36oK+ Calendared Rando Ride (The Fleche Event)
Well, I’m kind of tired after having spent 24-hours on my bike since yesterday starting at 8 AM. This year I have taken on a new challenge involving cycling, and that challenge included the completion of a 24-hour team bike ride whereby I had to pedal a minimum of 225 miles (360 kilometers). Now tired, but not particularly beaten down, I can check off another goal successfully completed.
The ride pretty much played out perfectly. Four of us started and finished together: Rudi, Greg, Aleksey and me. CLICK HERE to see some pixs that Rudi took during the ride. CLICK HERE for the preliminary results page. Nobody on our team got a flat tire or had any other sort of mechanical difficulty. Greg lost part of his headlight and therefore we had to make a stop to buy some extra batteries for his backup headlight. But that was really the only glitch unless you consider the Pt Pleasant Food Store (Controle #8) not being open when they were scheduled to be open at 6 AM on Sunday morning.
The weather was about as good as could be expected for early April. No rain, clear skies, and not too cold. I had expected temperatures to vary between 4o and 55 degrees, and planned accordingly. However, I’m almost certain the low temp Saturday night and early morning Sunday was somewhere in the 30s. There was a stretch during the ride that my fingers got quite cold. My feet never became a problem. My biggest problem during the whole ride was getting through the time between 11 PM (Sat) and 1 AM (Sun); I really wanted to get in bed and have a nice night’s sleep. My mind was doing a number on me! But I got through it (not fun). I think it was the 24-ounce hot chocolate I got at a Wawa in Browns Mills that saved me.
The ride started out very fast since we had a pretty good tailwind pushing us along to the first checkin point (controle) at the ocean. It was a Dunkin Donuts, and we didn’t waste much if any time there. Riding down the coast through the shore towns we had a sidewind pushing at us from inland. It was a substantial wind. Didn’t really mess with us, though. When we got to the next checkin point at Ortley Beach the McDonalds that we were supposed to use was closed for renovations. So we checked in at the ACME supermarket that was located next door. I got a large Gatorade and shared what I didn’t use or want. Then we moved on.
Moving on required us to ride into the strong headwind we had known was coming. And the road we used was pretty busy. I had no problem with it, but some of my co-riders don’t like roads that are heavily trafficked. Had a nice shoulder on it for the most part. So what was there to complain about? I guess I didn’t like the amount of grit and debris in the shoulder, but it wasn’t all that bad actually. Especially considering part of our route to come was going to be off-road in the middle of the night. Greg was probably the only guy on the ride without bigger than normal tires. I was riding my CX bike. I love that bike.
The two off-road sections in the route came between miles 157.9 and 164.0 (between NJ-72 & NJ-70), and between miles 186.7 and 189.6 (the towpath after leaving Bordentown). The stretch of road/trail starting at mile 157.9 was pretty firm, even partly paved at times. But there were a ton of potholes. As we got deeper into the woods the potholes got bigger and bigger, and even became full of water. My headlights only lit up just so much of the road. I could not go fast at this time for fear of dropping into one of the water-filled “craters” and getting wet. And the towpath at mile 186.7 we did single-file; it was a pretty narrow dirt path. The tree cover made the near-full-moon pretty much worthless. We slowed here, but not much.
My most unenjoyable stretch of the ride was between controles 4 and 5 (Lakehurst and Little Egg Harbor). It was a classic stretch of road through the pine barrens of South Jersey. You can see far in front of you and it’s all blacktop and/or evergreens in your view. And when you get around the bend in the road you’re faced with the same view you just left. To top that off as a downer, we weren’t far enough into the ride to have really accomplished all that much. So I didn’t have anything really positive to tell myself as I plodded onward.
I enjoyed the roads between controles 5 and 6. As we were riding along the owner of the Lower Bank Tavern (controle #6) pulled his car up beside us rolling his passenger side window down on the road and asked us which Fleche team we were. That kind of threw us for a loop. Didn’t expect that. Supposedly he is a randonneur, too. Not really sure I am, but maybe some day? But we got to his tavern before dark and stayed for close to an hour while we rested and ate. When we left it was dark out. So night riding was about to begin. I’ve ridden after dark lots during my life. But NEVER before have I ridden a whole night at a time. I was looking forward to the experience.
We made good time to Controle #7 and even all the way up to the Denny’s we had planned to stop at to kill time and rest (not to mention, eat). We spent some time hanging there in Bordentown. When we left I was actually feeling pretty good. We rode through a stretch of the D&R canal towpath (that I mentioned previously herein above) soon thereafter and then into Trenton. We had originally planned to ride a bunch of towpath up the Delaware to Pt Pleasant, PA. However, we changed our mind and rode River Road in Pennsylvania from the Calhoun Street Bridge all the way up to the Pt Pleasant Food Store (Controle #8) where we arrived at roughly 5:45 AM. We departed from there at 6:15 and I think we finished the ride at the Youth Hostel somewhere around 7:40? Click on the map below to see the route we took at RWGPS.