Monday, August 8, 2011

NYC 200k - The annual trek to Bear Mountain and beyond

                                                        photo by Shane B.
Once again I was drawn to the Big Apple for what many call the annual sufferfest 200k.  The late July date, along with substantial climbing, put this ride into the very difficult category.  Although, this year the heat index was not as bad as in the past.  For my sixth time undertaking the route I would ride the Bike Friday Pocket Rocket.  I was pleased to see I was not the only one using a folding bike.  Christine, a regular NJ Rando rider had chosen her Air Friday.  A sizable group of forty riders would line up at the George Washington Bus Station for the start.

Once underway we cross the George Washington Bridge on the bike path and head north passing through pleasant New Jersey towns along the Hudson River.  The crossing into New York state is reached as we continue north to Stony Point and the first control.  The first section went smoothly.  The miles were shared with my friend Todd, who has been on the ride every year as well.

Yours Truly on Mellow Yellow Friday         photo by Shane B.
Shortly after leaving the control we hit a sizable climb on Route 9W and then descend to the entrance of Bear Mountain State Park.  At that point the long grind up to the top of the mountain begins.  I fall into a nice rhythm on the Friday, passing a few folks along the way.  I notice Todd drops back, although he appears okay.  I plan to re-group with him at the top.  The final two miles up Perkins Drive are the steepest part of the five mile climb, but still not too bad.  I continue with a steady pace to the top.  I find a shady spot to wait for Todd.  When he arrives he says that he suffered from some cramping on the climb.  Not a good sign given that there is plenty of heavy climbing yet to come.

Christine with Air Friday at the top of Bear Mountain
After a break we descend Perkins Drive, which is twisty, fast, and fun.  The Bike Friday handled it just fine.  At the bottom the climbing begins again as we make the gradual push up to the Tirotti Circle and Arden Valley Road.  Todd is clearly struggling on this section climbing at a slower pace to try and keep his cramping in check.  After Arden Valley I make the turn for Route 17.  Todd has fallen back and is no longer in sight.  I decide to keep moving to the control in Monroe.  The last thing he needs is me pushing him to a pace he can't manage at this point in time.  I plan to re-group at the control which is just a few miles away.

After downing a bagel I notice Todd coming into the control.  He recounts the difficulties he had making it there with frequent leg cramps.  He asks that I go on without him while he tries to recover.  His girlfriend, Leslie, is there doing some sight seeing in the area while Todd is riding.  She agrees to stay nearby should he run into trouble.  On that basis I reluctantly leave him with the idea that we may meet up again at the next control.

The section from Monroe to Conklin is the most challenging of the route.  There is constant heavy climbing throughout, which includes a second crossing of Harriman State Park, which has a ten mile stretch including some extended climbs.  I feel comfortable and strong on the Friday handling all the hills without benefit of the small chainring.  I enjoy this section immensely.  Most especially the 46 mile per hour descent at the exit of the park.  From there it is just a few more miles to the control, which is a farm market called Orchards at Conklin.  Upon arrival there I see lots of riders I know.  I chat with everyone while eating fresh fruit and bread.  I take my time hoping for Todd to come in.  Leslie arrives in the car and informs me that he is about fifteen minutes out and riding a bit better.  I agree to wait for him so we can finish the final section together.  Todd arrives and agrees to keep his stop to about fifteen minutes.  After which we leave the control together.

A suffering rider gets help climbing in Harriman State Park    photo by Shane B.
The last section is the mildest of the day.  We are able to maintain a steady pace, with Todd falling back in a few spots, but mostly doing well.   We pass through some shaded areas and by a pleasant looking reservoir.  There is a final big climb up Churchill Road after which we work our way to Hudson Terrace and the George Washington Bridge.  Christine joins up with us just prior to the bridge.  No matter how many times I ride across I still enjoy the view. The finish is at Fort Tyron Park which is less than a mile from the bridge.   We arrive in a time of 11:40.  Christine and I now share the distinction of being the first to complete the route on folding bikes.          


Of the forty riders who took the start thirty-four would reach the finish.  Of the six riders who didn't make it cramping was the number one reason for not continuing.  I have great respect for Todd's refusal to allow heat related problems to end his day.  He clearly suffered for much of the ride, but never wavered from the goal of finishing.  In the true spirit of Randonneuring he finished with a smile, saying it was a good ride. 

From my perspective I was pleased with the Bike Friday as it took on all climbs and descents admirably. Also, I feel like my training worked for me as I rode strong all day.  Despite the heat, I never suffered.  The succesful finish of the ride would earn me my second SR series of this year and my eigth in total.  I would celebrate with a bowl of chilled watermelon/beet soup and a salad at the cafe near the finish.     


Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Jersey North to South - Port Jervis, NY to Cape May, NJ - 320k

Todd rides through Central Jersey en-route to Cape May
For a long time I've wanted to traverse the state of New Jersey, the long way.  Bill Olsen's "North to South" permanent would finally provide the means to do so while gaining RUSA kilometers in the process, a must for this K-Hound hopeful.  Three riders would join me for the 4am start in Port Jervis, NY, just a scant mile from the New Jersey border.  Katie, Al and Todd, all regulars of the New Jersey Randonneurs series, were my companions.  I had decided just a few days before the ride to attempt it on my fixed gear.  The first 60 miles or so where a bit hilly, but manageable.  The remainder were mostly flat.

Things did not go quite according to plan.  I had hoped for a fairly aggresive 16 hour finish (8pm).  Unfortunately multilple problems made that goal unattainable.  As always the back up plan is simply to finish the ride within the time limit.  The first issue was mechanical.  Al's crank arm fell off twice before the first control.  The initial time during the early morning darkness which took considerable time to repair.  Katie, suffering from back issues, decided to pack it in at the Chester control.  Choosing to ride her bike the 40 miles to home.  On the very next section we encountered a bridge closing in Bound Brook.  The resulting detour added about five miles to our route.  At the East Millstone control Al would receive a replacement bike, transported there by family,  in the hopes to avoid further problems.

On the next section the temperature reached the upper nineties with strong sun.  The Browns Mills control was a welcome site.  The next section to Egg Harbor was without doubt the toughest with heat, sun and a headwind.  Both Al and Todd suffered from leg cramps and limped into the Wawa at Egg Harbor.  After a lengthly break Todd was ready to go on, but Al had decided not to continue, as his cramping did not ease up.

Darkness fell during that final fifty mile stretch.  Todd's cramping had improved, although he needed to ride a bit conservatively to avoid a relapse.  Some broken glass on the side of the road caused him a flat.  We worked together to quickly change the tube out.  There were a couple of long sections on a single road which made the last miles pretty boring.  For entertainment we had passing cars who's alcohol affected occupants would jeer at us.  Finally, the lights of the Cape May Wawa beckoned us in to the finish.  Our arrival was at 10:20pm. Three hours in advance of the 1:20am cut-off.  A succusful ride with another 320k added to the total and my longest one day fixed gear effort.