Now Open for Registration: 2015 100 Miles of Nowhere

09.21.2015 | 10:04 am

A TL;DR Note from Fatty: If you already know what the 100 Miles of Nowhere is and want to get on with the registering before it fills up, just click here to go register.

Here is a sad fact: I have never played “Jungle Ball.” Ever. In fact, I have very little idea of what it is (I know it is played in a pool and that there is a ball involved, but little else). I don’t know what the rules are (very few, I am told).


But my twins know, thanks to Camp Kesem. And in fact, one of them tells me playing Jungle Ball is one of the things she likes best about Camp Kesem. The other twin tells me that making so many friends — fellow campers and counsellors — is what she likes about it.

Both of my twins have been to Camp Kesem for each of the past four years, and both want to be counsellors at Camp Kesem someday. 

Camp Kesem has helped defined who my girls are, has made a huge difference in their lives.

And that’s why, for the fourth year running, The 100 Miles of Nowhere (#100MoN) will be to benefit Camp Kesem, a nationwide community driven by passionate college student leaders, supporting children through and beyond their parent’s cancer.

That said — and very much in keeping with Camp Kesem philosophy — the 2015 100MoN will be the most ridiculous, awesome fundraiser ever, both in terms of swag and participation. 

Let me tell you what I mean.

What Is The 100 Miles of Nowhere?

The 100 Miles of Nowhere is a race without a place. It’s an event in which hundreds of people participate . . . all by ourselves. (Or with a friend. Or with 20 friends.)

It’s a very strange thing where you pay $99.95 (shipping is free) for some awesome swag and the privilege of riding your rollers, trainer, or a very small course (like around the block or up and down a hill) for 100 miles.

And then the profits from your entry go to Camp Kesem — camps all across the U.S., dedicated to giving kids affected by a parent’s cancer a week of carefree fun, at no cost to them.

I did the first 100 Miles of Nowhere by myself, back before I knew it would be annual at all. The next year — and every year after that — a bunch of us have done it. In fact, now every year the 500 available spots sell out in no time.

Then, after the event, I ask you to send me your stories — like your awesome videos, or descriptions of your completely insane courses — and I post new ones every day (this year, I plan to  posted a new story from a reader every couple of hours. I plan to carry on that tradition this year, as well.

Please, let me know what your 100 Miles of Nowhere idea is in the comments. I don’t care whether it’s a simple, straightforward, brutal session on your trainer, or 3000 laps in your circular driveway (yes, really).

Your crazy needs to be shared.

What 100MoN Gear Do Race Participants Get?

I’m pretty sure that each year I ask my readers if you’d be OK with a simplification of the 100 Miles of Nowhere, including much less swag.

Each year, you overwhelmingly say, “Sure, that would be fine. This isn’t about the swag.” 

And then I have such a rush of gratitude toward your generosity that I say to myself, “My readers are so generous, how could I not dig up a whole bunch of amazing swag for them?” So here’s what you’re get with your $99.95 registration. 

First, the must-have item: the event t-shirt:


This will be available in Small – XXXL for men’s sizing, and XS – XL for women’s sizing. One of these shirts is gonna fit you, and they look great. The back looks like this, although we still need to lay out the sponsor logos: 


’Til now, the t-shirt or the jersey (keep on reading for info about the jersey, ok?) has been the only wearable item you get for the event. And as far as I know, there’s no other event that gives you multiple wearables. 

Pffff. Slackers. 

This year, everyone who registers for the 100 Miles of Nowhere will also get these awesomely loud 100MoN socks:


These go with everything, but especially with the 100MoN jersey (yeah, keep reading for info on that). These socks are the same make and fit as the 5” Fat Cyclist socks I’ve been selling with DNA, and I love them. These are seriously nice socks. When you register, be sure to specify your size (S/M, or L/XL). For what it’s worth, I wear a size 10 shoe an wear the S/M. If my feet were any larger, I’d go with the L/XL.

Is that it for the 100MoN gear you’re gonna get? Nope, not even close. 

A lot of events give you a cheapo bottle, which I find pretty annoying at a couple of levels, mainly because cheapo bottles suck and have to be repurposed.

I am not going to give you a cheapo water bottle. No. I am going to give you something you’ll actually use: a K.E.G. 

Front and back view shown — you get one of these, not two.

