100 Miles of Nowhere: Haiku-Style Report About Epic 120+ Laps and 12,000 Feet of Climbing Division

10.24.2014 | 7:13 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere race report comes from Chris S, who rode an absolutely insanely wonderfully ridiculous race. It brought me to tears, nearly, it was so crazy. He then wrote a fantastic series of haikus for his report. 

Somehow, he managed to be understated about it all, though.

So you may want to stick around for my postscript at the bottom of his report, where I do a few bonus screen captures from the Strava log of his ride.

100MoN: Winner of the 12,000+ Feet Through Kids Playing Basketball in the Ipswich Alps Division

Looping hill repeats
One hundred miles of nowhere
Twelve thousand foot climb.

Going slow uphill
Rider grinds standing pedals
Small moans mark hilltop.

100MoN

Kids play basketball
Territory being claimed
flying bike blocks shot.

Pass one raking man
Pass two putting leaves in bag
Pass three empty lawn

Mile seventy five
Urgency breaks the circle
I ride home to pee.

Endless loop ending
Part of suburban texture
They look sideways now.

PS From Fatty: Here are the Strava stats from Chris’s ride:

Screenshot 2014 10 24 06 39 10

And here’s what the elevation profile looks like: 

Screenshot 2014 10 24 06 36 25

It’s such a jagged profile that you almost can’t see what’s going on, at that resolution. Here’s a closeup of a portion of just the first few miles of that elevation profile: 

Screenshot 2014 10 24 07 06 21

What does this mean? It means Chris went up 97 feet, on one side of a neighborhood block, then down the other side of that block. More than 120 times. (Maybe he knows exactly how many times, but there’s no way I’m going to try to count.)

Here’s what his Strava breadcrumb around that block looks like: 

Screenshot 2014 10 24 06 42 50

And just for fun, here’s what a closeup of one corner of his ride looks like:

Screenshot 2014 10 24 06 43 45

I tell you, Chris is a wonderful kind of crazy.

 

100MoN: Winner of the Completely Insane 200 Laps Around a Half-Mile MTB Course Division

10.23.2014 | 8:06 am

NewImage

A Note from Fatty: Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere Race Report comes to you courtesy of Mike K — the very same Mike K I (unsuccessfully) spent chasing in the 6 Hours in Frog Hollow race last April. 

I gotta say, it’s pretty awesome to have Mike, a guy I previously didn’t know at all, now riding the 100MoN and posting a story. 

Enjoy!

I completed my version of this nutty challenge at the Eagle Bike Park in wonderful Eagle, Idaho on Monday, 10/20/2014.

NewImage

The weather was fabulous and at the end of the day…well take a look below!

NewImage

I got my inspiration from other past participants such Bull Schuck for doing his ride in a Cul-de-Sac; I know that I am not tough enough for that sort of thing, but I figured if I was on my mtn. bike and playing in the dirt, a short course would not be that difficult.

Well let me tell you, the mind can be a terrible thing!

As the picture above shows, the Eagle Bike Park has many wonderful, fun and challenging trails. However, I was on a 0.5 mile section that took me approximately 2 minutes and 20 seconds to complete. I pressed the lap button 56 times in just under 2.5 hours before I finally cried uncle and decided laps really do not matter.

On all but four occasions, I did not deviate from my route! Two of those were for nature breaks and the other two when I tried to break up the monotony and go in the opposite direction. I felt like Derek Zoolander, because I could not go the other way; my turns were all off and I was forced to ride much slower.

So like a lab mouse I figured the safest thing for me was to do the same route; over and over and over again! But I still made sure to have a little fun.

NewImage

I was fortunate to have a couple of friends join me off and on for the first 5 hours; Rich Brown and Rich Miller (my photog) chased me or had me chase them while yelling encouragement. Good times!

NewImage
Rich Brown in chase mode

NewImageRich Miller; follow my leader!

I stopped every hour for a fresh bottle of Tailwind and on occasion a Clif bar or Roctane. I also needed to clean and lube my drivetrain during that time since the moon dust was so thick.

NewImage

At the 5-hour mark, when I took a short lunch break, I finally let myself look at the mileage and I was very happy to see 64.2.

YES!

I honestly thought that I might be riding into the night, since the laps were so short and I was too paranoid to peek at mileage any earlier.

After lunch I was ready to rock and set out to push myself a little harder. If I had not yet mentioned it, I was treating this as a race and not a ride. I figured this was my last big training effort before 25 Hours in Frog Hollow; being both physically and mentally taxing due to the course.

