My Track Or Die Experience By Chelsea Marie Matias

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I took the training wheels off my first bike when I was about 10 years old. I was always afraid of bikes, even riding on the sidewalk. My mother embedded my mind with the idea that they were extremely dangerous, so that’s what I always believed. Well, thinking back, my ten-year-old self would have shit her pants if she knew that ten years later, she’d be riding through the streets of the New York on a bike. Oh, and with no brakes. That’s pretty funny.
A little more than seven months ago, I started riding a track bike. I never thought I’d be into such a thing. I’ve played sports such as basketball and soccer growing up, so I thought I could incorporate some of my athleticism from that into riding; I was wrong. What cycling does to the body is completely different from any sport I have ever played. Cycling takes more than that five second burst of energy to shoot a basketball into a hoop or a soccer ball into a goal. I wouldn’t even say it was a sport, but an art. I learned that it takes extreme discipline, control, awareness and confidence to even consider cycling and actually be good at it.

In the beginning, getting on my bike and riding in the Bronx down Kingsbridge Road brought back the ten year old in me; I was hyperventilating and constantly worried I’d fall off and break all the bones in my body. But watching my boyfriend Jonathan (the person who convinced me to try track bikes out in the first place) and the way he had so much control over his bike, showed no fear, and moved so swiftly through cars and street lights had me in awe. I wanted to have as much confidence and power on my bike as that and there was definitely no room for being a wimp.
It took about four months to get my body used to the constant pedaling without dying from cramping up and falling in the street. I felt so slow compared to the people I rode with; I was always mashing like a crazy person to catch up as they casually ‘no handed’ down avenues. I practically died going up every single Yonkers & Bronx hill as well, but that only gave me the motivation to keep pushing myself and become faster. Getting on a bike was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far. It’s like you have control over what obstacles you overcome, what barriers you break down. It’s not in the hands of a teammate or a machine, but in the power of your own mind and body. You tell yourself how far you can go, that’s the beauty of it. I must say competing in the 2 Lap Jam was completely unexpected. I didn’t think I was fast or strong enough to be in such a competitive race with all those hills. It was just me, riding on a 48×15 gear ratio with shaky legs and a beater bike. I didn’t think I had any chance compared to the Cinelli, Fuji and Bianchi owners with stronger legs and more experience.

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During the race there was a crash as well as tons of people throwing up and wiping out. I was constantly pushing myself to keep going as much as my legs kept cramping up and my tightening lungs made it harder to breathe. Harlem hill was probably the worst hill I’ve ever been up compared to the Riverdale hill by my area and the all the Yonkers hills put together. It just seemed like an endless incline, but I refused to give up so easily. That whole race was a constant struggle between my mind and my body. My mind wanted to finish so badly whilst my legs wanted to break in half and fall off. It was intense as hell. I give credit to anyone who can even finish one lap; riding around twice at some speeds of 23 mph is just incredible. I also placed first girl in 33 minutes, which was incredible as well. I didn’t think I was first girl; I was just happy the race was over and my legs didn’t feel like they were being stabbed anymore. But I was and still am very grateful for the support that was given to me before, during and after the lap jam. I not only congratulate myself but everyone who participated. We all have a love for cycling that’s so deep and we have to keep proving to everyone out there that it’s indeed a beautiful art. It takes powerful lungs, brolic legs, smarts and a courageous heart to compete in any competition and me winning first girl shows that you can be a newbie and can even have what they call a beater bike like myself, but if you want it bad enough, if you believe in yourself and if you keep pedaling- you can accomplish anything. With competing in the race I won my first Chrome bag, an awesome cycling cap, a jersey and the satisfaction that I placed 30 out of 70-something people who raced that day; mostly men. This shows that any girl can be as fast and strong, even faster than any guy. So the hell with stereotypes! I really want there to be more female cyclists showing their faces at TOD events. Thank you so much TOD for all that you do in inspiring cyclists to keep on pedaling!!!!!

