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A Golden Fifty

I rode another fifty miles yesterday in the Golden Apple Tour. It was beautiful warm day for the ride, a moderately hilly and frequently beautiful route through parts of New York's Westchester County. Here's how it went:

-1.5 miles: Lots of cyclists on the road as I approach the registration area by car. Are they really riding up this hill at the start of the ride>.

1.5 miles: Not so bad, really. OK. I haven't been properly training in a month, maybe I'm just getting worried over nothing.

5 miles: Happily crossing a bridge over a lake and watching people fishing from a rowboat twenty or thirty feet below me it suddenly occurs to me that my only security is a light guardrail that comes up only to my knees. I adjust my course to put some distance between myself and said rail.

10 miles: We're on an absolutely lovely paved bike path through the woods. Tall trees arch together like a cathedral high overhead the long straight path. Pale yellow leaves fall across the path as I ride.

13 miles: Getting back on the path after the first rest stop I find a ride marshal attempting to bodily block the rider behind me from continuing on the course. "Sir, I have to ask you to put your helmet on. Sir, put your helmet on right now!"

"You want me to put my helmet on in the street?," the rider asks, while pedalling around his now flumoxxed antagonist. Picture this: a heavyset forty-something man with his helmet slung over a handlebar. The helmet is mandatory, and he would have had to be wearing it at registration and various other points along the ride, but he evidently removes it as soon as he's out of sight, only to carry it the entire way anyway. I am quite certain that it's significantly less fun to have a helmet dangling from one handlebar for 25 mile miles or more. Some people are just so blockheadedly stupid.

13-14 miles: I slowly pass perhaps ten small clumps of riders, families and friends riding together, exchanging pleasntries after calling out "on your left!" as I approach.

14.5 miles: Where'd everybody go? Having not seen another soul for half a mile I realize I was supposed to leave the path at the last crossing, and I double back.

15-16 miles: I slowly pass perhaps ten very familiar small clumps of riders, families and friends riding together, exchanging pleasntries after calling out "on your left!" as I approach. I hope this bent their brains a little.

25 miles: "He's got it! Yeah baby, he's got it!" I feel absolutely great as I pass the starting point to begin the second half of my figure-eight ride. There are only two other rest stops (at 12.5 and 34.3 miles, for some reason) and I consider taking a break at the registration area but I'm feeling so good I decide to just keep going. Not training for a month hasn't slowed me down at all!

30 miles: Not training for a month has bitten me in the butt. I'm crawling along, limping up slight hills, week in the knee, lactic acid burning in my thighs. I find myself singing "The Sloop John B." as I struggle along.

34.3 miles: I sack out in the grass at the last rest stop and eat half the snacks I brought with me. Usually I don't sit down but there's no question this time.

40 miles: Feeling just fine again. How'd my average speed slip down there? I wonder if I can fight it back up. I begin pushing hard, even up the hills.

45 miles: On a shoulderless road I've chosen to occupy the righthand lane. A car pulls up close behind me and leans on his horn. Greatly startled, I manage to spin around and glare at the vehicle, which it turns out is not even trying to pass me. The driver was turning right and I wasn't even in his way. Creep.

49 miles: I'm coming up on that hill from the beginning of the ride again, but from the other direction this time.

50.5 miles: This time it's hard. And I'm trying to hammer my way over it to keep my speed up.

52.06 miles: Done! I made it, with my average speed about 1mph higher than I've managed in the past.

The falling leaves on the bike trail was a transcendent moment. The whole bike trail leg was beautiful, really. One other highlight stands out for me. I didn't include it above because I can't remember when it happened:

Beginning a mild climb I'm passed by three fitter riders in close formation. I pick up the pace on the hill and fall in behind them in the following flat section, hoping to get some benefit from drafting them. These guys clearly know what they're doing riding solidly so close to one another. Me, I'm counting on my excellent brakes.

We ride into an oxbow of a road with housing subdivisions downhill on the outside and larger homes on the hill within. We hit a steep descent. I fall back from these guys a little bit but race along, pedalling steadily in top gear as we pass a few slightly slower riders. We occupy the entire unlined road, which I hope (but am not certain) is one way. At least we can see far ahead.

When we bottom out and reach the next climb I find the hardcore guys slowing down more than I am. I crank and manage to pass one of them on the climb. In the next steep descent they (inadvertantly) block me from trying to pass them, but I take them both on the second climb, pulling ahead for a while.

Later they all pass me again before turning off on one of the longer routes, but those hills, down and up, were glorious. I reached 40 miles per hour in perfect comfort and control on this smooth, empty road, and I outclimbed better riders. Not as sweet as the bike path, but it was quite a rush.


It sounds like a really beautiful ride on a beautiful day. And congratulations on retaining that state of fitness--you must be in overall better shape than you realized. Nice dicovery, eh?

I feel pooped just reading it!

I'm so jealous! Sounds like a fantastic ride. I wish I could have gone with you. Congrats on taking on the challenge and toughing it out to prove to yourself, once again, that you can do whatever you set your mind to!

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