The Longest Day
208 miles in one Day

(Last updated: Thu. Sep 24, 2009)

Longest Day 2001

This Longest Day will go down, in my memory, as one of my favorites. It was the first Longest Day I rode. I remember thinking that this would be so hard and that I'd have to train for anything. I read every book I could find on long distance riding and endurance riding. I picked up two small Rodale books which I like a lot:

All of this material comes from Bicycling Magazine so if you have back issues you can search through there to get the same information.

Let's start with the why, I could say I don't know but that's not true. I remember folks telling me about the Longest Day. The stories got me interested. Then is 2000 one of the hotest Longest Day occured. I remember leading a ride in the heat thinking 'I could handle this'. That's when the wheels started turning. BTW, that day had one heck of a down pour, a really strong Thunderstorm and lots of fog. I did wonder if I could handle that. Now my friend Mark was out doing the Longest Day and I was jealous.

The thing I remember most about training for the Longest Day was that I trained long and hard, in every kind of weather (except snow). I did my first century with Mark and Matt. The first hour was done at 14.5 mph avg. as I had problems with my cleats. We then picked it up and finished with 18.3 over 103 miles. It started out cool (58F), it got warmer and we had a thunder storm with heavy rain but we still road on. At one point I was a lot more tired than I thought as I ovelapped wheels with Mark (my fault!). Luckily I some how managed to recover without crashing (sheer dumb luck). Matt kept talking the whole time and was driving us nuts. One thing about Matt, he loves life. I haven't ridden a Longest Day with Matt as we usually lead up different teams but one of these day I have to ride the Longest Day with him. He's nuts, he's hyper (which makes me hyper) and he's strong and I now understnd him so he no longer drives me nuts. Oh the next day Mark and I rode with the rest of our team (I'll discuss them more in a minute) for a nice metric. We completed it at 17.5 mph avg. The rest of the team was fit to kill us as we had planned to do the Longest Day in the high 15's (dang we could have done it at 17!). Before the century and the follow up metric the longest ride I had done was the Mexicali Metric. I finished the ride but I had to walk up the hills.

Our team was made up of the following people:

  • Mark Heck - experienced Longest day rider and a ride leader, co-team leader
  • Larry Goldsmith - experienced Longest day rider and a very knowledgable ride leader, co-team leader
  • Robert Nelson - experienced Longest day rider
  • Gina Lipman - a strong rider but new to the Longest Day.
  • Rodger ??? - a triathlete and new to the Longest Day.
  • Myself - a ride leader and new to the Longest Day.
  • Greg Heck - Our SAG driver, I think this was his first Longest Day.

The above descriptions are the descriptions of the folks at the time of the 2001 Longest Day. We obviously improved since then :-). As a team we weren't able to ride together all the time. We did, how ever, get to ride with each other before the big ride. We made one large mistake that we didn't think about until after the Longest Day. Gina was the shortest rider, then Mark then me, then Rodger then Larry. One problem was when Gina finished her pull she would fall back behind Larry. Basically because of the huge height difference Gina was basically blind to what was going on the road. Another thing learned, the hardway, don't change anything from your training. Two days before the ride Rodger added a diet suppliment. This unfortunately had severe health problems for Rodger. Anyway more on that in a minute.

The 2001 route

This is the route we took in 2001:

You should not try to follow this route as there are several important changes. One of the first and most important being that Ft. Dix will no longer just allow you to pass through the base. They've got better things to do than allow you through the base, so don't bother them. Next and maybe more importantly to you the rider is that Rt 206 in South Jersey has grown from a lightly traveled roadway to a heavily traveled primary road. While you may be able to safely ride the road it's not very enjoyable. The newer 2005 route is much better in that respect. And finally something odd has happened. Many of the roadways have been improved so they no longer look like what is described. This means that some of the roads have been moved or are no longer accessible.

O400, or What time is it?

