Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lighting a Fire(cracker) Under My Butt

F’-ing Pusateri.

I know I’ve been a little behind with my training. Part of it is laziness, part of it is the fact that me legs really do hurt at the end of the day because of my feet. (Hopefully the doctor can fix that.) This weekend is the Chinatown Firecracker 10k, a hilly run that I’ve heard good things about. Nothing can jump-start a training program faster than signing up for a new event, so I registered.

As it turns out, the 10k is on Sunday and today (Saturday) they had a 40-mile Firecracker bike ride, which would be another great way to start start training. The course went from Chinatown up through Griffith Park, across Glendale and up to the Rose Bowl, all roads that I ride very often. Unfortunately, Los Angeles was expecting a big rain storm this morning, so I decided to hold off on signing up for the ride. I figured, no reason to be stupid about it. I would wait until Saturday morning, check the weather, and if it looked good I would do same-day registration.

Well my co-worker Mike Pusateri was already planning on doing the ride and was very excited about it and I felt kind of guilted into showing up, rain or shine. Sure enough, when I left home this morning it was POURING. I drove to Chinatown cursing Pusateri every mile. But then once I got the race site, a funny thing happened: the rain stopped. The sun came out. I met up with Pusateri and it looked like it was going to be a great day for a ride after all.

This wasn’t exactly the most organized event I’ve been to. Sometimes, lanes were closed off for us. Sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes we had a police officer waving us through a red light at an intersection, sometimes there was nobody there. So we were never sure whether or not we were actually safe on the road. It was tough to know what the course was at times; the riders spread out pretty quickly (there were only a few hundred) and the course was marked by these tiny arrows stapled to trees every few miles. But we never got lost.

We had a pleasant 5 miles or so and then... the rain returned. With a vengeance. We’re talking Noah-esque downpours. And for the next 45 minutes or so, the rain would come and go and come back again. We were drenched to the core. When there was a break in the rain, Pusateri sat on the curb and had to wring out his socks (only to have them get soaked all over again.)

There were two ride options; a 40-mile course and a 20-miler. There were two points in Griffith Park where the 20-milers turned back; I would love to know how many people dropped down to the shorter route to get out of the rain but we forged ahead.

The rain stopped before we had to do the main hill climb up to the Rose Bowl. Yeah, the hill was annoying but it was a known entity and wasn’t bad. I would have done the hill twice rather than put up with the rain again.

One of the nice features of bike rides is that for every climb, there is a descent. I may be a bit rusty, but I can still go up the hills pretty well. The problem is I’m not very good going down. I’m afraid of the downhills and I ride my brakes all the way. Mr. Pusateri, on the other hand, has no such survival instinct. So it was a bit humbling to ride down the hill back towards downtown clutching my brakes for dear life and watch Pusateri ride past me. With no hands.

The finish was a huge disappointment. There was no Chinese Gate to ride under, no finish-line banner, no one to welcome us home. Instead, we had to suddenly turn off the road on to a pedestrian walkway filled with people who seemed completely oblivious that there was a bike ride going on.

All-in-all, it was a good ride. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean Pusateri’s off the hook for that first horrible hour of rain.


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