My next mileage check was not due until hour 7, so T.V. on the Radio, RHCP, the Beastie Boys and a host of others kept me company until that time and time went by fairly quickly.

I really was having fun in my little maze!

Hour 7 arrived and I switched to the mileage screen; 91.1 miles. Oh yes! It was looking like I was going to finish by 5:30pm, which was some arbitrary time I had thrown out to my friends. Another small victory!

I took my last feed and headed out to knock off those remaining miles. Now I already knew that I should switch my Garmin screen back to ride time and not have the mileage up, but hey it was less than 9 miles to go; how long can it take? Well it took forever and I kept looking at the darn screen! 91.7; 92.2; 92.8 and it just went on.

All I had to do was reach down and press a button twice and I would have my ride time up and life would be better again.

Nope, I had to suffer, watchig the tenths of a mile tick by.

At mile 97 Rich Miller came by to check on me and give more encouragement, so I lied and acted cheerful and exclaimed “only 3 miles to go!” He even got a picture of me with the lie on my face.

NewImage

Well those miles eventually showed up on the Garmin; I passed my pit area at about 99.7 miles so I got one more lap.

All in all it was a great experience and I plan to do another 100 MoN; in fact I think I have a spot already picked out. I need to thank the local cross racers for making most of the course that I followed: Waffle Cross was the 18th and 19th and those darn dirty crossers know how to have fun.

And thank you Fatty for one off-the-wall challenge!

2014 100 Miles of Nowhere: Jumping the Gun at Stony Creek Metropark Edition

10.22.2014 | 8:53 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere Report comes from John Oliver (no, not that one).

Another Note from Fatty: I’ve got several good writeups in the hopper…but fewer than I have expected to receive. If you’ve been thinking about sending me your 100 Miles of Nowhere writeup but have thought there was no way it would see the light of day in my blog, you’re probably wrong. And in fact, this year I’d love to have lots of writeups, because I’m hard at work on another project right now, which I will reveal here very soon. See this post for details on how to send in your writeups

I have a confession to make: although I’ve signed up for a few iterations of the 100 Miles of Nowhere in years past, I’ve never actually done the ride. I rationalized it by telling myself that I had made a donation to a worthy cause, and I’ve certainly made good use of some of the swag I’ve received (water bottles, Banjo Brothers bags, an iPod, etc.), but I never really felt like I deserved to wear the t-shirts. This year, I hoped to change that.

I’ve been riding “seriously” since about 1987, with a few years in which I exceeded 2000 miles, but most have been in the 1k – 2k range, with some very lean years when my son was little. I did an organized metric century in the early ’90s, and I rode 65 miles on July 4th of this year, but that had been my longest ride to date. Most of my rides are in the 20 – 40-mile range, with a 50-miler or two thrown in each summer. I’ve dabbled in mountain biking to greater and lesser degrees over the last 10 years, but I’m a roadie at heart. Through mid-September of this year, I was up to about 1300 miles for the year and in the best shape I’ve been in for years, so I thought this should be the year to give the 100 MoN a shot.

My original plan was to go to nearby Willow Metropark, which has a 2.2-mile loop road that can be ridden with no stops if you go clockwise. But 45 laps of that seemed like insanity, and it’s dead flat, so there would be no natural opportunities to stand up and give my posterior a break. So I opted for Stony Creek Metropark — a little farther away, but with a 6-mile loop road, and with enough small elevation changes that I’d be changing position fairly often.

The weather the last week of September was typical fantastic Michigan early fall, sunny and in the 70’s every day. The days have been getting shorter, and as a result, I’ve been riding less frequently since Labor Day, so I decided that it was now or never, before I lost too much fitness. I took Friday 9/26 off of work, packed just about every piece of riding gear I own, 8 water bottles, and a bunch of food, and headed out to Stony to attempt the ride.

NewImage

NewImage

Starting off at around 9:30 am, it was sunny and in the high 50s, so I put on a couple of layers and got rolling. At 6 miles per lap, 16 laps would get me to 96 miles, so I figured I would have to do 17.

The first couple of laps went OK, but my hips and thighs felt very stiff. I think I may have started out too fast in the cool temps. After a couple of laps, I started to feel a little better, but I was having serious doubts as to whether this whole thing was a good idea.

