Participants: (from the left)
It was 5:30 in the morning when my alarm rang. I opened one eye and turned on the laptop. The radar weather map was showing rain all over Manhattan and heavy rain closing in from NJ. The phone beeped. Elias's text message "I am almost on the way" had only one effect; I closed my eyes and decided to pretend that I don't have to get up for another 5 minutes.
I rolled my bike into the nearby deli shortly after 6:15 am. It was slightly raining outside. John, with cup of coffee and wet look on his face, was already there. Through a rainy window we could see groups of cyclists zipping by towards the start up line. Large cup of coffee, one bagel with ham and egg and 45 minutes later, our group was complete. We attached our ride numbers, one more time enjoyed the warm and cozy deli and rode off into a wet darkness of an early Sunday morning.
At the start up line, hundreds of cyclists patiently waited in front of us and thousand of cyclists behind us. Adrenaline and excitement was running high. In the air were last minute encouragements and last moment pictures. But the rain was coming down harder and harder. Buckets. Cats and dogs. Buckets of cats and dogs. Only strip of the light on the horizont suggested that there might be sun coming up in the darkness. And, finally the start! Elias hit the pedals and disappeared among the cyclists in front of us. This was the last time we saw him.
My shoes were completely wet before we even started. Five miles into the ride, the water was running up and down around my toes with every pedal stroke. The oncoming cars were splashing us with waves of water mixed with road dirt. At the 20 miles rest stop, my feet were so soaked that I could not move my toes in the shoes. I thought that I was really smart by wearing these thick wool socks... and yes, I was not cold later, but when the wool socks swelled with the rain water, not only that my whole foot went numb but also each of my legs suddenly weighted 10 lbs more. Such weight makes pushing 48/16 ratio on the fixed gear bike up the hill really painful.
The ride through Lincoln tunnel was kind of exciting but overall sucked. I got enclosed by some rookie road bikes, going too close besides me without understanding that my bike rocks left and right in a very fast pace as I spin down the tunnel at 35mph speed. Plus I am claustrophobic. There were tears in my eyes as we were getting enclosed by the concrete walls and slowly suffocated. Well, we did not suffocate but it surely did feel that way.
The ride along the Hudson River before the George Washington Bridge continued to be a bit misserable. My legs felt very heavy and even small hills were incredibly tough to ride. At that point, I could not move my toes anymore. Actually I did not feel my feet below the ankles. And I was puzzled why am I so tired and why all the hard training we've done is not paying off. It took the familiar River Road and its hills to pump a bit more confidence into my veins. My shoes started to dry up, my feet got some blood circulation going on and the feeling of concrete blocks attached to my feet slowly evaporated. I was finally convinced that I am not going to die while riding the rest of the 100 miles.
The next rest stop was at 50 mile mark. The flat part was over and the hilly part was about to start. Despite completely soaked cotton clothes, John heroically pedaled with us but decided to switch to 65 mile route and go back to Manhattan. The remaining three of us, Ned, Todd and I, continued our 100miles journey. With every pedal stroke the sky was getting brighter and the road was drier. Finally, the sun came out and we bathed in its sunshine. The miles were flying by and we enjoyed the colors of turning leaves, the bright blue lakes and the orange splashes of Halloween decorations around the road. Even a flat caused by an ugly piece of glass did not spoil my great mood.
With an aproaching finish line, the victory was in the air. I was finally certain that I am going to ride to the end. Zipping along the Riverside Drive and past my building, avoiding trucks and other dangers using my motorcycle eye for stupid drivers felt like an adventure. My muscles ached during every small hill and I did grow more and more tired but the proximity of the finish line worked like a charm. With ovations and cheers of the welcoming volunteers, after 7 hours of pedalling, we completed 100 miles. We took a group picture, ate some food, received t-shirts and went to have a beer while watching a sunset on the nearby 66th str pier. Seeing people in the wheelchairs at the finish line reminded me how incredibly lucky I am. With a beer in front of me, tired legs and wet shoes, life felt pretty awesome!