Monday, September 8, 2008

The 2008 NYC Century

Well that was interesting.

"Interesting" in the same way your do it yourself Flock of Seagulls hairdo was interesting, or interesting the way Aunt Dottie gets after her third cocktail.

I was half dreading 4am went I went to sleep the night before. Hurricane Hanna was in full effect on the eastern seaboard, and as much as I enjoy cycling, cycling a hundred miles in a raging storm is not my idea of something you do voluntarily.

Even I had to admit it was obviously going to be a perfect day when I checked the weather and walked my confused dog.

I got myself together, got myself to the subway, and boarded the bicycle express to the Upper West Side.


There's nothing quite like the combination of spandex-clad, sunblock covered cyclists packed on the same subway as night-shift workers and drunk yuppies who only wish they were doing the walk of shame.

I wish I could accurately quote some of the conversations that I overheard, but they all boiled down to the same general topic:

Drunk Dude #1 "Yo, what's with the bike?"
Cyclist "The NYC Century is today"
Drunk Dude #2 "Huh, What's that?"
Cyclist "You bike a hundred miles around NYC"
Drunk Dude #1 "A hundred miles? No Shit."
Drunk Dude #2 to Drunk Dude #1 "Sounds stupid"

Thankfully, I made it to the start without getting barfed on, got my cue sheet and was on my way.

I love the first part of the NYC Century. Starting in the dark. Bombing down Riverside Drive and then through Times Square. No traffic, just the whirr of a hundred bikes coasting down the hills. Then across the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn and into Prospect Park.

The things I remember are random; The guy in the orange 'You don't have to be the best, you just have to try the hardest' tee shirt that spotted as I was leaving the top of Central Park and then rode with for about 50 miles, the two unicyclists doing the whole hundred, the weird twists and turns the route took through Brooklyn - both across the Carroll Street Bridge (odd choice) and right past the subway station I was at two hours before, but most of all, I remember how I felt after mile 30.

Why mile 30?

Well at about mile 25 on the Shore Parkway Bike Path, right around Gerritsen Beach (at least I think that's Gerritsen Beach - you know, where it's all twisty-turny and there's sand all over the path and there's a little port-a-potty stop?)
Well, right there as I slowed to take a 'natural break', I got broadsided by another cyclist.
Now I've never been in an accident with another cyclist.
I've been doored by cars and I've hit things and fallen, mostly I slow speed topple over while trying to do dumb things, but I've never actually been in a high speed crash.
I wish I could describe what happened, but I can't. One minute I was on my bike and the next, I was all the way across the road on my back. I got hit so hard, I was thrown clear of my bike and didn't even get a scrape.
I checked myself, I checked my bike, I checked the guy (he said he was fine, although I think he knocked the wind out by slamming his stem into his own sternum) I got back on my bike and continued down the path.
Five miles later the adrenaline high wore off and I've never felt worse in my life.
Everything hurt, every mile was agony. I was thirsty no matter how much I drank, and hungry no matter how much I ate, I was tired no matter how slow I went, and I was depressed no matter how beautiful the day was.

I struggled on through to Queens. Gamely did my loop around the Velodrome.
And then at the absolute stinkiest part of the bike path along Flushing Bay - you know which part I'm talking about...

This happened.


I managed to get my tire fixed, rode 20 feet and - don't ask how, it's too embarrassing - broke the tip off the brand new tire nozzle.

A couple of Marshalls stopped to help me and give me a new tube, and I stumbled unhappily into Astoria Park.

Then the person who was supposed to be watching my dog called to tell me they were sick and couldn't get to my house and I just gave up.

I was out of shape, out of spare tires, and out of gas.

I crawled back to the park, picked up my tee shirt and cookie and headed home.

When I finally stripped out of my riding gear, I found a bruise the width of a tire perfectly imprinted on my right upper thigh.

I count myself lucky it wasn't worse. I hope that guy is ok. And I owe that Marshall a drink.

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