Monday, December 21, 2009

Fixmas Race

A week prior to my heading down to Chicago to race in their Seasons Beating race I found out that a charity race was happening in town the following week and decided that I would be better off skipping Chicago and doing this race instead. Getting to Chicago was going to be costly and time consuming when I had little of both to spare unfortunately. So I ended up racing in the first Fixmas race help in Milwaukee. The race was inspired by some local guys after they found out Sacramento did the same thing. At the last minutes, about 2 weeks prior, they decided to go with it and burned the midnight oil to get it together.

The race format was based off of the Cranksgiving format in that there were 2 divisions, A and B, the A being a longer race. You had to go to a set number of locations and purchase gifts for children that met a minimum price requirement. The toys were then to be donated to the Toy's For Tots charity. I showed up at the meeting spot for the start of the race, the large and ugly orange sculpture that was moved to line up with the Calatrava wing of the Art Museum after its completion, thus blocking what would be a great view of a cool building by useless crap industrial art. I figured that some people would already be there by the time I arrived at quarter to 4 as the race was supposed to start at 4. As time crept by and I was still the only person there I began to fear the races ultimate demise and my miss on the chance to finally race in Chicago. A little longer and another racer showed up, Dan from MKE polo and the narrow 'winner' of the DFL Shag Bag from Shaggy's race earlier in the year. We waited longer and a few more people showed up but not many. The way it was panning out we would all win some schwag regardless of who won.

After a while of wondering if we would be harassed by a police officer who parked in front of the sculpture and started doing foot patrols in the area the people responsible showed up and gave us the run down on the race and the promise of more people showing up. By quarter to 5 the race was about to begin with no one else unfortunately showing up. We lined up and they stuffed our manifests in our bags and counted down to a Lemon’s start to our bikes. They shouted go and everyone took off running, except for me. I casually walked to my bike, pulling the manifest out of the bag and quickly examining it. There were 5 stops, after they had elected to take a 6th stop off of the A manifest. By the time I got to my bike I had a rough route mapped out, I pocketed the list and hopped on my bike, the first one to leave the start as everyone else was busy pouring over their manifests at their bikes. I rolled by the organizers and waved to them on my way down the sidewalk.

I pulled down the sidewalk, heading west on Wisconsin and turned left at the first intersection then right at Michigan. I had to stop the next block up at a red light with Van Buren and as I did Dan and some other racers caught up with me. A few people questioned were the Chase stop was and I told them 2nd turns into Chase and to follow me. I took off before the green and felt the pressure of the other riders behind me. I ended up deciding at the last minute to take a left on Broadway and cut through the Third Ward that way instead of going down Water. I wasn't sure how many riders followed suit but I hoped the choice wouldn't cost me too much time. As luck would turn out was an excellent choice. Once in the Ward I was able to effortlessly roll through all of the 4 stop intersections with ease and at the end of the road I hung a left and came to Water, which offered no problems as traffic was clear. I slowed slightly at the intersection for the only car in the way; one of the other racers behind me took advantage and pulled into the lead. I pulled up behind him and was able to pass by him as we neared the red light with Pittsburgh. I glanced at the cross light and saw it go yellow and knew I didn't have to worry about cross traffic and pulled past the other racer and out into the intersection just as it turned green. I pushed harder not wanting to lose my regained lead and chased a car under the railroad bridge. I hit National at a yellow light and pulled through the intersection, still ahead of everyone else.

A few blocks later I glanced back quickly and didn't spot anyone behind me, figuring I had lost them at National as they didn't make it through before the red and the traffic. Enjoying the lead I pushed harder and pulled onto 1st street, one of the most dreaded sections of road in town. I did my best to dodge real and imaginary treats in the broken surface of the road for the few blocks of horrid and darkened stretch until I cleared Mitchell Street and rolled through Baran Park. I ran into a red at Chase but with both the treat of the other riders catching up and a small break in traffic I pulled through after a short track stand and cruised to my first stop. Initially I thought the stop was the strip mall that contains Chuck E Cheese's were there used to exist a department like store of some type. As I slowed down to roll by I noticed that it couldn't be the stop and a quick check of my manifest told me the stop was closer to Oklahoma Ave and as I pulled up the hill I realized it was the Target nestled off of the road a ways. I quickly climbed the hill and negotiated traffic to cut over into Targets packed parking lot. Looking out for inattentive drivers and wayward pedestrians I pulled up to the front of the store and locked up to a pole, happy to be inside a warm building to relieve my toes and hands.

