Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stupor Bowl XIII

After five or so hours of driving to Minneapolis with Matt, Dan from polo and Nicole from racing in Milwaukee, we finally arrived to take part in my first alley cat in a city I had never been in before. We dropped Nicole off with a friend of hers and on the way to drop Dan off at one of the Minneapolis polo players’ house, tried to find him some water proof socks and some dinner.

After snow the day before the streets were messes, to say the least. Everything was coated in a fine slush with curbs and driveways drowning in mini lakes. We knew we were in store for a rough ride. On top of the extremely wet conditions the roads themselves were dangerous. Right off of the freeway we got a sample of the horrific road conditions through out Minneapolis, pot holes everywhere. Large gaping pits of tire trashing despair, some hidden in deep pools of water, waiting to destroy your spirit and body.

After no luck with water resistant socks we hit up an over priced but tasty gyro joint and realized that people in Milwaukee are so fat because the portions are so huge and soaked with grease. Oakland Gyro’s looks like garbage compared to the gyro we had at Falafel King. From there we headed out to Sven’s house, which Dan was crashing at. After a beer and some whiskey we took off to visit the Minneapolis branch of the Nomad World Pub to pre register. We paid our $15 entrance fee, received the manifest, t-shirt, spoke card and where all set. After listening to part of the opening bands interesting performance Matt and I headed off to the deep suburbs to spend the night at his parents’ house to keep drinking and eating.

Race morning was rough for me due to the amount of food and booze consumed Friday night, but once we got the car set and got back into the city I was feeling a little better. We met up with Sven, Matt and a few other racers from Milwaukee at a very punk rock bar/restaurant named Triple Rock for some pre race fuel. My stomach was still turning by this point and I was only able to eat half of my oatmeal.

From the Triple Rock we all headed to One on One for the start of the race. Once there I unsuccessfully searched out some of the Chicago people I had met in Tokyo. I tried to stay in the shop as long as possible to get my feet to warm up and by the time they felt good it was time to take off to the secret start location. The mile or so ride from the shop to the start was interesting as a flood of cyclists dominated large swaths of Washington Avenue.

The start location was on top of a snow covered hill in a small park. We climbed to the top and waited and waited to be given the first of 2 secret locations not listed on the manifest. Due to standing around in the snow my feet started to freeze again. The race was called and everyone flung themselves down the hill to their bikes at its base. Matt and I had our planned course and we snagged ours in the middle of the wave and ran out to the closest street. We shot south west with a large group of people but headed northwest once we hit Washington while everyone else headed southwest. As we barreled down the pot hole strewn street Matt wondered if that was a bad sign that everyone else had gone the other direction.

We took a left onto 2nd right next to the notorious Sex World porn store (which is also right next door to One on One) and headed southwest. We got stalled on 7th Street by a train (which is a new experience in racing for me) and continued on to the first stop. As we neared it we began searching for the cross road, I wasn’t sure which one we were looking for and based on the rough Google maps we had we knew it was near by. We circled around the back of the stop and approached it from the long way which meant we had to navigate a street covered with 3 inches of ice that had its own potholes on top of the pot holes in the actual asphalt. The Chicago Cuttin Crews’ bus proved as a drunken beacon of hope and confirmed we found the stop. We ran up to the house and around the side to an open window manned by two women who stamped out manifests and told us we where the first ones to get there…not bad.

We took off and headed points north, back tracking towards the warehouse district then north to the next stop, a bar on the near north side that has become a blur of unknown streets and constant fear of road hazards.

At the bar we free locked our bikes outside and ran in to get stamped. Once there the people at the table asked us if we were doing the drunk race or the speed race, our response of speed got a groan and some jovial harassment, this was the start of a continual trend through out the race. On the way out the door I asked Matt what our next stop was, street wise, and we took off. We had to back track half a block and stuck to the sidewalk, which was ice/snow covered and I made the foolish mistake of following Matt through an alley shortcut, as Matt was running 28c tires I still had my 23c racing slicks on. On the other side of the street I hopped off my bike and ran it across, through the waiting traffic and over the snow covered median, once on the other side I hopped back on and cruised after Matt.

We hit the next bar and got our speed stamps then it was on to the 4th stop. I was starting to get into the groove and my heart rate was starting to mellow out. At each stop I would ask Matt what the next couple of streets were that we had to hit and we would take off, usually with me in the lead. As we rolled I would shout back at him for additional directions or to double check. We rolled into one north side stop which was a café/bike store possibly bar as well called Behind Bars that had us plowing through an ice and water covered driveway to navigate a few hundred feet down a hardened ice drive. From there it was onto another bar, this one was pretty crowded with racers and when we took off some of them asked us where we were headed next and where we where from.

