Finally, a race report – 100 Miles of Nowhere

Look a blog post and race report.  All in one post.  After months of radio silence! Of course, it’s not for any of the races that I mentioned in my last post, but at this point, posting anything and proving that the blog is not in a medically induced coma is probably a good idea.

100 Miles of Nowhere Race Report Preamble

Image of horse in field

Is this nowhere enough?

Well, I suppose it’s time to blow the cobwebs off the blog and return to the land of the active participants in online life.  What happened to all the “real” races this season, you ask?  And all the goals?  Well, most of the races got run and finished, most not as well as I would have liked and there are at least 3 unfinished race reports sitting on this self-same computer that I’m typing this one on.  So really this isn’t so much a race report as a massive apology/excuse for not having blogged in the last three months or so.  Along with the excuses, there’ll be discussions of the last “race” I did, namely the 100 Miles of Nowhere challenge that I signed up for in April and that most folks completed on June 1, when it was officially “raced”.  Why all the “air quotes”, you ask?  (And yes, I know they’re not really air-quotes, just regular ones, but I assume that you, like me tend to read blog posts dynamically and emphatically and made the appropriate hand gestures as you were reading along.  Be glad I didn’t put in anything difficult like air “tai-chi” or air “push-ups”.) Well the 100 Miles of Nowhere (not to be confused with Miles from Nowhere, a great bicycle adventure tale http://www.amazon.com/Miles-Nowhere-Round-Bicycle-Adventure/dp/0898861098) is a bike event that Fat Cyclist (www.fatcyclist.com) does every year for the last five years to raise money for Livestrong and sometimes more specific cancer charities like Camp Kesem this year. Here’s where you can read more about the 100 Miles of Nowhere (hereafter MON) and Camp Kesem – http://www.fatcyclist.com/2012/04/17/register-now-for-the-2012-100-miles-of-nowhere/.  You’ll note that there is a cap on the number of entrants at 500 and by virtue of living across the Atlantic, I see posts earlier than most folks in the US since late afternoon for me is morning for you, so I managed to secure an entry into this most prestigious event.  I already knew I couldn’t do it on the “official” event date of June 2 (week before first big tri of the season and the short-lived coach experiment wouldn’t let me) so I intended to do it the day after the race package showed up in my mailbox (I ordered it regular shipping rather than the super expensive fast shipping necessary to get the packet to me in time for the official race date that I already knew I couldn’t do it on anyway).  Little did I expect that I wouldn’t get the race packet until mid August, three days before the hilliest 70.3 triathlon of my life and right in the middle of the most serious Ulcerative Colitis flare up of the last 10 years or so.  So instead, I took Fatty’s advice (see his blog post above, 13th paragraph) and did my 100 miles in October.

Prologue: the illustrated excuse list

Except that is a lie.  Since being sick for half the summer and into fall along with a slew of weddings and other events made me drop out of the Expat Lesbian Wife division, I managed to talk my most wonderful wife into doing this with me as part of our “taper” (there go those “air-quotes” again) for the Frankfurt Marathon which is a week from today and two weeks from last weekend when we did the MON.  So we claimed the top podium spot in the Better-Late-Than-Never-Lesbian-Wives-Simultaneous-Relay division, instead. And what a victory it was!

(In case you’re keeping track, it is now six days since I started this post, and two weeks since we rode the MON and the only reason I’m writing again is that I’ve got to run a marathon in 15 hours and need to finish at least one blog post and past race report before I’m allowed to watch TV for the rest of the evening.)

Here’s an example tab that I have open at this moment in my web browser and that I will get to reading sometime soon:  http://greatist.com/happiness/stop-procrastinating-help/ .

But before the actual race report, a poop report! 

As an athlete with an autoimmune digestive ailment of the bowels that flares up inconveniently and with varying levels of misery at random and mostly unpredictable times in my life, I spend far too much time thinking about my poop and discussing it with various health professionals, friends, family, etc.  This year to try to figure out what was going on and how to get it back under control, I started a poop log along with all the various meds I was taking and the food I was eating.  I then digitized all this and used Matlab (http://www.mathworks.com/products/matlab/) to graph it all out (because I am a geek at heart.  I started doing it in Excel and swiftly realized that Microsoft was simply not up to the task of dealing with my poop). The poop log started about a month after things started getting pretty bad and overall I lost 5 kg (about 11 pounds or 9% of my total body weight) while still doing 3 triathlons including a 70.3 with about 5000 feet of climbing on the bike.  Because I’m either a total badass or a complete idiot.  So, here’s the excuse graph – or my poop chart from the end of July to the day after the MON.  I’ve also marked the various weddings and triathlons on it.  I didn’t mark the week in Portugal in August nor the 3 days in Berlin in September (just before weddings-R-us time), but you get the idea – I was either communing with the porcelain gods every 90 minutes or so while awake, or without my bike almost continuously since I got the MON stuff from Twin 6.  So there’s my excuse all bundled up into one geeky chart with lines and circles and pretty colors and everything.  And yes, PPD does stand for Poops per Day.  I have the time of each also in the logbook, just in case I needed more information to figure things out and try to get healthy again.

