Hey there folks! Hope your Thursday is going well!
As I mentioned on Tuesday, I had a fantastic weekend in New York filled with a fun brunch date with my aunt, a Yankee game on a beautiful afternoon, and a great time at the bar with my friends. However, the real reason I went up to New York, of course, was to participate in a 40 mile bike ride around New York!
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember when I decided to sign up for the bike ride back in January. It was not initially something I was interested in, since it was pretty expensive (around $90 I believe) and I wouldn’t be able to train for it much since I would be spending so much time on my half marathon training (the bike ride was on May 5 and the half marathon is going to be on May 18, so training for both would have been tough). I also didn’t have a bike, so the idea of doing a 40 mile bike ride so close to my half marathon wasn’t even something I thought about.
Then I got an email from my dad saying he had signed up for the ride. I know I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but my dad is a bit overweight and I am always trying to get him in shape. I have suggested Weight Watchers and told him I would do the program with him, but I know ultimately it has to be something he wants himself. No amount of me pushing (or gently nudging) will do the trick.
That’s why I was so excited to hear that he signed up for the bike ride. I immediately registered myself (goodbye, $90) and asked Fabio if he wanted to join too. Fabio invited his dad along as well, and the four of us planned to ride as a team. Fabio and I each bought bikes (a lengthy process, which I should probably go into detail about sometime) and rode some bike trails around DC. While we were in no way “training” for the bike ride, I think we felt as prepared as we needed to be and were excited for the ride.
Then a couple of weeks before the race, my dad called to say his knees were bothering him. He has always had bad knees, and has had more than 30 surgeries on his knees in his life, including two knee replacements. I have to admit I wasn’t too surprised by this news, but I guess I just thought my dad wouldn’t have signed up unless he was sure he would be able to ride. I thought maybe his knees were doing better and that he’d be fine (which is, I think, what he thought too), but after completing just a few spin classes and riding about 4 miles with Fabio and me on a weekend when we had nice weather, I think it became clear to all of us that the ride wasn’t going to happen for my dad.
So, Fabio and I went up to New York by ourselves last weekend for the race. Of course I missed my dad and wished he’d been able to come, but his safety, of course, came first.
The morning of the race arrived, and Fabio, his dad, and I woke up at 6:00 am. We donned the matching bike jerseys that my dad got us as a good luck gift and got ready for the day!
We ate a quick breakfast of toast and eggs, and then piled our bikes onto the back of my car and drove to Citi Field to park and hop on the subway.
Soon we arrived in Manhattan (the race started all the way downtown) and had to walk quite a distance to the starting point (I think about 1.5 miles). The race had 32,000 people (!!!) and it took us forever just to get where we needed to be.
Here’s my Vine video from the starting point(ish).
On our way to the starting line, we passed the new building to commemorate the World Trade Center. It’s being finished up right now, but is already quite impressive! The last (and only other) time I did this bike ride was in 2002, and I remember we rode past Ground Zero which was still a big hole in the ground littered with teddy bears, candles, and flowers. It was nice to see that in the 11 years since my last ride, they have progressed so far. It was great to see!
Soon they played the National anthem, the bike ride began, and we were off! [Source]
The first few miles were spent going uptown in Manhattan, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was cool to be in the middle of the street and not have to stop behind a million cabs. It was smooth sailing and the sights of the city were awesome.
After about three miles, we made it to Central Park, which was lovely. This part of the ride was all pretty familiar to me, as I’ve spent a good amount of time in New York City over the years (including one summer where I lived there!).
Once we started getting further uptown, the familiar sights disappeared and I enjoyed seeing a brand new side to Manhattan (I think we were in Harlem). I was expecting it to be sketchy and dangerous-looking, but we actually went through some really cool neighborhoods.
Then we popped into the Bronx for literally five minutes, and came back out. I thought it would have been cool to explore the Bronx a bit more, but I guess the people who planned the route had other ideas, haha.
At this point we approached the first rest stop, where we decided to take a break to use the restroom and switch bikes (Fabio’s dad had a low-angled mountain bike, which would have been great for trail rides but was not so ideal for the city. They switched bikes periodically so neither of them got too tired).
