Originally there were big plans for a peleton of cyclists on trainers at Portland Head Light, but as the day loomed near, fewer and fewer people shared my deranged enthusiasm for riding a 100 miles to Nowhere. The coming monsoon was the coup de grâce. I was suddenly alone and looking at 100 miles in the pouring rain. My friend is the proprietor of a favorite coffee shop of mine, and graciously offered a spot under his roof and the promise of free caffienation. Not quite as picturesque, but certainly drier with quick access to a paninni and gelato, if needed.
The public space gave me an opportunity to while away the miles talking to people about Camp Kesem, Livestrong, TwinSix and Fatcyclist.com.
I found myself wishing I could have a small table when riding on the road. Far more convenient than stuffing everything in my jersey pockets.
Coming in for the 75-mile rest stop.
I take my division by half a wheel. Epic.
The final tally, plus cool-down.
Well that’s it from here. Thanks for the inspired lunacy!
I changed “The 100 Miles of Nowhere” up a little bit and aimed at 100K to somewhere. Specifically, I aimed to walk, here in Spain, from Olot to the sea, to St Feliu de Guixols. I was doing it with my dog Chuck too, cause he loves to walk, and it’s a whole lot more fun to walk with him.
Then I looked at the train schedules and bus schedules and planned a secondary possible ending wherein we would hit the sea at Tossa de Mar and head further down the coast to Blanes where we could pick up the train. This would increase the walk to 130K or so.
You’re going to need a map to get an idea of what the heck I’m talking about! Thank goodness for google maps! I did this route on the Vies Verdes, which is an excellent bicycling route if you’re thinking of a vacation in Catalonia one day!
Chuck and I trained for this in the hills and trails around where we live and on the big day, we set off……
Chuck immediately found the only cow pat in the area to roll in, so a good time was had by all.
Indeed, we passed the start of a local bike race, excuse the blurry image, they shot off the warning gun just as I pushed the button, and then Chuck thought it would be best to get out of the way. Chuck on leash when they’re shooting off guns is something of an irresistable force, and I am not an immovable object.
In many ways, the bulk of the trip was rather similar, we walked and walked and continued walking along through almost exclusively rural scenery. The big advantage of this route is that it only occasionally goes near the road.
Further along we saw this in the path, which told what I found to be a funny story:
The trail took us on and on and on under bridges and through tunnels:
Below, you can see Chuck using his patented technique for cooling off, lying down in the puddle or ditch while drinking out of it at the same time. I actually did this walk nearly a month ago now to avoid the worst of the heat and we had a splendid forecast for it, being overcast the entire day. Chuck in the puddle, however, was not a good sign, though I didn’t recognize it at the time.
On we walked….
In one of the villages we passed they were celebrating a local festival and so had brought out the gegants, which most villages have a much beloved set of and who come out to dance to music played by the local group.
We trundled onwards. It started to rain, which was actually good as the day had warmed up some. However, it wasn’t enough. By about kilometer 48 Chuck requested that we take a break. As there was nowhere nearby for us to sit, we simply sat down in the wet dirt and hung out for a while. I called my husband to tell him what was going on, and we agreed that Chuck was probably simply too hot.
After about 20 minutes, we got up and walked on, but by the time I made it to the 50K mark, of the day’s planned 70, Chuck was trailing behind me on leash and I was pretty much towing him. We called it a day, grabbed a taxi to the hotel we were planning on staying in that night and I was glad we did because once we got in the cab it started to POUR! Tropical pour, and it did so for the next 5 hours. We would have been fairly miserable.
I also knew it was a good decision because as we were waiting for the cab outside a kind baker’s shop, Chuck fell solidly asleep. Most unlike him.
No problem, I thought, we’ll do 50 tomorrow to, going all the way to Blanes and it’ll be great.
So, the next morning we set off with the dawn Chuck once again filled with eagerness for the day ahead.
and a beautiful day it was:
Eventually we passed the town of Llagostera a medieval hill town, now somewhat expanded,
and got off the vies verdes onto something more adventurous.
Indeed we climbed up this ‘mountain’ Puig de les Cadires at 519m or about 1700 ft. The view was lovely and we were having a fabulous day, though you will notice how sunny it is. This is foreshadowing.
