Century II FAIL

September 13, 2008

My goals are were outrageous…

Fail
It’s cold and raining hard.  The rain will continue all day.  @#$%!  If I had a rainproof coat I’d be there, but as is, I’m going back to bed.

This was a tremendous ride.  It was great to have someone to ride with through the whole thing.  I really felt joyous on this century, I had such a good time! Yay!

4:45am
We woke up very early, especially considering what time we got to bed (or couch, for me).  We were suited up and out the door before the sun came up, with helmets and gloves and waterbottles full of energy drink and water.

To warm up, we rode a few blocks then jumped on the subway.  Our destination was Central Park, but train was late.  Eventually we made it to central park and started riding to the event.  It was dark, but the path was well lit.  Soon we started seeing other riders as we made our way to the event.

A Very Early Late Start
At 6:30am volunteers shouted for the last group of century riders to form at the start line, and we made our way forward.  It was early, I hadn’t eaten, I’d barely had anything to drink and clearly hadn’t had enough sleep, but when I clipped in and got rolling… I was ready.

Times Square is Just the Beginning
Right off the start, the police where everywhere.  As we left the park there were police holding traffic.  At all the (early) next busy corners, there were police holding traffic.  This continued sparsely through the first 15 miles.  Very busy intersections had staff and police.  It was comforting, especially in light of recent events.  This is not always the case.  I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all the officers who were out there protecting us on Sunday.  Thank you.

Early in the ride, while the sky was still mostly dark, we rode through Times Square.  All the lights were bright and beautiful–what a display!  We continued in a giant pack, as a steady stream of cyclists riding through the city.  I crossed the Brooklyn bridge and lost Dana.  I rode over the bridge again, and back, unable to find my friend.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal if I wasn’t 300 miles from home!

To say that I was unprepared for this kind of thing would not be a gross understatement.  I did have a phone.  It would seem I even had Dana’s phone number.  After some frantic calling and message leaving, I decided to ask for help.  One of the volunteers let me know that there was a rendevous point up ahead.  Perfect!  I made some small talk with other riders, commented on fixies, and pushed forth to the 15mile point.  As I rode up Dana called me, we met up, and all was well.

Refreshments and Volunteers
It occured to me that I hadn’t had anything to eat yet, and that a Peanut Butter Jelly Bagel might be just the ticket, along with orange slices, a banana, prune, apple, and some of my sports drink®.

At this point I must comment on the incredible niceness of the volunteer staff helping at each stop, and along the way.  Some of these wonderful people got up before 1am to be out there, helping us.  There were fresh oranges sliced at every stop, along with fruit, water, sports drinks already mixed, maps, and nice people everywhere!  Thank you so much!

Since there was no sports drink mixed at the first stop, Prospect Park, we decided to pack up and fly, hoping the next stop, Canarsie Pier, still had some left.

NYC Century Map

NYC Century Map

The Nasty Juice was Chock Full of Awesome
Canarsie Pier did have the special sports drink mix, and let me tell you, it was wretched.  It tasted like normal sports drinks, but then had a bitter aftertaste.  Immediately after drinking this stuff, however, your legs would suddenly bulge with incredible power, and you would shoot off leaving a trail of flames under your tires.  Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but it felt just like this.  Unfortunately, I strategically finished my bottle before the next stop, so I could refill… and they didn’t have any.  It wasn’t until mile 85, the last stop, the “As ready as I’m ever going to get” stop, before we had any more.

The pier was amazing.  It was miles long and beautiful; the sun was high and illuminating the giant bridge (which we would all cross single file, stairs and all).  This was my burn phase of the ride.  I was high on endorphins, I was feeding off of the energy of hundreds of other riders, but my legs were starting to feel it, my feet were starting to hurt.

Green Fields
The 70 mile stop was the most welcomed break in the ride.  I greatly appreciated the water, the food, and taking my shoes off.  There was a great big field in the sun, and people were sunbathing, talking, everywhere.  The bathroom was a mess, to a degree that I do not even wish to discuss, but we found another and made our way across the Giant Bridge.

The Bronx
After the bridge, we continued along the walk way until we hit the last turnoff.  There was a woman standing there shouting and pointing “Hundred that way! Seventyfive this way!” This was very exciting for me.  We took the long way.  We’re tough!  We’re hardcore!  One Hundred Miles!

