Tag Archive: race


Pizza race number

So one week after I partook in a bike race by mistake, I found myself in another race this weekend.  This time, my entry was entirely on purpose.  And completely impulsive.

Because I’m surrounded by avid runners who take their sport very (too?) seriously, I’d been swept up with all sorts of talk about running.  I fucking loathe running.  I find it the dullest, most tedious athletic activity on the planet.  After all, per “the rules,” one should only run if being pursued; and one should only run fast enough to evade capture.  Everything else – fuck that noise.

So what the fuck was I thinking on Thursday when I opened my email and read an article about a foot race around Tompkins Square Park on Saturday?

This race was called the New York Pizza Run.  Apparently, this was the fourth year it’s been run, but this was the first I’d ever heard of it.  But unlike other races, this had a splendid twist to it.

The race comprised 4 laps around the perimeter of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.  At the completion of each lap, you had to devour one slice of pizza before you could commence to the next lap.  At the end of the fourth lap, you cross the finish line and you’d have 2.25 miles in the books.

Two-and-a-quarter miles, four laps around a small park, three slices of pizza.  That sounded so goddamn ridiculous, there was no way I couldn’t not do it.  And so I signed up.

But I also invited my runner friends.  The ones who run multiple marathons a year.  The ones who are constantly training for some triathlon or other.  The ones whose every conversation at every party is about running.  It was as if to say, “Hey, you guys, I’m doing a foot race, I’m one of you guys now!”

Except, I wasn’t, of course.  This was just running around stuffing our faces with pizza.  TOTALLY NOT SERIOUS ENOUGH.  Not within a million miles of being in the same league.  If they were the NFL, I was tossing around a Nerf ball trying to be cool.  “I’ve got not time for jokes, bro.”

Hardly anyone even acknowledged getting my email asking them to join me in this ludicrous run.  Not that I gave a shit because I was going to do this run with or without them.

So Saturday came, and I took the train down to Astor Place and walked the four blocks to Tompkins Square Park.  I might’ve even sprinted a couple of blocks.  Gotta warm up, get loose.  This is a race, after all.  (barf)

I checked in to the race, and got a race number.  Ooooh, a number, this is serious shit.  Then I looked to my left and saw the professionally-crafted start line on the sidewalk of in the middle of 7th Street.  SO OFFICIAL, you guys.

Pizza Start Line

And of course this was exactly the sort of race that draws participants who dress up, run goofy, and take the piss out of the whole running thing.  There was a girl dressed in a banana suit, another dressed in a pizza costume, another in a Superman outfit.  Shit, even I ran with baggy knickers but that’s because that’s all I had.

Shortly before the start, a friend from work actually took me up on my offer and joined me for this race.  Yay, somebody to run with!  Except he ran a fucking marathon this past spring, so, you know… I figured he was going to just lap me at some point.  He’s fit as a fiddle, I’m fat and slow, it’s inevitable.

Pizza3So we lined up along the chalked line, and without much fanfare, the race was on.  This was not a closed course.  We were simply running on the cobbled sidewalk around Tompkins Square Park.  That meant we had to swerve around the homeless.  We had to take evasive action from oncoming hyperaggressive city moms with their massive strollers that were not.moving.out.of.the.way.because.fuck.you.runners.  We had to run around tourists (those fucking, wandering guys).

Oh yeah, and at the end of each lap, we had to wolf down some pizza.  And it seemed a real goddamn shame to have to go all Joey Chestnut on these incredible slices.  Sure, by the time we got to them, they weren’t warm any longer, but holy shit, they were delicious.  They were supplied by Cer Te, and they were quintessential New York margherita pizzas.  Ultra thin crust, sweet fragrant tomato sauce, large discs of melted mozzarella, and slivers of basil on top.

Mmmm pizzaThe rule was that you couldn’t run with the slice of pizza.  Before you were allowed to start your next lap, you had to eat the whole slice.  You were permitted to run-and-chew, which is what I tried on lap 2, and that turned out to be another in a string of poor decisions.  Trying to run with a bolus of half-chewed pizza in my fat gob meant that I choking on bits of pizza that would go down the wrong tube.  When your mother taught you to not run around with a mouthful of food, she was right.

When I got to the end of the third lap, I paused before I took that slice of pizza.  Three slices of pizza on any day would be more than I would typically eat.  Three slices while trying to run – that was bullshit.  But I had one lap to go and my friend had started to take off for his final lap.  I grabbed the final slice, stuffed it in my mouth, slugged some water, and staggered on to the final lap.

When I reached the finish line – yes, it was also drawn out in chalk – there wasn’t any over-the-top fanfare.  There wasn’t any big noise or confetti or anything grandiose.  (It’s a fucking pizza run, what do you want, jeez)  Just a lot of laughter, a lot of high fives, a lot of beaming smiles.  And for me, a slight sense of “huh.”  Somewhere between “well, that didn’t suck” and “that was pretty awesome.”

And that was it.  Four laps and three slices later, we were done.  It was hilarious, it was ridiculous, it was oddly satisfying, it was brief, and no one threw up.  We got a bit of a workout, and we were well fed.

My first ever foot race, only my second time ever running outdoors.  I was never going to come in first, but if I didn’t come in last, that was my greatest achievement of the day.  You know what, scratch that – the fact that I even ran this thing was my greatest achievement of the day.  And if it wasn’t so ridiculous, there’s no way I’d have done it.

Count me in next year.  Because when there needs to be a futile and stupid gesture done on somebody’s part, I’m just the guy to do it.

