The Longest Day is a ride for self-sufficient and rugged individuals. It’s a one-day 208 mile ride from Port Jervis NY to Cape May NJ.
It is organized by the Central Jersey Bicycle Club who provide queue sheets and a gpx file then leave you on your own until the free breakfast the following morning.
I hooked up with Major Taylor NJ who had 12 riders brave enough to take on the challenge. They put together a SAG van and food for the group. My amazing wife drove me out to Port Jervis the night before and dropped me off at the Days Inn so I could get as much sleep as possible.
Wake time was 3:15am, breakfast at 3:30am, rolled out of the Days Inn Parking lot at 4:45 once everyone was accounted for. It was still dark so we were rocking the Nite Rider headlights and tail lights.
Northern NJ was cool, foggy and hilly with nice 2 minute sweeping descents and farmland. The pace was warm at 20-22 on the flats with everyone falling into a rotation rather quickly.
Of the 12 there were probably 5 (myself included) that did the bulk of the work for the day. Kenny (the democratically elected organizer for MTNJ) would later call me Aaron Voight (which I take as a very high compliment).
As you can imagine, queue sheets for 208 miles are ridiculous so I rolled the dice on a new Garmin 800 and it worked FLAWLESSLY (emphasis due to all the frustrations I endured with the older 705 model). The pace shed a few riders before Kingston, one of whom was our navigator, so I became the next in line to shout out directions. Since I was near the front most of the time this was easy enough.
At mile 83 we stopped in kingston where we got our SAG van. We ate pb/j/banana sandwiches and fig newtwons and drank coca-cola and water. It was about 9:30am. We ran into the MTNJ president who was riding a bike with 4 panniers on it–not sure where he was going, but wherever it was, it looked like he was going to be spending the night.
Long middle-part-of-the-story short the route was nice and avoided big cities and anything industrial. We rode through quaint little towns, farmland, irrigation canals, long country roads, and this place called the “pine barrens”
The pine barrens is bone dry and hot like the desert (see flat top on temp graph below).
Like a desert the soil is all sand. Unlike the desert it is filled with millions of pines, all of equal hight and slightly burnt on the bottom. This section was a very long stretch with little civilization and few places to refill your water bottle. I made a habit of breathing through my nose as much as I could so that I wouldn’t dehydrate and die.
The MTNJ crew is like a mirror image of the Major Taylor Iron Riders group out of NYC; very animated and very funny. They kept everyone entertained throughout the ride and helped to keep our minds off the enormity of the task that we had undertaken.
And this is an important point–I think any cyclist fit enough to do a 5 hour century can do a double, but it is the MENTAL aspect that can make or break you on a ride like this.
A few random riders came and went throughout the day but we were rejoined by two from Princeton that decided that our group was the most fun.
Around mile 160 a twinge started in my right knee and calf, another rider had both legs cramp up. I applied an on-bike massage to my calf to keep it smooth and my legs spinning.
We managed to keep the entire group together until maybe mile 183 when it cracked in half. At this point any riders with gas left began to feel some urgency to push and get this thing done. “Push” at at point, by the way, meant simply maintaining 18-20, not ramping up to race pace (though I did have to hammer at 25 on one stretch to reconnect with the leaders).
Around this point your body’s battery is losing it’s charge regardless of whether or not you have been eating and drinking properly. I was reduced to focusing on the current garmin stretch at hand (generally ~4 miles at a time) rather than the entire remaining distance as that would have broken my heart (we had over 20 miles left which meant over an hour of riding)
We approached the beach from the west so the temp started to drop from nearing the sea breeze first, then from the lowering sun.
We rolled into cape may and up to the lighthouse at about 7:20pm, just before sunset. 7 had survived in the lead group from 14. We maintained an 18mph average over the course of an 11hr 37min ride time.
A few other random notes:
- Generally I hate wearing glasses but I picked up some oakleys for protection and as a possible psychological coolant (if it doesn’t look as bright it won’t feel as hot). Took a rock to the right lens midway through the ride which chipped the finish. Safety: Check!
- Also worked as advertised: Chaomois butter. Like breathing liquid, there is a short acclimation period as you warm it up and get used to the feeling. After that, it is like…well.. butter! very smooth leaving you with no chafing and nice soft skin.
- Forgot my gloves at home and as a result I think I squashed a few nerves in my hand. On the upside: my arm tan is now even! Should be fine but am going to take a break (from long rides and races) for a week or so and let everything heal up.
All in all this was an epic adventure and worthy of my “interesting ride a year” project.
Ride Details at Strava
Another (much more detailed) account at deepbrook.com