This 200k was on The NJ Randonneur's calendar as a practice ride. Sandwiched between the Princeton 200k and 300k it was an opportunity for those considering the 300k to get some additional mileage. With its light amount of climbing it would serve the purpose quite well. I had spent much of the week training in the hills so this ride seemed like the perfect way to finish off a good week of training.
It was a cool 48 degrees as we gathered at the public parking lot in the quaint town of Cranburry, NJ for the 7am start. However, the cool weather was to be very short lived. The day was to reach a high of ninety. This being the first real heat of the season. The jackets worn by everyone would soon find their way into the packs. Riders were asked to choose between an A/B group and a C group. Each group would have a ride leader to set the pace. It was not a requirement to stay with either group, as we all were handed cue sheets, it was just an option. Jud Hand would lead the faster group and Laurent Chambard would set the more mild pace. With a bike named Mellow Yellow it seemed appropriate to line up with slower riders. About 12 bikes were present in total two of which were couples on tandems. I represented the only recumbent.
The two groups departed precisely at 7am with the faster group quickly riding away. Laurent was setting a steady 14mph pace to start out. The moderate speed felt good with the cool temperature. After a few miles I started feeling strong and broke off the front. After about a mile at the faster pace I spotted the A/B group up ahead. I amped it up a notch to catch them. It took another mile and a red light and I was with the fast group. At the faster pace I was starting to work up a sweat. The temperature had come up quite a bit in a short time. I needed to remove a layer or two to keep from overheating. After riding a bit more I pull off and stop to adjust clothes and add sunscreen. This all takes a bit of time during which the C group rides past. Back on the road I work to regain the slower group. Once there I settle in to the comfortable pace for the remainder of the miles to the first stop. Interval training over for now. Our route would take us to the Jersey Shore, the first contact point being Union Beach. Our initial stop was at the Burger King, 28 miles into the ride. After a brief respite we head out for the next leg which will include some climbing in the Atlantic Highlands.
Both groups leave the stop at the same time. I opt to stay with the C riders as we will soon be in the hills. Mellow Yellow doesn't like hills, at least not the upward sections. In about 10 miles we hit the climb of the day which takes us to the top of Mt. Mitchell. It's not a bad climb at all, it goes on for awhile but is never too steep. A nice rhythm is maintained the whole time. At the top there is a small park with a scenic overlook. The view is amazing looking over the water to the skyline of New York City.
With hills out of the way for now we continue south crossing the inlet at Rumson and turn towards the ocean. We hit the beach at Sea Bright turning south again to pass the shore towns of Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, Deal and Asbury Park. While riding alongside the ocean it is actually quite chilly with a stiff off shore breeze blowing ocean cooled air across us. This chills us quite a bit as well as hampers our speed. We are grinding along mostly as about 12mph. No matter, as the scenery is nice and the area is bubbling with activity. New Jerseyans flock to the shore on any warm day. Out furthest point is Bradley Beach which is about half-way, 61 miles, into the ride. We have a scheduled stop at a convenience store/gas station, Hess Express. A packaged muffin, corn chips and Gatorade fulfill the nutrient requirement for me. Soon we are back on the road headed inland for the trek back to Cranburry with one more scheduled stop along the way.
After a few miles heading west we are away from the cooling effects of the ocean. I'm off the front of the group again. Something about heading in the direction of home always motivates me. Immediately it begins to feel quite hot. I'm wearing a light wool long sleeve under layer by itself and I am no longer comfortable. I'm thinking about the light weight short sleeve jersey buried in my pack. Before long I have to stop and change. With the proper garment in place I set out to catch the other riders who passed by while I was stopped. Once back on I stay there for a bit before becoming restless and pushing off the front again. One of the tandems and another rider come with me this time. We split up when the couple on the tandem stops for water. The other rider Husefa Irfani continued on with me. Husefa is training for the Death Ride in California. A 120 mile affair with 20,000 feet of climbing. As we are chatting we ride past a turn. We realize our mistake as we come to a major highway intersection. Fortunately, it is only about a mile back. A couple of bonus miles never hurts. Soon we are at the control. The tandem is there having gotten past us while we were off route. We are there awhile and just about ready to leave when the rest of the group makes it in. I decide to apply a little more sun screen so the tandem and Husefa head out. I assume I can catch them since I'm only a couple of minutes behind when I leave. But, that was not in the cards.
I'm about a mile out and working hard when a viscous cross wind gust blows my cue sheet right out of the clips and into an adjoining field. I am able to recover it without too much effort. Back on the road I Resume my pace this time grabbing onto the cue sheet every time I feel the wind gust. After another mile the route has me turning into the wind and it basically remains that way for the last 30miles. Although there are a few small hills to break up the monotony. I never do catch the other two bikes as I stop a couple of times to alleviate a case of hot foot. Where the ball of my left foot feels like it's on fire. That is new to me as are most of the aches and pains I get from riding this different style machine. I grind through the wind to the finish at Cranburry checking the time as I hit the parking lot. I'm in at 11hr 30min. Almost two hours faster than my Princeton 200k finish. I remembered riding this exact same route two years ago. It was run as a night start 200k called "The Shore by Night". Once home I checked the results, I had finished the route in 10hr 24min riding at night. There are a lot of variables, but it's safe to say I was faster on the traditional DF bike.
This week I logged over 25o miles on the bent. Many of them in the hills of northern New Jersey. I successfully climbed some tough extended climbs. Successfully meaning I didn't fall over, walk, or get hit by a car while swaying around uncontrollably. There is no doubt that I'm improving quickly. With the 300k only a week away for me the question is; will it be quick enough?