-Chelsea M.
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My Track or Die Experience.. The 2013 summer alley cat by Hannah Todd

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“When I heard about TOD Summer Alley Cat Race, I was in Texas for a summer internship, and when I found out that I would be back in New York City for the race I was super psyched. I had done a few races here and there, but never a “real” TOD Alley Cat Race. I wanted to finish as first female in the race, from the moment I heard about it, and that was my goal until I handed in the last manifest that day.

I was working 12 hours shifts, throwing back beers on polo nights at Houston Hardcourt and, in between, trying to get my “training” on in 100 degree weather… I was riding much more than before, but I didn’t feel like that was enough. Plus I had a 3 day trip back to NY where a bike wasn’t my vehicle. I got back on Aug 7th, and the race was Aug 17th. 10 days wasn’t much but it was all I had to get back into the swing of riding NYC streets…in the summer. I arrived back in NYC, got straight on my bike and went straight to Union Sq to see if anyone was riding, and who but Shardy was there to greet me back to the city. Me him and a few friends biked around, and from that day in and out I rode through traffic, drafted ugly mens worn away compression shorts in CP and paved my way through a new city of shiti bikes, neon fixies, and tourist mania through heated pavement.

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The Friday night before the race me & Cesar had decided not to go out because we both wanted to be in top form for the race on Saturday….well Cesar had a few shots for his dad’s bday and I gave in to ONE, but if you know me, then you know I made a big effort to stop just there. We woke up, made ourselves a hearty breakfast and got ourselves to 23rd and FDR where the race would start. There were already people anxiously waiting. It wasn’t like my first race, where I thought I was gonna puke before I even started…but I still had a little knot in my stomach, I wanted first girl so bad and had spoke to some guys about it who had told me not to “sleep on some of the other girls”. I saw a few girls come up, but as it turned out there would only be a few of us racing and all I could think was, “thank god im not up against 80 or so dudes”.

