Thursday, February 03, 2005

My story from 2005 Idoitarod

Waitin in line to register, originally uploaded by Green Biker.

Here is story from this years Idiotarod which when down in NYC: 1/29/05

Just a few days ago, I think cause the jet lag has effected my sense of time, I was in the warm streets of Bangkok, Thailand on a long deserved vacation. Now I think its like 5 degrees outside and I find myself running down the streets of DowntownBrooklyn loosely attached to a shopping cart, wearing a hockey helmet. We're running pretty fast now, banging into other shopping carts and trying to avoid the traps people have laid out to foil fellow racers such as marbles and vegetable grease strewn out on the cobble stones. Wait a someone throwing raw meat at me? It must be the butcher team. Why are we racing with shopping carts? Is this some post-apocolytic future nightmare and the stores have run out of food? Are we in a scene from a Rodney King riot and we've just looted the local Best Buy? No, we have to get to the first checkpoint and figure out the quickest way to get our team of five sled dog runners across the Brooklyn Bridge. This is the 2005 idiotarod race.

Quick overview: The race is based on the Alaskan sled dog race across Alaska known as the iditorad. A couple of wise guys from San Francisco decided to make a play on that and thus started the Idiotarod. Its far to cold to be running in Alaska and a well trained pack of malamutes are hard to come by on the foggy shores of the West Coast, so people settled for just getting a team of 5 people to attach themselves to shopping carts and run a race. Last year the idea was tried in New York City, and thus the first idiotarod was born. The idea here is fun, think John Belushi running around a track on a diet of chocolate donuts although through pictures and my experience in this race, I noticed a fun in shape jogging maybe people can actually run and enjoy it. I can run, but prefer a bicycle and can only make good time if the cops are chasing me at a demonstration...sometimes. Most importantly the idea here is to dress up, form a goofy costumed team, run through the streets of Manhattan attached to a shopping cart, make people wonder why the fuck you are doing this and not in bed hibernating under 2 down comforters.

So the registration for your team was right by the River Café and the old Brooklyn Ice Cream shop around 2pm. A picturesque viewpoint of the East side of Manhattan. There was still plenty of snow on the ground so it seemed fitting that someone had erected a plastic igloo and was rocking a sound system and serving drinks. I came to watch, missing the chance to pre-arrange myself on a team because of being away on vacation. Then a friend of mine from the Madagascar Institute came up to me wearing ill-fitting football pads from high school and a motorcycle helmet. Gear asked me if I was on a team and convinced me to join theirs. All I needed was a hockey helmet and a red bandana. That’s what they thought. All I needed was to be warm and to consume at least one beer.

The various teams of the race were assembling with some looking determined to win the best costume prize. Of course there was at least one pirate team, a few clowns, some foam looking tiki heads, some dudes with black afro wigs and yes a mime team. So far my favorites were the short bus who looked like they should never take off their helmets and this amazing crafted fabric octopus encompassing the whole shopping cart. We paid the $5.00 per person entry fee and began to psyhe ourselves out against a field of at least 20-30 teams. There were some rules we had to be aware of in this race. You must have 5 racers, you must have a shopping cart that has not been too altered and you must hit all the checkpoints.

After a short while of sizing each other up, smiling for the cameras and preparing our ketchup bottles to be used as red goo spiting weapons...after all our team was named Bludgeon or something like that) it was time to race.

And there off. All the teams began running for the Brooklyn Bridge to hit the first check point on the West Side, Chambers St. Our team consisted of Albert form Madagascar, Gear and his girlfriend Kate who have an aversion for anyone attempting to take her picture, me and this guy who actually enjoyed running...Ed. We made a break for the pedestrian staircase that is sort of a short cut for entering the Brooklyn Bridge. For some reason, I thought less people would think of this but as we were all trying to slam our carts up the stairs, I quickly learned that this was the most desired route. Some black clad ninja team was trying to block us out from getting our cart up the stairs. They were rewarded with a smattering of ketchup poured down the backside...don't mess with Red Bludgeon. We worked our way up the stairs and started hauling ass up the Bridge. Other teams were passing us, getting Ketchuped, stopping to catch their breath, trying to avoid pedestrians. I started to feel my side ache after running for like half a mile. Gear had fallen back, but Ed was attached to the front and just kept going. The downhill was great. We sort of jumped on the cart and plowed down the bridge with Albert anchoring the back of the cart.

