A Note from Fatty: You gotta read this one.
We are both deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS NASSAU. I’m a Harrier pilot by trade and John is an Aviation Ordnance Officer. In other words, he makes the bombs and slaps them on the planes, and I deliver them with care.
I’ll admit it, when I had heard about the first “100 Miles to Nowhere” I thought it was a horrible idea. I admired the “bullheaded” nature of the effort, but who in their right mind rides 100 miles on a trainer or around their cul-de-sac?
Fast forward 2 years and here I am, 111 days into a deployment at sea on an amphibious carrier. That’s 111 days without a single stop in port. The only option to keep bike fitness from withering away is to ride the spinners in the ship’s gym.
Thankfully, I have a friend and co-worker out here with me who shares my love of cycling (probably even more than I do) and keeps me motivated to get on the trainers.
We are both fans of the Fatty blog, and when the 100 Miles to Nowhere was announced this year, we thought what better place to do it, than stuck on a hunk of steel floating in the Gulf of Aden?
With a flight schedule to contend with and the unreliability of mail out here, we figured the chances of receiving our kit on time and having the 8th as a free day were pretty slim. However, the moons aligned and our kits arrived with a few days to spare and the ship even scheduled a rare “day off” to celebrate our half-way point on the deployment.
You have to understand that our ship, the USS NASSAU is over 30 years old, and I doubt the spinners in the gym are much younger than that. We are Marines, so we are used to making due with less than perfect equipment. Adapt and overcome, right?
It took a little maintenance and TLC to get the spinner up to speed for the ride, including gerry-rigging a cyclocomputer on the bike and sewing some homemade straps for the toe clips. My wife even mailed me my saddle and some of my cycling gear from home to make the ride a little more enjoyable.
John came through with the “support” equipment too. In order to keep our heads in the game and break up the monotony, we plugged his laptop into the TV in the gym so we could watch some cycling races. The 2009 Paris-Roubaix took us all the way to the 75-mile mark or so and we finished up with the Col de Tourmalet stage of the 2001 Tour de France.
We even sprinted with Boonen in the velodrome and got out of the saddle a few times on the Tourmalet. It made the ride a lot more fun and enjoyable.
We knew we would get a lot of questions from our shipmates as they used the gym, so I made a couple signs to spread the gospel of Fatty.
We had a great deal of support from our friends and co-workers during the ride, including manning the feed zone and taking pictures. We even had our own domestique who brought us ice-filled water bottles and even rode the last 40 miles with us.
We completed the ride in 4:50, with only a few “comfort breaks”.
Including our breaks, our total time was under 5:10. All things considered, the ride went by much faster than we had expected and I dare say it was even fun.
Our only regret from the day was having to do it all inside. We had grand plans to ride the last hour on the flight deck or one of the catwalks on the ship. Due to some logistical issues, we couldn’t make that happen. All in all it was a huge success though.
Seeing as there is zero opportunity to ride a bike out here, it was the closest either of us had to a real day of cycling (we even busted out legit cycling kit, despite the opinion of lycra among most Marines). So we would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to “escape” for a day.
We’d also like to thank your sponsors for making this happen too – especially Clif for the nutrition, and DZ Nuts for the tingle down below. It was an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this year’s ride. Keep up the great work Fatty!
– Captain Jason R (snot rocketeer) and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John M (bykjunkie)