I drank some water, had some redbull and got my bike and self into position. All of us were stood side by side waiting for Shardy to yell to us where to get our manifest…”3-2-1…Go get your manifest at Washington Square- BOOM, easy peasy lemon squeezy, all of us were neck and neck weaving to get there and of course street fair mania blocked me a little when I got there, did some sidewalk maneuvers and got my manifest. 160th and Riverside BLVD….fucked that one up the last time, so DEF knew where that one was….I went straight to the WSH…but for real, AGAIN I hit ANOTHER mini street fair, this time some more sketchy sidewalk shit, no time for turning around. I got to WSH, some dude I didn’t know was drafting me, sorta, he was just staying beside me blocking my peripherals of where I was or MIGHT want to go. “Either get in front or behind me man!” I yelled, he listened, and got behind. I got to the 1st checkpoint and off the East River Plaza I went, when I got there it was empty apart from the beautiful Erin and Xtina!…figuring I was far behind and not knowing wtf Naumberg bandshell was, I took a minute to look at the best way to get there and realized it was the bandshell in CP (yeah i’m not a native New Yorker)….then whaddaya know all these dudes come rolling in… I almost laughed and got a little cocky yelling at some dude “I beat all you fucking guys here HAH!” anyways Chuck and Oscar saw me and I hopped up 2nd ave with them and another guy who knew exactly where they were going so I drafted them until I broke through a light some of didn’t get through.
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10 push ups and bombing down 5th it was, another easy spot, I was drafting some guy and saw Manny a little ahead. I was hyped he was even in sight cuz I knew he was a fast mothafucka. I didn’t know where the Jersey St checkpoint was but the guys in front did and there was a few of us bombing 5th so I followed- as long as I kept up I’d get to the checkpoint as fast as them, after watching someone fly over a taxi and just missing the crash, most of us ended up the random alleyway where there was the crowds of sweaty men with manifests. I yelled at Rick but he was getting pressured “I don’t have another pen!” he yelled, and oh you know, I had 3, so I handed him one with my manifest, and got it signed. At this point I knew if I helped the guys out a little some might help me, give a little take a little right, hopefully one would let me draft? Luckily I knew where Teardrop park was and yelled at some of the guys giving them the general direction…and they were off…a little too fast, I kept up, but I went down an earlier street and they went a little further…….side note: I’m never doing that again guys!!….if they had stayed with me I would’ve taken them straight to the park, but they were eager. I got there and saw one lonesome dude looking like a lost child, “go in and take a left, just trust me!!” he followed and I ran up the slide, checkpoint asshole goes “NO YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME YOUR MANIFEST FIRST” I run back give him it, run up and slide down, ask for it and check he signed it….motha fucka didn’t sign it…you didn’t sign it! “yes I did”…no you fuckin didn’t, then finally he signed it. The next three checkpoints downtown I didn’t know, I’m not gonna front, I’m no messenger, I’m in nursing school so I don’t find myself amongst the sleazy wall street bastards often. The kid I pointed toward teardrop was with me so I followed him…. he almost took me down the tunnel entering the highway…I was down…but he goes AH FUCK…..we had to turn around….i don’t like turning around…. but I had no choice he knew where to go and I didn’t. I followed him to all 3 check points. At the last before going to Brooklyn Bridge Park we saw a hound of the other guys, and all of a sudden they were gone, and so was my partner?? Wait, I didn’t understand?? Why would he follow them….did I miss something?? I stopped, looked at my manifest, rechecked I did all the check points…and rechecked again…there was no way I was going to the finish line fucking up again (I did that last race).
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That’s it. I’d done all the check points and was right by the BK bridge…UGH the fuckin BK bridge, the WORST BRIDGE FOR ANY CYCLIST IN NYC…nah i’m not as bad ass as some of you guys out there taking the road, but I have a loud ass mouth and can get people to move out the way if I really want. So I yelled all the way to BK. I know DUMBO real well, so I went straight to pier 6, an was handed ANOTHER manifest of 3 checkpoints, I was tight. but Andrea was there and obviously couldn’t hold it in yelling “YOUR IN SECOND”….WTF I thought to myself…and was off, there was no time to think…the guys could be right behind, I knew EXACTLY where all 3 checkpoints were. I got to the first and saw Kyle… ‘he must be first’ I thought. No one was at Jay St. to sign the manifest. I knew I was there, I knew the place, fuck it me and Kyle said and took pictures to prove we were there…and there Cesar came along….I thought Cesar had gotten the 2nd manifest so told him where to go. He drafted Kyle most of the way….Barclay Center…again NO ONE, mad annoying…”taking another pic” Kyle said, “not trying to lose my spot, so fuck it we all said, took our pics and bounced. The last spot was 9th St cycles. Kyle was in the lead most of the way, so I figured he would be first, ces second, and me third… I was happy with that. But then there were people to sign the last checkpoint, and ces didn’t have the manifest…..I felt his pain, I had fucked up the last race going to the wrong spot so I knew that feeling all too well. I told him to “fucking push it and don’t give up your going to the finishing checkpoint anyways, push it till the end” so he did, I told him where to go, and started realizing kyle didn’t have much left in him to sprint until the finish…and I still had some in me…PUSH IT CES, Kyles getting tired lets GO!! We lost him and bombed down Atlantic ….coming into the corner, I asked ces like a courteous person would do…lmao, cuz I know NO ONE other than me would’ve asked if they could roll in first, but I fucking did, and ces agreed I deserved it. Well, I rolled in before ces but others were came around another corner so then I wasn’t really sure at that very moment if we really were in first, so I threw the manifest at Oscar who was holding a bunch and (gracefully) fell over and stopped.
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It took a second…there were others there, others that had finished…did everyone get the second manifest??? “Hannah, You came in FIRST!!!” “What???” I was in dis fucking belief “ YOU CAME IN FIRST!!” Shardy said….and that was it, it all came to me, I hadn’t just achieved my goal of first female, but I came in FIRST PLACE in the TOD Summer Alley Cat 2013. I had worked SO hard for this, I pushed it…there is nothing like the adrenaline I get when I race, sometimes I get scared as fuck….and there’s nothing I want, than to finish the race as fast as possible….and that’s what I did that day. Finished that race as fast as I possibly could. I gave it my all. I’m not sure if I’ll ever win a race like that again, amongst that many racers, and all those guys who I would give anything to be as fast as. I guess I’m learning as I go along, that any alley cat can have surprises, and no matter how fast you are, sometimes you may just not know where to go….I may not be the fastest, but shit I’m definitely not the slowest, and no dick or not, I fuckin won that race fair and square. So this ones for the girls….and guys, don’t sleep on us, you never know who you might be up against.”