Given the length of my usual rides, I generally don’t worry about what to eat or drink. Water is enough for me for anything up to about 40 miles, and for longer rides, I usually just stop at a convenience store and buy something if needed. I knew that wouldn’t work for the 100 MoN, so I brought a few Clif bars and packed a couple of lunches’ worth of real food.

After about 20 miles, I figured I better start eating, and half a Clif bar every 10 miles seemed like a good guess (i.e. total shot in the dark). I had pre-opened the wrapper and ate about half of the first bar, then stuffed the remainder back in my jersey pocket under my jacket.

Almost exactly 1 lap later, I saw a wrapper blowing down the road and thought, “Oh look, someone dropped a Clif bar wrapper.” As I got closer, I realized it was a Chocolate Brownie wrapper, the same flavor I had been eating. I checked my pocket — empty. About 100 yards up the road, there was half of a Clif bar in the road.

D’oh!

So another bad omen, as my highly experimental nutrition strategy was already off to a bad start. (Incidentally, as an indication of how nearly perfectly calm the wind was for the entire day, once the errant wrapper made it into the short grass at the side of the road, it stayed in exactly the same spot for the rest of the day.)

After 30 miles (5 laps), I stopped to put my jacket in the car and swap my full-fingered gloves for a short-fingered pair, got another Clif bar and a full water bottle, then got back on the road. The next 3 laps were fairly uneventful, other than seeing some herons on the golf course, turkeys on the roadside, and suicidal squirrels.

Around 11:00, the number of other cyclists increased noticeably, and I started getting passed by riders who were fresher than I was and no doubt not planning to ride as far (at least that was the excuse I gave myself).

At 12:30, I pulled up to my car for a break and lunch. I had covered 49.5 miles at this point (the two trips down into and back out of the parking lot had added the 1.5 extra miles). My original plan was to go beyond halfway before lunch, but there was no way I was riding another 6 miles without a break.

I ditched my arm warmers and traded my wool socks for some lighter ones, because it was up to about 65 or 70 degrees by now. I actually felt pretty good, until I got off the bike and sat down on a curb, at which point I realized how stiff I was. One turkey sandwich (not freshly caught), a bag of pretzels, a Coke, and 30 minutes later, I geared back up and moved on.

Again, I was pretty stiff for a couple of laps, but I gradually loosened up in the sun. I figured I would take one more break at 80 miles — 5 more laps — and then have 20 miles left, which I thought would really need to be 24 miles, due to the 6-mile length of the lap. But as I rolled by the entrance to the parking area to complete 10 laps, I noticed that my Garmin read 61.8 miles, because of the extra distance I covered riding down to my car and back out.

Some quick mental calculations (yes, I am able to do those while riding) resulted in the realization that after 16 laps and one more stop, I should be somewhere between 98 and 99 miles. No way was I going to do a complete extra lap when all I needed was an extra mile or so! I decided I’d do the 16 laps, start the 17th, and then find a convenient place to turn around that would get me to 100 miles as I arrived back at the car.

The next 20 miles were pretty painful, with my shoulders, sit bones, and the soles of my feet all ready to call it a day. Hitting 66.67 miles was significant, because at that point not only had I just eclipsed my longest ride ever, but I figured that I only had to repeat half of what I’d already done to complete the ride. 75 miles was another motivating checkpoint.

Did you know that if you ride 100 miles, each mile is one more percentage point closer to completion? (Duh. The deep thoughts I have while riding.)

[A Note from Fatty: I had that exact same thought during my 100 Miles of Nowhere this year.]

When I stopped at 80 miles, I was hurting, but knowing that I had only 20 miles to go — just a short ride, I told myself, as if I hadn’t just done four such rides in a row already — meant that I wasn’t going to give up. I choked down another bag of pretzels and a root beer, and got going again. The last three laps actually went pretty well, although I couldn’t bring myself to eat any more Clif bars while riding.

As I passed all the same landmarks on lap 16, I mentally checked them off and told myself that it was the last time I would have to see each of them. One of the final landmarks was my Clif bar wrapper from about 5 hours previous, which I stopped and picked up as I passed it for the last time at about mile 96.

After 7-1/2 hours total time (6-1/2 hours of actual riding time), I pulled up at my car for the last time and stopped my Garmin at 100.12 miles. When I uploaded the ride to Garmin Connect that evening, the distance somehow got extended to 100.36 miles, but either way, it was in the books. 100 miles, 2700 feet of elevation gain (and an equal amount of descending), and a very roughly estimated 30,000 pedal strokes.

I had done it.

