My first century ride, complete!
11 hours start to finish, 9 hours of pedaling. Temperatures in the mid 70's and a very shady route helped to compensate a little for the headwinds that were blowing for most of the ride, and were especially stiff on all of Dune Road (15+ mph). With an average speed of 12 mph, a starting weight of 260lbs (I was almost 6 pounds lighter when I got home), and having had no sleep before the ride, I am quite pleased with my performance.
Leaving my apartment at 2:30am to be extra careful that I will be on time, I walked Ditmars Avenue the half mile to the subway station. On my way I encountered more than a few late night revelers wobbling home who gave me a sideways glance when they saw me walking in all my gear. Arriving at the subway I was happy to find a train waiting on the platform, but after waiting about 10 minutes on the train the conductor told me we would be delayed until 3 which further validated my desire to have left extra early. The N train I was on moved much slower than usual, stopping to clear the track of construction workers, and stopping for train traffic ahead. Therefore, a trip into midtown that usually takes me 40 minutes took over an hour, and I arrived at the meeting area on 31st and 8th outside the Amtrak entrance.
Having loaded my bike onto a Babylon bound truck the day before, and receiving my wristband in the mail, there was nothing for me to do at this point except to wait for our train to be called. I made my way down into Penn Station and found a Doughnut shop where I could get a coffee. While waiting on line for my coffee I fell into conversation with a friendly fellow rider named Mo. He was also a New York native and we talked of cycling, music (he is a professional musician), and various related topics. We walked back out to the street where we would then wait together until the train was called. Mo suggested riding together for a little while, and I made sure he understood that as a much heavier rider, I may not be able to pace him. He said not to worry and that he would likely stick with me for awhile, and would then take off when he felt ready.
Soon we were lining up to walk down to the train tracks. We were guided down to the Amtrak tracks by a single volunteer where our train arrived after just a couple of minutes. Mo and I took our seats talking a little while I set-up my gear and eventually Mo drifted off for a little while. After an hours ride to Babylon we all shuffled off the train to seek our bikes, and some food. I ate 2 small bagels with cream cheese, and a banana; earlier I had made sure I ate about 10 dried apricots in an effort to load up on Potassium as that should help me to avoid cramps. Once we were all set Mo and I took off following a small pack of riders including a recumbent bike.
One of my goals was to try to pace myself as best as I could in the hopes that it would help me to finish the 109+ mile route. The best way I found to accomplish this was to try to find someone traveling at a speed at which I could comfortably follow and then attempt to (respectfully) draft behind them. While riding with Mo I had drafted a ride Marshall who had full panniers and a license plate that said, "Moser Retired Coastguard". He was keeping a very respectable speed considering the load he must of been hauling.
Starting the route, Mo and I follow a recumbent cyclist.
Following Mo over a bridge on Montauk Highway before passing Dowling College.
2 Small Bridges.
Drafting behind ride Marshall, Moser retired Coast Guard, into West Sayville.
Drafting Mo through East Patchogue.
Mo and I kept a good cruising speed for most of the 20+ miles to the first rest area at the Blue Point Brewery. During that first stretch I had my best average speed which was about 16 mph for 7.1 miles. Finally arriving at the first rest area we stopped only briefly, grabbing a quick bite and using the facilities. This time Mo decided he wanted to ride a bit harder than I felt I could so he slowly pedaled off into the distance. I could see him for quite awhile but never caught up again on the road. For the first time that day I found myself riding solo.
Bridges in Moriches.
First small bridge in East Port.
Second small bridge in East Port.
Small bridge in Speonk.
Unable to find anyone good to draft I found myself internally gearing down. By this time I was beginning to feel the effects of sleep deprivation, but thankfully the effects seemed mild compared to what I imagined it might have been like to exert oneself while essentially exhausted. In fact, I believe sleep deprivation to have contributed to my being able to pace myself well for the length of the ride
Somewhere at about 3 miles from the 2nd rest area I began to feel quite hungry and there was a tense sensation in the tendon where my thigh muscle meets the bone alongside my knee. I took this as an indication that cramps were beginning to set in and made an even more concerted effort to pace myself in the hopes that I could reach the rest area before they got any worse. After another mile or so I came upon the only unofficial rest area I had seen all day. A mother and son were handing out free lemonade and gummy candy. I thought that anything containing substance might help me at this point and stopped to drink 2 cups of lemonade and grab a pack of gummies. I do believe this small infusion of calories helped me to make it to the next rest area without too much more difficulty.
Arriving at Westhampton Church I set out to eat some of everything on offer. I hoped that one of these foods would contain "the cure" for the light cramping I was experiencing. Recently a friend of mine informed me that quinine capsule would help but the first aid tent had none. So I opted to try the better known solutions of potassium rich foods and electrolytes and salts. I ate a PBJ sandwich on nice fresh baked whole grain bread, 4 cups of watermelon, 2 cups of pineapple, half a cup of blueberries, a small Lara bar, and a few cups of water before filling my water bladder back up and setting out on the route again.
The impending cramp sensation began to subside, and I felt I was likely out of danger for the time being. A couple of miles down the road I approached the familiar Dune Road. I have family that lives nearby so I have been down to Tiana Beach a few times with them. The scenery is beautiful and the homes are opulent. Unfortunately I was unable to fully appreciate the scenery as intense headwinds relentlessly blew along the entire 8 mile stretch, making for slow going and reminding me of similar conditions on the Gowanus Expressway during the Five Boro Bike Tour in May. I had tried drafting a couple of slower riders to try to relieve some of the strain, but I found myself having to stop a couple of times to rest before eventually making it to the Ponquogue Bridge.
Third small Bridge in Quogue, and Beach Lane to Dune Road.
