When I was a wee little tike I remember seeing a poster of Albert Einstein riding his bike while I was at a school fair. I'm in no way comparing myself to one of the greatest minds this planet has ever seen, I'm simply setting the stage for you all to show you my enthusiasm for bike riding. For some reason this made me want to ride a bike from a very young age. Bike riding gives you a freedom similar to how you feel in a car but even better. Riding your bike lets your mind roam free, thinking about anything and everything, and it gives you quite a good workout with very little joint compression and pounding.
Even though my earliest memory of me riding a bike was getting kicked off of it and the guy riding away with it as I cried like a baby (give me a break, I was 6). My grandmother bought me a brand new blue bike and I took it for a quick spin around the block and an older gentleman ran up to me, kicked me off of it and rode away. I was beyond devastated, so I ran home crying to my parents and my Father drove me around my entire neighborhood for hours looking for this creature. As much as I wanted my bike back, I'm glad that we never located this vial human, my pop was in a rage and it would have gotten ugly. That's another reason why my Pop is my idol, the dude has the heart of a Lion and fear comes a distant second when protecting his kiddies.
Even after that bad experience I still loved to ride my bike, but being a philly boy you are slightly limited to the distances you can ride. You can ride the neighborhood and the park, but anything over twenty miles is hard to do. So when I heard about the Tour De Shore Bike Ride, I was itching to try it. The past few years this bike ride fell on the same exact day as my favorite Spartan Race in Palmerton, Pa (Blue Mountain) so I could never do it. But finally, this year it was on a different date and I jumped at the chance.
The Tour De Shore is a bike race that goes from the Irish Pub in Philadelphia (20th and Walnut) to the Irish Pub in Atlantic City. This ride is approximately sixty-eight miles long. The charity raises money for the families of fallen soldiers and police officers and keeps the money in a college fund so the kids don't have to worry about paying for college (how bad ass is that). This year, they (we) raised over 1 MILLION DOLLARS!
At the starting line I was amped up (like I always am before any race) and I had to relax. I knew that this distance was much longer than any distance that I've ever ridden before, so I started out really easy. As the race began, we rode through the streets of center city and we even crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge which was really cool and something that I've always wanted to do. At this point the really fast road bikes take off and you lose sight of them, and the people on hybrid bikes (medium tires) stay in the middle some where, and the people with mountain bikes and beach cruisers fell back to the rear.
As you ride through the little scenic towns of New Jersey, you really gain a new respect for a lot of different things. One being a car, even blazing fast on your bike, you're only hitting twenty to thirty miles per hour which is pretty slow in comparison to a car. Also, appreciating where all our tax dollars go to help maintain the streets, stop lights and street markings. At around mile ten things started to open up and you could start making moves to pass slower riders. But there was definitely a lot of danger to look out for, cars were whizzing by us on some roads that they just couldn't close. I watched one guy get clipped by a car and the car took off (he was ok).
There were four rest stops that I took full advantage of. As we approached the rest stops, I would take a seat on the grass, snack on my pop tarts (good quick sugar), chug some water and gatorade and quickly get moving again. Being on a hybrid bike I had to work really hard to try and stay with everyone else that were on road bikes with much thinner tires (slicks), but being 6'6 and 250 pounds, I can really muscle the peddles on a bike (it's why I break every bike I own). But grinding that hard allows me to stay with those faster bikes. You have to really master your gearing as well during a race this long, if you don't, your legs will become jello and you will gas out.
The first time I felt quad fatigue was mile thirty, which ironically enough is the farther that I've ever ridden before. Maybe that was mental or maybe it was just real fatigue, but either way I adjusted my tempo again and fought through it. By the fourth rest stop the "holy shit how much further" vibe changed to "omg, we're almost done!". We all knew that AC was around the corner (kind of), so we saddled up and shot out for the last ten mile stretch which would be the hardest because of the cars blazing past us, the leg fatigue, and the head wind that was coming right towards us.
As the casinos appeared in the distance our morale grew, everyone started peddling a lot harder and we knew that it was going to be over very soon. We finally hit AC and hundreds of spectators we yelling and screaming for us at the finish line. We pulled in to the finish line and hundreds of people were there drinking and having a great time. We did it!
After completing the race which was officially 67.8 Miles, I had to ride another few miles to go and meet up with my better half, who was waiting for me at the beach. But at that point I was on a euphoric high and I felt no pain. Even today, I feel great because I prepped my body to take this kind of beating. Between all of the cross training we did (biking, running hills, rowing, assault bike intervals, sprints, weight lifting, etc.), I knew that my mind and my body could handle whatever was coming our way.
The best part of the entire race was being surrounded by so many positive, motivated humans. There was no whining, no complaining and no bitching, just a lot of people ready to rock!
I will definitely be making a No Bull Team next year, so start preparing...