NewImage

NewImage

Given how tired and sore I was that evening, I’m not sure what this ride portends for my pipe dreams of doing a Gran Fondo or the Michigan Mountain Mayhem or L’Etape du Tour or something someday (nothing good, that’s for sure). If I ever do a ride like this again, I know I need to plan out my food strategy a little better beforehand (more sugar!). And as much respect as I had before for anyone who does an Ironman or Leadville or anything like that, I’m even more in awe of them now, especially those who fit in their training around a family and a full-time job.

Fatty, Hammer, and all the rest of you — chapeau! (I’m pretty sure that translates to “Mad props!”)

And thanks, Fatty, for inventing the 100 MoN — a great excuse to do something fun, and more than a little crazy, for a good cause! I wore last year’s event t-shirt today, and I’ll continue to wear it — and this year’s jersey — with pride!

NewImage

RiderX’s 100MoN: Winner of the “Disturbing Food Stop” Division

10.21.2014 | 9:11 am

A Note from Fatty: I’m very excited to kick off rider reports of the 2014 100 Miles of Nowhere with this writeup from my friend Eric Gunnerson aka RiderX. Eric and I used to work together at Microsoft, and I always enjoyed riding with him — not to mention his drily bizarre sense of humor. 

Hint: Pay special attention to everything at the food stop photos. It’s worth your time. 

Endurance bicycle riders are a strange breed.

A ride like RAMROD requires you to wake up at around 3AM, drive to the starting point, check in, get on your bike, ride a circle around Mt. Rainier, only to find yourself back where you started, tired, sweaty, and salt-encrusted. In return for this effort you receive… well, there has to be something that got me to pay good money to do it…

NewImage

Oh, yeah, you get a patch…that you will toss in a dresser drawer. So, the reward/effort for the ride seems to be a little low, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing it 4 times. So far.

If you need further evidence – and I’m confident that you don’t, but I have to do something to pad these ride reports out – in late summer, my riding group does a ride called “The Food Bank Challenge”, where we show up at our usual meeting place with backpacks full of food to donate, and then we carry the food with us on one of our usual rides, then we put the food in my car and we go out for burritos. As a participant’s wife noted, “Why don’t you just put the food in Eric’s car and then go on the ride?”

Indeed. As I said, a strange breed.

But… the patch you get for RAMROD and the knowledge that you helped out some hungry families were too much for one visionary. His vision – perhaps “delusion” is closer  – was to create a ride so pointless that even other cyclists would question why anybody would do it. For example, on organized rides you often get to:

  • Ride in picturesque scenery
  • Climb impressive hills
  • Socialize with other strange people

In OHMon, all of that is out. The whole point of the ride – its raisin of entry – is be pointless as possible. There is a charity involved, which means I fear that some good is destined to come out of the experience, but other than that, it’s pointless.

And it’s a special brand of pointless, because you design the ride yourself. You are responsible for all of it.

NewImage

That’s right, it’s the Fat Cyclist “One Hundred Miles of Nowhere” ride.

(I feel compelled to mention that while I really like the jersey design, the red indicator should be pointing to the left rather than the right.)

Though this is a do-it-yourself ride, you do get a box that has some things that are useful to set up the food stops.

The Course

Some of the participants in OHMoN eschew the whole concept of course entirely, riding the entire time on their rollers or trainer. I agree that that is pointless, but a) I can’t spend more than 20 minutes on a trainer without wanting to shoot myself, and b) it misses the chance for public ridicule. So, it would be outside.

I started with a very short course; my house is located in a small loop off of a main road. That would give me a course that is 0.3 miles long, and I’d have to do 334 laps of it. It has a 36’ climb each lap, so that means it would involve a total elevation gain of 334 * 36 = 12,024’.

Ouch. I like pointless things as much as the next cyclist, but I’ve been battling some back issues the past 6 months. Further, I fear that my neighbors would think of me as “that crazy guy who kept riding his bike around and around and around”, which would complete with my current label, “that crazy guy who puts up all of those holiday lights”.

So, I need something better, and for that, I cast my eyes to the east. I live at the top of a hill that rolls down towards Lake Sammamish. I am very well-acquainted with the roads, so there will be little joy in riding them. I map it out, and it comes in at 2.6 miles with 256’ of climbing. 39 laps @ 256’ of climbing = 9984’. Better, but still, ouch.

3.4 miles @ 312’ = 30 laps and 9360’, 4.6 miles @ 338’ = 7436’.

