Bike MS NYC (Almost) Century Ride Part I: An Inauspicious Start

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Lined up at the start line.

Yesterday I participated in Bike MS NYC.  With over 5,000 participants, it is the largest charitable fundraising bike ride in New York City.  They offer three routes, a 30 mile loop around Manhattan that is closed to traffic, and 55 and 100 mile options that are mostly on open roads through New Jersey’s Hudson and Bergen counties and New York’s Rockland county.  All routes start and end in Midtown on the Far West Side.  Last year I completed the 55-mile route, which takes one just past the NJ/NY border into Tallman Mountain State Park.  This year I opted to try the century ride, which just barely makes it into Harriman State Park, at the foot of Bear Mountain.

This was going to be my longest ride ever by far (the previous year’s 55-mile ride was then my longest ride, and I haven’t done any longer rides since), so I was understandably nervous.  For weeks I tried to squeeze in any training time I could, but with all the unpacking in the new apartment and an already full schedule of family events, I really didn’t train as much as I should.  The entire week before the ride, I was careful not to exert myself too much, in order to save my energy.  Then, the day before the ride had arrived, and I still did not have my rider packet with my bib and bike number.

If I were still living in Riverdale, I’d be stuck.  Bike MS rules say they will not allow anyone without a bib number to ride, and I really didn’t want to test how strictly they adhere to those rules.  Although I could easily have joined the ride at any point and simply ridden with the pack, the bib is also my ticket to the many food and aid stations along the way, as well as potential support from field marshals and SAG (support and gear) buses.  Riding a century seems pretty daunting even with all the support.  I certainly didn’t want to try it without the support.  But now we were living on the Upper West Side, which gave me one last option.  On Saturday, in the early afternoon and in the sunny and record-high temperature of 76 degrees, I ran down to the Midtown starting line location, 2 miles away from home, to pick up an alternate rider packet.

For most runners, 4 miles is probably considered an easy run.  But I am emphatically not a runner.  After just a mile and a half of running, I simply couldn’t keep up the pace and I had to walk.  Between my inexperience running and the awfully high October temps, I was simply not feeling well.  Of course, once I got back, the last thing my wife and kids wanted to do was remain cooped up in our apartment  on what is likely to be the last warm and sunny Saturday of the year.  So out we went, to a nearby playground in Central Park.  Other than being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes, it was generally quite pleasant, but certainly not relaxing.

In the process my planning for this ride ahead of time, I bought a variety of items I might need early in the day while it’s still cold, such as knee and arm warmers and a light windbreaker jacket.  Now the weather forecast called instead for temps in the upper 60’s early in the morning and in the mid-70’s for most of the day.  I was very nervous, and I had a very tough time falling asleep, which was all the more detrimental (and surprising) given my lack of a Shabbat nap.  The next morning, I woke up promptly at 5:45 AM (actually I was already awake at that time, so I turned off the alarm before it even rang to avoid waking my wife).  As I stepped out of our building at 6:30, it was raining, and since the forecast called for cloudy skies, but not rain, I was under-dressed.  As I got on the bike, I felt that my thighs were still a little sore from the previous day’s run.  The ride was already off to an inauspicious start before I even began pedaling.  Little did I know things were going to get much, much worse.  But this post has already gotten pretty long, so tomorrow I’ll pick up the story from my ride to the starting line.

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