The Natural, Part 2: Ten Packs of Cigarettes

01.20.2016 | 11:43 am

A Note From Fatty: If you haven’t read part 1 of this story, you probably should read it before reading this second part. Click here.

The first ten miles of the Interlaken 100 had taken us less than half an hour (25 minutes, in fact) to complete. The second ten miles of the Interlaken had taken us almost exactly half an hour to complete.

The third ten miles…well, that took us about fifty minutes to complete.

That’s what happens when things turn uphill. 

We didn’t mind, though. We had studied the elevation profile of the Interlaken 100

Screenshot 2016 01 14 06 44 03

We knew that once we got to mile 37, we’d have miles (and miles and miles) of downhill and flat ahead of us. Just get to the top of this one big climb, and the rest of this ride would be fast and easy.

We were so naïve.


While our understanding of what we were in for for the rest of the Interlaken was sadly lacking (feel free to guess what we didn’t account for and I’ll bet you get it in one try), there was one obstacle we absolutely positively had no trouble identifying as we climbed:


Pretty much the entirety of California was on fire, and the smoke had paid a visit to Utah, big time. To the extent that we could not see further than the next bend. Which is a huge shame, because — from what we could see of it — the mountain we were climbing must have had some extraordinary views.

There was so much smoke that we could smell it, and taste it, with every breath. So much so, that The Hammer gave her ride this name on Strava:

Screenshot 2016 01 14 06 40 23 

(There’s a little bit of a spoiler there, but you had guessed it anyway, right?)

Meet Your Neighbors 

By the time we got to the top of the big climb, we had started to catch a few of the people who had started in the earlier wave.

This, as it turned out, would be one of The Hammer’s and my favorite things about the Interlaken. Throughout the day, we’d have new “carrots” ahead of us, and would then have new people to give encouragement to, and get encouragement from.

It made for a really great, friendly vibe for the entirety of the race. Plus, as we’d find out soon enough, it would offer both the early and late starters some very welcome opportunities

New Leaders…

Just before we got to the beginning of the big descent, The Hammer and I saw an easy-up tent in a pullout on the side of the road: an aid station. 

“Do you need to refill your bottles?” I asked.

“Nope, still good,” she replied. “No reason to stop.”

Then, as we went by, we saw: the group of three riders ahead of us had stopped, and were refilling.

The Hammer and I had taken the overall lead.

…But Not for Long

Since I mentioned how long it took to do each of the first few ten-mile sections of this ride, it might be worth noting that mile 40 – 50 and 50 – 60 each took about fifteen minutes. 

Twenty miles in half an hour. That’s what a twenty-mile descent (dropping 2500 feet in that distance) will do for you.

But at least for the first ten miles, The Hammer and I were not riding together. Our road riding arrangement — evolved over six years of training together — means that we generally climb together, and then descend separately, with me out in front.

So while I could generally see The Hammer when I looked back, we weren’t focused on flying at maximum speed. 

But the group of three was.

Around mile fifty, they suddenly (meaning I hadn’t ever noticed them behind me whenever I looked back to see if The Hammer was close) rocketed by me, the three of them in a tight formation, taking turns pulling.

Within half a minute, they were fifty feet ahead of me.

Realizing that our best opportunity to get on board with a fast-moving express train to the finish line was quickly disappearing in the distance, I sat up and braked so The Hammer could get to me as quickly as possible. I then yelled, “We’ve got to try to catch those guys!”

And we commenced to turn ourselves inside out, figuring that if we could grab on to these guys now, we’d be in great shape for the twenty-mile section of flat road we’d be hitting momentarily.

But I just couldn’t do it.

We rode as hard as we could, but two fast people just aren’t as fast as three fast people. The group of three continued to put distance on us ’til we could no longer see them at all.

Once again, it was just The Hammer and me.

Wall of Wind

Right around mile sixty, the giant descent ended, coming to a T and a stop sign in the road. We turned left…

…and into a wall of wind. Specifically, a 3/4 crosswind wall, coming at us from our ten-o-clock.

Where before I would have liked to be with the group of three, now I was kicking myself. Why didn’t we join that group when we had the chance? (Answer: because I am a lousy strategist.)

So The Hammer and I rode into this ten-mile smokey hairdryer section together, taking half-mile pulls and looking forward to the seventy-mile aid station in the Randolph city park, where we could take a break, refill our bottles, and maybe get something to eat. 

From time to time, we’d catch a rider from the early wave of racers. Always one single rider. Ugh, I thought. Brutal. We’d wave them onto our little train, giving them a chance to recover, hoping they’d be able to just hang on, stay with us ’til we got to the park.

Unfortunately, none of them could. They’d drop off after a minute or so — our pace just was not their pace.


Finally, we made it to the park. Seventy miles into the Interlaken 100, and I was so grateful to just have a break from the roar of wind. 

IMG 5305
Our bikes were grateful for the rest, too. Photo courtesy of the Interlaken 100.

And then I saw the spread laid out for us at the park, and I was even more grateful. Subway sandwiches galore, nuts, licorice, cookies, and so much more. If I weren’t so manly, tears of joy might have sprung to my eyes. 

I grabbed handfuls of food, stuffed them into my mouth.

And then, I saw something even better: the group of three. They were still here. If we hurried here, we could ride with them and spend so much less time in the wind.

But first, I needed to go to the bathroom.

Of course, you know what that means: by the time I got out, they had left. 

It was just The Hammer, me, and the wind again. And we still had thirty miles to go.

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


  1. Comment by BostonCarlos | 01.20.2016 | 12:02 pm

    Ugh. I guessed the wind would suck on that flat stretch as soon as I saw the elevation profile, but wasn’t even thinking about the smoke. That must have been awwwwwwful. Remind me not to visit during forest fire season.

  2. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 01.20.2016 | 12:55 pm

    You’ve teased me wth another great ride to tackle! you’re going to ruin my marriage.

  3. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 01.20.2016 | 2:47 pm

    @David H, if only you had access to a tandem …

  4. Comment by Anonymous | 01.20.2016 | 2:54 pm

    Already have my own Tandem. Wife#1 reminds me it’s the ‘last’ bike a married couple will ever ride.

  5. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 01.20.2016 | 4:28 pm

    @Anonymous, ruining a marriage was David H’s idea, not mine. I wa just suggesting another means … [grin]

  6. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 01.20.2016 | 4:30 pm

    Hey, is it just me, or do others see a hint of Fatty in the Rapha model from yesterday’s Bike Snob NYC?

  7. Comment by MikeL | 01.20.2016 | 4:57 pm

    @JeffD. A little more 5 o’clock shadow and they could be twins. Very similar heroic poses.

  8. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 01.20.2016 | 9:15 pm

    @JeffD quads look undersized.

  9. Comment by Brian in VA | 01.21.2016 | 8:02 am

    The hills really do make you stronger and the wind really does just irritate, eh Fatty?

    Sounds like a great ride! Can’t wait for the finish.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.