Monday, May 2, 2011

5 Boro Bike Tour 2011

Saturday I had my fundraiser (as you know if you've been following this blog) and by the end of the day I was EXHAUSTED.

I went to bed at 9:00pm and set my alarm for 6:00am. Woke up at 3:15am and that was it. I was up and awake.

I checked the weather on every website I could and they all told me the same thing. High of 66 degrees and partly sunny.  I grabbed my hoodie but wore shorts and a short sleeved teeshirt. A choice I would come to regret later on in the day.

I left my apartment at 6:30 and walked to the PATH train. I missed the 7am train but got on the 7:30 train. This meant I was cutting my own schedule really tight and I wouldn't have time to fart around at my mom's place when picking up the bike. (I keep my bike at my mom's place on Christopher Street)

I got off the PATH and was mildly surprised at how many folks I saw line up waiting for the tour to catch up to them so they could join and  not have to wait in the sea of folks at Battery Park. I growled a little to myself for running so late and having the corner I'd planned on staking out jammed with bikes already.

Ran to mom's, said hello to them, smooched their dog who thinks the world completely revolves around me (I chose her at the pound for my mother. I saw her and told mom that this was her dog and I don't think Georgie has forgotten it was I who sprung her. Either that or she just understands my true bad ass rock star-ness more than humans do.)

Grabbed the bike, did a quick spray of sunblock and raced out of the building. I decided rather than going to the spots on 6th that I knew were crowded I'd go up a block onto 10th Street.

My timing was insanely accurate because just as I hit 10th and 6th the cops on motorcycles and all the bike marshalls came flying by. Watching the pack of marshalls actually gave me goosebumps (Thinking about it now gives me goosebumps again) They seemed to be moving so insanely fast like a large sleek animal. They were hollering at each other and the people on the sides of the road waiting to join the tour.  They were packed in so so close to each other and seemed so at ease and strong.

Really impressive to watch, though I have to wonder now why they send the all important bike marshalls (and that's not at all tounge and cheek. I really mean it. Those folks are AWESOME and make the tour run smooth) out so close to the tour participants.  

I didn't hesitate and lept right in behind them and the second I did I cursed myself. Because of my "perfect" timing I hadn't had a chance to turn the Ipod speakers on or get my camera out.  At Times Square I pulled over and put on the music and forgot the camera. ::sigh:: 

Even with my one break that was all of 30 seconds, buy the time we were close to Central Park we were backed up two blocks away.
Last year I was routed through the entrance right off of 6th into the Park where we stopped and waited for a good half an hour as the bottleneck up on 116th street funneled people through.

This year avoiding that was my whole point for not starting at the starting area so when they directed us to go down to the 5th Avenue entrance I pedaled my heart out to get there fast. It didn't matter. I could have saved my energy.

HUGE hill first thing in. I tried to pedal it and got about half way up struggling when a voice piped up "Smarter, not harder. You have 40 more miles to go!" and I hopped off and walked her up the hill.

"Save your energy" I told myself. "You have nothing to prove to anyone but you and your goal is to get to Staten Island."
At the top of the hill I hopped back on to cruise down the other side.
I love the Central Park part of the ride. It's such a beautiful huge huge park and you see so many fun people and dogs out and about.

At one point we passed the Engineer's Gate on 90th Street and 5th Avenue I looked to my left to catch a peek at what used to be the bridle path and found myself fighting tears.

20 years ago I had my horse at Claremont Stables and every single day after school I'd take him out to Central Park for a gallop (he was an off the track thoroughbred who LOVED to run). 

That section of the Bridle Path was always my favorite beacuse it was straight and flat and the tourists were always horrified when he and I came flying through.

Before yesterday the last time I'd been in that spot was on his back.  Guess the memories are stronger than I thought they were.

I shook it off and reminded myself that this tour we were going to look all around us and really take in the sights and sounds and smells and feel of what we were passing.  I squared my shoulders and pedaled on up to 116th Street where we rode through Harlem and were quickly upon the first bridge.

I dismounted and didn't even attempt it.

There is a very large part of me that hates the fact that I'm not yet strong enough to pedal up big hills or bridges with my bike but there is also a rational side of me that knows the bike I've picked is big and heavy and is much harder to ride then the bikes everyone else is riding.  I've set myself up with a real challenge and my bike forces me to work twice as hard, even pedaling on the flat roads than those with  lighter multi-geared bikes. 

