I’ve been told I’ve crossed a line. Matador said it. I heard it. And then I watched it sail by my ‘how will I interpret this’ radar toward the ‘just ignore it’ trash receptacle.
Sadly, I pick shit out of trash bins if they still look shiny, so it took barely a nano-smidge to realize the Matador meant the line between sanity and insanity. That while riding100 MIles on Rollers was something that could be overlooked, riding 45 times up Thomas Grade was not.
Gone too far.
Too. Damn. Far.
Speaking of radars, there was a blip of ‘shit-idiotic-bad-idea’ green on mine long before I saddled up to ride. I knew it was a bad idea. For some reason, I’d talked myself into it and I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I’m stubborn. If stubborn means oblivious to dumb ideas.
I felt bad when I got out of bed at 4.30am to get myself corrected and drive to Morgan Hill. I felt tired and grumpy as I pulled Precious out of the car to start, later than I intended and with not a whole lot of preparation for this task. And in the first hour of climbing Thomas Grade, I had my doubts that I would even last 2 stupid hours.
There was no underestimating the ‘sheer vehemence of the suckage’ on this ride.
But let’s back up. Here’s a little putty in the wall crack of this story.
I rode 100 Miles of Nowhere on rollers several years ago for this event. It was my first ever century, and certainly not one I’ll soon forget. This time, I wanted to raise the fat bar to something kinda dumb.
It should be epic to the point of ridiculous, thought I. It needs to be nuttier than a nut bar. So what’s the nuttiest thing I can think of? Where’s the smallest loop of nowhere senselessness I can imagine?
It was the very first thing I thought of. Just POP, and there it was, floating in the front of my planet-sized brain.
Weeks went by. I considered other things. Discounted Thomas Grade as a truly stupid idea. 1 mile of climbing up a grade that is either 8% or 8.7% depending on the source. A smidge over 400 feet climbing in one mile. A fast descent for a mile with no real recovery. That would be too painful. It was just an idiotic idea. Crazy. Dumb. Something a Rock with Wheels would think of.
But the thing about a planet-sized brain is to remember that some planets are rich and fruitful and oh, boy, let’s colonize that thing! And then other planets are simply dense. Or to put it another way… rich with natural resources!
So Thomas Grade kept pushing its way to the front of the idea queue. Just hovering there. And then I had no time to think of other ideas—just too busy at work. And on Thursday, I decided. Screw it. I’m gonna do it on Saturday. A week before the official event. But I just wanted it done. Just get it over with. And if it didn’t work out, I’d have a buffer week to find a new route and do it for real.
I told no one.
I didn’t even share the plan with Precious (though he must’ve wondered why I was being fussy about getting his gear skipping checked out).
I never like to think too far ahead about pain. So as much as I knew this 100 Miles of Nowhere was going to be terrible. Hell. Pain on a hillside. I also knew that if I told no-one what was going on, to fail at it would be a lone thing. Something I could keep to myself.
And then I actually failed.
I won’t go into the gory details, I think the video captures most of it, but I have never thought on a ride before that I would not finish. That I would not be able to overcome pain and tiredness and just get it done. With five loops to go—a mere 10 miles—I didn’t know how I was going to complete this dumb idea. It was dark. I was done, in the mind. Just done. Cooked. I shot a piece of video saying I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I look wrecked. Distraught. And then I say something like “Oh, let’s just get it done” and off I go.
Two loops down and it’s dark as a black hole as I begin the third loop. Just two to go after. I can do this. I can do it.
The light starts flashing about a third of the way up. I think. I assess.
This is a dark climb, I think. I can probably work my way from switchback to switchback using the lights of houses, because there aren’t a lot of streetlights. But the descent. That worries me. On the previous loop, I noticed the street lights. Very sketchy distances between, and it’s a fast fast descent. I figure my ascents are probably averaging out around 13 minutes, but my descents… we’re talking 40 seconds. Imagine flying down that descent and having the light fail? Imagine? And me, with my history of letting the ground rush up to hug my face and head until I drift off into the sleepy land of Concussionville.
I pulled the pin. Turned around mid-grade and rode back to the car with a light flashing near death and a relief in my heart. I didn’t care that I was short of the 100 miles. Did. Not. Care. 4 miles short. 96.2 Miles of Nowhere.
Milkshake. That’s all I cared about. Where would I get a milkshake?
Could barely speak as I stood at the counter of McDonalds. The brain was saying vanilla shake and the mouth was saying ‘gaaahhgahh boooo blop’. I had to physically point to the size I wanted and managed to rasp out the word ‘vanilla’. I sat in the parking lot and sucked it through the straw with what remaining energy I had.
Yes. It was a dumb idea. But that’s the spirit of the event, right? That’s the whole point. It has to be a nowhere. For nothing. Pointless. And correct me if I’m wrong but that, my friends, was pointless. Eleven hours and 53 minutes of pointless. 45 times up a 1 mile, 8% grade of pointless. 100 Miles of Nowhere pointless.
I’ll leave it at that. Good luck to everyone who dares ride to nowhere this weekend! May your mind be strong and your tolerance for butt numbness be significant.
It doesn’t look like the Strava embeds aren’t working right now, so here’s direct link to Part 1 before Garmin died and Part 2 where Strava app picked up.
Pretty graphs! (Though I wish they were in one file)
Part 1: Garmin
Part 2: Strava app