Hello! First things first, it’s May 8th! That means today is the birthday of the coolest guy I know.
Yep, the sweetest, smartest, funniest and most definitely cutest guy in the world turns 27 today. Happy birthday baby!
It’s actually the second time I’ve helped Chris celebrate his birthday. His birthday party last year served as our third date, so I got to meet almost every single person he knows by date three, and it was awesome. You know how some guy’s friends actually make them more appealing? Well, that was definitely the case with Chris. His friends are great and they had nothing but wonderful things to say about him. To be fair, he is kind of the easiest sell in the world. Still, it was sweet to see that everyone thinks he’s as amazing as I do.
This year we’re doing a little bit of celebrating with dinner and some gifts tonight, but the real party starts Friday when our friends will be joining us for a birthday dinner. After that we’ve got a combo birthday family dinner/Mother’s Day celebration Saturday night followed by a little surprise of my own on Sunday (no, Chris, I’m not silly enough to give it away here- you’ll all just have to wait until Sunday).
But now, let’s back it up a bit. I’m sore. Like every inch of my body hurts, sore, but it’s a good burn. Sunday was the 5 Boro Bike Tour, which I did with Chris and Travis, and it was a blast! I had a feeling that it would be pretty well organized after I went to the expo, but I was still surprised on how well the whole thing was run. 32,000 people (and bikes) are a lot to manage, and it was impressive.
The tour started in downtown Manhattan and ended in Staten Island, so there were two ways for us New Jerseyans to get there. We could have loaded ourselves and our bikes onto the PATH train, which would have dropped us off right by the start, or we could drive to Staten Island and take the ferry into Manhattan. Lucky for me, the boys had done this bike tour last year, and knew that the PATH was crowded getting there, and the ferry was very crowded going home, so we opted to drive. Cars, another reason I love living in New Jersey.
It took some effort the night before, but we took our bikes apart and piled them in our car, so we’d be good to go in the morning. Travis spent Saturday night at our apartment, so we chatted for a while before turning in early for our extra early wake up call.
We were up at 5. We showered, and I made eggs and toast for all. It was revolutionary to eat an actual real meal before an athletic event. I’m so used to playing it safe with cereal before running races, but biking never upsets my stomach, so I just wanted to make sure I ate something that would keep me full and energized until the first rest area on the tour, and these eggs did the trick.
We were out the door by 6:15. Chris and I hopped in the car, and he drove us to Staten Island while Travis followed with his bike.
It was a very dreary day as we headed to the Bayonne Bridge. I was getting nervous that I’d be freezing on the bike once we got moving. I decided to go with capri workout pants, and a layering system that involved a tank top, a tee shirt and a long sleeve tech tee, but, at this point, I was thinking of wearing a jacket too.
We got to Staten Island and found a parking lot by the ferry relatively quickly, and started putting our bikes together around 7.
I love my bike. We helmeted up, hopped on our bikes, and made our way to the ferry around 7:30, for our 8:30 start.
The ferry was surprisingly uncrowded, but we didn’t get to ride above deck, so I couldn’t take any cool pictures. The ride was very smooth, and I’m happy to say, I did not get hit with that horrible motion sickness I got on Friday. I had opted to go without a jacket and was seriously regretting that decision while en route to Manhattan because it was freezing on that ferry! Luckily, we were there pretty quickly, and once off the boat, it warmed up a bit, but not much.
We lined up in lower Manhattan (right by my office!) and waited for the crowds to move through the start. I was freezing at this point, and kicking myself for not wearing a jacket, but I was really hoping to warm up as the day went on. They staggered the start times, so there really weren’t any unmanageable crowds, and things moved pretty quickly. That was a great call on their part. I’d say we waited about 45 minutes to start as we got there early (around 8) and started around 8:45, so only about 15 minutes after our scheduled start time of 8:30.
Once we got started, things ran pretty smoothly. We took 6th Ave all the way up to Central Park, and we maintained a pretty good 12-15 mph pace the whole time.
After the park, we hit our first rest stop. There wasn’t much to this one, just some portapotties. There weren’t quite enough though for the amount of bikers, so we decided to trudge on to the next one.
We merged back into traffic and made our way up to Harlem. Unfortunately, that’s where the trouble began. There was a pretty major road up ahead that they hadn’t closed, which created a bottleneck around 130th St. Luckily, there were some entertaining store fronts to pass the time.
I’m not sure what that sign was about. I know they sell quite a variety of things.
We were only stuck at the bottleneck for about 20 minutes, but I heard from friends who started later that it got worse as the day went on. Right before crossing into the Bronx, we found another rest stop, and the lines were a bit tamer here, so I watched the bikes while the boys waited in line.
We swept very quickly through the Bronx (we spent maybe a mile there), then back down the FDR to the Queensboro bridge. That was probably my favorite part of the tour. It was wide open with great views. I didn’t take pictures because I was being super speedy, but that was definitely the highlight. The lowlight was on the downward slope of said bridge when some Grumpy Old Man on a bike passed a bunch of people shouting, “Cruisers (people not actively pedaling downhill) to the right!” It’s a tour not a road race, bro. Chill out. Happily, Travis responded with “Winners to the left!” but I’m not sure the Grumpy Old Man heard us.
Anyway, we cruisers kept on cruising into Queens and on to the first major rest stop of the tour. While the previous two had been just bathrooms (and water I think), this one, in Long Island City, had food and entertainment.
It was still pretty gloomy and chilly at this point in the day, but my layers were doing the trick, and I was glad I didn’t wear a jacket after all.
