OK, so technically, Saturday wasn’t our wedding anniversary; it was May 29th. Close enough, considering Fatty’s ride this year – a week early, pretty big Nowhere loops, nudge, nudge. We had already registered for the 100 MoN before the tandem inspiration hit me, so I decided to risk that 30 years of wedded bliss by talking her into it. Our individual paces and styles are so different that one of us always seems to be somewhat uncomfortable with the rides we do together, so I figured this might be a good way to actually ride the 100 miles together. And, she could either rub my back or hit me in the kidneys depending on how well she thought I was doing. I even offered to let her be the captain, but that freaked her out (whew, I thought she might actually take me up on that, then I’d be freaked out).
I picked up the ride – a Cannondale road tandem rental, at a bike shop in Seattle, brought it home and gave it a solo try on Friday evening. Whoa! – it was like driving a bus after the Corvette-style ride on my racing bike! Didn’t take long, however, to get the feel and know what the limitations were. Now to put my bride, Ann, on the back and see what happens tomorrow.
First time I’d ever even touched a tandem.
Saturday arrived and we were out the door by 7:15 am. Our 0.77 mile loop was around a neighborhood near the local elementary school. We considered for about two seconds making the school parking lot the loop, but decided this was going to be hard enough without constant turning.
Mark and Ann, all decked out and ready to roll!
So, I put 50 M&Ms in a Dixie cup taped to the head tube as a lap counter and got ready to go. That would be our first stop – total laps would be 130. By 8 am we had figured out how to mount and start rolling. By the second lap Ann had stopped scream…, er, talking in my ear and trying to steer. We had made a couple of slow warm up laps when we noticed all the yard sale signs going up. Uh-oh, that means lots of slow moving cars, parking at random along the streets. I hadn’t considered that, but we sure weren’t going anywhere else at this point.
We got into a rhythm and found the least bumpy line around the loop. Now it was just keep going, eat an M&M (or toss it aside, burp) every lap and watch out for grannies seeking hidden treasures in other people’s junk. We did have a “cheering” section of three little girls doing their own yard sale. Every lap (3 minutes per lap) they’d urge us to buy something, or offer flowers. It got comical – they never did figure out we weren’t going to stop! But, bless their hearts, they weren’t getting much business and still hung in there for a few hours.
Want a flower? These kids didn’t give up.
At our third rest stop at 70 miles, Ann put in her iPod and was groovin’ to the tunes. She had gotten so comfortable on the bike (and with me, I guess) that she’d ride no hands, pumping her arms and swinging her head to the music. I kindly suggested that with the bike lurching around, it was making it a lot more work, so she calmed down. It wasn’t long, however, until we were in the “I’m ready for this to be over” mode and just hunkered down to finish it off.
Well into it by now.
When the monitor said 100 miles (6 hours, 18 minutes riding time), I still had about 10 M&Ms in my counter. Did I forget to eat one on that many laps? We’ll never know, but we weren’t about to ride that many more laps; the monitor rules! I can report that we were tired, but not suffering too much, and there are no divorce lawyers in our future (but I don’t see a tandem in there either). A great day for a great cause – tell the twins to have fun at camp this year!
Lap counter not quite at zero. Monitor says “we’re done”!
When the signup for the 2013 100 Miles of Nowhere was coming up, I was excited to participate for the 5th year, but uncertain about how to approach the ride. Last year, a cavalier attitude regarding a plan and preparation resulted in a 100 Miles of Nowhere but Disappointment experience. The combination of a mountain bike, less than excellent training, extreme heat, and friends who confuse the words “pace” and “race” made for a spectacular explosion after 100 km.
Fortunately for me, an old news story was making the rounds locally again. Forbes, in their love of lists, had identified my city of Huntsville, Alabama, as the 9th smartest city in the world ( http://www.forbes.com/2009/12/03/infrastructure-economy-urban-opinions-columnists-smart-cities-09-joel-kotkin_slide_10.html ). Surely a resident of the world’s 9th smartest city could come up with a smarter plan for the 100 MoN.
