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.


Jill Homer on the FattyCast

01.19.2016 | 8:46 am

Picture this: you’re getting ready for a bike race. A thousand mile race, in Alaska. In February. The Iditarod Invitational…which is the same race that in prior years has just about claimed some of your toes.

Your response? Race it again, but this time do the thousand mile version.

That’s Jill Homer, and this is just the kind of thing she does. I talk with her about this race, blogging, photography at 20 below Zero, and much more, in this episode of the FattyCast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes or Stitcher, or just using my RSS Feed ( And of course, you can just listen on this page or download it here:

Links and Notes and Strange Photographs

Of course, the most important note in this show is to follow Jill’s blog, which I’ve been a fan of for ten solid years now. Follow her on Twitter, too.

Of course, we spend a ton of time talking about her prep for this year’s Iditarod Invitational in this podcast, so be sure to bookmark the race site so you can follow her during the event itself.

And finally, because I said I would (for some reason), here are the photos I’ve posted of Jill as a Giant in previous posts.

Here’s one: 


And here’s the other. 


I’m sorry, Jill.

The Natural, Part 1

01.15.2016 | 12:39 pm

I’m a simple man, with a simple request. Which is, quite simply, for a Natural Century.

What is a “Natural Century,” you ask?

Well, a Natural Century is a 100-mile bike ride that satisfies these (very simple) requirements:

  1. It is 100 miles long. Not 101 miles. Not 99.5 miles. One hundred point zero miles. Though I’m probably willing to give or take a tenth of a mile due to the fact that no two Garmins (or even the same Garmin twice on the same route) have ever given the precisely same result.
  2. It is either a loop or a point-to-point. No fifty-mile out-n-backs with turnarounds just because you hit a fifty-mile mark on your computer.
  3. No silly miles. This is the big one. A Natural Century can’t have you taking weird detours and snaking through neighborhoods in order to get to that 100 mile mark.

Am I really asking for too much here? It doesn’t seem like I am, but the truth is, I’ve been in search of this elusive Natural Century for years. Without success.

The Leadville 100 is perhaps the most famous Unnatural Century, considering it has the “100” right in its name, but is  103.9 miles. And it’s an out-n-back for crying out loud. 

There are like a thousand different routes you can now take when riding Levi’s GranFondo, and not a single one of them forms a Natural Century (the version we always ride is 101.7 miles).

The Moab White Rim isn’t a Natural Century…although it’s astonishingly close (100.3 miles according to Strava, 99.83 miles according to my GPS display), considering that it’s a loop on a dirt road.

My big local training rides aren’t Natural Centuries, either.

The Gauntlet isn’t a Natural Century. 

Thumb IMG 3398 1024

Riding around Utah Lake isn’t. Well, the photo below looks like it qualifies, but that’s only because it was that one time I took some detours that totally disqualified it.

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Or, sure, you can game the ride. Here’s the result when we went around the lake and then added a couple of neighborhood blocks so we could claim a 100-mile ride in under five hours:

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Awesome? Yes. Natural Century? No way.

Even an an out and back with a turnaround at exactly 50 miles…doesn’t seem to net me a perfect 100 miles:

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To be honest, I was beginning to believe the Natural Century just doesn’t exist.

But it does. There is such a thing as a perfect Natural Century. Better yet, it’s a point-to-point Natural Century. Even more better yet, it’s from a park by one lake to a park at another lake. 

Best of all, it’s a local ride, it’s an awesome ride, and it’s a local event.

It’s the Interlaken 100: Pineview to Bear Lake. It was August 22. The Hammer and I rode it, and this is our report.

The Second Prologue

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the longest story leadup in the history of self-indulgent blogs out of the way, let’s have just a little more leadup, in the form of context:

The day after racing the Leadville 100, The Hammer and I spent all day driving home to Utah. 

The day after that, I flew to Austin for work, and stayed there for most of a week. 

As I flew home on Friday, I started feeling tired and sore in a very unusual way. Like I was sick, and there was a large and painful sore on the back of my leg. I didn’t realize it at the time of course, but I was just starting my MRSA journey (no idea where or when that will end, BTW).

The next day — exactly one week after we had raced the LT100 — was the Interlaken 100. Which we planned to ride as if it were a race (i.e., push ourselves and try for a fast time).

Seemed like a good idea at the time. Although I can’t remember why we thought so.