 

 

I accidentally entered a bike race

“Withnail & I.”  Classic film by any measure.  Yet almost entirely ignored Stateside.  Everybody’s loss, I suppose.  Because the “we’ve gone on holiday by mistake” line is only one of what seems like a billion killer lines from the movie.  Quotable films extend beyond Will Ferrell’s fare, you guys.

And that’s the scene that conjured up in my head this morning.  This morning that came far too quickly after a night celebrating a friend’s birthday the night before.  The night before wasn’t conducted with a great deal of consideration of what this Sunday morning was going to bring.  It was, after all, a friend’s milestone birthday and we were going to celebrate it properly.  A catered dinner, wine that gushed from many bottles, coolers filled to brim with PBR, and a firepit out back that welcomed everyone outside on a frosty late-summer night.  And of course, there were cigars.  Of course.

So I got to bed at around 1am only to have to wake up around 5:30am.  Why?  Because weeks earlier, I had signed up for the Tour de Greenwich 20-mile ride.  What the fuck.

So, groggy, tired, and carrying a mild hangover, I hitched a ride with some friends up to Greenwich for this ride.  I didn’t mind too much because it’s only a 20-mile ride, and it’ll be a casual morning ride.  I was forewarned of a “nasty climb” at one point of the ride, but I shrugged it off as no big deal.  I mean, it’s not Alpe d’Huez, it’s fucking Greenwich – what’s the big deal.

When we got to the event, I looked around and saw the obligatory collection of rabid cyclists.  You know the sort.  The sort who shave their legs, who wear fully synchronized bologna suits; they ride carbon bikes that cost more than my car, and they nerd over their wattage, VO2 max, and electrolyte intake.

If somebody needs to nerd over shit that like, better them than me.  ‘Cause I fail to follow any of those cycling rules that govern such discipline in the sport.  I ride on the road with baggy shorts, I use mountain bike shoes and pedals, I rarely shift gears, and my bike has a flask holder.

Ti gearie

So, when I rolled up to the registration table, I was given a number to pin on with the instruction, “You’re in the second heat.”

Wait, what?  What second heat?  What “heat”?!  Turns out, the Tour de Greenwich wasn’t a casual ride through Greenwich at all.  Not at all like the NYC 5 Boro ride, or any of the other individual borough tours.  This was a fucking race!

I had accidentally entered a bike race.

RollersI looked around and started to take stock of all the people around me.  Guys were on their bikes doing short sprints in the parking lot.  Other guys had shot off to do a recce of the start of the course.  Some guys had hauled out their rollers and trainers and were spinning in place next to their cars.  I was in a sea of spandex.

Holy shit.

Realizing there was little I could do about this, I decided to that I was going to ride this the way I had planned to ride it all along – cruising around the 20 miles or so around Greenwich to admire the mansions, the huge tracts of land, and take in the morning scenery.  Fuck the race, I wasn’t prepared for a race, I wasn’t going to even try to “race” this thing.  The last bike race I did, it was a mountain bike race, and I came in about 20 minutes after everyone else.  I’m not cut out for this racing bollocks.

Tour de Greenwich start

Around 7:45am, the second heat were called up to the start line. Thick silence all around me.  Everyone was taking this serious as shit.  I started to giggle at how out of place I was.  I took a swig of scotch from the flask on my bike.  After about 3 minutes, they sounded the start, and the rapid clack-clack-clack of everyone’s clipless pedals accompanied the forward motion.  The road went straight, then a 90-degree turn to the left, and it immediately started to climb uphill.  Oh, for fuck’s sake.

I would later learn that the entire course was effectively 10 miles uphill, then 10 miles downhill to the finish.  Since I wasn’t going to race, I slinked to the right and let everyone fly past me.  Then I cruised along the course around lovely Greenwich and took in the sights.  And worked off the hangover.  And it was magnificent.  These enormous mansions all around me.  Some mansions had adjacent cottages.  Some of those cottages had their own cottages.  There were horses, there were farms, there were houses that looked like Hogwarts.

And the whole time, I kept thinking, what’s the fucking rush, you guys?  If I had ridden faster (I couldn’t ‘cause I’m fat and slow, and was still coughing up my cigar from the night before), I’d have missed all these sights.

I took the time to slow down, wave, and say hi to all the course marshalls and cops.  No one appreciates the thankless job they do.  Instead of tucking in, I would use my brakes on the downhills because I wanted to check out the ‘hood.  The only time I put the hammer down was when I got to this so-called “nasty hill”.  And holy shit was it completely ridiculous.  I checked the map and it says that it’s a 10.6% gradient.  I don’t know what the fuck that means, but it was every bit like climbing a wall on your bike.  Straight up.  Thankfully it wasn’t a long climb, and I just pounded my legs to crank up that sumbitch.  When I got to the top, I felt like my heart and lungs were going to explode out of my chest while I simultaneously shit my pants (I didn’t).

After about an hour and quarter, I reached the finish line.  Naturally, my other friends had all finished much earlier and had posted massively respectable times.  They’d docked their bikes on top of the cars, and they were already breaking out the coffee, the donuts, and they had the music was cranking from their cars.  A genius amongst us had the foresight to bring beer.  Now, since this was 9am, the beer was flavored with maple bacon.  Breakfast beer, perfect!

Coffee, donuts, and beer

So, in the end, the ride finished exactly how I had treated the whole thing.  To earn an excuse to stuff my face with donuts, drink beer at sun-up, and treat the whole thing as a goof.  Because I fucking goofed up by not realizing that I’d signed up for a goddamn race.

The next time, I ought to do a better job reading the descriptions to these things.