Last year, when I did my first century, it seemed like such a big deal. I had a training plan that I executed pretty well, butterflies in my stomach the day/night before, and set dietary requirements for the ride. It was also a big deal for my family in that Mom, Becky, and my friend Lisa, came to the finish line with champagne and had decorations waiting out the house when I returned.
This year was toned down for me in the sense that I never got into a regular training schedule, and as far as food requirements, heck I just wung (is that a word?) it. Also, we didn't even register for the ride until a few weeks out, waffling on whether we would do a century and if so, which one. As far as friends and family, well our true blue fans, Becky and Lisa were still at the finish line (no champagne this time), and instead of decorations at home, Becky gave me a cool henna pumpkin tattoo with a "100" in the middle.
All that said though, this was a great ride.
First, it's called the Pumpkin Patch Pedal and it's sponsored by the Staten Island Bike Association. Though from Staten Island, they come out here to Central (and southern Jersey) to do their ride. Now here's the fun part, the claim to fame of the PPP is that they have pie at the rest areas! Turns out they only serve it at the last rest area (which makes sense; I mean who wants to ride 75 or 50 miles with some pumpkin pie lodged in your stomach?). Anyway, it was the pie at the rest areas that really attracted me to this one (and you didn't believe I was food oriented?).
We started out for Thompson Park in Jamesburg sometime after 6:00am hoping for a 7:00am start of our ride. Unfortunately, it was not to be, for once we parked our car and headed over to the registration area, a bit of pandemonium occurred. We got in line, according to the first initial of our last name, and chatted with some other riders for a few moments before a member of the SIBC announced that the registration was messed up and we needed to line up by the first initial of our first name. So everyone changed lines (Chris and I in two separate ones now). When he got to the front of the line, they couldn't find his registration. They told us to talk to the woman who made the announcement, who of course was frazzled and hard to pin down. She couldn't find it either (and a few others went missing) but finally it turned up, under, the first initial of our last name. Okay people, how hard is it to do a sort?
Anyway, after we worked that out, we walked over to the gazebo for breakfast. This was a nice feature of this ride, they served a breakfast, bagels, muffins, quick breads, fruit, and coffee!!! I had a small coffee (didn't want to have to pee), and half a bagel - throwing caution to the wind on my glucose levels. You see, bagels notoriously spike my blood sugar and while it's great for the first hour of the ride, somewhere along the second hour, I crash (aka bonk).
After that, we hit the road about 7:20 - 7:30am, in a crisp (I mean cold) 45 degrees. First up, riding up the hill to get out of the park, towards Perrineville road. Man, that's someway to wake up.
Now as far as the cold, Chris and I had our regular summer riding clothes on because later in the day we were supposed to reach 80 degrees, so for now the only additions we had because of the temperatures were long-fingered gloves and arm warmers (these pieces of fabric that basically turn your short sleeve jersey into a long sleeve jersey but that can be easily removed).
The start of the ride is cool and pretty with fog and mist still clinging to the fields. We pass some riders, who got an earlier start, and some riders pass us, par for the course. There were a few pounders out there (i.e., guys that can maintain 19 - 20 mph for the duration) but I'm not one of them. Chris wishes he were though.
The first 26 miles are a bit hilly but nothing major; we're entirely familiar with most of the roads having ridden them often enough, and just as my bagel is wearing off, we roll into the first rest area in New Egypt at about nine-something and 26 miles.
Chris at the First Rest Stop
They've got great oranges at the rest area, so I have some of those and some pumpkin bread, also a piece of cheese, which I've never seen at a rest area but makes for a nice addition. No water refills at this point as we've hardly drank.
After Chris makes a pit stop, we head back out. The twenty-five mile area is the turn-around for the 50, so it's the most crowded. As we go along, the 62 mile (aka metric century), riders turn off too, so the field thins.
We meander through some back roads, finally emerging on route 539 just past Emery's Blueberry Farm (good pies). This part of the ride is a little ... nerve wracking I guess. Route 539 is a pretty busy, 55mph, country road that meanders down towards the shore, so it can get pretty crowded. There's a decent shoulder though and it's nice having eight miles to ride without any turns or stops, which slow you down.
Pretty quickly we reach Route 70/530 and head in that direction for another 10 miles. Route 530 is good too with a big wide shoulder but eventually it gets bumpy as there's cracks in the pavement like every 10 feet or so. Somewhere along this route a group of four riders (hammer wanna bees) pass us. We will continue to go back and forth throughout the day because they take longer breaks than we do.
