Sunday, May 3, 2009

The 5 Boro, 42 Mile Wash Cycle.

(pictures will follow - as soon as they dry out)

What a sogfest!

Today was to be my longest bike ride ever. A 42-miler through the 5 boros of New York. Accompanying me was to be Art, John, Bonnie, Barbara, Carol, and Ellie.

I picked up Ellie at about 5:30am, which was slightly earlier than the time that Barbara picked up Carol. Bonnie, decided to take the subway in, while Art & John thought better than to deal with the congestion of 30,000 bikers lining up on Trinity Street near Battery Park. It was a pretty wise thing to do.

I drove Ellie and I over the Verranzano Bridge, and on the way there, I could already see several cars with bikes on racks headed that way on the Belt Parkway. It hadn't started raining yet.

We crossed the bridge paid the $10 toll (ripoff), and made our way up Bay Street, and parked on New Lane. 3.8 seconds after I got out of the started raining.

We rode our bikes up to Bay and then another 3 miles up to the Ferry. The huddled mass of bikers here was no match for what we would see later on in Manhattan, but formidable nonetheless. The line from the Staten Island Ferry went all the way up the ramp to Bay street.
The ramp is a 1/4 mile long, and about 40 feet wide.

We started getting ourselves organized, when I realized I forgot my headphones. This was a blessing in disguise. It was now going to rain the whole way anyway, making it even more hazardous to do anything but to focus on the ride. Looking back, I will never even consider music again.

We started getting calls from Barbara. Remember how I mentioned that she picked up Carol a little later on? Well, they were slightly lost in Staten Island. I would have too, unless Ellie pointed me to the Fort Wadsworth exit point, immediately following the endramp from the bridge. They were going to miss the 7am ferry.

We got on the 7 am ferry. It was packed with riders and no one else. Having done this race before, Ellie was astute to all the advanatages for getting in as fast as possible, and maximizing the experience. In the way that blood capulets travel faster along the arterial walls then does the center of the arteries, we did the same, and it worked to a great degree. As a result, not only did we board faster than most people ahead of us, but we were blessed with being able to get a cabin inside, instead of being one of the many thousands (it seemed) that froze in the center and OPEN hull of the ship as it made it's 30 minute voyage to the Battery.

We got to the battery, and took off from there to the start. Not much of a take off, let me tell you. Swarms of cyclists all over. Many times getting off, just to get back on, just to get back off.
The starting line was some 17 blocks ahead if you could imagine this. Nothing but an endless see of cyclists were all lined up in front and behind us. Cyclists of all types. Americans, foreigners, single riders, double bikes, people in costume. Even Santa Claus did this race (and yes I will run as Santa Claus again this coming year...)

Barbara called us. Apparently she and Carol were catching up to us. That's what happens when a race that was supposed to start at 8am winds up not starting until 9am. Barbara left the team's cellphone numbers in the car, and asked if I could contact Bonnie, and tell her to call her.
I did. Wish I didn't.

Bonnie was fuming mad. Her decision to take the subway was an ill-fated one. Her train was supposed to take her to the start at Battery Park. It did not. It was redirected to Brooklyn instead.

As I spoke to her, she was riding her bike over the Brooklyn Bridge. "I don't have time to talk to her. I can't ride and talk at the same time. I can't do this, Alex!"

So why did she even pick up the phone in the first place? LOL.

Art and John were probably the wisest of us all. True, they may not have done the full 42 miles. But by starting on 34th street, they ensured that they finished among the first. And that was good because.....


Oh sure, it was just a teasing rain at first. Actually, the innocent spray felt nice at first. But by the time we were crossing the Madison Avenue Bridge to enter into the Bronx, it was no longer a laughing matter.

Now, I had had a windbreaker on, but stupid me, it was not waterproof.

I got soaked to the bone!

The Bronx was only about a mile long as we nearly went in the opposite direction of the NYC Marathon route. We re-entered into Manhattan, and before I knew it, we were jumping onto the FDR.

The rain was unlrelenting. Due to the hazardous nature of the weather's effects on the road, race marshalls were frequently telling us to slow down, walk our bikes, even stop altogether. This was the case more and more, as the deluge poured on.

Approaching the Queensboro Bridge we had to stop to walk our bikes again. We did pose for a few photo ops along the way.

Surprisingly, we had to walk the bikes up the ramp, and were allowed to ride down ramp. I say this because wipeouts usually occur at a higher rate of speed.