We took off and pounded a few miles towards the University on the northeast side of town. We hit one stop at a mid to upper class dinner bar, getting some odd looks from the well dressed patrons and ended up circling back up the other side of University avenue to a bike store for our next stop. From there we headed back downtown to Washington Ave and hit up a bar called Palmers which was right across the street from the Nomad.

Inside of Palmers I realized with horror that my manifest was missing and the best bet was that it was laying on the floor in the bike shop we had come from, a mile or so away. I searched everywhere and when Matt got his stamped we headed outside with the possibility of having to retrace out steps to the shop. I checked everything one last time only to find it in my right pocket instead of my cargo pocket, hidden among some other paperwork. I ran back inside, smiling and told the woman stamping that I ended up finding it.

With overwhelming relief we ran across the street to the Nomad to get stamped. On the way in a group of drunk racers cheered us on and shouted with joy about my Pentabike hoodie. We came back out and I ran to our bikes while Matt got stalled by traffic and started a talking with the drunk cheering squad. The guy who liked my hoodie told us a quick way to get to the next stop, the secret stop, a coffee a few miles south of us called Minnehaha Coffee or something.

Matt came back and told us what to do; we were going to catch the nearby bike trail called the LTR and take that to Minnehaha Street. I was a bit leery of the trail, as the streets weren’t even all that well plowed. We took it anyways and gritted through the inch or so of hard compacted snow littering it, running along the light rail line. It was bizarre having a commuter train run along side of you, just a few feet away, separated by a chain link fence. Before the train got near I noticed a high pitched ringing coming from the rail which also was audible a while after the train had passed, just one of many hyper sensitive moments during the race.

Half way down the path we came to an intersection and noticed a crossway with a group of cyclists stopped, we paused for a second to try and figure out if we where going the right way and secretly I feared that the cyclists were at the second secret stop. We kept going and a few minutes later we found our exit and proceeded to pound down the street to our destinations. We rolled on for at least 10 minutes, my feet were by know well frozen, I pushed through it just trying to make it to the next stop. Once there I had to pull into a water drenched driveway that hid how deep it really was, once on the stops parking lot I stopped to warn Matt of how deep the water was. It wasn’t deep enough to run your chain through but it was deep enough to surprise you. We parked and headed into the quant establishment to find the checkpoint manned by what I assumed were the married couple who ran the place. They gave us our 2nd secret stop and some general directs of its location when they found out we were from out of town. We thanked them for the help and headed east into St. Paul to hit the stop.

For the most part Minneapolis is pretty flat but the stretch of road to the 2nd secret stop located near the Ford plant in St. Paul had a few hills that sapped our energy. This stop was another fancier than expected location and again the casual diners gawked at the crazy/drunk/dirty cyclists in their midst. We got heckled again for not doing the drunk race, got our stamp and headed back to Minneapolis with 4 other racers. Matt commented to one of them that we had a mini peloton going and I used the speed of the other racers to push myself further. They broke off as we hit the 1st secret stop again, we continued to head west on 46th and they headed north on Minnehaha.

Our next stop was a place called Angry Catfish, as I pulled onto the sidewalk and free locked my bike a small group of older road racers/weekend warriors commented audibly that you could only go in the shop then if you had a track bike. I smirked and headed inside to get my stamp. We headed back out quickly, chatted briefly with 2 other racers, finding out where they were headed (the opposite way we where) and took off to our furthest southern stop.

After zigging and zagging around the deep south side of town we ended up at a dive bar named Adrian’s. By this point I couldn’t take the numbness of my feet any longer. Outside of the bar I undid my shoes, took off the outer wool sock and attached my toe warmers to the underside of my neoprene socks. I hoped to at least warm them up a bit for fear of seriously damaging my feet. I was out of my mind to say the least at this point and when Matt commented on an approaching riders joke I didn’t get it right away, mostly due to not being aware of the name of the bar we were leaving from.

We took off, to hit the last of our stops and to head back to downtown. We backtracked up Chicago Ave South and made our way to Lake Street. The trip was long, probably one of the longest stretches of the race and we met with a few energy sapping hill climbs that would have been easy under normal circumstances. Both of us had drained all of our resources at this point and could only keep eating energy gels and sharing my bottle of Heed to make sure we didn’t completely bonk. This race is brutal for more reasons than the cold, but the cold enhances it.

We hit increasingly congested traffic on Lake Street to reach the stop on a frozen over lagoon. We ended up having to walk the bikes towards the lagoon, dumped them in the snow and crossed the ice towards a group of people around a fire. When they saw our condition they offered us to warm up by the fire and to give up toe and hand warmers, we declined, wanting to finish the race and grabbed our bikes from the snow bank.

