2016 100MoN Race Report: Winner of the Cascade Springs 50+ Age Group Division

10.31.2016 | 1:46 pm

A Note from Fatty: I know, I said I was going to start writing up my Crusher in the Tushar race report. But today I have my 100 Miles of Nowhere race report fresh in my mind, so I’m going to write it instead. Are you cool with that? Awesome.

There’s some irony to my 100 Miles of Nowhere routes. You would think that — as the inventor of this thing, as well as the guy who encourages people to be creative and even outlandish with their routes — I would have really out-there rides planned.

But I don’t.  

I’ve done it going around a neighborhood block. I’ve done it going up and down a neighborhood climb. I’ve done it going around a fun mountain bike trail near a friend’s house. I’ve done it indoor, on a trainer or rollers, more often than any other way.

And for the past few years, I’ve been thinking to myself that I’d like to do the Cascade Springs climb as a 100 Miles of Nowhere  route. 

Not because it’s wacky. It’s not. It’s just a beautiful, challenging mountainous road that climbs from Cascade Springs Park — a dead-end road, not on the way to anywhere — to the summit of the Alpine loop.

Seven miles of little-used pavement. It starts with a hard-climbing three miles on rough chipseal:


During which you’ll pass a pullout with this incredible overlook:


And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find someone else there too, who can take pictures of both of you.


This is followed by a mile of descending…during which you’ll see a moose watering hole:

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Once that’s over, you’ve got the hardest 1.5 mile climb of the trip ahead of you: between a ten and twelve percent grade for fifteen agonizing minutes.


The final mile to the summit, in comparison, is downright easy.

Then you turn around and come back down (with an intermission of down) the way you went up (and down).


One out-and-back iteration earns you 14.3 miles (and just a little more than 2500 feet of climbing). Which, coincidentally (truly, it is a coincidence), means that seven repetitions of this route gets you almost exactly 100 miles.

Without, naturally, having gone anywhere.


The Hammer and The Monster joined me for this edition of the 100 Miles of Nowhere, and all three of us were pretty nervous about it, for a few reasons.

First, because we’re into the very end of October, and none of us are in the best riding shape of the season. The Hammer and I have been strictly riding for fun, and The Monster has been running more than riding.

Next, we all knew enough about the Cascade Springs climb to have a healthy respect for doing it even once in a ride. Doing it seven times? I think all of us were kind of scared whether we’d be able to do this.

And finally, this was a race against the sun. With a sunrise at 7:50 and sunset at 6:30 (ten and a half hours, basically), we were in serious danger of running out of light before we ran out of miles.

The Bad Beginning

One of the things I really love about The Hammer’s and my relationship is how well we work together. I mean that entirely honestly and without any kind of joke payoff coming down the pike. We really do make a great team in doing normal tasks, cooking dinner, getting ready for the day, stuff like that.

And on race / big ride days, that teamwork goes into overdrive. 

We’ve done so many big rides and races with early morning starts that we don’t even have to talk about who’s going to do what. We just seamlessly get the bikes and breakfast and  food and bottles ready together. 

It’s something to behold, and — thanks to our efficient routine — it’s been an awful long time since we’ve forgotten something on one of our rides.

Until this ride.

As we unloaded our bikes at 7:30am and I put on my bike shoes and helmet, I thought to myself, “It’s cold enough that we’re going to want to wear windbreakers on the way down.”

But I didn’t go to my clothes bag — the one I had packed the night before with clothing for practically any contingency. I didn’t need to.

There was no point.

There was no point because I clearly remembered that after pulling out what I wanted and dressing that morning (Bibs, kneewarmers, long-sleeve jersey), I had left my clothing bag sitting on the bedroom floor. 

I had no jacket for wind or rain. No tights in case it got colder. No short-sleeve jersey for when the day warmed up.

“I have no clothes but what I’m wearing,” I announced, embarrassed. “I guess I’ll be cold on the way down for a few laps, and be hot on the way up for the rest of the day.”

And then — like the wonderful overpacker and amazingly prepared human being she is — The Hammer handed me a windbreaker. In my size.

“I don’t have a jacket either,” The Monster said. 