We reached the Manhattan side, turned onto Chambers Street and headed for the first check point...this bar. Other teams were already gathered outside, but it looked like we had faired pretty well. At the checkpoint, one member of your team was supposed to go in the bar and give the judges an egg timer, where you were supposed to wait for 20 minutes, or if you knew one of the judges you could make a bribe and have your time reduced. Albert happened to know one of them, it happens to be his wife, Tara who is 9 months pregnant...unfortunately she was at the other check point. More racers were coming in and the sidewalks were starting to fill up. I knew at any moment the NYPD would show up with no idea what was going on. I was right. As soon as they discovered this was not a protest, they sort of stood by and made sure we didn't block the street. I heard one officer say, that they were just concerned about our safety...right...thats all I'm gonna say. I was concerned about getting a six pack of tall boys so our team could properly rehydrate for the long journey ahead of 20 blocks. After a while of waiting on the opposite street corner, fighting with some dork with a bad mustache about trying to take our picture and watching other teams be given the go-ahead. Albert ran out of the bar and we were off.

The next check point was the Lotus Bar on Clinton St. So we had to get East. We started zig zagging up Church St. in hot pursuit of other teams. It was great looking around on various side streets and see random teams of shopping carts running, breaking up the monotony of peoples typical Saturday routine.

One team with bicycle helmets and red brooms attached to the top, like some sort of dysfunctional roman legion were following us. We fought back with ice chunks from the street and of course...ketchup.

We made it to Lotus Bar, thinking we had made good time by Alberts navigation of crossing town via a side street all the way over to Essex. We discovered there were a lot of teams already there and the competative side of me was like damn. It was the usual scene, people milling about waiting to leave, cheering on others arriving and filling out into the street to gain the attention of the NYPD's 9th precinct which is notorious for fucking with art and activists street activities.

I tried to warn everyone I could to keep their booze on the dl especially with plain clothes 50 sniffing around. I stopped one team in the midst of chugging an entire box of wine. Then I turned around and it was too late, our lead jogging expert Ed was getting busted by the man. Right after he was escorted away by two cops to be delivered his on the street sentence, a cart rolls up with tons of bottles of booze and annouces, "the Bar car is open!" Now I don't want to spoil anyones fun especially when it comes to drinking but we just lost our best runner.

So me and Albert get the go ahead and start racing for the finish at tompkins square park. We are down to 2 people. Then we see Kate and Gear waddling up the Ave. B and we're like...lets go! Then Ed comes in. Down but not out. Looks like he only got a summons. We race up B, together again and are attacked by race volunteers armed with snowballs. We attack back with shaving cream. Then we turn up 7th Street and head into the final half a block. There is a row of people standing and cheering.

We finished the race in 9th place. Apparently the team going as the president along with secert service got first...of course the president always win. In this case the president was a she and it looked like she took a bad ankle injury, she also had some mysterious white powder under her nose...hmmm, just like our president.

I ran into my buddy Chris Ryan of the local ska/punk band Team Spider. He had shown up to video the race for his local public access show on MNN...Wednesday Nights at 11:30pm on channel 57...plug plug. He said he was talking with one of the local beat cops and they asked what was going on. He said, oh its a race, just having fun. Just then some small explosions went off. The cop said, "fun with fireworks?" Then ran off in the direction of the noise.

Yes there were bottle rockets bursting in air to celebrate a sucessful idiotarod race. There was also the Time's Up sound bike providing tunes from a large portable bike trailer/sound system. Local kids danced to the music and waited for someone to give them a light to join in the bottle rockets. After a while of hanging out, it was time for the traditional piling of the shopping carts.

The local police watched and did nothing. When a few squad cars rolled in, it was just time to go.


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