A Note from Fatty: After reading this report, why not check out another by The Self-Righteous Cyclist? Click here.
100 Miles of Nowhere Race Report: Winner of the 64 Times Across the 64th Parallel Category
by Gary Cooper
Delta Junction, the small town my wife and I call home, is at the end of the Alaska Highway, in the interior of Alaska. By many people’s standards it is in the middle of nowhere. With a limited amount of paved roads to choose from, I decided to ride a 2.5-mile out and back section of a nearby road that joins the Alaska Highway at milepost 1415. The official end of the Alaska Highway is milepost 1422. I considered riding the additional mile to the Alaska Highway, but that might be considered as going “somewhere” and I wanted to be sure that I was riding 100 miles to ”nowhere.”
The road ahead on the day of the ride
I would travel north – south and cross over the 64th parallel, which is 177 miles south of the Arctic Circle. By riding the five-mile round trip twenty times over the 64th parallel, I would go over and back 40 times.
Looking southwest to the Alaska Range along the route
I decided to take a short off-the-bike refueling break every 5 laps (25 miles) but before each break I would do an additional 3 loops at the marker I placed at latitude 64.000. By doing the additional twelve loops I would cross the 64th parallel 64 times.
I started riding about 9:30AM and finished around 4:30, with a riding time of 6:08:24. The high temperature of the day was 80 degrees and there was a west wind blowing at 15 mph the last four hours of the ride.
Mt. Hayes from the ride route
The day went off with out a hitch with my wife and several friends stopping by to cheer me on through out the day. Hopefully I successfully secured a top spot in the category for the number of crossings of the 64th parallel in one day by a 60-year-old.
Many thanks to Fatty for spearheading this great fundraising event, all the sponsors for the fantastic gifts, and the helpful folks at Twin Six.
PS from Fatty: It is my hope that Gary will do this exact ride again in four years…when he is 64.
In choosing a course for the 100 Miles of Nowhere I focused on the “nowhere” attribute. Near Montreal there is a man-made strip of land in the St. Lawrence river. It was created to separate the river from the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is a series of locks allowing ships to travel from the Great Lakes down the river to the Atlantic Ocean. The strip of land is about 50 yards wide, 20 or 30 feet above the level of the river, and over 10 miles long. For a bit over 6 miles there is a road on top of it, a road beloved by cyclists because cars are not allowed on it. The road has no name (there’s a sign near it directing you to the “estacade” which I think is an old Iroquois word meaning “place where people in Lycra go”). It’s not quite in Montreal or any other political jurisdiction (I’m not sure it’s even in Canada because the Seaway is a joint U.S./Canadian project). There are no buildings or addresses on it. It’s nowhere. So I decided to ride 100 miles on it.
On Friday, May 31, I dropped my kids at school, walked home, jumped on the bike, and rode the 8 miles to Nowhere. My goal was to ride seven laps and make it home before my son (age 7) got out of school, although I had arranged for someone else to get him if I didn’t make it on time. My wife was out of town out her 25th college reunion (one of her classmates founded Strava. How cool would it be if she got to know him?)
Lap One: a normal ride along Nowhere. I establish a comfortable pace, 19 m.p.h. I notice that one of my big worries, that there would be swarms of shadflies, is not coming to pass. There are a few, but it is tolerable. They land on you and just sit there, not biting or anything.
Also, although there was a 30% chance of rain forecast, the skies are cloudless.
Lap Two: still on schedule. Nowhere consists of two miles heading south, two miles of gradual turning to the west, then two miles heading west. I notice a significant headwind, maybe 15 or 20 m.p.h., on the western leg. But of course it’s a tailwind on the return trip, so it’s a wash, it’s all good.
Lap Three: remarkably consistent pace. I think about how the 100 Miles of Nowhere is like the Doughnut Race in that they both have two elements. For the Doughnut Race, biking and eating. For the 100 MON, biking and fighting boredom. I don’t pretend that my Nowhere course is as much of a challenge as riding indoors or doing 3000 laps of my driveway. When it comes to mental toughness, the people who did those rides are are like Eddy Merckx and I’m just a Fred. But my Nowhere is still tough. I pass the time flicking hitchhiking shadflies off my jersey and listening to songs in my head.