These ingenious things hold everything you need to fix a flat or a chain, neat as can be, in a watertight container. Even the lid is ingenious, securing a patch kit and a masterlink. Then pop it into a bottle cage for easy retrieval whenever you need it, and move it between bikes as easy as can be. Plus, you’ll have the extra benefit of not having a dorky-looking saddle bag hanging between your legs.

Am I done? No, still not done. You also get a 100MoN musette bag, great for slinging over your shoulder the next time you need a handup at a race.

Once again, front and back shown. You get one of these, not two. You don’t need two.

Or the next time you want to carry a musette. Or just to hold other stuff. It’s like a purse, but lighter and more cycle-y. 

But what if you want a jersey? Well, how about this:


Now, you do not get this jersey with your 100 Miles of Nowhere registration. This is what we call an “upsell.” However, this jersey — the same fit and fabric as I use in the Relaxed-Fit Fat Cyclist jersey — is only $69.95 (that’s $15 less than I sell the regular jersey). You can buy this as an add-on when you register, or you can buy it separately (it comes in both men’s and women’s sizing) for family members who are going to be riding with or supporting you.

Yeah, I know. Pretty great. But wait, there’s more!

What ELSE Do 100MoN Racers Get?

The official 100MoN gear is only part of the swagfest 100MoN riders can expect to receive. You’ll also get all of this:


1 Month of TrainerRoad: I love TrainerRoad. I truly believe that a big part of the reason I raced my fastest LT100 at the age of 49 was thanks to this amazing suite of training workouts. I’m going to be using TrainerRoad again — even moreso than last year, in fact. And now you can try it out for a month, too, for free.


Inspired to Ride: I think Ride the Divide is one of the best cycling movies that’s ever been made. And now Mike Dion — creator of Ride the Divide — has produced a new movie, Inspired to Ride, about a small group of unsupported cyclists in their quest to get from the West Coast to the East, as fast as possible. Watch the teaser here, and also be assured — because I’ve seen it — that this is an incredible, inspiring, and fun film. 100MoN racers will be given a code to stream this video…maybe something fun to watch as you ride your rollers for six hours?


Sufferfest video, “Extra Shot:” I love and use Sufferfest videos in my training. Not only are they brutally hard, but they’re clever and entertaining, plus they feature great cycling footage (Plus, Sufferfest plays well with TrainerRoad!). “Extra Shot” is a great video to get a short, intense workout in…whether you’re using it on its own when you don’t have time for a long ride, or as a bonus workout, for a day when you feel like you deserve to be punished.


2 GU Energy Gels and and 1 Single-Serve GU Hydration Drink Mix: I don’t even know what I could say about GU that I haven’t said before. Their energy gels just work. As in, you take one, and you find you have the energy to keep going for another half hour. I train with GU anytime I’m out on my bike for more than ninety minutes, and I never ever race without it. 


2-Serving Packet of CarboRocket RocketLytes and CarboRocket Rehab Single-Serve Stick Pack (Chocolate/Coconut flavor): If you ride long enough, you’re going to need electrolytes to keep from cramping. You’ll definitely want to use these while you ride your 100MoN. And after the 100MoN, you should use the chocolate/coconut recovery drink. For one thing, it’ll make you feel better. For another thing, it’s delicious.


Race Plate, provided by BikeMonkey: Hey, it’ not a race if you don’t have a race plate, is it? No sir/ma’am, it is not. And you are going to get yourself a race plate you will be proud to put on your bike as you race around your block / in your basement / up and down the steepest hill you can find for 100 miles. And then you’re going to want to frame that race plate. Luckily, it’s a nice-enough-looking race plate that it’ll look good when it’s framed.

When Do Racers Get Their Stuff?

You get it during the first week of November. Unless you’re not inside the United States, in which case it’s going to take a few weeks longer to get to you, obviously (like, you’ll get it in late November).

When Is the 100 Miles of Nowhere?

This year, the “official” date of the race is Saturday, November 7. This brings the 100 Miles of Nowhere back to its roots, making it an event that’s great to do indoors. That said, if November 7 is still good outside weather for you, by all means take it outside and make it a fun, strange thing to do with friends, rather than a solitary form of torture you inflict upon yourself.

And, thanks to the flexibility of the event — i.e., it’s just you, really — if November 7 doesn’t work for you, you can do it another day.

Like in October, if you feel like it. Or December. Or later this afternoon if you just don’t have anything else to do. It’s your call, really. (But your 100 Miles of Nowhere race plate and swag will arrive around Halloween, regardless of when you do it).

