So, I know, it’s been a full week since NACCCs, but you should try to hang out with SF and Philly for 72 hours and try to recover in less than a week.
My “weekend” began Tuesday morning with the departure of the R1 ride, a 230 mile ride from NYC to Boston split into 3 days. 110 long, hot miles into Hartford. Day 2: 75 beautiful, and far too hilly miles into Providence. And a quick, flat day 3: a rainy 50 miles into Boston, wildly welcomed. A huge thanks to Squid for organizing VeloCity and then immediately following it up with this awesome event. Great times. (Inset: Christina celebrates her win as top female on the R1 – editor)
The week prior to NACCCs, the organizers sent out a packet that included the checkpoints that would be included in the main race and the best routes to travel to and from each. The set up: riders are sent out in a staggered order, given one manifest to begin. Each manifest provided 5 pick ups, and only once a rider made the pick up, did they know where their package was going and how much it was worth. Riders only had to complete 4 of the drops on each manifest, but could complete all 5. At each drop, the checkpoint worker called in the pick or drop and had it verified by the “base”. Once a manifest was completed, that manifest had to be returned to the “base” to receive their next manifest. Riders were allotted 4 hours to complete as many drops with the ultimate goal was to earn as much money (true work simulation, right?!) as possible. Under this model, you were able to watch the progress of all the riders live.
Now, Boston is confusing. Really confusing after living in a perfectly gridded Chicago, with the most matter of fact, clear addresses. Beginning Thursday night, riding from downtown to where we were staying in Jamaica Plain, I was trying to pay attention to street names and navigational clues. Saturday afternoon, a group of Chicago kids pre-rode many of the checkpoints with an attempt to form some semblance of a mental map to a city you’ve known for only three days. Still, I managed to cement my N-S-E-W bearings, and it seemed to help me out a lot.
Sunday morning, I had a 10am start time and nervously arrived at 9:30am. Two other people were there. The start was at a bizarre location and seemingly many kids had mixed up or got lost getting out to the start location. Around 10am, more and more participants started flowing in and by 10:15ish, the first heat of four of us were finally sent off. While doing last minute map checks, we were given a local tip on the fastest way downtown. Upon receiving our manifest, three of us had a downtown checkpoint, and took that tip that took us an off ramp north on the freeway shoulder that quickly (and safely) dropped us our right by our first pick up. From there, we all had different manifests and were sent in different directions.
Myself, I headed up Beacon Hill, the front side. For the first hour, I still kept having to pull out my map from my jersey pocket and verify my directions. After that, it began flowing a lot smoother. I was second guessing myself all through the first manifest, completing a measly $6 run because it was super close. I had to haul all the way south to Jamaica Plain to drop and pick up. While headed back north, I suddenly decided again completing my 5th drop way out on the beach, even though it was worth $12. While heading back to base to return my manifest, I kept thinking I was going to be really frustrated later when I finished $6 down from someone because I had stupidly opted out of that drop. I headed back into base and was told I was the first one to complete my first manifest. “Well obviously,” I thought, “I was in the first heat and only completed four. Onward, keep going.”
As I went on, the manifests just kept making so much sense–only a couple times did I have to double back to complete a drop and both times, it was unavoidable as I was getting sent back from the pick up I had done. I waited out the long runs and usually got doubled up with something else going out to a far off pick up, or a drop at a nearby location. I kept running into people who were getting super lost, but I just kept taking the same routes I had already figured out. Even if they weren’t the absolute fastest, they were large, main streets and I didn’t need to look at my map anymore. As I came into the Chrome base for my third manifest, someone asked me how I was doing. I said I thought pretty well, I hadn’t became seriously lost or forgot and pick/drop yet. She responded, “Hm, ok. I was told some girl from Chicago is in first.” I had to respond, “Well, I’m the only female here from Chicago, so I guess that’s me.” Still, I was confused how they were figuring this out since I had started before everyone else. I thought there had to be some mistake and just kept pushing.
It was hot and luckily most of the checkpoints were providing water and snacks. Last year, I had seriously bonked the second day and was determined not to do the same. Snacks and more water, check. Red Bull? Ugh, chug one or two if it’s my only option. Luckily, I was getting juice and nicer granola bars than I buy for myself. Around my fourth manifest, the dispatch program gummed up and we were forced to freeze across the board, where ever we were. Everyone was in stand still, which I actually relished-refilling my water, stretching, and double checking my routing. Fifteen minutes later, we were sent off again. I rocked my way up through Allston and was almost hit by someone else barreling out of the Puma driveway. Deep breath–even if you’re doing well, it’s worth nothing if you can’t finish. I kept that in my head while working my way back through Cambridge. I was hearing yells for Chicago all over–we had loudly made our presence know in the earlier part of the weekend–and all this encouragement kept me going. I delivered my girl.dog.bike. package to the Freight checkpoint only for the worker to show me what I was delivering–a relish sandwich. I had already delivered a brick and a bag of dirt, ah the creativity.
On manifest six, I had to make the long haul through Back Bay and south to Jamaica Plain. Once down there, the systems froze again. Five of us were on standby, for almost a half hour. I replenished and finally just sat around (again, real work simulation, right?). I was realizing how this format, as much as speediness, focused on routing and patience for busting out the long runs, which I loved. After JP, my last stop to clean up was base.
I rolled into base and Billy told me I was finished. Instead of the initial proposed 6 hours, they were going to cut it at 4 hours, and I had been riding for 5 at that point. Only my first five manifests ended up counting, but Billy was fairly certain I had taken it, since most people were also done, or close to finishing four hours at that point. I was honestly surprised, all along I kept expecting that it was all an oversight based on my early start. Yet at the four hour cut across the board, I had completed 23 drops earning $213. Coming in 2nd, a fellow Chicagoan, Nico had 18 drops and $176. Chicago takes it!
All said and done, this NACCC was extremely different than the prior two years I have attended/participated–San Francisco and Chicago, both in format and in the attendees. The open course format garnered criticism prior to the event and effectively disabled Boston locals from participating, since they would have been given an unfair advantage and entirely deterred others from attending. Yet, without attempting to defend or promote the choices made in formatting the 2009 NACCCs, I do want to comment on–despite all early criticisms–how well the entire event went off. I was welcomed enthusiastically by all locals-a feeling shared by everyone else I was traveling with, there were plenty of events all weekend long, and no one was hurt the entire weekend. The main race was challenging, ambitious in execution (writing a whole software program? hell yeah), and ultimately just a whole lot of fun. And while taken seriously, the undertone has always primarily revolved around bringing an awesome community from diverse locals together, and in that, a great event and weekend.(More of Christina and misty’s NACCC shots.)