Thursday, June 14, 2012

100 Miles of Nowhere: Modified Burns Park Crit Loop Edition

Ever since Fatcyclist came up with the idea of riding 100 miles practically "nowhere" 5 years ago to benefit charity, I've always wanted to do one.  Call me crazy, insane, wacko, whatever, but I'm always up for a unique challenge.  In the past, his 100 Miles of Nowhere (100 MoN) has sent its donations to LiveStrong, but this year, the donations were going to benefit Camp Kesem - a camp run for kids whose parents have been fighting cancer.  The objective of the 100 Miles of Nowhere is basically to ride 100 miles in the smallest area possible.  Some people ride 100 miles on trainers, others do it around their driveway (!!!), the route is whatever you make it.

So when several other friends of mine decided to participate in the 100 MoN this year, I was in.  It was going to be difficult enough to do the 100 MoN solo, but the possibility of doing it with others made it an easier decision.  We had talked about having a group of us ride in circles while one of us would ride a trainer setup on the bed of a pickup truck next to the popular Arkansas River Trail in North Little Rock, AR.  We figured that way, we may even get some publicity for the event, and generate additional donations for Camp Kesem.  We would switch out people on the trainer so no one was left doing that for very long.

However, as the date came closer, our schedules conflicted, and I was looking at the possibility of doing it on my own.  I did want a challenge, right?  I ended up choosing a 1 mile loop of the soccer complex in Burns Park in North Little Rock, AR.  My criteria were simple & few:  1) Since it's been a while since I've ridden a century, it had to be relatively flat.  2) It had to be somewhere relatively scenic, and accessible for others to join me.  And 3) it had to be relatively free from traffic and having to slow/stop to maximize my efficiency.  For bragging rights, I truly wanted a course that went "nowhere".  This loop forms a portion of the criterium course used in the annual Ronde van Burns Summer Criterium Series, hence the title of my 100MoN Edition.

My chosen course
The night before the ride, I stocked up on my nutrition for the ride.  I planned bagels, muffins, and juice for breakfast, and roast beef sandwiches with chips for lunch.  Since I was going to be supporting myself, I had to have everything ready to go.  I had thought about leaving the course and riding somewhere for breakfast and lunch, but then I wouldn't be keeping with the spirit of the ride, so I decided to stay on course as much as possible.  The benefit of riding a 1 mile loop is that I would never be far from my staging/support vehicle and I could essentially ride unencumbered by a Camelbak or additional gear.

I had also printed up flyers for Camp Kesem to hand out in case people were wondering why a crazy person was riding in circles for apparently no reason at all.  I had also printed up some signs for the 100 MoN that I would display from my truck.

While I didn't look forward to riding in circles for hours on end, I prepared an iPod with upbeat music and decided that if I got really bored, I would ride 10 laps in one direction, and then 10 laps in the other direction.  I had also extended an invitation to my cycling friends to come out and ride with me for any or all of my ride to keep me company.  I had no idea how valuable that simple request would prove to be.

The weather forecast called for mostly cloudy skies with a chance of scattered thunderstorms throughout the day, and a high of 88 degrees.  I planned for a 7:30am start and made it out to the park by 7:15am. It was pretty humid, but at least it was overcast with a slight breeze.  Not my ideal conditions, but not bad considering.  I got my signs taped to my truck, set out a couple of camp chairs with the flyers, and then pondered what to do with the 100 MoN race plate.  I tried attaching it to my bike with some zip ties but that really limited where I could put my hands on the handlebars.  Plus the sign was REALLY freaking big!  I decided instead that I would wear it on the back of my jersey like a race number.  I managed to cut myself cutting the zip ties off of my handlebars, and then it took a couple of tries to get it right on my jersey (nothing like pinning the back of the jersey to the front).  It was now creeping past 7:40am and my start was getting later and later. 

Finally, I was ready to go.  I grabbed one of my water bottles, dumped everything else off my bike (wedge pack & lights), aired up my tires one last time, locked my truck, and set off promptly at 7:45am.  I also remembered to start the Strava app on my phone which would be recording the entire ride.  The first several laps were pretty fun as I warmed up and got used to the layout of the route.  I slowly checked off the laps, and discovered that each lap was actually 1.1 miles long.  Mentally doing the calculations, I figured that meant I only needed to do 91 laps to reach 100 miles, not the 100 laps as I originally planned.  Great!!  I had only barely started and I was already ahead.

The ride itself turned out to be not as tough as I imagined, mostly because I have awesome friends and teammates who came out to accompany me.  In fact, I think I only rode about 20 miles solo because I had different people show up at different times throughout the day to ride with me.  It wasn't even planned out that way, my friends just happened to be doing their own rides and remembered that I was going to be out there and stopped by to help and visit.

