Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hotter 'n Hell Hundred

For Dave and I, the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred (HH100) bike ride was an excuse to come visit family in the Wichita Falls, TX, area. Our main goal was just have to fun, plain and simple, so we signed up for the 100K (~62 miles) rather than the 100-mile route. There'd be no glory suffering heat exhaustion in front of Dave's parents and a 6-year-old nephew. We can do that back home in private pretty much any time.

Fortunately, the weather was cooler than the previous year and cooler than Florida, as we'd hoped. Race morning started out around 80 degrees with a light breeze. The humidity, however, which is Dave's nemesis, was relatively low.

The event began around 7:15am with a motivating Air Force jet fly over and the boom of a cannon, but we waited another 15 minutes or so before we started actually moving. Unbelievably, there were over 10,000 cyclists gathered there to ride in the various HH100 events (100-mile, 100K, 50-mile, 25-mile and 10K). Who would have ever thought so many folks would come to ride their bike in this relatively small, out-of-the-way town on a summer day?

I'm glad we opted not to be timed. We didn't know this when we signed-up but the organizers had lined up the 100K riders behind the slowest 100-mile riders in an attempt to get them on the road first because they faced the infamous Hell's Gate cut-off (mile 60.3 at 12:30pm, subject to change). Never mind the fact that a lot of 100K riders would probably be going much faster than the slowest 100-mile riders. Oh well ...

After finally crossing the start line, the crowd began to stretch out and the fun began. Dave and I started passing riders and bicycles of all sizes and shapes left and right, even one guy riding a penny-farthing. We also passed a surprising number of young children riding their own bikes. How the hell did they get in front of us? Surely these kids were not riding 100 miles or the 100K course.

The crowd continued to thin and Dave, being the more aggressive rider, chose to weave up the middle not caring whether he got yelled at occasionally (Remember, he was in the Marine Corps). I decided to scoot past people on the left by crossing the center line of the road, which riders were asked not to do because of oncoming traffic (but since there weren't many cars out, it seemed safer to me than dodging riders up the middle). We met up occasionally and then split up again to continue leapfrogging forward. So far, the ride felt more like an interval workout than an endurance ride with all the surging and resting.

Dave and I skipped the first aid station but stopped at the second one at mile 20. I thought I didn't need any more fluids until later but realized that the fluid bottle behind my seat was gone, probably lost along the rough section of road earlier where I'd seen many other bike bottles jettisoned. No biggie with aid stations every 10 miles but I would now have to be more conscious about how much I drank since I only had my 24 oz aero bottle with me.

After the rest stop, the course turned northward and mostly downwind. Dave took off like a big orange bat outta hell. But for some reason, I thought he was still somewhere in back of me and so I was searching for him in my rear view mirror. Then saw I saw a bright flash of orange flying near the top of the next hill with a couple riders drafting behind him. Doh! My ride turned into a hammerfest.

By the time I finally caught up to him I'd drank a lot so we stopped again at the next aid station at mile 30. Along the way, the 100-mile riders split off so the route became less crowded, which was nice. I noticed the distinct smell of farm animals, most likely cows, but didn't see any. That was probably because I was too busy looking down trying to find a smooth part of the road to ride on. Why are the rural roads so rough in Texas?

After our second rest stop, the course turned eastward and Dave and I talked about taking it easy knowing that the last southward stretch was into the wind. Didn't happen. No, we were feeling too good! So once we were on our merry way again, we picked back up our merry pace. It was hotter now but sweat was actually drying up and keeping us cool like it should. And all the hill/wind training we did in Kona this year was paying off. Yeehaw!!!

I rode in front of Dave during much of the second half of our ride and recall one couple telling me that I was crazy not to be drafting "The Winnebago," as Dave's old cycling buds used to call him. But I was down in aero enjoying myself. I knew I didn't have to run 13 miles after the ride and could allow a little extra burning in the quads. Dave got a kick out of seeing folks do double takes as I whizzed by them on my little Bike Friday with 20-inch wheels. What the hell was that she was riding?