Line graph of my PPD

A graphic representation of my poops per day (PPD) this summer with annotations for various events that I did anyway and a totally arbitrary line showing that fewer than 4 PPD might be where I can consider myself mostly healthy again.

Race Report Part 1: finding the course and getting the team ready

Back in April when I signed up – and I was incredibly excited about signing up – I’ve been following Fatty’s blog for years at this point and the 100 Miles of Nowhere really appealed to my sense of the absurd (maybe next year I’ll do it in a cockroach costume, or a rhinoceros, please tell me you get the reference…)

OK so MON, the course.  We live in a really nice little suburb of Frankfurt and while the city is about a 40 minute bike ride away, the airport is only 20 minutes away.  Originally, I thought we’d do the airport ride – our usual weekly after work ride when we don’t want to do hills.  It’s about 13 miles out and 13 back over the exact same route and it contains bike trails, overpasses, one sort-of highway, the multi-use sidewalk, some nice trails, a generally big muddy bit, at least one bicycle underpass under the train tracks depending on our luck, and a cemetery at the turn-around.  Almost perfect, except that it’s simply long and fairly heavily trafficked by cars.  But in case you were wondering, yes, we ride that route regularly on road bikes, dirt, mud puddles, curbs, and all.  Because we’re not too bright and we go to extreme lengths to find non hilly places to ride around here.

So, since the ultimate expression of going nowhere – riding to an airport for the express purpose of turning around and going back home again without actually getting on an airplane to go anywhere was out, I asked the Wife to find me a better route.  She navigates all our bike trips because I have the directional sense of a particularly befuddled pot of petunias. She did that magic that all people with a good sense of direction and head for maps did and created us a beautiful 3.24 mile loop entirely on paved bike trails and back roads only about a mile from our apartment.  So we had a plan.  Now to execute it.

The Team!

And no, we did not originally intend to do this one together.  In fact, back in April when I described what it was that I’d signed up for, she actually used her safeword to get me to stop talking about it.  To explain, when we bike or run together, there are a few topics that upset one or the other of us, so we have a system to let the other person know to stop babbling on about decapitated bodies or sucking chest wounds or getting up while it is still dark to go run or similarly horrifying things.  So the Hundred Miles of Nowhere was so horrifying in its concept to my Wife (and no, not the distance, she regularly rides 5+ hour rides with no problems, it was the very idea of bike around in circles with absolutely no purpose for hours that upset her) that not only could I not ask her to do it with me, I had to assure her that I would never ask her to do it with me and then immediately stop talking about it.

It was from that point inevitable that she would end up doing it with me.

The Bikes!

We did the ride in the middle of a marathon taper (well, more like near the start of it), so we knew we didn’t want to go for any speed records or anything.  I decided to go with my road bike because it is significantly more comfortable than my touring bike (clearly a sign I need a new touring bike) and she went with the touring bike since hers is incredibly comfortable and hasn’t been out of the apartment since she got her shiny new road bike in June.  Let me explain about touring bikes here.  The places most folks ride in this part of the world for long distances are all well marked bike trails, usually with really lovely scenery and lots of little places to eat and drink along the way.  All of these clearly marked bike trails ultimately will end up on a dirt or gravel road.  A significant number of them will throw in a bit of singletrack just to see if you’re paying attention.  So her touring bike is essentially a really nice, custom mountain bike with a rigid frame on a set of bombproof 44 spoke wheels and Schwalbe Marathons.  It’s a really pretty bike.  Her name is Randy (for randonneur) (The bike’s name, not the Wife’s.)

Wife on Bike MON

Here’s a nice picture of the Wife on Randy during the MON. Yes, this is blurry, we were both moving at the time, and I’m not a particularly gifted photographer.

She got to wear the race number since I was on Ruby the unimaginatively named Specialized, who since I bolted a set of aerobars on her has no space for a number plate anymore.  Yes, most age-grouper triathletes here just modify an existing road bike instead of getting a whole new bike.  It’s practical.  And Germans are nothing if not practical.  Incidentally, here you find significantly fewer used tri bikes with less than 100 miles on them for sale on Ebay or Craigslist).  I know, I checked.

The ride preparations continue:

The weather was beautiful and we spent the morning getting ready (and really what would a Fat Cyclist event be without descriptions and pictures of food?).  Getting ready consisted of:

First Breakfast

Table with breakfast

No, we don’t do the Paleo diet. Carbs are best in life.

Laying out the food we would take with us on our difficult journey.

Image

Not sponsored by Powerbar or anything, just happened to be the last bulk order of sports food that was on sale…(but if you’re a Powerbar rep…)

Going to the local market for more food for later and coming back with Second Breakfast.

Samosas and water bottle on a table

Samosas from the local Indian store and more hydration with my new favorite water bottle. Seriously, these are the best water bottles I’ve ever used. Fatty was right.

