The longest Day
208 miles in one day

(Last updated: Thu. Sep 24, 2009)

Longest Day 2005

First let me state that I mean no disrespect to the true effort of the Longest Day (the Normandy Invasion) from World War II. A great many men died that day to allow me the freedoms I enjoy. The ability to do this ride and to post the following commentary are just two of the freedoms I enjoy. I often think of the men who gave their lives on D-Day and wonder if I could have done it? I hope I never have to find out.

The following is a post to the newsgroup rec.bicycles.misc I made on June 13, 2005. I've taken some liberties with the story for humor but not too many. It is somewhat of a fun poke my club's ride, the Longest Day. Enjoy ...

The short version

I originally wasn't going to report this as I thought it was a disaster. The short version is that we rode 211-212 miles of a 207 mile single day ride. We started at 4:55 and finished at 8:55. It started out at 67F +90% humidity, hit a high in the mid 90's F and finished at 82F. We had a South wind all day long which really started kicking in around mile 130. At the same point we rode for about 25 miles with no shade during the hotest part of the day (in the NJ Pine Barrens). We had mechanical problems early on and 2 additional flats later on. The heat probably slowed us down more than anything else. The reason I thought it was a disaster was that the latest we had previously arrived at Cape May was 8:25 PM and that was my first year. We've always arrive earlier and the speeds when up (16.2, 16.6, 16.8, 17.8), starting times varied. But we had seasoned teams the last 3 years. This year we had 6 of 9 who were first time riders to a double century.

The REALLY long version.

We had trained with a number of folks (7 of us) over the last few weeks, getting ready for the Longest Day (LD). We seemed to be a team that grew out of 2 teams of 3 & 4 to 3 teams that totaled 12. The night before the big ride that exploded to 17 and we rejected a third team's offer to ride together (that would have been 22). So we broke the group up into 2 teams one of 9 and the other 8. My group of 9 had 3 multi LD survivors and the rest were first timers. The other team had 2 or 3 survivors and the rest first timers. The 3rd team had 3 hammer heads, a first timer (4 1st timers) and a survivor. You can't ride the LD as a hammer head (riding as fast as you can for as long as you can) and be a 1st timer. You don't know what the 4 weather zones will bring you and the terrain does some interesting things to you (starts out hilly and flattens out, then you hit the plains, the Pine Barrens and the coast). The weather is just as different (seems to be about 4 zones).

We started out late, 4:55, I wanted 4:30. The first 26 miles went very fast and smooth (thanks to our SAG wagon following behind), even with the nasty construction zone. During this time we discussed the strategy for the day and got to know everyone a bit (we had 3 people we hadn't trained with).

Just after our first stop we had a problem rim give us a lot of trouble. The hook wouldn't stay on if we added more than 90 lbs of air to a tire which could handle 120 (really old rim). That took nearly a half hour. Team 3 with the hammer heads goes by. Once we got going we seemed to climb the hills pretty well my friend Mark & I would lag a bit but we'd always catch up (we had one rider who had done a hill climb of the the Tour de France as a tourist). We had problems keeping stops short and the temperature began to heat up around mile 70. Also at this point one rider suggested that we take a detour that added 4 miles to the ride (he assured us that it would about the same). We did get some relief from the early morning heat (it was around 10 AM) down around the Raritan Canal which is tree line and the canal provided us with cool air off the water. We felt pretty good but the heat had started to take a toll on some of the riders and I hadn't properly noticed. We continued to Allentown for lunch at a riders home. We washed, ate & drank, changed, ate & drank, put on new sun block, ate and drank and started to really sweat! It was getting hotter. This stop was way too long, especially since we had a stop (also a little too long) at Griggstown Causeway. We officially started doing pace lines with a 60 second pulls outside of Allentown. It over 25 miles to get it working real smooth but we were doing it.

We flew through the Ft. Dix/Wrightsville gap, through Browns Mills, New Lisbon and finally into Wharton State Forest (start of the Pine Barrens). We stopped at a local Ranger's station and they offered to hose us down. The water was cold at 55F (the Barrens is the worlds largest aquifier and we were being soak with that water). The intial shock gave way to relief. I hate the cold but I loved this! I also downed a Red Bull. I advised anyone who could handle it to down a large shot of caffine late in the ride as malaise (no! not mayonnaise) tends to set in and the caffine boosts your spirits a bit.