And of course, The Hammer had a jacket for her too. In her size.

“Maybe you can wear one of my short-sleeve jerseys when it gets warmer,” The Monster said. 

“Uh huh,” I replied.

Full Disclosure

Now, before I get started with the riding part of this race report, I should confess: none of the pictures I’ve posted here so far are from last weekend’s 100 Miles of Nowhere. They’re from the right road, but taken during different times of the year, on different rides.

That should explain why everything looks so green in those pictures. And also why the IT Guy is in a couple of the pictures. 

The scenery is decidedly much browner now. Like this:


OK, I’ll be honest and admit that I took this picture about a month ago (but it is on the correct road). On this particular day, I didn’t take a single picture

I was just too worried about time. It was no sure thing we were going to complete this at all, so there was no time for jibber-jabber or whatnot. 

The Monster Attacks

As we had driven to the parking lot where we’d be staging our 100 Miles of Nowhere attempt, The Monster had said, over and over, “You’re going to wait for me at the top, right? So I see you guys more than once during the day?”

I rolled my eyes. The Hammer rolled her eyes. We both knew that The Monster has been running and riding roughly ten times as much as we have been. 

And — as both predicted and expected — The Monster began half-wheeling almost immediately, then attacked before we had finished climbing our first mile.

“Think she’ll still be charging ahead the fifth time up this mountain?” The Hammer asked.

“Baby, I won’t be able to hang with you the fifth time up up this mountain.

The Monster Breaks Her Collarbone

Amazingly, we all finished the first climb to the Alpine Loop Summit within a minute or two of each other, and we began our first descent.

And that’s when I found out how wonderful it is to descend with big wide (38mm!) tires and disc brakes. 

The rough chipseal we’d be on all day turned to perfectly smooth pavement. I was confident and stable. And I was just really really enjoying myself.

Sure, I knew that I had only done the first of seven big climbs, but I felt good. 

I got to the bottom first, stripped off my jacket, rolled it back up and put it back in my jersey pocket.

I wasn’t wishing for a short-sleeve jersey yet.

The Hammer and The Monster rolled up within moments and I looked at the timer on my GPS. 

We had completed the first lap in about 1:20. We were ten minutes ahead of schedule. Awesome! We had reasoned that if we could bank ten or so minutes for each of the first three laps, hit our 1:30 target exactly on the fourth lap, and then use our banked time in the fifth through seventh lap, we could finish our hundred miles before it got dark.

Against a Crooked Sky

But there was a problem: The Monster’s rear tire was slowly going flat. “When did that happen?” The Hammer asked.

“A couple rides ago,” The Monster replied.

Kids. I tell you.

I swapped in a new tube. I’m slow at tire changes, so we had lost our banked time by the time we got going again. Even so, we still had a good chance of finishing before it got dark.

Again, The Monster half-wheeled, then attacked, beating The Hammer and me to the top.

Again, I bombed down, opening a gap quickly and finishing alone.

I looked at my computer: we had banked at least fifteen minutes this time.

While I waited for the ladies to arrive, rolled up my jacket (still didn’t wish for a short-sleeve jersey, to my relief). I filled my bottles. Then ate a donut. 

Neither The Hammer nor The Monster had arrived, and that could mean only one thing: The Monster had crashed on the descent and now The Hammer was tending to her.

I was certain of it. 

So I jumped on my bike and rode back up, hoping I was wrong.

And I was. The Monster had just flatted. Again. 

Luckily, The Hammer was behind her when this happened because — as it turns out — while The Monster did have a tube and CO2 cannister, the CO2 cannister was…used.

Kids. I tell you.

Shut Up and Ride

There were more flats. All in all, I think The Monster had a dozen flats. Or maybe just (!) four. 

And so we just could never seem to bank any time. Although we also managed to not get into time debt.

I found myself constantly doing math, trying to figure out how and whether we’d finish this ride before it got dark. We hadn’t brought lights, so if we didn’t finish before dark, well…we wouldn’t finish.

The numbers were close, and if we somehow managed to not slow down, we’d do it.

But of course we were going to slow down. We were climbing thousands of feet every single lap. 