We skipped the next aid station at mile 40 but were slowed when the course headed into the wind. A few miles later, I drained the last drop in my bottle. Oops. But I knew that an aid station was coming up at ~mile 52 so I decided to just wait rather than try drinking from Dave's bottle while riding, or stopping.

Once there, we snacked, restocked and also called Dave's parents to let them know we were getting close to the end. They should leave their house now to go meet us at the finish.

Back on the road, we did little more riding into the wind and then took a welcome detour through Sheppard Air Force Base past several different types of airplanes and an area lined with cheering airmen who were so loud that they reminded me of the Wellesley girls at the Boston Marathon. Talk about motivating!!

About 2-3 miles from the finish we pulled over one last time to make a quick call to Dave's folks. Get the camera ready as we'll be there in 5-10 minutes. And don't blink or you'll probably miss us.

Or so we thought ...

We got to the final turn just one block from the finish line and then got the biggest surprise of the ride.

They had just closed our bike course. What the hell???!!!

Well, it just so happened that the CAT 4(?) racers doing the 100-mile course were coming into the finish at about the same time. To avoid any potential serious collisions where the 100K course merged into the 100-mile course, all 100K riders were forced to wait until they had passed. That be us.

At first, I was pissed. How could they do this to us so close to the finish?! But then I remembered that we weren't even being timed, ha! Nothing we could do anyway.

In a few minutes we heard the squawk of the police motorcycle leading the way and then saw the real racers. One guy was clearly in the lead followed by a huge peloton a little ways back and then a few stragglers. That was the first time I'd ever seen the finish of a bike race in person. A nice treat!

After they had all gone by, we were then allowed to round the corner to the finish line. Yes, it was a bit anticlimactic after waiting a few minutes just down the street but Dave's parents and his little nephew were there to make our finish special.

It's not everyday that we have family members waving signs and cheering for us. And we don't always finish a long ride smiling and feeling so good. So all things considered, I think we beat the heat and had a good time.

Estimated 100K riding time ~3:30.


Brent Buckner said...

Fun event!

rueschmike said...

They showed the trainees lined up on the news that night. I talked with a freind that rode the 100K and he said it was most awesome thing. He thought it was a shame the 100 miles didn't come through SAFB as most riders could probably could use that encouragement.

Dolores Pratt said...

1. Why did so many people come ? Because Wichita Falls is the best kept secret in Texas and there isn't that much else going on anyway.
2. Why are the rural roads so rough? Because Texans are tough and don't need all that pavement stuff.

Y'all come next year for another great event!


Susan said...

Excellent report! And I LOVED Miss Dolores's comments!

Petraruns said...

Shirley - what a great story and a great ride! 100K! My goodness and you're talking about it like it's a ride in the park.. You both just seemed to be enjoying yourself so much! Great stuff..

Wendy said...

I love that shot of the two of you riding! (And that you stopped for a finish.) Sounds like it was a great time.

Maddy said...

Awesome! It sounds like it was fun!

MarathonChris said...

Congratulations on a great race - you and Dave seemed to have a great time and were more than ready!

Iron Eric said...

Very cool race report. Thanks for sharing with so much detail. That was cool that you and Dave did the ride together. That sounds like such a neat idea.

CewTwo said...

What fun you seemed to be having! This is a great race report. I can hear the motivating yells at the air force base now.

Thanks for sharing, I felt like I was there!

Against the Wind, aka MacGyver said...

Aw, thanks! You rock, yourself! Thanks for including me in this list! You're so sweet!

BTW, we got a *new* computer....

Against the Wind, aka MacGyver said...

How awesome! Great ride and great report!

Bigun said...

cool report - it's great that a mere 100k seems so much more "fun" than 100M. I always get an ego boost on organized rides when I look back and see a trail of riders drafting off the "Bus" - not that I'm going that fast, just blocking a lot of air, like Dave.