Damn. It’s pretty hilly to the east of my house.

I play around some more, extending the route to the west, and I finally end up with the following figure-8 route:

NewImage

It clocks in at 7.1 miles and 469’ of climbing = 14 laps = 6566’ in total. I’m going to call that the “base reference plan”, but I fully expect to modify it along the way.

The Plan

The official date of the ride is October 18th, but the weather in the Seattle area is notoriously fickle in October. At some point, a switch will be flipped to “rainy fall”, and it will be hard to find decent weather, so I chose “the first good weekend day in November”.  Luckily, the weather forecast for the weekend of the 4th is great, and I ease back on my ride intensity to give my legs and back a chance to rest and on Wednesday, I’m motivated to get up early Saturday and go nowhere.

Only to find on Thursday night that a rampaging rhinovirus has bludgeoned its way into my respiratory tract. Friday is not good, so it’s clear I can’t participate in the event. I instead compete in an alternate event of similar difficulty, called “Taking a Shower”. There were a few rough spots where I thought I might have to abandon, but I managed to push through to the finish.

The next weekend. Ah yes, the next weekend.

The next weekend coincided with “The October Switch”. Seattle has a reputation for being a rainy and gray place, but what we don’t like people to know – lest they move here – is that our summers are pretty nice, and that niceness generally extends through September and the first part of October. And then we reach a day where a switch gets flipped, and the weather pattern changes.

NewImage

We’ve had nice weather the first week of October,  but not the forecast is rain, rain, rain, and more rain. Luckily, this weekend also coincides with a trip out of town to visit the offspring at school, so I couldn’t ride anyway, but it does not bode well for future October weekends.

The next weekend – which is the official day for OHMoN – Saturday is rainy, but the forecast for Sunday looks much more promising:

The ride

NewImage

I get up at 6:45 AM, have some breakfast, get ready, and get all my stuff together. It’s 58 degrees so I put on arm and leg warmers, and spend 30 seconds to get to the starting point. I head out on the first loop on damp streets. I do the upper half, then head down the hill to the lower half. Off of W. Lake Sam, I do a couple of gratuitous climbs. They are steep steep and if I stand up, I spin up the back wheel, so I take it really slowly . I do a bunch of other neighborhood exploring along the way. On the way up Northup, I stop to take a picture of the nice weather:

NewImage

I climb up back to the house, and then do the loop in the opposite direction. This takes me up 24th street, a 20% gradient that is about as painful as I expect. Back to the top for a loop, and while climbing up a short hill I notice the front is a bit squishy. It’s down to something like 50lbs, but it’s enough to get to the first food stop, so I take it slowly and manage to make it there safely.

The mechanic is a bit surly, but he quickly finds a pinhole in the tube, and then locates the small piece of wire in the tube that caused it. While I wait, I take a trip to the food table:

NewImage

NewImage

The Cheez-its are used to refill the bag in my pocket, and grab one of the brownie bites. I also get a refill of my water bottle with Skratch Labs raspberry. While I’m snacking, I do a bit of strategizing. For the first 25.1 miles, I climbed 1829’ and averaged 13.1 MPH. If we project out to the full ride and apply the usual Strava elevation conversion factor, that would put me over 8000’ of climbing and spend 8 hours on the bike. I don’t think I have 8000’ in my legs today, so I decide to spend my time on the less-hilly upper half of my route rather than the lower half.

The second 25 miles are pretty boring – leave the food stop location, climb up to the top, work my way back and forth a few times, descend back down. Repeat, repeat, then repeat some more. I’m starting to get tired, which does not bode well for the second half of the ride. I finish the section, and head to the second food stop:

NewImage

The food stop is now manned (perhaps that is not the right term…) by Stan, who is appropriately attired. He has a Coke Zero, a turkey wrap, and, most uniquely, a set of flip-flops so that I can pull off my bike shoes for a few minutes.

NewImage

The turkey wrap is exquisite, the Coke Zero is cold, and I eat a few chips and grapes (not pictured).  I also sit down and relax for 15 minutes or so, which does wonders for my back and neck.

Looking at my stats, I note that I only climbed about 800’ in that segment. I did want to reduce the climbing, but that’s a bit more than I wanted to reduce it, so maybe I’ll add a little back.

I feel *way* better than I did when I stopped for lunch, and surprisingly, my legs feel pretty good when I get back on the bike. Back out on the upper loops, though I start extending them to the north and the south to make them longer and start doubling and tripling the flatter sections. It takes forever to get to 60 miles, but the next 10 miles after that aren’t that bad.