I quickly walked into the store and started to head back to the toy section, located in the opposite end of the store when I realized that inexpensive toys were usually kept at the cash registers as well in the impulse buy areas. I started scanning the check out lines and finally settled on a small doll/girl action figure and got in line. There was a woman ahead of me and the cashier was patient and slow. I remained calm and welcomed the wait if for nothing more than an opportunity to warm up more. I kept an eye out for other racers and didn't see anyone until I was almost done checking out when I spotted Dan. I mentally told the man to hurry up as I said that I didn't need a bag for the third time, accepted the toy, placed it in my bag and locked that all into place as I waited for my receipt and change. I put the receipt in the right pocket and the change in the left, wished the man a good night and rushed out, feeling the pressure with Dan close to checking out. I quickly unlocked my bike and headed off to the next stop, Toys R Us on 27th street.

I pounded up and out of Targets parking lot and continued south on Chase, heading to Howard Ave in hopes to avoid as much of 27th Street as possible. The trip down Howard was fast and uneventful as I thanked the City of Milwaukee for repaving it in the past few years. At Howard I pulled west and continued to pound down the road into a slight wind, trying to mentally remember how big of hills I would have to over come before 27th. I was able to get through most intersections, red or green light until 16th street where traffic was heavy. Once past 16th the road was even smoother and I tucked down as much as I could on my risers, which I had switched over to recently to try out over the winter, and pushed ahead. By 23rd I had a slight incline, slowed down for traffic and was able to pull directly into Toy's R Us' parking lot with out having to touch 27th.

The parking lot was a mess, cars and people were everywhere and I had to dodge two inattentive pedestrians and a car to get to the bike rack. I quickly hoped off, fearing Dan was closing in and headed into the nightmare that is Toys R Us right before Christmas. The place was packed with people and I soon began to scan the nearby tables and end caps for inexpensive toys. As I passed by once Armahn showed up and we began to both search. We updated each other on our progress and he told me this was his first stop and I gave him general directions to the Chase stop. After deciding against the vast assortment of trading card booster packs I grabbed a relatively inexpensive Pokemon action figure and hopped in line behind Armahn. Shortly after that I noticed that the counter next to us was almost dead and bypassed him and quickly checked out. Armahn noticed too and followed suit behind me. I went through the same routine I did at target; pulled out my money beforehand, handed the toy to the cashier, swung the bag and opened it while waiting for change, told the woman I didn't need a bag, stuffed the toy in the bag, locked it back into place while waiting for change, put receipt in right pocket, change in left and wished her a good night. I headed out and got caught momentarily behind a slow poke couple and their young son. Once outside I dashed to my bike, double checked the next stop, unlocked it and headed to 27th.

I pulled out right ahead of 2 cars and quickly pounded the extremely short distance to the left turn lane. I pulled into the intersection right as I got the yellow turn arrow and was free of 27th and pounding west once again down Howard heading for 43r. The going slowed a little as the west wind was picking up a bit and most of the way was on an incline of varying degree. At 43rd I turned north and hit even more wind resistance. I tucked in and pushed forward, not as fast as I wanted too but still relenting. My legs were starting to get sore from the trek so far but I was warm enough from the exertion. It was almost too warm at some points. As I fought the wind I went over my route once I hit Lincoln in my head, making sure I had it down to a T. As I neared Lincoln I slowed slightly to allow the traffic that had caught up with me through the park to pass so I could cut over to the other side of the street and mount the sidewalk. I noticed a problem right away as I crossed the road and hit the sidewalk; the post office hadn't done a great job of clearing it off and I held on for dear life as I hit the iced snow pack and made it safely to the moderately shoveled walk. At night and with the snow in the way the walkway seemed thinner than it had in the past as well as curvier. For some reason they had designed this 3 block stretch of sidewalk to arch back and forth. As I cleared the driveway into the post office I had to skirt around a lone pedestrian on the narrow walk and mentally pray he didn't sway from his course. I safely pulled past and continued to slalom down the walkway, fearing it narrowing due to the poorly cleared ice/snow and for hitting more iced over ramp ways.

I almost dumped my bike as I pulled onto the last section of curvy sidewalk when the poorly shoveled ramp from the street forced me to the right side, at which point a groove in the ice grabbed my rear tire and forced me dangerously close to the lip of the sidewalk. Heart pounding from the near crash I pushed forward, fearing I might have torn my sidewall.