From there we could also see Tossa on the Med, our next immediate goal.
We also passed countless cork trees that had been harvested, for now, till they grow some more and they do it again. I’ve seen trees that have been harvested many many times over the years.
We were having fun, at times having to run down hill as the descent was so steep it was easier than walking. We had to hunt around to find the roads we wanted to work our way down and scramble through the brush sometimes.
There was also a sanctuary that we went by,
and then Chuck wanted to lay down in the shade for a bit. It is hot here, and it was a pretty warm day. What Chuck does, and I imagine many dogs do, is dig down through the sand till they reach cooler earth, then he lies down in the coolness soaking it up through his relatively hairless belly. Rinse and repeat as needed.
Then he went to sleep.
for 40 minutes.
At which point I decided that we would make it to Tossa and catch a taxi to Blanes and onwards home.
Here’s Chuck on his first ever train ride:
We managed about 25K that day, which still left me quite short of the 100K I was aiming at, so later that week, when I was getting my hair cut, my hairdresser mentioned that he and a fellow hairdresser were going to be going up a mountain on Wednesday morning, I asked if I could go to.
They said yes! So we went up Puig Mal in the Vall de Núria in the Pyrenees.
GPS track of that walk. We left at 5:30 am and went up like a train. Puig Mal is at 2910m or 9550 feet. We got up it in and hour and a half, and down a little later. Chuck didn’t come for this trip, though my hairdresser brought his dog.
Here’s the view from a bit of the way up, and below the peak.
We had nice views on the rather more scenic route down
We even saw this horse and her baby on the way out
You will notice that this route was only 14.6 kilometers, still bringing me up short of the full 100K, but as this was done at altitude and involved 1440 m or 4725 feet of elevation ascent and descent, I’m counting it done.
It was great fun I have to say. We also registered with Camp Kelsem as an independent fundraising team and raised nearly $600! So a great success all around. Now we’re just waiting for Chuck to shed, so we can embark on some more adventures together.
My third 100 MoN started badly.
The sky looked awfully grey. My hydration pack felt really, really heavy. My legs seemed flat and unresponsive. I had none of the extra zingyness that usually accompanies a fun, long ride. I felt tired.
Things got worse. My friends were not at the designated location for their round-and-round version of the 100 MoN. Though I did meet another Friend of Fatty (hi, Eric!) who was riding there. I rode with him for awhile and we had a nice chat.
As soon as I left Eric to go ride my planned big loop, it started to rain. It rained hard. Soon my shoes were full of water, my clothes were soaked and my glasses were totally fogged up. I rode over some of the slipperiest tar snakes and manhole covers I have ever encountered.
Many people on tri bikes passed me without saying hi or even acknowledging that I was there. I was miserable and unhappy and I was embarrassed to be riding as slowly as I was, especially with my 100 MoN “number plate” zip-tied to my bike.
At 35 miles, I literally came to a crossroads: Left, I could go home. Right, I could continue on. To make the right-hand turn I would have to pass a very large highway sign that read “WRONG WAY.”
It seemed like a bad omen.
I realized that I was feeling very sorry for myself. I thought about all my friends who can’t ride, for various reasons. I thought about all the riders and other people I’ve known who have passed on. I thought about how any one of them probably would have done anything for just one more chance to ride, or to be with their loved ones, or to be in good health and capable of doing whatever it was that they most loved to do.
I knew right then that I had to keep riding until there was nothing left in my legs.
I turned right.
I abandoned my plan to ride a bunch of humongous hills. Instead, I took the longer, flatter roads around them. I rode pretty slowly. I saw horses and shaggy red Angus cattle in the fields. I encountered many groups of cyclists going the other direction. Many of them waved and smiled when I waved at them.
The rain eased up. Before too long I was at 50 miles and starting on the homeward leg. I noticed that my average speed was creeping up. I smelled wet grass and damp pine trees. The air felt nice and clean.
I saw eagles soaring on thermals overhead. An osprey flew alongside me, close enough that I could hear its feathers rustling. Then I followed a bumblebee that was zigzagging along the road, until the bee lifted its pace to something like 20 mph (!) and I could not follow. It seemed so funny to get dropped by a bee that I laughed out loud.
