Monday, August 27, 2007

the quest for pizza

I got up at 6:30 AM on Sunday for a marshal training ride for the NYC Century in two weeks. I had to be at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn by 8 AM, so when I left home at 7:15 I had to race to get there on time. I arrived to find a few other cyclists waiting, and a few minutes later the ride organizer showed up. The route was the entire Brooklyn and Queens portion of the Century, leaving out the Bronx. The end of the ride was Astoria Park in Queens, so from Grand Army Plaza it should have been about 65 miles. Another ride organizer would be waiting for us in Astoria with free pizza.

We left Prospect Park around 9 AM in a light rain that thankfully stopped after 15 minutes or so. There were 14 of us, but almost immediately four riders dropped back leaving 10 for most of the ride. Two of the riders in our group appointed themselves as leaders for the first part of the ride, through Brooklyn to Canarsie Pier. I know that part of the route well, but I didn't mind letting these guys take the lead. We stopped at one point on the greenway out to the pier, and one of the "leaders" had us count off from 1 to 10, for what reason I have no idea. I was number 10. We got to Canarsie Pier without any trouble and took a break to eat and drink before starting off again.

We lost one rider right out of Canarsie. He was a long-distance cyclist and he had a bike loaded with panniers and bags, and he carried several compasses, whistles, lights, a camera, and I don't know what else. We assumed he had gadget trouble. Nine of us kept going, then we lost another rider just past Shea Stadium. We stopped near the Kissena Velodrome and waited for him, then one of the leaders went back to look for him. We waited another 10 minutes, then decided to leave when we started to cool down. Now there were 7 of us. We made a wrong turn near the velodrome and got off the cue sheet, so I got out my map and figured out a way back onto the route that didn't take us too far out of the way. Around 2:30 PM we arrived at Alley Pond Park, and I had to explain to the group that this was not the end of the ride and that the TA organizer would not be waiting at this park with the pizza.

When I ride any distance longer than 40 miles, I always bring my Camelbak filled with sandwiches, energy bars, pretzels, and fruit. I almost always end up bringing food home again. Most of the riders were getting hungry, and I started to worry about people bonking with 15 miles left to go. No one had warned them that there wouldn't be any rest stops on the ride. I gave out my Clif bars and tried to get people mentally energized for the last part of the ride.

A few other riders had caught up with us by now. Seven of us left Alley Pond and went about a mile before we figured out we'd gone the wrong way. We asked a driver for directions, but then we decided that since there were three of us who'd done the Century route many times before, we could find our way from memory and then get back onto the new route. We went a bit out of our way and rode in traffic along Northern Boulevard for a mile or two but we got back onto the route at Joe Michaels' Greenway. After that we were able to stay on the route. Around Flushing Meadows greenway the other part of the group took off, leaving me and two other slower riders behind. I took my time and waited for them for the last few miles of the route, keeping them in view behind me while I pointed out the turns.

We got to Astoria Park around 4:30 PM, about 90 minutes later than we had been expected to arrive. We did get pizza, and I got to share my opinion of the route and the nonexistent road markings with the organizers. I had been more pissed off about the lack of markings, but by the time I got to the park, I wasn't angry, just exhausted. I hung around for a few minutes, then left for home via the Queensborough Bridge.

I got home at 5:45 PM and my odometer showed 85 miles for the day. While I was more tired than I expected to be after that long a ride, I felt good knowing that I should be good to ride 100 miles in two weeks. With the proper organization and real rest stops, I shouldn't have any problems.


bikebrooklyn said...

Hi, I’m riding the century in two weeks and it’s completely freaking me out. It’s going to be my first attempt at 100 miles and I’ve been riding that stretch through Brooklyn for training fairly often, so your post was a great read for me.
You guys only went as far as the Canarsie Pier and then you turned up into Queens, right? I keep running into blocked off / under construction sections of bike paths and pedestrian bridge crossings – including the section of the belt bike path right after the Canarsie Pier.
Do you know if TA has some kind of list of closures, or are you guys the guinea pigs who figure it out before the rest of us take the route?
Thanks for helping trouble shoot.
See you Sunday the 9th – unless I chicken out.
- bikebrooklyn

PhilCatelinet said...

Leaving Canarsie Pier, the route goes up Flatbush and eventually into Queens. I don't remember the exact route but we didn't continue on the bike path past the pier.

The TA checks out the route and tries different ways around before they put together the finished cue sheet. They already know what's open and what's not. They can also work with the city to make sure that areas on the ride won't be blocked off or being worked on that weekend. The problems we had yesterday weren't with road closures. TA hasn't marked parts of the route yet, and we weren't aware that they'd made so many changes from past years, so that's why we got lost a few times. Also, no one took charge, and few people realized how much energy and food you need for a 60+ mile ride.

Don't chicken out! If you can ride 20 miles without stopping, then you can handle a century. You'll be fine for the ride in two weeks.