We made it off this bridge and into the Bronx. (I think it was the Bronx.  I'm a Born and Raised NYer who never explores the outer boros.) as quickly as we were off the one bridge we were at the second bridge. Again I had to dismount and walk. Mile 10 and I was feeling okay!

Then we were on the FDR Drive. Last year at this point I was so tired and in tears. I didn't think I could finish.

This "tunnel" is a treat for bikers and most go through it whooping and hollering. Last year I pedaled through it in total distress. My legs were cramping, my stomach was in knots and I was in full panic mode.
NOT any fun at all.
This year I had a huge stupid grin plastered on because I felt really good. Not tired, legs felt strong and I was ready to keep pedaling.

This is one of the spots I had to stop last year and regroup myself. Not this year. I passed it with a big grin.

I knew that there was a hill ahead that a marshal made me pedal up last year and I prayed it wouldn't happen again.
It didn't. I dismounted and walked it.
Then we were at the Queensboro Bridge which is where I truly melted down last year. I pulled over and sat for half an hour struggling with the idea of quitting the tour. I finally decided to keep going but I was so tired last year. This year I was tired but the question of whether or not to continue didn't enter the picture.
Then we were in Queens and apparently I was early in the tour enough to not hit the bypass and was able to pedal 4 miles in parts of Queens I didn't get to see last year.

Then we were at the Queens Rest Stop where they made us dismount and walk our bikes. I didn't want to stop so I was following the flow of traffic headed back to the tour when, amongst the sea of bikes I saw a flash of pink and knew immediately that it was Sheryl.

Can you spot her in this photo?

For a split second I debated not approaching her and then I realized it had to be fate that put us at this spot at the same time and if I didn't go introduce myself I'd regret it later.

I found her blog almost 2 years ago and was so inspired by her weight loss journey I decided to embark on one of my own and started to exercise. She's the reason I ever got back on a bicycle.

Our encounter was brief because she and the gal she was riding with wanted to get back on the road.

I was so glad to have finally met her after all our failed attempts and email exchanges.

Back on the bike we almost immediately encountered ANOTHER hill. I tried to pedal it but couldn't do it.

Sheryl pedaled past me and apologized for the short encounter.
Great. Pretty, fit and polite. If I didn't think she was so cool, I might have to hate on her for being so close to perfect!

Queens is a boro that I've not spent too much time in so I reminded myself to really look around and take in what I was passing.

My brain didn't want to go to the rest stop but my body won out. I had to stop for a snack and some water.

Last year this is where I really really hit the bottom of my tank.
I didn't stop at the rest stop last year but I remember passing it as it was shutting down which meant I was at the tail end of the ride. I tried to will myself to pedal on but couldn't go much further.

Last year I dismounted my bike right in front of that doorway and called my dad to come and get me.
This year I waved to the doorway as I passed.

Then we were in DUMBO Brooklyn and the ride was nice and smooth till we hooked a left and started to ride under the BQE and I knew we had a HUGE HUGE hill coming.
My photos don't do justice to this highway incline. I of course was walking the bike and I think I walked it for a good 15 mins till we crested.

Once we got  up onto the BQE it was semi flat riding till we ran into the single lane getting down onto the Belt Parkway. They were funneling riders through only a few at a time to avoid accidents but it caused a HUGE backup. I waited about half an hour to get through.
At this point in the tour my legs were so exhausted I was happy to be off the bike for a while. All too soon though we were on the Belt Parkway with the Verrazano looming ahead of us. Cross that bridge and you were at the festival!

Not so fast or easy for my now completely exhausted gams. I had to keep reminding myself to stay loose and breathe and I was going so so slowly.
This was the first time all tour that my eyes filled with tears. My thigh muscles were just so exhausted and didn't want to work.
When my right calf cramped I had to get off and walk for about half a mile.
This was hands down the most frustrating part of the tour for me. I was SO close to the end and my body wasn't cooperating! It's very frustrating when your limbs won't follow the commands your brain gives them.

So I walked and then had to walk up the ramp to the next rest stop where I stopped and sat in the grass and took a few deep breaths. I drank my lukewarm water, ate another package of crackers and got back on to cross the Verrazano.

