by Noel and Donni Nunkovich, rider numbers 6105 and 6306
After reading about the 100 Miles of Nowhere for the last couple of years everything finally worked out this year to allow me to participate. My lovely wife Donni, upon hearing the premise of the entire affair, immediately declared her desire and intent to join me on this endeavor of mental and physical self-abuse.
Due to scheduling conflicts around a planned vacation, we’d originally planned to do our 100 Miles of Nowhere on June 9th. The selected venue was the 1.2 mile loop around the quiet, rural neighborhood our daughter Gretchen lives in. This gave us the benefit of looping past our daughter’s house every mile or so, enabling us to easily avail ourselves of her fridge, bathrooms, etc. Even better, Gretchen signed on to be directeur sportif, cheerleader, and general support staff.
Unfortunately the weather for the weekend ended up being fairly tempestuous and our ride on the 9th got postponed due to inclement weather. Luckily, due to a fortuitous chain of circumstance, both my wife and I ended up with Friday, June 14th off work. Even better (in some ways at least), a huge, violent band of thunderstorms rolled through the area on Thursday night ahead of a cold front. The storm did a wonderful job of knocking the humidity down, dropping the temperatures by 20 degrees, and setting up an almost perfect day of riding for us on Friday.
Having to delay our ride several days also meant we lost our ride support. Gretchen decided to take some friends up on a last-minute invitation to go to the beach for a few days and bailed on us. So as not to leave us completely high-and-dry on the support front, she left instructions with her roommate Brody to take over her support duties for this very important event. Sadly Brody, while he stayed incredibly enthusiastic for the entire duration of the ride, was basically useless for any type of support function. He never figured out how to properly fill bottles, he found it impossible to bring us food without eating it himself, and he was completely ineffective and keeping track of time, lap counts, or any other data at all. He was, however, an absolutely wonderful cheerleader and was completely stoked to see us come past every single lap.
Friday dawned cool and clear with temps in the upper 60s and beautiful blue skies as far as the eye could see. The only downsides was the lingering 14+ MPH wind and a ride course that was absolutely littered with sticks, limbs, pine cones, and other debris knocked down by the 80 MPH wind gusts from the previous night’s storm. Fortunately our route was fairly well sheltered by trees so we really only got bad wind gusts in one spot. The bad news is that the spot was right where the worst hill on the course was.
For all the folks that live in areas where there are actually climbs, I realize that this looks trivial. That’s because it is. Still, we knew that in the latter stages of the ride that “climb,” and the wind that was inevitably in our facing while ascending it, was going to be unpleasant. We were not wrong.
We planned to start our ride at 7am but a team member (me) had some unavoidable (that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it) alarm clock failures that delayed the ride start for about 2 hours. We finally clicked in and started pedaling about 9:20am.
We knew we were going to have to ride about 85 laps to make our 100 miles so, in the time-honored tradition of eating your elephant one bite at a time, we decided to break it into 10 lap blocks. We also wanted to be sure we were both diligent about staying fueled and hydrated while on the bikes since it’s something both of us are kind of inconsistent with on long rides.
I brought along a fresh, homemade batch of spiced beef and onion rice cakes as well as a bunch of water, drink mix, gels, and delicious Honey Stinger waffles. The plan was to be sure we hydrated on the bike every 5 laps, then pulled in for a break, water bottle refill, and food of some sort every 10th lap. Personally, I’d decided to alternate, having a gel or waffle one one break and a rice cake on the next. That way every couple of hours I was eating something more substantial and using the gels and waffles to keep energy up in between. This plan worked out great for me as I managed to make the whole distance without bonking or, as is usual for me on long rides, cramping.
As for the ride itself, it was fairly uneventful in most regards. We were laughing about dodging sticks and pine cones at first, and whimpering (manfully, in my case) in pain when we hit them several hours later. A number of neighborhood residents were out taking advantage of the great weather to mow lawns, clean up storm debris, or just generally be outside. Quite a few of those were watching us in obvious curiosity as the day went on (and on, and on, and on) and we just kept riding past every 5 minutes or so. We didn’t have any visitors or friends dropping by so it ended up being the two of us pedaling, chatting, and later whining, for the duration.
