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Riding to Glory, the Soggy Edition

May 13, 2009

five_boro_logo On May 3 (that’s 2 Sunday’s ago – was it really that long ago?!?) , I participated in AND FINISHED the 5 Boro Bike Ride. 42 miles baby.  But that ain’t the whole story.

Let me go back a bit here.  I signed up for this ride a few months ago along with 5 other friends.  The intention was to have something to train for in spin class, and to give me a reason to get out on my bike.  Also, to have some fun with friends riding on city streets that normally aren’t closed to traffic.

Flash forward to May 2, the day before the race.  I’m getting bummed because the weather forecasts are calling for rain both days of the weekend, with Sunday potentially being worse.  Certainly, we can ride in the rain, but who really wants to?  Saturday ends up being really really nice, and we think, hey, they got the forecast wrong today, tomorrow should be fine.  And when we wake up, we hear the weatherpeople say that the rain should hold off until the afternoon.

Great, we think.  We’ll be finished LONG before the afternoon, and it will all be ok.  We get up on Sunday morning and drive in 2 cars into the city.  Our plan is to park in Lower Manhattan and ride up the West Side Highway, cutting over on 57th street to meet the tour in Central Park.  That will help us get a jump on things, and avoid the areas where it’s most crowded and biking gets difficult.  On the way in, we notice rain drops.  But we are not deterred.  No, we press onward.  We park the cars and begin our ride uptown, all the way dodging raindrops.  We think, it’s ok, the rain will let up soon.  He’s the (albeit blurry) view from 57th St and 6th Avenue looking north:

bike ride blurry

Oh yeah, it’s wet.  Most of us have foul weather gear under our tour vests.

The ride itself was a blast.  After heading through the park, we took one of the bridges into the Bronx, and then took the other one back into Manhattan and headed up the FDR.  But first, a rest break…gotta get some water and LaraBars!

bike ride rest stop

OK, so my pictures aren’t that great.  They were taken on my Blackberry (no room for a separate camera on the bike) and, hello!, it was raining, so I didn’t want to keep any electrical equipment out for any period of time.

After our rest stop, we headed down the FDR to the Queensboro bridge for my first taste of a hill climb.  I did ok, but the rain was starting to bug me.  We looped around Astoria Park, and then headed to Brooklyn.  By the time we got to the Brooklyn Bridge, which is a spot where you can leave the tour and head back into Manhattan, I was certainly debating doing just that.  I was wet.  Soaked even.  And certainly bordering on cranky.  My buddy Elka was riding with me then and I don’t think she’s heard the f-bomb dropped that many times since her days in the Marines (just kidding, E!).  Elka wasn’t hearing anything about leaving the tour, so we sludged on.  It was then that we realized we still had several miles (14?) left to go, and that was really depressing.  But we moved on!

Heading onto the BQE (closed to car traffic, like all our paths) was when I started to get a little freaked out.  We were able to move more quickly, but at the same time, it meant the rain was pounding down on us.  Plus, the other side of the road was open to traffic, so cars were splashing us from their puddles.  There was a REALLY big hill climb on the BQE, which I managed, but utterly lost it on the other side as my brakes failed when I was coasting down.  Maybe they were too wet?  Anyhow, it really slowed me down, not being able to take advantage of the speed from the downhill.

As we headed towards the Verrazano bridge, the defining moment of the ride, we found ourselves stopped on the BQE while 3 lanes merged into 1.  They didn’t want any wipeouts from riders, so they were slowing us down.  We spent almost 30 minutes up there, being whipped by cold winds coming off the harbor.  Many many F bombs were dropped here, as I wondered aloud to Elka why we were there, and tried to click my heels to transport me home to my warm bath.

Once we were able to ride again, we headed toward the  bridge.  At least I think we were heading to the bridge, everything was so clouded in fog.  As much as I was dreading the bridge, due to it being 10 minute hill climb, essentially, it was conquerable!  I decided that I was going to go for it all the way, and would not allow myself to stop and walk no matter how soggy I was.  I made it!  I made it all the way!  I was humming the theme to “Rocky” the whole time, but I made it.  I was so proud and took it as a reward for all the hard work I’ve been doing at the gym.

When we crossed the bridge and made it to the Festival, we added “muddy” to soaked – the fields were covered in it, and my sneakers were wrecked.  But I was so glad to see the NYSC provided lunches we got in our registration package, and the Starbucks truck where I got a most welcome hot cup of coffee.  I didn’t even mind the fact that we had 3 more miles to ride in Staten Island till we could get to the Ferry that would take us back to Manhattan.  I had done it – 42 miles on a bike in the rain.  An accomplishment to truly be proud of.

After leaving the Ferry, we rode back to the garage.  Some of us changed for the ride home.  I just took off my jacket, which now weighted about 10 pounds due to the rain it took on.  Yes, it’s waterproof, but because I didn’t tie it tight around my head, which would have been most uncomfortable combined with a bike helmet, rain came through under my neck, and by the end of the ride I was soaked.  No matter.  I came home, shaking and blue, and warmed up and rejoiced with the family.  I can say that I am totally looking forward to doing this next year, but if the forecast calls for rain, I might be content to watch it on a web cam from home!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2009 10:49 am

    Yay!!! Congratulations.
    I enjoy your honest rendition of what was clearly a tough day.

  2. Liz Kaplan permalink
    May 14, 2009 12:37 pm

    Wow, Ellen, COngratulations! I am impressed!

  3. June 1, 2009 9:01 am

    Congratulations, colleague! I’m friends with someone who also completed the tour in that horrible weather. Here’s her story.

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