This is the last photo I was able to take beacuse my camera battery died.
I knew I'd be walking this bridge. It's HUGE and INSANELY steep and goes on for what feels like forever.
I walked and walked and walked and my hands cramped and my shoulders cramped and my lower back screamed and then we were at the middle and I mounted up again and cruised down into the festival.

I'd been getting frustrated calls from my husband all day about the kids and I knew I had to get home quickly. I'd wanted to stay at the festival and walk around a little and maybe eat something but I grabbed my teeshirt and remounted for the last 3 miles. 

My body has a weird sense of humor because I got my second wind for the ride to the ferry. No aches in my legs, energy to spare and I pedaled my heart out getting the bike up to 16 miles an hour for over a mile. I hit the Ferry at 2:58pm and didn't load on till after 4 and then didn't leave Staten Island till almost 5. 

I was freezing cold at this point, cursing myself for not bringing the sweatshirt, my legs and feet were so exhausted and I had to pee but mostly I was stressed about my poor husband and the kiddos. I just wanted to get home but I knew it wasn't going to be that easy.

I still had another 3 miles once we got off the ferry and I had to drop the bike off at my mom's and get on the PATH home. I didn't get home till 6:30 and I was so sore and tired but really proud and felt like I'd accomplished something huge.

It was an amazing day and I'm glad I did it!!!


*Bitch Cakes* said...

awwww your comment about me made me laugh. I really *did* feel bad because I love spending time talking to my blog readers. I just know how hard it can be to get out of that rest stop and was anxious to get to the BQE based on that email I had received about the construction. Anyway, you did GREAT this year! Even you can acknowledge how different this year was compared to last year and that's awesome to note that progress! Congrats! (and I meant to ask you about the HK bag in your basket which was totes awesome!) Oh finally, I'm putting my blog together tonight. I will link to this post but can I also use the photo of us? I like yours better than mine. And ok one more thing - sorry I commented on your height. That was rude. You just project taller in photos and I didn't realize it was you at first!

Rutila said...

Hi, Diana! What a great re-cap, and congratulations for finishing the tour! Just wanted to let you know that you're not alone when it comes to walking your bike up ramps or having your muscles cramp: I experienced the same during last year's Century Tour on the 55-mile route. I even cried going up the Pulaski Bridge, which is near my house, because my calves couldn't take much more. Remember that a little practice on your bike goes a long way -- you'll be pedaling up ramps in no time!

Diana said...


The Hello Kitty bag came straight off of EBAY and it's one of my favorite HK bags that I own. I think my 30 plus year Sanrio obsession comes close to mirroring yours. I think I'll be 60 and still toting around Hello Kitty and Little Twin Stars accessories.

As for your short comment, it's not rude. It's a fact. I AM short. I'm a whopping 4'11" and I promise you, I wasn't in the least bit insulted by your comment.

I have no doubt you and I will meet up again and we can have a little longer conversation then.

it's so nice to hear that I'm not alone in the struggle at some points. My favorite overall take away from the whole day is how much stronger I am than last year. That means next year can only be better!

Tonya Ervin (FCC) said...

Way to go! My partner and I rode last year and the worst part was I was already kind of miserable and THEN I started my period. I remember being absolutely miserable on the BQE because my back hurt and I had cramps. Not my finest ride, but it made the end that much better :)

As someone working to lose weight and riding a bike to help with that, so much of this sounds familiar. Thank you for sharing!

Diana said...

Oh no! You got your period in the middle of the tour?! That's complete and total hell on earth!!!

I think crossing that finish line makes all the pain worth it!

Hippygal said...

Wow what an awesome achievement, something to be really proud of.... I found your link from bitchcakes and will continue reading your blog. I have recently purchased a bike and loving it, shame we are coming into winter here in New Zealand.

Diana said...

One thing I didn't note in this blog and it's rather pertinent to the experience is that my bike is a large single gear 60 pound Beach Cruiser. My eldest son has named her Bison because as he says "She's as big as a Bison" Just so you all know what it was I was riding and why I had to hop off at the hills...

sassy said...

What a great recap! Found your blog from Sheryls and you did an awesome job on such a long ride.
No shame is walking up hills. I have a geared bike and I do that!! I call it a scenery stop:)

Diana said...

do what I did when I first got my bike last February. Use that time to build up your muscles and train and get ready to ride when the weather turns warmer!

LOVE the idea of calling them Scenery Stops. I'm so stealing that...