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Race Result

Racer: Aaron Schwartzbard
Race: Jersey Double Century
Date: Saturday, June 19, 2004
Location: Whitehouse Station, NJ
Race Type: Bike - Double Century
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 12:54:00
Comment: Great weather, fun ride.

Race Report:

Another year, another Jersey Double. Last year, Chris retired from the event at the mile 140 checkpoint. She didn't drop out; she just decided that she had had enough of this 200 mile ride. We had been dealing with rain (record setting rain for that area), under-training (each of us had a "long ride" of about 70 miles in training), flats (we had just spent about an hour dealing with tire issues) and fatigue (Chris was still recovering from an adventure race the previous weekend). In the three years we had done it, we had gotten an hour slower each time. Last year, we had to be "headlighted in" by the sag wagon, as we finished in the dark, bumping up against the 9:00pm cut-off.

Despite earlier proclamations to the contrary, we found ourselves back at Pickell Mountain Park an hour before sunrise on the longest Saturday of the year, ready for another 200 mile loop around western New Jersey. This time, we had company. Kelly, who had come along for our first Jersey Double in 2001, but who had since been on something of a training hiatus, returned. Andrea, Kelly's riding partner of late and a fellow RAT, had decided to give it a go. And Lisa, who has family in New Jersey, decided to come up from Florida to ride and play.

So there we were, ready to set out a few minutes past 5:00 am. We checked out at 5:10. It was starting to get light, and we made our way through the first few turns, watching for the yellow "W"s that marked every turn through the entire route. Chris was in her aerobars, and heading off the front of our little pack. Kelly and I were in the back, just trying to get warmed up. Lisa and Andrea were somewhere between. For the next several miles, we shuffled around a bit, trying to find our own rhythms.

At one point, someone rode up to me and asked, "Are you Aaron?"

"Yes," I answered.

"I wanted to let you know that you're the reason I'm here."

[sound of my eyebrows raising]

"Yeah," he went on, "on the web I found some of your reports of this event, and it sounded like fun." That amused me. I keep coming back because it's a great event --- well supported, well marked route, nice roads (though not always nice road surfaces) and most 10K runs have a higher entry fee! So I'm glad to help get other people to sign up.

A couple moments later, the group with which I was riding hit a rough patch of road. Lisa lost both her water bottles. I circled around and picked them up, and our group of five regrouped. After that, Lisa went ahead to catch the people with whom we were riding. Kelly told the rest of us to go ahead, as she was going to take it a little slower. We were in no rush, but at the same time, we didn't want to make Kelly feel any pressure to go fast. Chris and I were riding together and soon found that we had pulled ahead of Kelly and Andrea. We had split into the groups that would stick for the rest of the day.

Chris and I last rode together many months ago. It was good to be back riding together. We quickly got into our groove, riding side-by-side on the roads where we could, and single file with a gap of five or 10 meters where we couldn't. I was interested in spending time in my aerobars and testing my bike fitness, so we ended up riding draft-free. Chris admitted, "I'm not killing myself here, but I am riding a bit harder than I was planning."

I offered my own admission, "Yeah, actually, that was kinda my plan. I sorta wanted to push the pace a little this year." In the past, I had ridden this ride at a very comfortable pace. This year, I was feeling that my riding was pretty solid --- not super fast, just solid. It was time to test myself. That probably wasn't a super idea, since my only "long" ride since March had been six hours on the trainer (with a 20 minute break in the middle when I finished season three of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," and had to swing by the store to pick up the season four DVDs) the previous weekend. I had also forgotten to swap out my rear cassette to give myself an easy gear. Chris, on the other hand, had been shunning her road bike in favor of her mountain bike in recent months, and had had a root canal and dental surgery the day before the ride. Despite all that, we felt good, so we went with it.

We came across a "friend" from last year. Last year, he spent some miles either trying to sprint away from us or hanging on to our wheel. It looked like he was riding in the same mode this year. Chris and I were riding steadily, and we'd catch up to him. As we'd get close, he look back and see us, then put in a big effort to get 40 or 50 meters up the road before drifting back to us again. Neither Chris nor I wanted to be riding near this guy, but we couldn't shake him. If we'd pass him, he'd jump on our wheel. If we'd slow down, he just wouldn't have to put in his frequent accelerations.

We watched him try to throw a banana peel into a trashcan but miss, leaving his litter in the middle of someone's driveway. We saw him get off our wheel at one point to take a shortcut, cutting out about a quarter mile of the course (one moment he was behind us, several moments later he was pulling on to the course a few hundred meters ahead of us). At mile 22, we hit the biggest climb of the day. I'm faster than Chris on the climbs, so I just spun up to the top. Over my left shoulder, I heard heavy chainsaw-like wheezing. It was the guy. I was riding at a moderate pace to get up the hill, but he was shrinering up the road at maximal intensity to stay with me. By then, he was just becoming annoying. If I waited to regroup with Chris, this guy would recover and continue to stick on us for many more miles. I decided that something had to change. So I clicked up to a new gear and took off.

As expected, he stayed with me, right on my wheel. In the next mile, our train picked up two more riders. I started to wonder, "So what do I do now?" On the bike trail, when someone won't leave me alone, I'll put in a solid pull up to an intersection, then stop and let the person go on. Nine times out of 10, he will feel compelled to continue "racing" ahead, and I can cross the intersection and get back to riding my own ride. In this case, I didn't want to pull off simply because I didn't want the guy to have the satisfaction of pulling ahead. However, this guy was going to take a free ride as long as he could.