Hoping for reassurance, I voiced my concern to The Hammer during our fifth climb up: “I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

This was not the thing she needed to hear right at that moment, because she had a few choice words for me.

“Well excuse me for saying anything at all,” I said. I turned on a podcast and stopped talking. At all.

We all go into a dark place once in a while. 

The Second-Halfer Asserts Herself

That argument — or what passes for an argument in these parts — didn’t last long, because The Hammer started going faster.

Or maybe I was going slower. The effect was the same, either way, because neither The Monster nor I could even pretend to hang with her. We’d yo-yo back and forth, surging to connect, and then falling off the back.

The Hammer just kept ticking over the pedals, steady as could be. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen thousand feet of climbing.

The Hammer rides a strong second half.

Principled Stand and a Strong Finish

Even so, The Hammer does get tired. And as we summited the sixth time, she wondered aloud, “What if we made this the 83 Miles of Nowhere?”

The idea was tempting. I wouldn’t have had a difficult time at all writing this story with an ending saying something like, “We climbed 15,000 feet of nowhere, and that’s plenty.”

But I wanted the hundred miles. I wanted to have a ride with more — lots more — climbing than I’ve ever done.

So I said so. “We’ve kept up a good pace, even with all the flats. Let’s check our miles when we get to the bottom, then climb enough one last time so we all cross 100 miles when we descend.”

And we did. Best of all, on this final lap, all three of us stayed together (even though I had to keep yelling at The Hammer to slow down).

Then one final seven-mile drop (OK, two three-mile drops, interrupted by a one-mile climb) and we were done.

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We had started minutes before sunrise, and finished minutes after sunset. 10:34 of ride time, 9:00 of moving time.

Same place we started, but having climbed 16,938 feet (my distance was a little more than 100 miles because of my bonus distance checking on The Monster’s phantom collarbone break). Which, when I uploaded and corrected on Strava, upgraded to 18,150 feet of climbing

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Whichi is the elevation I’m going to tell people we did when racing the 2016 Hundred Miles of Nowhere: Cascade Springs Edition.


PS: I never wished I had a short-sleeve jersey on the entire day. So once in a while, you get away with something.

Maybe that’s the lesson of the day?


  1. Comment by Corrine | 10.31.2016 | 2:13 pm

    WOW!!! That is an incredible feat to have accomplished. Way to go Nelson family! I decided to do my ride on the actual date. Hope I don’t regret it! Can’t wait to hear more 100MoN reports.
    Happy Halloween to everybody.

  2. Comment by Steve | 10.31.2016 | 2:25 pm

    What’s up with “The Monster breaks her collarbone” headline?

    That’s what I was sure had happened (honestly, two minutes into my ride back I very nearly turned around to get the truck so sure was I that she must’ve had a bad crash), so I wanted to make you think it happened too. Kind of a dirty trick I know, but my main goal when writing is to convey my emotions and impressions. And I’m not above lying in a bold heading to do it. – FC

  3. Comment by BostonCarlos | 10.31.2016 | 2:28 pm

    ya’ll are animals. I love it.

  4. Comment by Ferde | 10.31.2016 | 2:48 pm

    Crazy – but very cool. Well done indeed!

  5. Comment by Hillman | 10.31.2016 | 3:49 pm

    for 3 combined riders, that’s over 10 MILES of ascent!

    I hadn’t done that math, but…wow. That’s a cool number! Thanks for pointing that out. – FC

  6. Comment by owen | 10.31.2016 | 3:53 pm

    great ride! your still warming up to knee warmers?

    Ha! I was wondering if someone would notice that I wore kneewarmers (for the first three or four laps, I should note).

    It’s been a while since I’ve thought they’re stupid. See? I can be taught!

  7. Comment by Brian | 10.31.2016 | 4:04 pm

    Wow! Very impressive! I’m the guy you lapped on your fifth(?!?) trip down who totally bonked and only made it to the last 1.5 mile ascent before being rescued (head hung low — this is the first time I have ever had to have someone pick me up ????). Oh well, the ride was beautiful, and I still got to summit the Alpine Loop another time and log close to 5,000 feet of elevation! Good to meet you and the fam!

