4.23.2012

lots and lots of word about EVIL STEVE... which may have me using a JUMP BREAK for the first time in BLOGGER

Demon Cats Photographyt
EVIL STEVE!
Mention of EVIL STEVE on the Gwadzilla Page


lots of lessons learned on this day-
when opportunity knocks... answer!
never underestimate your opponent!
RIDE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT!
it is a RACE... SO RACE IT!
if you want it-take it... or someone else will!
be in the moment... because you can not return to that moment once it is gone
and much much more...



There are a million ways to tell the story... why can't I just find one?
let me see if I can find one way to tell this tale
John Dinn of Pibble Racing


RACE REPORT: "I Gotta See a Man About a Dog" Alleycat
It is a waste of time replaying the events in my head trying to figure out what could have been done differently, but I can not help myself... I guess it is my nature... it is something I do... I punish myself... 
and if you choose to read forward... I will punish you with my effort to go back and rethink what I could have done differently

So yesterday I had a short window of opportunity to go for a ride before getting the kids from school, so I threw on some riding gear and got on my bike, the bike of the day... my Trek 2.3 road bike. The clouds were starting to spit by the time my tires were on asphalt yet I held my course even though I was not suited up appropriately for a ride in the rain. Not far into my ride I was comfortably wet, okay... completely wet and not entirely comfortable, which was fine, not what I wanted but it was fine. I wanted to ride my bike and I was on my bike. It was not that cold and it was not raining that hard... I did not plan to be out on the bike that long... 


With no real particular plan of where to go I rolled down the road into Rock Creek Park and pointed north, this is a good DC cyclist destination... nice roads winding in the woods of "the park" with infrequent Stop Signs and infrequent Stop Lights. There is always going to be some traffic... less traffic outside of rush hour... but always cars in the park jut the same. Not far into my ride I was thinking of the Alleycat Race that I raced in just a few days prior as ride into Rock Creek Park was retracing some of the last miles to the final Check Point in Alleycat hosted by Pibble Racing (pronounced Pitt Bull Racing) It was not my intention but I could not contain my curiousity, I decided to make a rough measure of the time it takes to pedal a short switchback road climb in Rock Creek Park versus running up the natural surface Hiker-Horse-No Bike trail through the woods that meets the road at one of it bends before it starts to flatten out. I wanted to do this because this was my last chance to attack in the final moments of the race. 

So, with no real intention other to get on my bike for as much time as I could manage in this short window of opportunity I decided to toss in this quick comparison of these two routes that fed into the final couple hundred yards of Saturday's Alleycat race.

Off the bike and into the woods. One One Thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. I hustled up the hill at a pace I felt was similar to Saturday's race effort when I had mistakenly entered the wrong trailhead just 30 yards to the west of my intended shortcut. I knew I was on the wrong trail 20 yards into it but decided to run forward with it as I knew that backtracking was not an option. 40 One Thousaand, 41 One Thousand... wow... another water bar... 42 One Thousand... 43 One Thousand... man this is steep! 50 One Thousand... 51 One Thousand and I am on the road, back on the bike, and pointed up the hill only to turn it around and loop down to get to the base of the hill to try things from the saddle.

In my head I tried to think of the lead Evil Steve had on the hill and the time I would have started into the woods and then I started to count... One One Thousand... Two One Thousand.... then somewhere around 5 or 6 one thousand I was passed by another person out on their bike on this misty afternoon. There was a hearty hello exchanged as this very tall man with Mario Chippolini good looks made a fast wide pass. His fast yet comfortable tempo had me accelerate my pace as I counted.... 34 One Thousand 35 One Thousand... even at this healthy but not race pace it was looking like it took longer to reach the point of intersection via the road than the foot trail.