After a few miles of pulling, we got to a hill, and the guy decided to make his move. I was a little spent from the pull, so I was neither able to, nor interested in, keeping up as he jumped out of the saddle to sprint up the hill. Now he was in race mode, and I could get back to riding my own ride.

Chris caught up, and asked if she had somehow offended me.


"Well, you took off, I thought I might have annoyed you somehow, and you didn't want to ride another 170 miles with me."

"Oh, no... It was just... That guy. We got to the top of the hill, and he was wheezing, and I thought that maybe if I took off fast enough, he'd just collapse in a ditch by the side of the road, and we wouldn't have to deal with him anymore."

"Oh. Alright then. Good."

(I have to admit that it did bring slightly more than a small degree of satisfaction to the both of us when, 110 miles later, we arrived at the mile 140 aid station to find the guy sitting in a chair, talking about muscle cramps. And perhaps we derived a bit more satisfaction when we left the mile 140 aid station, and he hadn't moved. It's not that we wish ill will on anyone (even exceedingly annoying people). It's just that... Well... Learning is a good thing. We like to see people learn. Even if they have to learn the hard way.)

From there, the ride was fairly uneventful. We reached the first aid station, just short of mile 60. We refilled our bottles, used the restrooms, and set out again. The next section seemed to take no time. I looked at my bike computer, and thought that we were just past mile 94 when we rolled into the mile 98 aid station. My computer was about 3.5% off, so we were pleasantly surprised. Without drafting, we had done the first 98 miles in 5:45 ride time. If we could maintain that pace, we'd both finish a bit faster than we had done in the past.

The race organizers transport lunches from the start to this aid station. Lisa and her group were finishing their lunches as we arrived. Chris and I attended to our needs --- find our "lunches" (for me, a can of ensure, a can of V8 and a small box of chocolate soy milk), fill our bottles, use the restrooms. When we were leaving, we checked out of the station, and a volunteer said, "Wow, you guys didn't spend much time here at all!" That's exactly what we wanted to hear. The plan was to be in and out of the aid stations with minimal dilly-dallying.

During the next section, I started to fade. There were many stretch of long straight road. Whereas the hills are my strength, the long straight stuff is Chris' strength. I'd be riding about 10 meters behind Chris in my aerobars, and that 10 meters would become 15 meters, then 20 meters, and before she'd realize that I was lagging, she'd have put 200 meters on me. I told her that she didn't need to hang back with me; she could go on ahead if she felt good. But she decided that it would probably be wise to hold back a bit, and save her energy for later.

In my haste to get out of the mile 98 aid station, I forgot to fill one of my water bottles. Well, so much for speedy efficiency. I've gone through two water bottles in the stretch between 98 and 140 in the past, so I knew that I'd have a hard time making the distance with only one bottle. We took a quick stop in a small town along the route. I finished what I had remaining, and bought enough water to refill both bottles. It was a good move, too, since I put quite a dent into both water bottles before getting to the aid station. On cold rainy days, two water bottles are enough to get from mile 98 to mile 140, but on a warm day, a third water bottle comes in very handy.

After mile 140, we had one more aid station: mile 168. Between those two aid stations. Someone passed us. Eventually, he put 100 meters on us. After a while, we noticed him looking back occasionally. But unlike the annoying guy from the first part of the ride, this guy didn't seem to be racing anyone, and he didn't seem to be falling back or accelerating. Eventually, after deciding that we were riding at the same pace, he sat up and fell back to us. When we caught up to him, he said, "Hi there. You mind if I ride with you?"

Now that's the thing that makes all the difference in the world. Politeness. Someone who jumps on your wheel, looking for a free ride is a leach. Someone who makes the simple gesture of introducing himself is a new friend. He introduced himself as Matt. He had been riding with a group, but somehow they got separated, and he ended up doing about eight bonus miles.

After 150 miles, it's nice to have some extra company. Shortly after he joined us, he offered to get in front for a pull. Again, a bit of courtesy went a long way to impress me and Chris. But we explained that we were riding in non-drafting mode. He was welcome to sit in on a wheel, or spread out, or ride ahead. He ended up sticking with us. We arrived at the mile 168 aid station, and his group had left only three minutes before we arrived. He thought about trying to catch them, but decided to stay with us.

As is always the case, in the last few miles I was ready to be done. With 20 miles to go, I though, "Twenty miles feels like a long way when it's in front of you." With 10 miles to go, I thought, "Those last 10 miles seemed to take a really long time, and now I gotta do that again." With five miles to go, I started to feel like I just might make it. With two miles to go, I thought about the morning when we past the two mile point, and someone said, "Now we just gotta do that 99 more times!" At the last few turns, I felt the excited anxiousness that a kid feels on Christmas morning. And when we rolled into the park, and had our bikes surgically extracted from between our legs, I felt the satisfaction of another 200 miles well done. Our ride time was 11:53, and our total time was 12:54.

Chris, Matt and I congratulated each other. Lisa was waiting. Kelly and Andrea were still riding. After Kelly and Andrea arrived, we loaded up Kelly's party van with all the bikes, and set out for the traditional post-double century diner dinner. Somewhere, there was a chocolate milk shake with my name on it.