Hannah Todd
2013 T.O.D Summer Alley Cat Winner

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Monster Track 14; My Track or Die experience by Shardy Nieves

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Monster Track, New York City’s biggest alley cat race. This would be the 14th anniversary race and people came from all over the world to compete in the unforgiving streets of NYC. Monster Track weekend was full of activities for everyone who not only came out to compete but spectators as well.

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In 2012, I attended my first Monster Track since switching to fixed gear. This would also be my first alley cat race in general and I did not know what to expect. What also makes this weekend so important to me is the fact that I launched TrackOrDieNYC.com with the photos I shot from Monster Track 13. Safe to say Monster Track weekend is also the Track or Die NYC anniversary weekend. Moving forward to 2013, a few of the guys from T.O.D  and myself we’re training for this massive alley cat race ( I was doing more training for the after party).

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The night before monster track, Track or Die NYC hosted another 2 lap jam this time being held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. This 2 lap jam would benefit the recycleabicycle.org and all proceeds from the nights event would go to the nonprofit organization. We had a turn out of 60 racers and raised $500 for recycle a bicycle. Much like the previous lap jams, this one was a success.

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After the two lap jam, the crew took a ride over to the East River Bar in Williamsburg Brooklyn for some drinks & to hang out with the rest of the racers who came in town for monster track. Needless to say I got pretty wrecked that night and drank more then I had planned. Not really the best game plan when you have a big race in the next morning. I woke up with a pretty decent hangover and contemplated if I wanted to find a good enough excuse to not race, I’m just keeping it 100. I linked up with Elliot & Oscar and we took the train into the city to get last minute bike maintenance. While heading downtown the snow started coming down pretty heavy however it was not sticking to the ground. Again I was looking for every reason not to race today, the hangover plus the snow as well as the not knowing what Victor & Carlos had in store. I was pretty nervous.

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 We arrived in the city and South Street was packed full of cyclists ready to take on the streets. Once I saw the abundance of racers waiting for the manifest I was no longer nervous about monster track and was more anxious to get out there and test my abilities in the street. The few alley cat races which I’ve done in the past I do not race to win, some of these racers are true athletes. My game plan is to see how many people I can pass from whatever position I started in.