How Long Is the 100 Miles of Nowhere?

The “100 Miles” part of 100 Miles of Nowhere is more a guideline than a rule. For example, if you would rather ride 50 miles, that’s fine with me. So is 25. One person wrote me asking if she could walk 100K — and of course the answer was, “You bet, and please take pictures and send me a writeup of your story.”

Or if you’re a runner and you want to do a marathon on the treadmill, that would be awesome. If you’re a swimmer, swim five miles. I’m not picky.

And of course, the very best thing about the 100 Miles of Nowhere is that you are going to win your division. You just need to make sure your division is specific enough that there’s no chance anyone else is in it.

And once you’ve won your division, send me the story of what your 100 Miles of Nowhere was like. I pick my favorite write-ups and publish them here in the blog. In fact, for a week or so after the event, I generally put up several stories per day.

Weirdly, the 100 Miles of Nowhere has become an odd community event, even though we all do it alone.

How Many People Race the 100 Miles of Nowhere?

500 people can register and race. That’s it. I need to limit the registration to 500 so my sponsors aren’t bled dry by their  generosity.

This is important because if you don’t register pronto, you aren’t going to get in. This will sell out, generally within 20 – 24 hours. 

In other words, you shouldn’t sit on the fence. And considering the cause and the swag, why would you?

Go register now.

Questions? Comments? Ideas?

I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas for what you’re going to do for your 100 Miles of Nowhere; please leave a comment saying what you’re thinking you’re going to do.

And if you have questions, please leave those in the comments. I’ll be paying close attention to comments and answering as frequently as my day job allows.

Good luck in registering, and have a great race!


Crew Report for LoToJa 2015, Part 4: Standing on Tiptoe

09.18.2015 | 6:44 am

A Note from Fatty About the 100 Miles of Nowhere: I’ll be launching registration for the 2015 100 Miles of Nowhere this Monday, September 21. Be sure to check this blog on Monday at 10:00am MDT, which is when I’ll be revealing details and opening registration.

By way of hint, this will be a fundraiser for Camp Kesem, with registration strictly limited to 500. I think you’ll love the awesome level of swag I’ll be revealing. I think you’ll also love that this year everyone will get the 100 Miles of Nowhere t-shirt (and a lot more), with the option to also get the 2015 100 Miles of Nowhere jersey (which I’m going to be selling at an extremely nice price):


I’m really excited for this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere; it’s going to be a really special one. Check back Monday for details on why.


A Note From Fatty About the Levi’s GranFondo Valley Fire Relief Effort: I’m a big fan of Levi’s GranFondo. I’m also a big fan of finding ways to make the world a better place. So it stands to reason that I’m a big fan of the way Levi’s GranFondo has pivoted its fundraising toward disaster relief efforts for victims of the Valley Fire. They’re directing 80% of their donations toward housing, food, clothing, and other immediate needs of the people and animals whose homes were taken from them in a literal flash. 

Whether you’re going to Levi’s or not, why not make a donation? I’m going to. 

Crew Report: Lotoja 2015: Standing on Tiptoe

I don’t know if I’ve ever spent so much time standing on my toes. 

Blake and I had made it to the second pit stop, lugging our balloons, ice chest, and box of food from our cleverly-distant parking space a few blocks away from where everyone else had parked, hence putting us in a good spot for a quick getaway once Lindsey and Lisa came through.

We stared, anxiously, down the road, looking for the right combination of jerseys and helmets that would tell us our riders were here.

The thing is, though, everyone else in the area was doing the same thing, looking down the road, craning their necks, some crowding into the street. 

Blake and I stood on our toes, watching down the road. It had been two hours since we had seen our racers last, and by Lisa’s prediction we still had twenty minutes ’til we’d see them again. They’d be 126 miles into the race. More than halfway, but with lots of riding (about 74 more miles) left to go.

But they had come through the first pit stop ten minutes earlier than projected. They were obviously doing this race fast.

“Do you think Lindsey will still be ahead of Lisa?” Blake asked. 

“It could go either way,” I said, and I meant it. Lindsey had been faster at the Cedar City Fire Road 100K, Lisa and Lindsey had essentially finished together at the Crusher in the Tushar, and Lisa had finished ahead of Lindsey in Leadville. 

So it could go either way, though I knew that The Hammer is a little bit unique in that she seems to get stronger and faster the longer a race is — a fact that helps make sense of Lindsey and The Hammer’s relative positions in the races they’ve done this year.