At 75 miles I stripped off my still-soggy vest and arm warmers. It cheered me up. A lot.
At 91 miles I realized I could make the full 100 if I made a little extra loop on the way home.
On that loop I rode through a beautiful snowstorm of cottonwood fluff in full sunshine.
At 101 miles, and 2 blocks from home, I drained the last of the water from my hydration pack. I felt happy that I’d filled it with exactly enough water for the day. I was grateful that I was home safe, with no crashes or flats or mechanical problems. I felt humbled to have had the privilege to ride my bike for the better part of six and half hours. I was grateful that I did not bail out.
It was not my fastest century. It was not particularly “epic.” But it was a very, very good ride indeed.
A Note from Fatty: I love the stories of people riding 100 miles of nowhere who are actually out in the middle of nowhere.
As I stepped outside, the world’s largest hair drier was blowing. That’s the best way to describe the wind here in our “undisclosed location in southwest Asia.” When it’s this hot, about 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind is blowing it feels like someone is holding a hair drier on you.
Throw in the blowing sand for your complimentary microderm abrasion treatment and you have a fairly typical day here.
It was about 1630 local (4:30 p.m. for you civilians) on 1 June. I had planned on doing my 100 Miles of Nowhere on 2 June as that was the target date but the facility where the spin bikes are located was not going to be open on Saturday.
So I adjusted.
I had never ridden 100 miles in one sitting before. My longest mileage was a 50 mile community fundraiser last July.
I made my way down to the tent where the bikes are located, open the door and it’s a slice of heaven. It’s only 85 or 90 degrees in the tent, which after 115 is really nice. Only one of the six air conditioning units is fired up and running and it’s not the one on the end of the tent where the bikes are located. When I arrived Jeremy was there, he had heard I was doing this ride and thought it would be a good challenge for him. He’d been doing spin for the last month or so but I don’t think he’d done anything near 30 miles on a bike let alone 100.
He’d already started so I felt under pressure, like I was late to the start line and needed to catch up. I never “caught up” with him though. I hurried and put out my race supplies: gummy bears, chocolate covered granola bars, Honey Stinger Vanilla waffle, my Fatty 100 MoN bottle with water and a couple bottles of Gatorade. And off I went.
The first 20 or 30 miles, no big deal, listening to the MP3 player (no iPod for me, not that I have anything against them) and reading a book off and on. Miles 40 to 50 and my backside started to feel a little uncomfortable nothing big just sitting for so long was starting to get to me. My plan of standing and pedaling for two minutes every half hour was working decently.
Some back story: up until I deployed I’d never been to a spin class, but really this would be my only option for any cycling while I was over here. About three months of class attendance three times a week and I was feeling pretty good with my spin ability and then our instructor informed us that he had too many other things going on and he would no longer be teaching spin.
Oh crap, there goes my workouts.
Well me and my roommate who also started spin when he got here volunteered to teach and had been for the last couple of months.
Knowing that I was going to be doing 100 miles my roommate was planning on teaching the spin class for Friday night but he ended up having to go do something with some bigwigs that he couldn’t get out of. So right before class was to start he brought over his iPod and left it with me to conduct the class. Some fellow classmates hooked it up the music and we got started after my 50 miles of warm up.
Actually the class was a nice break to the monotony of just pedaling. I laid off the resistance when I called it out for the rest of the class but I did do all the updowns and sprints that they did and that took me all the way to mile 67.
Uh oh, at mile 75 or 80 I get a notice from my body that told me I am a well hydrated individual and we would need to take care of this at some point. Between the music and reading I was able to put that thought out of my mind, heading out to a portojohn that’s as hot as an oven was not something I wanted to do.
There was a lot more standing and pedaling through the last ten miles or so as I pushed towards the end. Jeremy finished up a few miles before me.
And then it was over.
A small letdown though: the computers on the bikes don’t have a digit for the hundreds column so we only got to 99.9 miles.
Great ride for a great cause. Hopefully I can get in next year’s event. Thanks Fatty for putting this together and all the sponsors for the great schwag.
Oh yeah, I was also the winner of the “35-39 in an undisclosed location in southwest Asia in a tent” division.
