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September 07, 2005

Quake City Rumble

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Last sunday i competed in my first messenger alley cat race, the Quake City Rumble. the flyers said it began at 12, so i arrived at 11:30, with my bike oiled and tires pumped up. it had been a long week messengering, but i was really excited. at 12, they stapled copies of the manifest and a city map to some trees, and told us we had until 1:30 to choose our route.

a little background on messenger races: instead of the typical point to point race style of the Tour de France and other road races, messenger, or alleycat races are designed by bike messengers to simulate a day at work. the manifest listed 15 different "pickup" and "drop off" spots, and it was up to the individual riders to choose in what order they would navigate the city, picking up and dropping off multiple items, or tags, as they went. The packages were represented by stamps on our manifests. each tag was worth a certain amount of points, and the winner was the person with the most points who made it to the finish before 3 hours had passed.

i stared at the manifest for the entire time we were alloted to plan our route. at first it seemed disjointed and random, but eventually, after brainstorming with some other messengers, i figured out a workable route to take that would allow me to collect all the tags for the "long board," or long distance version of the race. I planned my route around the "king of the mountain" tags. whoever got all of these tags first was awarded the king of the mountain jersey. i think i was the only person on a fixed gear bike to take on the "long board" route.

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as the starting time neared, i stretched, ate a clif bar, and drank some gatorade. other people were doing some different warmups, including chugging beer, smoking pot, and complaining about their hangovers. finally, the organizers yelled "go" and we were off. it was quite a sight to see about 40 messengers bombing down hayes street, weaving through traffic and totally disregarding stop signs and traffic signals.

the long board route had 3 difficult hills, so i chose the nearest one first, Twin Peaks. After doing a "pick" at haight and ashbury, i pointed my front wheel up clayton street, and began to grind up the hill. One thing that really prepared me for this race was working for the mediocre Professional Messenger Company, because they send me all over hell and creation in this city, including to Twin Peaks. i slogged up the hill into the grey sky, and managed to reach the checkpoint not long after everyone else. my stamp obtained, i raced down the hill, towards Market street.
i hit Market street, then went to the twisty Lombard street, then to the top of coit tower, and then i dropped into the Marina with my sight set on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. I ran into some spandex roadie guy who was doing the race, and managed to paceline with him all the way from Pier 39 across the Golden Gate bridge. it was great shooting through the Marina, following this guy on a 3000 dollar bike who's helmet matched his jersey, which matched his entire bike, color coordinated all the way down to his waterbottle cage, and i'm tucked in behind him wearing my grubby work clothes and my messenger bag, on my bike that i've probably put maybe 800 dollars into.

it was my first time ever crossing the bridge, which was a bummer because we spent the entire time yelling for people to get out of our way as we sprinted along the bike path. it was cold and cloudy that day anyways, so i wouldn't have had any terrific views of the sea and the headlands even if i'd had time to stop and gander. at the foot of the headlands we hit the checkpoint, and then the roadie guy tore off up the hill, and i began the arduous slog up the 1.5 miles to the headlands checkpoint. there was a headwind and cars whizzing past, and it was so steep that i had to get off and walk 2 times, but i made it, placing 3rd for the king of the mountain jersey. there were cameramen filming the whole event, and as they drove past me puffing up the hill with their camera filming out the window, i heard one of them exclaim, "holy crap, is that a fixed gear?" i'm tough.

At the top, after chugging water and eating my last clifbar, i turned and bolted back down the headlands and returned over the bridge. i followed a more experienced messenger through the Presidio and we came out the Arguello Gate, near my house. I split up and hit the stop in the Panhandle, and then followed my normal morning routine, pedaling over and bombing down the timed lights on Golden Gate street. i shot across Market and through Downtown, stopping for a stamp at Road Rage Cyclery, and then made it all the way to the baseball stadium. after looking around for the checkpoint, i chose the "hot" challenge instead of the "cold" one, hot being take a bite out of a jalepeno (easy for me) and cold being take a dunk in the gross and cold Bay.

my mouth burning, i pedaled up the Embarcadero to Pier 40. i did the obligatory breakdance moves, and then asked how much time i had to make it to the finish, which was at the Godspeed Courier office at Folsom and 18th, 15 blocks away. the clock read 4:25, and the race ended at 4:40. it wasn't until this point that i realized how fatigued i was, but i put on a last good burst of energy, taking an out of town messenger who didn't quite know his way around with me all the way to the end. we arrived with 5 minutes to spare, panting and happy.

i didn't win anything, but i must say that i really enjoyed racing. it was so cool to have the option of choosing my own route, and then seeing how it stacked up to every else's planning. I ride 40 hours a week for work, and i'm in really good shape, but towards the end of those 3 grueling hours the lactic acid buildup in my legs had me wincing and gulping for breath. Everyone said that if there had been a seperate prize for highest scoring fixid gear rider i would have taken it for sure, but i was just excited to tear around my adopted city which i love very much, make some new friends, and to get a taste for racing.

unfortunately, i didn't have time to stop and take any photographs either, but lately i have been taking a lot at work and in my spare time. i think next weekend i'm gonna go to reno to visit my folks and my brother steve, who arrives back in the lower 48 from Alaska tomorrow. i haven't seen him since i don't know when, so i'm pretty pleased. any reno kids reading this who want to get their drunk on next saturday night, hit me up.

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Posted by bendan at September 7, 2005 12:39 AM

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