Some racers stopped their bikes perpindicular to traffic, clogging the road. Some crews would cluster around their rider, making it impossible for other crews to work. I tried not to get snotty about this. We were all just families helping family. Everyone doing the best they could.

When it was my turn, I’m sure I’d be completely unaware of whether I was blocking the road or obstructing another crew. 

Chill, Fatty. Chill.

First Racer, Second Racer

Blake and I kept standing on our toes, staring down the road. 

And then, there was a racer in a Fat Cyclist kit.

But even from far away, it was obvious this was a tall, thin man. Ben. He pulled up and Lynne and her family took care of him. Ben ate a pop-tart while his family swapped out his bottles.

IMG 0018

“A pop-tart, Ben?” I chided. Then I wondered to myself, “When did I become so hoity-toity about race food?”

Then Ben was gone.

Next, Ben’s dad, Cory, came through — happy, relaxed, having fun.

IMG 0025

Until, all of a sudden, he was howling in pain, tearing and swating at his jersey.

Evidently, a hornet had gotten in Cory’s jersey and was upset about not being able to find its way out.

Cory knows some interesting word combinations, which he demonstrated for us. (At the next pit stop, he would apologize for his language, which to me seems a lot more peculiar than using such language when being stung by a hornet.)

Third Racer

With Ben and Cory gone, we knew we’d be seeing Lindsey and The Hammer soon. We stayed on our toes, staring down the road. Looking for a Fat Cyclist jersey and a black helmet — Lindsey.

And at 1:35, the first of the two women pulled up. 

But she had a black-and-red helmet, not a black one. it wasn’t Lindsey. 

Somewhere between the Montpelier and Afton pit stops, The Hammer had caught up to Lindsey. So why weren’t they riding together now? I had no idea, and this wasn’t the time to ask. I’d hear the racer side of the story later.

Right now, Blake and I had a job to do.

IMG 9804

The Hammer told us she was having a great race. She was riding strong, was  with a good-sized group of women that were working well together, one of whom was also being crewed for in the picture below:

IMG 2822

And also, she wanted Coke. Not water, Coke. When would we ever learn?

The day had gotten hot, so I took the backbottle I’d filled with cold water and put in my back pocket (just in case The Hammer had wanted more water than would fit in her cages) and squirted it through her helmet and down her back. 

Then, as a show of solidarity and good will and stuff, I also hosed down her riding partner.

I probably should have asked first. You know, out of politeness or whatever.

The Hammer and Ellie pulled away, joining the rest of their group.

And Blake and I resumed standing on our toes, expecting Lindsey immediately.


Lindsey did not arrive immediately, if you define “immediately” as “this very instant.”

She also did not arrive immediately if you define “immediately” as “within five minutes or so.”

Still we stood on tiptoe, Blake’s 5’8” not much better at seeing past the crowd than my 5’7”.

Ten minutes went by. We became concerned.

Fifteen minutes went by. We became a little freaked out. Or at least I did. (Blake would argue that he did not become freaked out; I would argue that Blake is always freaked out.) While a good case could be made for Lisa being the person you’d expect to see out front this far into a very long race, I would not have expected Lindsey to be very far behind at all. These two women are about as close to each other in terms of speed and power as I’ve ever seen.

So what was going on?

And then Lindsey rolled in, and Blake and I began to bustle wth alacrity.

“What can we get you?” I asked, simultaneously service-minded and expeditious.

“Oh, I don’t care,” Lindsey replied.

That…was not a good answer. Which is to say, it is not the kind of answer you give when your race is going well.

But I — apparently — am not the kind of crew that takes verbal and body language clues. I — apparently, again — am the kind of crew who is 100% business.

In the absence of direction, I set Lindsey up the way I’d want myself set up. New bottles. Take some electrolytes with a slug of water. Gel wrappers out of the right jersey pocket, new gels in the left jersey pocket.

OK, fine, here’s your pop-tart too. For crying out loud.

And — since I suspected that heat and dehydration were playing their role in this — I emptied a bottle of water over her head. No, it wouldn’t keep her cool for long, but it would feel nice for a few minutes. And sometimes, a few minutes is all it takes to punch your physical, mental, and emotional reset button. For your race to reboot, so to speak.

Lindsey was on her way, and Blake and I ran to the truck. Or at least, we did the best approximation of a run that we could, considering all the stuff we were carrying.

