Monday, May 07, 2007

42 miles of sheer pleasure...and some pain

After a short 4 hr night, I arose yesterday morning to compete in New York's 42 mile traffic-free 5 Boro Bike Tour. The morning was chilly..check that...freezing, as I weerily rode the empty trains from Brooklyn into lower manhattan to meet my pal Joe Hays and his brother in law Ryan.

All 32,000 riders congragated in the vicinity of the starting line (next to ground zero) and waited...and the cold shadows of the high rises. I stood on the concrete barrier to look ahead and behind me, only to see a sea of bikers, none of whom were moving.

Starting time, 8am, comes and goes, as does 8:30. Around 8:50 things start moving, but at a snails pace. At this rate we wouldn't reach the Staten Island finish line until dark or tomorrow, much less getting to church in time for Joe to deliver his sermon at 3.

At last things get moving, as we bob and weave through slower riders. A competitve fire started running through me, and all I wanted to do was thread the needle through competing riders..and their families.

We reached columbus circle at the southern corner of Central park and hit a bottleneck. We didn't know why things were stopped, and we still don't. We hit the sidewalks and ended up bypassing approximately 10,000 riders.

Finally we squeezed through and it was off to the races. I was feeling great, and I feel in love with the zip of my bike as I passed a horde of racers through central park. Occassionally either Joe, Ryan or I would yell out a little yelp, which would be echoed by the rest of us to ensure that we didn't get seperated.

We reached the Bronx, then immediately left. Apparently the survival rate of this ride was at a high priority.

We cruised down the eastern end of manhattan, where we were temporarily seperated. Thanks to cell phones, we quickly found each other and continued the climb up over the queensboro bridge into queens. The winds up top whipped us around pretty good. At times my bike (excuse me, jason's bike) would wobble, but I held on tight and headed down.

Into queens, we ran into a head wind and my legs adamently let me know that it was time to stop. My thighs were burning with every turn of the pedal. I blame all this on the lack of scenery in Queens.

We arrived at astoria park and made a pit stop for a bathroom break and bananas , oranges, and a surprisingly tastey carrot cake clif bar. This would be our first..and ONLY..stop of the day.

Re-energized, the road then led us down the western edge of queens, through neighborhoods with lots of turns. I felt like I was in the tour de france. I only slowed down enough on turns to not plow into the far side building. Then came a sign : "Mile 20." Yikes, long way to go.

On bridge number 4, a little unknown one that spans a small canal, I was visibly tired. Mr speed demon that was so prevalant at the beginning bid his goodbyes, and left me in the lowest gear with aching thighs. Joe's conditioning was obviously superior to mine (he attributes this to 2 years of spin classes) as he and Ryan pulled ahead of me.

Onto the BQE (brooklyn-queens expressway) we ran into a series of hills and valleys. As I churned up the hill I spoke to the hill, telling it that there was no way I was allowing it to beat me. All around me people were walking their bikes up, but I refused. Twice Joe and Ryan had to wait for me, but hill after hill I never dismounted.

The final climb, the verazanno bridge into Staten Island, came into view. Joe had called and we planned to all meet at the base of the bridge so we could finish it out together. I was in a zone. I wasn't going super fast, but it was steady. Turn after turn of the pedal was consistent. My body had become numb to all pain. I finally met Joe, and we waiting for a short time for Ryan who had stopped to refill his water.

On the final climb, I gave everything I had. it's a long, slow climb, and I put everything I had left into it. We summited, then left a fire trail all the way down.

I could see the festival on my right. We had done it. I took my hands off the handle bars, and raised my arms in victory.

We unfortunately didn't have time to enjoy the celebration because Joe had to preach. (Or should I say fortunately, because Joe is a fantastic preacher at a fantastic church!, and Apparently those spin classes really do work), so we grabbed a hot dog and headed towards Joe's car, which was parked at the staten island ferry. We turned onto the street, where we passed a sign that read "Ferry, 3 miles."

It was the cruelest of all jokes. I had spent all my energy getting up that last bridge, and here I had 3 more miles to go. I was out of gatorade, out of energy.

I LABORED those last 3 miles. We climb a small hill where a man had decided this was a great place to preach about hell and damnation. Everyone was muttering under their breath, "you're right, this is HELL."

IT was all worth it. I had a blast riding the streets of the city. We had completed 42 miles in 4 hours (10 mph!) My entire body felt like Jell-o, but I'd do it again tomorrow if I could.


JonGrubbs said...

Congratulations, oh and "Jonathan has visited today"

jch said...

Jeremy, it was a blast. Can't wait for next year's ride. You'll make it, right? Thanks for coming and riding with me, bro. Good times.

jennifer said...

You should encourage Mike to buy me a bike for Christmas. Then I might think about joining you guys next year. I guess I better start the spin classes soon.

Derek T said...

I was one of the people who rolled their eyes at the annoying person preaching on the last steep hill before the ferry. Nice to get a little background on him. I am pretty confident and happy to say that he did not win any converts.

jch said...

Hey Derek, to be clear, I was not the guy preaching the hellfire and brimstone sermon on the last hill before the ferry. But I did give a hearty "amen" to that guy as he spoke of hell. I, like Jeremy and others who pedaled by this man, muttered under my breath, "You got it wrong, my brother. This hill is hell and it's currently upon us!"