The Longest Day
208 miles in one Day

(Last updated: Thu. Sep 24, 2009)

The Longest Day - 2009

After my behavior last year (2008), I decided I would do what I do best and that was give just the turn by turn directions and not attempt to be the leader. Instead Jud took over making sure we maintained a manageable speed. Jud does brevets and is quite experienced at keeping a maintainable pace. He did a wonderful job as we averaged 17.5 mph and I'm certain that I was dragging a bit. This year my training was interrupted by work and school which made it difficult to maintian the proper fitness needed for such a ride as the Longest Day.

Our team consisted of Mark Heck - 8 time Longest Day rider. Mark supplied the SAG vehicle and handled the supplies. No one packes a car was well as Mark does. As I said Jud is a brevet rider and he's done a 1200km with 66K ft. of climb in 94 hours (ouch!). Mark, Jud and I have ridden together for a number of years, on many long ride (metrics therough double metrics). Mark and I have done 7 Longest Day rides together but this was our first Longest Day riding with Jud. This was Kevin's first Longest Day and had ridden a few times with us during training. I've done 8 Longest Days, have the route memorized and I lead centuries on weekends. Together we made an excellent team!

As usual we started at 4 AM, as you see from the picture (above, left) there are 4 of us (from left to right, myself (Neil), Jud Hand, Mark Heck and Kevin Tatoris - Mark's brother, Greg, is taking the picture and is our SAG). Unlike previous starts we seemed to leave on time. This would be a good day. Our initial miles were uneventful and we stayed together as a team. Jud and Kevin are strong climbers while Mark and I are better descenders. :-). Between 4 AM and just before 5 we take it easy and let our legs get warmed up. The dark causes you to go slower because it's more difficult to see. We do a lot of talking at this point and I know I'm quite relaxed just trying to enjoy the ride. When the sun finally comes up starting before 5 AM we begin to pick up the pace a bit (though the climbs do slow us down too). Our first stop was at the Andover Diner at mile 32. In the past we had made it a point to stop in Newton, at mile 26, to simply dump our lights and clothing. With Newton we had 8 stops, with the Andover Diner we dropped one stop. This came about due to Jud's request that we drop one stop and even them out. I'd been thinking about it for a while and finally saw the light with Jud's recommendation of the Andover Diner. This made the distances between stops more evenly distributed earlier in the day when we were fresh. Later in the day we shortened the distances between stops because we would be tired. It turns out that this worked well for us.

At our second stop, Manville McDonald's, I had an amusing incident. We had stopped at a light before turning into the McDonald's, which would be at our second stop. When the light turned green I stepped forward on the pedals to accelerate only to find that my chain decided at that time to jump off the crank. With zero forward motion I managed to balance for a moment and began to fall over to a most embarassing fall on the pavement. In front of my fellow riders and near by drivers. Luckily Kevin caught me before I took my plunge (Thanks Kevin!).

After our stop we proceeded as planned to Allentown. I must say that moving our stops from every 20 - 25 miles to around 30 miles worked out great. It kept things moving and it felt better over all. Also the section between Manville and Allentown is one of my favorites. I just feel like we're picking up speed as we ride through there. It's probably the ability to do pace lines that helps.

Our lunch stop was a smooth one as we coordinated it better this year. We made sure we had the phone number of our SAG, that the phone was on, that it was charged and that the SAG knew to meet us at the soccer field in Allentown. We also put together the lunch menu the day before. Mark, Kevin, Jud and myself seem to make it a habit of pretty much always eating the same types of foods on long rides. This is one of those things you figure out while doing your training. It's much easier on the stomach. Also a little bit of communication goes a long way.

Our next stop would be at the Ranger Station but to get there we had to go through a rain storm. We left Allentown with renewed vigor and zeal (a change of clothes, a good lunch and a bit of clean up helps a lot). The next section works well for doing pace lines especially the ride through Ft. Dix and Four Mile Rd. We got hit with the rain on Four Mile Rd where we experienced a pretty good down pour (we've ridden through much worse). Kevin had just changed his clothes at the lunch stop and was looking for new clothing when we hit the Ranger's Station. There was a benefit to the rain, it kept the temperature down. As we headed down into the next section of the Pine Barrens (Wharton State Forest, aka Doldrums A) we had cloudy weather with a little bit of spritzing. When we reached the stop sign in Green Bank the sun came out and the temperature shot up quickly. Boy it was good to be out of that section and just in time! I don't know exactly why but this 22 mile section is one of the toughest sections to ride. I've done metrics where we haven't bothered to take any breaks and they're no where near as difficult as this section. It just seems to wear at you mentally.