Lap Four: Still on pace, but it’s becoming an effort, especially into the wind. Ear worm of “Ever Fallen in Love” by Nouvelle Vauge becomes annoying. I try singing “Renegades of Funk” out loud but cannot kill the ear worm. I notice that redwing blackbirds were out in the morning, but now the predominant species is the goldfinch. Perhaps redwings get up early to get worms, but goldfinches eat shadflies, so they can sleep in. I flick some annoying shad flies from my legs so the goldfinches will have more to eat.
Lap Five: A half minute slower. But what’s a half minute in the grand scheme of things? I think about averages. Sure, two miles into the wind and then two miles of tailwind average out to no wind at all, but it is definitely not the same as riding on a calm day. It’s like the mathematician with one foot in a bucket of scalding water and one foot in a bucket of ice water. When asked how his feet felt, he said, “On average, they feel just right.”
Montreal weather this spring has been cool and not particularly rainy. On average. But late March and early April were snowy and cold, so my outdoor training started late. Then the second half of April and early May were beautiful, dry, and relatively warm, so I was riding a lot. The rest of May was terrible. Last week it didn’t get above 50 degrees, with constant drizzle and high winds. So I lost some fitness and certainly was not acclimating to hot summer weather. Now, for the 100 MON, the temperature was heading into the high 80s, with humidity around 60%. I wasn’t confident that I would handle it well.
Lap Six: “Two minutes is not going to make the difference between picking up my son on time or just seeing him when he gets home. 19 m.p.h. is just a number. Hey, I live in Canada now, I should go with metric anyway. 18.6 miles is 30 kilometres. That’s a good round number.
“Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with? No, but I’ve gotten songs stuck in my head that I shouldn’t have ever listened to in the first place. And I’ve left an ‘emergency’ caffeinated gel in my saddle bag for two years, sucked it down near the end of a hot 100 mile ride, and immediately felt nauseous. If only my swag bag had arrived, I’d have some fresh ride food. But no, I live in Canada now, so mail from the States takes forever. Canada, eh? I remember when I was five, on our summer vacation we visited Niagara Falls. On the Canadian side I walked up to a Mountie and asked, ‘Where’s the snow?’ I could use some snow now. Remember last week, how it felt with my toes cramping on the cold kitchen floor in the morning. I should focus on that. Remember how it felt last week. Remember how it felt last week. Remember how it felt last week.”
Lap Seven: “Five minutes is probably not going to make the difference between picking up my son at school or just seeing him when I get home. Even ten minutes. Anyway, he’d enjoy going home with someone different for a change.”
“I thought that staying hydrated would take care of me. But I’m obviously drinking enough and getting lots of electrolytes, yet I still feel dead. Not the bonk, not cramps, just dead. My legs do not want to move. After I stopped for a quick break down near the river and cooled off I felt lively, but now that I’m hot again the legs won’t spin.
“30% chance of rain? Sure, on average. But it can’t rain 30%. Either it rains or it doesn’t. Either you’re pregnant or you’re not. Today there is 0% cool, refreshing rain. 100%, hot, humid, windy sun.
‘Just keep turning the pedals. Just get through the headwind section to the turnaround, then it will be a tailwind. Just enjoy the tailwind, no need to push it, without the headwind it’s too hot to push it. Just let the shad flies cling to you, what’s the harm, it takes too much energy to flick them off. Just keep turning the pedals. Just a short crosswind straight section to go. Just turn the pedals. Just catch those two women on mountain bikes. Surely you can catch them, you’re not that dead. One last sprint. There’s the bridge. Done.”
Lap Heading Home: Focusing on finishing the Nowhere part of the course helps me finish the Nowhere part of the course. But then comes the 8 miles of generally uphill, headwind riding back into Montreal. As I get closer to downtown I realize how much cooler it is in the middle of the river. And quieter. And the air is cleaner, despite the bugs.