    It was great to meet you. I think it was just our second or third trip down when we saw you. You should have taken the GU Roctane I offered you; it would have given you the power to ride a one-handed wheelie to the summit. – FC

  8. Comment by Don | 10.31.2016 | 7:26 pm

    You have any more of “those” GU Roctanes??

    I guess not, cuz I definitely wasn’t getting that effect by lap 5. – FC

  9. Comment by Grego | 11.1.2016 | 12:01 am

    Seriously, that was a cruel headline. Even if you’re messed in the head enough to assume that without evidence, please don’t mess with us like that. Bicyclists have enough tragedy as it is, without inventing more. As a result of you doing so, I’m happiest that you’re all safe, and the point of your article is diminished in my mind.

    Much love. -G

    I get what you’re saying. I like to experiment with my writing and understand that for at least some of my readers, this was a failed experiment. Have a good day! – FC

  10. Comment by Spence | 11.1.2016 | 4:10 am

    Thanks for sharing this, enjoyed the pictures.

  11. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 11.1.2016 | 5:24 am

    Rock on. What a ride.

  12. Comment by natbla | 11.1.2016 | 6:48 am

    So let me get this straight, you got to rest half the time on a 100 mile trip with over 18,000 feet of descending? Where is the challenge in that? Says the guy who will have to do his ride on a pancake flat loop at the local fairground to compensate for it being the 5th ride of the year and first over 25 miles.

    I know. PLUS there was about 1.5 hours where we weren’t going ANYWHERE AT ALL. Buncha slackers. – FC

  13. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 11.1.2016 | 7:28 am

    I can’t decide if “No Time for Jibber Jabber” is going to be the name of my band or my book. But probably my book, since I’m tone deaf and have no musical talent whatsoever (I don’t even *listen* to music well).

  14. Comment by MikeL | 11.1.2016 | 9:46 am

    My sympathy for the Monster and her flats. My wife had a similar situation on one of her tris. She had 6 flats in 20 miles. We never did figure out the reason. That bike is gone.

    The rim tape is old for one thing, and the tire is pretty worn. Time to replace both, at which point I think the problem will go away. (How weird would it be if it didn’t, right?) – FC

  15. Comment by Christina | 11.1.2016 | 9:53 am

    10 hours is my usual time without giant hills.

    I like that your elevation profile looks like the USAFA Cadet Chapel.

  16. Comment by leroy | 11.1.2016 | 11:02 am

    Well this is odd.

    I got my 100MoN shirt last week and my race plate yesterday.

    That’s not the odd part though.

    The odd part is that they were addressed to my dog.

  17. Comment by bart | 11.1.2016 | 12:40 pm

    18thousend feet of climbing , I was unimpressed until I calculated it into meters : 5500 meters !!! 5.5 km of climbing !!!
    Now I am more than impressed, you sir are strong.
    (almost as strong as the hammer ;-)

  18. Comment by Jon | 11.1.2016 | 1:08 pm

    Well, I for one, too, thought that someone was going to get an ER ride on this MoN report… In a way, I guess no bodily damage is a good thing.

  19. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 11.1.2016 | 1:48 pm

    I too am on the OH NO! side of the collarbone paragraph. I read the whole story with trepidation.

    I also want to confirm that Elden and Lisa do work seamlessly together:
    And on race / big ride days, that teamwork goes into overdrive
    at Leadville you stand back, watch, and stay out of the way. SHe’s not The Hammer for nothing.

    Best comment of the day:@Bart
    (almost as strong as the hammer ;-)

    Well done guys, I’m charting a 100 miles of mud here in Marin as I write.

