NYC Century: the 55-mile route

(This will be probably be the last biking post for a little while, then back to regularly-scheduled tech! Thanks for indulging me.)

Before the NYC Century ride, I couldn’t find good maps of the 55-miler, so I tracked the route on my Garmin yesterday so I could share it later. I think we got off the official route a few times for short periods, but here it is (of course, it changes frequently and could be different next year):

Enjoy. I’ll add the elevation profile and all that when I have a little more time. There was about 1400 feet of climbing.

It was a really awesome ride, as much for the sense of community among the riders as the ride itself.

Urban biking in NYC

When I lived in the Bay Area, I fell in love with biking, both on dirt trails and on the road. I knew the dirt trails of the East Bay like the back of my hand and seeing the transcendent views of fog over the bay in the morning calmed my soul. I never tired of it, not even a little. I even saw the occasional cow or two. I made significant major life decisions on the hundreds of miles I covered with my friend Andrew. So when I moved to NYC, aside from missing friends out in California, I missed riding through those gorgeous hills more than just about anything else.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been determined to get back in the saddle, so I signed up for the 55-mile ride in the NYC Century, which is tomorrow. To prepare, I’ve been running 2-3x a week and doing a training ride on the weekend. Urban riding is way different from what I’m used to, but it has its own kind of excitement and I’m having a blast exploring NYC on two wheels. Here are my past two rides (I’ve been biking to and from work, too, which is awesome in the fall weather):

1. Manhattan Loop (right around 30 miles)

This ride goes over the Brooklyn Bridge, up the east side to Harlem, down through Central Park, cut over to the greenway on the west side, down around the perimeter of Manhattan, and back across the Brooklyn Bridge. Going over the Brooklyn Bridge is a little like a video game as you dodge tourists who step into the bike lane to get the most scenic photos. The bike-and-pedestrian-only greenway on the East River stops around the United Nations and you have to get back out in regular traffic, and pedaling amongst the crush of taxis and pedestrians was a memorable experience that kept my blood pumping. Shooting down into Central Park at the north entrance was absolutely awesome (side note: the Great Hill in Central Park — which felt like a big climb relative to everything else — is only 135 feet above sea level). The greenway on the west side along the Hudson is really nice, too, though I almost wiped out when an elderly woman came barreling towards me with a “I don’t know how to stop this thing!” look (whew).

(I used Veloroutes to map this trip).

2. Brooklyn waterfront to Marine Park to Prospect Park (about 40 miles)

Beach at Jacob Riis ParkI took some photos along this route, which goes along the waterfront in Brooklyn along Gravesend Bay, out near Coney Island, through Sheepshead Bay, out to the Rockaways, Jacob Riis Park, Floyd Bennett Field (NYC’s first municipal airport), and Fort Tilden, then back up Bedford Avenue (the longest road in Brooklyn!) to Prospect Park. If urban decay and post-apocalyptic-Planet-of-the-Apes NYC are your cup of tea, you’ll get your money’s worth with Jacob Riis Park and Floyd Bennett Field, both of which have been beautifully neglected.

For this ride, I dusted off my Garmin Edge 305, which records all sorts of data about your ride, including speed, lat/long coordinates, elevation, heart rate, and calories burned. While this is a bit of overkill for my level of riding, I find that looking at all the data after the ride is fun for a data geek like me. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know the exact lat/long coordinates where you hit your peak heart rate? The data from the Edge can be loaded into a program like Ascent, where the data can be exported to a KML file, which is how I generated the map below.,-73.913956&sspn=0.461488,0.979156&ie=UTF8&ll=40.625255,-73.953697&spn=0.125237,0.176132&output=embed
View Larger Map

The 55-miler starts at 7:30am tomorrow in Prospect Park. Tonight, it’s early-to-bed for a fresh start.

Remembering 9/11

On September 11, 2001, I was living in Berkeley, California. One of the things I remember most is the generous outpouring of sympathy for New York and the United States at the time, with Le Monde in Paris writing beautifully Nous sommes tous Américains: we are all Americans (translated version). Having lived in New York for two years now, what I didn’t fully appreciate then was the intense love that New Yorkers feel for the city. The towers themselves could be seen across the East River from the bedroom of my apartment where I live now in Brooklyn, which I know now because I see the Tribute in Light from that spot today. The city has become my own in the past two years of living here and I feel the impact of 9/11 in a way that I didn’t then.

Like most people, I had good friends in NYC at the time, and I caught a close friend working in midtown on IM that morning shortly after the second tower fell. I saved the transcript, and reading it now brings back the chaos and worry of that morning, the feeling of not knowing if the people you cared about were ok, and concern for the people who experienced such horror, mixed in with the human spirit of dark humor from someone who was in a frightening situation. I was lucky that my friends and loved ones were ok, but felt such a sense of sympathy and concern for those who weren’t sure about their love ones.

me: everything ok where you are?
friend: or relatively so?
friend: pendemonium
friend: i'm shaking so hard i can't even see straight
me: i was glad to see you pop up on IM.
friend: thx
friend: i'm looking for [friend of his]
friend: who works downtown
friend: classic [big company] internet moment. i can't post new content to [the web site he was working on]
me: the internet is pretty much hosed right now.
friend: i was on the subway right as it happened, evidently. 8:45
friend: i was just in the WTC on Monday
friend: labor day
me: i'm staying at home. . . not risking driving over the bay bridge today.
friend: i'm gonna be sick
me: is there any way to get back to queens?
friend: don't know, the bridges are closed
friend: nothing stop sspam. i just got 3 mails to enlarge my breast size
me: not surprised.
friend: was outside. so much chaos
friend: not safe to walk around even up here
me: why is it unsafe there? just too much panic?
friend: too much panic and confusion and emergency vehicles

Our conversation ended then, but I at least I knew he was ok at the moment, if not very shaken.

At that point, the news from CNN got to be overwhelming and I hopped on my bike to ride up into the Berkeley hills from the flatlands where I lived. When I got up there (about 1300 feet above sea level), I took some deep breaths and took in the views of the bay that had 101-0102_IMGalways had such a calming effect on me. That day, I remember gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge and taking a photo of it knowing that it had been evacuated out of concerns that terrorists might fly planes into it or blow it up. Would I be one of the last to see it intact? I took some other photos that day, in part to document what that day was like but also because I was legitimately wondering if something might happen to alter the landscape that I was seeing, not to mention the lives of those living in it. I thought of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. These were strange and frightening feelings, but I had seen the towers fall on TV just hours earlier and the rumor mill of what might happen on the west coast was going at full throttle.

I visited NYC about six weeks after 9/11 and the memorials around the city brought me to tears many times. I remember coming across a donation station for food and treats for the dogs who were still looking for victims, and there was still smoke in the air downtown as the remains of the building smoldered. The city was very much in mourning.

My heart goes out to those who lost friends and loved ones that day.