Saturday 20 November:
Finally I had my bike ready and it worked perfectly during the now infamous race: a ninety km, fourteen checkpoint hurter in still two degree Celcius air. Nadir had hooked up the Red Bull sponsorship to the tune of an off-the-scales $3000 winner-take-all. I went into it with sore ribs from an idiot slamming into me on his mountain bike last Monday; sore ribs really last, I assure you.
I wasn't over-excited about the whole affair (just very, very excited), as I haven't been training for months and knew a long, cool-weather sufferfest was in order.
Even before the first checkpoint, the police were on us, chasing the race on Wellesley East en route to Jet Fuel Cafe. Kuz took one for the team like the grand old man he is, by pulling over and admitting that "a little race" was underway. I hopped the curb and passed by them on the sidewalk (he ended up flatting twice over on top of this). From the Fuel, it was to the very end of Leslie Street Spit, a good three flat straight and dark km's out to the lighthouse, where I found some very pissed off racers from the front group, who'd been waiting for five minutes. JP was there with a car and started signing manifests, barking out directions to Fallingbrook Road deep to the east of us at the very end of Queen street east.
I teamed up with Panama Jack and rode out of the Spit and along the Waterfront Trail to my childhood stomping ground the Beaches, then back onto Queen street, each taking pulls and grinding along at 31 km/hr or so. Then I picked up Ernesto at Fallingbrook (that is, we wasted a minute looking for the actual checkpoint and E. cruised in with Jody from my work doing her first race ever), where we had to stop halfway up the steep hill. That was a mere prelude for the deep push into Scarbourough and the near-bottom of Brimly road, a truly steep, winding dive down towards the bottom of the Bloughs.
I pulled a banana out of my vest pocket to find it massively smushed and threw it away, then ascended marking Ernesto. Overtaking E. ( who'd dropped out of 'cross season after hurting his back) on Kingston Rd, I noticed he stayed back. Onwards I drove it over the rollers of Danforth Ave in the deep dark suburban wasteland, one of those beautiful moments of serenity and speed. But the mind was working, taking in the state of my post-Brimly legs and I could only think of the adjacent subway line. 'Guatamalan rules' Nadir had said at the start-line, and my conscience was clear. I rode to Main station where I knew access would be perfect and cruised inside the bus exit, clattering downstairs. My train came promptly and I chatted with a guy while downing a gel I'd found in my bag. Things were improving.
At Yonge I clattered to the surface and rolled over to Keith MacDonald who looked surprized to see me and declared I was "rocking" four minutes behind fourth place. I was still out of it enough that I kept looking for my manifest after I had already given it to Keith - then I headed to Dundas Square, the leg pains coming sharply. I never get leg cramps but the cold and my lazy days were taking their toll in the chill. Nonetheless the race was back in familiar territory and it was time to step it up with half the distance to go. At Dundas Square I received directions to City Hall, having caught back Charlie, who'd lost his manifest completely. I rode through the Eaton Centre mall towards Bay Street and onto Nathan Phillips Square, spotting Charlie and riding up to JP who announced that the whole thing was over, called off due to massive, cascading organizational failure. (My words, not his.)
Nadir held a post-mess meeting outside his shop to decide what to do, offering us all our race fee + $20. But the guy who'd been winning (apparently 1o minutes ahead) threw a stomping fit about only getting half the prize money for winning half the race. I knew he was one of Nadir's 'boys', and I could see what was happening. Nadir wasn't about to say no to him, as there was egg all over his face; he'd organized the most high-profile messenger race in years and hadn't had enough volunteers to man every checkpoint. Rule number one: never leave your checkpoint during a race. Yet people had to leave to get to another one and disaster struck again and again.
It was a sad end to a potentially great race. Nadir I only felt bad for. He's like the paterfamilias of the messenger scene, giving so much time and energy and now it was a gross embarassment. The party continued with A Man Called Warwick spinning, the specially-painted-by-Futura 2000 Colnogos shone brightly, and the swag was piled high behind a counter. I ended up with a container of massage creme for all my pains. Knappy didn't even race but got a bunch of new Italian tires: there's no justice.
Then it was time for drinks and forgetting.
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