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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
Reba Rusch is known as the Queen of Pain, but she’s a lot more than someone who just suffers well. She’s a firefighter, she’s an adventurer, she’s a racer, she’s an author, she’s a fundraiser, she’s a race promoter, and she’s an advocate for change.
In this new FattyCast, Reba and I talk about all of this, as well as have an argument about pie.
Madeline needed to get to $6,000…and within a few hours after I posted, she had hit (and has now exceeded!) that goal.
That is just amazing. Incredible, really.
As an unexpected — and really cool — thank you, Madeline and her team posted this “thank you” video. Check it out:
I for one cannot wait to hear how her race goes.
A Note About Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere Race Report: Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere race report comes to you from Lyle B, of Denver, PA. I found Lyle’s story both hilarious and inspirational; I love the way he’s doing something bigger than he’s ever done before, and that he’s putting up with a lot for a good cause.
100 Miles of Nowhere: Left-Handed 40yo On Combine Test Track Division
I’ve been wanting to do the 100 Miles of Nowhere for a few years now, but never could think of a good place to do it. But this year I found one. I work for CNH Industrial, a major manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment, and at the R&D center where I work, there is a half-mile test track, normally used for testing combines and other equipment.
The advantage to this is that it’s flat. Dead flat.
And I don’t mean “I live in North Dakota prairie” flat. I mean “surveyed & graded to be perfect” flat. In the 27 miles that I recorded while Strava was working properly, I gained zero feet of altitude. Zero.
This was nice, since it meant no climbing. Unfortunately, it also meant no descending.
Since this would be my first century, I knew that proper training would be required. I looked up a few articles on training for your first century, committed them to memory, and resolved to do my best to prepare.
And then I rode my bike exactly once in October.
I decided to do the ride on October 31, due to some family obligations on November 7. I got started around 8am, while temps were still in the mid 30’s.
I had asked several coworkers to join me at various times today, and Mark joined me just a few minutes after I started. We chatted as we rode the first hour at a nice easy 15.5mph pace, then decided to pick up the pace and I tucked in behind Mark to draft for the next hour, where we averaged almost 18mph for the hour. I was fortunate to have a good engine to hide behind!
I’m in the blue jacket, Mark in the white. Two of our company’s products in the background. Photo credit: Brent Smith
Photo Credit: Brent Smith
The Pain Begins
About 25 miles into the ride, my left knee started hurting. At mile 37, Mark had to leave, and I took a small break. I decided to put a shim between my left pedal and crank, as the fit expert at my LBS had done with my right. In the hardware drawers in the shop, I could only find one washer that would work:
Think that’s big enough?
As I was working on this, Jon & Kevin showed up, and we set off at a really nice pace, about 17mph, and with two other people to draft behind this felt great. Two other colleagues joined us for a short time as well.
Early on in this leg, my right knee decided it didn’t want to be left out, and started hurting as well. It was around the 50 mile mark that I started having serious doubts about my ability to ride the whole 100 miles, especially since soon our average speed starting dropping steadily, hovering about the 15mph mark.
At the 60 mile mark, my wife and kids stopped by to say hi, and at the same time, Kevin had to leave. Another rider joined us for a few miles, but couldn’t stay long.
At 70 miles, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. We were doing just under 15 mph, and I just could not contemplate two more hours with the pain I was experiencing in both knees. I had already surpassed my previous highest mileage for one day on the bike. I told Jon I would gut it out to 75 miles and call it a day.
So after 4 hours 53 minutes, I hit 75 mile mark and headed to the car.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t make it to a century, but was glad I had tried, and helped raise money for a good cause. I was very thankful for the coworkers that helped make it possible.
Maybe next year I can actually train for it & do the whole thing…