Tuesday, May 7, 2013

5 Boro Bike Tour...

On Sunday Abi and I took part in the 2013 5 Boro Bike Tour, a 40 mile bike ride around New York!!!

We signed up for it ages ago and had been planning to have done a lot more cycling leading up to it, we even talked about 'training', but we never really got round to it - so the only cycling we'd done in the last few months (probably year) was cycling 6 miles into Manhattan the day before to drop out bikes off at the studio.

So, pretty badly prepared and to be honest - quite scared at the thought of cycling 40 miles, we set off early on Sunday morning. We picked up our bikes from the studio, put on our special bibs, had a slurp from our energy pouch, ate half a banana and made our way down to Bowling Green for the start of the tour.

There were just a few other cyclists at the start...

 We were in the last group to start - they staggered the starts as there were 32,000 people taking part this year. It took us about 30 minutes to get from Bowling Green to the starting line, we'd already cycled 3.5 miles from work before we even started!

We'd been to the sports shop the day before and bought water bottles, a helmet for Abi and padded pants in the hope that it would help prepare us for the aches and pains that were sure to follow through-out the day... Abi even splashed out on a new pink bum-bag for her energy bars!

Before long the wait was over and we were off, cycling up 6th Avenue heading towards Central Park, riding passed landmarks like Radio City Hall along the way.

The route didn't look too bad when we saw the map initially - but when we realised that when we reached the park that was only mile 5 we twigged that it might be a bit longer than we'd first imagined. It's a very similar route to the New York Marathon, just with some extra bits bolted on.

There was a great atmosphere among all the bikers as we rode through the city and into the park, people were clapping and cheering us on along the way, and there were Marshalls with loudspeakers shouting encouraging words to everyone.

At mile 5, at the top of a steep hill in Central Park Abi and I managed to lose each other. I had gone ahead and waited at the top of the hill, but at some point while I was waiting Abi had cycled passed and we'd both missed each other. So after waiting for a few minutes I started to wonder if Abi had gone ahead, so I carried on cycling... then I wondered 'What if she hadn't gone passed and I'm just cycling further ahead'... so I stopped again, then I started to think she must have gone ahead. This went on for quite a while... all the while, unknown to me Abi was getting further and further ahead thinking that she was catching up with me!

We spent the next 10 miles feeling like we were in Finding Nemo or something. Neither of us knew where the other was, we didn't take our phones with us and we were trying to spot each other amongst 32,000 other cyclists whizzing by.

After a horrible hour of wondering when and where we'd ever meet up and how we'd know where to meet we managed, somehow to bump into each other by the free bananas at the rest stop!

We were so relieved - the idea of cycling the rest of the way on our own, not know whether the other would be at the end waiting was horrible... anyway, at least now we could enjoy ourselves and the view at the rest stop...

Along the way we crossed over 5 different bridges, some of them more gruelling than others, but all of them had pretty great views of some part of the city, the Tri-Borough bridge looked great as we cycled over it...

 When we eventually crossed over the Pulaski Bridge from Long Island City to Brooklyn the mood seemed to changed, the Brooklyn supporters were brilliant - they were out chanting and singing, holding up signs that said 'Smile, you're in Brooklyn' and shouting 'Welcome to Brooklyn'... it made us feel proud of our Borough.

When we reached Dumbo there was a pretty bad bottleneck and everything came to a standstill - I don't think anyone minded though as it gave everyone time to have a wee rest. It was amazing to look down the road and see nothing but cyclists...

Then we cycled through Brooklyn via the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) which was completely closed in one direction just for the bike tour. The BQE is a HUGE section of motorway that goes round  Brooklyn and Queens linking the airports and bypassing all the smaller roads - so closing it is a bit like closing a section of the M25 or something... I was amazing they were able to do it.

I think that section of the tour was the hardest, long gradual hills or big motorway and all you could see in the distance was the huge Verrazano Bridge that lead to Staten Island, the huge bridge that we'd have to eventually cycle over at the end of the route.

By the time we reached the bridge our legs were pretty tired so we ended up walking our bikes up one side of the bridge - most people were walking their bikes as it was mile 35 and I think everyone was running out of steam.

The good thing about having an up-hill struggle is the down-hill ride at the end of it... we whizzed down the other side of the bridge and raced towards the finish line, a festival on Staten Island just for all the cyclists.

We'd done it! We'd managed to stick it out the whole way, and do it in pretty good time. We did it in 3hrs 50mins, so an average speed of just over 10 miles an hour, our app said that at one point we were going nearly 45 miles an hour and we burnt 3000 calories!!!! (I think we put quite a few of those calories back on with the burger we had at the festival though!)

Oddly the festival and the 'finish line' weren't quite at the finish, we still had 3 miles to go to the ferry port, so after a wee rest we got back on our bikes for the last stretch... a nice flat stretch along the waterfront with great views of the Manhattan Skyline...

 The queue for the ferry was soooooooooooooo loooooooooooooong, but we eventually managed to get onto the ferry and find somewhere to sit amongst all the bikes...

There was a great atmosphere on the ferry too, everyone was so happy and pleased to have finished, people we ringing their bells in celebration... it was so great to be a part of it all.

Unfortunately once we got off the ferry we were back in Manhattan... 5 miles away from Myrtle Avenue! So we got back on our bikes and made our way for Brooklyn Bridge. Over the 6th bridge of the day and back through Brooklyn towards Bed Stuy, we finally managed to plonk down on the sofa and have a cup of tea.

It was a long, tough, emotional and fun day - we both absolutely loved it, I think we both enjoyed it far more than we were expecting to, and it wasn't nearly as bad as we thought it was going to be. I suppose 40 miles isn't that far in the grand scheme of things, but it was far enough for us and it felt great to do it.

It's definitely another New York experience we'll never ever forget!

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