We headed back east on Lake and navigated up to our next stop which was the residentially based Trash Bags headquarters. We got stamped and thanked them for their support of the race. As we were about to take off from there Matt realized we had missed a stop a few blocks back on Lake, at which we retraced our steps and made with minimal waste of time.

Once done with the missed stop we shot up Lyndale to stops at bars called CC Club and Red Dragon. At one of them we ended up running into Nicole and her friend who wished us luck and rooted us on as we were close to finishing up. At Red Dragon we tagged along with 3 other racers, one of which lived in Riverwest for some time, as we all screamed into downtown. Being with a group of what seemed like fresh riders kicked me into gear and I followed closely behind the first guy as we cut through the parking lot of traffic that clogged Hennepin. I was blown away by the amount of traffic on a Saturday afternoon and was even more amazed when we crossed over a stretch of freeway that looked like it should have been 5pm on a Friday before a long holiday weekend.

We rode between the lanes and sometimes had to take the center lane as traffic compacted in tight, everyone trying to squeeze closer to their destination. It’s incredibly invigorating to ride in conditions were the cars are virtually at a stand still and you flow through them, sometimes less then smoothly. Because of the lack of heavy congestion on Milwaukee’s city streets I rarely get the opportunity to ride let alone race in these conditions and greatly enjoyed myself.

After running the gauntlet we came to out last stop at a bar called Mackenzie. Myself and the lead guy almost missed it but were called back about a half block after over shooting it by Matt yelling at us. We ran in, got our stamps and the other 3 riders talked about being lucky to get stamped after the 5pm cut off time. Time was out apparently but we wanted to finish so we parted ways with the other 3 as they hit a few stops they missed and we headed to the end point.

At the end point, the 501 Club, we came across a sea of parked bikes. Sven ended up finding us right away and told us he would watch the bikes so we could go hand in our manifest, he told us to tell them we were from our of town and to take the manifests even though it was past 5. We ran in and searched out the manifest takers in a sea of celebrating cyclists. We found them, handed in, Matt first of course and got awarded somewhere in the upper 30’s for the speed race, 37 or 38 or so. We were done…thank god.

We headed back out to the bikes to find a place to lock up and were greeted by two interesting scenes. One was of a guy who looked exactly like he was racing asking what was going on, at first we thought he was joking and told him a bike race. Then we noticed the blank reaction and a sense of animal fear in his eyes and he stated he needed a place to lock his bike up so he could go to his yoga class.

The next event was shortly afterward and a guy came to a stop with his bike and shouted at us if he won, Matt told him he did, at which point he began to celebrate and them took a head dive into the newspaper box and proceeded to lay in the street in front of on coming traffic. Gotta love the drunk race!!

We headed in to warm up and get sustenance. I was in no mood for beer and sipped my tall boy while putting down the water. We eventually thawed and I ran into some people I was hoping to run into. We watched the award ceremony at which point the crowd got pretty crazy. The guy from Philly who took Stupor Champ was doused with beer from the Chicago contingency after he started celebrating the first Female Stupor. Once it was his time to get his winnings he was heave-ho’d onto the stage which he dove off of when it was all said and done to a mostly unsuspecting crowd.

After the awards were given out we returned to our collective table and commented on how early it was an all of us felt like it was so late. We all gathered ourselves up and made our way back to Sven’s house for some relaxing and relative quiet.

The next morning we parted Minneapolis after an awesome breakfast of a brat with bacon and eggs wrapped in a pancake at an awesome and affordable dive restaurant called The Wienery. We thanked Sven for the hospitality and headed off for Milwaukee to resume our normal lives


Stupor Bowl was an entertaining and grueling experience. It wasn’t as cold as it could have been. It wasn’t nearly as cold as the planners probably hoped it would be. A funny factoid I discovered about this long running race is that it has never snowed on the day of the race, which seemed pretty remarkable as this years race was bookended by two storms, one light and the other pretty big. I was pretty happy with my placement given the fact I had no idea were I was going. If I choose to venture to the Twin Cities again for this brutal race I will probably do it for fun instead of competition, hit some of the stops and party more than anything. The people there were a blast to hang out with and the bike culture in Minnesota is inspiring to say the least. But in the end I raced Stupor Bowl 13, hit all the stops and got a relatively good placement and all I ended up with were a crappy t-shirt and nerve damage in my big toe from frost bite.

Thanks Minneapolis, it was special…just not sure how.

(Matt and I going over the route before the start of the race)

Go here for more Stupor Bowl XIII photos.

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