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Vermont's 200 on 100 with Rachel Cohen

Rachel Cohen is a friend from just down the road in Jericho, VT. She is a high school teacher and I'm certain every kid who ends up with her as a teacher is incredibly lucky.  Rachel loves spreading her passion for riding bikes by encouraging others around her, setting up crazy adventures, organizing The Ranger VT (such an awesome ride, add it to your ride list if you haven't done it!) and by working with kids outside of her teaching job through Vermont Youth Cycling. Rachel and her husband, Tyler, are about to take on The Memory Bike Adventure in the Dolomites next week and in preparation, they road 210 miles on Vermont's Route 100. She wrote a recap of the (very soggy) day, check it out below! 

Highs and Lows on Vermont’s 200 on 100

By Rachel Cohen 

Over the last several months my husband Tyler and I have been preparing for the Memory Bike Adventure, an off-road, single stage, self-supported bike race through the Dolomites. To get ready for the 447 mile route through Northern Italy, we’ve been putting in some long days in Vermont, trying to replicate what it’ll feel like to spend 10 or more hours at a time in the saddle. While we’re avid cyclists, we’ve never attempted to ride 100 miles for more than two days in a row! 

Last weekend we did our longest training ride yet, 210 miles on Vermont’s scenic route 100. The route follows one of the most picturesque stretches of road in New England and gains over 13,000 feet of elevation, earning its recognition as one of the toughest single-day rides in North America, according to Bicycling Magazine. Since 1984 cyclists have been testing their early season legs on Vermont’s Route 100, all 210 miles, from Canada to Massachusetts. The organized event was born over 30 years ago, when Bolton, Vt. resident Steve Barner cooked up the idea with some bike mechanic friends. They envisioned a ride with fewer “rules” than the other events out there, a ride entirely focused on the riding itself. In that vein, there are no aid stations, no entry fee, no prizes, and no time limit. Despite what it lacks in formality, it makes up for in the camaraderie it fosters between all who attempt it, and should be a bucket-list ride for all experienced cyclists in the East.


 

The logistics of any point to point ride are challenging, and the 200 on 100 is no exception. To make things a tad easier on our support people (shout out to our awesome dads!) we got a ride from our home in Jericho to Jeffersonville on Friday night, and rode about 35 miles to Jay, Vt., 6 miles from the North Troy border. We set our alarms for 3:45am, maxed out the electrical outlets for charging, and tried to get some sleep. 

We woke up to the “chance of showers” being full on rain and got pretty wet at the start of the day. We also both felt pretty terrible in the first 15 miles; we didn’t do any intentional rest in the week leading up to this ride, with the idea that we wanted to maximize our training and test our ability to do a really big day on tired legs. Between the lethargy and the rain, we both started the day feeling a tad grumpy, and wondering to ourselves, “can we really make it 200 miles today?”  

We did it, and I’m happy to share three big take-aways from the experience of riding 210 miles on one of the crummiest days of the summer: 

  1. Fueling well makes all the difference. I always seem to get a really sensitive, bloated stomach four or so hours into long rides, especially if I eat too much sugar and caffeine early on. We started with body temperature breakfast burritos (taken out of the freezer the night before our ride and stashed in our back pockets) at 4:30am, and then rode about 60 miles all the way to Waterbury before stopping for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. For this first stretch I focused on consuming lower sugar snacks. Around mile 90 we stopped again and I had an english muffin pizza and an espresso. At mile 140 I had some fries and grocery store hot bar chicken tenders. In between all of that “real” food I stayed fueled with my regular intake of UnTapped Waffles, SkratchLabs chews, a banana, chips, and various other bars and candy, making sure to eat at least 250 calories every hour or so. 
  2. Bad weather is temporary. If we weren’t training for a race that could very well have bad weather, we may not have chosen to do this ride in these conditions. That said, with any long endurance effort, it's important to accept that there will be highs and lows throughout the experience. It's just a reality of the thing. Being able to compartmentalize discomfort through positive self-talk and mantras has helped me overcome some pretty gloomy stretches. And I always, always, always focus on the privilege it is to be able to ride my bike that far, for that long, through such an incredible landscape. 
  3. Be flexible and ready to roll when conditions allow. In a long distance endurance event it's important to capitalize on nice weather and feeling strong and keep moving. For the more trying stretches, I ask myself two things: Is it fun? Is it dangerous? There were a couple points in this ride where I really wanted to bail. We got to mile 140 and checked out the radar and saw that we’d be riding into a wall of rain if we kept going. And we’d be climbing (and descending) what's known as ‘terrible mountain’ out of Ludlow. So, we got comfortable on a closed businesses front porch and took the opportunity to hydrate a bit and even nap! It added over two hours to the total time we expected to be out, but it was worth it to stay safe and keep the adventure a little more fun.

We’re a week out from the start of Memory Bike Adventure and feeling excited and a tad anxious to get this show on the road! Follow along at @nancy_legpower and @tyco_vt! Salute!

 The route! 

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