There's a bike race and rally known in these parts for it ominous name: The Hotter'n Hell Hundred. It's held during the last weekend of August in hot and dusty Wichita Falls, Texas. I rode it for the first time this weekend and it lived up to its title. But, before I go on about it let me step back a moment and say "Thank You" to the 'Boomer Nation for your comments and emails to my daughter KatGirl and her race report. To say that she was thrilled to get your comments is an understatement. Your encouraging words to her are greatly appreciated and you may have received an email from her in reply. Again, thanks for welcoming her into blogland.
Back to the Hotter'n Hell 100...
This rally was put on my training calendar as a training day in preparation for IM Florida on November 4. My coach instructed me to ride at an effort between my lower heart rate aerobic zone and my higher heart rate anaerobic threshold. He said, "Spend most of your time in the lower zone but push yourself as much as you like BUT finish strong." Finish strong? Hmmm... Just finishing would be OK by me.
Weather.com's forecast was for the temperature at noon to be 101 degrees and winds 15 mph gusting to 20. Ugh.
Me and my two tri-buddies left work early on Friday and made the two hour drive to Wichita Falls. Packet pick up and race expo was the largest gathering of bikers I've ever seen. It's reported 12,000 cyclists participated in the rally and I bet every last one of them were in line to pick up their bib numbers at the same time. The expo itself was held in a football field sized convention room and was wall to wall bikes, gear, clothing, and PEOPLE! Yeah, I know I was one of them adding to the crowd but com'on guys can't this whole packet pickup thing be held over a few days to lessen the rush? Maybe that way some of us could actually see and touch the stuff the vendors had for sale.
OK, enough of the rant. On to event day.
Wake up was at 4:30 and breakfast at 5:00. The reported temperature was 90. Eggs, bacon, and pancakes prepared by two sweet grandmas who looked after us like family. We had our fill and made our way on our bikes, in the dark, to the starting line five blocks away.
The plan was to start directly behind the professional riders and in front the the first wave of tandem and recumbent cyclists. It would have been a great start if the plan had worked. Instead of getting a cue that the pros were about to start they took off without an announcement. No sooner did we see them leaving their start line we were overtaken by hundreds, and I do mean hundreds, of tandems and 'bents. Some of them looked like contraptions welded together by mad scientists in their basements. Their seats reclined and sat low -- some just inches off of the pavement -- while their feet and pedals were extended far forward. The riders pedaled furiously and looked like they were spinning egg beaters. A few sported plastic ferrings like on touring motor cycles or wrap around covers making them look like miniature submarines. One recumbent pulled a trailer blasting Beatles music. What a circus!
Safely merging into their traffic was no small feat while bobbing and weaving through them took every bit of concentration or I would have ran into the back of one of the recumbents. We weren't 30 minutes into it when a dozen riders went down just ahead of me. I saw one biker motionless on the pavement. Thankfully, I wasn't mixed up in the mess but it made me that more cautious. There were riders to all sides of me trying to avoid the slower tandems and I was feeling more than a little nervous.
The winds began to pick up as the temperatures climbed. A nice tail wind made it easy to keep the speed above 20 mph.
The plan was only to stop at rest stops to refill my water bottles. I carried enough Cliff Bars, gels, and Fig Newtons for the entirety. The only thing that could derail those plans were mechanical or stomach problems. Well guess what? I had both.
At the expo a new sports drink made from pickle juice was showcased and free bottles were yours just for the asking. Prior the start of the rally I drank a small bottle of the stuff. Man, the taste is salty, sour, and made the hair on my neck stand up. Yuck! I thought to myself that anything that tasted that bad had to be good for you. Right? Ummm... not so in my case. At the mile 20 rest stop I got off my bike and made a dash for the port-a-potties. That's the last time I get close to that stuff.
Then at mile 50 my back tire went flat. Fortunately for me it happened as I rode up to the rest stop and a team of bike mechanics changed it for me while I refilled with water. What service!
By now it was close to 100 degrees and some were cracking under the stress. The SAG wagons were filled with riders and bikes and busily running up and down the roads for the rest of the day.
At mile 65 the course turned into the stiff head wind and it became a challenge to keep the pace above 17 mph and my heart rate in check. Nonetheless, I pressed on feeling strong except for slight numbness in my left hand.
The temperature was above 100 by the time I reached the checkpoint called, "Hell's Gate." This year the race doctor closed the 100 mile course and forced riders that didn't make it to the check point by 11:15 to take a shorter route to the finish. He determined it was too dangerous to keep the course open.
The rest of the session was uneventful. Yeah is was hot, yeah it was windy, yeah I was tired. But I finished the entire 100 miles in a riding time of 5 hours, 18 minutes and averaged 19.02 mph.
It was a successful training day and I learned again that nutrition and pacing are the keys to long distance rides. I'm sure the lessons learned will serve me well in Florida.
Oh yes, one more thing... today I see my eye surgeon about my glaucoma and if the medications are stopping the progression of the disease. Keep your fingers crossed.
66 days to my first Ironman.