rain, but I was still happy at my investment of full-fingered gloves because it was FREAKING COLD. I had a vest, arm warmers, and gloves. The only cold-weather gear I brought with me. They didn't help much to protect from the cold, but I figured it would be OK once we started rolling.

Around 3:30, one of the organizers called out asking for some volunteers to ride ahead with him and block off some of the intersections to prevent any cheating. Knowing that I had no chance of winning the thing, I volunteered. A few others joined me, and we rode on ahead.

A few minutes later, as we rolled on, a large group of cyclists passed us. We then heard someone yell out, "The race is on!"

Needless to say, we all took off.

I was feeling pretty good. I was with a strong group, I was avoiding stupid kids on fixies who only knew how to slow down by skidding.

Remember, kids! Brakes are for smart people!

Anyway, we kept on riding, and then all of a sudden, we were back where we had started. Apparently, there was a false start. And so, everyone regrouped and got ready to start all over again.

This time I was somewhere near the back, so I made no effort to get good positioning. And then, the race started again. For reals, this time.

Braking at higher speeds (and with slicker roads) than I was used to, it was certainly a scary experience. If anything, it improved my bike handling. As the faster riders built their significant lead over the peons (such as myself) I started riding with a group of people going a super cruise-y 12 MPH. I stuck with them because one of the cyclists had a giant speaker, and was bumping music. It was awesome. Cruising through downtown LA, music blaring, and not a car in sight. A cyclist's dream. Rodeo Drive was abandoned. No people, no cars.

Eventually, I remembered that we had to clear off the route within a certain time frame so that the Marathon could start, so I sped away from them. I eventually came upon 2 cyclists who had a flat, but no air. Having brought my frame pump, I lent it to them, and they were able to get sufficient air in their tire to allow them to finish the ride. Yay karma! I would need it, too.

As we got closer to the Veteran's hospital, there was a left turn going into it that is a bit of a climb. As I was turning left, I had sufficient momentum to pass the riders ahead of me. I called out "On your right!" because that was the path I had available to me, and proceeded to go between a cyclist and sidewalk.

Then the cyclist swerved into me. So I bumped him with my shoulder. He was able to correct himself, and we both rolled on. Later, I apologized to him, and he removed an earbud from his ear and said, "What?"


If you are in a bike race, don't be that guy. Please. Something really bad could have happened, and it could have been avoided.


We chatted for a while, and then I rolled off ahead of him.

Before the sun started coming up, I reached the finish line, and a crowd of at least 500 cyclists was already there. I wasn't first, but I wasn't last, either. At the finish line, I heard about some horrible things that did happen during the ride, like a stupid kid on a fixie skidded into another cyclist mid-turn and ended the race for both of them.

Or how a cyclist dropped his water bottle, bent down to pick it up, and was then struck on the head by another cyclist.

Or how someone crashed their head through a van's rear window.

A bicycle is a vehicle, kids. Be careful when riding one and obey all traffic signals and laws. They exist for a reason. You wear a seatbelt when you are in a car, so wear a helmet when you ride. It's that simple.

Anyway, my phone was dying as I called Alannah from the Santa Monica Pier. She was still at work, and unable to come pick me up, so I proceeded to ride to her office building after asking a police officer how to get to a specific street. That was a neat ride, too. Very few cars on the road as I rolled into her building's courtyard. She had just about finished up her work, and we proceeded to load up her car with my gear as we headed to breakfast.

All in all, a great day, and we were able to catch the winner of the LA Marathon crossing the finish line back at her house on TV.

Questions, comments, cheap shots? Lemme know.

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