At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea: Ride 100 miles in as small a loop as possible. Easy! And, it’s for charity. Awesome! But after 5 hours, with 15 miles still to go, my mental capacity was at broccoli level and dropping fast. I wondered – do those discarded candy wrappers on the putting green have any candy left in them?
For the past few years, The Fat Cyclist has been hosting an event called “100 Miles of Nowhere” where people sign up for the ride, get a tee-shirt, donate to charity, and then ride 100 miles in circles. But instead of doing this as one big happy organized group ride, you do it on your own, anywhere in the world. Some folks use stationary bikes, one guy did 100 miles in his cul de sac. With Ride The Rockies coming up fast, it sounded perfect for me. I’ve met some of the Fat Cyclist’s family on RTR, so I thought it was a good way to train and support their causes.
Part of training for Ride The Rockies is getting in long miles. The longest day we face this year is 91 miles, followed by 84 miles. That means we all need to be prepared to spend some quality time in the saddle. Sagging is NOT allowed, right? The best way to train for long miles is to put in long miles, so I started planning my 100 Miles of Nowhere.
I picked out a loop that was in keeping with the spirit of the ride. I’ve done a 24-hour race that includes 12 hours on a closed 3.7-mile race track, so I knew that racking up miles on a short course shouldn’t be a problem. Here in Miami, the Miccosukee Golf Course is a haven for cyclists, and its 4-mile loop, all with a bike lane, was perfect for this event. No traffic, no stops, all right turns. I checked the weather for rain, picked my day, set the alarm, and hoped for the best.
As I’ve mentioned before, what Miami lacks in hills we make up for with wind. I had checked for rain, but neglected to check for wind. When I got out to the golf course and the wind knocked over my bike while I was setting up, I knew it was going to be an interesting day. I was really, really hoping to knock this out in under 6, but with the wind gusting me around, it did not bode well.
In addition to mileage, the Nowhere ride was also a good opportunity to test out nutrition. One thing for sure, on those long RTR days, you do not want to be experimenting with new food options. You also want to make sure you’re keeping your fuel tanks topped off. With multiple long days, what you eat on Day 3 is really preparing you for Day 4. Don’t make the mistake that I’ve made countless times – thinking you only have 20 miles to the finish and skipping food at the rest stop only to turn those last 20 miles into a death march. Remember that once you get into town, it still can be awhile before you can get some food in your system, and unless you eat within 15-30 minutes, you’ve created a problem for the next day’s ride.
So, it’s essential to stay fueled while on the bike, and it’s doubly essential on long rides. Everyone has different nutritional needs while riding. Men can get away with carbo-loading, but women tend to need steady fuel on the bike. For my Nowhere ride, I prepared a few bottles of a custom carbs and protein blend of Infinit Nutrition that gets me through endurance rides. With those bottles, I usually don’t need much real food for rides under 6 hours. In particular, I had three bottles that contained about 400 calories each. Alternating that with water, I knew I had more than enough for my ride, but some extra carbs never hurt. I know from experience that Pringles are the easiest way for me to get salty-carby goodness when nothing else sounds appealing. If it isn’t Pringles, find your favorite thing and keep some handy for long days in the saddle.
Luckily for me, I started the ride with my boyfriend alongside. He had no intention of riding all 100 miles, but I was glad to have his company – I just hoped he would stay as long as possible. With the wind acting up, it was nice to share the effort with another rider. We ride together so much that I knew I could trust being on his wheel. On RTR, it’s important not to draft off someone unless you know they’re a steady rider. However, I knew we were in trouble when he started getting bored after only 5 laps. I had 20 still to go.
After 50 miles, he was going bonkers and peeled off. No amount of bribing with Coca-Cola or Pringles would induce him to stay. Okay – 50 miles of solo riding. What had I gotten myself into? The wind had picked up throughout the day, and I had memorized which portions of the loop would be joyous coasting, and which would have me cursing the inventor of the bicycle.
Lap after lap, I circled the golf course. I thought I kept seeing the same group of men playing the same hole on one of the corners, but I couldn’t figure out why they kept changing their clothes each lap. There was some trash that I kept seeing, time after time, and when I started to wonder if the discarded candy wrappers had anything left in them, I knew I needed to take in more calories. Then I had the most amazing revelation. I remembered that I had a Snickers Bar stashed in my seatpost bag after a previous ride. Nirvana! Next time I stopped at the car to get more liquids, I put that baby on ice – my reward for finishing. It’s actually a really good recovery food – carbs and a little bit of protein, and after 100 miles, I knew I would need recovery food fast.
Meanwhile my odometer continued relentlessly, lap after lap. My mind was less relentless, and started to drift. Every revolution around the course, I would say hello to a lizard (lizard, or baby dinosaur?) and wave to a duck and her baby ducklings.
See ya in 14 minutes. I tried at least 5 times to get a picture of the lizard until he finally agreed to a snapshot. No such luck with the ducks. I knew the miles were ticking away, but with nine laps to go, and the wind kicking up even more, my pleasant little loop was becoming a Dante circle of hell.
Everything felt fine, I was still riding strong (for me), nothing hurt, saddle was fine, but all I wanted was to be done. Honestly, charity or not, I just wanted to stop. Who would know? Who would care? Then I started to do the math. I had thought my loop was exactly four miles, and would time out to exactly 25 laps. But it was just a bit longer, so by the end of the day, I realized I would hit the 100-mile mark when I was almost exactly 2 miles away from my car. Who needs bonus miles on a day like today? It seemed like a cruel joke, but it is what it is. I took a picture of my Garmin at 100 miles, just in case the world ended while I limped back to my car. The only thing that kept me going around on that very last lap was knowing that Snickers bar was waiting, chilled and chewy, back at the start. I finished with a total of 101.7 miles, just under 6 hours.
As an experienced endurance cyclist, I know that the body part that struggles most on long rides isn’t the heart or legs. It’s the brain. Convincing yourself to keep going when there’s no reason is difficult. But isn’t every ride like that? Unless you’re commuting to work, most rides are just for fun – we’re not paid to ride, no one is counting on us to ride our bikes. And yet, day after day, mile after mile, we do. We’re cyclists. It’s what we do. And remember – no sagging, right?