100 Miles of Nowhere, Polar Bear Edition

11.14.2016 | 10:23 am

A Note from Fatty: Congratulations to everyone who’s ridden (or is going to be riding) the 2016 100 Miles of Nowhere! I’m really excited to start posting your race reports and stories. 

As a reminder, please email me (fatty@fatcyclist.com) your stories with “100 Miles of Nowhere” or “100MoN” somewhere in the subject line, so I don’t lose it among all the other email that piles up on a daily basis.If you are going to have a video as part of (or entirely) your race report, you just need to upload it to Youtube or Vimeo and let me know what the URL is; I’ll take care of embedding it. 

Let’s get started!

100 Miles of Nowhere: Polar Bear Edition
by Corrine L. 

I’m excited to present Corrine L’s really terrific 100 Miles of Nowhere report, which is both an extraordinary riding effort and a terrific (and inspiring!) story, told in video.

Enjoy!

 

The Real Problem

11.8.2016 | 11:36 am

I know, I’ve been gone and haven’t said why. It’s just been work: we ship a new version of a product Thursday, and I’m busy. You know, to the extent that I’m working late, working early, and working weekends. 

But I wanted to write a little something today anyway, so you’d know I’m alive and stuff.

Plus, I have a story to tell.

Last Sunday

The Monster moved out into an apartment of her own a few weeks ago; the hour-long-each-way commute to school every day was wearing her down.

The practical result has been that we now see her when she needs groceries or laundry done or a bike repair. Or when she misses Duke (everyone instantly falls in love with Duke, buckets of slobber notwithstanding). 

And, importantly, we see her once in a while when she decides to ride with us instead of with some of the boys in her fan club.

That’s what happened last Sunday.

The Beginning of the Ride

But here’s the thing. when I talk about The Monster’s “fan club,” what I really mean is that she’s been riding with guys from the U of U Cycling Team. Which is to say, The Monster has gotten a lot faster very quickly, as she’s been riding with skinny, fit, young men.

So it should be no surprise that, just like when we did our 100 Miles of Nowhere, The Monster shot off the front right from the beginning, with The Hammer and me deep into the red zone.

Zone 9, to be precise.

I looked over at The Hammer with a big smile and said, “So is this how it’s gonna be today?”

The Hammer didn’t respond. She was focused on not losing The Monster’s wheel.

I laughed again, getting a good sense of how this day was going to unfold. Three family members, three competitors, a beautiful Sunday morning on perfect singletrack close to home.

Awesome.

Bomber to the Bottom

By the time we got about halfway up the Mercer Hollow climb — a mile of fun new singletrack just about two miles from home — things had settled down and the three of us rode together to the Peak View parking lot.

At which point, without further discussion, The Hammer and I yielded to The Monster. Because we were about to go down Rush, and there is no question whatsoever who is fastest on descents.

She was waiting at the bottom of Rush, both feet on the ground, looking well-rested when I arrived.

“It’s nice to take it slow sometimes,” she said, off-handedly.

“Yeah, I know,” I replied, “though I’m a little bit disappointed that I had to stop halfway down and swap out my rear derailleur.”

The Hammer Strikes Back

The Hammer arrived ten seconds later and — without stopping — made the turn toward Potato Hill and began riding at what I’d like to call “95% of race pace.” You know: that speed you go when you want to hurt people, but also want plausible deniability when they accuse you of trying to hurt them.

I couldn’t help myself: I started laughing. We had gone at this pace on this climb exactly one day earlier, after we had caught some strong kid on a bike…who had pulled off the trail to yield until he saw it was a woman about to pass, after which he had pretty much killed himself to never let us by.

I would have laughed at how much alike The Hammer and Monster are, but I had to reserve all my breath for holding The Hammer’s wheel.

The Monster, doggedly, held onto mine.

Stranger Danger

And then, an unusual thing happened: a guy caught up to us. Now, I’m not saying that’s just nuts or anything — once in a while, someone will catch up to us and want by. 

But usually the guys who catch us are skinny college-age kids on high-zoot hardtails.

This guy, from what I could see, was about my age (in his fifties I’m guessing), and about my build (not huge, but not gutless). 

And he was, from what I could tell with my quick backward glances, riding a big ol’ full-suspension bike.

This aggression will not stand, man,” The Hammer did not say, because she’s not a fan of The Big Lebowski. That’s OK, though, because I thought it for her.

The Hammer went into full-on attack mode, in the way that made me fall in love with her in the first place (not kidding here: her riding and running intensity are incredibly attractive). I stayed with her, but it was a near thing.

The Monster — and this stranger on a bike — couldn’t quite hold us and fell back as we rode Ann’s trail to the Maple Hollow climb.

“Where’s Melisa?” The Hammer asked — all innocence — when we got to the Maple Hollow trailhead. 

“Well, you dropped her when you attacked that badass grandpa on the full-suspension rig,” I said. 