So, a course was identified in my neighborhood, simplifying logistics and providing for family support. The road bike was tweaked and tested, and the clip on aero bars left installed. An early start was planned, beating the heat and rising possibility of thunderstorms through the day. All smart planning. A big Mexican dinner the night before the ride probably wasn’t smart, but it didn’t prove to be a problem either.
The ride itself went well. Got a reasonably early 5:30 start and cranked out 9 laps of a 10 miles loop to get things started, all without incident.
Obligatory Start of Ride Selfie
The heat index did increase throughout the day, measured by the miles per water bottle test – two bottles in the first 60 miles, two in the next 30, and one in the last 10. 90 miles solo does provide time to reflect on the ride’s charity purpose and to pray for several friends who are currently battling cancer. I was joined in the final 10 miles by my wife, son, and his dog, for an easy roll through a nearby park. Finishing at an easy pace with the family was a perfect way to complete the ride.
Everyone Joins In
Thanks Fatty for organizing the event, Fatties for joining in, sponsors for the nice swag, and God for all this goodness!
I was very excited to get my chance to complete this ride. Even more excited was my wife. She normally drives SAG and comes to rescue my tail when I have breakdowns (snapped spokes, chain stays, etc). SAG this time would consist of putting her head out the door every once in a while to see if I needed anything.
I read through previous years MONs from other riders and their potential thoughts for this year. I’m a road only rider and wanted to stay within the spirit of “no-where” and figured that going around the block would fulfill that requirement. It’s .3 of a mile and has about a 12’ rise. I knew that outside of brain draining boredom getting a solid rhythm with 90 degree turn every 15 seconds was going to make that a challenge.
Also adding to the fun; I was sick for about a week prior to the ride and had less than 50 miles riding over the last two weeks. Conversations about my pooping habits aside, I came into this event further behind than I wanted. I didn’t expect to ever be super-fast, but I was very worried about losing the “Crazy dads in Everett” category now.
The morning of the ride I had thought to be on the bike by 6 and instead took a little extra sleep. At precisely 6:50am I clipped in and I was off! At precisely 6:51 I finished my first lap, still drinking my coffee and settled in for a long day (not Elden-long, just long for me).
My bike computer and phone were at war with each other, showing small discrepancies on feet ascended and distance travelled, but taking an average after the first 10 laps, I figured that I had about another 325 in front of me.
In my neighborhood, I viewed as that “weird guy who rides a bike” and didn’t think my neighbors would think much of it. No one said anything, but I did get some looks. At one point I had a nice little peloton with me. Two neighbor kids and my middle son all riding around with me; I would do a lap at their pace and then keep going as best as I could.
My cheering squad
The hardest part was the lure of the house and the want to get that one thing (it’ll only take a second). So I created a schedule (I had lots of time). I would only stop every 25 miles and only as long as I didn’t impede myself on my imposed 6 hour time limit. This tactic worked well and I finish in 5 hours 59 minutes and 34 seconds – yes I cut it close.
Even better, I was off the bike for only about half an hour. With potties, water, snacks and all the rest of the amenities the house offered I could have easily spent an hour mucking around.
The last ten miles of any century are hard for me. I can see the end and I’m tired and figure to just sit up and coast the last bit. Normally I get over that by pushing hard for the end. That works when there is varying terrain, but didn’t work in this case, I suspect because I had already covered the terrain 300 times, so my last 10 miles are probably my slowest.
I had checking on by my SAG and cheering selection and while it was a close race I not only took a new KOM (1 of 1 rider), set second and third personal bests but I believe I also podiumed in the “Crazy dads in Everett” category.
Thanks for the opportunity to do the 100 MON and all of the great sponsors (Honey Stingers, new food on bike), now all I have to do is figure out where I’m riding next year!
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!
How the heck can you possibly DNF something that doesn’t actually go anywhere?
Originally, we were going to do 100 miles along the Main River from where we live near Frankfurt to Würzburg in Bavaria. It would have been a very nice ride for my wife and I, and while breaking the basic tenet of MON, would have resulted in some beautiful photos and a welcome break for her from being a triathlon widow as things get serious before Ironman Frankfurt this summer.
