Sunday, June 28, 2009

NJ Cranbury 600k - Night Start!

Miles =378
Total Time = 35hr 55min
Night Time Riding = 12hrs
Total Elevation Gain= 5,500 ft
Calories Consumed = 10,000
Sleep = 3hrs
Saddle Sores = Zero!!!

Mellow Yellow- I think I love you!

This is my second year as a finisher of the NJ 600k. The difference this time is I participated in the volunteer ride which started the weekend before the event. Also, I would be riding a recumbent this year instead of my Felt F2C upright. We had a total field of five riders. The two organizers, Walt and Bob, along with volunteers Jon, Paul, and yours truly. For scheduling reasons we started the ride on Saturday at 10:00pm instead of the Friday night start the main field of riders will have. .

The route covers a large part of the state with the southernmost point being Stone Harbor on the Jersey Shore. From there the state is traversed east to west to the Delaware Bay. Back inland more rural roads are enjoyed en route to Daretown, then east to Hammonton. The Pine Barrens are crossed for the second time as the roads lead riders to the penultimate control in Vincentown. The final leg features the most hilly part of the route as some rolling terrain and small hills are encountered until the finish at Cranbury. Unlike most long brevets this course is definitely light on the climbing with a total elevation gain below 6,000 feet. What it lacks in climbing it makes up for in scenery and diversity. Of course, there is always the potential for head winds especially in some of the more open farm land regions.

With my rear pack bulging from all the gear I might need for the next 36 hours we set out from the quaint little town of Cranbury for the 54 mile section to Whiting. The temperature is in the low sixties and somewhat humid. The roads are pleasant with light traffic, our initial pace is moderate. We have all ridden together on prior occasions, we enjoy chatting for the first 20 miles or so before picking up the pace a bit. This route is especially good for groups of riders to stay together. The abundant flat terrain favors pacelining. As a group of five we take the opportunity to share the work whenever reasonable to do so. The first opportunity presents itself and we roll at a nice clip into the first control which is the Wawa in Whiting. I opt for a decaf coffee (saving the caffeine effect for when I really need it). I also can't resist a corn muffin which is quickly consumed.

In short order we are back on the road headed for Egg Harbor City. This leg is 43 miles, many of which are though the desolate Pine Barrens. We really make good time here taking turns on the front. Our pace is mostly over 20 mph, at times a bit higher. The absence of traffic allows us to use the center of the lane. A classic example of night riding at it's best. It does not take long before we emerge from the wooded area of the barrens and navigate the remaining few miles to the control, another Wawa. This time I decide I need the caffeine boost. We have covered 98 miles so far. Sunrise happens just as we are preparing to leave.

The next leg is 45 miles to Stone Harbor on the Jersey Shore. We skirt around Atlantic City through Pleasantville and hit the shore at Ocean City. We pass through shore towns which are getting active as the morning gets later. There is much stop and go with traffic lights and busy intersections. I struggle with this as I'm riding with four upright bikes. Their ability to get up to speed quickly after a stop is far better than mine. On each occasion I have to use a lot of energy to catch back up to them. With so much stopping it was taking a toll. I was very glad to get to the Wawa for our third stop of the ride. We sit outside on a brick wall and enjoy an early lunch. We spend a bit of time here recovering before setting out to traverse our way across to the East Point Lighthouse, which is an information control.

The 96th Street Bridge quickly gets us away from the congested beach area streets and headed west towards the Delaware Bay. It is a little more than 32 miles to the information control. This section goes smoothly and before long we find ourselves on a very quiet road carved between high marsh grasses. This road goes on for several miles before we see a lighthouse off to our right. Other than the lighthouse there is nothing else to look at but the marsh grass. Nothing is particularly unpleasant about it other than it is sort of like riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill. Finally, the road comes to an abrupt end at a gravel parking lot. There are some fishermen with lines in the water off the pier at the end of the lot, and, an abandoned house to the left, otherwise more nothing. We handle the information question and reverse course to follow the same road out. It seems to take a long time to get back to more normal scenery. A mentally difficult section, fortunately it was not terribly long. The remaining 11 miles to the Mauricetown Wawa go by quickly and we find ourselves at the largest and busiest Wawa I have ever seen. The place is huge and just buzzing with activity. There are dozens of motorcycles parked and others coming and going. The noise level is amazingly high. We get food and fluids and make a quick departure headed for Fairton and the control at Eagle Manor.

This section represents 28 miles of mostly quiet country lanes and some county routes with light traffic. We ride easily but make reasonably good time. I am feeling a little sleepy during this stretch, I chew some gum to stay alert which seems to help. Soon enough we arrive at the entrance to the Eagle Manor estate. Given that today is not the official ride date the chain is drawn across and we must walk our bikes around the brick pillars to access the road. It is about one-half mile before the large estate home comes into view. However, our destination is the smaller home next to it. Upon arrival Walt invites us into the kitchen. We are offered a variety of foods, what seems to appeal to me the most is peanut butter and jelly on a whole grain English muffin. It really hits the spot. This stop is an official sleep stop with showers and beds to sleep in. However, we have decided to push on and forego sleep until Hammonton, approximately 60 miles further.

