Endurance bicycle riders are a strange breed.
A ride like RAMROD requires you to wake up at around 3AM, drive to the starting point, check in, get on your bike, ride a circle around Mt. Rainier, only to find yourself back where you started, tired, sweaty, and salt-encrusted. In return for this effort you receive… well, there has to be something that got me to pay good money to do it…
Oh, yeah, you get a patch:
that you will toss in a dresser drawer. So, the reward/effort for the ride seems to be a little low, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing it 4 times. So far.
If you need further evidence – and I’m confident that you don’t, but I have to do something to pad these ride reports out – in late summer, my riding group does a ride called “The Food Bank Challenge”, where we show up at our usual meeting place with backpacks full of food to donate, and then we carry the food with us on one of our usual rides, then we put the food in my car and we go out for burritos. As a participant’s wife noted, “Why don’t you just put the food in Eric’s car and then go on the ride?”
Indeed. As I said, a strange breed.
But… the patch you get for RAMROD and the knowledge that you helped out some hungry families were too much for one visionary. His vision – perhaps “delusion” is closer – was to create a ride so pointless that even other cyclists would question why anybody would do it. For example, on organized rides you often get to:
- Ride in picturesque scenery
- Climb impressive hills
- Socialize with other strange people
In OHMon, all of that is out. The whole point of the ride – its raisin of entry – is be pointless as possible. There is a charity involved, which means I fear that some good is destined to come out of the experience, but other than that, it’s pointless.
And it’s a special brand of pointless, because you design the ride yourself. You are responsible for all of it.
That’s right, it’s the Fat Cyclist “One Hundred Miles of Nowhere” ride.
(I feel compelled to mention that while I really like the jersey design, the red indicator should be pointing to the left rather than the right.)
Though this is a do-it-yourself ride, you do get a box that has some things that are useful to set up the food stops.
Some of the participants in OHMoN eschew the whole concept of course entirely, riding the entire time on their rollers or trainer. I agree that that is pointless, but a) I can’t spend more than 20 minutes on a trainer without wanting to shoot myself, and b) it misses the chance for public ridicule. So, it would be outside.
I started with a very short course; my house is located in a small loop off of a main road. That would give me a course that is 0.3 miles long, and I’d have to do 334 laps of it. It has a 36’ climb each lap, so that means it would involve a total elevation gain of 334 * 36 = 12,024’.
Ouch. I like pointless things as much as the next cyclist, but I’ve been battling some back issues the past 6 months. Further, I fear that my neighbors would think of me as “that crazy guy who kept riding his bike around and around and around”, which would complete with my current label, “that crazy guy who puts up all of those holiday lights”.
So, I need something better, and for that, I cast my eyes to the east. I live at the top of a hill that rolls down towards Lake Sammamish. I am very well-acquainted with the roads, so there will be little joy in riding them. I map it out, and it comes in at 2.6 miles with 256’ of climbing. 39 laps @ 256’ of climbing = 9984’. Better, but still, ouch.
3.4 miles @ 312’ = 30 laps and 9360’, 4.6 miles @ 338’ = 7436’.
Damn. It’s pretty hilly to the east of my house.
I play around some more, extending the route to the west, and I finally end up with the following figure-8 route:
It clocks in at 7.1 miles and 469’ of climbing = 14 laps = 6566’ in total. I’m going to call that the “base reference plan”, but I fully expect to modify it along the way.
The official date of the ride is October 18th, but the weather in the Seattle area is notoriously fickle in October. At some point, a switch will be flipped to “rainy fall”, and it will be hard to find decent weather, so I chose “the first good weekend day in November”. Luckily, the weather forecast for the weekend of the 4th is great, and I ease back on my ride intensity to give my legs and back a chance to rest and on Wednesday, I’m motivated to get up early Saturday and go nowhere.
Only to find on Thursday night that a rampaging rhinovirus has bludgeoned its way into my respiratory tract. Friday is not good, so it’s clear I can’t participate in the event. I instead compete in an alternate event of similar difficulty, called “Taking a Shower”. There were a few rough spots where I thought I might have to abandon, but I managed to push through to the finish.
The next weekend. Ah yes, the next weekend.
The next weekend coincided with “The October Switch”. Seattle has a reputation for being a rainy and gray place, but what we don’t like people to know – lest they move here – is that our summers are pretty nice, and that niceness generally extends through September and the first part of October. And then we reach a day where a switch gets flipped, and the weather pattern changes. We’ve had nice weather the first week of October, but not the forecast is rain, rain, rain, and more rain. Luckily, this weekend also coincides with a trip out of town to visit the offspring at school, so I couldn’t ride anyway, but it does not bode well for future October weekends.
