Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Track or Treat

Last night I did my first messenger race since the Bike Film Fest back in August. I felt like crap then but did it just to get my body in gear. This time I felt good, and rode the track bike as it was a fixed gear machine exclusive situation. Costumes were also in order. I made a last minute decision to go as a commuting office worker, a kind of joke on myself. Jacket, tie, dress pants and pink T-Mobile cap plus old black steel track bike with many a paint chip and 'new' (to me that is) steel pedals made in France the last century (Atom).

The air was cool and calm, the sky clear, and the mood positive as the couriers gathered on the blasted heath of Trinity Bellwoods park. Toby was the organizer, and kept delaying the start time as people sipped their pre-race beers on the hockey rink. Finally the Red Bull girls appeared in their Mini and dosed the racers with their hideous poison; I declined but took a bottled water. Victory is in the details.
Toby had us lay the bikes down and do a Le Mans running start from inside the yet-to-be-iced rink. We piled through the narrow rink door and I jumped on the iron horse which I'd carefully placed facing southward. I had decided to defy my initial plan and do the 'core' waypoints first: two Queens and a Richmond, then off to the Necropolis in Cabbagetown. At each stop we were handed those little candies that come in a row and turn to powder when you eat them. I kept stuffing them in my jacket pocket. I caught back a guy with a death mask on the east side and we marked each other heading up Parliament to the cemetary.

Because of the popularity of track bikes with young hip kids these days, there's a crossover effect into courier races and I must say, I like it. Instead of nothing but real competition, there are all these "kids" as they call themselves, who know nothing about racing/aren't too quick. It does my 35 year old heart good to hammer these Kids into the ground. In this case, the two of us rode together till Yonge street and the St Clair Hill on the way to cemetary II: Mt Pleasant, where I dropped Death Mask by 10 seconds or so, then tore off to Casa Loma to whip a raw egg off the hill and stumble down the 8-10 flights of stairs.

From then on I felt better and better as the natural tilt of the landscape declined toward the lake. Death Mask caught me back on College street after I right-turned against the red light at Bloor and weaved my way through traffic navigating my way to a coffee shop called Manic. He overrode it and I jumped in ahead to snatch a candy from the counter and tear off again. From there it was to the final two: Toby's house (a block from me! no route problems there) and the final leg to Trinity Bellwoods.
There's nothing so fine as knowing a city you're racing through like the back of your hand, not stressing over navigation at all, just flowing it smooth and fast through darkened back streets. The whole second half I felt more and more comfortable with it all, and started to fantasize that things could really be shaping up ideally. The thing about a messenger race is that you never really know exactly what's happening - most everybody does it slightly differently and most you're alone or with one or two others.
In the end I took third place, a good five minutes back of Charlie, who was a rookie at the Path when I came on there last year, and Chris 50, a seasoned pro who I figured would beat me. Ironically, Charlie and I were devising the same plan as we studied the manifest pre-race, but I decided to switch my whole routing strategy just beforehand. Charlie's a great kid, always excited about things, and was pretty damned humble in victory. He won a giant receipt for a pair of Adidas. 50 won a nice bag, and I got my pick of touques and a large yellow T-shirt that says FUCK OFF! IT'S MY LANE TOO! in gigantic black letters.

I'm really liking the messenger racing scene this whole year long - nothing but good feelings and fun on top of the adrenilin adventures. Its a powerful community-builder. The respect I get from those guys even now that I'm riding a desk is remarkable, and much of it is due to the races. Well, Wednesday sprints are tonight at the CNE...

Happy Hallow's Eve!

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