During this section, I decide how great it would be to have a Coke Slurpee on my ride, so at around 70 miles I had off to the local 7-Eleven. Only to remember that Slurpees are sweetened with HFCS, which is a guaranteed to generate severe stomach cramps when I’m riding. I settle for buying some beef jerky, and on the way back from the 7-Eleven, I revel in its saltiness. It’s time to head to the third food stop:

NewImage

NewImage

I spend a minute or so talking to Stan. He is volunteering in the hope that he can earn a bypass in next year’s ride. I wish him luck,  refill my water bottles, and head out for the last 25.

After 75 miles, I’ve climbed 3303’.

I feel decent – decent enough that I decide to head back down to the lower part of the course for one last time. It’s not as painful as I had feared, but it’s enough. Time passes slowly. I eat some more jerky, eat a few Cheez-its, drink some of my drink. Repeat, then repeat again. About this time, my Garmin says “Low Battery”.

I stop and find out that, for some reason, the backlight is on at 65% despite it being on auto day/night. I turn off the backlight and hope that the battery will last for an hour. I’ve done some measuring, and I now that my loop on the upper part is about 3 miles, and that it’s perhaps 2 miles back to the finish, so at 88 miles I put the plan into action. I start riding with a bit more effort – as much effort as I can generate after 90 miles on the bike – and the 3 loops go by quickly. I head down to the finish line, and find I’m at 98.3 miles. A quick out-and-back trip, an few loops around the neighborhood, and the GPS says:

NewImage

I get off the bike, take off my helmet, and head over to see what food is available.

NewImage

NewImage

I grab a beer, and then a picture with Stan:

NewImage

I mix up some Endurox in one of my bottles, and after drinking it I head out to find some real food.

Thoughts

I expected a stupid ride, and I got it. I found it nice that I could modify the route, but when there are 30 miles left and you aren’t 30 miles from the end, it’s really tempting to just pack it in, so the mental part was pretty hard for me.

The chosen route as fine except that it was in the city. Looking at my data, I had to stop approximately 7000 times for stop lights, stop signs, pets, and children playing street hockey. That doesn’t do much for your average speed, and it made it really hard to get into a groove. Most sections are only 3 minutes or so in length.

Logistics

I appreciate getting some items for the food stop, but it seemed like a lot of them were just random. Perhaps molasses is a decent substitute for gel – and probably better tasting – but the salsa and mustard had me a bit confused. It would be nice to get better options here.

The jersey for the ride ran small, so I ordered a large. It’s quite a bit smaller than most of the mediums I have, so if anybody ordered a medium and it was too small, let me know.

Thanks to Elden for setting this up, and thanks to two of my riding buddies who kicked in some extra money for Camp Kesem, which I matched and which Microsoft will also match.

Strava ride

Rebecca’s Private Idaho, Part 3: Bolo Ties

10.20.2014 | 1:23 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is Part 3 of my 2014 Rebecca’s Private Idaho Race Report. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

Another Note from Fatty: Your 100 Miles of Nowhere Race Reports will start getting published tomorrow. I’ve already seen a bunch of good ones, and am looking forward to seeing more. Be sure to check out my Friday post for details on how to send them to me. 

In the time it took me to use the restroom, The Hammer had disappeared off into the distance. As she did, the though occurred to me: I might not catch her.

You see, I am faster than The Hammer. But only ever so slightly. A couple minutes of a gap can mean a big distance — possibly enough distance that I wouldn’t be able to reel her in.

Plus, she and I have this little game we play. It’s called “Can’t Catch Me,” and the rules are simple:

  1. Whenever we ride, If I stop, she keeps going.
  2. It’s my job to catch her.
  3. It’s her job to light it up and do her utmost to not let me catch her.

Hey, I think I might have just inadvertently written the rules for how relationships work in general. But that’s not the point. The point is, The Hammer likes to make it challenging for me to catch up to her.

And while I had successfully completed my own business, I had not taken care of my most important responsibility.

Specifically, it was time for me to deploy The Secret Weapon

Deploying The Secret Weapon

I’m acutely aware that I’ve been building up the suspense around this “Secret Weapon.”

And I therefore realize that you might feel just a tad let down when I reveal that the secret weapon is…this:

IMG 0365

Yes, it’s a Boombot Rex: a Bluetooth speaker made to mount on mountain bikes. I’ve talked about it before, when I unsuccessfully used it for a night lap during last year’s 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. 

