1) Get together several hundred associates of "Seattle's drinking club with a biking problem"So yeah, it could have been a terrible mess. But the 4th annual Fucking Hills Race went off without a casuality, save for a few burned retinas after an impromptu mass-mooning from the deck of the Bainbridge ferry. More on that in a second. Let's back up.
2) Hold a 33-mile road race, equal parts cramp-inducing climbs and blurred-vision downhills
3) Add a mandatory whiskey pit stop, beer, chili, and bike prizes
4) Race on the same day, and on the same course as Washington's 2nd largest cycling event
Mid-January, rumblings of the race were beginning to surface on the .83 forum. I've ridden with the club a few times (and have the scars to prove it). The rides are always a good time. On the other hand, I'm getting to be an old man. Maybe the spandex and neon vest crew would be more my speed.
Internal conflict. Ride legit, or pirate?
Then I saw the "official" FHR t-shirt and (damn you, paypal) snatched it on impulse. With goods from Sonadei in the mail, and determined to hold fast to my don't-wear-the-shirt-if-you-ain't-paid-the-dues ethic, the decision was made.
Time to start training my liver.
Fast-forward to Sunday, February 22. The race meet-up was under the 99 viaduct, a mere block away from the "other club". I rolled in, already tired from the 10-mile pedal from Hahn Estates in North Seattle. Sir Derrick Ito, race organizer and .83 OG, registered riders and delivered pirate patches. I witnessed several riders from the "other club" being tempted to the dark side with promises of free beer and better chili. They took the bait. Suckers.
Rainier tall-boy swilled from a bike-glove coozie at 9am. Yarrr.
On the ferry, an unexpected announcement: "First we'll be letting cars off the boat, then cyclists participating in Chilly Hilly, followed by the pirates." Damn. Big enough for a PA shout-out. Next year we might need insurance. Or something. Whatever.
Right off the bat, the race was haaaard. Hills and pitches, bitches. And it stayed hard for about 15 miles. After that, things took on a new light. I dunno, maybe it was the whiskey pit stop. Liquid gold, served in a cut-off PBR can by a dirty bike hobo.
Woooo! Where is this energy coming from? I'm fast. Is it hot in here? I'm stopping by that tree up there and taking off a layer. Maybe two. Maybe I'll just ride in my underwear. Wheeee. Pedals? What pedals? I, uhhhh...
Fact: 1 shot of whiskey propels a 155 lb. cyclist approximately 3 miles.
The rest of the race is a blur of strained pedal strokes, sweat, and suffering. Sweet Jeebus on a merry-go-round, I really need to ride more. Not familiar with Bainbridge Island, I kept hoping the downtown finish was over the next hill. No. Around that corner? Nope. Right after this flat section? Ha! Another hill? Call the sag wagon.
I rolled onto the docks a broken man. But even a broken man springs to life when two huge pots of chili are steaming on the camp stove and a wheelbarrow full of America's finest is on ice. There were probably 30 people milling around... ok, maybe I didn't do so bad. There are some fast cats that ride with this group. Plus, I know a few of these bastards cheated.
Thing is, nobody cares. In fact, cheating is expected.
Plus, enough prizes (see right) were piled up for everyone to get at least one. Top finishers got first dibs, the rest of us sad sacks were drawn out of a hat. I had my eye on a knitted Pabst ski beanie with a big ol' yarn ball on top. Missed out on that, but pulled a sweet Park Tool bottle opener.
One dude took home a new bike. It was like Christmas... except with a bunch of sweaty people I didn't know.
On the return trip, one final dastardly deed was done. "Pull up your pants or get off the boat," the ferry Captain announced on PA. Seems our pirates lobbed a successful group moon toward a scrappy sailing vessel piloted by fellow .83'ers bound for home.
My wife will be relieved to know I caught an earlier boat, and wasn't among the pantless. Yes, the author's esteemed standing in the community is preserved. For now, at least.
Great event, cool people, almost enough beer. Next year there will be no internal conflict. FHR gets mad bacon.
Coverage of the "other club" riding on the course that day