I guess I have to start on Thursday since I've been a bit lax in the blogging department. Thursday after work I headed over to Toga and bought myself some new bike tires. I decided to get Armadillos because I am sick and tired of changing flats and this seemed like a way to avoid them. Friday morning I woke up to rain and decided that I would just sleep in and give myself a rest day. I know that this hasn't been my hardest workout week, but I knew I needed the extra sleep.
Friday after work, I headed to Drew's apartment to put on my new tire and then take my bike home. I got the tire on without too much frustration. I will say that these armadillos are a little bit tougher to manipulate than regular tires, but I'm guessing that's part of the point of them. The only bad thing about going home was that I rode the subway because it was pouring out! I did get a few dirty looks on the trains home, which made me want to shout out "bikes are allowed on the subways 24/7!" but I didn't. I just tried to make myself as small as possible. Which is impossible with a bicycle.
This morning I got up early and headed out for my very first ride into New Jersey and across the George Washington Bridge. I double checked all the directions that Matt had given me and thought I had a pretty good idea of where I was going (but just in case I wrote them down on a post-it and stuck them in my pocket). I took along a Clif bar and a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water. I took my patch kit but left my extra tube at home. I figured with my armadillos, why would I need an extra tube?
I headed over to the Westside bike path and on my way, I was stopped at the light at 51st and 11th Avenue when a pedestrian crossing said, "Only cross at greens and not in between!". It seemed like good advice. I definitely try to do that, although with so many one-way streets here in the city, a lot of times it easy to go against the red (although I do always try to yield for pedestrians).
The ride got off to a good start. I headed up the Westside and exited Riverside Park at 95th Street to continue my ride on Riverside Drive. (Here is a link to the approximate route I took). From there I headed up to 165th Street. I thought I knew where I was going, as when you get to 165th Street, the hospital is there and I knew I had to veer right. Well, actually, you are supposed to turn onto 165th Street and go up a steep hill. Instead, I followed the signs for the GWB (for cars) and started to get onto the highway. I quickly realized when I got to the merging point that I was in the wrong place and turned around and headed back to 165th Street. It wasn't a total loss as I did get to see two dead rats on the freeway entrance ramp. Who can say that they see that every day?
When I got back to the corner of 165th Street and Riverside, I stood there for a minute and watched all of the other bikers turning onto 165th and knew that if I followed them I would be able to find the bridge entrance. It was up a pretty steep hill and since I was stopped and didn't quite have the momentum I thought I might need (especially while also clipping in), I decided not to chance it and to just walk my bike up the hill.
I almost got lost again when trying to find the pedestrian walkway to the bridge. I was going to turn right, but that also looked like I'd be getting on the freeway, so instead there happened to be a guy there and I asked him if he knew where I should go and he pointed behind him to the left and then I saw the ramp. Matt had told me that it was really narrow and steep and my first time I should probably walk. I definitely took his advice and walked up the ramp.
When I got onto the bridge itself I actually said "Wow!" because the views were so nice. And I was amazed that I had gotten as far as I did. I made it across the bridge just fine. When exiting, I turned left and tried to find my way to Route 9W. The street I was on was called Huson Terrace and I knew I wasn't really in the right spot, but I also wasn't 100% sure how to get to where I needed to go. I pulled into an empty parking lot and pulled out my handy phone to look at the map. Hudson Terrace run parallel to 9W and I could take pretty much any street to cut over. I took the next one and then realized that maybe I should have stuck with Hudson Terrace a while longer. 9W (where I got on) goes from having a very small shoulder, which is filled with storm drains, to no shoulder at all. After a couple of miles like that, the road narrows and the shoulder becomes about one lane wide, which is much nicer. Next time I might try sticking with Hudson Terrace until it ends at Palisade Avenue.
It had rained a lot on Friday, so there were a lot of tree branches and debris in the shoulder, but at least I had quite a lot of room to maneuver around all that stuff. I didn't go that far on 9W. I had just planned a 30-mile trip to prove to myself that I could ride the Olympic distance and also just to get over to NJ and back. I figure next time I can go further since I'll be faster at getting to the bridge itself.
After 15 miles on the way out, I turned around and headed back. I had already been riding for quite a while, so on my way back, I pulled into a bus stop and ate my Clif bar I had brought along. Then I kept heading back to the bridge. Pretty much when I go to the base of the bridge I heard the tell-tale sign of a flat followed by a pop! I wasn't even surprised at that point. Why would my new no-flat tire do as it said? I also was really mad at myself in that moment for only having $20 and not my credit card. I know that there is a bike shop nearby and I could have gone and had them fix it, but since I was so close to the bridge, I decided just to walk my bike across the bridge and take the subway home. I was also really worried that I had gotten another blown-out tire and $20 wasn't going to cover the cost of a new tire and tube. I, of course, had left my extra tube at home because I figured if something happened, I would be able to patch it, and really, what were the odds of getting another flat this week?
I started my walk across the bridge, which wasn't too bad. I got to watch all the boats and kayaks in the water and of all the places to have to walk it wasn't the worst. When I was about half-way across, I ran into Will from Toga. He stopped and asked what happened. I told him my predicament with no tube and he offered to fix it for me. He with with a girl named Caroline (fellow Terrier) and she lent me a tube since Will's extra tube had a valve that was too long for my bike (he's got very fancy wheels). Will had that thing fixed in about 5 minutes flat. While he was doing it, he asked if I knew how to change a tire. I said yes, but what I was really thinking was "yes, but I'd never get it done faster than it would take me to walk to the subway like you're doing right now". As he was putting the wheel back on my bike, he said that something looked wrong with my back brake and that I should bring my bike in for a tune-up.
I thanked both of them for their generosity and time. I got back on my bike and headed home. The whole time I was riding, all I could do was think about my back brake failing, so I kept my hand on my front brake more than I normally do just in case. However, I made it home A-OK with no further incidents. These are the stats:
Time: 2:54:08 (from HR monitor)
Average Speed: 10.01 MPH (not too bad considering the walking part across the bridge)
Max HR: 173
Average HR: 146
In short, I'm actually really looking forward to tackling this route again. Now that I have more of an idea of where to go and what the route is like I think I'll be much more confident next time. Next time I'll also be sure to take everything that might be needed. I'm extremely grateful to know some really nice triathletes and be a part of team that is willing to help out. I also happened to notice that it looks like most riders get a bit of a later start than I did. There were lots and lots of people heading out to NJ when I was heading in, which makes me think that going early is a good idea to have more of the road to myself!