The Hammer had a fifteen minute head start on us toward the next pit stop: Alpine. We needed to hurry, or we weren’t going to be ready in time.

Hey, even when I’m crewing, I’m racing.

And this seems like a good place to pick up (and likely conclude) in the next installment (which will be Tuesday since on Monday I’ll be launching the 100 Miles of Nowhere).

Crew Report for LoToJa 2015, Part 3: Montpelier

09.16.2015 | 12:07 pm

A “Previously…” Note from Fatty: This is part 3 of my Crew Report for the 2015 Lotoja. Click here for Part 1, and click here for Part 2

Carbonated water is a mysterious modern miracle. I don’t know how the carbon dioxide disappears or dissolves or whatever into water. I don’t know why the pressure of carbonated water increases when you shake it (or why that pressure eventually settles down). 

I do know that the carbon dioxide stays in the water only if under pressure. Mostly. Because even if you let soda go completely flat and then shake it…well, it seems there’s still a little fizz in there.

And that fizz wants out.

I say all this as prelude to the fact that Lindsey had let the Dr Pepper in each of the two water bottles she wanted us to give her go — as far as she could tell — completely flat.

And also I say this as prelude to the fact that by the time Blake and I arrived in Montpelier, where we would facilitate our first fueling exchange for The Hammer and Lindsey after they had ridden 76 miles, about ninety percent of the Dr Pepper Lindsey had put in her bottles had migrated to pretty much everywhere that was not in her bottles.

Which is to say, Blake and I had a bit of mess on our hands, and Lindsey did not have Dr Pepper in her bottles.

It was a mess, but not really a problem. We had parked pretty far away from the actual exchange point, figuring that it would be easier to make a quick getaway if we weren’t near other cars. And coincidentally, that “far away from the exchange point” place was a quick walk away from a convenience store.

So while Blake set to rinsing the Dr Pepper off everything that was in the ice chest, I went to the convenience store to buy more Dr Pepper.

As I walked, I muttered to myself, “Pop tarts? Dr Pepper? I’ve got to talk to Lindsey about what she fuels with during these races.”

Ready for the Montpelier Exchange

Even with the Dr Pepper disaster, even with my nearly-ticketed moment, even with my getting The Hammer and Lindsey to the starting line with literally no time to spare, Blake and I still got to the Montpelier exchange with an absurd amount of time to spare.

Thumb IMG 0002 1024

According to the times The Hammer had written down (based on Lindsey’s Strava from the previous year), we had more than an hour and a half to wait at the exchange.

We knew we had found the right place when we saw Ben’s family, who patiently posed for a picture as they waited for Cory and Ben to come in:

IMG 0011

So we set up camp and watched. Some racers blew through, grabbing a musette bag on the fly.

Others stopped, got off their bikes, browsed through their food and drink options, and had the race equivalent of a family reunion.

And it was a lot of fun to just stand in the background, watching people watch for their racers. Commenting, speculating, watching hoping. Then springing into action, some people obviously practiced and smooth and efficient. Some people overanxious and solicitous and concerned.

Thumb IMG 0005 1024

Which way was the right way? Well, whichever way felt right, of course. Different racers, different objectives. 

More than anything else, though, it was fun to watch the immense amount of pride on all the faces and in all the actions of the people crewing. 

It was an incredibly positive atmosphere.

The Montpelier Exchange

Blake and I would not be the kind of crew who stopped and asked our riders about their day so far. We knew Lindsey and Lisa were serious about the race and would want to get through the exchange as quickly as possible.

We also knew they would be coming in together; that was the whole plan: for The Hammer and Lindsey to work together and each do well in their respective categories.

So, knowing the women would be coming in together, Blake and I had arranged we’d each be in charge of one specific person. I’d take care of The Hammer; he’d take care of Lindsey.

It was a great plan, and it probably would have worked great…if our racers had come in together.

But they didn’t.

Instead, Lindsey came streaking in on her own, The Hammer nowhere in sight. 

I was a little bewildered, but figured I’d learn the “why” of how they got separated later. Crewing ain’t no time for jibber-jabber.

Probably, I should have just stayed back and let Blake do his thing. He had everything under control. But I just couldn’t help myself, and jumped in, yanking Lindsey’s arm warmers off her arms. Shoving electrolytes into her mouth. Pulling bottles out of her cages. 

Blake worked around me. Half as fast, twice as efficient. Within fifteen seconds, we were finished.

“Lisa’s 1:45 behind me,” Lindsey said, as she pushed off, joining the small-but-speedy group of women she had rolled in with.