Unfortunately, several things happened to prevent this. The first is that by Saturday I already had two 80 mile rides in during the week, needed to run several hours and basically had an Ironman-induced panic attack. The second is that it was raining. Not just light summer rain, either. Really raining. Half of Germany is underwater ( http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/flooding-worsening-in-parts-of-germany-6-dead-in-europe-so-far-a-903396.html ). Here are some pictures of the trails we’d intended to take:
This is the trail along the river Main. Flooded as far as I could see. I checked all the entrances to it for quite a ways and all were flooded out on Sunday and Monday. The water is going down today, though.
This was part of last year’s MON route. Also flooded out. That’s my city bike, which is what I use instead of a car these days.
So, to recap: Germany is flooded. I’m freaking out and have to stick to the TRAINING PLAN. Which calls for three hours of hard intervals on Saturday. There are no arks available. There is but one option for the Saturday ride. The dreaded trainer.
Which makes this MON a MON in the most traditional sense. I put the tri bike on the trainer, loaded up a movie and started pedaling. I intended to do 50 miles and call it good enough. (And it would have been good enough to win the Ex-Pat Lesbian Wife Good Enough division.)
Sadly, we don’t have any pictures of me on the trainer on Saturday. Have a picture of the cat using the bikes in our living room bike parking area as his own jungle gym. The one in the front is the bike I was on the trainer for 3:06 on Saturday.
Here is a list of movies that are not a good choice for watching while pedaling hard on the bike trainer:
1) Schindler’s List
It is long enough and it is a good movie. Oscar winner and all. But by the time the credits were rolling, I was bawling, and I was done. I didn’t have the last three miles in me. So, in fact, I was DQ’d from my division for cutting the course and only managing 47 miles on the trainer. I think the movie hit me especially hard because I live in Germany now. (Note that I do intend to remedy the DNF and actually get a good 100 Miles of Nowhere in when Nowhere is no longer flooded later this summer.)
So, being alone on the bike for three hours with Oskar Schindler and his efforts led to a lot of very thinky thoughts about history, being the other, and how awful people can be to each other. Germany has welcomed me when my own country doesn’t want me. You see, I’m part of a bi-national same-sex committed couple (that means that me and my wife are both women) and because of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), I couldn’t apply for a fiancé visa for my wife. She would never have been able to live with me in the US with fear of deportation. So we made the hard decision and I left my job (which was the better of the two) and moved to a country where I didn’t speak more than two words of the language (Whereas we both speak English fluently). It was a bit of a blow when protection for us was cut from the Immigration Bill ( http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324659404578499592128446394.html ) So to everyone reading this who has been following the Immigration Bill, the Supreme Court cases, seeing the images of demonstrations from France, and who thinks that it doesn’t matter to you or anyone you know, it does. You know someone it affects now. You know me. And my wife. We have cats, we love bicycles; we have 7 between us. I had to leave my mountain bike behind along with 3 other when I moved because I only had enough space for two in the shipping container I could afford, but I’ve added a few since. I’m a decent cook, she works in the main offices for an American firm here in Germany. We’ve both run a marathon, We like to sleep in on the weekends. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen on our wedding day. In short, we are no different than anyone else. Remember us. If you’re ever in Frankfurt, look us up and I’ll take you out for beer and sausages and on some of my favorite rides in the area. You can even borrow my good road bike if you want. I’m trying not to be overly political here because that’s not my goal. I’m not asking you to donate anything, sign anything, change your Facebook icon, nothing. Just the next time you’re reminded of the marriage equality debate, you can think of me. Someone you know. You can say, “Oh yeah. I know Lorraine and her wife. She does Miles of Nowhere, they bike a lot together, they’ve got cats, and they’re good people, just like us.”
Here’s us at our wedding reception, exactly two years ago today (June 4). If you’re wondering why there’s a parrot in the background, we had a pirate themed wedding and my brother had it on the shoulder of his suit the whole night, including here where he gave us his blessing. Another thing of note, see the mark on my wife’s (she’s in green, I’m in blue) right arm? Left over road rash from a crash a few days before. She’s got matching bruises down one leg in glorious Technicolor, but luckily the dress was floor length.
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