Laurent has always complimented me on my time management skills, never more in evidence than last Saturday on the NJ 300K pre-ride.
My friend Chris Newman, to create a bit of a challenge for herself for the day, rode her fixed-gear bike on this route with 11,000 feet of climbing. It helped a little, but to provide an example of how much stronger she is: she stopped half way up Jenny Jump to take photos, walked two very steep sections, stopped at the port-a-potty, and still beat me to the top. A humbling experience.
I’ve never been fast, but I’ve begun to worry about my ability to get around courses in time with two bad knees. I get uncomfortable out there, but it’s still true that time spent on the bike is better than, well….many things.
Jon Levitt, Chris and I gathered outside the Westin and started at 4am. We rode quietly through the pre-dawn hours, arriving at the bagel shop in Whitehouse just after light. Coffee and food was definitely required, and it was early so we were quickly served. After having a brief meltdown about my aching knees (with only 30 miles done…and hardly any of the climbing), I got back on my bike and headed it in the right direction. A short time later, Jon pushed ahead, leaving Chris and me to our slow but steady pace up hills and down hills, along streams, past farms, through tiny towns, with splashes of color everywhere since trees, bushes, and flowers are now in full bloom. The picturesque scene was completed by regular sightings of chickens, goats, cows and horses. This route is incredibly scenic.
We never left a control with more than 10, 15 or 20 minutes in hand, but we managed to keep ourselves well-fed and hydrated all day. It’s important on this route…all of the climbing requires extra energy. I paid careful attention to how my body was performing and ate as soon as I found myself feeling like I wasn’t going to make it up the next hill. In the past few years, I’ve done a much better job of knowing when I need to eat to keep my pace up to what is normal for me. Fortunately for us, Jayne had sent me off with a bag of oatmeal, cranberry, chocolate chip cookies, and they were perfect at two or three points during the day.
The iconic climb at Jenny Jump is followed soon enough by the 6-mile gradual climb on Penwell which gets you to the Schooley Mountain General Store (not a control but a great place to stop). There we bought sandwiches, eating half and saving half for Hacklebarney since we were riding unsupported. I hear there is going to be quite the reception for riders this coming Saturday so no need to carry sandwiches from Schooley Mountain.
I always feel a little relief when I get to Hacklebarney because I know a big downhill and a pretty good flat section follows that control. A bonus was riding Black River Rd in light…something I’ve never done before. Not only were we better able to see the potholes in the rough sections, we also got to see the river all along the way. I guess this event is scheduled later than usual and daylight savings is earlier…so even slow riders get to do most of this ride in light. Soon enough you’re back in Whitehouse with only 30 miles to go.
We opted not to stop in Whitehouse but kept going to the Wawa which is about 10 miles further along (only 20 miles from the finish). A quick hot coffee and one more snack and we were fueled for the last miles. We were still running at the edge of the time limit but steady pedaling got the job done. Gently rolling hills for a while, and then it’s almost flat for the last 10 or 15 miles. No heroic efforts required, just a steady pace and the patience to keep going.
I often enjoy the last part of a ride that ends at night. Everything is quiet again, and you can only see in front of you and maybe the silhouette(s) of the friend(s) you’re riding with. In NJ, the orange glow from nearby cities usually lights up the horizon, and the red tail lights of planes track across the dark sky. Sometimes we talk quietly to make the miles pass by faster, but sometimes we just ride.