The more I get into biking, the more I seem to fall in love with it! (Not so much the cost of it… but definitely the riding aspect!) Even though I failed to blog about it until now, on July 31st I participated in the Irish Pub Tour de Shore, a 65-mile ride from downtown Philadelphia to Atlantic City. It was amazing, exhausting, frustrating, and exhilarating all at the same time.
Steve & I set our alarms for 4:30 am Sunday morning… which came entirely too fast. Ugh. We pretty much gathered our stuff up like zombies & headed out to the car to put our bikes on the bike rack – which was a challenge, considering it was still too dark to see anything. By 5 am, we were on the road! This may have been the first time in my entire life that I didn’t hit traffic on the Schuylkill.
We arrived in downtown Philadelphia at 6am – drove around looking for a parking spot for a while, and then finally joined the THOUSANDS of other bikers gathered on Chestnut Street in front of the Irish Pub. There were some teams of cyclists in official jerseys and fancy bikes… some cyclists with mountain bikes and gym shorts… it was a very mixed crowd – which helped me not feel so intimidated. (At least I have a road bike!) I met up with my friends from spin class (and saw Elena’s fancy new OFFICIAL jersey) so we could all start together. So glad I have other crazy friends that want to wake up early and bike 65 miles.
He was secretly pumped I dragged him into this. Don’t let him fool you.
Me… in my signature pose before every race!
Ready, set, start! The beginning of this race was amazing. They blocked off roads for us in Center City, so I got to bike right in front of City Hall as the sun was rising, with no traffic. It was beautiful & amazing. Also at the beginning of our journey, we crossed the Benjamin Franklin bridge into New Jersey. It was pretty awesome having the entire bridge shut down for me. Not gonna lie. In fact, the entire first part of our journey was great. It was still cool, roads were blocked off, I was feeling fresh. Loving it.
Rest Stops: There were 4 rest stops on our journey, and judging from my past bike tour, I was expecting some awesome food to re-fuel with. Wrong. The rest stops were horribly under-stocked. It was bad. Very bad.
The first rest stop was about 17 miles in – and I was really craving a banana! I got to the rest stop and saw plenty of orange peels and banana peels in the trash – so when I went to go find my own, they were out. OUT. Seriously!?! I mean, I’m not Lance Armstrong, but I certainly wasn’t the last person to get there. No food? Ridiculous. I got some Gatorade and decided that I’d be fine until the next rest stop. After all, 17 miles isn’t terrible.
By the time we reached the 2nd rest stop at about 33 miles, I was ready for my banana. Lucky for me, I got the LAST banana. I was horrified at the lack of food available at the rest stops. I felt bad when some guy came up to me and asked me where I got the banana and I had to tell him I took the last one.
I have to admit that I was expecting this ride to be extremely flat, if not a net downhill. I was shocked at how hilly it was. I swear there was a 5-mile stretch that was all uphill (gradual of course, but still uphill!) I love a challenge, so it was fine – but I really wasn’t expecting hills.
Rest stop number 3 – It looked promising. I saw wrappers for LaraBars and Uncrustables all over the place. Unfortunately, that’s all I saw. Wrappers. All I wanted was a freaking pb&j. Argghhhh. To make matters worse, they also ran out of Gatorade. What the shit. Some nice woman had a few bottles of Gatorade in her car that she passed out and I gladly took it. At this point it was hours into our ride and I was about ready for a full meal, not just some water and orange slices. I was also really starting to feel the pain in my legs… and for the first time in his life, Steve stretched!!
After having already gone 40 miles, my legs started to burn. My thighs were screaming at me. But I basically told them to suck it up and keep going. Pretty much it hurt so good. But it still hurt. My longest ride ever before this was 32 miles. I mean, I was fairly unprepared for 65. But I crushed it. You know.
Rest stop number 4 – My desire for a pb&j was at an all-time high, but alas, all the Uncrustables were gone again!!! There were still some LaraBars, so I took like 10 of them. At least there was a peanut butter flavor to kind of deal with my pb&j obsession. It was also crazy hot at this point. I didn’t realize it while biking because of the constant breeze, but it was HOT. We sat in the shade, stretched, couldn’t believe that we were all so sore and exhausted, and eventually made our way to our bikes, and decided to finish the remaining 12 miles to Atlantic City!!
The final 12 miles were really hard but really amazing. I started counting down the miles at this point and each time we hit another mile closer, Elena & I sped up. We were nearing 20MPH towards the end. Unfortunately, the only way into Atlantic City is on the expressway, so the amount of cars speeding by us really freaked me out – but I survived. At least they cleared a lane on the bridge into AC for us. (A bridge with a see-through bottom… which is terrifying on a bike, let me tell you) Elena & I just crushed it from that bridge on. We were on a mission. It was a million degrees, sunny, and we were ready to be done. We finally reached the finish & there were tons of spectators with cowbells & signs & everything else cheering us on. It was glorious. Steve didn’t really have to same desire to sprint at the end, but he still came in a few minutes after us anyways!
The “after-party” could have been awesome if it wasn’t 110 degrees. It was almost too hot to enjoy being outside anymore. The line for food was obnoxious, and being a vegetarian, I didn’t really have any options, which sucked. Steve ended up grabbing me a tuna salad sandwich and some pasta salad. I also downed 2 beers – but in reality, all I wanted to do was head back home and sleep in my air conditioned apartment. So we did. I wish we could have enjoyed the party a little more, but it was so hot, and all the tables in the shade were taken over by people who finished way before I did. I kinda wish I would have walked along the boardwalk and enjoyed the ocean – but Atlantic City is actually pretty dirty, so I’m not terribly upset about it.
My bike time – 4:25 (14.7 MPH) Not bad for 65 miles, eh?
My thoughts: Well aside from the fact that they obviously need to have more food / drinks at the rest stops, it was an amazing feeling to finish 65 miles on a bike. Especially with very little training on the road, and having only gone 32 miles before this ride – I was pumped! I think I’ll definitely sign up for more rides. I love that cycling has so many options for “rides” (not races) – everyone is so friendly, and I’m surrounded by other people that for some reason or another find joy just in biking. Maybe one day I’ll do a 100-miler. I think that’s the goal. I’m excited to hear how my friends Amanda & Nikki do in their long rides – definitely an inspiration!!
What’s your motivation for signing up for crazy rides / races / events that force you to wake up early & challenge yourself physically??
I tend to do this once a week. I just love adrenaline. Next up: MarshMan Triathlon on September 18!