Today was a particularly important day. Not only did Daylight Savings Time end (meaning we got an extra hour of sleep!) but the TCS NYC Marathon was scheduled (which was still occurring, as of the time this post was written). There’s just such an incredible energy in the city on the first Sunday in November, without fail.
I noticed a post on the r/NYCBike sub-reddit mentioned that there would be a pre-marathon bike ride, meeting at 6:45am at the Dunkin Donuts near 95th street and 4th avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. One of my co-workers and another friend of mine were also going to doing this route. What a unique opportunity! Riding the streets around the time that NYPD closes them off to car traffic, but well before the elite runners and the para-olympic athletes started.
So, with that, I set my alarm for 5:00am and of course, for a brief moment forgot that the clock went back an hour, so I thought I was late. I went about my typical pre-ride routine which includes a hot shower to help me wake up. This sounds pretty odd, but it’s something that I’ve done ever since I rowed back in college. Before getting outside into the raw, early morning cold – a hot shower was the perfect way to welcome the day.
I decided to ride to Bay Ridge from Queens, effectively riding the course in reverse. I had a little bit of trouble navigating around downtown Brooklyn, as evidenced by my Strava track.
Though I will say, riding through that part of Brooklyn before the sun rose was pretty fantastic. I was listening to Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo and Youth album (in one ear, of course) and the song, “Body Of Work” came on. The end of this song had such a great jazz feel to it. Combine that with riding in downtown before the sun came up was really something special and felt authentic, “New York.”
Riding down 4th avenue, I saw at least 7 or 8 parked cars being towed, I guess those people didn’t get the memo about the marathon! Didn’t get the chance to snag a picture of the scene.
After arriving at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Bay Ridge, the sun was just beginning to rise over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which made for a prime photo opportunity. The weather was a tad bit chilly, but I knew it was going to warm up somewhat by the time the sun rose. I’m glad I layered properly and wore my merino smartwool socks + cleat toe covers.
A few minutes after 7:00am, we decided to head out. The goal was to average somewhere in the vicinity of 15-16mph to make sure we’d get to the Queensboro Bridge before it was closed off by the DOT / NYPD. One thing I will say is that there was a really strange feeling of being able to go through red lights directly in front of NYPD and some of the officers were even encouraging us on. The fact that some of those officers were friendly and welcoming to us, felt great! It took us by pleasant surprise.
A group of us were able to ride directly on the Pulaski Bridge (car lanes). This was such a unique feeling. Although, looking back in hindsight, I don’t think the Pulaski was fully closed off to cars at that point in time. Oh well, something unique to write about 🙂
Shortly after the above picture, we embarked onto the “Queensboro/59th street/Ed Koch” bridge around 7:45am! The DOT members were friendly and let us through without any problems. However, from what I understood, some cyclists who made it to the bridge moments after 8:00am were barred from crossing.
We then turned onto 1st avenue. Historically, this turn off onto 1st ave has been a high morale point for the runners. The spectators would line the sides of the street and the cheers could be heard up the avenue. When we passed, it was not quite this glamorous, the cars were still allowed to be on the road at that point in time. However, we made ourselves right at home in the “Bus Only” lane. Car traffic began thinning out as we rode past the low 100’s.
We traversed our way from ~60th street to 125th street (which becomes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd that far east). At first I thought we were going to be able to ride directly on the Willis Avenue bridge, but the group of officers at the base of bridge indicated otherwise.
“This is Mile 20. Say ‘Hello’ to the wall.”
It was at this point in the route that I realized how difficult it must have been for the athletes after having battled ~23 miles of the race, to have a steady incline near the end. I figured this would be a critical point in the course where race plans might fray at the seams, or so to speak. Especially after the excitement coming off of the Queensboro bridge. With the adrenaline pumping, it seems very easy to go out too quickly heading up 1st avenue since it’s more-or-less flat.
Approaching the finish line, we weren’t allowed to go back into Central Park, since the police were ushering other cyclists out and away from the barricades, so we never got to see the true finish line. Well, I saw it the other night when I rode in Central Park, but I mean on race day.
Back to Queens:
However, the post doesn’t end there. I went back to Queens (via subway). There was no way Queensboro bridge was going to be open, so I decided to just take the train home. No harm, no foul, I’d already ridden 36.8 miles and felt as though my workout for the day had been done. I spent most of the ride in the big ring, which was great, even if my average cadence was slightly lower than my usual 80-90 rpm.
I took a quick shower and realized that the elite women were going to be coming down the course on Vernon Boulevard in 20 minutes or so. I decided to go see this in person! Need some especially unique content for the blog! The energy level was very high, security was equally as high, which was good to see.
At first I saw some of the para-olympic athletes coming down the course in their recumbent bikes, what an inspiration!! I saw one individual with a guide runner and didn’t realize what was going on until someone mentioned that he was blind. Absolutely incredible. No words.
I also saw the two women who led the women’s pack throughout Long Island City – you can see Mary Keitany’s bib number out in front. She would go on to win her third consecutive NYC marathon. What an amazing opportunity to have seen her run by!
Overall, this was an awesome route to have ridden. I was able to average 15.2mph for the 36.8 mile ride (partially attributed to a few cross-streets that we had to stop at). At the beginning of the ride, I was saying to my friends, “I’d love to be able to go the whole ride without unclipping once.” That goal was soon crushed. I doubled back and said, “Well, maybe 3x unclipping to allow for unavoidable situations.” Let’s just say I ended up unclipping a lot more than expected, haha.