Monday, June 10, 2013


One had only to the listen to the sounds of last night's event to get a sense of the drama that ensued.
Oscillating between the wild rage of cowbells and cheers to the grim silence that follows a body slamming into a barrier.

Hey man, I can dig a night of drama. But this was well beyond the limits of fun.

Trimble boasted on the podium, before doling out messenger bags, champagne and tubs of flowers, "I think we found the limit of what fixed gear bikes can do" to which a rowdy heckler responded , "I think you went too far".

I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt like yelling at Trimble by the end of the night.

I know what you're thinking: "It's a fucking unsanctioned race! See rule 5". I get it. It's an event born of cut-throat, alley-cat, fixed gear messenger culture. I respect the culture, and the danger, and the speed.

But the cycling community respects its members. And no race director sets out to plan an event for Carnage. And if they do, they should be held in the same regard as their barbaric historical counter parts, the Romans.

By the third turn of the course any rider morphed from athlete to survivalist. Blind turns and unswept corners were the lions pit towhich Trimble threw his racers.

"Coming in hot" is such a grave understatement for the speed of the first lap. Pressed up against the guardrail, I heard one rider's dad marvel at the speed of the motopace, assuming the riders would be far behind. When we saw how closely Bezdek and his fearless competitors followed, the tension was palpable. The hair on my arms raised.

What rider wouldn't push himself so instantly against the wall of pain. After the gut wrenching anxiety of having the entire event pushed back nearly an hour due to what every spectator had referred to as someone literally having their "face ripped off" in the first qualifier.
Everyone was itching to get their ass in a saddle and get it over with.

The pack came around the final chicane for the straight away on the first lap. One rider down, two riders down, finally four at the same corner. Riders and bikes flying into the air, over the barriers, into the crowd. It was obvious something was wrong. (Watch that crash here:

Quickly the crowd divided into groups of those who would gladly attend a dog fight and those who'd rather not see someone they love break a collar bone.

Holding my vegan ice cream come that was so kindly supplied by one of the many awesome food trucks, I felt instantly sickened. I threw my ice cream come in the trash and went in search of my riders. Luckily Josh Direen of Stanridge Speed Cycles came out relatively unscathed while others hunkered down in piles of mulch to assess the damage to their $200 kits, $3000 bikes and their asses.

It didn't stop there. It was only a handful of laps before other riders went down on what we had already determined was an unrideable course. At one point, riders crashed so hard into the barriers, an audible, collective gasp was emitted and the entire crowd lurched back in fear.

By now, my team was frantic. With one rider possibly still in the race, we held our ground for one more lap. No sign of Travis Freeman of Paradise Garage Racing. We ran up an down the midway, in the dark, wildly searching for what we hoped was a conscious rider.

Where the hell was the medical team at this unsanctioned shit show? The staff comprised of two people, sitting on the ground, flashlights in their teeth, haphazardly applying band aids to downed riders, no visible indication that they were health professionals of any kind. Their shelter a pitiful pop up tent. More than disappointing, it was hazardous. And another injustice to the riders that paid for this race.

Look at any parking lot at a USA cycling race and you will see a lot of privileged white boys and doctors on carbon bike shaped objects, with all the benefit of pro level gear and none of the camaraderie of an event like Redhookcrit.

When i see the photographs of people putting their hands on fallen riders, I see that not everyone came with the same blood lust. I dig the vibe at this kind of event. But I don't think it's a fair playing field for a group of people that worked long and hard to get here. I can't help but feel patronized by Trimble's coaxing, "Keep it clean, keep it safe" with 11 laps to go and few riders left in the field. Maybe it's a little late for that.

This race finished with five riders. And despite the fact that the gentleman favored to win managed to keep his bike tread side down and come across the line first, I'm wary to say there was more than a little bit of luck involved.

I won't downplay what incredible athletes these men are. Standing on black wooden boxes with their shaved quads shining in stage light, I can't help but marvel at the courage and skill required to maneuver this course and live to get kissed by a girl in a red dress.

I want to say that there are two different kinds of riders; those who are driven by some god like force and those who fall in their wake. But in reality, these men were separated by the limits of a course boobie-trapped for failure. And even in a place where danger and street cred rule, fairness should preside alongside.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


After doing my best to assimilate into Columbus bike culture for the last two years, I think I'm required to reflect on the day that I Facebook posted, with much disdain, about my feelings regarding biking. I believe (Rather, I know, now that Facebook has that lovely timeline feature) that on March 29, 2010, I said, "Talk about your stupid bike again, see what happens". Gee, I bet that instilled feelings of love and warmth from my 800 Facebook friends, a large percentage of which are bike enthusiasts, or at least bike hipsters.

You might wonder what it was in me, other than lack of latte, that would make me jab a community typically characterized by their zeal for outdoor fun. Honestly? It was jealousy. If there's any kind of club, I'm going to want to become a member. This is much like my feelings for running before I became a runner (or at least running enthusiast). I would roll down the window of my car, throw Soft Batch cookies and yell, "What's the hurry?!" I hated them. And, in the end, it's because I had no idea how to become them.

This summer, while on the bike trip, I made a call to my sister late at night from a mountain in Salida, Colorado. She was in Put in Bay, and had had a few drinks, which probably allowed her to say what she did. "Maybe you thought you were faking it before, but you really became the thing you were trying to be".