But this time, I wouldn’t be attaching the speaker to my handlebars. No. This time I’d be attaching this speaker to my seatpost. Pointing squarely at The Hammer. 

And playing from it would be The Hammer’s very own personally-selected RPI playlist, streamed with love from my phone. 

Yes, that’s right. 211 songs, including — but by no means limited to — music from: 

  • Sick Puppies
  • Skillet
  • Breaking Benjamin
  • Billy Idol 
  • Beastie Boys
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Three Days Grace
  • My Chemical Romance
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Yaz
  • Michael Jackson

You may or may not appreciate her musical taste. That doesn’t really matter; the Boombot wasn’t pointed at you. In fact, it wasn’t pointed at me, either (and in fact I could only rarely tell what was playing).

It was meant to be pointed at The Hammer, to keep her motivated for the second half of the race.

Assuming I could catch her.

Wish Granted

With the Boombot blasting out music to the empty space behind me, I stepped up my pace to absolute maximum. I figured that I had spent two — maybe three, tops — minutes taking care of myself and then getting the speaker turned on and my phone playing music to it.

How long could it take to make up that much time? I started doing the math. If she’s riding at 20mph (which seemed about right for this part of the course), then in three minutes she will have put a mile on me.

A whole mile? Wow.

I stepped up my pace. Even at my max, though, there was no way I was going to go more than two miles per hour faster than she was.

Which meant it would take about half an hour to make up that mile. 

[Note: This kind of math is very easy to figure out when you’re sitting down and comfortably typing along, your heart at its resting rate. It is much harder to do this kind of math when you’re riding so hard that your eyes keep popping out of their sockets.]

I reeled in and passed rider after rider — none of which were The Hammer. I kept re-checking my math. Was it really going to take half an hour for me to earn back that three minutes?

Yes. Yes it was, unless something incredibly lucky happened.

I wished for incredible luck.

And instantly, something incredibly lucky did happen.

I caught Dave Thompson.

I hope it won’t be considered too much of a spoiler for me to show a picture of him (far left) at the finish line, with Dave Towle, The Hammer and me:

IMG 9658

Dave had flatted, during which time The Hammer had caught and passed him, unbeknownst to either of them.

And now I had someone to work with.

“Let’s go catch The Hammer!” I shouted. And Dave did not need to be told twice. A couple of quick clicks brought him into his biggest gear and it was all I could do to tuck in and stay in his slipstream.

In a minute he started slowing a little; he dropped back and I took over. In a few seconds, it was his turn again, he and I rotating through and forming a fast-moving train that several people tried to catch onto…but nobody succeeded.

26mph. 28mph. On rocky doubletrack. A big grin covered my face and I would have laughed out loud for the sheer joy of flying along with Dave, if I’d had the breath to. 

Then I’d drop back and see he had a big smile too. We were both having a ball, knocking ourselves out like we were in the final mile of a race — as opposed to only being halfway through the 90+ mile course.

Thanks to Dave, we caught The Hammer in considerably less than half an hour.

“Thanks Dave!” I yelled over the headwind we had just turned into — the headwind which would be our constant companion for the rest of the race. “If you want to take off ahead of us now, go ahead!” 

“No, I’ll work with you two,” Dave said.

I tell you, I nearly cried when I heard him say that.

All Aboard

And with that, my favorite moment of the whole racing season began. Dave and I are almost exactly an exact match in terms of power on the bike, and we work together wonderfully. He’d pull for a minute or so and then drop back to the second spot while I pulled. The Hammer hammered, staying right with us as our protected GC rider.

We’d see people up ahead in the distance and we’d reel them in. Invariably. Inevitably. 

And just as invariably, just as inevitably, they’d grab onto our train and become a part of our massive momentum. 

Some stayed with us for a long time — all the way to the big climb almost at the end of the race, in fact. Some didn’t stay as long, hanging on for a few minutes and deciding our pace was a little too hot for them.

Sometimes, even, people took turns up front. Mostly, though, it was Dave and me: grinding away, both of us just loving that feeling of being on the ragged edge of what you’re capable of doing. Of hanging on the edge of a cliff, but not too worried about it, because you know you’ve got a friend who will haul you back onto the ledge before you drop off.

I tell you, swapping turns at the front of a peloton with a well-matched teammate is electrifying.