But no, I took an alternate route that was longer, steeper, less direct, and even involved a horse that I had to yield to before getting back on the bike to roll to the final check point with no change in my placement. But YES! Had I taken this short cut... the final dash for the finish could have been different... the results of the day could have been different... but no... I took the wrong path that was in fact not a short cut... but a walk in the woods that pushed me further back than if I had stayed on the road and chased.


Why do I bother rethinking these things? 

Then today I had a similar block of time before getting the kids from school where I felt it would make sense to get on the bike. A friend called and we dipped into the roads of Rock Creek Park on our cyclocross bikes. As we cruised down the hill not far from my house I told my friend Dudley some of the details of the race just days prior. I verbally relived the mishaps... telling him about nearly t-boneing a car that was taking a U-Turn in front of me and then also my fast wide right hand turn that forced me to come to a near halt to avoid a head on collision with a car that was completely in the right driving where they were. Both instances acting to have to let Evil Steve gain distance on me.

Even though I had made a measure on my own... It seemed to make sense to test the routes again. So when we got to these natural surface trail option I maintained right onto the grass towards the woods, Dudley stayed left and looped uphill on the road. I did not start into the woods until Dudley passed a point similar to where I remember Evil Steve to be on Saturday. Then I started to hoof it with some long strides with my bike slung over my shoulder. This time I was not counting as I marched up the short steep orange crushed gravel trail. Again it was me on foot trying to beat the cyclist up the road climb by taking a short cut through the woods on short hiker path. Dudley the cyclist pedaling the switchback on the road with me marching fast in the woods. To my pleasure and frustration...  Just as I had thought... I was out of the woods throwing my leg over the bike while Dudley was still 15 to 20 yards back. Had I taken this trail instead of the other trail... well... well... nevermind... because if I had a TIME MACHINE to go back and do things differently... well... it would not be to go back to this point in the Alleycat.
Hopefully I would go back to a time where I could alter something more relevant... like prep for the SAT or buy AOL or Apple Stock.

Saturday's "I Gotta See a Man About a Dog" Alleycat was a good time. It had been an exhilarating afternoon on the bike. The heart rate went pretty hot there for a while there. There was some definite chaos. Racing in general can involve some levels of chaos... but the fact of the messenger races being held on open streets with traffic... well... that takes the madness to a new level. Fellow racers hiding in your blind spot or making a fast aggressive pass.  A racer in front of you reading the traffic differently... or the racer in front's actions causing the cars around you to modify their position in an effort not to hit that cyclist while never seeing you... thus altering your path. It is exciting... but it is also dangerous... potentially dangerous... very exciting and very dangerous. Perhaps that is part of its appeal.

It was Pibble Racing's "I Gotta See a Man about A Dog" Alleycat race... a race to benefit Pitt Bull Rescue in the DC Metropolitan area.  I scheduled my weekend such that I could take part in this event. I wanted to ride my bike and ride it hard... and well... I had recently discovered that the Alleycat races offers a good deal of what I look for in bike racing-riding. Alleycats are a weird mix of uber intense racing and mellow social hanging out. There is that measure of competition and camaraderie that I look for when on the bike. With an alleycat as part of my Saturday afternoon plans my wife Lisa agreed to watch the kids as I rolled just a few miles from my home in Mount Pleasant to the race start at Logan Circle. 


In my weird awkward Type A Slacker sort of way I was the first person to arrive... on time for registration... with no one to register with... so I waited... I scanned my iPhone to be certain that I had the TIME-PLACE-and DATE correct... I waited... then people started to arrive.  

One by one people collected in the park. There was an update from the race promoter John Dinn that we would be starting 30 minutes late to allow for some final Check Point set up and to allow a few more people to show up. This late start is pretty standard for the Alleycat race scene.  

Energy was building. People made small talk on everyone's favorite topic... BIKES BIKES BIKES! 


Some old friends and some familiar faces offered plenty of entertainment to pass the time before the eventual race start.


Loved catching up with Morgan as he told tales of the Alleycat the night prior and the ride up Route One from Richmond. 