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Most alley cats require you to run to your bike and with my pre existing knee injury, running is never an option for me. I usually walk to my bike as soon as they yell “go”. As a photographer I was pretty upset that I could not shoot the beginning of monster track. I had to make the decision to either bring my camera and shoot photos or dedicate 100 percent of my attention to racing. I decided to race and leave my camera home. Track or Die came out in numbers, most of us had on the exclusive Track or Die NYC hoodies which represents 1 year of our bicycle crew.
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Before the race, I gathered everyone together from T.O.D and made a brief announcement to the guys asking everyone to ride safe. No race is worth your life. It got down to the to starting time and everyone lined their bikes up to race. Victor and Carlos had posted up a copy of the manifest on the bars window which everyone ran up and shot a photo of the manifest, some thinking that was the start of the race. A few guys even took off without a manifest thinking the race had begun, they were wrong and had to return.
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We waited for an additional 45 minutes before the race had actually started. At this point I was energized from Red Bull and in the zone. After waiting I begin to lose my momentum.
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Victor gathered everyone to line up on South Street without their bikes. Manifest were then handed out to each rider and Victor made some last minute announcements. “GO!” Victor yelled and what seems to be a little over 200+ racers took of towards their bikes. Monster track had begun. I took off towards 1 Liberty which would be the first checkpoint. Upon my arrival I noticed I was right behind the top guys and my plan was to follow them. We raced towards Stuyvesant high school for the next checkpoint which is with things got interesting. Once I got my manifest signed at the second checkpoint, I mashed across the West Side Highway without having the right away and at that point a police van sounded it’s sirens and I’m not sure if they caught anyone but I wasn’t stopping. Approaching Chambers Street a fellow cyclists crashed right into my ankle and took a spill. My ankle started throbbing as I look back to see if he was okay. I noticed he picked up his bike and kept moving.

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Now I’m bleeding from my ankle and soaking wet from the snow. Third checkpoint would be the center of the Manhattan Bridge, upon my arrival to the bridge I figured I would take a shortcut scale the wall at the foot of the bridge . Yeah that save me all of 10 seconds as I rode up the bridge I noticed the pack I was following was now coming down the bridge. It was now time for me to find a new pack to ride with. I now headed to Strada on mott st to pick up the second manifest. At this point I was in a lot of pain and considered just calling it quits & grabbing a beer. The next four checkpoints on the 2nd manifest would consist of Midtown stops. I toughed it out and rode with the pack until the second checkpoint. I separated from that group via Madison Avenue and decided to take the rest of the race on my own at my own pace
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My ankle wasn’t feeling any better but I kept pushing through . On the way back for the third manifest I somehow couldn’t unclip from my pedal and almost took a tumble in front of everyone. After I received the third manifest, I was all alone and didn’t know which route would be best. I noticed a group of messengers whom I’ve seen in the city while riding and I decided I would follow them along their route. This would be the boda boda crew and they would be the final pack I followed for the rest of monster track 14. 
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The first stop on the 3rd manifest would be 72 Madison Avenue. At this point my body was starting to experience fatigue. With a Red Bull in my Jersey and a bottle of Gatorade I waited to reach the third checkpoint which would be Marcus Garvey park in Harlem to rehydrate myself. From Marcus Garvey it was a straight shoot to Columbus Circle, sweet! We took Fifth Avenue up to 97th street and cut through Central Park to the west side heading to Columbus Circle. Once we hit Broadway, the pack started to separate. With 1 more checkpoint I just wanted the race to end. I took 7th ave to 112 w26th Street and from there went straight to the finish line which would be Mott Street. I was now running on fumes my body was in pain I was wet and uncomfortable. I was just looking forward to a beer at the finish line.
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While riding down Broadway past Astor Pl, I felt that I was on the home stretch and keeping a really solid pace. At that moment Jeremy Borden flew right by me and said he was finished. I said fuck it I’m not going to try and catch him and I kept my pace. Somehow I ended up at Strada before Jeremy since I rode against traffic on Houston Street to avoid the light. I was informed that Lalo had received the 4th manifest, Stanley had taken 12th, Rigo had taken 16th, I had taken 17th while angel came in at 24th place. T.O.D had placed in the top 25, sweet! Austin Horse took 1st place followed by Alfred Bobe Jr
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Now tired and soaking wet, the crew left Strada and feasted on some pretty good Chinese food. Overall I’m more than happy with monster track 14 and even more happy that it was now over. I passed on the after party and decided to grab a cold beer and Train or Die home. See you next year for Monster Track 15.

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Shardy Nieves
Track or Die NYC