Archive for November, 2013

The Un-best-able Best

I set a Personal Best this morning that can never be bested. And you’ll never see it on Strava. It’s a mental Best…

From the entrance to the Palisades Interstate Park in Fort Lee, to the exit at Alpine, back on 9W to Strictly Bicycles I saw ZERO cyclists.

That’s about 16-miles of some highly popular riding without another rider! Why? Well, it was cold (about 49F) and wet (light rain to steady rain) this morning and I guess folks haven’t hardened up to the cold winter ahead.

A (Cold) Road Alone

2013-11-14 07.52.38Last Thursday I took a particularly lonely ride. And it was awesome. (Strava Ride Record)

Many riders love the fall season because of the beauty of the leaves and relief from the summer heat. I do as well. But when it starts to hint at winter cold, everything changes. This particular morning wasn’t all that cold, about 35F when I started, but it was quite windy and felt a lot colder. So I bundled up, but continued to resist that winter jacket, hoping to hold off on that for as long as possible and build a little cold tolerance in my body instead.

As I rode over the George Washington Bridge I was really feeling the cold – it’s extra windy up there! But as I came off the bridge and headed into Palisades Park, things got pleasantly surreal. On the roughly six miles through the park I saw a total of two cyclists and three joggers. I usually see that number at any given moment, but the cold has scared away the masses. (Ironically, the masses will find 35F and windy to be “quite warm” come spring time!)

And that is why I love this time of year. While I am a big fan of social rides, there is a time and a place. And right now, it’s time to spend a few rides in isolation. I like to use this time to acclimate to the dropping temperatures and get comfortable with a relaxed riding pace. I also like the focus that comes with fewer distractions on the ride: no more colorful leaves to gawk at, no riders and joggers to smile at as we pass, and even fewer cars to avoid (for no obvious reason).

Trying to stay in Zone Two, I continued from the park back down 9W at a brisk speed, but easy gearing. I continued easily through Hudson Terrace back onto the bridge. And as I came off the bridge with only 10-blocks remaining, reality hit me hard: car and pedestrian traffic everywhere! Any attempts to remain in Zone Two dripped away as drivers cursed and my heart began to race, wondering how I’d survive the short distance remaining.

I love that my new apartment is so close to the bridge, but maybe I can build a teleporter to get me to Fort Lee and start there from now on. Then I may complete a full ride in Zone Two.

Challenge Yourself to Reach New Heights

2013-11-03 10.30.45

Near the top of Clausland Mountain with the Tappan Zee Bridge looking quite small.

Sunday was the ING NYC Marathon and a lot of talented runners as well as struggling amateurs challenged themselves to run 26.2 miles. This is a challenge I will not likely ever take on – not only don’t I enjoy running much, but I have bad knees, so cycling is a little better for me. I also find the idea of remaining upright and in forward motion for many hours to be terribly daunting. Which is a bit odd since I can get on a bike for 3-6 hours and not think too much of it. And that’s the point – we all see challenges in our own perspective; a daunting challenge to me is a “walk (or run) in the park” to others.

I decided that I’d use the day of the marathon as a day to challenge myself as well, but I chose something other than a marathon run as my challenge. Instead I took on a cycling route that another rider suggested to me about two months earlier. Why hadn’t I done this route sooner? I contains a lot of climbing including three of the steepest segments I’ve ever ridden. But it was a beautiful fall day and it was time to take on this challenge. And it was time to take on new heights.

Strava results of this ride.

River Road (Palisades Park) with leaves looking like a tunnel of fire.

River Road (Palisades Park) with leaves looking like a tunnel of fire.

The ride began like many others – cross the George Washington Bridge and head over to Strictly Bicycles in Fort Lee to meet other riders. But as I arrived I found that none of my usual partners were riding today, so I turned back south on Hudson Terrace and headed into The Park. I was immediately struck by the beauty of the fall foliage – and then quickly reminded that the roadway was more treacherous than usual with the falling leaves and morning dew. Today was a day to take a slow and deliberate ride. And save my effort for the climbs.

While in the park I stopped to take some photos and was overtaken by one of my other riding partners. We chatted for a bit and continued on before I existed the park and he turned back having time for only a short ride. Then along 9W I twice saw other familiar riders on their way back south, too. I got into Piermont and took a short coffee and donut break before heading for Ash Street, a short but challenging climb averaging 12% but peaking well above that. Getting out of the saddle and pushing hard for that little stretch felt really great. At the top of Ash I proceeded onto a short stretch of 9W before turning right and seeing what really looked like a wall – the entrance to Clausland Mountain. This “wall” is a very short 18% climb that mercifully levels off to about 12% for a distance. Again, out of the saddle, long deliberate leg movements and suddenly the 12% portion felt quite relaxing.

2013-11-03 11.15.25

Nike Overlook Park and one of the remnants of this former missile site – a relic of the cold war.

The rest of this area contains rolling hills with long stretches of gradual ups and downs – the kind of terrain I’m more familiar with in the area. It’s a beautiful area just a stone’s throw from the cycle-crowded 9W, but unknown to all be the most committed cyclists. With world class cycling down below, why should you head up these “walls”? My answer, “because they are there.”

As I came back around this section I reached the midpoint of my ride and began the journey back to NYC. But before I left the “highlands” if you will, I took a short detour into Nike Overlook Park. This place is a surprising relic from the cold war – a former Nike Missile site complete with rusting missile control remnants. It’s a bit creepy, but fascinating all the same. And the pavement is full of the graffiti of teens leaving their mark on the high point of the area.

On the return ride I came upon another familiar rider – ironically, the riding mentor who suggested this route to me in the first place. He and I shared a relatively leisurely return from Piermont to Strictly Bicycles sharing many different stories and training suggestions. And the next day, the pain and soreness in my body was a welcome reminder of why I ride.

This is why I ride. And challenging myself to new heights, literally and figuratively, is what keeps me riding.