Since I blogged about my experience with the 5Boro last year I’ll try not to be too repetitive but it was really similar except, (spoiler alert) this year I finished it! Oh and if you like the photos and are wondering how I managed to take photos of myself, I didn’t. I barely pulled my camera out the entire ride, husband on the other hand was a shutterbug, these are all his.
The BQE was a breeze compared to last year’s disastrous delays. However, there were a few delays in other places like Harlem and of course at the start but again, this year I finished, so who cares? Last year I was determined to get the ride done with which didn’t really work out so well, so this year I made a real effort to actually stop at the rest stops, grab the free bananas, bagels, and raisins as often as I needed them. I got stretching in, I hydrated and I kept repeating to myself that I could do it. My mantra was especially useful when I would glance over and see people 3 times my age cycling comfortably or when I’d see a 5 foot mother pulling her kid in a trailer or the guy on the unicycle or the other guy on the old time high wheel bicycle manage to keep going. I met a group of people old enough to be my grandparents who traveled from Canada for the ride and said they frequently do centuries I need to figure out their secret, but I’m sure it’s just simple dedication to a goal. “I can do this” was my mental mantra.
Another major difference was that this year I didn’t want to do the tour. When Bike New York announced that entry would be based on a lottery, I was actually happy because the odds were against us getting in. When the husband wanted to put our names in (because he was super excited) I agreed that he could, all the while expecting the odds to beat us. Then he got the email that we’d been accepted. The 40 miles I couldn’t finish last year were suddenly coming back to mock me this year.
We again got a hotel room near the start, last year we stayed at the Millennium overlooking the 9/11 Memorial, this year they sold out quickly so we booked at The Conrad overlooking the Hudson. All I can say about The Conrad is that it was the most amazing hotel I’ve ever stayed at and I’ve technically stayed at that hotel before, when it was the Embassy Suites Battery Park. It was awesome when we stayed there in 2010 while we did some apartment hunting before moving to NYC. But now it is insanely stunning, everything is different in a good way, everything is super high tech and completely re-furbished or replaced all together and the customer service at The Conrad was amazing once we were on-sight. There was a snafu with their bike storage policy, as in when I agreed to pay $300+ for a one night stay at their hotel I called to ask about a bike storage fee and they said there wouldn’t be one. Then the night before the ride I called again to see if we could get an early check-in and they told me it would be $50 per bike, “by the way.” A call to the manager did nothing, he was a horrible customer service representative for The Conrad Brand, but a compliant on social media and not only was our bike storage suddenly free but also the hotel manager (different guy from the previous night) personally greeted us and showed us to our room. He gave us a tour of the room and showed us how to turn the lights on and off, ’cause it’s that high tech. Seriously, I must return to The Conrad. In fact, the loads of amenities made it super hard to leave the next morning for the bike ride.
This year’s staggered start seemed to relieve some of the bottleneck but like I mentioned above a new one developed in Harlem that I don’t remember from last year. We basically walked through Harlem rather than rode. But this year rather than try to tip-toe on my bike I immediately dismounted and pushed my bike, which for me helped conserve energy and frustration. Oh, but back to the staggered start: This year we actually got to hear a little welcome speech because of it. Last year if you weren’t in the first group closest to the speakers then you didn’t hear a word. So that was kinda nice if abbreviated, but seriously after inching forward from Battery Park we were all ready to go anyway.
Oh, also, this year was a bit cooler and more overcast than last year so I was able to leave my jacket on the whole ride. (That’s my UT Longhorn jacket by the way! I got it on sale at the UTCoop for like $10 a few years ago and it has been totally worth it. Hook ’em.) This was fine and dandy until I finally took my jacket off only to see a very distinct tan on the back of my hands. Very awkward at work. And, yes I slathered on the sun block but just a few times and I don’t think I ever gave my hands much thought. Plus once you are riding for a while you just feel dirty. Same stripe-tan around my calves where my tights ended. Now that I think of it, this year I also brought along my trusty seat adjuster thingy so adjusted my seat height a few times during the tour in order to get the most power out of my legs as possible which was a major boost to my overall endurance.
My favorite part of the ride aside from rolling into the finishers party was that the stop before the Verrazano was right at an easy transition point rather than at the base of the spiral on ramp. (disclosure: i am not a driver and don’t really know the technical words for the spiral ramp and whatever we used this year.) What I can say is that the climb to get to the top wasn’t as daunting visually and likely physically this year as last year (although, if you read last year’s post you know I didn’t even attempt the Verrazano). I kept pushing myself a little further thinking when we get to the really awful part I’ll dismount, I actually rode most of the way and only dismounted near the top to give myself a little rest. Then after snacking and stretching I was so ready to be done with my bike by the time we rolled out of the festival for the ~3 mile ride to the Staten Island Ferry. Those 3 miles were like a cruel joke. My legs were revolting but somehow I made it!
Oh, sheesh, another thing I should mention is that the ride seemed better organized this year and the tour volunteers seemed more dedicated to their roles and much better informed than previously. Last year I was stuck on the BQE with a few of the volunteers who flat out said they were in it for the free ride. But this year the volunteers were so awesome that at a booth in Battery Park selling last minute shorts and power bars I saw a cyclist ride up and ask for a water bottle (the one thing they didn’t sell). A volunteer overheard, emptied his personal bottle and handed it to the cyclist telling him he needs to stay hydrated and instructed him to rinse and refill it at the fountain nearby. So that’s awesome, but again, I don’t want to do it again. I slew the dragon. I’m good, really. I’d rather be running.