The story of this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere really started with the second edition of this event, when Fatty posted an opportunity to join him. Being a little out my gourd, I thought it would be a great way to raise money for LIVESTRONG by not just riding 100 miles, but “selling” miles for $5.00 a mile. I ended up riding 176 miles around a 0.15-mile loop at the top of my street. The following year, I upped the cost per mile to $10.00 a mile, thinking maybe I could get to $1000. Well, I did that and more, spinning 271.5 miles on a trainer in the park. Last year, I “only” rode 133 miles, with the intent of riding on rollers, as they seemed like the next great nowhere challenge. The rollers won. I cramped within 30 miles and had to move to the trainer. I was defeated.
For 2012, I decided the rollers and I had an appointment with destiny. I began aggressively training in February with the goal of completing the 100 Miles of Nowhere in under 5.5 hours. Instead of “selling” miles, I sold songs on my playlist during the ride. I got some pretty good songs to add to my ride playlist, too. Things were progressing nicely: I was raising money, gathering songs, and putting the hurt on my legs as they got leaner and stronger.
Then the bomb dropped. Mid-trainer session on May 15th, I got a phone call from my dad. My aunt, Lisa, who endured nearly five years of continuous chemo treatment to treat metastatic ovarian cancer passed away. My sweet, wonderful aunt, with the magnetic smile, wonderful wit, and huge heart was gone. Her memorial service was Friday, June 1st, at 2:00 in the afternoon. Over 500 people packed the church to say goodbye, a testament to how she touched lives.
Logistically, there was no possible way I could ride the 100 Miles of Nowhere on the 2nd with the travel for the service. Of course, this was only a minor inconvenience as the race can be completed alone and the race was very low on the priority list considering what had transpired. When we got home, late on the 2nd, I cooked up some rice cakes, set up the rollers and fans, built a box to aid my reach for bottles and food, and did final preparations on the playlist. So there it was, the FatCyclist.com 100 Miles of Nowhere – Late Because Cancer Sucks Edition.
The emotional and physical exhaustion of saying goodbye to my aunt led me to revise my plan and just start whenever I got up on the 3rd. Really, I wasn’t going to take longer than 5.5 hours total time anyway, right?
I got started at about 10:45 a.m. PST and immediately knew I had the legs to reach my goal. I felt like I was flying, like there was no chain. It was almost as if I had wings like Aunt Lisa’s cranes blowing in the breeze from the fans next to me.
The cheering committee
Two hours and change later, I was 50 miles in and sweat-soaked, ready for my planned wardrobe change. (I know, gross, right?) The break was longer than I wanted, but was so needed. I ate and filled bottles before getting back on and cranking away. The reality of possibly going sub-5:00 was at the front of my brain.
Then it started to hurt. The doldrums set in between about miles 60 and 80 for me on most centuries. Mentally, I was cracking. Physically, I started to see big fluctuations in my 5-mile split times ,and I knew my legs were still good. Not great, but still good.
As I rolled past mile 70, I was on pace to be not just sub-5:00, but really, really close to sub-4:30. That’s total time, mind you, including the break and change of clothes. It was time to dig in and finish.
My girls checking on my progress
The miles ticked off and 4:30 seemed tantalizingly close, but still out of reach. Mile 90 came and went as I found myself powering through each pedal stroke, unable to maintain my starting cadence. Teeth clenched, I grunted my way past 95 and tried to increase my pace. In the end, I was about to explode as my 100-mile split popped up on the Garmin at 4:28. I nearly fell off the bike, sobbing with exhaustion, pain, and relief.
Grinding to the finish
The bright yellow crane Aunt Lisa’s students made as a part of the 1000+ they made in her honor I carried made it safely through the ride and will make the trip to Davis with me.
Exhausted, but done with Aunt Lisa’s crane
Sadness weighs heavy in my heart, but my aunt won. Her legacy lives on and lifted me up during the ride. Whatever pain I felt pales in comparison to those who spend months or years enduring surgeries and chemo- pales in comparison to what their families and children go through. Maybe, just maybe, what I do with Team Fatty can help ease that pain through LIVESTRONG and Camp Kesem.
It’s all over for another year
PS: This story originally published at Jeremy’s blog. Reprinted with permission.
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