The next weekend – which is the official day for OHMoN – Saturday is rainy, but the forecast for Sunday looks much more promising:
I get up at 6:45 AM, have some breakfast, get ready, and get all my stuff together. It’s 58 degrees so I put on arm and leg warmers, and spend 30 seconds to get to the starting point. I head out on the first loop on damp streets. I do the upper half, then head down the hill to the lower half. Off of W. Lake Sam, I do a couple of gratuitous climbs. They are steep steep and if I stand up, I spin up the back wheel, so I take it really slowly . I do a bunch of other neighborhood exploring along the way. On the way up Northup, I stop to take a picture of the nice weather:
I climb up back to the house, and then do the loop in the opposite direction. This takes me up 24th street, a 20% gradient that is about as painful as I expect. Back to the top for a loop, and while climbing up a short hill I notice the front is a bit squishy. It’s down to something like 50lbs, but it’s enough to get to the first food stop, so I take it slowly and manage to make it there safely.
The mechanic is a bit surly, but he quickly finds a pinhole in the tube, and then locates the small piece of wire in the tube that caused it. While I wait, I take a trip to the food table:
The Cheez-its are used to refill the bag in my pocket, and grab one of the brownie bites. I also get a refill of my water bottle with Skratch Labs raspberry. While I’m snacking, I do a bit of strategizing. For the first 25.1 miles, I climbed 1829’ and averaged 13.1 MPH. If we project out to the full ride and apply the usual Strava elevation conversion factor, that would put me over 8000’ of climbing and spend 8 hours on the bike. I don’t think I have 8000’ in my legs today, so I decide to spend my time on the less-hilly upper half of my route rather than the lower half.
The second 25 miles are pretty boring – leave the food stop location, climb up to the top, work my way back and forth a few times, descend back down. Repeat, repeat, then repeat some more. I’m starting to get tired, which does not bode well for the second half of the ride. I finish the section, and head to the second food stop:
The food stop is now manned (perhaps that is not the right term…) by Stan, who is appropriately attired. He has a Coke Zero, a turkey wrap, and, most uniquely, a set of flip-flops so that I can pull off my bike shoes for a few minutes. The turkey wrap is exquisite, the Coke Zero is cold, and I eat a few chips and grapes (not pictured). I also sit down and relax for 15 minutes or so, which does wonders for my back and neck.
Looking at my stats, I note that I only climbed about 800’ in that segment. I did want to reduce the climbing, but that’s a bit more than I wanted to reduce it, so maybe I’ll add a little back.
I feel *way* better than I did when I stopped for lunch, and surprisingly, my legs feel pretty good when I get back on the bike. Back out on the upper loops, though I start extending them to the north and the south to make them longer and start doubling and tripling the flatter sections. It takes forever to get to 60 miles, but the next 10 miles after that aren’t that bad. During this section, I decide how great it would be to have a Coke Slurpee on my ride, so at around 70 miles I had off to the local 7-Eleven. Only to remember that Slurpees are sweetened with HFCS, which is a guaranteed to generate severe stomach cramps when I’m riding. I settle for buying some beef jerky, and on the way back from the 7-Eleven, I revel in its saltiness. It’s time to head to the third food stop:
I spend a minute or so talking to Stan. He is volunteering in the hope that he can earn a bypass in next year’s ride. I wish him luck, refill my water bottles, and head out for the last 25.
After 75 miles, I’ve climbed 3303’.
I feel decent – decent enough that I decide to head back down to the lower part of the course for one last time. It’s not as painful as I had feared, but it’s enough. Time passes slowly. I eat some more jerky, eat a few Cheez-its, drink some of my drink. Repeat, then repeat again. About this time, my Garmin says “Low Battery”. I stop and find out that, for some reason, the backlight is on at 65% despite it being on auto day/night. I turn off the backlight and hope that the battery will last for an hour. I’ve done some measuring, and I now that my loop on the upper part is about 3 miles, and that it’s perhaps 2 miles back to the finish, so at 88 miles I put the plan into action. I start riding with a bit more effort – as much effort as I can generate after 90 miles on the bike – and the 3 loops go by quickly. I head down to the finish line, and find I’m at 98.3 miles. A quick out-and-back trip, an few loops around the neighborhood, and the GPS says:
I get off the bike, take off my helmet, and head over to see what food is available.
I grab a beer, and then a picture with Stan:
I mix up some Endurox in one of my bottles, and after drinking it I head out to find some real food.
I expected a stupid ride, and I got it. I found it nice that I could modify the route, but when there are 30 miles left and you aren’t 30 miles from the end, it’s really tempting to just pack it in, so the mental part was pretty hard for me.
The chosen route as fine except that it was in the city. Looking at my data, I had to stop approximately 7000 times for stop lights, stop signs, pets, and children playing street hockey. That doesn’t do much for your average speed, and it made it really hard to get into a groove. Most sections are only 3 minutes or so in length.
I appreciate getting some items for the food stop, but it seemed like a lot of them were just random. Perhaps molasses is a decent substitute for gel – and probably better tasting – but the salsa and mustard had me a bit confused. It would be nice to get better options here.
The jersey for the ride ran small, so I ordered a large. It’s quite a bit smaller than most of the mediums I have, so if anybody ordered a medium and it was too small, let me know.
Thanks to Elden for setting this up, and thanks to two of my riding buddies who kicked in some extra money for Camp Kesem, which I matched and which Microsoft will also match.