Despite having played the viola for five hours on Saturday and getting home at a decent hour, I somehow managed only three hours of sleep on Saturday night. When the alarm went off at 5 AM I jumped out of bed, but my initial burst of energy wasn't going to last. I got to the start at Central Park at 5:45 AM and left with a group of riders at 6:15.
As soon as I left the park my chain fell off the chainring, so I had to stop and fix that. That was not a good omen. The Manhattan portion of the ride went through Riverside Park down to 72nd Street, then down Broadway to Columbus Circle and through Times Square. I don't know who had the bright idea that we should go through Times Square, because even at 6:45 AM it was busy and confusing. We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and took a different route to Prospect Park, through DUMBO and Fort Greene to Grand Army Plaza.
The next leg of the ride, to Canarsie Pier, was more difficult for me than in past years. My lack of sleep was catching up with me, and I seriously considered calling the ride organizer and telling her I was going to cut my day short and only ride 75 or even 50 miles. But as I approached the rest stop I got into a rhythm and forgot that idea. At the Mill Basin bridge, someone took the "Cyclists Walk Bikes" sign literally, and that caused a traffic jam and a 10-minute wait to cross the bridge.
The mileage between Canarsie Pier and Alley Pond Park is always the toughest part of the ride. It's usually the longest gap between rest stops, and there are some long climbs along that part of the route. In particular, the three mile approach to the rest stop at Alley Pond is psychologically the most difficult thing I face every year. I know I'm close to a rest stop, but I've got a long ride through the woods to get there. Also, the road markings on this part of the route were either non-existent or poorly placed. Some of the turns were marked after the turn, or in the middle of the intersection. Other turns were stenciled on the bike path in the same shade as the bike path stripes. And there had been some last-minute changes to the route, so a few turns were marked two or three times, with previous markings in the same color crossed out with spray-paint. I missed a few turns, though I didn't go too far out of my way on any of them. With the heat, my state of mind, and the length of the route, it took me almost three hours to get to Alley Pond.
I took a long break at Alley Pond to eat and rest my aching muscles. There was enough food for everyone, but not enough tables, so there was a long line to get something to eat. On the way back onto the route after the rest stop, I missed a turn and nearly fell off my bike trying to get back onto the path. I didn't hurt anything other than my pride, though I got a nasty red bruise on my leg where it hit the handlebars. After that point, the road markings improved and I don't think I missed any turns the rest of the way. I stopped to get more Gatorade and chatted with a disappointed bodega owner who had hoped for more business that day. I made up some of the time I'd lost on the previous section and I got to Astoria Park around 2:45 PM.
By this time I'd run into a guy I used to work with, and he and I rode the rest of the way together. Because of Farm Aid on Randall's Island, we crossed back into Manhattan before taking the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. I didn't have any difficulties in the Bronx. The organizers at the rest stop put the fear of God into us that we'd get nothing at the finish if we didn't leave immediately. It was 5:30, so we had about a half-hour to get back to Central Park. My friend said we'd "book it," and he wasn't kidding. We pushed it for most of the last eight miles, and we got back to Central Park at 6:20 PM, just over 12 hours later.
It ended up being a good day after all, but this was the first time I've done this ride where I've thought it was more like work than a fun day on the bike. I need to remember to get more sleep the night before, and ride more long training rides before the Century. Also, I'm starting to complain enough that I think I've earned "grizzled veteran" status for the Century. Eventually I'll have the gray hair and scraggly beard that goes along with that, but for now I'll have to settle for the state of mind.