Finally the day was here, the first big event on my list. The TD Five Boroughs Bike Tour, a carless ride through all five boroughs of New York city.
The night before I got everything set out. Bibs, heart rate monitor, everything I needed. Filled the water bottles, put in the Skratch Labs Exercise mix.
Woke up at 4:30am. Spent a few extra minutes in the bathroom, as many racers say that if you won’t have a BM before a long ride, you may be in for a bad time. So, I got on the road just a bit later than I wanted, but got away at 5:05. Rode up the parkway to 440, then weaved my way thru Staten Island up towards the Staten Island Ferry. As I got close, the stress level went up, as it was approaching 6am, and I was afraid to miss the ferry. Plus I started seeing a lot of folks on bikes and cars with bike racks parked on the side of the road. I had expected to park in the lot for the Staten Island Yankees, but found a free on-street parking spot just up from the ferry. As I stepped out of the Xterra to pull the bike off the rack, the horn blew, so I knew I missed the 6am ferry, so I rushed to make sure I wouldn’t miss the 6:30am ferry. In doing so, I decided not to wear my leg warmers, and forgot to put my point and shoot camera in my jersey pocket.
After a half hour ride, we got to Manhattan, and disembarked. Yet more walking in cleats. Wheee. We then rode up towards the starting line. I did stop to use the facilities, and to also take pictures of Liberty Tower:
It was a good 2 miles up to the start line:
But then I didn’t get close to the start, I was back about 6 blocks:
So for the next 45 minutes, I stood there, shivering, teeth chattering, body shaking. I was regretting not bringing the leg warmers. At some point in time, we heard the last few notes of the National Anthem, and eventually the crowd started moving forward. Needless to say, we walked for 6 blocks up to the starting line:
It wasn’t until after we passed through the starting line that things had opened up enough to clip in and start pedaling. There were several spots where we stopped to let traffic cross, and there were several places early where things slowed down. Rather than getting on it early and just getting shut down by walls of people, I let most everyone flow by as I pedaled freely.
The roads in Manhattan were not fun. You had to pay real attention since there were a ton of manhole covers, pot holes, chuck holes, seams in the concrete, and 11,000 people.
Eventually we made it up to Central Park. We turned right 59th, and entered in at the South East corner. There were a couple of hills to climb (i.e. make everyone slow down), and weaving around the core of the park. If there weren’t so many people, it might have been a good time to stop and sight see, except here you had so many folks in your way there was very little to do to get to the sides. I did stop and snap a pic, but then it took almost 45 seconds to get a spot to get back into the ride.
There was a really good gospel choir out singing, first Amazing Grace, and then God Bless America.
Turned right then went towards the Bronx.
And finally caught a glimpse of someone dressed for the occasion:
We spent maybe a quarter of a mile in the Bronx. It would have been nice to ride up a mile more and ride by Yankee Stadium, but alas, that was not to be.
Back into Manhattan, we ducked down onto the FDR drive and headed south. This was the first sign of anything of ill omen. The tunnel on the FDR had a couple of diagonal expansion joints, and someone had gone down and had required an ambulance. Ouch. I took the expansion joints like you take a train crossing… Turn into them and take them as perpendicular as you can.
At 63rd st, we exited the FDR and turned towards the Queesboro/Ed Koch bridge. This was another choke point. I danced on the pedals just to keep active, but it really was of no use, so I stopped and snapped a couple pictures:
There was a gentleman sitting down on the side of the road, with paramedics. I’m guessing that this was the gentleman who had a heart attack and passed away. He didn’t look like he was out of shape, as there were MANY people that were, and when I heard of the fatality, I didn’t realize I might have seen the man at the time.
We eventually made it to the first pit stop at Astoria Park in Queens. There I filled my bottle back up, and tossed a skratch labs mix into it. Grabbed a banana, a couple of Kind granola packs, and ate a power bar, then took off. Because, well there were several thousand people there:
Wound our way down towards Brooklyn:
Passed up the Brookyln rest stop, and got up onto the BQE. At this point, it was hammer down time. When we got to the Gowanas expressway, I was flying as fast as I could wind through rolling blockades of “it’s a ride not a race” folks. But after 28 miles of slow, I wanted to spin out the legs. Placed high on some of the Strava segments, but man, there were soooo many people.
But finally I’d get my chance. The Verrazano bridge was coming up. I crossed the timing chip transponder, point, though I didn’t have one, and just went. Got onto the climb up the Verrazano, and kept the effort up. Passed everyone I came across. No one passed me, and the guys who were keeping up with me on the flat road fell back. I saw the finish line and kicked it up and went across it, and kept it up on the downhill. I think Strava has me at 8m 10s for the stage.
After the Verrazano, we finally arrived at the finish party.
Had some chocolate milk, found the REI booth and grabbed some power bars, had a Gruyere, cheddar and swiss grilled cheese sandwich, and found a crepe place with banana and nutella crepes. Mmmmm Tasty. Somewhere I lost my left glove.
Finally got back onto the road… Except there was a park up at the end of the road, so I got some better pictures of the bridge:
Back at the ferry, I made it back to my car. Got packed back up and moved out just short of noon. This is when I noticed the medial alert on my phone. Adding a somber note to the day.
All in all it was a fun ride. There are just too many people if you wanted to ride fast on these roads. It’s a great ride given the chance to ride car-free, but it’s just way crowded. If I lived in the area, I’d probably do it again, and perhaps with the wife and daughter when she’s older, but not when I’m training. The sheer number of people clogs up the climbs, the flats, the 4 lane wide roads, everywhere. But it’s AMAZINGLY well supported. SAG wagons all over, lots of food, lots of water, lots of volunteers and help. Just with the situation with the Boston Maraton bombing weeks earlier, the weird flair of the ride was well dampened.