There is one control to get through before Hammonton is reached. It is 32 miles to the Daretown Wawa. The winds have picked up a bit and are definitely not in our favor. Our goal is to make the sleep stop by night fall. Currently, it is late afternoon four-ish and sunset is about 9pm. To facilitate this we take turns at the front. The going is slow, about 14 miles per hour in most places. Given that our direction of travel is pretty much to the north for the next 60 miles I mentally prepare to be grinding like this until the motel is reached. The Daretown Wawa appears, we opt for a quick stop refilling fluids, validating brevet cards, and pushing on.

Feeling good about the briefness of our last stop we continue the grind with 28 miles to go. The same strategy helps us with the constant 10+ mph headwind. While not a back breaker I am finidng this section rather unpleasant and am looking forward to the appearance of the Wawa control, and the Ramada Inn which will be reached soon after. During mentally tough sections I tend to get quiet and go internal. This helps me tolerate, and, since I am not talking I'm not complaining to anyone, bringing them down. My riding companions must use the same approach as they aren't talking much either. Night falls as we come to more congested city type steets indicating we are entering Hammonton. Shortly thereafter the Wawa appears. The strategy here is to buy food for tonight and tomorrow morning and pedal over to the motel to eat in the rooms. With the handles of a plastic grocery bag pulled over my head we head out to route 30 and the Ramada Inn about 2 miles away.

We check into two rooms with Paul, Jon and I sharing one of them. I immediately sit at the table to eat my veggie sub from the Wawa. It is quickly devoured along with a serving of cole slaw. When the shower is available I clean up and change into the sleep clothes I brought with me. My head hits the pillow at 10:30pm. Our agreed wake up time is 1:30am for a 2am departure. I am asleep instantly, this being my first shut eye in in about 38 hours. At precisely 1:30am I am awakened by Jon who says, “lets go for a bike ride.” I chuckle at the absurdity of it all and dutifully go about preparing for our 2am departure.

Outside the motel the weather seems quite pleasant. Arm warmers and leg warmers are all that is needed. We have a total of 100 miles to the finish. Our next control, Vincetown, is 48 miles to the north. The route to get there is through the heart of the Pine Barrens. It will be our second crossing of the wooded expanse, again it will be undertaken in darkness. Our intitial pace is moderate as we leave the small city of Hammonton. I'm feeling pretty good having gotten three hours of solid sleep. Once we hit Rt 563 Walter takes the front and gradually picks up the pace. We fall into line slipping through the night time stillness. Walt stays on the front for the next 11 miles and keeps the pace brisk. When he finally pulls off Bob takes a turn picking up the pace just a notch more and maintains for at least another 11 miles. When he finally pulls off I find myself at the front realizing right away that I will not be able to duplicate either Walt or Bob's effort. I back things down to a docile 17mph which feels hard to me at this point. I hold on to the front, wavering between 15-17mph, until the turn off for Sooy Place which is at the northern section of the barrens leading us to Chatsworth. Soon we are at the control, another Wawa. We all enjoy breakfast as daylight breaks. With only one section left, I can't help but think about the finish. It takes some time for the five of us to get ready to roll, but we are not really pressured for time as we have until 2pm to cover the remaining 53 miles. Certainly, we will not need all of that.

After almost 325 miles of very flat terrain the final leg of the course can be described as rolling to moderately hilly. Even though it slows us up a bit it feels good to me at this point. My riding companions must feel similar as they are charging up the small hills out of the saddle in big gears. My recumbent can't quite sprint up hills but it is quite fast on the downhill sections. I use the downhills to gain as much speed as I can for the run up the next hill. I am able to stay with the group on all except a couple of the steepest climbs which I fall back a bit on only to catch up on the downhill. The variety of terrain helps the final miles pass by quickly. Soon we make the turn on the Main Street of Cranbury headed for the heart of the quaint little town. The public parking area comes up quickly, we turn in at 9:55am for a total time of 35hrs 55 min. My friends congratulate me on accomplishing the series on the recumbent. I'm happy with the accomplishment and decide to celebrate with a nice breakfast at Teddy's Restaurant across the street.

In reflection the ride couldn't have gone much better. Miraculously we avoided wet weather, enjoying moderate temperatures under mostly cloudy skies. Our group of five were very evenly matched on this type of terrain. It was a very stress free experience and one I will remember for a long time. Now that the series is done I will focus my efforts on improving my climbing ability on the bent. There is this 200k permanent route with 8,500 feet of elevation gain that has my interest. Stay tuned!


  1. Joe,
    Congrats on your SR series finish - quite an accomplishment considering the two of you are still really on your honeymoon!
    Ron A.

  2. Enjoyed reading about your ride. Quite an accomplishment. I'm a beginner Bacchetta rider and it helps to see your success. I noticed that you had a couple of bottle cages on the back of your seat, would you mind sharing what you used to mount them.