I wobble up towards Mt. Royal (I live two blocks from the bottom of the climb, along the route of the 1974 world championships won by Eddy Merckx) and looked at the time. My son got out of school three minutes ago.
I pull up to my front door just in time to see him coming down the street on his bike. He starts sprinting to me, out of the saddle, his backpack bobbing up and down behind his head with each pedal stroke. “Did you do it, did you do it?” he shouts. I feel pretty good. I take the 100 MON swag package out of the mailbox and we go in together for a cool drink and an afternoon snack.
A Note from Fatty: Want more reports? Steve B wrote a good one over at his blog. Check it out.
by Raymond D
I am reasonably fit – I have just finished a 9 day 600 mile stage race so my legs were ready, but 100 miles was still intimidating as the longest ride I had ever done was 80 miles!
I had decided to do 10 laps of 10 miles in a park in central Johannesburg, the biggest city in South Africa. The amazing thing for us mtb riders in Johannesburg, is that there is a protected green belt in the city which allows you to do rides of up to 50 miles, crossing only a few streets. This is right in the heart of suburbia and sandwiched between major commercial districts. Not for nothing is Johannesburg known as the “city in a forest” – the city has the distinction of coming up on satellite vegetation maps as one of the largest man made forests in the world. The route is a great blend of single track and jeep track, and has around 600ft of climbing in the loop.
The day started at 7:00 when I met a mate of mine who had agreed to do the first lap with me on his single speed, this turned into a lap and a half with a bit of a detour of the normal route because he wanted to show me where someone had built around 2 miles of new single track. This thing happens out here fairly often – riders figure out a way to add something new in and tend to go off and built it themselves. Its a bit of a frontier mentality. I decided that if he could do it on a single speed, I would join him for a lap without changing gears either – probably not the thing you should do at the start of a 100 miles, but it seemed a good idea at the time. I regretted it in the last lap.
The ride took me just under 10 1/2 hours to complete, and I finished riding at 6:30pm. Some of the highlights for me were:
1) Just chilling on a route that we normally race around; trying to look around and enjoy things with new eyes each lap. Its amazing how much actually changes during the day – if you were looking out for it. Seeing horses, parrots and bird life, people walking dogs, kids flying kites. Watching the colors / temperature / amount of people in the park change with each lap.
2) Having my mate Vernon not pitch for the laps he was going to join me for (given that I had told him on the day we registered this was a bit poor) – but having him donate 1/2 my entry fee to a local charity who raises money for kids oncology.
3) Some light banter from my friends – one who wanted to have me skip the ride to go kite surfing and offered to pay the entry fee if I would skip it, and one who thought this was a bit crappy and offered to pay the entry fee if I finished. Needless to say I took the finish and get the donation option, not the skip it one – and raised another 1 1/2 times the entry fee for CHOC, childrens oncology.
4) All the guys who followed me on facebook and sent encouragement during the day.
5) Super stoked when my family brought me a burger for lunch and I got to see my three kids – at ages 1/3/5 they were pretty excited about the whole thing.
6) Finishing in the dark – I had never done the route at night before. Next time i will take a light or start earlier. Awesome to ride it anyway!
7) Meeting a TV bike show celeb half way through the ride, he was using his new cyclo-cross bike and joined me for a lap. When I told him about the whole thing, he was really impressed and will be doing what he can to get some more support for the event in South Africa next year. His whole ethos revolves around bike life, and it was really great to chat about how you could go out and do some totally different things on a bike – he is always off adventuring around the country, so really interesting guy to chat too. A real highlight for me to take a photo of him on the loop.
8) Finishing, and knowing that I had done something bigger than myself, and had helped a good cause in my own small way. 100 MON will be a really great memory for years to come for me and I am looking forward to getting my t-shirt in the mail – I will be framing it and smiling each time I look at it.
A Note from Fatty: I plan to post a few 100MoN race reports today, so you may want to check back a few times.