The ride through Egg Harbor through May Landing went smoothly. While it was warmer it was much less mentally fatiguing. And the ride through to May Landing had much more civilization than before, always a welcome sight. Also there was road construction work beeing done at the White Horse Pike underpass (mile 152). They had made the lane a single - 50 MPH lane with no shoulder and exit onto and off the Pike. Someone had taken the traffic cones and moved them just a few feet making it wide enough for both cars and bikes to share the road with no problems. To whomever did this, a big thanks! It wasn't this way the week before when I inspected the route. We really appreciated it.

Our next stop was in May's Landing at the local McD's. A quick trip to the bathroom and a nice cold small shake (liquid ice cream in my mind ;-) and we (okay, I) were ready for the next doldrums. This time the sun was out and the temperatures were up but no where near as bad as they could have been in Wharton.

When we reached Tuckahoe we used my altered route. Route 49 had the bridge out for construction work so we diverted around it. One of the criticisms of the old trip through Woodbine was that the road was extremely rough like a chip seal road. This 8 mile section can wear on you, especially after 176 miles. A few riders looked forward to a stop at the Ice Cream Barn but that seems to be the only redeeming feature of this section. The alternative is quite a bit smoother and less confusing in its directions. Also it makes it much easier to reach the very popular WaWa on Route 47. You could sneak into the WaWa rear entrance by turning on Main St. just before the Rt 47 light. That way you didn't have to cross the busy Rt 47 to get to the WaWa.

Our final leg (26 miles, WaWa to the Lighthouse) as a bit dreary. It began to rain ever so lightly. This made it a bit cool for me. Mark was fine with it as he prefered cooler temperatures. It didn't hamper our speed though my arms and shoulders were sore. Jud kept us on a steady pace, one I could keep up as long as we didn't have to go 30 miles. ;-) For some reason I was just worn out on this Longest Day. I've done several and worked my way up to being able to finish the ride with strength to spare but not this year. I guess the training interruptions made a big difference. Oddly enough I still had plenty of strength to climb the canal overpass in Cape May (a real South Jersey mountain after 200 miles). Jud had done an excellent of keeping us steady throughout the day. I doubt we (I) could have kept that speed otherwise. So we finished with a 17.5 mph average for the day. That beat our planned speed of 17.0 mph average. I just love it when a plan comes together.

Here is our training plan from 2009:

Length:   208.0 Total expected length in Miles Kilometers
AVG Speed: 17.0 mph - Average riding speed (not including stops)
Stops:      8   Number of stops, (enter time below after you enter the stops)
Flats:      2   in 15 minute intervals

 Stop    Name    Time    Mileage Duration Distance Notes
  0   Start      4:30 AM  0       -
  -   Civil      5:00 AM  0       -       -        Est Civil Sunrise
  -   Normal     5:30 AM  0       -       -        Est. Sunrise
  1   Diner      6:23 AM  32      15      32       Andover Diner
  2   McD's      8:42 AM  67      15      35       Manville McDonald's
  3   Allentown 10:57 AM  100     30      34       Allentown Soccer field
  4   Ranger's  12:51 PM  125     30      24       Ranger's Station
  5   Green Ban  2:39 PM  147     15      22       Green Bank stop sign
  6   May's Lan  3:51 PM  163     15      16       May's Landing Rt 50
  7   WaWa       5:20 PM  184     15      21       Woodbine WaWa
  8   Lighthous  7:00 PM  208     0       24       Lighthouse
  9   Finish     7:30 PM  208   12:15     0        Late finish (2 flats)
  -   Normal     8:30 PM   0      -       -        Est. Sunset
  -   Civil      9:00 PM   0      -       -        Est. Civil Sunset

Ride Time: 12:15
Earliest finish:  4:45 PM (0 stops, 0 flats)
Earliest finish:  5:15 PM (0 stops, 2 flats)
Planned finish:   7:00 PM (8 stops, 0 flats)
Latest finish:    7:30 PM (8 stops, 2 flats)