Heading out the door, here’s the Wife ready to ride 50 miles just so I don’t have to ride 100.  She’s the best (even better than carbs).

Beautiful woman on a green bicycle

On a corner sort of near our place – just to show the contrast to the nowhere that we found to ride in just a mile away.

The first thing we saw on the way to the course was a group of young people blasting loud music and spray-painting a wall.  We went back the next day to see the finished work and the weird green blob off to the right turned into the Hypnotoad. I’ll post a picture of him later.

Graffiti artists painting a wall

Banksy did not appear to be one of them.

Here’s the start point of the loop.  Note that it starts with a grouping of metal grates in the middle of the trail.  I’m not entirely sure what these are for, other than eating skinny road bike tires.  They’re called Querrinnen and there were four of them on every loop, for a total of 60 Querrinnen successfully ridden over.

Image

No one told me how incredibly horribly my bright pink bike jersey (thought it was an appropriate color for the MON) clashed with my new lime green vest. Or how all of it clashed horribly with both my sunglasses and my bike.

In contrast, the Wife looks fashionable and well-put together in her matching bike and gear, so it’s probably a good thing that I had the camera for much of the day.  We would have worn our matching Fat Cyclist jerseys, but they’re waiting for us at my parent’s house in the US as we’ve learned our lesson with the shipping to Germany after the 3 month wait for the race packet.  (It was languishing for an indeterminate length of time in the Customs office at a little town that was definitely not our little town and about 300 km away.  Yet somehow, it made it to us with all the Honey Stingers intact).  So next year we will wear matching kit and maybe actually ride 100 miles each.  My parents will get to enjoy the Honey Stingers.

And then we commenced riding fifteen times around the same picturesque loop on a gorgeous fall afternoon, thoroughly confusing one man out mowing his lawn, a few ladies rollerblading the same route in the other direction, on girl on a horse that we passed three times, and the big crowd of potato farmers harvesting away almost the entire time.

Image

This ferry mostly takes families of bike riders back and forth across the river. There’s a bridge about a quarter of a mile away.

At lap 7, we stopped to watch the ferry (and eat powerbars – the Honey Stingers were consumed about 23 seconds after I received the race packet and sadly are unobtainable here, along with Gu, proper chocolate chips, Utz sour cream dip, and any decent Mexican food.  Incidentally, out of the picture off to the right is the boat we had our wedding reception on.  They serve excellent schnitzel so there are some advantages to living here.)

Some of the signage on our route, showing just how well-marked bike trails are.  Another advantage!

Bicycle direction signage

The bottom one tells us that we grow our food here so please respect the land.

bike rider along a path through trees

Mid afternoon heading towards the river and the ferry. Again.

We passed this stoplight 15 times.  Eight of them it was red and seven it was green.  It was green on the last lap, but turned red when I tried to take the picture, so it counted as red.

Red bicycle signal along a country road

Actually, it was red first, then green, then red again, then green again, then red as I fumbled with the camera repeatedly. A cop watched the whole thing and started laughing, and kept laughing as I finally took the picture above, then ran the light.

The only real obstacle on the course.  Note how handily the Wife negotiates it.

Image

Not the most beautiful part of the loop, but part of one of my usual running routes. It’s useful for getting to the bridge and avoiding the cost of the ferry.

By the eleventh or twelfth lap, even a road as nice as this starts to get a tiny bit boring.  I think at this point in the conversation, we were probably speculating on whether it would be a good idea to get little baskets on the front of the bikes for the cats to ride in, like a lot of people do with their little dogs.

Woman on bike, from the back

The answer is no. When considering affixing cats in any way to bicycles, the answer is always no. I am however looking into both cat backpacks and bike trailers as options to get them to and from the vet without needing the unwieldy carriers.

We headed over the bridge (costs less than the ferry and was our only hill of the day) to head home, where we changed into street clothes, got on the city bikes and went out for all-you-can-eat sushi at the local sushi conveyor belt restaurant.  Because that is how a successful 100 Miles of Nowhere team simultaneous relay should end.

And Ziel!  (That’s German for finish line)  Total time:  3:37, Average speed: 13.9 mph.  Not our best showing, but a perfect fall day for a 50 mile bike ride during a taper.

Woman on a bike, looking back

Nope, my color scheme is still awful and it never got warm enough to take the vest off which might have made it marginally better.

And now I really need to get to bed, I’m running a marathon in the morning.  I’ll try to post about that one before I forget all about it.  One thing I’ll tell you is that I’m really looking forward to having tea again at the 39 km aid station just like last year.  But this year, I hopefully won’t sit down and chat with the nice volunteers for quite so long as last year.

A cat.  Staring up enigmatically at the photographer.

And no post is complete without a gratuitous cat picture. I think he may be expressing disapproval of the whole cat-in-a-bike-basket idea.

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Oops, suddenly it’s mid-February | lonwheels

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