100 Miles of Nowhere Race Report: Winner of the left-handed 50 year old cancer survivor who lives on Ivy Drive in Simpsonville, SC Division
by Jerry Pringle
I would like to begin my race report for the 2013 edition of the 100 Miles of Nowhere by thanking Fatty for setting the whole thing up, and for his commitment to helping others. I am proud to say that this was my first century, and my first win of any kind (of course, I was racing in the left-handed 50 year old cancer survivor who lives on Ivy Drive in Simpsonville, SC!)
Below is the summary of the ride taken from my Garmin. I contemplated the true 100 Miles of Nowhere, in my basement on rollers, but I didn’t think I could do it without falling and hurting myself. Next I thought that I may do it on a traffic circle (too much traffic) or perhaps the bus loop at an elementary school near my house (too many tight U-turns would kill my speed.) I settled on a 7.15 mile loop around an industrial park called Donaldson Center (now called SCTAC, but no one knows it by that name!)
I brought two bikes to ride, in case I had a catastrophic mechanical breakdown on one of them. My road bike is an older Jamis Comet, which I have ridden to my previous longest distance, 56 miles at the Augusta 70.3 triathlon last September. Thus any distance over 57 miles set my new PR! My tri bike, purchased in April, is an older Cervelo P3. I have not gone over 14 miles on it either, so I went into the 100 MoN fully prepared!
Both bikes have aluminum frames, and Ultegra components (the Jamis is a 9 speed, the Cervelo a 10 speed.) Surprisingly I did not have any breakdowns, flats, or accidents! I could not be more thankful for that! While the Jamis is more comfortable, the Cervelo is faster. The Cervelo is comfortable only if you are really going hard, though – I found that riding fast on it is better than just cruising slowly. The Jamis can be ridden slowly or fast, depending on how you feel or the hills that you are climbing.
Here is a picture of my bikes:
I alternated directions for each lap – one lap clockwise, the other counterclockwise. I did this so that I wouldn’t get too bored, and to ride the uphills and downhills from both directions. I rode the first 4 laps on the Jamis, the next 4 on the Cervelo, then 3 on the Jamis and the final 3 on the Cervelo. I had an absolute blast with the race, and finished as thankful and excited as any race I have done (9 marathons, 12 halves, the 70.3 in Augusta, and several dozen 5k and 10k). I was grinning from ear to ear, and both exhausted and pumped from the effort.
I started running and biking 4 years ago, after completing treatment for lymphoma. My oncologist told me that I would have to start doing cardio workouts to burn off the effects of the chemo. I started chemo in January 2009, and finished up in June 2009 — every checkup since then has been excellent, and there have been no traces of the cancer since!
I had gotten an email from a high school classmate about raising money for Team in Training just as I was finishing up the chemo treatments (May 2009.) After checking them out, I went to an information meeting. The coach that talked about the events for that summer got choked up about running up the hill to the Iwo Jima Memorial at the Marine Corps Marathon, and I was sold! I hadn’t run more than a couple hundred yards at one time in 20 years, but I signed up that day!
I started with the plan that my coach gave us, and I have used it for every marathon since (my PR is a turtlelike 4:40, but I have finished every one with no injuries!) I finished the MCM in a shade over 6 hours, and I cannot describe the feeling of running up the hill and through the finish. Getting the very impressive MCM medal was a total blast, and to have my family, including my Mom and brother, there made it very special.
I have since completed the Chicago Marathon (on 10/10/10!) and have now become a TNT run coach for our winter teams. I honestly believe that when you sign up for any event that makes you nervous, then you commit to doing the training necessary to complete it. The downside, however, is once you have done several big events (marathons, long bike rides) and can kind of predict how they will go, you tend to neglect putting in the training.
I did take way too much food and water – I had 3 Bonk Breaker bars (ate one), 6 Poweraid gels (ate 3), 2 peanut butter, Nutella, and honey sandwiches (ate half of one), 2 gallons of water and a gallon of Gatoraid (drank 1 gal water and half the Gatoraid). I met up with some friends during lap 4, and rode with them for a mile or so, but for the rest of the day I was alone. I had a great time, and again, thank you Fatty for all you have done and continue to do! I look forward to doing this event next year and beyond!