Our next stop was supposed to be 30 miles more. But this was the hardest part of the trip. The Pine Barrens are not well know for shaddy tree line roads and the sun was right over head. We rode our pace line really well and we were flying but the heat was taking its toll. At around mile 150 one of the riders suggested we needed to stop. I started looking for shade and we stopped the group was looking pretty ragged but the stop seemd to help out.

One thing to note, that last 50 miles contains long stretches of straight as an arrow roads. Bordom sets in quickly and the scenery doesn't change much. We got going again and a short time later we rode through Egg Harbor (a real town with a main street). We weren't going to see that again for about 33 miles. But we were going to have to deal with an increase in traffic, lots of woods and towns but no stores that we could see. Somewhere in here we got one more flat I managed to fix in 10 minutes (the bad rim got a snake bite flat). Don't ask me how I changed that tire so fast.

Back on the road again, at this point one of the survivors (6 time rider) started wondering if we had made a wrong turn. I had been giving directions from memory (5 time rider) and I was really certain we were going the correct way. But I couldn't find any land marks he would recognize. Seems our 4 mile detour had thrown him off and he was expecting a small bridge, 4 ft long - steel grated bridge, we hadn't crossed yet. The problem here is that the scenery really looks all alike ("You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike"). Busy roads, small homes, boarded up gas stations, closed deli's and auto specialty shops. I finally found a Fuchia garden center where one of our previous rider's (not on the ride this year) Mom had stopped. She had a parrot with her and at the at shop it made such a racket as we passed. Easy to remember and my memory was again trusted (yipes).

So we're riding, riding, riding. The wind is blowing, blowing, blowing. This is boring, boring, boring. And we get a flat. Others tend to it and we end up lolly-gaging for about 45 minutes despite efforts to speed things up (I'm ready to explode). It's getting dark and it's only 6:30 PM (cloud cover). We're not at the mile 185 WaWa and we have a lot more riding!

Back on the bike, boring, boring, boring, my ass is swollen, swollen, swollen (Raw Hide!, come on sing along, if you've done a double you know the words). Finally the WaWa! We meet up with several other teams including team 3 (the hammer heads) seems we did better in the heat than most teams. Many of those left much earlier than we did. Team 3 leaves a few minutes after we arrive. This stop took the cake and nearly pushed me over the top. At 720 I'm trying to rally everyone to get ready and go. By 745 we still have people lolly-gaging about. I kept my cool (yelling and screaming at a bunch of tired folks is not the way to motivate really tired folks) but I'm steaming. Finally we get going with 25 miles to go (remember it's 7:45, dark at 8:30). At this point I make a real bone head move. I know we have to go 12 mile before our next turn yet I go a 1/4 of a mile and make a turn. Good news is that we only go a few hundred feet but it is very annoying (Mark likes to remind me of this mistake often :-). Back on the route. A few of the strong riders kick up the pace taking us up to 20 mph at a stretch, while the wind tried to slow us down to 15 mph at a stretch. Despite this the pace line held together really well (I was really impressed). We make the turn onto the bridge which is high enough for a battle ship to go under (Okay it's not really high enough for a battle ship to go under but it high enough for most modern boats to go under). Quick history lesson: during WW II battle ships going to the Philadelphia naval yard would not be going into the Delaware where the German subs were. They would take a short cut through a canal that was built for battle ships. We had to climb the bridge (south Jersey Mountain) over that canal. One of two things happen at this point. If you weren't aware that this was a 208 mile ride you just freaked out because you don't see the light house (you have 8 more miles to go). If you were aware of the extra miles then you are probably starting to rejoice as there are only 8 more miles until you can remove that bike seat from the cheeks of your butt! Anyway, we flew down to the light house and when we finally saw it we had to drop the pace because the lack of street lights and lights on the bikes. We arrived and survived with a 17 mph avg but there was one more thing to over come. Some of the team memers wives wanted to take pictures. The biggest problem with arrive at Cape May after 7 PM is that the mosquitoes come out for dinner. Well at 8:55 PM we were the only diner open and we had to not move for 2 minutes. I felt like a pin cushion!