Ah Grate - Stage One


By Molly

bridges1.pngI woke up at 5:11 am, four minutes before my alarm was set to sound off. I had 6 hours sleep, but somehow felt rested anyway… most likely because it had been two weeks since the prologue, and two weeks since I’d been on the bike.

I rarely get sick, but when I do it’s usually something pretty nasty and intense – this was such an occasion. My first instinct was to go back to bed, pull the fuzzy warm covers over my head and forget that I was ever interested in riding on a cold Sunday morning. However I had ample time to talk myself into putting on my cold weather gear. I made a French press of Yerba Mate or as I lovingly refer to it as my “life juice” and headed out the door for my “warm up” ride to Stan’s house. When it was 30 degrees warmer my apartment at Central and Cermak didn’t seem like such a tough ride – this morning my IPOD and I were on the same page: Slow on the upstart and or frozen.

I arrived at California and Haddon around 7:15am and began to jump up and down to recover any feeling I once had in my feet. Hot coffee was offered, for a split second I fantasized pouring it on my feet – the moment was fleeting. I was brought out of my day dream as more people arrived. I was pleased to see a few familiar faces. I hadn’t looked at the route at all – I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but I was extremely unprepared. I found a fellow messenger who seemed to know every street to take. I repeated after him to try to memorize the route. Like a goldfish without a memory or more realistically a “molly-full-of-antibiotics” I instantly forgot everything that was said. “I’ll just follow you, Jerry!” was the end statement. We talked of bridges and continued our coffee.

I accepted that I was probably not going to do my best, but I came out to try anyway. This should count for something, yes? This put my mind at ease and shook off those pre-race jitters. I would follow a pack, hopefully stay in it and treat this as a training ride while enjoying the experience it had to offer.

At 8:15am everyone filed (or fell) down the stairs to head to Humboldt Park for the mass start. We had the course shouted to us along with warnings / disclaimers and then we were off. The pack quickly thinned as the strongest took a decent gap. The grueling part is always in the beginning. Without a warm up and everyone sprinting for a lead the only thing I can do is look for a wheel and suck it. It becomes a smaller pack of maybe 10 riders, I look around for my fellow messenger/tour guide and he’s nowhere to be found. It looked as though I was relying on a few strangers to get me though this race. I sat in the back most of the way into the city and was more cautious at red lights. The stretch down Grand was actually pretty pleasant – It reminded me of when I used to bike on the long board, it’s one of the best horizontal streets, and I took it often.

Once we got downtown I got a little cocky because I felt as though I was racing home turf. Grated bridges were nothing scary; I deal with on a daily basis. The only bridge I have beef with is the one on Wells Street. Careening to the left I rode up the sidewalk in front of 325 N. Wells which gave me an opportunity to see East West traffic from Wacker. I was able to make my way through it safely and quickly. The pack was sufficient and yelling commands; for example someone would shout out “slowing” at a traffic light or “clear” if it was safe to cross an intersection. I happened to be in the front of the pack on Grand headed west. We approached Clark Street. I saw an opportunity to cut through traffic not as a pack but solo. I didn’t yell. I didn’t know what I could have yelled. “Not clear!” seemed like it might have been confusing. I pulled a messenger move out of my bag and as a result heard several car horns sound off behind me. Thank goodness the cars stopped for the other bikers and thank goodness no one flicked me for being inconsiderate. I didn’t want to stop. Oops?

At one point during the downtown portion of the race it got me kind of giddy- Taxis stopped for the pack instead of the normal honking which solo riders seem to attract.

Still a novice I’m becoming savvy with the pack perks that the Tour provides.

Successfully crossing every bridge, we headed back towards Humboldt Park. I was beginning to warm up and I felt a lot better than when we started. I tried making small talk with someone but he had short answers…friendly enough, but not really having it. Meh.

As soon as we approached the Humboldt Park area the pace picked up considerably.

I held my ground. I hadn’t the slightest idea where the finish actually was, and it seemed like nobody else did either. There may have been a couple false sprints due to this.

“Pot hole!” said the person in front of me. “THUNK!” said my wheels. “SHIT!” said I.

Oh wait, there’s the finish. I’d worry about my wheels in a minute.

I had no idea that I was going to be amongst the first females to finish. It came down to Julia, Brynn and me. Still behind the two, I pushed ahead of Julia and rode past the crowd to finish second to the lovely Brynn. I didn’t expect to win and I didn’t, but then again I didn’t expect I’d come in anywhere close to first, so I was pleased. Numb footed and shaky I rode back to Stan’s to warm up and change into the dry top I’d brought with.

Getting the feeling back in my feet took some time, but it was time well spent. I had the chance to meet the first place female finisher, who was absolutely adorable and a very gracious winner. The winners were announced and beer mosas dispersed. I took a sip and quickly gave it away forgetting that I was still being dosed with antibiotics. I did get to partake in yummy vegan breakfast food. Thanks Al and James! They really are the best Cinnamon buns ever!

All in all, it was a good morning.