Saturday, November 7, 2015

100 Miles of Nowhere, Camp Kesem Live from Michigan Edition!

"This Wasn't Really Supposed to Be a Thing..."
Elden & I before mounting up for the 2015 100 MoN
Today, November 7 2015, all over the world folks are doing the epic event known as the 100 Miles of Nowhere. The brainchild of the brilliant, kind, and slightly deranged Elden "Fatty " Nelson of, the event challenges participants to find the shortest tolerable course imaginable to go 100 miles without going anywhere at all. It is as much a test of one's mental toughness as physical stamina, though friends and family of the dedicated riders will surely tell you that it's proof positive of a deep affliction to the bike.

Fatty did the first one all by himself in his garage, and he wrote about it. To his surprise, it caught on. And now this thing that, according to Elden "wasn't even supposed to be a thing" is very much a big thing. 

Readers of this humble blog will recall that I've done this thing before. More than once, in fact. There was the time when I rode 3000 laps in my circle driveway, for instance. And the time I rode on a stationary trainer in front of my local bike shop. I like to make it a spectacle.

But perhaps you are asking...Why? Why do we do it? There are many reasons, truly, but the main one is that we get to engage in something truly wonderful that a certain group of people - I call them "People of the Bike" and my friend Mike "MC" Clark calls them "Bike-Minded Individuals" - have come to learn. That the bike is a tool to make good things happen. Not just for oneself, but if you work at it, for many, many other people as well.

100 Miles of Nowhere for Camp Kesem 
Team Fatty at the Kesem Summit, 2015 100 Miles of Nowhere
This year, I got to be part of Team Fatty once again for #100MoN, along with several of my dedicated, kind, and dauntless Michigan cycling community friends. We joined Fatty himself at the National Summit meeting for Camp Kesem outside Fenton, MI and got to see and feel the amazing power the bike can generate when we turn our pedals for a great cause.

When Fatty said he'd be coming to Michigan and he could use a little logistical help, I sent him a message and said I'd be happy to do it. I knew my MI crew would be equally stoked. We are, as People of the Bike, all about being there to help, especially when we can work together to make much more of a difference than any one of us could do alone. Our team consisted of two of my colleagues from Michigan State - Bump Halbritter & Mike Ristich, and three friends from the West part of the state: Derek Dykstra, MC, and Kaat Tahy. I've shared epic days in the saddle with all of them in the past. But yesterday's ride in which we went zero miles while riding 100 miles worth may have topped them all.

Healing the Harm Cancer Does to Families
Camp Kesem has a powerful mission. They provide children who have lost parents to cancer with a place to go to help with recovery from the damage that the disease does to families, to relationships. I've been witness to this, up close, in my own life. And I have to say, it is a hard thing to talk about. We know cancer does devastating damage to those afflicted with the disease. And we rightfully focus most of our energy on the care and comfort of people who are directly affected.

But cancer is something that families get too. They get it without asking for it. And it stays around. I've watched dear friends lose partners this way, and children lose parents. I've felt devastated for those family members. The nature of the disease and our limitations, clinically speaking, in understanding at any given moment how it may or may not be progressing, how an intervention may or may not be working...these weigh on loved ones in the circle of care in unimaginably difficult ways. At the time you feel most compelled to act, to care for and comfort those you love, you may find yourself without options to do much of anything. You turn your focus outward. Love overwhelms you. All while inside you are afraid, you are frustrated, you are mourning the loss of a life that has already irrevocably changed. You too have this thing called cancer. So may your children. It may not be in your body, your cells, but it has nonetheless invaded your life, your home, and your realtionships.

I wanted to write those things, because for those who have gone or are going through this ordeal, even thinking them can seem like the wrong thing to be doing. Add guilt to the pile of emotions that one feels in that situation. And there aren't many obvious outlets, not many treatments for the violence that cancer does to families. I lost my Dad last year to cancer. And one of the things he asked me to do was to take care of everybody around him, the people who loved him so much. "Help them," he said, "help the kids."
Counselors at the Kesem Summit Cheering Us On!

I know my Dad would have been proud to learn about the powerful response to this aspect of cancer that is embodied in the healing energy, spirit, and generosity of Camp Kesem. Our group felt it yesterday - we were cheered on during our ride by hundreds of college students from all over the U.S. who had come to the Kesem Summit to train to be counselors, to prepare to meet children this Summer who will spend some time healing, learning, singing and laughing with others who share their challenge: to overcome the pain cancer brought home to them.

So we rode. And we laughed and sang along with Kesem crew. We rocked. We rolled. Not necessarily in that order.
MC brings #bikeface to 100MoN!
Fatty rocks!

DiD and Kaat ride and inspire!

Mike leads the way
And in the end, as we drained our reserve tanks to finish the ride, we left refilled, with more energy than we had coming in. Seeing people assemble to give their time, to suspend the rules of their day-to-day lives to do something improbable, to connect with one's pretty great. And it reminds you that we can make amazing things happen when we combine the power of creativity and caring.
My MSU colleages with Fatty after the 100 Miles of Nowhere 2015