Perfect Timing

Of course, we had to stop once. Nature kept calling The Hammer, and you can only tell Nature to please leave a message so many times. So when she saw a sign (there were no trees and the bushes were remarkably small) that might give her at least some cover from the race direction, she took advantage. Dave and I stopped 20 feet down the road, giving her her privacy.

And so, of course, that’s when Rebecca herself appeared. 

“You’re wearing BIB SHORTS? During a race?!” The Queen of Pain exclaimed. “Haven’t you learned anything from me?” 

Yes, that’s right. The Queen of Pain and The Hammer had had discussions about appropriate pee tactics for women during races.

“You are losing time!” The Queen of Pain shouted at The Hammer. “You are in second place right now!” 

To her credit, The Hammer managed to finish doing what she was doing. I am 100% certain I would not have been able to.

The Queen of Pain then rode with us for a few minutes. laughing and having a great time. It was awesome to see her relishing the success of her event…even if she happened to catch The Hammer at the worst possible time.

Goodbye Everyone

We reached the final big climb of the course; after this, the race would be almost entirely downhill. It’s just a couple miles long, so I went to the front and began pulling.

The group — probably five or six of us — shattered within the first couple hundred yards; as it turns out, most people don’t climb the way The Hammer and I do.

To my dismay, however, Dave was one of the people who dropped off. Which left us with a dilemma: do we pull up and wait for Dave? Or do we keep going, expecting him to catch us on the big downhill that leads to the finish line?

Well, we knew that The Hammer was in second place, but we didn’t know how far away first was, and we didn’t know how far back third (or fourth, for that matter) was. 

So we kept going, hoping we’d see Dave catch us on the descent.

We hit the top and kept going, barreling down as fast as a couple of cautious descenders can. Then we hit the pavement, and I moved to the front again, pulling for the last mile or so, not knowing where we stood, but feeling pretty darned good about our effort.

And then there it was: the finish line, outside of town (a clever idea to keep the racers from barelling down the open streets of the city). We crossed together, in 5:25:07, meaning The Hammer had finished 1:29 behind Sarah Barber, the women’s winner.

It also meant we had done this ride an hour and twelve minutes faster than in 2013. 

Yeah, we kinda hauled.

Three minutes later, Dave pulled through, and we all got our official RPI bolo ties, showing that we were all in the top 50 finishers. 

IMG 0366

Were we excited to get these coveted prizes? You bet we were.

One Strange Moment

Then, a minute after Dave pulled in, the strangest event of the day occurred: a woman pulled in and began complaining — loudly, angrily, to everyone in the area and at some length — about how unfair it was that The Hammer had been drafting. That she had seen her drafting, throughout the day. That, meanwhile, this woman had been riding all by herself the whole day.

We looked at each other uncomfortably, not sure what to say. Should we explain to her that this is in fact a fundamental strategy of racing? That this was not a time trial? That if she rode by herself the whole day instead of with one of the innumerable pacelines that formed everywhere along the cours, it was a choice she made…and not something to complain about?

I looked around to see how others were reacting. They all seemed as perplexed as I.

We chose to not say anything. She’d learn how races work soon enough (and she didn’t look like she was in the mood to have things explained to her right then). 

Still, even now I think back to how peculiar that moment (as well as others like it — we heard this woman complaining to numerous other people about the same thing) was: that a woman could be so strong — just five minutes behind us — and yet still so evidently new to competition that she equated fundamental racing tactics with not playing fair.

Afterward

One of the things I love about Rebecca’s Private Idaho is that after the official timed finish line, you have a mile or so of lallygagging to the actual finish line festival. It’s a great opportunity to wind down and talk about the day — and it was in fact a really great day. 

The Hammer got a pic with a very happy-looking Reba (I believe that Reba was either about to get, or had just gotten, engaged):

IMG 9666

I love the way it looks like they each have one rabbit ear.

And with superstar announcer Dave Towle, here admiring The Hammer’s bolo:

IMG 9654

And I got a shot with Kathryn Bertine, author of the extremely readable As Good as Gold.

IMG 9656

If you look down in the lower left corner of the photo, you’ll see the Boombotix aka secret weapon.

And I also took a picture of what kept me fueled for 5:25 of hard racing:

IMG 9668

One Gu, every half hour = power all day. It works, people.

And let’s have another shot with Dave, because as far as I’m concerned, that guy is the hero of the day:

IMG 9658

And then, once again, The Hammer on the podium:

IMG 9684

You’d think she’d be getting tired of the podium, but — as upcoming posts about races will show — that is far from true.

« Previous Entries     Next Page »