  20. Comment by Wife#1-3 | 11.1.2016 | 2:52 pm

    @davidh-marin,ca, how many trips to the Hardware store to get to the 100 miles? ;-)

    FC, Hammer, Monster…yowsa. I can’t quite decide, however, if I am super-inspired or totally demotivated to ever ride again? :-)

  21. Comment by The Hammer/Lisa | 11.1.2016 | 9:13 pm

    That was for sure one of the hardest rides we have done! It was also really fun sharing it with you and Melisa! Sorry I got angry with you for telling me we “weren’t going to make it”. I do believe you got mad at me for exactly the same thing during a previous race this year! I love that you forgot to mention how many donuts we consumed during the day! It was impressive! :)

    You know…I hadn’t even thought of that. It WAS exactly the same thing, wasn’t it? I’m sorry! I’m a dork. – FC

  22. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 11.2.2016 | 5:32 am

    Quite a disorientating post what with Collarbonegate and the picture of the IT Guy which I was trying to mentally compute as a picture of the Monster.

  23. Comment by Tom in Albany | 11.2.2016 | 5:42 am

    Congrats on three PRs, a new second and three thirds bests.

    I admit I like Strava to give me a chance to beat he tar out of my old self!

  24. Comment by walter | 11.2.2016 | 2:12 pm

    18,000 feet of climbing – wow, seriously impressed with all three of you, particularly the Monster since she is fairly new to riding and is just CRUSHING it.

  25. Comment by MattC | 11.3.2016 | 7:43 am

    WOW! That is a MONSTER of a ride any way you look at it! Most impressive! And I loved your little emotional subterfuge! (I figured it out when you said it was only a flat tire…that you were THINKING she had crashed and you wanted us to go there with you). Guess I’ve been following you a while…

    Great report on a GREAT ride! That you have a family to do it with you? You’re a LUCKY MAN Fatty!!!

  26. Comment by Tom in Albany | 11.3.2016 | 9:37 am

    So, Fatty, did you win your category or did The Hammer? (I don’t know her age so I don’t know her ‘category’…)

    I won the 50+ category, The Hammer won the Women’s Masters category, and The Monster won the Women’s Expert Category. It was a podium day for all three of us. – FC

  27. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 11.3.2016 | 11:09 am

    Better late than never…

    I have had very fleeting thoughts of an Everest attempt, http://www.everesting.cc/, and with your 100MoN you were well over halfway there! Next year, fire up your headlights and go for it.

    Not that this year’s effort is anything to be pooh-poohed, mind you. Just sayin’.

    P.S. check out today’s (11/3) Frazz comic strip.

  28. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 11.3.2016 | 1:00 pm

    @Mark, I too have had such a fleeting thought. And part of my fleeting thought included the following considerations:
    - What’s the ideal grade/grade profile?
    - What’s the ideal length of segment?

    Too flat, and you have to do the segment too many times. Too steep, and you blow your legs up (and risk dying on the descent). Too short, and you don’t get into a groove (plus risk wasting time on the turnarounds). Too long, and you tighten up on the descents.

    Just guessing for me, but I’d probably want a grade of about 6%. And a length of about 2 miles.

    That means a vertical gain of 635 feet each time. And 46 repeats.

    Assume a climbing speed of 7 mph (a total guess) and a descending speed of 40 mph (ditto). That means a bit less than 17.2 minutes of climbing and 3 minutes of descending per lap. Let’s assume we can go just a bit faster and include turnarounds–call it 20 minutes per lap.

    20 minutes per lap x 46 laps = 15.33 hours, well within the allowed 24. That probably means I’ve judged climbing speed incorrectly or otherwise botched the math.

    Also, a 3 minute descent is probably WELL short of allowing legs to seize up. So, call it 6 minutes, meaning a 4 mile climb.

  29. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 11.3.2016 | 4:47 pm

    @Tom in Albany The Hammer is HC so Elden will never be in competition

  30. Comment by Dave T | 11.4.2016 | 10:35 am

    That is an awesome ride! You guys rock great to see the perseverance and that you guys all made the distance. The pictures are fantastic that looks like a very beautiful place to ride your bike.

  31. Comment by Rick S | 11.9.2016 | 11:35 am

    I did my 100of Nowhere last Saturday on my trainer. It was unpleasant but I got it done while watching four movies (only the movie Senna was good:-)

    I also submitted my hours through my company so Camp Kesem will get another $200.

    Thanks for doing this and the number plate was beyond brilliant!

  32. Comment by Mary | 11.10.2016 | 12:49 am

    Road biking is a great way to stay fit and its really fun too.


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