Monday, July 18, 2011

The Great Adventure Challenge - Rolling Thunder Edition

One of the permanent routes I manage is the Great Adventure 112k.  It is a 70 mile out and back from Hillsborough to Jackson, NJ.  The name Great Adventure was derived from the Six Flags theme park which is located just 2 1/2 miles from the halfway point.  In the many times I've done the ride I'd often thought that it might be neat to visit the park.  Although, I questioned what could be accomplished in the brief time available for a typical brevet stop. Well? From the deep dark recesses of a twisted mind an idea bubbled to the surface.  The concept that was born became the Great Adventure Challenge.  Basically, within the legal constraints of the brevet the rider(s) arrives at the Six Flags Great Adventure theme park, takes a ride on one of the many roller coasters.  Then returns to the permanent route to finish the ride within the time limit.  Not being one to ask another to attempt something I wouldn't do I would be the first rider to take the challenge.

On a Wednesday morning I departed from the Plaza Deli in Hillsborough on my Jamis Sputnik (fixie). I followed the route to the official control in Jackson where I refilled my water and verified my brevet card.  After which I rode 2.5 off route miles to the Six Flags theme park.  After a bit of a hassle and time delay gaining entry to the parking area, I find a spot to lock up the bike.  Conveniently, there are locker rentals in the building right next to it.  I slip on a pair of baggy shorts over my bike shorts, change into sneakers, and change out my jersey for a tee shirt.  I then rent a small locker to store my back pack, helmet, and various other stuff in.  I gain entry to the park with the discount pass I purchased on the internet.  After walking around a bit I find a roller coaster with no line.  It's called Rolling Thunder.  It's wood and about thirty years old.  I'm hoping it has at least one more run left in it before it collapses.  In a matter of moments I am being towed up to a height of 100 feet.  After a little more than two minutes of bone jarring maneuvers my train arrives back at the starting point.  As soon as I am released I start running to the exit.  I've spent over an hour and a half at the park in total.  I jog back to the locker, changing back to bike clothes like a triathlete in a transition area.  With the bike unlocked and the pack on my back I start hammering for the exit to Monmouth Road.  I have a ways to go to get back on course.  I just make the turn on Millstone Road, back on the official route, when the skies open up with rain bucketing down.  I continue on despite hearing thunder overhead.  The rain continues, varying between hard and ridiculously, hard for the next 10 miles to Monroe Township.  At that point everything is as if rain never happened.  The remainder of the ride is dry with a tailwind.  I take full advantage of it arriving at the finish at 3:15pm forty three minutes in advance of the cut-off.


It can get boring doing the same old thing all the time.  Changing up a bit can breathe new life into an old activity.  The Great Adventure Challenge came about as a bit of a lark, but I now present it as an opportunity to try something different.  Is it odd, silly, maybe even a little juvenile?  Definitely!  But, on the other hand one could make an argument that riding a bike 70 miles to visit a mini-mart qualifies as well.  Combining multiple activities into one event is not something new.  The pentathlon has been around a long time.  Also, triathlons, while somewhat newer, seem to attract hordes of folks who seamlessly go from one activity to another in the confines of a single event.  In that light I offer this challenge to anyone who dares to accept it.  Successful completions of the GA Challenge will earn a permanent place on the honor roll, which I will maintain on the blog.  Up the ante if you like by adding additional rides to the theme park portion of the event.  I am now considering the Super Hero Great Adventure Challenge, which incorporates the Superman, Batman and Green Lantern roller coaster rides into the permanent.  This will not be an easy undertaking as the waiting time to board those rides can be long.  The timing will have to be impeccable.  As with any randonneuring activity outside support is strictly prohibited.  So, having someone hold a place in line is not in the spirit of the event.  If this all sounds kind of crazy, then I'm on the right track.
View subsequent GA Challenges below.  Boo-Ya!

July 20th - Great Adventure Challenge - Superman Edition
Rider - Joe K        Time - 6hrs 50min
The Superman Ultimate Flight is a looping coaster
Your truly suffering hearing damage by the screaming teenager on my left

Friday, July 1, 2011

Englewood 600k - Memories of a challenging tour through the Catskills from a muddled brain

The Catskill Mountains, a long time resort area for New Yorkers, continues to be one of the most scenic areas of the state. The route of the Englewood 600k carves through the heart of this region exposing many of the natural wonders and raw beauty the area has to offer. On this basis alone I would have wanted to undertake this adventure offered by the New Jersey Randonneurs. When coupled with the training benefit for Paris-Brest it required little thought.

The first few miles in Englewood
Bob entering New York State
Mordecai and Jon Route 9-D
As one of the volunteers for the series I would do the pre-ride scheduled two weeks before the main event. On the pre-ride the cue sheet, road conditions, and controls would all be tested to ensure no problems for the main field of riders. The volunteers receive credit for the ride as if completed on the calendar day. I would be in the company of fellow volunteers Bob, Jon, and the route designer, Mordecai. I decided that this would be the first real test of the Bike Friday, my intended ride for Paris-Breast.

