Instead of my usual multiple-paragraph recap of the NYC Century, I thought this year I'd write it a little differently. Some of the times are approximate, as I didn't check my watch or take all of these notes while I was riding.
4:45 AM: I got about four or five hours' sleep on Saturday night, but when the alarm goes off, it's still too early. I get up right away and turn on some lights and start getting ready.
5:30 AM: I roll out onto 1st Ave, notice the two bartenders at The Gaf are still awake and sitting at the far end of the bar, and I ride over to Central Park. I check in at the marshals table, get my orange vest and supplies, and wait to be "pulsed" with the rest of the riders.
6:10 AM: I leave the Park at the tail end of a large group of riders. Like last year, we meander around upper Manhattan over to Riverside Drive, then we take Ninth Avenue to the Village, then down Broadway to the Brooklyn Bridge. My favorite part of the day: riding across the Brooklyn Bridge with the sun coming up on my left.
7:30 AM: I arrive at Prospect Park for the first rest stop. So far, so good. I get some food, stretch, and roll out about 20 minutes later.
8:30 AM: I get to the Shore Parkway bike path, which has been recently paved and rehabbed. I kick the bike into high gear and start dropping riders behind me. I love moments like this one. I also notice my quads are already starting to ache, and I've just ridden 30 miles so far. It's going to be a long day.
9:30 AM: I arrive at Canarsie Pier, the second rest stop. I take a little more time to rest and eat, but I'm still on a good pace for the day. I leave the rest stop just before 10.
10:15 AM: I stop to help another rider with a flat. I get the inner tube changed, but I can't get any air into the tire with her pump. Her friend rides back to meet us and he doesn't get too far with the pump either. I tell them to look for a gas station and see if they can use a compressor to inflate the tire. It turns out there are two or three gas stations less than half a mile from where we were.
11 AM: I see another rider on a red and gold Trek 7500FX (the same bike as mine), so I slow down to chat with her. She bought hers used about 18 months back, and added a rear rack and bag. She and her husband are making their own route, starting from Prospect Park and cutting out the Bronx. That's fine with me; they paid for the ride, so they can go where they want. I leave them behind in Corona Park, but they catch up to me after I make a few wrong turns. I see them again after I take my lap around the Kissena Park velodrome, and I wonder if she's going to take her bike for a lap. It doesn't look like she will.
12 PM: I get to the rest stop in Kissena Park. I don't like the food selection here (no PB & J sandwiches) so I get out some of the food I packed. I've been carrying it long enough, I might as well eat some of it. I take another 20 minutes or so to rest up, then I hit the road again.
12:45 PM: I miss a badly-marked turn a few miles later and ride about a mile out of my way before I see another group of riders who look as confused as I do. I can't figure out where we're supposed to go on the map, so we all decide to backtrack and see if we can find our way. About a mile later, we see the missed turn and get back on the route. It would be the worst road marking I'd see all day, which is a good sign.
1:40 PM: I'm in the middle of a conversation with another rider about his musical tastes (he had his iPod strapped to his handlebars along with some speakers) when I hear someone calling for a marshal. It's another rider with a flat. Again, I manage to get the tube changed, using one of my spare tubes, but again we can't get the tire inflated with my pump or his. Another marshal stops and tries a CO2 cartridge, but we end up wasting most of it. Another pair of riders stop with a decent bike pump, but the rider whose bike we're working on doesn't seem happy with the amount of air we're able to put in the tire. After 15 minutes, I make the same suggestion to him about finding a gas station, and I leave the three of them there.
2:40 PM: I arrive at the Astoria Park rest stop, about 65 miles into the ride. With all my delays, and 35 miles remaining, I'm now wondering if I can get to the finish at Central Park by 6 PM, when they close it down. I know the marshal check-in table will be open late, but I want to get there by 6 if I can manage it. I try to cram 30 minutes of rest into 20 minutes of actual time and I leave Astoria Park around 3 PM.
3:20 PM: I finally get off the Triboro Bridge, on Ward's Island. If riding across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise is the yearly high point of the Century, riding across the Triboro Bridge in its crappy, tiny bike lane is the annual nadir. It's a necessary evil, and I appreciate that the path is there, but it just sucks. We all have to walk our bikes up the stairs, and most of us are confused by the bike ramps (little narrow-channeled metal rails that let you roll the bike up the stairs) mounted to the stairs. They're mounted on the left side of the stairs, but most people walk with their bikes on the right so they don't get chain grease on their legs. Putting the bike ramps on the left side means bikers have to walk with the bike on the wrong side. Most of the riders today carry their bikes instead.