After our pit stop, it was back on the road; this time to head downtown along a highway on the East River that was pretty familiar to me, on our way into Queens!
My favorite moment of the whole ride was right around this point when we all had to go through a tunnel and everyone started cheering and yelling. I’m not sure who started it, but it was as if everyone was feeling super excited and just couldn’t contain themselves anymore.
Of course I joined in the cheering, and rang the little bell on my bike a few times. It was awesome to hear so many people yelling all around me, while the sounds reverberated off the walls. Awesome!
Shortly after this, our ride came to a crawl and we thought maybe there was a security checkpoint ahead. There had been a few other incidents where we had to slow to an awkward walk-your-bike/try-to-keep-riding-slowly-and-not-fall situations, so we assumed something like that was happening again. Fabio took the time to make another Vine video, obviously.
Anyway, we eventually came to a complete stop and realized this was not just a random bottleneck congestion issue like before, but something that was causing a serious backup. At first I found this to be pretty annoying, but then I got out my phone and saw a text saying that my good friend Hana was stationed nearby to cheer us on.
Because we were at a complete standstill, she was actually able to come over and chat with us for a bit! This worked out perfectly because if she had been positioned anywhere else along the route, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have been able to say hi to each other.
While we were waiting around and wondering what the holdup was, Fabio’s phone started ringing. Then my phone rang. Then everyone’s phones rang. We soon realized it was the bike organizers sending an alert that the ride was being suspended due to a medical incident. What a fantastic alert system! I was super impressed.
Unfortunately, we later learned that the medical incident was a 51 year old man who suffered a heart attack on the Queensborough Bridge and died. Apparently this type of thing is pretty common for the ride, especially when there are 32,000 people involved, but it definitely shook me up a bit and left me feeling sad. I was also incredibly grateful that my dad wound up not doing the race, because frankly he’s not in very good shape himself and I’m not sure his heart could have handled it. That’s some scary stuff.
Anyway, eventually the incident cleared up and we were back on our way. Bye, Hana!
When we crossed the Queensborough Bridge, I felt like I was in heaven. We happened to be riding next to a guy with a stereo on his bike, so Bob Marley was blasting just as we were crossing the bridge and gazing over the beautiful view of Manhattan. I wish I had captured a picture, but I wasn’t coordinated enough. Too bad.
The rest of our ride was pretty uneventful, and we continued on our way through Brooklyn. We passed a ton of cute restaurant and bars, and even went through a neighborhood where all the little kids came out to cheer us on. It was awesome!
We bypassed the next two rest areas before finally stopping at one just 9 miles from the finish line. The views at this stop were incredible.
The remaining 9 miles of the ride went by pretty quickly and then, before we knew it, the Verrazano Bridge was in front of us. I remembered from the past that this bridge was incredibly difficult to tackle, but I was determined to bike up the whole thing without stopping.
It was super intimidating when we were at the bottom, but when I focused on making it to the area right in front of me I was able to keep going.
I pedaled and pedaled, and said a little mantra in my head, “Keep going, Keep going, Keep going…” and it worked! Eventually I made it to the top of the hill and I didn’t have to stop to walk! Woohoo!! It felt like such a great accomplishment since I saw tons of other people getting off to walk (just look at that photo above!).
Then I flew down the hill at what felt like lightning speed, and saw the festival and finish line to my right. Awesome!!
We did it!!
It only took us 5 hours and 4 minutes (with the delay from the medical incident) and I burned 1,609 calories. Nice!
The festival was really fun for a while and they had a live band and free samples of tons of goodies. We planned to stay to grab something to eat, but the lines were so long that we decided to wait until we got home.
Once we decided we had enough of the festival, we left, hopped back on our bikes, and rode three more miles to the Staten Island ferry (I would like to point out that no one told me we had to get back on our bikes after the finish line. UGH!).
The lines for the ferry were ridiculous…
It was quite the scene once everyone boarded.
Luckily we were seated by a window and saw some awesome views.
After we got off the ferry, we headed to another subway station and took the train back into Queens. Then we hopped in my car and immediately grabbed a celebratory dinner. It was an awesome day, and I’m so proud we were able to finish! Woohoo!
Question of the day: What makes you feel proud?