New York City is a very in-between place for Randonneuring. To the east, there are the Long Island Randonneurs whose routes mostly start 30 miles or more from the borders of NYC and to the west (but technically covering NYC) are the New Jersey Randonneurs which broadly cover NJ, but have events within easy commute distance from the city.

I opted to drive down and stay the night in the starting point hotel the night before. Not really knowing what otherwise to expect, I figured that was the most reasonable option. I shared the room with another rider from my local bike club who was doing the 300K and taking off at 5am the next morning. I went and got dinner alone (not especially surprising, given the early departures of the two rides) and was in bed by about 10:30.

I was up bright and early to check in for the ride, grab some coffee and breakfast, and throw my stuff back into the car for the day. And at 7am after a brief discussion of the ride from the organizing team, we took off! I hadn’t looked closely at the increments between the control points, so it took some time to get to the first one (about 44 miles in). It was great to get a bagel stop and some additional coffee at that point, and re-up my calories. I also actually got to talk to other riders (albeit briefly, since it’s generally best not to dawdle given the time limits) and discovered there was a whole Brooklyn contingent of riders who were there for the weekend! At some point maybe I’ll even figure out who they are. And eventually, I took off again. This stop broke up the 200k pack of riders that had mostly been together for that first leg, but who’d also been mostly silent through it.

“VERY BAD TRAIN TRACKS” per the cue sheet.

I feel like I’m much more accustomed to more social rides. Like, not chatty the whole time, but literally any conversation. We weren’t pushing our pace so hard that that would have been especially difficult, maybe a 15-17 mph average on the flat roads. And even at lights, when I initiated some minor quips, the folks I talked to seemed standoffish or shy. Definitely not what I’d been led to expect from the write-ups of other rides I’ve seen.

The second control was staffed and though it was a quick stop, it felt like the social aspects of the ride were starting to wake up. I arrived around the same time as a small group of 300K riders and the volunteer who signed my brevet card had brownies to share. The mood was nice and jovial, and the weather had started to actually warm up a bit. Perhaps the chill was the major mood killer? Maybe it was just this batch of 200K riders that were deep in their own heads. Hard to say.

The third control marked the half-way point, and I slowed to help another 200K rider find his bearings amidst a confused GPS. We were less than a mile to the control and started chatting a little bit. As it turned out, we live mere blocks from each other and so have a lot of local community in common that provided a basis for some conversation. We rode together for the next 50 miles or so through two more controls, and chatted when the roads were safe.

Somewhere around mile 100, I stopped being able to keep up my pace and my riding buddy dropped me. He was also on a timeframe with his rental car, so that was very understandable. And somewhere about two miles from the next control I stopped for an actual roadside snack to get my blood sugar back up and it turns out that clementines are an awesome ride snack. No plastic or foil wrappers to worry about, nice crisp acid and sugar, they really hit the spot!

But after the next control where I downed two snack bags of Doritos, I developed gas pains which made for an excruciating seven miles. My entire torso hurt and while it must have been barely a half hour of time, it was the most miserable portion of the entire day. Thankfully, they finally faded and I was able to knock out the last little bit of distance and finish up with an official end time of 11 hours and 5 minutes (well within the 13.5 hour allocation for the distance).

And there at the finish, folks were lovely and social! I put my bike on the car and happily accepted a post-ride plate of fried rice, chatted with some folks and followed a new Instagram account of another rider who does crafty brazing with bike bits.

All in all, a lovely long ride. I’m still a bit tentative about even longer rides and would love to be in a little bit better shape (and maybe get some help figuring out how to keep my knee from hurting), but from what I hear the difference in the ride distances comes down to the tenacity required to keep going. I might pack a little differently for future rides too, but that’s really just a minor detail. I’m looking forward to a little bit of mechanical tune-up and some recovery miles now.