Friday, September 10, 2010

NJ 300k - Englewood

This late season 300k is a new edition to the NJ Randonneurs calendar this year. Organized by Laurent Chambard, with the start in Englewood on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. The route heads north to West Milford near Greenwood Lake, then on to Port Jervis, Cornwall, through Harriman State Park and Congers before returning to Englewood.

I joined my friends Paul and Jon at the 4am start.  I began by riding slow to warm up a somewhat sore hamstring.  Paul, Jon and just about everybody else were quite a bit ahead of me.  After about five miles I came across my two friends waiting for me at the side of the road.  We continued on together over rolling to moderately hilly terrain.  After a few more miles Paul mentioned that his right knee was hurting pretty bad.  We continued on until about the twenty mile point where Paul reached the conclusion that the knee would not get him through the day.  As luck would have it the organizer drove up at that exact moment.  Paul would take a ride in the car to the train station in Port Jervis.

Jon had stated in advance that he needed to ride the route quickly, as he had a commitment later in the evening at home.  I would not be able to match his pace up the big hills, that would be presenting themselves shortly, so I told him he should move on whenever it suited him.  Shortly before the control he put the hammer down on a good sized roller.  I didn't see him again until the control at West Milford.  Paul was there also, as Laurent had stopped at  the control to confer with the volunteer.  Jon left a few minutes after my arrival.  I chatted with Paul while eating a bagel.  Knowing the stage ahead was hilly, Paul suggested I not linger.  He assisted me with re-filling my camelbak and preparing a fresh bottle of Sustained Energy.  I then headed out towards Port Jervis on my own.
I came across this sleepy little lake while riding on my own in the early morning hours.

These guys were local roadies out enjoying the cool morning near Port Jervis

This is Lou who was together with the two riders above.  Lou took my photo using my camera. 
I'm settling in for a long day.  Photo by Lou.

The riding was quite pleasant with a sixty-five degree air temperature and clear skies.  There was a slight headwind, but not significant enough to matter.  I was enjoying the scenery as the route took on a hillier profile.  I caught up to a group of three guys riding together thinking they might be on the brevet.  As it turned out they were just local roadies out enjoying the day.  We rode together for a few miles and chatted.  They had seen a couple of riders that were obviously with our group.  I took some rolling photos of the three of them.  Then one of them borrowed my camera to take a shot of me.  The picture taker was named Lou.  I memorized his e-mail address so I could send him the photos.  We parted company shortly thereafter as they arrived at their turn-off.  It was a pleasant meeting which left me in good spirits.  I was zeroing in on Port Jervis, but not before encountering a pretty substantial climb of about 1,000 feet of elevation gain.  I would come across a few more of those over the course of the day.  After a little difficulty finding the control, thanks to a turned street sign, I finally arrive at the coffee house control in Port Jervis.  I come across Bill, who struggled to find the place as well.  Laurent verifies our brevet cards and informs me that Paul is safely en-route to home via NJ Transit Service.  Bill heads immediately back out on the route.  I take some time to refresh water and energy drink and am back on the road having spent about a total of 15 minutes at the stop.  I leave with about an hour and a half in hand.
Entering New York State shortly before Port Jervis

Shortly into the segment I come across one of the biggest single climbs of the day on Guymard Turnpike.  Fortunately the gradient isn't killer steep.  I also have some wind at my back.  The climb tops out at close to 1,200 feet with the steepest section at about 12% grade.  None the less it was not unpleasant.  About a mile later I come across Bill off to the side of the road attending to some personal business.  I continue on for another mile or so and come across a view that calls out for me to take a photo.  I stop and position my bike in the foreground capturing a photo of the scenic vista.  Bill happens along and stops for me to take his photo as well.  After which we begin riding together.  The rest of this leg goes quite smoothly as we enter the town of Goshen, where there is an information control.  We then continue on to Conrnwall New York.  With exception to the one big climb this section was so far the easiest.   The control in Cornwall is a busy pizza place.  My friend Todd is the volunteer there, accompanied by his two young sons.  There are about five other brevet riders inside the place, most of whom I know.  I enjoy a slice of veggie pizza.  Then re-fill water, and energy drink. Bill and I depart together en-route to some more sizable hills.
A scenic vista worth taking the time to stop
Bill at the same scenic spot

The elevation profile showed this next section in excess of 4,000 feet of vertical gain.  Making it the undisputed winner of the toughest leg category.  Several good size knee breakers of 600 feet or more show up rather quickly.  After which it's on to some familiar climbing on East Mombasha and Bramertown Roads.  Then the all too familiar Harriman Park whose paved road leads one over the top of Bear Mountain. With the nice scenery, moderate temperature and slight tail wind it is all enjoyable to me today.  The roads are almost traffic free through all of the park.  I'm enjoying every minute of it.    Daylight is dimishing rapidly as we pass by Lechworth Village.  By the time we reach Havestraw we need to switch to night riding gear.  The control in Congers is only about 4 miles further, but I don't want to risk an accident, or be DQ'd.   We take ten minutes in a parking lot to don reflective gear and turn on lighting.  We arrive at the Dunkin Donuts in Congers about fifteen minutes later in full darkness. The volunteer, Brain, checks us in with about two hours to spare.  We take a nice 30 minute break, then head out for the final 22 miles to the finish.

There is a good size climb on Rt 9W shortly after leaving the control.  We grind up it, our legs finally feeling the effects of all the hills that are behind us.  After making it to the top we know the rest of the terrain is fairly tame. We only need to stay on course to make it in plenty of time.  I become fastidious about the cue sheet.  Making sure each turn we make is correct.  It's easy to make an error in the dark of night, especially when tired from almost two-hundred tough miles.  Working together with Bill we manage to stay on the route. We are on much busier roads along the Jersey side of the Hudson River.  There are lots of turns but soon enough the turn to the hotel comes up and we are in.  With more than an hour and a half to spare,  A small group is on hand to greet us as we enter the lobby.  Laurent verifies our brevet cards with a final time of 17hrs 29minutes.

I was very pleased with the this new 300k.  The route design by fellow NJ Randonnuer, Mordecai, was superb.  It was plenty challenging, but well worth it. I would sign up again without hesitation. Also, running into Bill was fortuitous.  It would have seemed like a longer day had I gone it all alone. It was nice to have help with navigation and company along the way.  It is also safer to ride with others in the dark.  All in all it was a good day on the bike.   

Although this ride is the last on the NJ Randonneurs calendar, my season is not yet over.  I'm planning a 200k in central PA next weekend.  Also, I'm hoping to finish the year with a 400 or 600 kilometer.  I'm looking into rides from Pittsburgh, High Point, NC, and Nashville, TN.

Stay tuned!



  1. Just found your blog. I'm riding my first 400k tomorrow. Good luck on your rides!

  2. Excellent report, Joe. I hadn't realised that the section including Harriman SP was official the toughest. :)

  3. Joe - It was great riding with you and thanks for your patience on some (ALL?) of the climbs. My legs just didn't have a lot in them after the previous weeks' ride. All-in-all, it was a beautiful day and a GREAT ride. And thanks to Mordechai for the route. Is is one 300K everyone should get to appreciate at least once.