A week away from the 19th annual Bike Tour down the Jersey Shore, the ride leaders for Team CentraState ridin4tracy organized a team ride this morning (Sunday) around the Freehold area. We would meet up at the CentraState Fitness and Wellness Center (where it turns out many of them work and exercise) and ride out from there. There were two rides — 25 miles and 50 miles. I guess whoever couldn’t make the 50 mile trip would turn around at 11 miles and head back. After the ride, we were to meet up at Moore’s Tavern & Restaurant. I’m not sure I’m recapping all this from just a few days ago, but oh well. I’m getting senile in my old age.
I wanted to do the 50-mile ride, as there’s something to be said for jumping in with both feet. I’m doing the 50 next week, so no time like the present. I thought I was prepared. I had a bagel, bought two energy bars, and I brought two water bottles. Turns out the distance wasn’t the problem, but the pace they kept. I had a lot of trouble to keep up with the rest of the riders. I’m generally a solo rider, so I don’t normally worry about keeping up with anyone. I speed up, I slow down, I’m still getting where I need to go. In the group ride, much like the last time I tried one of these, I was left behind.
That’s not entirely true. One of the ride leaders, Ravi, was a gentleman, and he returned often by himself to check on me, make sure I was okay, and give me direction. We’d catch up, and the team would be waiting for at the next major intersection/turn. Should I go ahead and talk about how embarrassing it was at times? I didn’t want them to wait for my slow self. Just go ahead, I’ll keep up.
Near the 11-mile mark, when I could (should?) have turned around, another ride leader asked people if they were okay or if they wanted to turn back. Unfortunately, I noticed he was only looking at me. I said, “No, I’m still hanging in there.” At about 20-miles, we came to a fork where you could go up the big hill or take the easy flat way. It looked like I’d be the only person taking the flat easy way, and the nice ride leader (Ravi) initially appeared to be offering to escort me. Uh, no. Uh, hell’s no. I said I’m still here, let’s do the hill. They were a little shocked.
Near the 30-mile mark just outside Six Flags Great Adventure (you could literally see the Kingda Ka rollercoaster), I was dead tired. Sure, I had lower back pain, my thighs were hurting, and the rest of them had disappeared over the horizon. I finally had to stop and really rest. Ravi came back to check on me since I was gone a long time (10 mins?), so I chatted with him about my situation. I told him to go ahead, I’ll keep my own pace, but I’ll still make it. He felt bad, but I told him don’t worry.
My argument would have been stronger had I not immediately fallen off my bike at that moment. I kid you not — my right foot got locked in the pedal, and I tipped over. Only my pride hurt, folks. Only my pride. Ravi rode off, and I used the Google Maps app on my BlackBerry to guide me the rest of the way. I took my own pace, and stopped worrying about being embarrassed. Around mile 38, I found this main road, dangerous as all hell with heavy traffic, that would lead me all the way to the fitness center. Google Maps stated the center was only 3.5 miles away, and I was elated. The home stretch! The light at the end of the tunnel!
I pedaled. No, I pedaled! I climbed up that long series of hills, trucks and cars whizzing dangerously close. One mile left to go, I passed an intersection with 3 riders waiting to cross, and then they yelled out my name. It was three people from my team! While the team took the safer and longer route, I had nearly caught up by taking the dangerous shortcut. I couldn’t believe it.
Surprised, they called me a bloodhound, and wondered how I found my way. We rode the last mile or so locally, and found the rest of the riders waiting in the cars about to leave CentraState and head to the bar. I got some surprised looks, some cheers, and the ride leader who kept doubting I’d make it? He was proud and gave me a huge high-five. I snuck into the fitness center locker room with some folks to shower and freshen up, and change my clothes. I drove over to the bar, had a pint of Stella, and a half turkey sandwich. I got my team jersey, took a group photo, and chatted.
Pictures of the team jersey are below, front and back.