She was so right. After losing a bunch of weight five years ago, everything I tried made me feel like an imposter. I was a fat, sad, smoker-imposter. And people knew when I coughed through my 12 minute mile that I wasn't an Olympic athlete. But after making it several hundred miles on a bicycle through the Rocky Mountains, I was the thing I had previously pretended to be.

You're acceptance into a community is not based upon your abilities. Your acceptance is based on your attitude. I showed up to a triathlon on a 30 pound steel-framed 70's department store bike. I ran my first race draped in three layers of fleece. (I didn't know I would sweat so much) And I took off on a bike trip with 32 more pounds of gear than I needed. I had to start somewhere. And faking it seems to be a reasonable spot.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Today in My Eyes


GlenDale to Yorktown, VA

Didn't sleep a wink. Like a kid on Christmas Eve. Stared at the wall in the "quiet room" until light saturated and I could make out the sharpie drawing on the face of a Cabbage Patch doll. Slammed some Poptarts, signed the church's guestbook and busted out of there. Rode through the dew-wet forest. Flat, straight road. So unusual.

I have been excited since we first changed the final destination to Virginia rather than Maine to see Williamburg. I visited when I was 11 or 12 with my family and remembered the awesome magic of historical reenactments and candle making. Now, as an adult, it appeals to me in a slightly different way. Shopping, dudes in tights with three pointed hats, mugs of meade.

Crept around town at four miles per hour checking out the Market Square, Colonial Village and William and Mary College. I was transported to another time. Not so much the late 1700's. More like the early 90's.

"Lauren! Isn't this nice? Wouldn't you like to go to college here?" One of my mom's favorite daydreams. I go to a fancy college and she can visit me, and shop. I am sure that I am donning at the time some kind of peasant bonnet, and loving the hell out of it. Perhaps holding some kind of beeswax treat my mother has allowed me. I'm looking at the elaborate Colonial brick buildings and thinking that this is what all colleges look like.

Not surprisingly, my college experience bore no resemblance to that of a William and Mary student. Though, I have a feeling that no 18 year old can truly appreciate the romance of the campus. They probably assume, like me, that this is just what college looks like and drag their feet, desperately hungover from all that local meade, to Philosophy 101 without ever even looking up.

As for me, I'm enjoying it so much I haven't closed my mouth in three blocks. I'm just freaking out over the little soap stores, quilt shops, wine and cheese cafes. We pick a spot for lunch. It has been so long since we have spent any time in a city with a population exceeding 400 that the bustle inside a wine and sandwich shop is making me feel like Encino Man. I am overwhelmed by the noise and girls in Ralph Lauren belts talking about what kind of Chardonnay is best. I just want to yell, "HULK SMASH", grab sandwiches and a bottle of beer and run from the building, arms dangling like a great ape. Instead, I wait, grimacing at five year old twins with blond bowl cuts.

We sit outside and drink four dollar champagne and eat another person's sandwich order. We are 13 miles away from our final destination and neither of us want to finish lunch. We don't want to get on the bikes. We are almost nervous.

When a big exhausted family asks us if we are leaving soon, we know this is our cue. A final champion chug of champagne and we are off. The route requires us to ride through a vehicle prohibited area of Historical Williamsburg. A father and his two young sons are listening as a woman in a homely frock tell a dramatic story. One of his sons tugged his pant. "That man has a solar panel on his bike". Without looking down at his son, or the bike, the man responded, "Shhh. That's impossible."
We giggled.

For the remaining miles, we dance, we cheer, we swerve through traffic. A glorious 13 miles. Felt like 2. We didn't mean to, but we ride so fast we are out of breath. Here it is, the last mile. We are making our final turn, and as we do, we see Brigit's silver car. It makes a fast U-turn and follows behind us. Brigit and Charles are shouting and honking. Congratulatory balloons fly from windows. Brigit pulls up along side us and hands us plastic crowns. She is holding badges with WINNER printed across the middle. She has fake gold medals and all kinds of other victory goodies.

When we arrive at the water, there is much merriment. I am so astounded, I cannot even cry. We walk the bikes to the water's edge. Brigit blasts bottles of champagne and dumps them on our heads. We are elated. Stunned.

After all of the hullabaloo, we got in the car and head for the campsite, which is an hour away. I call my father, wanting to share the news. I hear a big laugh, which I realize shortly after, is a sob. Darn it, Dad. I was doing so well up until now.

"I am so extremely proud of you." We are both crying now, as hard as we can. I did not anticipate this moment, not in the least. Between the desperation of missing my father and the triumph of completing this journey, it was all I could do not to hiccup like a small child.

"Thanks, Dad." Brigit is in the back seat with me and she is wiping off my tears. I feel silly, but also great. I am holding a bouquet of flowers, wearing a plastic crown and my clothes are wet from jumping in the ocean. I'm having one of those moments.

Some people will regret not doing the things they have always dreamed of. I have the incredible fortune of having accomplished one of my biggest dreams. Often I have felt like I have been afraid of doing anything adventurous. I sense my own mortality in a way I don't think many people do. Somehow, the closure of this trip has made me less afraid of death. I am so grateful and so happy. I could leave with today in my eyes.