“One minute, forty-five seconds?” Blake said to me after Lindsey left. “That’s strangely specific. How could she know how far back Lisa is?”

“I think a motorcycle relays the distance between lead and chase groups to each other,” I replied. 

And then I voiced my concern: “Why were they separated at all? And do you think Lisa’s going to be mad?”

“She might be,” Blake mused. “My mom’s a little bit…intense about racing.”

“Yeah. A little bit, I guess,” I say. I don’t say, “And that’s one of the things I love about her. She’s just like me that way. She understands how I think when I’m racing; I understand how she thinks.”

Why don’t I say it? For one thing, because I know Blake would make a gag noise if I did.

More importantly, though, I don’t say anything else because The Hammer is pulling in. Once again I am jumping around and doing everything at once, trying to force electrolyte pills into The Hammer’s mouth and put a bottle of water in her hands to wash them down, even as she demands a cold Coke.

A cold Coke. I should have known. Luckily, Blake has one in-hand, pops the top, and gives it to her. We are the best crew there has ever been.

As we’re working, I notice there’s another woman, right by The Hammer, also having a crew quickly get her fuel swapped out. “You about ready to go, Ellie?” The Hammer asks. Good, I think to myself. She’s not just out there riding alone; she’s working with someone.

I double-check we’ve given The Hammer everything she wants: new bottles? Electrolytes? Gels? Anything else? yep, yep, yep, nope.

And she’s gone.

“Let’s get to the Afton exchange,” I say to Blake.

And that’s where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this story.

Crew Report for LoToJa 2015, Part 2: A Conversation With the Authorities

09.15.2015 | 8:45 am

A Note about Post Length from Fatty: Today and tomorrow’s installments have to be short because I’ve got an extraordinarily workweek in front of me. I had to decide between short reports today and tomorrow, or no report today and a longer one tomorrow. I went with short reports. I hope that’s cool.

A “Previously…” Note from Fatty: This is part 2 of my Crew Report for the 2015 Lotoja. Click here for Part 1.

The evening before Lotoja, Lynne — Ben’s mom, who has crewed Lotoja often enough that any right-thinking person would take her advice very seriously — had warned us. 

Warned us very clearly.

“You’ll be driving through a lot of small towns,” she had said. “And you’ll be in a hurry to get to the next aid station,” she had continued.

“But do not speed,” she had emphasized, with extra emphasis. “Because you will absolutely positively get pulled over and ticketed.”

“Drive slow, drive safe,” I echoed back. “Noted.”

Good Advice, Ignored

“I’m being pulled over,” I said to Blake (aka “The IT Guy,” but I’m sick of typing such a long name with so many capital letters so often). 

We were going through some small town — I don’t even know which one — near Bear Lake. And, true to Lynne’s warning, I was about to get a ticket.

But I really hadn’t been driving that fast. Ask The Hammer, she’ll tell you: my fast-driving days are behind me. If anything, I tend to drive a little slower than most people would prefer. Yeah, I’m apparently the guy who builds up a line of annoyed cars behind him.

But when the speed limit drops from 55 to 25, well, it’s not always that easy to instantly recalibrate your sense of what the right speed for driving is.

At least, that’s the claim I’m going to stick to right now.

“Well, at least I can get this over with as quickly as possible,” I thought to myself. And out loud, I said to Blake, “Open the glove compartment; you’ll see an envelope in there labeled ‘Insurance and Registration.’” Meanwhile, I got my driver’s license out.

Now I had everything I needed, and was ready for the conversation I knew was coming.

“How are you doing today?” The officer asked.

“I’m fine, how are you?”

“I’m good. You were driving a little fast,” he said.

“I’m sorry.”

“May I see your insurance, license, and registration?” 

They’re already in my hand, and I hand them to him. The officer seems a little startled. I’m guessing that usually people have to do a little digging to locate those three items (and in fact, it was after a long digging-for-insurance-and-registration expedition that I vowed to henceforth keep those two items in a clearly-labeled envelope).

He looks at them for a moment, and asks, “Are you here for the bike race?”

I cringe, thinking that if he knows I’m from way out of town, he might hit me with a bigger ticket, knowing I’m unlikely to contest it. Oh well. “Yes, we’re crewing for a couple racers.”

“Well,” he replies, “I’m going to let you off with a warning this time.”