In the most recent installment of this series (if you’re not caught up, you should probably read part 1, part 2 and part 3 before continuing), The Hammer was riding up to her first exchange point. Heather was clipped in, ready to take the baton and head off on what is — every single year — the hottest, head-windiest stage of the race.
But right as The Hammer arrived — and I mean literally, right as she arrived — Heather’s back tire exploded. Not just a psssssssss. More of a
As you would expect, some people jumped, and all heads turned, knowing exactly what that sound meant. But the explosion from the tire — and the resulting head-turning and jumping — were nothing compared to what came from the normally calm, cool, and collected Heather.
“$&*#&$@#! KENNY! MY ^*$@!!^& TIRE JUST %^$$#(&!@ EXPLODED!”
Kenny and I sprang into action. Specifically, we both ran away from Heather. I have never checked with Kenny on his intentions, but I was running away 30% because I wanted to grab the spare back wheel we had pumped up and ready to go in the back of the van, and 70% because my fight-or-flight reflex had kicked in and I’m more a “flight” kind of guy.
Maybe Kenny is too, because he got to the van before I did. He grabbed the wheel and we both dashed back to Heather to get the wheel on her bike in what we hoped was record time.
Unfortunately for everyone, I am even clumsier when my system is flooded with adrenaline than when I’m not. Which is very clumsy indeed. As a result, I thoroughly hampered Kenny as he swapped out the wheel, probably increasing the amount of time it took by about 90 seconds.
I’m not absolutely certain, but at one point I may have heard the Benny Hill theme begin playing.
After what seemed an eternity — but was probably really less than three minutes — we had Heather back on her bike and on her way.
The Hammer took a shower — as it turns out, I would be the only one to not get to use the shower, which is really much sadder for everyone else than for me, when you think about it — and we loaded up and took off to catch up with Heather, hoping hoping hoping that she had not flatted again.
As we drove, looking for Heather, I said, “Well, that’s the worst possible time for a flat to have happened.”
Kenny disagreed. “Really, it was the best possible time. We were right there, the van was stopped and empty. The worst possible time for that tire to explode would have been about two minutes later, after Heather had ridden away from us, so we wouldn’t know she had flatted ’til after we got back to her twenty minutes later.”
Kenny was right, I agreed, and then said, “Well, let’s hope she hasn’t flatted again since she left us.”
I stepped on the gas. (Kenny was in the passenger seat, I was driving, The Hammer was in the back, recovering).
As we got near Heather, the temperature tipped over to 100 degrees, which is where it would hover for almost the entirety of her 45-mile ride. So we made sure we had a new bottle, packed with ice, to hand to her as soon as we rode by.
“How’re you doing?” Kenny shouted.
“My gears keep ghost-shifting!” Heather called out. “And the chain’s dropped off twice.”
In fact, the only gear that would reliably stay in place was a tall gear, meaning that for the first big climb of the ride, Heather couldn’t spin her way up. Clearly, the cycling gods had decided that on this day, Heather would have the mechanical troubles of the entire team heaped upon her.
We had to come up with a fix, fast. One that wouldn’t mean a long stop for Heather.
Kenny and The Hammer swapped places — The Hammer would have to recover while she also took care of Heather. Meanwhile, Kenny got Heather’s old wheel — the one that had just blown — and took the tire off, figuring that it was at least probable that some little undetectable thorn or piece of glass was the culprit of Heather’s blown tire. Kenny then stole a tire from one of our spare front wheels (we could afford this, since we had two spare fronts) and put it on Heaher’s original wheel. He pumped it up while we drove, and then we pulled over, waiting for Heather.
As we stood there, Kenny said, as nicely as he could, “Fatty, just stand aside and let me do this alone. It will go faster.”