The next driveway I pulled off into the parking lot of a townhouse subdivision and continued to head north. I pulled out of the division and back on another sidewalk, the next block I pulled around and pointed myself down the street and waited for cross traffic to clear. Once it had I waved on a van facing me that wanted to turn east and when it had gone I took off again, climbing a small incline then down again to Mitchell, once I knew the coast was clear I pulled into the sprawling parking complex that contained Target. As I wove my way through the parking lot I once again ran into slow and in attentive pedestrian impediment, not wanting to waste time I squeezed through two parked cars and pulled to the front of the store. The closest pole I could lock to had a large cement casing that went up to 4 feet so I picked up my bike and hung it to the normal pole portion by the lock and headed inside as I thought about the Hipster High Lock epidemic BikeSnobNYC talks about and grinned.

The same people who impeded me in the parking lot again slowed my progress getting into the store as they ambled slowly through the entrance. I cut around them once I was able and headed off to the check out lines, scanning for a good toy. After spotting one similar to what I got at the first Target I found another toy and hopped in the next closest line which was almost ready to take me. As to woman in front of me wrapped up someone pulled in line behind me and the cashier told them the lane was closed and grabbed my purchase. As I went through the efficiency steps again I apologized for hoping in line after she closed it. She said not to worry about it and I told her I didn't need a bag.

I wrapped everything up quickly and was out to unlock my bike in the quickest time so far. I hoped on and headed north to Miller Park and began to mentally route the best way to make it to the Wal-Mart on east Capitol Drive. This stretch was going to be the longest let and if I didn't plan it carefully I would waste energy climbing hills I didn't need to climb.

I skirted through the rest of the parking lot to end up on Greenfield. I pulled down the sidewalk for a block to avoid oncoming traffic and was able to cut across the street to the correct side afterwards. I pulled down 47th and shot into the VA complex as I hit a green light on National. I pulled onto the sidewalk and cruised down ready to turn into the maze of access roads between the VA center and the stadium when the sidewalk I use was officially and totally blocked to access. I continued down a bit further and pulled into the employee parking lot to find both a better route and frighteningly made of lose gravel. As I rolled over the Black Death parking lot visions of a hidden, deep section of gravel plagued my mind until I pulled onto asphalt and was in the maze of utility roads. I flew down hill and spilled out into the road that circumvents the stadium, which was as dead as the veteran graveyards nearby. Thankful to be out of the northwest wind I pounded up the incline to cross the freeway and headed down the Hank Aaron Trail/Gen. Mitchell Blvd/Canal. Traffic was incredibly light on the stretch and I held a solid pace while taking over the right lane. Once I hit the roundabout with 25th I had to slow down as a guy in a Supra didn't know how to handle my appearance. I pulled into the round-about ahead of him and we both cleared it at the same time. At the horridly smelling Cargill slaughter house I pulled ahead of all traffic at a red light and held my lead all the way to 13th street. Thanks to a tip from Matt during a race last summer I knew the best way to get to where I wanted to without climbing killed hills.

I pulled onto 13th on a red light and right ahead of a car trying to cross. Enjoying the carless lead I pounded harder north into the wind and only had to pause for a second at the street just south of St. Paul when a clueless van turned in front of me to get to the back of the post office. I continued on and crossed St. Paul on a red due to no traffic and headed towards the Marquette campus. The last time I had headed this direction the road was still under construction and they had added a noticeable incline to it this time around. I came to a stop as I crossed Clybourn and hopped of the bike, shouldered it and quickly walked up a flight of stairs inline with 2 pedestrians. I hoped on the bike at the top and sped towards Wisconsin, with little extra energy burned. I was now only faced with a small incline as I would pull into Riverwest.

I rolled down the sidewalk to 12th and as I arrived I got the green light and safely crossed Wisconsin, I was home bound now and knew I wouldn't need to go any further west for the rest of the race. However I now had to head north a number of miles and the wind had picked up some during the race. I pushed forward feeling the wear of the race so far but content with my position. I met little traffic until I turned right onto Walnut when head on traffic turned the same way and threatened my safety. I slowed a bit, not wanting to press my luck with shit head ghetto drivers and took advantage of the smooth pavement, slight decline and added west wind behind me to cruise to 6th street.

As I neared the intersection with 6th I pulled to the north side of the street and was forced onto the sidewalk to head north at the last minute by a 80's Caprice making a fast and tight turn west on Walnut. I rode the sidewalk for a block and crossed over to the proper side of the street the next opportunity I could. I pulled down the side street and made my way for 3rd, hoping to avoid the incline between Walnut and North on 3rd as much as possible. as I pulled onto 3rd I noticed I didn't bypass it by much and humped it up the rise a few block before turning east again on my way to Holton. I decided to cope with the slight incline on Holton after North and would stick to a straight route now as opposed to zig zaging through side streets.