4 PM-4:30 PM: The Bronx. I am repeatedly asked how many miles are left, and I give a different, incorrect answer each time. The truth is that my bike computer has one mileage count and the cue sheet has another, so I'm left guessing how many actual miles remain. I try to make them happy by telling them that it's only a few miles to the next rest stop.
4:53 PM: Van Cortlandt Park rest stop. 90 miles complete, and the cue sheet says it's 104 total miles this year from start to finish. I'm now in serious danger of getting back after 6. I grab some food, stretch, say hi to a rider I met on one of my training rides, and I get out of there about 5:10 PM.
5:30 PM: I'm in a group of 10-20 riders. There are no Riverdale hills this year, so we're cruising on level streets through the South Bronx to the Broadway Bridge and Manhattan. A few people in the group have never been in this part of Manhattan before, but I assure them that I've been here many times and I know the way we're going. We weave through traffic on Dyckman and get onto the Harlem River Greenway. I put the bike back into high gear, finding reserves of energy I didn't know I had, and I get the bike up to 20 MPH. A trio of riders speeds past me on my left, and I wonder what combination of lightweight bikes, age, and physical shape allows them to pass me at will that late in the ride. One of them has knobby tires on his bike, which makes me feel even worse.
5:45 PM: It's nearly the home stretch. There are about half a dozen riders ahead of me, including the ones that passed me before, and they all miss a turn. I shout "RIGHT TURN!!" at them and slow down to make the turn. They fall in well behind me. I would have slowed down for them, but since they'd all passed me on the Greenway, I'm not doing them any favors now.
5:55 PM: I ride into Central Park and find the reception committee is still hard at work. I check back in at the marshal table, collect my t-shirt and water bottle. My day is officially over. Total mileage for the century: my computer says roughly 103 miles. I was ahead of the cue sheet for most of the ride, so I'm not sure how I caught up.
6:15 PM: I decide to stick around for a while and help clean up. There is word that a truck will soon arrive onto which we can load all of the leftover shirts, bottles, and office supplies. I give the truck until 7 PM to show up, then I'm leaving. In the meantime, I help break down tables, move some boxes around, and chat with various people also hanging around the finish area.
6:45 PM: No sign of the truck. I keep stretching and walking around, trying to keep my circulation up. I know that if I sit down, I'm not getting up for a while.
6:59 PM: The truck arrives. There are about 15 people helping to load the truck.
7:10 PM: A trio of homeless women come over and get into an argument with the TA staff about getting free water bottles and the large pile of leftover fruit and bread near the park entrance. Many profanities are uttered, as far as I could tell all coming from the homeless women.
7:20 PM: The truck is moved near the pile of materials near the park entrance. Another homeless man walks over and keeps pestering us for a piece of bread. The food is all going on another truck that will take it to the Bowery Mission, so we're not supposed to give it out. Eventually, the homeless man wanders off. I feel bad, but policy is policy.
7:30 PM: The truck is now almost full. Earlier, the TA staff had asked if any of us remaining marshals wanted to come down to the TA office on 27th St. to unload the truck, offering free beer as an incentive. If I lived downtown, I might have considered it, but I'm really tired and hungry now, and the prospect of riding 60 blocks home in the dark (or taking the subway) isn't a welcome one. And I have things to do at home tonight. I say goodbye to the staff, thank them again for organizing another great ride, and head out. On the way out, I see a woman that I met on one of my training rides. She and a friend just finished the Century a few minutes ago, which reminds me of my "Century from Hell" in 2002, when I bonked in the Bronx and needed serious encouragement from James just to finish. I talk with them for a few minutes, but my stomach is rumbling and my muscles are screaming for relief, so it's time for me to go home.
7:45 PM: I wait in line at Luigi's for my reward, a stromboli filled with pepperoni, sausage, ham and cheese. I'm still wearing my bike clothes. I probably smell terrible, but I don't care.
8 PM: I've showered, I'm eating my dinner, watching TV, and resting my sore ass on the couch. I foresee an early bedtime tonight.
Yeah, right, Phil, we all know you achieved this great feat through some serious doping. Ha ha, I'm just keeee-ding...you're awesome! What an accomplishment. Great job!!! You never cease to amaze those of us who can run 10 miles but start to wheeze during a spinning class... ;-)
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