The Monster arrived — evidently, she had finally dropped the fast guy — and said some sharp words to her mom about how you don’t have to treat every ride like a race, and we began our mile-long climb to the Maple Hollow summit.

This time, I got out in front and picked a nice, reasonable pace that would keep us all riding together. By which I mean, of course, I went just below my barf threshold.

We rolled up to the top of the steep mile-long climb completely smoked: our Sunday/funday ride had turned into a slugfest, somehow. I was loving it.

The Punchline

And then, one second later, this guy rolls up on his full-suspension bike. “You guys are strong,” he said, taking off his helmet. 

He didn’t look particularly worn out.

He continued, “It’s really rare that I don’t just catch and pass every rider on the trail. I’m impressed that you held me off.”

“In fact,” he concluded, “you guys were going so fast that I very nearly had to switch out of econo-mode.”

PS: Yes, this is a true story. And after he said this, we talked some more. His name’s Eric, he loves mountain biking, and he had heart surgery a year ago. His Specialized Turbo Levo makes it so it’s possible for him to be back on the trail. I think it’s awesome that e-bikes exist and make it possible for people to do stuff they love. And also, Eric let me borrow his bike and try riding it up a trail. It was…surreal.

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:

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

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

Nerves

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:

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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.

Obviously.

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?

2016 Crusher in the Tushar: A Tale of Many Women, Part 0

10.27.2016 | 5:12 am

If you are a cyclist, you have a lot of fun. Like, way more fun than you can even hold in your head. This is cycling’s greatest truth. 

This is also cycling’s curse.

The fact is, as a cyclist, all your memories of the fun you have is going to start piling up, getting jumbled in your head, and spilling over. Eventually, you wind up with a general recollection of having had a lot of fun, but a mild sense of confusion over specifically when or where you had fun, or why you remember some ride as being fun when you can recall suffering a lot, but can’t recall many moments that were…fun.

This is the main reason I write: to get the memories down while they’re fresh, so I can look back and read about the fun I had. Or remind my future self that sometimes I wasn’t having that much fun at all, and maybe find a lesson there.

But there’s a problem here: if you have too much fun, your fun outpaces your ability to keep up with it in writing. Sooner or later, you find yourself facing the reality that you’re going to have to write a race report about a race that you remember more as an amalgamation of several years’-worth of moments, rather than a distinct event.

That’s where I am now, with my report of the 2016 Crusher in the Tushar. Which happened back in July, for pity’s sake. 

I want to write a race report about my race…but I just don’t know what I’d say about my individual effort. After all, I didn’t go my fastest, not even close. I didn’t get on the podium.

But I did have a lot of fun. (At least, my general impression is that I seem to remember having a lot of fun).

More than the fun I had, though, is my recollection that several women I know really impressed me, each in different ways.

Over the course of the next few posts, I’m going to write about my thoughts on their races.

But first, one not-about-women memory.

David and the Not-Disappearing Backpack

This David H, of Marin. He comments on my blog from time to time, is a really good guy, and is a big WBR supporter.

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I remember talking with David before the race. I don’t remember what we were talking about (almost certainly unimportant pre-race course condition chatter), but I do remember that he was carrying one of those cheapo nylon bags they give you at race packet pickup. 

You know how you can wear those as a backpack, if you don’t mind the cords cutting into your shoulders? That’s how he was carrying it.

“Is that your drop bag?” I asked. 

“Yeah, I need to drop it off,” he said. And then we kept talking.

Before long, of course, it was time to line up — me in the 50+ age group, him in the 60+ age group, which started before my age group. 

As I did my best to hang with the lead pack in my group and bridge from bunch to bunch, I saw Dave, riding ahead of me.

And as I got closer, I noticed: he still had that nylon bag on his back. 

I couldn’t help but laugh: I knew exactly what had happened. He’d forgotten it was there. My best guess — correct, I’d find out later — was that he’d remembered it the moment the race had started and it was too late to do anything about it.

I raced seventy miles that day. Hard racing at my very limit, in a beautiful area. On pavement on dirt. I talked and raced with a lot of people.

But for whatever reason, the image that sticks with me for the 2016 Crusher in the Tushar is ten minutes into the race, seeing David, starting a big day of riding…with a cheapo nylon backpack full of stuff he didn’t want to have until the end of the race.

Interim Dream Bike

10.24.2016 | 8:18 am

About a dozen days ago, I posted a little survey, asking you to tell me about your dream bike. (The survey is still open, by the way.) I wasn’t posting this survey idly; I’m really genuinely curious how other people think about dream bikes, because — much to The Hammer’s dismay — I have begun thinking a lot about my next dream bike.

So here’s the question: why don’t I have this bike that I want so bad? Well, when I asked this question in the survey, the most common replies to this question were that you can’t afford it (41%), or that you’re saving money for it (18%), or that someone is forbidding you from getting it (14%). 

