Tuesday, September 10, 2002

I promised an extended version of the NYC Century, so I'd better hurry up and write it before I forget all the details I want to include.

James and I arrived at the Central Park start around 6:15 AM Sunday. I went through the express check-in line since I had my ride bib, while James went through the bib pick-up line. Having my bib saved me approximately 30 seconds, since my line fed into the end of James' line. We picked up cue sheets, Clif bars, extra water bottles, and got on our way about 6:50.

We took it easy for the first few miles, our pace partially dictated by the large crowd of riders we were in. Around 23rd St. on Fifth Avenue, I saw a taxicab pull over another car; it turns out that the taxi was actually an unmarked police car. It was a "taxicop."

In Prospect Park I accidentally ran over a squirrel who was caught in the roadway between my bike and James'. I hit him pretty hard, and I don't know if he survived. But I'll have to avoid Prospect Park now, in case the rest of the squirrels come after me. Through Brooklyn, we had little kids coming out into the street to high-five us and wish us a Happy New Year. Way to lay on the guilt for missing Rosh Hashanah services.

At the Canarsie Pier rest stop, we oiled my bike's chain, which had been making some nasty noises all morning. After that, the bike was quiet and quick, just the way I like it.

We got to the midpoint of the ride, Alley Pond Park in Queens around noon. It wasn't a bad pace for fifty miles, including rests. Two hours later, we were at Astoria Park and only 35 miles from the end. We stopped again six miles later, at a McDonald's in the Bronx, to use their bathroom and get some cheeseburgers. That might have been a problem for me, because the nine-mile stretch from the McDonald's to the next (and last) rest stop at Pelham Bay Park was the toughest of the day for me. I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I kept telling myself that I just had to get to the rest stop, then I could take as long a break as I wanted. About 4:30 PM, we pulled into the park and I collapsed for half an hour. James checked the football scores and chatted with Rob in Virginia.

At 5:10 PM I pronounced myself ready to tackle the last 20 miles, and tried to keep in mind that the distance was no longer than my usual ride up and down the Hudson River Greenway. And I had heard that most of the course in Manhattan was downhill. James pointed out that there had to be a reason why it was downhill in Manhattan. The reason was that the closer we got to the Broadway Bridge to the island, the more uphills we found. And we forgot to eat something each time we stopped for a bathroom break. After we crossed the bridge, we coasted for a while down Broadway, but then the cue sheets directed us onto a steep, 10-block-long hill that led up to the George Washington Bridge. I've never been so happy to see the traffic jam near the bridge entrance as I was on Sunday. Because it really was all downhill from there into Central Park. James let me take the lead into the park to finish my first century.

It was 7:10 PM, over 12 hours since we left the park that morning. The ride organizers were packing everything up, but we were able to get T-shirts and directions to the subway. A quick ride on the C train, and I was back in the Village, which looked just as dark at 8 PM as it had at 5:45 AM. I was exhausted, but proud of my accomplishment. And I'm really glad they only do this ride once a year. I'll need that long to convince myself to do the whole thing again. Especially that last hilly section in the Bronx. That's just sadistic torture.

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