We went north towards Astoria Park, making our way to the ConEd plant there and back down again. I saw the Kosciusko Bridge, which reminded me of the "haul ass" mode that I was running at, until that point, during the NYC Marathon. Again, we were running this in reverse, so it was really an eye opener!

And the rain got harder!

We got onto the BQE. Now that was bizarre. I don't think I ever travelled as fast in a car as I did on the BQE today. The potholes were mind numbing. Actually, I take it back. They were mind jarring. So much so, that at one point my ass slammed down on the bike seat so hard, that the gel pack fell off to the side, and my ass felt nothing but post. Good thing the gel pack was tied onto the post, or else someone in Woodside would be the beneficiary of a Bell bike seat.

Finally, we approached Brooklyn. 65% finished.

On the Kosciusko, a guy on an expense tour bike had a blowout right in front of me. As I passed him all I could think about was "Man, that blows." Then I started to laugh ... Blowout ... Blows. Get the feeling I was gettin' a bit punchy here?

But the number of people wiping out on bikes became more obvious. The weather was becoming a major factor, especially for those "amateur" and "weekend warriors" that really dont have the experience for riding in the middle of a rain storm. I have to admit, I have hardly any experience myself, so I consider it lucky to have not wiped out by myself already.

We entered into the Gowanus Expressway. It was a nightmare.

At the beginning of the race, I had packed away my glasses because the rain water was going to obstruct my view. Now however, the rain was pelting us so hard, that it was difficult to keep our eyes open. We all started busting Ellie's chops about this because she had mentioned that today's rain was not as bad as when she did this back in 2002. She finally admitted that today was worse. At this point, I mentioned, "Well at least it's not hailing."

Oh, really?


We got some. Mixed in with the cold rain we were getting blasted from all sides now. I just wanted this ride to end. But everytime I had that thought, I would think, "Screw it. Man up!", and march forward.

The march turned to a crawl however. Construction on the expressway! How can NYC allow this today of all days?

We wound up dismounting and having to walk out bikes for about 20 minutes. I was cold, wet, shivering, and now I could feel the plethora of water in each of my sneakers. I kid you not when I tell you that I could feel waves of water in each shoe. It was like walking with a fish tank attached to each ankle.

We finally started up again, and the signs for the Narrows Bridge finally came into view. Alas. There is a God!

The Gowanus ended and we wound up riding under the Belt Parkway for about a mile or two underneath the over hang of the Belt up above us. Even then we felt water coming down on us. No respite!!

Right before the bridge, which seemed like it would never get here, since it was enshrouded in fog until the very end, we saw a hot dog vendor. $4 dollars for a dog, but let me tell you, it was heavenly to put something warm in my body.

The bridge was a bitch. Two miles long and the uphill seemed forever. The race organizers at least had the good sense of putting us in the lower level so we were completely shielded from the elements. Ellie was falling far behind, so I slowed it up, since I had her back for taking her back.

We all met back up (Barb, Carol, Ellie and I) back at Fort Wadsworth. Bonnie had indicated that she was leaving because she was miserably cold and wet (understandably so) and she had a long journey back having to take the ferry back to Battery Park. I'm so glad to have driven into Staten Island, you have no idea.

The festival at the Fort, was like Woodstock for cyclists. There was nothing but mud everywhere! Bikes, people, everything was brown! They had food there (for sale) and I got a cheeseburger. mmmmmm.

Barbara was so cold that her lips were purple. After coffee, they went to a shade of lavender. We all were eager to get home and left soon after we filled our bellies with much needed nourishment.

We made our way back to Bay, and within minutes were back at our car. My hands were shivering so much. It seemed like forever, to get the bikes rack mounted again , and the bunji cords tied down around them.

Despite it all, I accomplished what I started. 42 miles raining the entire way, and pouring for a good part of it. And through it all, I had a blast. I am definitely doing this again. And perhaps may look to do other cycling venues in the future. There is a 100 mile bike ride called the Century Bike Ride that is sponsored by Transportation Alternatives. It too, like this race, is very popular and may sell out fairly quickly.

My quads are like titanium rocks right now. Extra strong. This is good as I need all the help I can get with my lower legs (calf, shins, etc).

Kodak Gallery --->

1 comment:

Alex Gonzalez said...

Running is much harder than Cycling. The 15 mile run I did yesterday for example, would be like cycling 75 miles on the bike (maybe even more).