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Well, the truth is, two out of the three of those most common responses apply to me and why I don’t have the bike I’m dreaming of: I can’t afford it right now, and I am squirreling money away for it. (The Hammer never forbids me from getting new bikes; she knows me too well to do that.) 

But that little purple slice of the pie chart (7.5%) is the biggest and most important reason I don’t have this new dream bike: I have something really specific in mind, and it doesn’t quite exist yet. 

See, I want the new Felt FR road bike. So far, so good…except I want to build it up with the wheels and components I choose; I don’t want a stock machine (26.2% of you also want to start with a frame and customize the wheels and components for your dream bike, by the way).

Oh, and I want to build my bike from the FR FRD Frame Kit:

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Which is fine. That exists. But I also want to build this dream bike with disc brakes so I can put an ENVE SES 5.6 Road Disc wheelset on. 

And that — The Felt FR FRD Frame Kit for disc brakes — doesn’t exist.

Yet.

But — and I’m just speculating here, but I’m a pretty good speculator — I have a difficult time imagining that this frameset will continue to not exist. By this time next year, in fact, I’ll bet there’s a Felt FR FRD Disc-Specific frame kit.

By then, maybe I’ll have the money on hand to buy this frame and build it the way I want it.

And if it doesn’t exist, well, there’s a fair chance that by then my attention will have turned more toward something like the Cervelo C5, built up with a SRAM eTap drivetrain and disc brakes, along with an ENVE SES 4.5 AR Disc wheelset.

The nice thing about a dream bike, after all, is it gets to be whatever you want it to be and can change with your whims.

And I am nothing if not whimsical.

Meanwhile, In Real Life

“But why,” I hear you musing aloud, “do you want a new road bike at all?”

It’s a fair question. My Tarmac SL4 is an incredible bike. I’ve loved it for the past three-plus years and have no plans to get rid of it.

But in the past few months, there are a couple things I’ve started really wanting my next road bike to have:

  • Disc brakes: I’ve ridden with disc brakes on dirt for…I am not even sure how long now. Ten years? They’re just better, and that includes on the road. Every single knowledgeable person I’ve talked with who has ridden with disc brakes on their road bikes agrees they are way better. 
  • Clearance for wider tires: This CyclingTips podcast I did with James Huang convinced me: wider, lower-pressure tires will make a bigger difference in ride quality than pretty much anything else.

26mm tires is about as wide as I’m going to be able to go on my Tarmac (which I’ve done), and of course disc brakes aren’t going to happen. 

However, I do happen to have a really nice, lightweight CX bike: my Felt F FRDX, built up with ENVE M50 Fifty wheels and a SRAM Force 1 drivetrain and disc brakes

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Who could say it isn’t beautiful?

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The thing is, this bike is already road-bike light:

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And it’s obviously got clearance for as wide of tires as I care to put on. So I went with Compass Cycles 38mm Barlow Pass tires

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Yep, 38mm road tires. Look how wide:

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I’m inflating these to 60psi in the front, 65psi in the back. Between this width and this pressure, there is no chipseal in the county (and there’s a lot of chipseal in Utah County) that doesn’t get magically transmogrified into the smoothest tarmac in the world.

In short, my current road bike is a…CX bike.

With mountain bike wheels.

And big ol’ balloon road tires.

Weird, I know. But it ticks all the boxes that matter to me and I’m excited at how great this bike rides on the road.

Big Test This Weekend

So far, I haven’t taken this bike on any really long road rides. That changes this weekend, when The Hammer and I do our 100 Miles of Nowhere ride (we have to do ours early this year because I — like a lot of you — have other stuff going on on the official race day).

This year, we’ve picked a route I’ve wanted to do for a long time: 100 Miles of Cascade Springs (I’ve talked about this road before). Here’s what this scenic mountain out-and-back climb looks like, profile-wise:

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That’ll be just under seven miles (and around 2000 feet of climbing).

And then there’s the return trip back to Cascade Springs Park:

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That’s a much easier (just under) seven miles (although it still has around 300 feet of climbing). 

So about seven of these fourteen-mile out-and-backs, with each iteration taking about an hour and a half, on average, I’m guessing. That’ll be a 16,000 foot day of climbing, and will take tennish hours.

Since sunrise will be at 7:50am and sunset will be at 6:33 pm, we should have enough time to do this ride in the daylight.

Barely. As long as we don’t need to eat or rest or otherwise take breaks.

Anyway, I’m going to be doing this ride on my disc-braked, fat-tired, low-pressured, 1×11-geared CX bike.

You know, my dream bike. For the interim.

PS: If you would like to join us for the 100 Miles of Nowhere, we’ll be starting at the Cascade Springs parking lot this Saturday at 7:50 am (unless the weather forecast shifts, in which case I’ll post the new day/time on my blog).

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