Terrain
I’ve been dying to talk about this since I crossed the finish line.  We rode on everything.  From smooth blacktop to bumpy.  From large blacktop ruts to simple road cracks.  There were monster gaping potholes capable of consuming whole people.  There was dirt, grass, sand patches, debris, cobblestones, gravel, broken glass, and hard concrete.  Nothing was worse, however, than the 2 city blocks worth of the most ragged surface ever.  We were in the Bronx.  The top layer of road had been shorn off leaving the most uneven, painful to ride on, broken road ever.  It was like my bicycle was attached to a random orbit sander, or a reciprocating saw.  It was a jarring experience.

The End: “As ready as I’m gonna get”
Our last rest stop was different than the rest.  It was by far the least populated, and everyone at it was very tired.  On all the previous stops there were upbeat people everywhere: excited people, happly shouting, taking pictures, etc.  Here, at mile 85, there was no such foolishness.  The sportsdrink was being spooned out as powder.  Just add water and mix yourself.  I got two scoops for Dana, because her water bottle was bigger and we were at the most difficult point in the ride.  The Bronx was the hilliest part of the ride.  The saved the hills for the end.  Our fixie friends were not enjoying them either.  At the stop, another couple of riders behind me said “Are you read?” and “As ready as I’m gonna get.”  It was the perfect description of this stop.

After the stop, we rode the last 15 miles in relative silence.  To be honest, the end came before I expected it to.  I was not exhausted yet.  Then I got off my bike, and the exhaustion hit.  My feet were done.  It was easier to keep riding, but we couldn’t.  The subway was packed, we had to stand with our bikes.  My feet hurt for an hour subway ride on the A train.  Since there was a problem with one of the other trains, ours became the A train, and the conductor nearly gave himself a stroke screaming “This is the A train!” over and over, at each stop.

Home
Finally we were home.  It was over, and I could take off those shoes!  Dana passed out instantly.  I went out to eat at Moto, again.  The pudding was divine, again.  I was waiting for the train, standing over the restaurant, listening to the live music waft up into the subway station, trying to hold onto that simpler, computer free, 30’s style atmosphere.  I walked home quietly with those old tunes in my head.  It was a wonderful day.

The NYC Century (part I)

September 7, 2008

I am too tired to type more than a quick entry.  We woke up at 4:45am, rode everywhere, and after 7h37m37s, we called it quits.  After another hour of standing on the subway (ow) and 4 flights of stairs, we were home.  Shower.  Dana grabbed a bite to eat and passed out–as is to be expected.  This ride was almost double her longest yet: 65mi.  I stayed up and went out to eat, enjoying live music and the most amazing pudding ever.  Now it’s almost midnight and I just want to say what an amazing job Dana did putting up with my un-quenchable happyness, oh and with riding 100 miles–through NYC!

6:09:53, 100.3mi
66ºF, Odo 1897mi
avg 16.2mph, max 48.7mph
*Rain, dark

Prep

My workout at the karate studio was painful: jumping squats, pushups situps followed by an awesome two-man technique (multiple attackers) and sparring.  Ouch.

The sun was out, there were no clouds.  This is a perfect day for a big ride!  I made a huge amount of pasta and promptly took a nap.  When I got out of bed later I felt more like a cyclists and less like a punching bag.  Unfortunately, there were a few clouds out.  Oh well.

I absolutely filled my camelbak (2 litres) with Gu2.0.  I didn’t have a second water bottle to bring but I figured I could manage.  I packed 3 cliff bars and 6 energy gel packs.  One said “up to two an hour as needed” so I used that as a guideline.  I brought Hammer gel, Gu, and Powershot.  I liked the Hammer gel the best.

Beautiful Start, Rain, and Getting Lost

The sky was beautiful, the sun was warm, everything was perfect.  Then, 30 minutes into the ride, the sky opened up.  Hail quickly turned to rain.  I was riding down a steep hill, very fast, and the rain felt like needles.  The rain became an inconsistent light spattering, and stayed that way for the first two hours or so.  At the 25 mile mark I took a break and mentally prepared myself for the Big Hill.

The Big Hill was a Big Softy.  I came out on top and I wasn’t even phased by it.  I just kept going.  Awesome!