It was cool to see Mohawk so stoked about racing his Pedicab Trike the night prior.
As it turns out... lots of people had raced the Alleycat the night prior... there were a number of factors that removed a good number of heavy hitters from the equation...
the alleycat the night prior... a Bike Polo Tournament in NYC... and Tax Time were all factors that had me wondering who the fast legs were going to be on this day... No Skandar... no Bruce... no AZ... no Sean O' Donnell... no Coach (Cargo Mike)... no... so many names missing...


It was a good gathering of racers. Everyone was anxious to start pushing the pedals. Casually John Dinn broke things down. Unlike most races... Alleycat pre-race meetings are vital. Unlike a mountain bike race with caution tape and arrows taped to trees... the alleycat is downtown on open streets... so tips and tricks... warnings and alerts... well... listening can be a game changer.

It was a mad dash one block out of Logan Circle to an intersection where the information for the first checkpoint was taped on bright colored paper about six feet high on a lamp post. It was at the corner of the lesser known Kingman Place and P Street in Northwest DC. Luckily this intersection was within sight of Logan Circle... although have had friends love on this block... I had not remembered its name. Yet I stumbled upon it first.


At the corner of Kingman and P everyone gathered and wrote the first Check Point on their manifests. The “I Gotta See A Man About A Dog!” Alleycat has started. Racers scratched their heads as they tried to resolve a mental image as to where the intersection of 27th and Poplar Street in NW may be. The basic direction was clear, but the final destination was not clear. Racers were peeling off fast. Still not clear where this intersection was I threw my leg over the bike and started to chase. It seemed as if everyone was riding blind. Everyone pedaled fast in a similar direction with the number streets counting up. I asked racers around me and racers asked me, but no one seemed to know exactly where Poplar Street is... yet everyone was hustling to 27th Street in Georgetown. Which seemed a little chancy to me.

After ten blocks, ten blocks of hammering with a pack or racers that seemed more intent on moving forward fast rather than knowing where they were going I pulled off the road in front of 1200 New Hampshire and did a quick MAP search on the iPhone. I zoomed in on the image of the map displaying 27th and Poplar Street NW and then altered my trajectory. Rather than staying on M Street heading into Georgetown I cut up to P Street and made my approach from there. Having a general idea of where the intersection would be I looked in that direction as I raced excitedly foward. Sure enough like a beacon in the night I saw a flurry of activity, guys on track bikes gathering at a light post.  Sure enough the fellow racers who I expected to arrive at the first check point in front of me, as the destination a block away came into view I could see who the first set of racers arriving at Checkpoint One. It was a cluster of guys on track bikes including Logan and Paul.  I used their position to know which lamp post, street sign, or telephone pole hosted that small strip of bright colored paper containing the information about the location of Checkpoint Two.


I hustled to the metal stop sigh post with the information on the location of Checkpoint Two. I pulled my already moist from sweat manifest from under my cycling shorts... under the tights on the top of my quad is a convenient place to store the manifest... aside from the fact that things will get a little wet and worn through the course of the day... but I maintained that as my spot for storing the manifest... fearing that the backpack would add too much time and a jersey pocket may suffer the same sweaty fate along with the risk of it falling out.


With the information scribbled down on my manifest I started to point towards checkpoint two... well... with a slight deviation from my course.

This is where the race gets interesting... when racers build allegiances. Not unlike a break away group working together to drop the Peleton so will a lead group in an Alleycat. As a bit of a matter of chance I rolled up along side of Evil Steve. I know Steve not just from around the DC bike culture but also from the local cyclocross series. Having a mental issue placing the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and Ivy Street SE I quizzed Steve. Evil Steve was good enough to share a description of this junction which had me feeling it was only fair that I felt that this was the best time to approach the first Photo Checkpoint.