There were a number of physical trials, like the aforementioned pine cones and sticks that, when not dodged successfully, engendered a very adverse reaction from very sore “human/bicycle interface” points. Additionally, there was heart-stopping drama in the form of lawnmower dust in the eyes, dodging some guys trying to get a huge boat out of a driveway, and the occasional apparently suicidal squirrel.
Breaktime at mile 50:
We had some moments of doubt and weakness around the 70 mile mark. Donni and I had both exceeded the distance of our longest ride (67 miles), we were tired and sore, it was starting to get late, and and we seriously considered packing it in. We hung tough though, fell back on our one-bite-at-a-time philosophy and managed to keep each other going with encouragement and a “let’s just make it through this next block” mentality, but that 10 lap block starting at lap 60 was tough, and seemed like it took forever.
Around lap 75 a neighbor who was coming back from picking his kids up from somewhere pulled up alongside me in his car and asked how many laps we were doing. He had been out and about in his yard all day and had seen us lapping for, at that point, probably 7 hours. I told him how many we’d done (I think it was around 76) and how many we had left, and very broadly why we were doing it. He seemed to think that it was a dumb idea for a great cause, wished us luck, and drove on. That kind of lifted my spirits a bit.
The coolest, most touching thing to happen on the ride occurred about 3 laps from the end. By this point Donni was dropping back pretty far every time we hit the windy little climb. I’d established the pattern that I’d drop her on the uphill, which ended at a corner, make the turn and then stand, stretch and coast until she caught back up. This particular lap I followed the same pattern but she didn’t catch up. I settled back into the saddle and started soft-pedaling but still no Donni. Over the course of the day she’d backtracked to talk to neighbors and some other things that meant she was about a 8/10ths of a mile ahead of me for the day, distance-wise. Since I’d apparently dropped her I thought I’d take the opportunity to do some extra distance via a couple of detours while she caught back up. I took the detours and saw her, asked her mileage, and found I was still about 6/10ths behind her. She said “make up the mileage, and when you catch me I’ll tell you what held me up.” I let her go, repeated the detours a couple of times, and then impressed myself by pouring on the coals and turning my fastest lap of the day, 1 lap from the end, in an effort to catch back up to her.
Once I caught her she told me that one of the residents of the neighborhood, whom we’d seen outside off and on all day, had stopped her to tell her how impressed she was that we’d been riding all day (we started at 9:20am, this occurred about 5:30pm). Donni gave her the basics of the 100 MoN, and the lady said she was even more impressed because she has a son who’s been diagnosed with cancer and is going in for surgery next week on Wednesday, June 19th. She thought it was incredibly cool both that we were riding so long and that we were doing it to support cancer charities. It was a great way to close out the ride.
We finally finished up the final lap, shouting “Woo-hoo!” and fist-bumping each other, at a few minutes to 6pm.
All in all, this was an absolutely wonderful experience. I’d like to repeat it next year but we’ll have to see how Donni feels about it. She is absolutely thrilled to have done it and completed the challenge but I have no idea if she’ll want to ever do it again.
I did come to some interesting conclusions though. For example, I thought the 100 MoN concept would be a perfect way to do our first century. The ability to carefully select the route, and thus the obstacles faced, having a house with all the amenities on the route where you can pass by it every 5 minutes and grab food, use the bathroom, take a break, etc. seemed like a perfect setup.
As it turns out, I’m not convinced it is. Certainly from a physical standpoint it’s much easier without having to face big or frequent climbs, and having all the fuel and supplies handy without having to carry them is awesome.
The problem comes with the mental aspect of it. We were both really, really sick of seeing that neighborhood, you’d think we’d have managed to find the good lines after a few laps but in reality we hit the same holes and sticks all day, and, the worst part, we saw the car every 5 minutes for the whole day. It would have been very, very easy to say “stuff this. We’re done.” and then pack up and call it a day. In fact, we almost succumbed to this temptation a few times in during the 60-80 mile portion of the ride.
Maintaining the mental toughness and pushing on when it would have been so easy not to was very difficult but ultimately very rewarding. I’m feeling really good about having finished.
Thanks to Fatty for the blog and all the things he does, my wife Donni for embarking on this adventure with me, Gretchen for the use of house, neighborhood and facilities, and Brody for the unwavering enthusiasm and copious amounts of slobber.
I’m looking forward to next year!