Today was my fourth New York City Century bike ride. It was my second time riding the full 100 miles, and this year went much better than last year's 12-hour debacle that ended at dusk as two weary riders (James and myself) straggled into Central Park to find the organizers packing up all the food and supplies. This year, I started at 6:20 AM from the park, crossed the Brooklyn Bridge just after sunrise (the sun on the bridge and Lower Manhattan may have been the most beautiful thing I saw all day), and got to the first rest stop at Prospect Park by 7:30. Last year, James and I started an hour later, took our time all day, and paid for it with our late finish. This time, I covered the 20-mile distances between rest stops in about 1 1/2 hours each. I got to Canarsie Pier at 9:10, Alley Pond Park at 11:20, and Astoria Park at 1:10. It took me about an hour and 45 minutes to get to Van Cortlandt Park from Astoria, only 17 miles away, but that time was lengthened because of the slow crossing of the Triborough Bridge. Climbing and descending the bridge path's stairs and negotiating the narrow path took about 30 minutes, but it was a good relaxing start to that leg of the ride. Last year, the route in the Bronx was longer, so leaving the Van Cortlandt Park rest stop we had 20 miles of bike paths and steep hills before we got back to Manhattan and a long coasting descent on Riverside Drive. This year, the organizers wisely eliminated about 9 miles of bike paths and changed the exit from the park so that we went straight to the Riverdale hills. After 90 miles, the hills weren't much fun, but they weren't as difficult as I remembered them from last year. My ride ended with a long coast down the east side of Manhattan, on the newly reopened Harlem River Greenway. When I pulled into Central Park at 5:05 PM (total ride time, including rests, was 10 hours 45 minutes) I had hoped that triumphant fanfares would play along 110th St. Unfortunately, the orchestra wasn't there, so I had to settle for music in my head instead. I hung around the finish for about 40 minutes, chatting with a few people I knew and enjoying a few more snacks. Eventually I realized that all good things must end, and I went home just before 6 PM.
Now my legs hurt, my ass is sore, and I'm sure I'll feel like crap tomorrow. But right now I'm still on an endorphin high that won't quit. I can't wait for next year's Century, and I'm seriously thinking about some long rides on Long Island in October. I'm definitely in for the Tour de Bronx this year; I had a great time on that ride two years ago.