Okay, it was actually earlier, it was 3:30 AM. I was sharing a room with Robert Nelson (Bob). Bob has a lot of quirks, one of which he eats a certain breakfast but more importantly Bob gets up early and rides to the High Point Monument before the Park opens. He did this solo and that did cause problems but we won't know this for a few hours. So I was up early, Mark and Greg slept in so we left a little late. So it's 4:30 AM and we're leaving. It's an odd morning, it's almost 70F. The weather for the day is a tropical storm. We were all very concerned about all the rain we're going to get. The air is humid and slightly foggy because of the humidty level. So we leave as a team minus Bob. We're expecting to meet him at the turn off Rt 206 onto Newton Ave. As we ride we're riding in front of our SAG vehicle. Greg does a nice job of keeping the lights in front of us and staying far enough back. We also find that the tiny little $20 Cateye Micro-Halegen makes the nicest beam on the road. At only two watts this was very surprising. You can still purchase these lights on various sites. I may get two more. Anyway an hour later and it's sun up. At this point I've decided to relax and lets the veterans guide the ride. As the sun rises I try to read the route sheet and quickly find out I'm unable to (I'm far sighted). I find that I can't look down from the road and focus on the sheet. We find that as the day progresses that we can follow Greg in the SAG, as he'll be our turn marker this works well. Greg also doesn't stay with us the whole way. After a turn he drives on ahead to the next important spot (a turn or rest stop). we can use the cell phone to call Greg back to help with flats or other problems. We did not form pace line much in the first quarter as the hills would break us up a bit. Mark and I are not the best climbers but we just keep on going. Anyway by the time we reached Newton the weather hadn't changed and we hadn't seen Bob. We'd find out a short time later that Bob broke the derailleur hanger on his bike. A part that needed a few weeks to replace. So Bob is out for the day he gets to ride in the SAG for the rest of the day.

In Newton we dump our lights and any extra equipment. While on the road into Newton we had out picture taken for the Newark Star Ledger. At this point I'm still nervous I have no clue what to expect. We've hit a few hills including the steepest (and short) but we have the longest one still ahead. Outside of Newton we do our first pace line and it's working well. As we reach just outside Netcong Larry gets us together to move over the left turn lane so we can get off Rt 206 onto Rt 183. This bypasses the Rt 80/Rt 206 interchange where cyclists are not permitted. Once we get into Netcong we have the big climb up to Rt 80 and rejoin Rt 206. Overall I don't do too badly. Of course once over the hump Mark (Sir Issac Newton) begins his descent. I know this and do my best to draft. We buzz into Flanders at 45 plus mph. I love that descent. After the climb out of Flander into Chester (across Rt 24), Gina and I get off the front a bit and we're booking. By the time we get to just outside Bedminster we are taking it easy to let everyone catch up. This is pretty much it for the hills after this there are no huge climbs just a few short surprises. At this point Rodger lets us know that he is not feeling well (he's not drinking and he's got the runs but we don't know this yet). Since we're stopping almost every 20 miles it's not noticable. This is the first indication that he's about to have a bad day. As we're riding along I'm enjoying the scenery and taking in the sites. The next section in Bridgewater I know really well as I used to work here for a number of years. Now it's my turn to guide everyone through the local hazards. Not a real big deal but Foothill Rd does come up on you quickly unless you know where it is. Our ride into Manville goes uneventful. Rodger seems to be a little better. The day is still cloud covered and relatively warm (still in the 70's). The next section through Millstone is a great place to pace line and we do. We start flying through here. As we ride we catch up to other teams and join together to form a pretty good pace line. At the hill in Kingston we again ride as a solo team. We fly through the next sections and finally into Allentown. Pace lining the whole way, wow did that feel good!

At this point Rodger is looking a little tired but not too bad. We chalk it up to just having completed a Century in less than 6 hours. We all sit down and we eat well. :-) Mental we convince outselves that we're not half way done with a double century but rather we've just completed a century and we celebrate! The first half is done while the sun hasn't come out once we decide that sunblock is a good idea. After we leave Allentown things started getting really interesting. The teams spirits are up beat and we're ready for the rest of the ride. Remember that tropical storm I mentioned early on well 15 minutes after we leave Allentown we get dumped on. All I remember thinking was with this much rain I might get very cold and I wouldn't be able to ride the last 100 miles. A few minutes later it was quite apparent that the rain was warm. In fact it felt great. A few minutes later the sun came out. And I really began to enjoy the ride again. This would continue for the rest of the day.

Now a little further on is one of Mark's favorite sections of the ride. He's been waiting all day for this one left turn. It's a left on Wright! When he tells me this I immediately reply with; Huh?!?! You seen I'm dyslexic and I don't know my right from left. I do know my Larry from Ralph (a trick a College buddy taught me). Anyway Mark loves that turn. They've since changed the sign to Sykesville-Wrigthsville Rd (poor Mark ;-). So we continue on. At the entrance to Ft. Dix the Soldiers let us pass with no problems. It could be the fact that it's again pouring rain, I don't know. It pours for most of the time we ride through Ft. Dix. Once outside the Fort we return to sunny weather. A short time later we're on Rt 206.

