Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer

Riding bikes with friends and strangers, sharing my geographical knowledge of this fascinating city and ending it all with a wonderful BBQ/picnic in a beautiful park is a way I’d like to welcome Spring every year. The FML09 route map is here.

(the short sprint of a hill that is #5: Quintero. Echo Park)

FML09 went really well and I thank everyone who put work in:
Morgan, Paul and Jesse scoring, Kiecker running sweep, Max running/rocking the cargo bike, Jenny, Kathryn and Brendan handling the BBQ, Sasha and others for making great food and everyone else who jumped in and helped out when needed. And of course, all of the crazy people who showed up to ride, had a great attitude and showed appreciation. Thank you!

After congregating at the Silver Lake Farmers Market, about 50 us rolled out for the 6-mile cruise to Mt. Washington Dr, pictured above. This is a sweet, 1.4 mile climb with multiple switchbacks. It’s not a taxing grade, but is consistent and gets steeper at the very top.

Unfortunately, not every rider got to experience the complete hill and all of its worthiness. A miscommunication between myself and the scorers put them at the wrong spot. Not the top! The lead pack got there, raced for it, then someone who knew it was not the top told everyone and another ‘race’ broke out for the real top. When I got up there (haha! I wasn’t in the front pack…) we had to figure out how to score it. I made my decision after discussing it with those involved and said that if this hill made a difference in the end (remember there is only a first place) we would have a run-off. Most riders were not that concerned, but one guy threw a temper tantrum and stormed off. It bummed me out. Here is a race with no entry fee and no prizes, put on by volunteers. Is it really worth being a dick about? Multiple people apologized for him and said it is best not to have someone like that along for the ride anyway.

Next up: Eldred St (above). Some argue it is steeper than Fargo. It’s steep, narrow and in poor condition. It took out a number of people. Between hills two and three we stopped at Cycle Way coffeeshop. Note to ride organizers: It takes a long ass time for a group of cyclists to use one restroom.

Hill number three is new for this year as well: Amethyst st in El Sereno. It’s .60 miles and has varying degrees of steepness, width and road quality. It winds tightly through a small neighborhood and at the top looks like rural Central America. The crazy descent reinforces this. At this point the ride leaders are establishing themselves: Jack (who showed up to race despite the rumors), Brian (not on a mtb this year), E-rock (westside cyclocross guy) and Dean (on a sick IF cross bike with tubulars).

After a cruise through Lincoln Heights and Chinatown, we arrive in Echo Park for White Knoll, #4. This has been on FML each and every year. At 11am it was still overcast and the possibility of rain loomed. After this point the rides between hills become shorter and the reality of 10 steep hills in one morning hits.

Quintero is a .20 mile sprint of a hill (also the first photo in this post) and I went for it. Brian teasingly let me take the photo finish for third, which would prove to make a difference in the end.

Another classic climb. We start at the coffee shop on Echo Park before turning left onto this monster with its bricks and unevenness. Usually after we descend, Baxter (where the bus was stuck) is the next hill, but not this year. After descending we roll down Lake Shore to Berkeley into Silver Lake.

Micheletorena St, usually the last hill, is number 7 this year. It’s only 0.60 miles, but it varies in steepness and is visually very intimidating. No turns and only up. It’s like it will never end. No photos from this year, unfortunately. This year I linked up Micheletorena to Duane by going over the ridge to the reservoir. The temperatures are starting to rise, the sun is out and people are ready to be done. Then Duane hits as number 8. That little push up on Silver Lake is tough and then you see the massiveness of Duane. It’s a busy area with the dog park and a line of cars had to wait patiently for the last of the tacking riders, but they were cool and one guy even clapped as he drove by. Sweet.

Thee Fargo as hill number 9 is cruel. But logistics ruled and that’s where it ended up. It’s gotten fame in the cycling world from the LA Wheelman hill climb and is a doozy. 32 percent?! Above the lead group hammers up.

The hammering wouldn’t last as even the strongest riders had to tack near the top. Dean is killing it out in front while everyone else does a coordinated bike dance. It was great to watch these guys battle it out, as the points were still close. From here a short ride lead us to the back of Elysian Park and a 1.6 mile climb up Stadium Way to the glorious finish.

E-rock, Brian and Jack on the slight downhill before it picks up again.

Brian would end up taking the last hill, which left him and Jack in a tie! Oh no, exactly what I was worried about happening. We considered a one-on-one battle up this last hill, going back to Mt. Washington, a banana-eating contest, a dance off…..but it ends up both were too hungry to care and we all went to the BBQ and didn’t think about it again. Awesome.

Kathryn and Brendan grill some big franks and veggie ham/pineapple kabobs.

Other friends arrived bringing food, beer and a kickball. Nothing like a group of adults playing kickball in spandex… It was great (except for the spandex part). I got to spend time with people I wish I saw more often and hang out with people I’ve only seen from a distance or in the internet. I appreciate the feedback I get and I really do feel honored that people come out to ride such a ridiculous event AND they have fun. Looking forward to the 5 year anniversary in 2010!

You can also check out Ingrid’s photos and Gary’s write up.

Feel My Bus

Life is a lot like this bus that we spotted stuck on Baxter St during Feel My Legs. A bus has almost unlimited potential in how far it can take you and provides seemingly unlimited space to fill with your heart’s desires (not to mention it as a ubiquitous symbol of education/knowledge). But then sometimes you want to go to places you probably should not. Even if you know this, the idea is intoxicating and the potential for growth being in a new, uncomfortable space is huge. Going where we shouldn’t also has its risks. If it did not than it wouldn’t be any different than our everyday lives. And then sometimes you get stuck on a steep incline.

Photo from Ingrid’s Flickr. The bus made it up Baxter, from the steep Fargo St side, but is stuck on the ridge before the descent. In previous years we came up the road from the direction the bus is facing, but in 2009 I pulled this hill in order to include the new one in El Sereno.

What does this have to with a hill race? I’m super busy right now and going through some things I really, really wish I did not have to do, so I’ve been super slack on posting about Feel My Legs this year. Hopefully in the next couple days.

last FML update for 2009

(main page for Feel My Legs 2009)

Map of the hills for 2009 (blue is route to each hill, which is in red)

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Of course if you are on the ride the last hill ends near here. Pass on the map to anyone meeting you for the eating and hanging out session (and ask them to bring vegan food!).

Lastly, I want to pass on some info from the Midnight Ridazz forum:
Westsidazz will be rolling out of Virginia Park (pico and 23rd) at 6.30am. BE ON TIME, we will leave without you.

See you tomorrow morning.