Back to Start

You took a wrong turn.  Go directly to [home].  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200. Woops.  I took a right instead of a left and ended up back home.  When I realized it I cursed but didn’t want to turn around and get more lost.  Still, indoor plumbing and a well stocked kitchen are excellent benefits to accidentally arriving at the start.  I arrived at the 50 mile mark, it was like an allignment of the planets, however, because I was able to feed the cat and lookup directions for how to get home.  I could take the boring 20 mile route home, but that’s boring! It felt so beneath me, I knew I could accomplish much more than that flat, boring, commute ride.  Did I mention boring?  I was 50 miles in and determined to ride 75 with hills.  I posted that great elevation with three huge bumps, didn’t I?  Well that was it, I planned a 45 mile ride (without doing the math in my head) with the same hills I originally posted.

I ate two wondoursly perfect peaches, drank real water, and had some energy gel before I left.  I also added some water and ice to my camelbak, but not much.

The Easiest 25 Miles

I’d like to say the next 25 miles were difficult.  They were not.  I was not even phased by this part of the ride, though this was the part that I expected to be the most difficult, since I haven’t really ridden more than 50 miles.

The sky was clearing up and the clouds were amazing.  There was a sign that said “Enjoy the View” and just after passing it, the road dipped down giving a wide view of the world around us.  Directly ahead of me was a thick rainbow.  Beautiful!

One of these hills was steep enough to get me up to 43mph without much effort.  I saw the opportunity to break my top speed record and took it.  Pedaling frantically, I focused to relax my legs and spin fast, instead of tensing to push hard; I finally did it: 48mph!  New max speed!

Getting Dark

I skipped the 75 mile break because I didn’t feel like I needed it, because it was getting dark, and I had no way to be sure where I was.  Am I lost?  20 miles ago there was a sign, but I’m still heading into the sun following a river.  What if I’m riding off into the west?  Where will I sleep?  I don’t have enough clothing with me to keep me warm through the night.  For some reason I just kept going, and when I reached New Boston I cheered.  There was even a sign to tell me where to go!  With renewed cheerfullness, I continued forth.

Mount Vernon was bigger than New Boston, and the traffic there waited for me.  Thanks!

It got dark.  Fast.  I’ve never been here before, and all I have is this flashing light on my handlebars.  I was a little nervous, but then I saw a sign flickering in my intermittant light.  Yes! Yes it says rt130!  Another cheer.  At 85 miles I stopped at a store and went inside.  There was absolutely nothing of value (to me) to be bought there. We don’t sell “convenience” in this store.  Still, it was the perfect opportunity to put a shirt on, sip some almost-water, and down a Gu gel.  Relieved to be nearly home, I crossed the busy intersection on foot, then rode on.

The sun has set, the only light I have is street lamps and cars.  I’m somewhat unfarmilliar with the road but I know the turnoff I’m looking for.  It’s distinctive: a right hand turn into a downhill and the turn off is left.  The benefit: ok I know where I am.  The downside: no more streetlights.

It’s Really Dark Now

Riding in the dark is probably the most frightening thing I’ve done this year.  I was worried about traffic not seeing me, I was worried about coyotes, and I could not see.  Turns came up unexpectedly, at speed.  I prayed for my life just to get me home safe.  Not being able to see the road clearly was the most frightening part, but every time I couldn’t tell which way to go, at the last moment I could.  Did I mention the road was wet?  No sharp turns on wet surfaces!  Every turn was recognized immediately before the turn happened.  That kept me alert in ways I cannot even express.  I climbed a hill under the majestic moonlight.

Learning to adjust my gears in the dark felt like a tremendous benefit to me.  I couldn’t look down to see what gear I was in, I had to learn to adjust by feel.  It was an ego-less sensitivity: I had to put my ego down and just feel.  No more “don’t use the lowest sprocket” garbage.  I feel more connected to the bike, now.  Hopefully I can use this skill during the day, too.

One downhill to a turn frightened the death out of me because even as I got close I couldn’t tell which way to go.  All I could see was that there was something in the way, like riding toward a wall, head on.  At the last moment I saw that I was actually back at the main road, and quickly veered to the right.  I felt amazing: I’m almost home!

I’ve Been Around the Block a Few Times

This road had streetlamps, and I managed to catch a glimpse of my cyclometer.  Doubletake!  Does that say 98 miles?!  No, it didn’t.  I got home at 92 miles  but never slowed down.  I circled the block, I rode to the bank twice, I rode to the bike shop, I circled the block more.  98.7, 99.5, 99.9!

And finally I did it.  One hundred miles.

I’m so happy.  This feels like such a breakthrough!  Today my legs feel like junk, my shoulders feel like junk (from holding my head up), but I still feel amazing.  What a ride!