In 2001 the traffic wasn't bad and most of the scenery is just farm land. As we turn onto Rt 206 it is apparent that Rodger is not doing well. He needs a bathroom and fast. We stop in this grubby gas station and attempt to use the bathroom. Gina is unable to as the door won't close and it's not what I'd call a bathroom. It does have a toilet but even that's pushing it. It's here that we find out that Rodger hasn't been drinking since mile 70 (this is mile 123). Rodger is in trouble but he keeps on riding. We ride about 20 miles and stop to accommodate Rodger's runs.

When we make the left on Rt 30 we again stop but this time a McDonald's. When we leave we get hit with the heaviest rain of the ride. As we're descending this small hill Larry is at the front and he's a bit nervous as the water is about 4" deep. He keeps going and we follow in his wake. The next 30 miles begins the duldrums, we're mental, physically and emotionally tired. These doldrums are not quite like the doldrums of the 2005 route. These are less boring. At around mile 170 I get a flat. When we take of the tire I dump out a ton of water much to the disbelief of everyone. At this point I've been quiet for about the last 20 miles. I'm not know for being quiet but I was. Gina gives me one of her Double Shot Mocha Caffeine gel packets. Within a short while I'm back to non-stop talking. Those things work really well.

Around this time I notice that Rodger is talking to himself and he looks terrible! I ask him straight out if he wants me to call the SAG. Rodger had been adamant, all day long, about not giving up. He gave me a dirty look that would have made a New Yorker proud. So in a word he said NO! I left it at that and we let him draft the rest of the way into Cape May.

After we made our way through Woodburn our spirits picked up a bit. Two reasons, the first civilization returns, we're out of the Pine forrests and there are homes around us. The second the WaWa at mile 184. This was our last stop and it begins to really sink in that there's only 20 miles or so left (a little over an hour for us). Our spirits really start to pump and with the refueling and rest stop we begin to feel real good. We're now very confident that we will make it! We get back on the road again. It's getting dark not because it's late but rather because of the storm clouds. We keep turning our pace line and taking our turns. We're cranking to a good finish. At mile 198 we turn onto Railroad Ave and we try not to push too hard as we are so close yet still too far to fail.

At mile 200 something odd happens. Suddenly your brain and body are hit by the fact that the lighthouse is no where in sight! In fact you're climbing a bridge over a canal! Who put this mountain here? ;-) After that initial shock and pushing your body a few miles further you are greeted by a rigth turn onto Sunset Blvd. And it is named very well. As we turned we were greated to a lovely setting sun in a mixed cloudy sky and a brief glimpse of the flashing light of the lighthouse. Gina and I wanted to pour it on but Mark and other asked us to keep the pace and we did. So somewhere around 8:10 in the evening we completed the Longest Day. We left just as the Mosquitoes began their feeding frenzy.

Post ride

We've just finished a double century and the feeling is unbelievable. We're now part of a smaller community of cyclist who have ridden 200 miles in one day. When we get back to the hotel we're greeted by the other cyclist who have finished. One thing is on my mind more than anything else: hot food! But first I need a hot shower and for that I need a room. So up we go, lugging our luggage and getting to our rooms. When it's my turn to shower the hot water feel great! You'd be surprised at how much dirt you can pick up from a 200 mile ride. Also consider that it rained, a lot and we were still filthy. Once clean we hurry downstairs gather together and head over to what seems like the only Pizza joint in Wildwood Crest (that's where the hotels are). When we get there I order 2 slices, a spaghetti, with meat balls, dinner and one whole chicken sub. My non-cycling friends decide to stop by, surprise us, and convince me that I don't want to eat that much foo so I skip the sub (big mistake). By the time I'm done eating (5 minutes ;-) ) I'm still very hungery but the shop is closing up for the night. The next day the Longest Day riders meet at the hotel's basement for breakfast. Well we quickly run out of food and I'm still hungery. As a matter of fact I'm hungery for the next two weeks. :-) The drive home along the Garden State Parkway was interesting as it rained just about as heavily as when we rode through Hamminton (the McDonald's with all the rain).