Musings from the mileage intoxicated:

A sleep deprived thirty eight hour tour covering 375 miles of hilly terrain does something to a persons’ brain. I notice a significant effect on the ability to recall details. Essentially, the majority of two days has become somewhat of a blur interspersed with snippets of clarity. Too occupied with the task at hand to have taken notes, I rely on my out of order memory to recount the details of the adventure. I will share the bits of clarity that are available to me. The remainder will have to be left to my imagination and yours.
Indian Point Nuclear Facility on the Hudson

A  nose shaped mountain along the Hudson

Bear Mountain Bridge

Recollections from Day One (225 Miles):

A send off from the hotel parking lot from ride organizer Katie in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday. Daylight appearing shortly thereafter. Crossing into New York. I recall a pleasant ride along the Hudson River passing the Indian Point nuclear plant before climbing a substantial hill on 9W. Crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge with a misty fog hanging on the peaks of all the nearby mountain tops. Continuing north on pleasantly mild terrain to the first control in Fishkill, NY. I recall mildly rolling terrain on our way to the the next stop. Thoroughly enjoying the coffee and food at the control in Rhinebeck called “Bread Alone”. After which, hillier terrain was encountered passing through Saugerties and Woodstock. A rock band playing to a small audience in the village square of Woodstock. I remember another substantial climb before arriving in the village of Phonecia where I enjoyed a delicious muffin at the control stop named “Mama Boy’s.” I remember talk from my riding companions of a gradual 11 mile climb to be undertaken upon leaving the control. I was assured the climb was gentle, which it was. After climbing steadily for over an hour my legs could no longer distinguish gentle. I recall passing through the ski resort community of Hunter, NY, enjoying the beauty of the region. Arriving sometime later at “Vasta’s Pizza” in Stamford, Devouring a tasty slice as daylight began to slip away. A night time roll to the next control in Walton. Sitting outside the market discussing another major climb before the sleep control. Grinding for what seemed like forever on a 3.5 mile grade just outside of Walton in the pitch darkness. Watching the tail lights of my group fade away as I resort to the granny gear to manage my weary legs. Feeling somewhat elated at the top, then speeding down the descent into Downsville. The quiet five mile ride on a country lane that would lead us to our cabin. My watch reads 1:15am.  Hungrily devouring good soup, lasagna, macaroni and cheese. Flopping into bed without benefit of a shower as I was just too tired to take one. Being awakened by painful leg cramps, then later by Jon telling me it was time for another bike ride.
Hunter Mountain

Band playing in Woodstock Village Center

Recollections from Day Two (150 Miles):

I recall my watch reading 4:30am starting out from the control. A several mile climb, somewhat more gradual than the night before. I clearly recall the names of painful climbs like Dalia Road and Elk Point Road before passing through the town of Liberty. Then climbing more. Arriving at a bagel shop where the group had stopped. I remember choosing to go on ahead to minimize the impact of my slower pace on everyone else. Delighting in the remaining moderate miles to the control in Cuddebackville, where we re-grouped. Leaving ahead of everyone knowing they will catch me before the next control. A significant climb on Guymard Turnpike. Strangely, that one is rather enjoyed. Stopping for a scenic photo at the top of the ridge. Jon catching up to me. More rolling terrain. Mordecai and Bob catching up to us. Some bigger rolling terrain. Arriving at the control in Goshen. I remember feeling a knot in my stomach when Mordecai announced that the next section would be quite hilly. Thirty-five miles of continuous climbing. Grinding up large hills, descending, then repeating. Occasionally, doubting myself all the while continuing to slowly make forward progress. Making it to the top of Distillery Road where Bob and Mordecai are stopped chatting with a couple of local cyclists. I keep going. Sorry to appear rude. No time. Arriving at the control in Bloomingdale totally spent. Feeling relief learning that the remaining thirty miles to the finish are mild. Some fast pace lining on the last section. A return of energy which had left me during the hilly part. Feeling elation knowing that I, and my companions, would surely finish in time. An enthusiastic greeting from Katie in the hotel parking lot. Being told we all smelled bad. My watch reading 7:25pm. (38hrs 25min).
Reaping the benefit of a difficult climb
Mellow Yellow II takes in the scenery
Route designer Mordecai enjoying the ride

 Epilogue from the mileage intoxicated

Despite the somewhat blurry details I am left with a distinct overall impression of the event. The words that best describe it are; beautiful, challenging and worthwhile. I am happy to have participated.  And, totally thrilled at completing this route. It’s a boost to my confidence for the ultimate season ending goal of Paris-Brest. The ride served as a test for me and the Bike Friday. While it was no walk in the park the bike and I both managed to pass.

I’m looking forward to my participation as a volunteer on the main ride. I’ll be manning the Cuddebackville control (day two). Katie, Bob and Mordecai, with the assistance of an experienced group of volunteers, have planned an extremely well supported event. The initial design and concept was for a PBP preparation ride. What is being offered meets the criteria exactly. If you are PBP bound, or just looking for a significant challenge, this is the ride to get in on.

I hope to see you there.