Seriously, I’ll Be Getting to the Ride Itself Eventually

Actually, I’m just kidding about not remembering why we wanted to join the Interlaken: The Hammer would be racing LoToJa in about a month, and so couldn’t afford to let her fitness slip after Leadville. 

Also, we thought the idea of the ride was really great: ride 100 miles from one lake (Pine View Reservoir, near Ogden, Utah) to another (Bear Lake, in Bear Lake, Utah), on roads we haven’t ever ridden before.

Screenshot 2016 01 18 07 04 46

I was excited to be getting back on the bike; five days of forced “recovery” in a conference room had been plenty

So Saturday morning, we got up at four, ate, and made the ninety-minute drive out to Ogden. Sitting that long was uncomfortable for me, and the whole way up I worried that biking would hurt too. 

Our plan was simple: ride together, practice drafting, go at a solid pace for the hundred miles. 

There were free donuts for everyone at the packet pickup. This was my kind of ride.

We started in the second wave, at 8:30 am; the first wave had started at 6:30 am (waves were self-selected by riders based on how much time you thought you would need to ride the course).

Let’s Race. I Mean Ride.

There were probably around 75 of us at the start. The Hammer and I sorted ourselves to the back third of the group, not knowing how this was going to go from the beginning.

As it turns out, it went really well. Like, absurdly well. You see, the elevation profile for the Interlaken 100 is really simple: 

Screenshot 2016 01 14 06 44 03

Two climbs, lots of flat at the beginning and in between. 

And at least for the “at the beginning” flat section, we all rode together. Seriously, I am pretty sure that for the first ten miles, the entire group stuck together.

For those of us near the back, that equated out to darned near no work whatsoever for the first ten miles.

And for me in particular, it was even better than that. See, I’d — through blind luck — managed to get behind a big rider. And by “big,” I mean “tall and incredibly strong.” 

Riding behind him for may have been the easiest ten miles of my life. (For what it’s worth, I did try to move forward and pull him for a moment; he laughed and came back around. I got the sense I was doing him no good whatsoever.

As a 5’7” guy, I sometimes feel bad about the big guy / little guy draft disparity issue. I typically address this issue by eating a lot, in order to make myself bigger.

Because I care, that’s why.

A Farewell to the Pack

The first climb in the Interlaken 100 is a long one. Twenty-five miles long, really. That’s a long time to be going up.

But that climb starts really gradually. So gradually that at first I didn’t even realize that the road had turned up. Instead, I found myself wondering why this big guy I was behind was starting to fall off the pack.

I indicated to The Hammer to follow me and we swung around and in front of him.

“Grab on,” I shouted as I pulled around him. “We’ll bridge back to the group.”

And he did. And we did.

But the next time I looked back, he was gone.

The group had splintered; we had bridged to the back of the leading group. And there was a problem with that. The people we were behind kept falling off what I now realized was the climbing group. Which meant that The Hammer and I kept having to swing around and re-bridge back up.

After a few times, that got pretty old.


I decided it was time for The Hammer and me to take charge of our ride…as well as anyone else’s ride who wanted to come along.

“Grab on,” I yelled at The Hammer, and we rode to the front, right around twenty miles into the race. Which, coincidentally, was more or less when the road turns seriously uphill. 

I stayed there, with The Hammer in third or fourth position, for a few miles. Applying as much pressure as the group was willing to take, backing off just a little whenever The Hammer yelled at me to cool it. 

The group of twenty people turned to ten pretty quickly. Then to eight. Then six.

The Hammer, me, and four more guys. 

At that point, three of the guys swung around and started applying even more pressure. The Hammer, one other guy, and I couldn’t hang. 

The guy hanging on with The Hammer and me was struggling. Dropping back, then working hard to grab back on. And the thing is, he was a really nice guy, plus I figured if I could help him stay with us now, he’d be a valuable asset once we got down the other side of the mountain.

So a couple times, when he dropped back, I rode back and did my best to pull him up to The Hammer. 

But that kind of thing only works for a while, and we still had more than ten miles of climbing ahead of us. 

“I’ll see you guys later,” he said.

And now The Hammer and I were in fourth and fifth place, overall. 

Not that we were racing or anything. Because this was not a race.

And also, we didn’t have a plan to catch the three guys ahead of us.

Because, as I just noted, this was not a race.

Which seems like a good place to break off for part 2.

