Monday, November 15, 2010

Cargo Class

As mentioned, this past Saturday was, in addition to my field trip, the night of the Han River Cycling Endurance Challenge (or something like that – it had a long name anyway.)

It ended-up being a lot of fun, though I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t stick it out for the entire 12 hours as I had hoped. Hey – life gets in the way. I didn’t offer excuses to anyone there, except to say that I was just too damn tired in the end, which I was. But, I’ll give you the excuses here.

My day started off with a bike-trip down the cheon (stream) by my house to the Han River, and then across to the other side and East until I reached Olympic Park where I was to meet my co-teachers at 10:00am for the field trip. Not gonna lie – was still setting-up material late into Friday night and by the time I got to the park on Saturday morning, I was completely bagged. Then, a few more leisurely hours of riding about the park supervising, then back West along the river, across the bridge and to the starting point to meet the other riders.

Before I say any more, let me reiterate that I had long-held opinions about a lot of these ex-pat meet-ups in Seoul. It really didn’t seem like my cup of tea. However, Tim (from a previous post) was such a nice guy to invite me a couple of weeks previous on first meeting, so how could I say no? If I wanted to stay mostly to myself throughout the night, that was an option, too. I had a few audiobooks and podcasts loaded onto my ipod for the ride just in case.

By the end of my race though, I hadn’t listened to anything at all. Great group of people – all in it for the fun (if riding in cold weather in the wee hours of the morning can be called fun), and I’m glad I went out for it.

The course started close to the 7-11 just West of Banpo Bridge (site of many a slosh-ball game) and ran East to the bridge crossing to Seoul Forest. It was a fast loop and an easy one to ride over and over again, and it gave all category of rider a worthy challenge.

I guess looking back it seems like a strange way to pass a Saturday night. Some people knew each other and rode in teams, and others (like me) just kind of showed-up on their own after hearing of the event through facebook. It was not freezing during the first half, but the night grew increasingly cold and I’m sure that those who stayed the full 12 hours would tell you that it dropped well-below zero close to the end.
Anyway, as I rode-up to the starting area on my wee Brompton, I immediately realized that there were a few hardcore cyclists involved. Dudes in matching gear and extreme road bikes – big thin tires, as well as all other manner of bike. Bikes were divided into classes based mostly on their wheel and tire size and width, though I had a little fun with the classification being that mine was the only folding bike amid the other beasts.

One of the categories was “Cargo Class:” – for bikes meant for long hauls. Ha ha… I entered that one. The only thing that qualified me for that class was my willingness to carry a couple of 2 litre bottles on my back rack, just as all of the other “cargo bikes” did.

Why not? I had already decided that I wasn’t going to REALLY push myself that night – I may as well have every excuse in the book to ride at non "I’ve-got-something-to-prove" speed and to just take in the river, the night, and the enjoyment of knowing that I was doing something kind of zany. I left my front bag on the luggage for the first five laps as well – just so that my little bike could truly be welcome in the Cargo Class.

I had a great ride. Spent a few laps riding with Peter from Wisconsin – fellow Cargo Classman, good guy with a great sense of a humour and huge hockey fan – what’s not to like? We pushed each other and kept conversation going for a few laps – we even switched bikes for a lap just to see the differences. Also had the chance to catch-up with Joowon, a Korean American public school teacher who trained with us back in 2009 – total sweetheart and kick-ass woman of action. She went all 12 hours for sure.

Anyway, like I said – great group of people and I only wish I could have stayed longer. One guy – Brian – is organizing a solo trip from Alaska to Argentina – basically following the mountain ranges all the way down. One hard-core individual though a very welcoming and gracious guy. Once, when a team of three (including Brian) zipped-off into the night after getting their cards punched, I decided to give chase. They were all cruising full-tilt on their big wheeled road bikes, but I just threw Money-Well-Spent into 6th gear and it wasn’t much trouble at all staying right with them. They were surprised as hell when they rounded the half-way point and the front rider saw me right along-side them. The Davey might not have had much juice left, but my baby blue did.

Anyway, as the night wore on, it became clear to me that in no way was I going to last another six hours. Peter and I stopped off at the check-in area, grabbed some free cookies and bananas, and cheered our participation with a Korean beer. I still, after all, had a long bike ride home up the cheon to my place. What made matters even worse, was that to complete my last lap, I had to go back toward Banpo Bridge from Seoul Forest. When your deliriously tired, and the weather is getting really cold, the last thing you want to do is add any distance to your end commuting journey. Oh well.

All in all, I was somewhere in the middle in terms of how many riders didn’t stay all 12 hours (6pm – 6am). Some left very early-on, others just before me, and a few more after me. When I left – shortly after midnight, I headed back up to the cheon and home, and let me tell you, despite even the promise of a brand new Bill Maher podcast to keep me awake, I was beyond tired, and it has carried over into this week, and into a rather hellish Monday of too many lessons and my demo class (which I ended-up being quite proud of in the end).

But – I’m glad I did it. I don’t honestly know if I could have gone all 12 racing hours. I’d like to think I might have, but I made the (likely wise) choice to go home – and I got home at around 2am. I had two more things I needed to be awake for after-all: my demo lesson planning (the district likes big flashy Powerpoints, which take time), and a Beethoven concert Sunday night with the rabbit. You don’t want to be sleepy going into that.

A total for the race of 94 kilometers for me over 8.5 laps (I’ll count the last half on my way home) contributing to a total of 187 kilometers on the day with my commuting across the city twice and everything in-between. Not shabby at all, and I do admit to being kind of proud of getting home in one piece and still being able to take the stairs up to the 7th floor with bike in-tow as one last little challenge for myself.

So, thanks to the organizers and to the friendly faces, and to the one military guy in his matching gear and giant-wheeled road bike who remarked when I left at midnight that he had to go all 12 hours or he might look back on the night and call himself a pansy: kiss my 187 kilometers completed on a wheel radius half the size of yours, and kiss my ass.

Mine and Peter's "Cargo Class" bikes.

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