The Five-Boro Ride, New York City, May 2015

By Stephen Sharp, CPA, CA, Board Member and Treasurer of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Alumni

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I have been meaning to write this article since we returned from our memorable bicycle ride in New York City.  Today, I realized how truly important it was to get this article submitted. It is two years since my surprise, emergency open heart surgery.  Actually, to be exact, two years ago to this hour I was at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute undergoing a two-surgeon, 7.5 hour, open heart surgery with Drs. Roy Masters and Munir Boodhwani.

Health is an amazing thing, a precious gift to be cherished and supported.  Exercise and for me, cycling, is essential for health.  When the UOHI doctors discovered my torn aorta, I was told it was a combination of my general fitness and good luck that kept me alive. The UOHI ensured I would be alive years later.  Riding in the bike tour with my wife, wearing the colours and logos of the Heart Institute and the Heart Institute Alumni was an honour that seemed completely appropriate.

The Five Boroimage009 ride is a breathtaking event.  Including the ride to the start and the ride home, it is roughly a 50 mile circuit (80 km): just you and 32,000 of your closest friends.  If you are wondering what that looks like, it is 10 blocks of riders, shoulder to shoulder, tire to tire, six lanes across.  We elected to ride in the VIP group which put us into the first 2,000 riders and provided a few extra perks at the end like a BBQ meal, valet bike parking and massage.  (I am old enough to justify these frills!).

The ride took us through the City of New York and spans its five boroughs  (Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island).  NYC’s finest do a great job of closing the streets to traffic for this annual event.  Starting in Battery Park in the Financial District, you ride up through SOHO, the Village, Times Square, Central Park and into Harlem. Bands play on various corners, crowds cheer you on and rider support all around you.  You then ride off Manhattan, cross the East River back and forth on various bridges through the boros.image005

The last bridge, however, is the one that returning riders talk about.  After roughly 40 miles of the circuit there is a 7 mile stretch of the Belt Parkway with a long 2% grade, the beautiful yet daunting Verrazano-Narrows Bridge looming at the end. This bridge, in the top ten largest in the world, is 4 km long with a grade of 6-12%.  It is tough at the end, but once over the center, the coast into the finish line is a joy.  They actually time you from the start to the top and give you your report at the end.  Appropriately, the photos at the end of the ride have the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the background.

image003Once all is said and done, the Five-Boro ride is an amazing event.  To me, the incredible team at the UOHI gave me the opportunity to be a part of it.  Kelli hugged me at the end of the ride as this was one of my goals in rehab.  We then toasted the awesome Institute here at home (with Gatorade of course) and pledged to do it again, wearing our UOHI and Patient Alumni colours of course.