PS: Part 2 will come out on Wednesday, because tomorrow (Tuesday) I’ll be posting a new FattyCast episode. One which I am a thousand percent confident you will want to listen to.

100 Miles of Nowhere: Winner of the “Nowhere Can Be Everywhere” Category

01.15.2016 | 12:13 pm

A Note from Fatty: A big thanks goes out to Dave Carmichael for his awesome idea + story + video. I love creative, ambitious approaches to the 100 Miles of Nowhere, and this is is both — and more.

Enjoy Dave’s video and story. I know I sure did! 

When this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere was opened up, the timing seemed perfect. The ride was right around the end date of my deployment to Qatar, and what better place to do a 100 miles of nowhere than an actual legit nowhere?

It would have been a great way to end my trip except for one thing: the bike. Any distance over 20 miles had my lower back screaming…and that’s no fun. (And yes, I blame the bike and not my moderate level of fitness.)

Of course I made this discovery after already having signed up. Not wanting to back out, I came up with a different plan. After finishing my deployment my wife and I were planning a road trip from Seattle to Chicago and back. I could do short rides in the different states that we traveled through, making for a total of 100 miles.

I e-mailed Fatty to make sure the plan fit with the spirit of the event and with his blessing it was game on.

I started in Qatar, riding a couple loops of the dormitory area. A couple weeks later, after getting home, I was able to ride in a snow/sleet storm, followed by a very slippery night mountain bike ride. I wasn’t out of practice, I didn’t fall over…and those are both lies.

We started our holiday road trip a few days later and I was able in quick succession to ride laps in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska. South Dakota was fun, a ride through the badlands. The rest were quick spins around town from the hotels. Not as much fun, but not too bad either.

We arrived in Illinois to visit family and I did some exploring of the area. As it turns out, it’s more fun to ride than drive. Go figure.

We stayed for Thanksgiving then left for Colorado, enabling rides along the way in Iowa and Nebraska again.

Arriving in Colorado I quickly realized that I should have brought all my bikes. With great road riding and mountain biking it’s hard to bring just one bike. I did however manage a really great ride with my father, something we don’t get to do together very much. It was the best part of the event for me.

After leaving Colorado it was time to head for home. I knocked out a few more miles in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon before arriving back in Washington.

I finished up with 100.42 miles, two countries, 11 states (three twice), and five bikes used (95 Giant Iguana, 2013 Giant Defy, 2014 Novara Flyby, 2014 Norco Sight, 2013 Norco Cabot) for this project.

I started November 4th and finished on the 8th of December with a total of 15 riding days. I experienced temperatures from the high 90’s to the low teens. And I got to see parts of the various towns we drove through that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

So, yeah this event was a winner for 2015. 100 Miles of Nowhere, Everywhere Edition. Looking forward to next year.

An Open Letter to World Bicycle Relief

01.13.2016 | 3:35 pm

Dear World Bicycle Relief, 


I’m an easygoing guy. You know I am. Except when I’m racing, at which point I am absolutely not easygoing. But this is not my point.

Also, the fact that I am usually easygoing is not my point, either.

I’m just saying that, generally speaking, I’m easy to get along with. That’s all.

And as an easygoing person, I don’t really go in for throwing my weight around. Except when I feel like it, or when my MRSA flares up or I don’t get a good night’s sleep for some reason.

Very occasionally, however, I feel like I need to throw my weight around for a reason that has nothing to do with grumpiness or whatever.

This is one of those times.

Here’s what I have to say, WBR, so listen good:

I demand you make Carlos Perea a 2016 WBR Ambassador

Why? I’ll tell you why. 

Because he’s pretty much the best ambassador you’ll ever have. He believes in the work you do. He’s ridiculously nice. He’s bold, creative, and effective in his fundraising.

He’s happy to talk to people. 

He is, more or less, your dream ambassador. 

Just look at all the comments below (which I am sure will begin accumulating at a ridiculous rate as soon as I post this). Everyone agrees with me. Except that one guy, and nobody likes or agrees with that one guy anyway. Ignore that guy. That guy’s a troll.

Anyway, I think I’ve made my case. I look forward to you crowning Carlos (because I also think you should give Carlos a crown and make him King of All WBR Ambassadors).

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Kind Regards,


PS: Anyone else who wants to apply, by the way, can click here to get started. And there can be more than one.

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