Wednesday, September 10, 2008

quick thoughts on the 2008 NYC Century

I had planned to write my usual long post about the Century, from waking up at 4:30 AM to riding across the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn, to finishing at 6:30 PM and getting home at 7:45 PM. But that's about the entire thing in a nutshell, and if you want a more detailed breakdown, you can read the write-up I did for last year's century or the year before.

One major difference in 2008 was that with my move to Brooklyn, I was no longer a few minutes from the start in Central Park. Instead of getting up at 5 AM and practically rolling out of bed to the start, I woke up a half-hour earlier in Park Slope, took my breakfast of granola and yogurt with me, and rode up 4th Avenue to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station. I got onto a 2 train with about half a dozen other cyclists in a similar situation and rode to the start that way. At 14th Street, a group of five late-night revelers got on the train, headed home after a night of drinking and clubbing. One of them said "you know, Entourage is on tomorrow night" and I smiled because for them it was still Saturday night, but for me it was Sunday. Hey, I'd had about four hours sleep and everything was funny to me in that state. These kids asked me about the ride and my bike and I did my best to explain it to them. One of them even said he'd do the ride next year. Although he was from Boston, so he said he'd ride down first.

The other big difference from previous Centuries was that this year it was hotter than I'd ever remembered. I'm used to the Century being on a hot day, but somehow it was worse than ever. I think the problem might have been the deceptively cool winds that blew for most of the morning and early afternoon. The wind gave me a misguided sense that the temperature was cooler than it actually was, and that I was cooler as a result. For the first 50 miles I didn't drink enough water. I started to bonk around mile 40 and continued to have weird heart palpitations for the next 20-30 miles. It wasn't until I started drinking faster and took a long break at Astoria Park that I began to feel better.

For the last 25 miles, the only problems were my legs, neck, and ass all aching, and the poorly marked turns in the Bronx. I don't want to point fingers, but it seemed that whoever was in charge of the road markings in the Bronx decided that since the route hadn't changed much, the markings didn't need to be repainted. At an intersection of two greenways (the Hutchinson River Parkway and Pelham Parkway) I had to make an executive decision as to which way to go. The turn wasn't marked on the ground, and the cue sheet wasn't clear. I was the de facto leader of a small group of riders (since I was a marshal) and some of them wanted to go straight ahead, arguing that if the turn wasn't clear the ride organizers must have meant for us to keep going. But the questionable left turn looked more inviting to me. Another marshal rode ahead to scout, but before he could get out of sight five riders came back towards him. They said they'd gone about two miles that way and decided it was the wrong way. So I announced that we were going left and hoped that we'd see another marking on the road. Luckily for me and my brave band, there was another arrow on the ground about 50 feet ahead, proving that we were on the correct path. There were a few more turns like that but those all looked familiar and had faded markings, so we made it to the last rest stop just before it closed at 5:30 PM.

After I'd finished the ride at 6:30 PM and claimed my free water bottle and t-shirt, it was time to go home. I could have taken the subway home and no one would have questioned my dedication to riding. I'd already put 100 miles on the bike that day. But I had decided that I was riding back to Brooklyn, so I rode through traffic on 5th Avenue and Broadway all the way back to the Manhattan Bridge. It was a harrowing experience given my weariness and the cars and buses, but I got home in one piece before it was too dark to see and be seen. Next year I'll get a few bike lights for the ride home, just to be safe.

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