Heading to the photo check point may have been Steve's existing intention. All this is happening on the fly. We fought traffic like kayakers working the rapids. Dipping in here and getting some momentum there... working short sections on One Way Streets that work like paddling up stream only knowing that there would be a good logical flow downstream. Doing our best not to drown.


At this point in the game Steve and I were not working together as the break away group, but rather as the chase group. There were a number of people who had arrived and departed Check Point one before us. We needed to hustle to keep up.


As we rode we mixed conversation about the details of the race. Our conversation jumped back and forth between home gardening projects and the best route to our next destination. My Red Bull fueled brain was willing to discuss any topic that came to surface. Most of which were wisely ignored by Evil Steve.

The photo checkpoint was within the FDR Memorial, following the dog theme there needed to be a photo of the racer in front of the statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his dog Fala. Although I am a Washingtonian I had never been to this memorial, which had us entering from the far side not knowing where within this memorial this specific statue was placed, thus causing us to walk significantly further than if we had entered from the other side.  This may or may not have been to our disfavor because our quick entrance meant we did not have to loop the whole Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial before dismounting and politely walking through the memorial with all of its tourists and tours.


At the location of the photo check point we tried to be respectful of other people trying to capture the moment with their cameras... but eventually we had to step into the queue. Snap our shots and get on with our day.





Out of the memorial and back on the bike we discussed our position in the pack. It seemed that we were the first group to the first photo checkpoint. I was confident that any movement of a fast pack of cyclist would cause a ripple in the crowd tourists that we could chase them by weaving through their human filled wake.


It seemed unlikely that any other racers were "here and gone" so I felt comfortable in our being the first to knock out the first check point and the first photo check point. I expected to see other Alleycat Racers to be headed in our direction towards the memorial as we rode away.

Not intentionally paired up I found myself riding with Evil Steve. It often makes sense to latch onto another rider or a   group of riders. It helps for many reasons. It helps to push the pace as well as works well to sort out the destination and the best route. Sometimes Alleycats have trivia questions or riddles... sometimes Alleycats take people through parts of town that they are less than familiar with. And of course... It is also more fun to ride with someone else. 


Steve and I debated about the approach to the Southeast address that was miles away. Although I was spotty on the exact position of Ivy and New Jersey Avenue... I knew where it was in respect to the US Capitol building and I felt that we best not backtrack but instead move forward. Steve wanted to backtrack a few blocks and take Independence while I thought it best to keep moving forward on Maine Avenue. Without much argument Steve agreed... after all we were moving... then after we got out of smell range of the Maine Avenue fish market Steve proposed taking 7th to Independence Avenue, while I was firm that it was best to stay straight and then take Maine to M Street all the way to South Capital then onto Ivy Street. Somewhat begrudgingly Steve agreed to my route and took the lead. Looking back we were hitting it pretty hard. Thinking back... on this day it was Evil Steve who was the aggressive predator while I was nothing more than a lamprey hanging on and grabbing at whatever scraps came my way.

At each checkpoint Evil Steve proved to be very helpful. There was some discussion and some revision. But in reality... Steve was setting the pace and plotting the course. Never trying to drop me but attacking the road when possible, always pushing the pace, while also accepting the safe smart options when they seemed best. No one was blasting through any lights with a death wish in an effort to shake the other... but we were blowing through some lights.


It was an interesting mis-match that was really a decent match in riders. Well... similar bikes... both with skinny tires and gear with drop bars.... both in head to toe team kits... both more sensible than suicidal when making decisions in traffic... 
that was the match...
the mismatch would be my mismatch with all cyclists...
I am huge and Evil Steve is small... or should I say "slight"

It was somewhere later in the game that Steve share another tid bit of information. Apparently there had been a posting on the FACEBOOK event page that displayed one of the Check Point intersections... Steve knew that the 7th checkpoint that gave the information for the 8th and final checkpoint was at 15th and L Street NW. This image of the corner was easily recognizable in the FACEBOOK post... which put us in a bit of an ethical dilemma.