I have to give credit where credit is due.  Thanks goes out to Chris "Starfish" Randle & Micah Patterson, fellow Team Spokes teammates who came out early in the morning to ride with me.  They did about 25 miles with me and both pulled for me for a portion of that which I'm thankful for.  It definitely helped save my legs that early on in the ride.  My wife Jen showed up shortly before they left, having done her own ride (unbeknownst to me) that morning, surprising me!  I knew she was coming out but I didn't expect her to be out that early in the day.

Joe & Lisa from
We did a few laps together, and then we were joined by friends Joe Jacobs and Lisa Mullis (who run the Arkansas Outside website) who were out doing their very own 100 Miles to Everywhere.  Their write-up is worth a read as they did in fact ride everywhere all over Little Rock and North Little Rock & took some awesome photos!  Remember how I mentioned earlier about my friends who had signed up for the 100 MoN and we were going to ride on a trainer?  Well, they had decided earlier that they were going to do some trailwork, but at the last minute, changed their mind and was going to do their own 100 MoN.  They decided they were going to try and ride 100 miles all over Central Arkansas and take photos of major landmarks around the city.  I told them had I known that that's what they were doing, I would have joined them! Still, it was good to see them, ride with them, and know that they would be attempting the same thing I was doing that day. 

While we were riding, we were sprinkled down by a passing rain shower which was very welcome!  It cooled the temperature down slightly and cooled us off too!  We just had to be careful on the corners that we didn't slide out on the slick pavement.  After Joe & Lisa departed for their 100 MoN, I was joined by James "Power Ranger" Gaston, another one of my Team Spokes teammates.  He wins the prize for being the most enthusiastic!  And he brought me fresh peaches as a delicious snack!  We chatted about his Leadville 100 training as we rode, and then he challenged me to a record Strava lap where we pushed hard for a single lap.  We shared a peach before he departed for the rest of his own training ride.

Me & Power Ranger with peaches!
By that point, I had completed about 45 miles or so, so it was time for some breakfast.  I finally partook of some bagels & muffins and rested my legs.  So far so good!  My spirits were still high and I had yet to be bored.  The thing is while riding and chatting with friends, the route/course/landscape doesn't matter as much because you're really not paying too much attention to it.  I was averaging about 17-18 mph which was a good steady pace for me.  After a short break & refueling, I started back up with my wife and soon after that, I was joined by Matt Runge, another fellow Team Spokes teammate.  He gets the gold star of the day as he rode the entire last 45 miles by my side.  He had just gotten his road bike frame replaced so he was eager to get out & put it through its paces.  Riding & chatting with him caused the miles/laps to fly by quickly and easily. I forgot to mention that Lisa & Joe showed back up again when I was around the 80 mile mark, and rode another few laps with me before continuing their 100 Miles to Everywhere. 

Since I still felt strong as I approached the finish to 100 miles, I decided that I would continue to ride until I had reached 100 laps even.  Matt said he would finish the 100 miles with me but I would be on my own for the last 9 laps.  I had to do some of the "work" on my own, after all.  Steve Erickson and his wife Heather Ladd (fellow mtn bikers & cyclocrossers) also joined us for a couple of laps before the very end.  It was so neat to see my friends and teammates out there supporting me!  It certainly would have been much much more difficult if I had to do it on my own. THANKS to EVERYONE who came out to support me!

Matt left and I was left on my own - I rode a lap with my 7 yo son Connor, and then my 12 yo son Braden joined me on my very last lap.  I ended up with an even 100 laps for 110.2 miles (a PR for distance) with a moving time of 6:34 and an avg speed of 16.8 mph.  Probably the "easiest" century I've ever done and the first time I felt strong even after riding all those miles.  I'm sure I could have done another 10 or 20 miles more!  My Strava track if anyone is interested. 

110 miles & still feeling strong!
What did I take away from this experience?  1) I developed a healthy respect for NASCAR drivers, seeing as how I had ridden the equivalent of doing a NASCAR race, minus the group of drivers.  2) If you make 360 some odd RH turns over & over again, the outside foot is going to start to hurt.  And 3) I have some awesome friends & family and supportive teammates from Team Spokes!  Next 100 MoN will most likely involve more difficulty with hills or trainers!  

Me with the kiddos after 110 miles!

Addendum:  I didn't really get any interest from anyone out riding on the River Trail to see what I was doing.  However, one gentleman did stop to chat with my wife while she was waiting on me.  He asked her what I was doing and she told him I was riding 100 miles.  He asked her if I had started the weekend before, and how long it was going to take me.  She told him I started that morning and that I would be done sometime in the afternoon.  He just stared back dumbfounded and was speechless.  I guess he couldn't comprehend how anyone could ride 100 miles in just a matter of hours, rather than days.