I do my utmost to not let my head spin around. In my 49 years of life, this is the first time I have been pulled over and not given a ticket. The possibility that he’d just give me a warning simply had not occurred to me.

My impulse is to ask, “Why?”

My brain kicks in and suppresses the impulse. Thanking goodness for my impulse-suppressing brain, I instead say, “Thank you; I’ll be certain to be more cautious.”

As we pull back onto the road, I ask Blake, “Is there going to be any problem with our getting from checkpoint to checkpoint on time if I drive five miles under the speed limit for the rest of the day?”

“I’ll account for it,” Blake says. 

We made it the rest of the way to Montpelier in decent time, found a parking place, and still had about 1.5 hours ’til we expected to see The Hammer and Lindsey roll in together.

And it’s a good thing we had all that time, because when we opened the ice chest, we discovered we had a Level One Hazmat Disaster on our hands.

Which seems like a good place to pick up for the next installment in this story.

Crew Report for LoToJa 2015, Part 1: Too Close for Comfort

09.14.2015 | 6:30 am

For most of my life, I’ve been acutely aware of a fact you have no doubt also discovered at some point in your life. Specifically, that the universe revolves around me. 

It’s a strange and wonderful thing, really, being the center of the universe — the person who is doing, at any given point in time, the most important thing that any person could be doing. 

I’ve often suspected, though, that the reason whatever I’m doing at the moment is the most interesting and exciting thing happening anywhere is because the things I do are so dynamic and exciting. 

I’m the guy racing. I’m the guy training. I’m the guy winning eating contests.

Which made me think, recently, “Am I the most important person in any given situation and at any given moment because I’m doing something glamorous and exciting, or are events glamourous and exciting because I am doing them?”

It’s an intriguing question. Which goes without saying, really: the fact that I had this question is enough to make it intriguing, right?

In any case, I decided recently that I would conduct an experiment: instead of being the guy who raced in a race (thus turning the race itself into a glorious, eventful event), I would be the guy crewing for a racer. Specifically, I — along with my intrepid sidekick, the IT Guy — would crew for The Hammer and my niece Lindsey as they raced the 2015 Lotoja, a popular 200+ mile road race from Logan, UT, to Jackson, WY (hence the name). 

Would crewing for a race be as exciting as racing it, if I were the crew? Would it be filled with drama, close calls, tears and laughter and a feel-good conclusion?

Like you even need to ask.

The Day Before the Race

As an astute tactician, I planned thoroughly for every possible eventuality in the Lotoja race. By which I mean, I called The IT Guy and said, “Hey, I’m terrible at directions and finding my way around and stuff; why don’t you come help me crew for your mom and help me not get lost?”

The IT Guy replied, “I won’t commit to helping.” 

I said, “So I should get someone else?”

The IT Guy said, “No, I’ll be there for sure. I just won’t commit to it.”

The IT Guy is a truly strange person, but he’s incredibly good at reading maps and understanding verbal directions. So I stopped worrying about whether we’d make it from checkpoint to checkpoint on time. It would not be a problem.

Then I said to The Hammer, “I’ve got tools, tubes, tires and lube all set for you. Do you want me to figure out your food, too?”

“No, I’ve got that covered,” The Hammer said, and handed me a legal pad containing a detailed list of what she would want at each stop, along with the approximate times she would be at each of these stops.

Which meant, essentially, that my whole job was to make sure there was gas in the truck and to show up on race day.

I felt I was up to that challenge.

The Night Before the Race

As an insightful man with a great deal of foresight, I had the wisdom this year to have my niece fall in love with and marry a man whose parents live about one mile from the starting line of the Lotoja race. I further had the idea to ensure that both he and his parents love cycling.

Which meant not only that The Hammer, The IT Guy and I had a free place to stay the night before Lotoja, but we also had access to Lynne (Ben’s mom), who has crewed for multiple racers seven times. Lynne knows all the tricks of where to go, where to park, where to set up, and how to make sure your riders find you. 

I had her give us a mind-dump of all this information. My mind wandered as she told us everything we needed to know, but I did look over to the IT Guy from time to time and ask, “Are you getting all this?” He was.

“So what are you two wearing tomorrow?” Lynne asked. 

“Uhhh,” The IT Guy and I replied. We hadn’t considered the fact that matching outfits would make us stand out to Lindsey an The Hammer.

Luckily, I generally pack about twenty t-shirts whenever I go anywhere. Including, this time, two bright blue t-shirts: a Racer’s Cycle Service shirt, and an XTerra shirt.