Neptunes and Tiana Beach
The view from Ponquogue Bridge.
As I climbed this bridge I saw a dead seagull lying in the shoulder and later heard a rumor that this seagull had flown into a woman cyclist killing itself on impact! Gliding down the other side of the bridge I was relieved to have that section behind me and rode into the idyllic Southampton neighborhoods that lead to Milcox Bay and the final rest at Water Mill. This was when I began to doubt my ability to complete the 100 mile route, and in talking to 2 other riders who were calling it quits I had decided I would stop the ride at Water Mill. The views along this stretch were very pretty, conjuring up images of old New York as it was when the East End was first settled. Old cemetery's, churches, ponds, and quaint bridges looking out onto harbors helped me to forget some of my pains.
Drafting behind yellow cyclist continued.
Agawan Lake, I consider calling it quits at the next rest area.
Agawan Lake 2.
Amagansett Rest Area
Having reached Water Mill I drank 2 glasses of blue gatorade, and filled my water bladder again. Here was where I found my piece of the famous pie that I anticipated for so long. Approaching the table I spied an enormous quarter pie sized slice of blueberry sitting by itself looking woefully neglected. I heaved the glorious pile of sweet goo and buttery crispiness up off the table and plopped down to fill my pie hole. After maybe 15 minutes I stopped to take stock on the condition my condition was in, and quickly came to the conclusion that I should make every effort to complete the 109 mile route I had started off on.
Back on the road again now resolved to finish, I once again allowed my internal dialogue to slow my roll. Chugging along at a slow, plodding, deliberate pace; every successive pedal stroke seemed to take a little more mental effort. After a few miles or so I came upon a couple, Mitchell and Jessica who were keeping a similar pace as myself and tucked in behind Mitchell to draft for awhile. At this time I called out to Mitchell to ask if he minded my drafting him, which he did not.
Jessica was riding a steal frame mountain bike with knobby tires and seemed greatly restricted by the limitations of the bike. She did seem resolved to finish though, and Mitchell seemed to be doing his best to constructively encourage her. We tried to make light conversation even as we approached main street Montauk and the worst hills of the ride which to everyone's dismay was at the end of the route. It was at this point that I split off from them trying to make the best of the momentum from these hills. Once I made it to the bottom of the very last big hill, I decided it was not safe for me to try to pedal up it, and seeing that the majority of riders were walking this hill I dismounted and marched up behind the rest. During the last 10 or so miles I was beginning to experience something I could only describe as a tightness or pressure above my kidneys. I did not have to pee, I only felt this sensation when I took a deep breath, and there were no other symptoms which seemed to be effecting my performance or mental state that I associated with this feeling, so I decided it wasn't an emergency and gutted it out.
Bridge on Little Cob Road in Water Mill.
South End Cemetery
Drafting behind Mitchell and Jessica through East Hampton.
The sign to indicate 10 miles to the Montauk Lighthouse.
Descending to Main Street Montauk.
The last few miles of the route.
Once at the top of this terribly steep hill you get the thrill of hurtling down it to gain speed for the last 2 small hills which can be crested mostly with the speed from the hill prior (or "rollers" as their known). I had thought I was filming this particular descent, but failed to start the camera at the time (Thankfully that was my only real filming mishap). As we approached the lighthouse we came upon some tightly packed car traffic which was trying to enter the rest area as well. I actually clipped the corner of a charter bus with my handlegrip as I weaved through when I made a slight miscalculation but I was able to keep control of my bike.
FINALLY arriving at the Montauk Lighthouse I immediately handed my bike over to the staff to be loaded onto a truck for the return trip to Manhattan. My bike safely in the hands of staff I made my way to where the luggage was being displayed so I could try to retrieve my after ride change of clothes and have my most anticipated shower. I was given instructions on how to locate my bag and had no luck in finding it. After triple checking all of the baggage areas I enlisted one of the staff to assist me. Neither of us had any luck and asked a 2nd staff member to help look for my bag. Still no luck in locating my bag. Now I have spent most of a half an hour trying to find my bag and desperately require food, I told the guys to keep looking and that I would be back.
I went to the buffet area and had a hotdog, a hamburger, some potato salad, and a soda, and quickly ate them at a table where I had brief but nice conversation with a few women who expounded upon the benefits of beer after a ride when I told them I opted for soda. At about the same time that I was finishing up my meal an announcement was made that the last buses to Montauk train station would be leaving in 15 minutes, so I quickly ran back to where the luggage was and asked if they had found my bag, which they had not. Now they directed me to the merchandise table to leave my contact information so they can reach me if they find my bag (which they have not). I have also sent an email to one of the organizers outlining the contents of the bag (which included my brand new Ride to Montauk T-shirt), but I know I may not hear from them for a few days as they are dealing with many people and many different issues. Along the way I saw many flat tires, a few accidents, and more than few people sitting on the sides of the road grimacing as they tried to nurse their leg cramps.
Besides the fact that my bag was lost the only thing that bothered me was the lack of sufficient water at the Water Mill rest area. They only had a single slow flowing hose which created a very long line full of very thirsty riders wondering why the water situation was so scant. Apparently some others ran into problems at rest areas where they didn't have enough food, but I did not witness this myself. Apparently a truck carrying some of the bikes broke down which caused a lot of people stress as well. I can imagine that logistical problems are the order of the day when it comes to events like this. Though I do feel the staff might have been better prepared for some of these contingencies.
For me this was a very special ride, one which I'm sure I will never forget. I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of now, and it has further inspired me to lose weight as "wanting" to carry so much excess weight for such long distances is ludicrous and is likely extra stressful on my body. That being said I look forward to being substantially lighter for century route on The Farm Ride, July 28th.