I stand with my back to the shower nozzle. The hot stream of water thrums against the tightness in my right trapezius that feels like the precursor to a stiff neck. The knot doesn't go away.
A layer of road grime and dried sweat swirl down the drain. Soap lather stings tiny abrasions brought on by hours in the saddle. They will need Bag Balm.
Despite having spent the day drinking fluids on a 15 minute schedule, my eyes and lips feel parched, foreign, dry from within. The shower brings no relief.
After 129.3 miles of pedaling, simply standing takes effort.
These minor discomforts will soon fade, leaving only a personal best time for a 200k - just under an hour faster than on any prior 200k course.
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The Pinelands 200k winds past cranberry bogs, blueberry fields, small farms and ambles through small towns in central New Jersey. The route crosses over and under a few major highways on quiet, low-traffic roads that connect no place special to no place in particular. The course has no hills, only slight changes in grade that can be finessed on a multi-speed or powered through on a fixed gear. With only 1500 feet of elevation over the 129.3 mile length, it practically cries out for a big ring romp on the way to a fast completion time. I rode it solo - just the Surly, the route and me.
8:00 on a Sunday morning served as the start time. The newly risen sun set patches of low lying fog aglow in the fields. Over the course of the day, the temperature would rise, slowly, from the low 40s into the low 60s. The occasional mid-day breeze blew just enough to cause flags to unfurl and lazily flap.
There are four controles mid-course. I practice "stay on the bike.” I move through the required stops keeping time to a minimum. Can I get through the controle in five minutes? I never stay longer than ten minutes and make my goal at least once.
Crimson is the color of the day. Thousands of tiny points of strong dark deep red, with a hint of blue, stand out even amidst the expanding colors of fall. Crimson leaves, crimson flowers and fields of crimson foliage accenting the rich hues of early fall.