As you may or may not have seen via this blog or on Twitter, the Andy Vs. Alex Bike Race was held on Sunday, and I won it! Let me adopt my boastful facade for a moment:
*does victory dance* Winner winner chicken dinner!
Now, for serious:
Right on the last hill in the race, I thought I was going to die. If it wasn’t for the 24 additional speeds on my bike to Brown’s single gear, I would have falled behind and/or blacked out. I can’t speak for Brown, but between the stifling humidity, my asthma and the hilly back roads of east Huntington County, it was like the Hunger Games out there.
Except, of course, without the poison arrows and brutal murdering of children.
Brown, for his part, performed admirably! Though he came in second, he expertly took some crazy hills, especially for riding a fixie.
For all of our initial posturing and talking-of-smack when we first got started with this thing, we’ve done a lot of good here. Brown learned how to ride a bike. I learned how to (badly) edit videos. And we raised a whole lot of money for a worthy non-profit.
On behalf of Brown and myself, I’d like to thank you wholeheartedly for your support through this race, regardless of who you voted for. Though it was drawn out more than indented, we had a much greater response than we counted on in our completely grassroots efforts.
Best yet, we made some friends and had a great time at the AvA afterparty. Check our awesome bike-themed raffle (and congratulations to Bethany Pruitt for winning it!):
We’ve been considering making this a yearly thing, with different race circumstances and themes. It’ll keep us riding and keep us honest (I’ll be back with more details when that happens).
Thank you, Brown, for being the brains behind this whole thing and challenging me to embrace friendly competition, rally people toward a common goal and get out on my bike and ride. I’m glad we can push each other to our limits.
Hey, it’s Brown. I wrote this thing.
It’s been happening less and less as I’ve grown up, but there was a time strangers and distant relatives couldn’t get ten seconds into a conversation with me before asking if I played basketball.
I understand it, I’m around 6’4”, and part of being an adult of above average height means that you probably spent some time as a kid of just… awkwardly ridiculous height.
But even back then, when I couldn’t help but feel I was making people feel weird just by walking into a room, the answer was always no, I didn’t play basketball.
I answered that way because I knew the question people were really asking. It wasn’t “Do you enjoy a game of hoops at recess?” or “Are you going out for the semi-competitive Y-Ball league that hijacks the gym on Saturday mornings during the winter?” What they were trying to ask was “Are you playing for Norwell?”
And if you knew me, even a little bit, you never had to ask that question. Of course I wasn’t going to try out for the real team. I wasn’t motivated enough to get in shape and I wasn’t confident enough to think of the possibility of being cut as anything other than a death sentence.
I was perfectly fine toiling in the no-cut, low-stakes recreational leagues that school systems create just for kids like me, who vaguely like the idea of playing a sport and really like the idea of getting a t-shirt with a number on it.
But again, in Indiana, people aren’t interested in that. We’re the Bob Knight state, the state Gene Hackman moves to and coaches a team on a run to state finals while a town rallies around Jimmy Chitwood, and we’re the state that got incredibly upset when they instituted classes in the state basketball tournament and took away our chance to see the next Milan or the next Hickory of the first Your School.
When your state has a Wikipedia page dedicated to how seriously it takes basketball, no one’s really interested in whether or not you’re playing intramural ball in middle school. If you’re not a Knight or a Tiger or a Whatever by then, you’re out of the system, and the best thing you can do is just answer like I did, with a “No.”
Again, though, that’s a lie. I did play basketball. But, I was never any good. In fourth grade, the parents of the athletic kids conspired to keep them on the same team. That team went undefeated, my team didn’t win a game.
By middle school, all those kids had either joined the “real” team, taken up another sport, taken up girls, or basically found anything else they would rather do with their time. Those of us who were interested in the Crusader Basketball League were not exactly the cream of the crop.
The crowd of parents had thinned out, too. In elementary school, you had to take your kid because the games were on Saturdays. By the time they got to middle school, games were afterschool and you could just pick them up afterwards, when you got off work.
These games only meant something to the kids like me who didn’t have anything better to do.
In seventh grade, even with kids like me, the coaches feel like they should really teach you some plays or something. My role, again as the tall kid, was to play center, hang out in the post and try to grab rebounds. Don’t shoot. Don’t run, really, unless you have to. Inbound the ball under the basket because you can probably throw it over the other kids.