And then we bought a big bunch of helium balloons, which we affixed to a six-foot-long PVC pipe. 

Findability: covered.

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Here’s the IT Guy in his borrowed shirt. The balloons may look like a festive headdress, but this is merely an illusion.

Now all I needed to do was get Lindsey to give me instructions for what she wanted, crew-wise. She had wisely already put her food in separate bags, and now detailed her needs. They were simple enough, but contained what I considered a distressing amount of pop-tarts and Dr. Pepper. 

I kept my mouth shut, however. This wasn’t the time to start second-guessing her food plan for the race.

OK, I might have said a few things. And also I might have lecutured her a little bit.

OK, I might actually have gone on at some length.

Too Close for Comfort

The Hammer and I went to bed early. I felt a strange unease as I waited to go to sleep. Something was wrong. Something was missing. 

But what was it?

Oh yeah: Nervousness. The next day was a race, and I wasn’t racing. I wasn’t experiencing pre-race anxiety, while The Hammer definitely was. 

It was a little strange, not feeling my usual jumpiness. But also: nice.

I woke up at 5:30, right when the alarm went off. While The Hammer went and got herself ready, I went and double-checked her bike, checking air pressure, lubing the chain, affixing the race number, putting on the Bento Box, snapping the Garmin onto the mount.

The IT Guy slept in. There was nothing for him to do, yet.

With my very few tasks complete, I lounged about, ’til at 6:55 (The Hammer and Lindsey’s start wave was at 7:12), I said, “Hey, shouldn’t we be going?”

This was kind of strange. If I had been racing, there is no way I would not have already have been waiting at the starting line by now.

The Hammer’s bike was already loaded onto the truck’s rack, so I started loading Lindsey’s. At which point I noticed that her wheels seemed…a little squishy.

Both of them.

“I’m going to check your air real quick,” I said.

The rear tire was seventyish PSI. “That’s not good,” I said, and inflated it to 110. 

The rear tire was also seventyish.

“When’s the last time you pumped up these tires?” I asked Lindsey. 

“Last night,” she replied. At which point my Spidey sese went just a little nuts. If both her tires were this low, Either Lindsey had a slow leak or the pump she had been using had a bad gauge. Since both her tires had the same low number, I was inclined to go with the “bad gauge” theory.

Regardless, all we had time for now was to put air in and hope. We were running so late I privately now took it as a fact that Lindsey and The Hammer were going to miss their wave start.

It’s possible, therefore, that as we drove toward the starting line we very nearly approached the speed limit.

Assuming that parking close to the starting line would be nearly impossible and would actually take more time than finding a place to park a couple of blocks away, we in fact did quickly find a place to park my truck, at which point we got The Hammer and Lindsey off. They sprinted the two blocks to the starting line and I looked at the time on my phone.

7:10. It was going to be close, one way or the other.

I ran toward the Starting line. 7:11. I kept running. Now I could see the arch.

7:12. I wondered if Lindsey and The Hammer had made it into the corral. I wondered if the corrals were leaving strictly on time.

And then I saw the women racers — I believe Cat 1, 2, 3, and 4 women racers all left at the same time — come through the arch and make the first left turn.

I stopped running and watched, hoping to see two Team Fatty kits round that corner together. But I didn’t see them.

And then I did.

At the very back of the pack, they rounded the corner. They had made the start.

Later in the day, after the race, I would ask The Hammer how much time they’d had to spare once they got in the corral.

“Exactly no time at all,” she replied. “The instant we rolled in, our wave rolled out. We could not have timed it one second slower.”


New Urgency

According to Lynne, I now had an exorbitant amount of time to prepare and get to the first aid station where we’d be meeting The Hammer and Lindsey, 76 miles into the race.

But this starting line close call had served as a wake-up call for me. There was no way I was going to cut things fine like this again. I was not going to be the crew that didn’t show up for his racers.

I filled my truck’s tank, got back to the house, and barged into The IT Guy’s room, where he was fast asleep.

“Get up now,” I bellowed. “We’ve got to get to the Montpelier aid station right away!”

The IT Guy yawned, pulled on a t-shirt, and said, “OK, let’s go.” 

We took off, on a mission to get to the tiny little town of Montpelier as quickly as possible.

Very soon, alas, we would discover the paradox of how trying to get somewhere very quickly can in fact cause severe delays.

Which seems like a good place to pick up in the next installment of my crew report.

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