Do we hit Checkpoint 7 out of order and then head straight to the finish-line from Checkpoint 6?

Wow... that would give us a dramatic advantage.


It had been an interesting day. We had seen other clusters of racers from this alleycat. One pair or racers on single speed crossed our path twice, but each time crossing at points that showed that they were trailing back a bit, while another cluster of racers of track bikes met up with us at the second Photo Checkpoint which gave us a bit of question mark as to where they were in the game. But I was confident that we should play it straight. That we were more than likely in the One-Two slots without having to play that card.

It was a point that Evil Steve felt was worth discussing... which had me seeing a hint of the evil in Steve. We discussed the Hell's Angels-Pirate sort of ethic of the counter culture of the messenger scene. Steve sighted situations where similar bending of the rules to the racers advantage had been done and did not end in disqualifications. Perhaps like picking up several of the latest press release even if the drop point clearly states One Pick Up Per Person Per Hour... the smart courier will sometimes grab several documents knowing that later in the day there will be more calls for this very important press release.


It would be interesting to see a layout of the check points on a map. It seemed like the course was cover a good number of miles with a lot of criss crossing... which may have worked well to allow for some creativity for when to swing by the Photo Check Points. There was no obvious MUST for when to hit these spots... it was all up to the racer to decide when to deviate from the course to hit these spots.

Still pedaling and maintaining our course we decided to play it straight. It was not clear what our position was... but in our heads there was a good chance that we were strong in the One-Two slots. I tried to drop the tempo a bit. But Evil Steve maintained. We blazed through traffic working the flow of traffic to our favor. Down Conneticutt Avenue we maintained momentum as we split the lanes of stopped traffic and hit the Red Light Moving. In our shadow the light turned green behind us and the flood gates unleashed a river of cars. At speed we rode side by side in the tunnel under Dupont Circle and kept our flow as we resurface. The lights were turning red in front of us. With Steve ten yards ahead of me it was awkward when he busted straight through the light and a brown taxi cab slowed its pace and stopped in my path. Forced to make a quick decision I hit the brakes and snuck behind the rear bumper of the four wheeled obstacle right in front of me. I turned left onto the sidewalk modifying my route. I could see Steve see me and shouted out, “Go Ahead... Meet You there!” I was trying to maintain the team effort for a few more seconds, thinking I could beat Steve to the final Check Point in Rock Creek Park.

Down the wide sidwalk on M Street I passed the familiar sight of Edible Arrangements then hooked a right off the sidewalk onto 17th Street then at Desales Place I cut through the alley behind National Geographic only to pop onto L Street right along side of Evil Steve. There was some energy... I tried to calm things by shouting out to Steve that I had the information for the finish-line.

As Evil Steve pulled up a map on his smart phone I scrambled for something to drink... unable to find my Red Bull-Gatorade mix I settled for some water. We looked at the map and then got on the bikes. There a whole lot of should-a, could-a, would-as about to happen. I should have focused... I should have respected my opponent more... I should have attacked early! I should have started ATTACKING! I SHOULD HAVE TRIED TO CONTROL THE PACE AND THE RACE! I SHOULD HAVE... I SHOULD HAVE... I SHOULD HAVE!

At 15th and Massachusetts just a glance away from the lamp post where we got the information for the final check point I made it through the light free and easy while Evil Steve had to zig and zag that put a city block distance between us. Like a fool I waited. It seemed to early to start an attack. Along side of Steve I could see his focus was forward. When I asked Steve if he planed on taking 16th Street or 15th Street to get up the hill along side of Malcolm X Park all I got was a smile and a “I don't know... what are you going to take?”