I was the most mediocre seventh-grade recreational basketball league center you will ever see. Just… there. Not bad at running plays, pretty good at standing at my spot, decent understanding that if you hit that little square on the backboard there’s a good chance it’s banking in… just average.
So, I have no idea what happened that afternoon, when our team’s point guard was heading toward the basket, the kid who was guarding him trailing a few steps behind. I went off the playbook, stopped standing around, stepped in behind my teammate and got my feet planted underneath me.
That kid who got beat on defense had his head down and ran straight into me, in what has become (in my head) the single greatest pick in basketball history. It had no bearing on the actual play (again, he’d been beat by a couple steps already) but the collision was enough that it got an audible reaction from the handful of parents who’d shown up.
The kid fell down. I stayed standing.
It’s the highlight of my athletic career, as it was, not because of the setting, or the stakes, or whether or not it’s a story I wanted to tell my great aunt at the next family reunion. It’s the highlight simply because I did something I didn’t think I could do.
After so many years of being that kid who was just taking up space in the paint, I made a real basketball play.
This Sunday, this whole Andy vs. Alex thing comes to an end, finally, with the actual bike race. It’s been a mostly silly idea from the start, and I’m thankful for Andy and for all of you for letting me have as much fun with it as I’ve had.
We’re not going to set any speed records, and chances are good it isn’t going to be that great of a race. My “training,” as it is, has not gone exactly to plan, and I’m not entirely convinced that if Welfle has a pizza delivered to my house the night before the race I’d be able to hold myself back from eating the whole thing.
But this has never been about the race, and it’s never been about the non-profits we’re racing for, and it’s never even been about me learning to ride a bike.
From the beginning, this has been about creating a place to play. While I can’t speak for Andy, I can tell you I have no business being in a bike race of any sort. The people in Fort Wayne who take cycling seriously, who want to be in real bike races, they came out for events like Parkview Cycling Festival Crit Race. And they’ve got fancy timers and they take home trophies and they put on these honestly impressive athletic feats.
Andy vs. Alex is about taking a dumb thing seriously, and seeing if we can create something cool in the process.
On Sunday, one of us is going to win a bike race. It’s not life or death, it’s probably not even really sports, but it’s something. I’m not sure either of us will take the time to sit down and write about it thirteen years later, but I know everyone involved in this, everyone who’s voted for me or for Andy, everyone who’s passed one of our dumb videos on, everyone has given us the chance to throw the playbook out the window and make something special happen.
Thank you so much for that.
Someone’s going to win a bike race, a non-profit’s going to take home some cash, and then on Monday, danee pye and I are going to get back to work, making awesome things like this that let us all forget we’re not professionals, forget that there are other people who do this better, and just make a real basketball play, or tell a real joke, or win a real race, or do anything you think you couldn’t do… for real.
Stay tuned. And thanks.
Last Sunday, I posted a video about the date of the race (Sunday, September 2), and said that details would be following. Well, here we are, less than a week before the race, and I finally have those finalized.
Last week, I heard #TeamAlex tell his lovely wife, Danee, that he was good at sprints, not marathons. He was talking about ideas, of course, using the analogy that maybe planning details are not his forté.
Unfortunately, I am the same way — metaphorically and literally. I really dread the idea of a long-distance bike race — I prefer something short and sweet; something that is over quickly, like ripping a band-aid off a wound.
That’s why I’ve come up with this short, sweet 3-mile race:
View Andy vs. Alex Bike Race Route in a larger map
The route starts on Roanoke Road, by intersecting US 24, running parallel for 3 miles, and ending in the Coil Factory parking lot in downtown Roanoke, IN.
I’m afraid I’m claiming the home court advantage (if I may mix my sport metaphors) — this is a road I drive every day to work, and it has a little bit of everything: hills, turns, light traffic, and a scenic country landscape.
This, dear friends, is where we’ll make our stand. The race has been belabored, with the fundraising phase experiencing an increase in scope more than we originally intended. There are more than $300 on the line for the winner’s charity, and months of training have prepared us for that.
So, Alex. Ten o’clock in the AM. Roanoke Road.
See you there.
The voting/fundraising portion of the Andy vs. Alex saga has officially begun.
Throughout the month of June, Andy and Alex will be
begging campaigning for your vote of support. At the end of the months, whoever has received the most votes will get to determine the specifics of the Andy vs. Alex bicycle race.
Voting requires a $5 donation to the prize pool, which will then be donated to the organization supported by the winner of the race.
To vote, visit andyvsalex.com/vote.