100 Miles of Nowhere: 2013 Tour de Mount Warner edition

Jun 8, 01:17 PM

This year I did the 100 Miles of Nowhere, a silly charity event “organized” by Elden Nelson, AKA Fat Cyclist. It started when Fatty rode 100 miles on rollers, and expanded into an event whose emphasis is on doing a large number of laps on a small course. In my first year riding nowhere, I wanted to keep in the spirit of the event without driving myself completely batty by choosing too small a course. Besides, it’s too nice to cycle inside. So I decided to do the inaugural Tour de Mount Warner. I sent the following writeup to Fatty’s blog, but I also thought I would post it on my own website; he won’t necessarily publish all participants’ reports.

Mount Warner is a hill (it’s only 512 feet above sea level) located in Hadley, a small town in western Massachusetts. I happen to live on Mount Warner Road, so what better than a series of loops around it? One loop is 5.4 miles, with about 205 feet of climbing, so to get 100 miles, I needed 19 loops, for 102.6 miles and 3900 feet.

The course

The course has four “official” turns plus a few 30-degree bends on otherwise straight roads. Seen from above, it looks like a lumpy, lopsided hexagon. It starts with a short, moderate climb (5-7%), then a short flat bit, a thrilling descent that reaches 10% in spots, about 3 miles of almost flat roads, then a stretch with a moderate climb, flat, moderate climb, flat, and then a gentle climb that arrives back at my house. Of course, doing multiple loops, that gentle climb segues into the initial moderate climb. Over the course of the day I got to know every little undulation and bump in the road, even better than I already knew them.

Route map and elevation profile
(Jennifer and I ended up doing one slightly longer loop, up to Comins Road, so that I could reach 100 miles with only 18 laps.)

The equipment

I was riding my Surly Long Haul Trucker, equipped with stainless steel fenders and racks, and way too much space in the handlebar and saddle bags, in case the urge suddenly struck to buy a bunch or two of asparagus from one of the roadside stands I passed.

Ready to ride!

The ride

June 1 was hot and muggy here, so I decided to wait until the weather was nicer. The forecast for Wednesday, June 6, looked propitious: high in the mid-70s, sunny turning into partly cloudy, and winds under 5 mph. Well, it was right about everything except the wind. About an hour into the ride, a moderate southerly wind sprung up, shifting between SSE and SSW. Because of Mt. Warner’s effects on wind patterns, I had the wind against me when heading south, but much less behind me when heading north. Wind is like that.

I set off about 9:40 am and did my first loop: past some houses, into the woods, downhill past a couple abandoned houses, more woods, a farm with donkeys grazing, and more houses, across the Mill River into the village of North Hadley. (North Hadley is a village in the town of Hadley, while South Hadley is an independent town. Are you confused yet?)

Mount Warner Road

Sunny Brook Farm

Donkeys at Sunny Brook Farm

Bike and Lake Warner

A good slogan for 100 Miles of Nowhere

Leaving the village, I passed strawberry, hay, and tobacco fields. (There’s a lot of tobacco grown here for wrapping cigars.) The campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, my employer, rose up in the distance. Turning a corner, I passed more farms and farmstands, including the Full of Grace farm, which offers riding lessons and equine therapy (presumably therapy using horses, not for horses). I crossed the Mill River again, further upstream, then more farm fields, a cemetary, and a subdivision that was oddly planted in bucolic farmland. And for most of the ride, I could see the slopes of Mt. Warner. Just before home, I saw the grapevines of Mount Warner Vineyard, operated by one of our neighbors. And then it was back uphill. Lather, rinse, repeat. Occasionally I saw rural sights: cattle grazing, migrant workers planting, bales of hay being launched from the baling machine into the trailer behind it. I also smelled the remains of a dead possum far too many times.

Meadown with Mount Warner

Conserved meadow

UMass Hadley Farm

Plainville Cemetery

On my 5th lap, I was joined by Jonathan O’Keeffe from the Northampton Cycling Club – I had posted on the club’s forum about my ride. He stuck with me to the end of the 6th lap (32.5 miles), when I took my first aid station break to eat a peanut butter sandwich, refill my bottles, and apply chamois cream liberally. It was great riding with him, but he was a stronger rider, which encouraged me to go faster than I should have (I’m not blaming Jonathan – it was my own decision, and it was fun to push myself a bit). My second set of six laps showed me that I had started out too fast. After a second break, at 65 miles, I wasn’t sure I had 35 miles left in me: my back was aching, a muscle in my butt and thigh was sore, and my right knee was twinging. I thought I might do another 10 or 20 and then call it quits.

Jennifer (my wife, for anyone reading this who doesn’t know us) ended up saving the ride. She had offered to do a few laps with me after my second rest break. I’m somewhat faster than her, so riding with her meant I had to go a few mph slower than I had been. After a couple miles, my back and knee were feeling fine, and a few miles further, that pesky muscle quieted down. She had intended to just do 2 or 3 laps, but she ended up riding for 30 miles! I realized while we were riding together that if we did one slightly longer lap further north, I could finish in 18 laps without having a couple extra miles. So we did that, seeing some new sights for the day.

Sooner than I had expected, it was time for the final lap. I was again riding alone, so I picked up the pace to see whether I still had any gas in the tank. Surprisingly, I did; it wasn’t my fastest lap of the day, but it was in the top five. I reached the driveway at 100.0 miles and rolled a dozen yards up. The ride was over. And of course I had won my division: guys riding around a grandiosely named hill in western Massachusetts. Thanks, Fatty, for giving me the chance to podium!

The stats

StatisticsMore statistics

(In the end, I’m not sure how much I climbed. When I pre-rode 3 laps, my Edge 800 told me the total elevation gain was 616 feet, or about 205 feet per lap. That squares with what RideWithGPS claimed. But for this ride the Edge reported 3028 feet. The ride is on Strava for anyone who’s interested: http://app.strava.com/activities/58475310)

Brian W. Ogilvie

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