The Riverwest 24: 23 laps, 115 miles, 24 hours
This weekend Milwaukee was loaded and packed to the brim with things to do. There was the Downer Avenue Bike Race, Brady Street Days, a Bay View block party, The Riverwest 24, a free rummage sale on Holton, GermanFest, Critical Mass, Bar Camp Madison, Secret Chiefs 3 (with aquaintence and opener, The Demix) and plenty more that I’m unaware of. If you were bored this weekend, you’re an idiot.
As for me, I picked up a new pair of padded biking shorts and chose the Riverwest 24, a 24–hour bike race through the Riverwest neighborhood. The course was approximately five miles long and within the 24–hour time period I managed to make the circle 23 times. Every two hours new bonus spots would be rewarded. If you made it to the spot and accomplished the goal you’d be rewarded with an extra lap. For this special occasion, my friend Tracy and I designed and spray painted our team logo on the back of our shirts. “O! My taint!” Most thought it to be quite appropriate.
Things started out well as we felt out the course. The wind was minimal on the first day and tolerable the next. Our trail took us through four checkpoints and just as many block parties. It took us down the busy Humboldt Ave, across the Milwaukee River via the Marsupial Bridge, and through the side–streets of Riverwest. Neighbors often cheered, even early in the dusky morning.
During the day–long event I was mostly biking along with Tracy, and periodically with my friend Clifton. We took Beagle breaks, bathroom breaks, and breakfast breaks. At one point my kevlar tires allowed a punctured tube and difficulties patching the tube caused me to lose some time.
We left for the East Side at 1 in the morning in order re–charge with Pizza from Pizza Shuttle. By 4am we decided to take a two–and–a–half hour nap. I’m not a morning person and when I got up I was in full–on zombie mode, but we headed out to the breakfast point, where we were served up Vegan pancakes.
The next few laps were accomplished on sheer willpower alone. Just keep moving forward, I kept telling myself. Despite my weariness, I pushed myself harder, and forced a happier mood each time I stopped for a checkpoint, pretending that this was the easiest thing in the world.
After we made the 20th circle we took a lunch break for cereal and eggs. I felt better, but not for much longer. I was able to squeeze out three more laps and, just before we started the fourth lap, my body gave out. I felt sick and tired and angry and felt like I wanted to cry. I could barely walk and standing was making me nauseous. I went home, grabbed my dog, Frutiger, and headed to the finish line. I laid on the ground and passed in and out of consciousness for the next 3 hours. Tracy completed her goal of 25 laps and came back with a peanut butter sandwich and a cracker pack, which improved my mood tremendously.
After the race was over we had to leave before the final results were in (The race board noted that some teams had made over 100 laps) because we had to go lend our tired support to The Demix at the Secret Chiefs 3 show at the Turner Ballroom. The music there was loud. Deafeningly loud. I had to keep fingers in my ears at times because the experimental noise, while artistically and entertainingly arranged, was ear piercing. And even so, I was still managing to nod off.
It was a punishing 24 hours, but I’m very satisfied to see just how far I was able to push my mind and body. I wish I could have gone further, but I really believe I reached my limits. Before the end of the race we were already talking about plans for next year. “We’re definitely doing teams next year,” we said, but there’s still a part of me that wants to go solo again.