But then, when Heather arrived, I couldn’t help myself. I immediately pulled the quick release and started pulling off the wheel, when Kenny caught my eye with a “Really?” look.
“Sorry,” I said, and backed away.
Kenny made the change, Heather got back on her bike, and rode on into the brutal heat and what was becoming a truly awful headwind. And the bike continued to mis-shift.
She did not look happy.
Bonus Miles Applied
As we drove, it became apparent that moving The Hammer up to the passenger seat had been a great idea. Her nurse persona came out and she pep-talked Heather through her stage of the ride.
Meanwhile in the van, we talked about the deceptive nature of this stage. On paper, its one of the easier stages: 45 miles, 1900 feet of climbing. Tough, but not really that tough. In reality, though, we all agreed that this is — without question — the most difficult stage of the race. It’s the hottest. The climbing is a long, relentless grind — the kind that wears you down, not the kind you stand up and get over with.
And it has featured a headwind every year we’ve done it.
We therefore awarded Heather an honorary 20 bonus miles for the race. When apprised of this fact (by way of having it shouted at her out the window), Heather seemed only mildly appeased.
We got to within fifteen miles of the exchange point — where it would be my turn to ride again. By now, Kenny was driving, I was in the back seat, changing into my bike clothes and eating slice after slice of pizza.
There was no pre-ride nutrition strategy to this. I just really like pizza.
I am pretty sure I ate four slices.
OK, back to the story.
We made sure Heather had two full, cold bottles, wished her good luck, and took off.
And then, feeling the wind buck the van, I said, “I don’t think we should leave her quite yet. Fifteen miles is a long way to fight this headwind alone.”
So we stuck with Heather ’til we were within ten miles of the exchange point. During which time, she caught up with and pulled along another rider. Their heads tell the whole story:
Finally, we had to go.
In ten minutes, we were at the exchange point. The Hammer went to go buy everyone — except me — ice cream, while I got my bike ready. Then I rolled up to the line, my bike pointing forward, my head craned around, looking back.
And there I saw Tommy, from Team 91. Bike pointed forward, head craned around, looking back.
“So you’re the team that’s going to break our streak,” I said. “At the last exchange, you were already 25 minutes ahead of us.”
“Well, it’s not a fair fight,” Tommy said, referring to how their team had three guys racing, while Team Fatty had two. “On the other hand, our woman is pretty new to riding.”
“Well, she’s holding her own on this leg,” I said. We had passed her in the van; I knew she was close and would be handing the baton off to Tommy in just a minute or two.
“In any case, this is an amazing race — just beautiful,” said Tommy. “And this leg of it we’re about to do is the most beautiful of all.” Which made me mad, because it’s really hard to think of a guy as your sworn enemy when he’s really nice and also right.
Tommy’s teammate rolled up, looking exhausted and encrusted with salt, and handed the baton to Tommy. He left only three minutes behind a pack of four riders going together; I knew there was a great chance he’d catch them and together they’d make excellent time on this leg of the course.
I checked my watch and started mentally counting the minutes ’til Heather arrived.
Five minutes went by. I stared back, willing Heather to appear — to have somehow eaten away twenty minutes of the lead of Team 91.
Ten minutes went by. Then fifteen. Nobody had rolled through in fifteen minutes. There was no chance whatsoever I was going to be able to catch and ride with a group ahead of me.
Twenty minutes. Twenty-one. Twenty-two. Twenty-three.
And then there was Heather. Even from a couple hundred yards away, I could tell she was cooked to a whole new level of doneness. She came in just a minute or so behind another rider, giving me someone to chase after all.
Heather had been faster than the woman on Team 91, but just by a minute. We were still 24 minutes behind them. Things looked bad.
Still, what Tommy had said stuck with me: she was a new rider. And while she was quite obviously a strong rider, cycling endurance is something you earn over time. And Heather tends to get stronger and faster the longer she rides.
So it wasn’t quite time for us to toss in the towel.
It was my turn to ride now, and I wanted to go.
Which is where we’ll pick up in the next installment.
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