Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Jersey Double Crossing Record

 There is something about a state crossing record attempt that inspires me.  I seem to come alive when I have one in mind.  I've had my eye on three records in my home state of New Jersey for over five years.  The three records would be the lateral crossings of the state.  At the widest part, where the records were established, the state borders are separated by just under 80 miles.  The borders are quite distinct as one side is the Delaware River and the other the Atlantic Ocean.  No way to overshoot the goal.  At least not on a bike.

In 2012 I undertook the East to West Crossing and successfully broke the record by a wide margin on a fixed-gear.  It was my first try at a UMCA Record.  Needless to say I was pleased with the result and vowed to undertake more of these.  Most especially, the two remaining cross-state records in New Jersey.  Two years passed before the planets aligned for me and I could get things together to have a go at it.  With the double-crossing as part of the mix preparations had to be made for a longer day.  This required more crew and two vehicles instead of one.  The logistics and details were all more complicated.  We settled on a plan to have a lead car and a follow car.  The team of two in the lead car would scout the route ahead and confirm with us by radio the upcoming turns.  In addition, they would keep track of time, distance and inform me how the pacing was working out.  The follow car would perform the normal function of seeing to the rider's safety, nutritional and mechanical needs. Also, the official would ride in the follow car and document the attempts.

On a warm Saturday morning of June 28 the crew of five, including the official and myself met at a Denny's Restaurant near the start.  After some breakfast we moved over to a small park on the Delaware River right by the Salem Nuclear Power Facility.  Final last minute preparations were attended to and we set off to the Eastern end of the state.  The wind direction is typically westerly, which would have been favorable.  Unfortunately it was one of those rare times when the wind is coming from the east.  Also, it felt stronger than the predicted eight miles per hour.  I settled into a rhythm using the Garmin's Virtual Partner as my pacer.  I set his speed to 0.5mph higher than needed and attempted to drop him.  After a time I had gained 2 miles on him, but refused to become complacent as I knew there were many long traffic lights ahead which would erode my average.  This proved to be true as the wind felt stronger as I continued further east and the intersections got busier.  Traffic signals favored the busier north south roads.  Waiting at some seemed to take forever.  At more than halfway through the first record attempt I was still staying ahead of the VP, but my lead was eroding.  I could see it was going to be a close one.  Fortunately, the open farmland terrain gave way to a bit more of a wooded area.  The pine type of trees which are prevalent near the Jersey coastline offered some wind block.  This allowed me to keep the little computer image of my virtual opponent at bay until just ten miles from the finish.  The area opened up again as we headed onto Great Bay Blvd, which would end at the water.  The head wind howled at me while I strained to keep pace. Two single lane bridges which were traffic signal controlled delayed me only slightly.  The black top surface yielded to sand signaling the finish.  I was eight minutes ahead of the old record.

After only a few minutes I headed back out.  There were two other records that potentially could be broken.  The one I set myself in 2012 for the East to West, and the West-East-West which was set by the same rider whose record we just broke.  I thought I would have a tail wind on the return trip making this all very easy.  Indeed it seemed to be the case as I motored back up Great Bay Blvd at a nice wind assisted clip.  Unfortunately, this was very short lived.  The wind took a quick shift to the south before I made ten miles.  Immediately, I saw my speed drop.  At the same time I realized my legs sort of lacked the snap I would have liked with almost seventy miles remaining.  I also took notice that my shorts and jersey were covered with salt. When did it get so hot?  Why did I not notice it?  I called back to the follow car that I would need more water and electrolytes.  As soon as I got the hand off I began guzzling water and swallowing pills.  I could only hope that it wasn't too late.  The next thirty miles were just miserable.  I never felt good for even a minute.  I could think of nothing but quitting.  Which was not an option for me as I wouldn't dream of dishonoring the crew like that.  I ground on in what must have been perceived as painfully slow by the follow car team.  A case of hot foot that just wouldn't quit forced me to pull over to walk it off for a few minutes.  One of the team held my bike.  I resumed riding within just a few minutes feeling a bit better.  I knew there was no way I would beat my old record at this point, but the West-East-West was still very much on the table.  I raised my son (crew chief) on the radio and asked him what pace was needed to break that record.  After some time calculating he responded with 12 miles an hour.  I think I actually smiled hearing that. I set the VP to a gentle 15 mph and watched him fall off my wheel and off the screen.  I needed one more two minute hot foot break just 5 miles from the finish.  Upon resuming I could see the cooling tower of the nuclear plant spewing out steam off in the distance.  I would have never thought that such a thing could be so beautiful, but it was.  Almost imperceptibly I increased my pace.  The lead car announced the final turn and I amped it up a bit more.  The road ended at the park.  We had beaten the record by 54 minutes. 
The Team L to R - Charlie K, Joe K, Lucy K, Greg B, Christine N, Steve H.
It was a happy little celebration at that park by the nuke plant.  The whole team was elated with the result.  The crew had done everything perfectly all day.  They guided me around the route and saw to every detail.  They worked together in absolute harmony, even though some had just met for the first time that morning.  I couldn't have been more grateful to them.  They are the best!