Sunday, September 18, 2011

Something a little different for the NYC Century this year

Until this year, I'd always been a riding marshal for the Transportation Alternatives NYC Century.  After a sub-par performance for me in 2009, I decided to try marshaling with the Brooklyn Bridge crew instead.  I missed last year's ride, so my debut on the bridge was postponed to this year.

I woke up at 4:45 AM and arrived at the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge at 5:40 AM.  On my way across I played my favorite game: "Who's Just Going Home Now vs. Who's Up As Early As I Am?"  It turned out that most of the people on the bridge at that hour were early-rising tourists.  There were only a couple of other people there, and none of them were in charge.  There were also a couple of crackheads arguing over by City Hall Park, and I'm pretty certain they were just winding up a wild and crazy Saturday night.  As the eastern sky started to brighten, I noticed a tent going up over in the plaza by the park.  That was the rest stop/marshal sign-in station, so I got set up with a reflective vest and a marshal kit.  A few other marshals were there with traffic cones and signs, and they said I should just go pick a spot on the bridge to stand for the next four hours.  

I rode halfway across and set up directly between the two bridge towers, which seemed like a fantastic spot for photos and for telling riders to stay on the left and avoid pedestrians.  I was directly in the path of the riders as they came over the bridge from Manhattan, so they could see me and I could see them.   While it was a great location for those things, it was a terrible location to be in considering the conditions.  It was a chilly morning with a strong breeze coming from the east.  Even with the sun, I was shivering the whole time I stood there.  After a couple of hours walking back and forth and picking up wayward traffic cones, a rider coming from Brooklyn stopped and suggested that we put someone further down on the Brooklyn side, saying that there had already been an accident back there.  I wasn't sure what she meant, but seeing as how I wasn't doing much other than freezing in my original location, I decided a move was in order.  I rode down to the Brooklyn tower and stood facing Manhattan, directing riders to be careful as the next section of the path was narrower than the rest of the path on the bridge.  But I quickly figured out  the real problem: riders (not on the bike tour) coming from Brooklyn were riding right into the flow of cyclists on the tour coming from Manhattan.  I saw at least a half-dozen near-collisions, and one woman fell off her bike right in front of me trying to avoid an oncoming cyclist.   There was nothing much I could do other than politely shout at everyone to slow down and be careful.

I loved the views from the bridge, and I enjoyed looking up at the top of the tower and watching the clouds wheel past, making it look like the Brooklyn Bridge itself was moving.  But by 9 AM the novelty had worn off.  I was freezing, and no amount of pacing, shivering, or waving my arms was helping.  At 10 AM my shift ended, and I wasted no time riding back to the Manhattan side for a rest stop visit.  I told the rest stop crew I'd planned to ride part of the route, and they asked me if I would ride it as a marshal, so I agreed.  I rode back across the bridge to Brooklyn and picked up the ride route.  

Since I was about four hours behind my usual 100-mile pace, I decided to ride the 55-mile route for a change.  The first part followed last weekend's route to Coney Island and Marine Park, but then veered north and east through Brooklyn's Chasidic neighborhoods.  There was a heavy head wind along the East River in Brooklyn and Queens but I made it to Astoria Park around 2:30 PM.  After a few minutes rest I decided that I felt good enough to tack on the Bronx part of the ride for the bonus mileage.  I didn't have a cue sheet for the Bronx, so I caught up with some other riders who had sheets.  Even so, there was a little confusion in our group as we left the Van Cortland Park rest stop, and I think we may have ridden up a few hills that weren't on the route.  We got back on the route without too much trouble and returned to Central Park just before 6 PM.  That's usually the time I finish when I ride the whole century, so it was odd to see only 65 miles on my odometer.  

I had a harrowing ride down 2nd Avenue on the way home, featuring my closest near-miss with a car all year (thus fulfilling my yearly quota of near-misses).  I crossed the Manhattan Bridge as the sun set over Manhattan, giving me a little bookend for my day.  And I walked in my apartment at 7:05 PM.  At least it wasn't dark when I got home - that happened a few years ago.  Somehow I think I'll be more sore tomorrow than I was last week after my 92-mile ride.  Maybe it was all the pacing and shivering?


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