Last Sunday was my goal ride for 2017; I competed in the Gran Fondo NY Bear 50. Ride organizers were careful to call it a ride and not a race, but from all indications, we were racing! I was definitely racing myself. Had I accomplished my training goals? Could I find the self-motivation to complete a goal that took planning to fit in workouts, pushing myself harder than ever on the trainer over the winter, and challenging myself on rides outdoors?
I travelled to cyclist check-in on Friday in NYC. It had been awhile since I felt the pre-race jitters of standing in line with a bunch of fit people who love to ride bikes – nerves and anticipation flowing. My Newington Bike Women’s Cycling Initiative t-shirt was a great conversation starter!
After spending Saturday morning shuttling kids to sporting events, packing my gear and taking a short ride to make sure my bike was ready (and battling a severe case of nerves), I took off for my hotel in NJ.
Handling the weekend logistics – juggling family, travel and racing – was part of my goal as well. Could I really pull this off?! My alarm rang at 4AM on Sunday (I wasn’t really sleeping, anyway!). I forced down a bagel and banana, packed my stuff in my car and met the 5:15AM escorted group ride from Fort Lee, NJ to the NYC side of the George Washington Bridge.
Hundreds (thousands?) of us made our way across the upper level of the GWB in the pre-dawn light – it was a perfect weather day and the city skyline was stunning as we crossed the bridge on the way to the start. The starting line was on the west-bound lower level of the GWB. Bag check, security check, etc. done, I headed onto the bridge for the wait to start!
I crossed the starting line at 7:11AM, nerves and music pumping. The crowd of bikes was intimidating, but I worked hard to stay in my own head and remember the tips I had read in preparation. I was confident I was prepared for the distance and terrain; it was the mass of bikes that I was worried about. We began to spread out after the first few miles. My hill climbing workouts paid off because I was able to get past crowds on the uphills. I’ll admit that finding some space on the left side of the crowd and cranking by people was really great-I couldn’t help but think of some of the trainer workouts I had done and the extra hills I added to some of my workouts.
Since this was my first bike race other than triathlons, I tried to enjoy, watch and learn from others and go as fast as I could : ) The course was varied – some really fast downhills, great flats and plenty of challenging uphills. The course ended at the top of Bear Mountain – a 1278’ climb that was about 4 miles long. That climb took me 29 minutes, but I never stopped spinning or thinking about the fact that at the top of the hill was the moment I had been preparing for.
I reached the finish in 3:12:38. I had done it.
Oh, and I also made it back from NJ in time for my kids’ 7PM Piano Recital that night. Mission accomplished!