We were headed straight... Straight Up 15th Street! A short steep heart attack of a climb up 15th Street. With a Bike Lane on each side of the road we hammered up at similar paces with very different styles speeding cars buzzing fast on the road between us. When the road flattened out Evil Steve got more evil an slipped ten yards ahead. The timing of the lights was working in his favor as we moved fluidly forward. I feared that Steve was getting ahead. So, Where 15th Street feeds into 16th Street I tried to make a move. Thinking that there may be some congestion trying to make the left onto Park Road off 16th Street. So I dipped left onto a side street that feeds onto Lamont Street... trying to hide this attack. But feeling that I was seen.

Onto Lamont and across Mount Pleasant Street I am getting some speed. At a four way stop sign I arc a fast wide right hand turn. Around the corner just a few car lengths ahead of me is the grill of Ford Explorer. There is not enough time to hook back into the right lane and there is not enough room to split between the passenger side of the approaching car and the parked cars so I dip onto the sidewalk at the alley and then back onto the street. Ten yards ahead passes Evil Steve moving at a good clip through the green light.



Steve is rolling... I am standing still. 

I get onto Park Road behind Evil Steve and start to think things out. I know that I need to be with Steve at the base of Ross Road in the park. I need to climb with him because I know I will not be able to reel him in and then pass him on the climb... a Clydesdale's strength is rarely climbing. I know that I am no match for the fluid pedal strokes of my feather weight adversary. I try to reel him in on the downhill... a place where weight can be a bit of an advantage. Then it happens... Steve again gets a lucky break with traffic... Steve passes a car coming up the hill and then that car takes a U-Turn on Park Road blocking my path. I am forced to brake hard and squeeze through a small space between the hood of this car and parked cars on the right. I avoid T-boning this silver sedan and do not get too sketch on the gravel that is collect on the road by the parked cars.  Slowed but not stopped I hustle to get my pace back up. Steve is still within sight. We are less than a mile from the base of the climb that leads to the finish. Down the rest of the way Steve has a green light and makes nice right hand turn at speed, The light is red when I get to the base of the hill, I hit the intersection and the approaching car to the left is taking a left hand turn which allows me to take the turn only losing a little speed as I slowed to factor the situaiton. I manage to get within 20-30 yards of Steve's rear wheel... I know I am not going to catch him.

Then I make a decision... that natural surface trail... there is a foot trail that goes up the hill and intersects with the switch back road that leads to the finish. I feel that I can take this “shortcut” and put myself on the hill in front of Evil Steve.


Watching Steve in the distance I hammer on the grass and dismount the bike and keep running into the woods. Then I realize it... 30-50 yards into the woods and I realize that I am one trail over... I entered on the wrong trail... this trail will also go to that road that the finish is on... but not as quickly. As the horse trail paralleled the road I wanted to be on I considered bushwhacking, but stayed on the trail. Running, then marching, then walking, I exit the woods only after having to slow for a family and stop for a horse. Off the trail and back on the road I still had the dream. I glance back wishing that Steve was behind me. But no.... no sight of Evil Steve in either direction. Not being in sight meant one thing... Steve must be ahead... already at the finish. On the bike pushing the pedals at a less than vigorous pace as I cross the line feeling a bit beaten... as I have just been beaten.

Only when I reach the picnic grove do I discover that Evil Steve and I had in fact been strong in the one two spot... Steve is smiling along side the promoter and I cross the line and hand off my manifest to sheepishly accept my second place finish.



It was a good race. A race that I should have could have... blah... blah... blah!


John Dinn of PIbble Racing put on a great event. It was a great course. I had a lot of fun racing with so many good people. 


At the finishline John and his wife had their dogs and a full one picnic spread. Sandwiches for those who like meat and for those that don't. Beverages for those that like alcohol and those that don't. It was a nice little gathering... after a spectacular event. As more and more racers rolled into the finish the stories of the day started to arise.  When did you do this? What route did you select to get here? and so on and so forth...


Good riding and racing with Evil Steve.


Amazing Photo Documentation of the Day by Kevin Dillard of Demoncats 
http://alleycat.phanfare.com

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