It was crazy crowded, but we were able to snag some apples, bananas, and pretzels. Add that to the Clif Bars, Swedish Fish, and Gatorade that we brought in our backpacks, and we were pretty well fueled for the second half of the tour. Bringing snacks was absolutely clutch. The food was ok at the stops, but we all wanted something more substantial than a banana after biking twenty miles, and those Clif Bars did the trick. Also, I’m sure there was water because I saw people with some, but it was hard to come by, so it was nice to have the Gatorade on hand.
We rolled out and back on course. It was a bit tough transitioning from rest areas to the tour route, but I guess that’s to be expected with some many riders, and I’m sure it could have been much worse.
As we headed into Brooklyn, the most amazing thing happened; the sun came out! It was marvelous! After a whole day of doom and gloom and wishing I had a jacket, I found myself wishing for sunglasses instead (I’m never satisfied)! It was amazing. One mile felt like a late winter day, and then boom it was spring! I was really starting to drag at that point in the tour (especially after Chris’ natural magnetism drew me into him and I almost succeeded in knocking both of us off our bikes- that sucked), and the sun was just the boost I needed to get me back to my happy place.
Unfortunately my mood boost didn’t last too long. Some Crabby Lady (maybe the Grumpy Old Man’s partner?) proceeded to yell at and lecture me in passing for having the audacity to slow down around a turn, and I wanted to chase her and knock her off her bike. I’m so used to running road races where people either keep to themselves or offer words of encouragement to other runners, that I was totally blown away by the rude people just absolutely shouting at other bike riders. At first, I thought this was symptomatic of all bike riders, but I later realized that’s not really fair. In a group of 32,000, there’s bound to be a few bad apples, but I shouldn’t allow that to spoil the whole bunch. Everyone knows that rude people are always the loudest, and there were quite a few loud, rude bikers and volunteers but there were also a lot of sweet, friendly faces in the tour and on the sidelines, so I’m choosing to remember those people instead.
Before making the long trek to the Verrazano Bridge, we stopped at the final major rest area. Again, it was crazy crowded with limited food options and longer lines for the bathrooms, but the sun was shining, there was live music playing, and we were about to enter the final leg of the tour, so I decided to take a deep breath, absorb all the positive energy I could and finish strong.
We took the BQE to the Verrazano for the final push of the tour, and it was not smooth sailing for me. The BQE was pretty steep, but that Verrazano was no joke. The boys were doing great and continued to exchange tons of schtick while hauling ass up that Verrazano incline, but I needed to be quiet and get inside my head to finish this thing. I realized too late that I definitely didn’t hydrate well enough during the tour. I did a good job of eating, but the cool weather and the wind distracted me from drinking the right amount, and my dehydration hit me hard.
I was really struggling on that bridge, but I just kept telling myself that this hill ain’t no thang, and I can do this. Chris was sweet and kept checking with me to see if I was ok, but I sort of shooed him away to just focus on reaching the top. The views were pretty stunning from up there, but I didn’t really get to enjoy them before flying down the remainder of the bridge. That, right there, is where biking has running beat. In both sports you work your butt off getting uphill, but in biking you can just sit back and coast, and that is pretty sweet.
The tour ends literally right after the bridge, and that finish area was a sight for sore
We didn’t hang out too long in the finisher’s area as there wasn’t really much to see or do. There didn’t appear to be any free food or drinks, but maybe we got there late? Most people were laying on the grass relaxing, but we were ready to bike back to our cars and head home.
Little did we know that some of the best views of the tour were after the finish line. So, we stopped to take some pictures.
Directly to the left of that biggest NYC tower (WTC 1) is the Goldman Sach’s Tower in Jersey City! We got to see our city!!
We biked the remaining 3 miles back to our car, disassembled our bikes and headed home. The whole thing took about 6 hours, but, remember, we took our time and stopped at 4 rest areas. It went by quicker than I expected, and the boys said that they made incredibly improvements to last years organization and course structure that shaved about 4 hours of waiting time off the clock. That’s major!
As soon as we got home and unloaded the bikes, we headed out to the diner. I believe it’s New Jersey state law that requires every major athletic event to be immediately followed by a trip to the diner.
Travis went full burger. Look at the glee on his face.
Chris opted for the healthiest meal of all with egg whites and grilled chicken. Who is this kid?
I got a spinach and feta omelet with turkey sausage and french fries. Yum. Travis put it best when he cheered to the first non-banana based food in hours.
As soon as we fed our bodies and sent Travis on his merry way home to Pennsylvania, the exhaustion hit us like a freight train. Originally, I was much less tired than a running race, but that night, I was dead to the world. We forced ourselves to stay awake until 10 (otherwise we’d wake up at 4), but it was lights at 10 on the dot. It was a glorious sleep after a very great, but grueling day.
Overall, I don’t think I’d recommend this tour to anyone new to biking or as someone’s first longer distance adventure. It was organized, but the crowds were still enormous and pretty unkind to new bikers. There were friendly volunteers, but a few were just plain rude. The course isn’t impossible, but it is tough, and the rest stops were a little lacking.
However, if you’re a more experienced rider, I think this tour is worth a trip. The cost was reasonable, the pre-race organization was good, the start and course logistics were well managed, and the views are unbeatable. If you’re from the New York area,
I highly recommend it. You’re probably used to the crowds, so that won’t bother you too much, and the experience of riding on major roads and bridges sans cars is amazing and not to be missed, just be sure to pack some snacks and stay hydrated!