….but its my Bar!
I have been wanting to write this particular blog for a while now; the final push came from Seth Godin’s Blog this morning: “Numbers (and the magic of measuring the right thing).” You can read it HERE – his posts are always valuable and inspiring!
After GFNY2015 I wanted to continue cycling as consistently as possible – mostly so that I wouldn’t lose my mind – and I also wanted to see if there was an opportunity to include people who come from the “south”, as in “south of the GWB” – involved in our group rides. I came up with the name GAVIA Cycling Group Rides and with Don Francesco’s help/guidance/prodding/inspiration, some contributed design work from Ramon and support from the developers of The Modern and Port Imperial began the rides from Fort Lee to Weehawken (picked up anyone who wanted to join), headed back to Fort Lee (stopping at The Modern to pick up anyone who would join), then met our group and began our ride. There were days when Ektor, Duro, Avi, Frank, Rob, Skyler, Susanna would join the ride from the start and we would pick up a couple of people in Weehawken (Ektor, Chris, Andrea, Covi) and a couple of cyclists from The Modern (Chris, Brenda), and there were other times when the group consisted of me at the start, middle and end. I just kept riding those extra 25km every Saturday through October and of course improved my fitness.
I rode without a computer; I simply created routes on Ride with GPS, kept track of my progress on Strava (because, as I understand it, if it isn’t on Strava you really didn’t ride) and my cycling improved.
I wasn’t half as good as most of the people I rode with; in fact, I got dropped about 1/3 of the way through one of our longer rides I was leading; the group was stronger and faster than me and they did as they were supposed to, ride their ride. I caught the scoundrels at The Pie Lady, only to be dropped again on the way home – but no matter, I rode.
If you take a look at my Strava numbers you will see that I am not at the top of any leaderboards, I don’t have any KOM’s, my average speeds approximate average at best and if it weren’t for my green jersey and my role on GS-GFNY no one would know me as a cyclist. The important thing to me is that I improve over time – perhaps not day to day or even week to week but from beginning to now I am a better cyclist. I am stronger, faster, more confident, and I for the first time I feel like I have become a good ride leader by proactively planning rides and encouraging participation.
My GFNY Results (and some laughs for you)
First Year – 2011 (BIG DNF) I signed up and didn’t have a clue. I did Little Tor twice because I followed the Medio Fondo riders down the first time only to find out that the Gran Fondo route had us going over the top. I missed the cutoff time at the turn toward Bear and headed toward the finish. I didn’t really have any idea where I was, so waited at the rest stop in W Nyack. When a couple of friends told me they were about to start going up Bear and that would meet me within the hour I of course waited there – it is possible they knew less about the course than I did!
Second Year – 2012 (Finished outside the time, after 5PM) I had a little bit more clue than the first year, but not much. In support of the theory that “it is better to be lucky than good looking, smart or financially wealthy” I was chosen to be a member of GS-GFNY that year, helped lead the group rides and rode the race with Number 3. I set the course record that year, having been passed by approximately 5,000 participants during the race! I met up with Don Alberto, Atam, we picked up Kevin at the ice cream store in W. Nyack and rode to Weehawken together. The two funniest conversations while at the ice cream store were me calling Melanie to tell her that I would see her at the finish line within the hour and Kevin telling his son on the phone not to worry because he was riding with the guy who had the Number 3; to say that Don Alberto was convulsed in laughter would be an understatement!
Third Year – 2013 (It was a little bit wet – I finished around 7PM). I left my house wearing bibs and my cycling jersey; I didn’t want to wear too much clothing as the weather prognosticators said there was a slight chance of showers. Who knew! Truth be told I had a really enjoyable day and the only time I was really cold was descending Bear. I met a friend at the top of Bear (having beaten the sweep vehcile by approximately 30 seconds – I actually believe they sloed to let me pass near the top of Perkins) and we came down together but I could see that she was really suffering from the cold and I was happy that she chose to call her brother for a ride right before BBB (Baby Bear Backwards). When I got to the Mottt Farm intersection I thought about heading straight and then in a burst of ___________ (not quite sure what to say here) made the right and committed to do the second half. Needless to say I rode the entire back half of the course on my own, although….as I got to the stadium in Pomona i saw what looked like a thousand cyclists waiting in the parking lot and I thought “I can’t believe it, I caught all these people”….then found out that they were all waiting for the buses to take them to the finish line. A couple of people left with me but they soon got onto the van and there I was, Andy Hampsten on the Gavia, riding to the finish to see my wife and mother in law.
Fourth Year – 2014 (I rode with a pro for a while and almost had a heart attack!) I met Davide who is one of the organizers of an Italian Gran Fondo named La Fausto Coppi and for some reason unbeknownst to me I agreed to ride with him for a little while. While he was not a pro in the real sense of the word I do believe he should have let me know that he had some top ten finishes in several serious cycling endurance events in Italy and SOuth Africa; after much pleading on my part he finally agreed at the bottom of Bear to go on his own (although he was kind enough to wait for me at the top – he probably took a good nap) and then went on to finish as he should. The most joyful part of the ride for me was during my descent of Bear (not sure that what I do is descending but I was going downhill at a slightly faster pace than I go uphill so I refer to it as descending); my wife was headed up Bear and was going to finish the Bear 50 way ahead of schedule – no words can describe how I felt at that moment! I went on to finish in record time (for me) – 9:24:47 – no this isn’t years – weeks months!
Fifth Year – 2015 (Life was a little disrupted – GFNY and a couple of good friends kept me sane) We lost a lot of group rides due to weather but my friends Ektor, Don Francesco, Ricky and from time to time several other cyclists became known as the Polar Bear Club of 9W. We rode throughout the winter, even in single digits, and several times got caught in snow – not flurries – snow! I felt really good throughout the ride, was able to ride through the park with Melanie and John and met up with several other friends out on the course. Overall I really enjoyed the ride, convinced a couple of cyclists to continue when they considered stopping, making effective use of the difference between km and miles! I rode back the last 40km of the course with Ness, a triathlete who had never done a cycling event with this much climbing. I finished in 9:38:10 – and of course my time up Bear was about 2 minutes longer than my wife – what a difference a year makes!
What is in store for this year? I have been really lucky – I have been able to train with some really inspiring cyclists throughout the fall and winter into the spring and, based on my Strava numbers, the metrics that we use at GAVIA and my general feeling of well-being, if I am able to maintain my fitness for the next four weeks and I have a good day on May 15th I am going to significantly improve my finish time. I hope to give it my best and let’s see what happens!
I look forward to seeing everyone at Bike Expo on May 13th and 14th and during the race on May 15th ; I for sure am excited about all of our GAVIA athletes who have really worked hard and dedicated themselves to their training since January and am really looking for ward to seeing their results!
If you would like to know more about the GFNY course, especially if it is the first time you are riding it, please listen to GFNY podcast 22, where Uli and me talk about the makeup of the entire course from beginning to end as well as a strategy you might follow to get through some of the tougher sections of the course!
My email address is email@example.com; feel free to contact me with any questions you might have about GFNY!
Thanks for reading!