Sunday, July 30, 2006

one year later, and it's another hot ride in the summertime

The NYC Century is about six weeks away, and I'm not quite in prime riding shape. This year, TA is offering training rides for marshals and regular riders, so James and I went on yesterday's 50-mile ride from Williamsburg to Orchard Beach in the Bronx. The ride was supposed to start at 8 AM in Brooklyn and if all went well, we would be done before the hottest part of the day. Of course, I should know better by now, and as you'll see below, it felt like a ride from Hell.

The ride started at a bike shop in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, so I had 7 miles on the odometer when I got to the start. There were about 25 cyclists there, including three or four marshals, and after a quick orientation and marshal introduction, we left around 8:30 AM. It was already hot and humid, but the breeze while we were riding kept us cooled off. We rode north through Brooklyn to the Pulaski Bridge to Queens, then across the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan. We stopped in Central Park so that some of the slower riders could catch up, and that's where we had our first flat tire. After waiting for about 15 minutes, the marshals directed us to ride to the Central Park boathouse to use the bathroom. We waited there another 10-15 minutes, then they had us ride to the northern entrance to the park. At the top of the park, one of the marshals finally decided that she would take some of us up ahead and that we'd all meet up at Orchard Beach for the return trip. So there were about eight of us when we left the park and took the Macombs Dam Bridge into the Bronx. Up to this point the cue sheet had been accurate, but it got a little harder to follow once we were in the city’s only mainland borough. We kept breaking out the city’s cycling map to figure out where the cue sheet’s writer wanted us to go. We rode around a reservoir and ended up on the Pelham Parkway bike path that led out to City Island. We all missed the turn for Orchard Beach and instead stopped just across the bridge on City Island. At this point it was noon. We were about a half-hour ahead of the rest of the group, as they’d had to stop several times for flats. We decided to stay right there, have lunch, and then ride over to the beach. James wanted to get a lobster roll at one of the local seafood restaurants, but they were all upscale establishments with valet parking and didn’t look like they wanted to seat two sweaty guys in spandex. We got sandwiches from Subway instead. Our group had its own mechanical problems, too: no flats, but one of our riders had a bike seat problem (as in the seat came off the seatpost) and she had to get a car service ride back to the subway. The rest of us went to Orchard Beach and found the rest of our little peloton.

Around 1 PM, with the return trip ahead of us, our smaller breakaway took off for home. We made a few wrong turns and the slower group caught up to us at White Plains Avenue. It was now the hottest part of the day, and every time we stopped at a traffic light, the heat from the roadway was even worse than the heat from the sun. I was dumping hot water from my bottle onto my head and back and drinking hot blue Gatorade from the other bottle. I was feeling all right, but it was just too damn hot to be out there. Our faster group stayed with the rest of the ride for a few miles but eventually we broke away again. We stopped for more water near Yankee Stadium, but since I only had a few miles to go to get back to my apartment, I only took enough ice-cold water to dump on my head. Back in Manhattan, I rode with the group to the Queensboro Bridge and pointed out the bike ramp entrance, said goodbye, and rode home up 1st Avenue. I got in just after 3 PM, having left around 7:15 AM. I rode 55 miles total, but it felt like 70 with the heat. It wasn’t as bad as last year’s bike ride to nowhere, though it was close. I’m not too sore today, but my face and arms are sunburned. Also, one of my bike pedals has a broken toe clip, so I’ve got to get that fixed today if I want to ride this week.

There are two more TA-sponsored training rides before the Century itself on September 10. I hope that TA can figure out a way to accommodate the faster riders, because it’s not much fun to ride in the August heat, and especially when you have to keep a slower pace for the group. Still, I’m glad they’re staging these rides, as I need all the mileage I can get.

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