I got through its 68 fairly flat miles by brute force. This was the longest ride I have taken so far, almost twice as long as the Five Borough Bike Tour on May 2. I guess I need to keep working on conditioning, doing hour-long rides several times a week instead of these every-so-often killer rides.
I woke up at 5:30 and had oatmeal and a banana for breakfast, for fuel. Check-in for the ride was at the Babylon train station, where the 140-milers from NYC paused and the 100-milers started. For us 65 milers our bikes were trucked to Mastic and we rode the 8:30am train.
I joined an escorted "beginner" group which dispersed quickly - I saw few of them for the rest of the ride, probably because they were faster than me.
The weather was perfect, and I remembered my sunscreen this time. We inconvenienced several drivers as we monopolized the shoulder. One poor lady honked and shouted so I let her make a right turn in front of me. She was still fussing as I waved and shouted, "Have a NICE day" and the people behind me laughed.
I recall seeing two parachutes glide down as we passed Spadaro Airport. Skydiving might have been a less strenuous activity but I think I'll stick to biking for now.
Not long after a "Golf Crossing" sign (WHAT's crossing??) we arrived at the first rest stop in Westhampton Beach, where I ate a little and rested a little. I tried to rejoin the group but most had gone ahead already, so I just kept going alone. In a few minutes I was on the famous, not-always-passable Dune Road. I was on Dune Road forever. I was tanking already, and I swear it was uphill the whole time! That was an illusion that I endured several times during the ride.
At the end of Dune Road (finally!) I hardly even tried to ride up the Ponquogue Bridge - I walked up, and even that took my breath. Beautiful vista at the top, and a pleasant glide down the other side.
I remember passing the sign for Stony Brook University at Southhampton, and the Welcome to Southhampton sign, both indications of serious progress, but it's all a blur - I just kept cranking my pedals. I recall thinking, "Hey, you just rode a marathon!" at the 26 mile mark. My pleasure was tempered by the fact that I was less than halfway there. The glass was half-empty, I guess.
Somewhere in here I got the hang of following the painted road signs on the asphalt, which is a good thing because for several minutes at a time there was nobody ahead or behind to guide me. Many turns past beautiful mansions on smooth, quiet roads, and I arrived at the Watermill rest stop in Bridgehampton. Jason texted, "Still got legs?" and I replied, "So far, yes, 29 miles to go." More fuel and about a 20-minute rest, then off I went.
On this last segment I remember cussing at my legs and wondering why I was doing this, but I kept going, resting my butt by standing and coasting whenever I could go downhill. I watched the 50-mile mark tick off on my odometer, and kept plugging away. There were many swallows and shore birds, and I saw a killdeer browsing a lawn as I passed. I even saw a field filled with cows, some of whom seemed as interested in me as I was in them. Somewhere in there I crossed the little bridge for which Bridgehampton was named, according to the sign.
Where the back roads led us up to Montauk Highway I stopped for five minutes and refueled. By this time my butt was pretty sore, but standing and walking around was all I needed.
We were on Montauk Point State Highway, well, forever. It got hilly, one last test for the already-weary. I took one long hill in about 5 chunks, and one short, steep hill in about 5 more. One person asked if I was OK as she passed; I replied, "Yep, just catching my breath." No lie, it's just an indication that I have conditioning work to do. Then I looked at my bike computer and realized that I had just "ridden my age" - 58 miles. It was at that point that I knew I would finish, even if I had to stop once a minute. Which is what I proceeded to do until I got up that hill.
I finally got to sail downhill towards the end, as we arrived in Montauk proper. It was only a couple of miles through town to arrive at the train station and the end. If I had rushed, I could have caught the 5:28pm train back to Babylon, but I decided to relax and enjoy the triumph of having completed the ride. They had hot showers (boy, that was nice!) and veggie burgers, salad and pasta. They called it lunch but for me it was dinner.
I got off the bike and delivered it to the truck carrying everyone's bikes back to Babylon. Then I turned around and walked towards the celebrating crowd, the food and the biking jersey I had ordered and needed to pick up - my self-styled reward for finishing. I cried, wishing Ronni could have joined me, or at least given me a congratulatory hug.
I lay down on a nearby rise after munching, and rested for a deeply soothing half-hour. Jason had left a text message after I told him I had 29 miles to go: "I just wanted to tell you from the bottom of my heart... YOU'RE NUTS!!! :) " Got a good laugh from that.
Then it was time to board the train. I setup my iPod to listen to random music, but as I thought about Ronni again, I was moved to listen to David Broza songs. Ronni and I had gone to his Christmas Eve performances at the 92nd St. Y for something like seven years in a row - it was a pleasant escape from the Christmas noise. The first winter after she died I skipped it, but then last year I went, alone. It turned out the seat next to me was empty. I knew I was not alone.
So here on the train I listened to Broza, cried, thought about the injustice of what happened to her, and looked out the train window. I saw the long bike ride unwind before me: the route was near the LIRR tracks, so I saw again many of the landmarks I had seen on the way out. There was a stunning sunset on display in the windows across the train aisle. Eventually the light faded, and I dozed.
I met my trusty bike below the Babylon LIRR station, and made it home just after 10pm, about 15 hours after I left the house this morning. Except for a few snippets of conversation here and there, I had been alone the entire trip. It would have been a different voyage had I not been alone - but would I have completed it?
- I hate port-a-potties. Especially when you have to do #2.
- Having done my homework about nutrition and hydration seems to have helped me survive the ordeal. Getting in better shape will make it less of an ordeal. And putting on sunscreen repeatedly is critical, though I need aerosol because the hand pump doesn't work upside down.
- I guess I can always find something else to buy. I ordered a multi-purpose GPS on sale at Costco - it can route auto, hiking and bike rides. I'll have to order a bike mount separately after I see it. I also think I should change panniers to something that can handle water bottles and sandwiches without crowding.
- I thought about next steps. There's a "Bloomin' Century" in Connecticut next weekend: no freakin' way, nothing but easy local rides for the next few weeks. I'll consider the other Montauk Century for mid-June. Next steps are Jon's graduation and opening the pool.
- Bicycling and playing freecell are two ways that I numb the psychic pain that I still feel. I need to spend more time on the bike and less with freecell. The pain will ease, I hope.