The very Friday after my annual century ride I get an e-mail invitation from Paul and Jon to join them on the Princeton-Belmar-Princeton 200k Permanent. A second consecutive Sunday away from family was not an ideal situation, but the weather forecast looked favorable and I needed the ride to keep the R12 streak alive. The same route was used to secure my July R12 requirement, and was reported in detail here. Therefore, I will keep this report somewhat brief covering the highlights rather than the blow by blow account.
On Sunday morning at 6:45am I am sipping coffee in the Princeton Junction Dunkin Donuts waiting for my two friends to arrive. It is dark and a very nippy 40 degrees outside. They arrive a few minutes prior to the 7am start. Unfortunately, a large group of young cheerleaders proceeded their arrival. It takes quite awhile to get through the long line and get brevet cards documented. We start out about ten minutes past the planned starting time, but no matter the course is flat. We should not have any time pressure on us throughout the day. We set out into the crisp morning air as daylight is just beginning to break. Paul is fresh off the Last Chance 1200k so Jon and I get him to give us a run down on the ride. We listen intently to his story as we pedal smoothly towards the first control at Belmar on the Jersey Shore. The captivating tale of Paul's adventure in Colorado keeps us occupied until the outskirts of Wall Township, just prior to the control. We arrive at another very busy Dunkin Donuts on Ocean Blvd. The day is warming up quite nicely. We all remove some layers for the next leg to New Egypt.
As we ride alongside the ocean heading to the south I come across a guy riding a Bacchetta recumbent. We talk for a minute about the bikes. It's always a novelty to see another 'bent rider in New Jersey. I wish him well as our route takes us away from the ocean front. There are a few hilly spots on this section. Nothing really to speak about, but I realize that I am feeling kind of beat up. Since the century last weekend I've commuted to work all but one day, and rode a somewhat hilly 60 miles on Thursday. I'm struggling a little to match the pace of my companions. The small bumps feel larger than they actually are. None the less we manage the 35 miles to the New Egypt Wawa in relatively good time. A small bag of pretzels, oatmeal cookies and coffee recharges me a bit.
Soon enough we are off to the next stop, just 15 miles to Pemberton. Our heading is south right through the Fort Dix/MacGuire military complex. Usually I'm fairly strong on this type of terrain. It is routine for me to take a few strong pulls, but I'm just barely hanging on. I'm glad for the company of friends, but I feel bad that I'm not contributing more. To add to my misery some of the miles on this section are into an increasing north/west wind. None the less we arrive at the big super Wawa in Pemperton for a quick break. All I need here is a bathroom and a small coffee which I quickly procure while getting my brevet card validated by the clerk. When I return outside to the bike a customer approaches me, he's looking at Mellow Yellow, and he says, in a rather demanding tone: "Tell me the advantages of riding this type of bicycle." Now, I'm not really in the mood, nor do I have the time to go into a long dissertation on the merits of recumbent riding. So I simply say: "See the big comfy seat on this bike? Now, look at the tiny little seats on those bikes." I point to my friends uprights. "Which would you rather sit on all day?" To my surprise he points to the upright bikes, obviously looking to start some kind of debate. "Suit yourself." I say, as I proceed to totally ignore the guy until he walks away.
Back on the road we are headed pretty much to the north to the penultimate control in Cranburry. I'm still feeling pretty tired struggling with the wind, which comes in and out of play. When we wander a bit toward the west we feel it more than due north. If we jog a bit to the east it gets easier. Paul and Jon continue to ride strong, although Paul admits to feeling somewhat tired. We pass through Allentown and Hightstown before arriving in the quaint village of Cranburry.
We decide to use an ATM to document our passage rather than stop at the designated Pizza shop to save time. Paul, who happens to be the route owner knows exactly where one is, just one block off the route. ATM receipts in hand we turn right into the west by north west wind for the final 7 miles. The mental boost of knowing we are close to the end takes the edge off the difficulty factor. We grind our way through without complaint. We pull into the DD at the finish in 10hr 14min. Not surprisingly, somewhat slower than my prior time on this route. My disappointment is tempered by the fact that my 7th R12 qualifying ride is now in the books, and, despite feeling a little rough I did enjoy the day on the roads in the company of good friends. I make a mental note to take a couple of rest days soon. Hopefully, that will bring the snap back to the legs.
The five remaining R12 rides should no doubt be the hardest with the weather rapidly turning colder and the hours of daylight shrinking. Stay tuned!!