Monday, August 1, 2011

The NYC 200K: Back in the saddle again!

The view from my saddle atop Bear Mountain.

The NYC 200K will always be one of my favorite events. Not only is the route lovely, but it's also the site of the first brevet I ever rode in 2007. It's also meaningful because the route connects the two places I've lived as an adult: New York City and the Hudson Valley. From now on, there will be a third reason I love this ride: eleven months and five days after being being hit by a car on the PA 1000K, I am finally back to randonneuring after successfully completing this event one more time.

I live close enough to the start that it makes sense for me to drive down the day of an event rather than stay over at a friend's or family member's apartment. On Sunday morning, I felt the familiar fog of awakening at 4:30 am to make some coffee, shovel in a bowl of cereal and head out into the darkness with a car filled with my bike and a few bags of provisions. The drive down was pleasant as I listened to Death Cab for Cutie at high volumes and a podcast of "Wait,Wait Don't Tell Me" at not such high volumes. Just north of the George Washington Bridge, I stopped into the parking lot at filling station to change into my cycling kit and insert my contacts before making the final crossing into NYC. After scrambling around in search of a parking place within a few blocks of the George Washington Bridge for more time than I care to admit, I made it to the start just in time to hear organizer Jonathan L. deliver pre-ride instructions. After receiving a few hugs from friends eager to see me able to ride again, I grabbed my brevet card and cue sheet and was off!

The start was invigorating and I found instant power in my legs as I charged across the GWB with other members of our group. It was great to catch up with Bob and Chris in this early stage, as neither would ride at my pace in the miles to come. In this first section, I also met up with Shane, Steve, Yiping, Robin and Lenny with whom I would ride for much of the first 90 miles. Sadly, at about mile 15 I realized that I had left my Hammer Gel flask and Endurolyte canister sitting in a bag in the car so my refueling strategy was in need of revision. After a pleasant ride along the Hudson River through Piermont and Nyack, we rolled into the first controle where I refilled my bottles and bought a granola bar for later. Not long after the controle, we entered Bear Mountain State park and began the five mile climb to the top of Perkin's Drive. I won't say I flew up the climb, but I was very pleased that I was able to make it to the top without getting out of the saddle which is my preferred way to climb. I guess my quads aren't in such bad shape after all.

The trip following the climb through Harriman State Park is lovely, but after passing a sign that reads "Rough Road Ahead" I realize that the park authorities have just about given up on repairing what turned out to be a frighteningly rough patch of road. The vibrations and jerkiness of this section really left me ragged and dreaming of fat low pressure tires which would have buffered the blow somewhat. We rolled into the next controle around lunchtime, but I was not very hungry so opted for fresh water, a pack of Endurolytes from Leroy and a bit more sunscreen for the ride ahead.

I took off from the turnaround countrole after just a few minutes and soon found myself riding with Lenny who regaled me with stories of his recent PAC Tour along the Eastern section of Route 66. After a while, Lenny stopped for a bit to eat and I pedaled on feeling more like the tortoise than the hare. After leaving Lenny to eat his lunch, I settled into a comfortable pace and rode the remaining 40 miles alone. This proved to be an especially enjoyable way to ride the final section without concern that I was either holding someone back or egging someone on. In the final stage, I was very pleased to see that the route has benefited from a very desirable revision which made it even more enjoyable this time around. The final stretch from Harriman State Park to NYC has been reworked so that riders avoid 9W all together and take in some beautiful, low traffic roads that differ almost completely from the roads used in the first half of the day.

Looking back on the day, the ride felt a bit like an Oreo cookie to me - soft in the middle but strong at both ends. While my physical condition is nothing like it once was, I was pleased by my overall performance on my first day back to randonneuring. It was difficult to watch folks I typically ride with take off ahead of me, but I knew this would be a more casual ride than I'm used to. Despite my lower level of fitness and lack of time on the bike, I was still able to finish in 10:06 at a respectable 9th position out of 40 riders. While not feeling particularly competitive, this top 25% finish left me feeling even more confident about my return to randonneuring. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet a few new ones along the way. Hats off to the organizers and NJ Randonneurs generally for all they do to put on such fine events. I can't wait until September for another shot at one.


  1. George- you rode strongly and not at all "soft in the middle". Great to have you back !

  2. George,

    Your triumph shines throughout the post. Congratulations!

  3. George, it was great riding with you on Sunday.
    Not sure if you realized it but you had a big smile on all day, guess you really enjoyed your return to randonneuring:-)

    Take care,

  4. George,

    Very disappointed to have missed you at the ride. I guess I was just too slow, finishing more than an hour behind you. Great to see you riding so well and with such enthusiasm.


  5. Thanks for all the encouragement! Sorry I missed you, too, @Jud. Looking forward to reading about your triumph on PBP!

  6. Congrats on a successful return to the road! Sounds like you did really well!!! Tasha, the boys and I were thinking of you. Hope to catch up soon.