On my way to Holton down the unknown street I was surprised as I hit a large speed hump unsuspectingly and was thankful I didn't get complacent with the smooth pavement and go no-handed. The next speed hump was less of a shock and the next block found me on Holton. I pushed forward and up the small incline and was once again headed into what seemed like an even stronger headwind. As I crossed Center Street I scanned the building that was on the Northwest corner for any signs of how to get into it as that was the end point. As I rode to capitol into the wind I began to mull over the idea that I might lose out on 1st place if I have to sit around and figure out how to get into the space to check in as at the beginning of the race the organizers were unsure as to the details on the space. I put it behind me the best I could and pushed forward.

I pulled into the parking lot of Wal-Mart off of Holton and quickly locked up at the front door. I noticed a guy duck into the cart entrance but I elected to use the actual door. I headed inside and began to scan the check out isles for a toy. I found one right away and started to scan for an empty check out. A worker pointed and I thought she meant to direct me; she was actually messing with a coworker and told me she was at a different register, I followed her to it and we both seemed to be in jovial spirits. I quickly checked out, wished her a great night and headed out, this time ducking through the cart door to get to my bike. As I unlocked it I spotted another racer and we both smiled knowingly. He headed in and I took off to the last stop confident in my lead. I pulled back onto Holton and headed to Capitol where I ran into a red light. Surprisingly cross traffic was non-existent and I was able to pull ahead of everyone and head west.

Thanks to looking at the route I did during Cranksgiving I knew a way now to get from Capitol to Port Washington Road that didn't require me climbing the off ramp at Port Road. I turned North down the road that runs next to Outpost Foods and headed off into the safety of this little traveled and decently paved stretch of commercial district road. At the end of the line I headed west again and went a few more blocks to Port Road. On the way I thought about the final stop, the address seemed to suggest the Bay Shore Mall complex, but I couldn't think of an appropriate stop there for the race, but I chocked that up to my limited knowledge of that mall complex due to my over avoidance of it.

Then the idea of Hampton instead of Silver Spring popped into my head and it stuck there in a way that made me pull my manifest out to check the address again. Sure enough it said Hampton, not Silver Spring, which meant that it was the CVS on the corner of Hampton and Santa Monica which made the comment made by the organizers about the bike path make even more sense. I thanked my luck and insight and saved myself wasted time and wasted miles and quickly pulled east onto Hampton and pounded to the store. As I neared the parkway road into Estabrook Park I noticed a biker but knew it wasn't a racer as he was going the wrong direction into the park to be one, this did however seal the deal that I would take the parkway instead of Wilson to get back to Capitol.

I pulled into the parking lot of CVS a block later and leaned my back against the wall at the entrance and headed inside. I made eye contact with a cashier and just as I was about to verify the address with him he told me to head down a specific isle for the toys. He said I was the fifth racer he had seen, which didn't concern me as most if not all of the riders were probably from B division. I scanned the shelves and after a bit of debating I choose a bag of army men, as all kids need army men and headed for the check out and the longest wait of the race.

Soon enough I was out of the store and on my way back to Riverwest and end of the race. I had the wind to my back and pulled into the desolate and poorly lit parkway, hoping I wouldn't flat in an unseen crack in the road. Halfway through the park I hit the freshly paved section and knew I had no more to fear. I pulled onto Capitol and the next intersection was Humboldt and I was into Riverwest with less than 5 minutes left to travel. I pressed forward, remembered the last time I had really ben down this stretch of road was the Riverwest 24 race. As I crossed in front of Alterra I feared the rough patch of road I hit would cause a flat but made it through safely and two blocks later pulled west onto Center. I should have sprinted to the finish, but was exhausted, heading into the wind and confident in my position. The last obstacle, actually getting into the space, cleared up as I hit Holton and one of the race planners greeted me at the corner and walked me into the building.

Everyone congratulated me and a few racers from B were already done, including Dan who had taken first. As I unpacked my toys and handed in my receipts I was told I was the winner of A division. I stripped down to my jersey and grabbed a water and bag of energy gels, happy to be done, happy to be flat free and happy to have won. After a bit I headed to Fuel to use the bathroom and get a Milky Way, I then headed back to the space and chatted with people while awaiting my prizes and wind down before the trek home. Next race...Stupor Bowl. I am still trying to pin down the exact weekend which it will take place. It's going to be a cold one...hope I can stay warm enough for that one.

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