We pull into the second rest stop, which is the parking lot of a Burger King somewhere around 10:40. Pretty much the same food fare but it's nice having a real bathroom to use.
Chris at Second Rest Stop
Now at this point in time, my back has started to twinge and my shoulders burn a bit. I'd been having problems with both for the last few weeks and the Advil I took before we started was wearing thin but it was too early to take another dose.
Same pattern as last time, only this time, I made the pit stop, but we headed out after about five minutes or so (also after switching to short-fingered gloves and removing our arm warmers) for the longest leg of the ride, the 30 or so miles that meandered (with lots of stops and turns) back west and then north. Again, not so bad and more country roads though I did get nervous when I saw Arneys Mountain road on the cue sheet. It's been my experience that when a road has mountain or hill in its name, that's not a good thing. But this "mountain" was more a mound and didn't take much crossing. The only nerve-wracking part of this leg was the crossing of route 68 but we had timed it just right and didn't have to wait to cross.
It was also along this part of our route that I finally saw our first pumpkin patch! Up until now we had seen soy beans, corn, sunflowers, cows, goats, horses, heck, even cranberry bogs, but no pumpkin patches.
In the end, we only saw two and Chris wouldn't let me stop to take pictures of the second one as we were way too close to home.
Anyway, shortly after spying the pumpkin patch I needed to stop for that second dosing of Advil and a snack (I had grabbed some fig newtons at the rest area). While stopped, another couple passed us (asking if we were okay as they rode by). It wasn't long before we caught them, and then road together for a bit before we took off.
About the time we approached 539 (about 75 miles), I started to drag again. Feeling generally lousy, I just went into look-down and pedal mode. Unbeknownst to us though, it was about at this point that my father in-law drove past us on his way home from the shore. Good thing he didn't stop to offer us ride, I may have taken him up on it.
Finally, after the last of the hills (even the small ones were giving me angst now), we pulled into the third rest area (1 mile out of the way - 1/2 mile each way to get to it - argh. Oh it was about 12:50pm). But it was a good one. They had a man, dressed as a pumpkin, on the road waving riders in and there was pie!
Chris and his Pie
In addition to the pie, I re-filled water bottles (we were seriously drinking at this point as the weather had warmed up nicely), grabbed some oranges and had a slice of cheese before we hit the road for the last 20 miles. This rest stop probably lasted the longest.
Feeling totally rejuvenated we cruised. Approaching Herbert Road, those faux pounders passed us again but had to stop at the intersection not realizing which way they should turn (do you think the pumpkin in the road with the arrow pointing left wasn't a good enough clue in addition to our cue sheets?). We yelled at them, "Go left," as we road by. And again, about half-way down Herbert they passed us again. Eventually though we caught them, and stayed with them (it's nice riding with a group b/c it really does break down the work you have to do). I don't know if they got slower or that they were never really that fast to begin with.
At some point though, one of them dropped something (a case containing pills, that spilled all over the roadway) and we kept going. Approaching the intersection though with Prospect Plains road, and the red light that had a "No Turn on Red" sign, we stopped. But the faux pounders just blew through it. That's why cars hate bikers because of stunts like that.
But at least one of the three that blew through, didn't get it. The reason there's a light there (with a no turn on red sign) is b/c basically, the cross streets don't line up, so to continue on the route, you have to make a right and a very quick left. If you blow through into the right lane like they did, and there's a car in the left lane, you won't be able to continue and he didn't it. It gave us some minor satisfaction. People, bikes are treated like vehicles - the rules apply to you too!
Anyway, off my soapbox now. Knowing we were close to the end, we cranked, hitting speeds of 18 to 19mph for the last few miles and that uphill we had to climb at the beginning? Well, yep it's a downhill at the end! We cruised into the park (after navigating a police car that had pulled someone over and was blocking the entrance - duh - do you not see the riders streaming around and the cars trying to get in - move the pulled over guy into the lot!), we pedaled back towards our car, where Becky and Lisa waited on some chairs in the shade with some damn good ice water. It was a bit after 2pm.
I know Becky took some pictures of us at the finish but I haven't had a chance to get them from her and will post them later.
All things considered, I think I felt better at the finish of this one than the last. There's definitely something to be said against riding a century in 90+ heat - the weather on Sunday couldn't have been more perfect.
Final stats, six hours, sixteen minutes of riding with max speed of 30mph and average speed of 16.1 (our goal had been 16mph), covering 101 miles (that stupid third rest stop added on that extra mile). As of noon, when my heart rate monitor died, I had burned about 2500 calories.