Sunday, August 24, 2014

Well, that was... wait for it... Hotter 'n Hell!

We spent the first evening at the HH100 Expo.  I've never seen so many bike vendors in one place before.  Lots of neat stuff, some of it really cheap, and it was just exciting to be surrounded by so much cycling culture.

Outside we found some dinner, Carribean chicken with veggies and rice, and sat down to watch the criterium race zoom past.  Those men and women are fast!  We were sitting a few meters from a really sharp 90 degree turn and so there were lots of crashes too!  I needed some more food so we got some home cooked potato chips with a kimchi/bacon/mayo sauce from the Gypsy Kit.  Awesome!

Yes, I'm feeding my face while the crit racers are riding in 100+ degree heat.

The next morning we were up at 4am and on the road for the hour long drive to Wichita Falls.  For the first time all summer I made it to the start line with plenty of time to spare.  There were thousands of riders and I tried to place myself near the back of my start gate.  That should have put me with riders that expected to finish in about 6 hours.

A local high school choir sang the National Anthem, a gun went off and there was a flyover by some small stunt planes.  It was another couple minutes before I made it to the start line and then things got interesting.

You never know what's going to happen with such a motley collection of riders, some with plenty of experience and some that look like they just bought their bike and kit from the expo the night before.

Here it goes:

Mile 5 - Someone crashed, again.  A few riders bumped together deep inside a group, and one lady started ping-ponging around before going down hard, with two or three riders behind her also eating pavement.

Smartest thing I've ever done, each
water point listed on my top tube.

In the first few miles I saw more flats and wrecks than in my entire last year of riding.  I didn't know what was going on but it seemed like everyone was crashing or flatting out everywhere I looked.  Lots of dropped water bottles for everyone to dodge or run over didn't help.

Mile 10 - There's a big turn to the left, across the railroad tracks.  Just before I got there I could hear bells ringing and saw a police officer waving his arms to stop riders but I was already too far into the tracks.  I looked up and saw the arm dropping and I ducked my head just in time to slide under.  I'm pretty sure someone behind me hit the arm.  Someone next to me breathed a sigh of relief, loudly, and started talking about how long the trains are down here and how lucky we were to have made it through.

Mile 15-ish - Someone just crashed right in front of me.  There was a group of riders that decided it was a good place to answer the call of nature and had stopped off to the side.  So a bunch of riders decided to join them, throwing everybody behind them into panic.  And of course, a couple went down.

Mile 17 - I saw a wicked three-person tandem bike.  Dad in front, mom is second, with a little girl in third spinning away.

Mile 20 - First water break!  I hit the latrine, then grabbed a cupful of watermelon and pineapple.  A shot of pickle juice?  Why not?

Somewhere in the next ten miles the course turns out of the wind and I started flying along, relaxed, just cruising at about 20 mph.  I kept trying to remember my promise to Char, not to break myself and to enjoy the ride so I held a little back but still kept passing people left and right.  I started to realize that I should have started much closer to the front of the pack to avoid some of the riders in front of me.

Mile 40 - Another stop.  I didn't have to pee again, which worried me.  Some wonderfully nice lady held my bike while I snagged some watermelon and a handful of baked goods.  Someone was teaching line dancing on a stage next to the water point and I found the whole thing hilarious.

Mile 50 - My heart rate monitor read my pulse as 30 bpm.  I'm pretty sure that either it was broken or that I was having a heart attack.

Mile 58 - Riding through the town of Burk Burnett was like being in a real race.  People were lining the streets cheering and I was flying along feeling quite full of myself.  Unfortunately, just outside of town, the course finally turned back into the wind and the pain really began.

Mile 60 - Gut check.  There's a shortcut towards the finish (75 miles total) or a turn left to Hell's Gate and the full 100 miles.  I was feeling horrible and stopped to stock up on anything I thought I could get into my stomach without throwing up.  Then I turned left.

False motivation all over my face.
Mile 69 -  Hell's Gate.  I was really starting to feel awful but the occasional tailwind (or at least lack of headwind) was helping me along.  More pickle juice shots, some oranges, and a pee break.  Definitely not hydrated but I was drinking non-stop and emptying my bottles quickly.

Mile 78 and 79 - Back into the wind with a vengeance.  Horrible.  Everything hurt and I could barely keep moving.  I was passing other riders, but it hurt to keep my cadence up.

Mile 84 - Last water point for me.  I could hardly walk, and the scorching sun was blazing hot.  I forced some orange slices into my mouth, finished an entire bottle of water and grabbed a cup of some green gatorade with ice.  Unfortunately, some jerk replaced the gatorade with pickle juice and I forced it down with a horrible twisted look on my face.  It tasted terrible but probably saved my life.  I followed it up with a cup of Fritos that was surprisingly awesome.

With no respite from the headwind, I picked up another rider and we managed to take turns pulling each other through the scorching blast of hot air for about ten miles.  Misery mounted in both my legs and seat.  SAG wagons and pickup trucks were passing me with riders sitting in the back.  I told myself that I wasn't going to be one of them.

Mile 96 - My riding partner (I never got his name, we were both too out of breath to talk) pulled off at the last water point before the finish and I decided that I needed to keep going.  Acid was pumping through my veins and my head was a little iffy, but it was such a short hop to the finish that I had to chance it.

Mile 98.5 - Heading down into town, the wind was starting to be blocked by buildings and trees offered some shade when I heard the telltale wump wump wump of a flat tire.  I had just put a new tire on my back wheel earlier in the week but this time it was my front tire.  There was still some pressure and I couldn't hear the leak so I hit it with a CO2 cartridge and took off to try and make the finish line before it deflated again.

Mile 102 - After curving through town I finally reached the finish line.  I had hoped to finish with a grin and super victory pose, arms raised high in exultation of a wonderful ride, but there was a group of riders from the 100km in my way, the chip timing mats made me nervous, and I just wanted to find Char in the crowd.  I coasted across the line, barely unclipped before almost falling over and was done.  Physically and mentally done.

Smiling before I collapse on the ground in a sweaty, crying heap.
I'm not sure if I've ever felt so bad after a ride.  I have had long rides, hard rides, and hard long rides.  But today, the heat and wind together was enough to completely zap me of any remaining sense of humanity.  Char could barely keep me moving and force a little food in me.  I couldn't drink enough, and some Gypsy Kit chips (with no sauce this time) are the only thing I could stomach without wanting to heave.  (3,907 calories burned and no appetite, go figure)

My final time was just over six and a half hours with a moving time of 5 hours and 44 minutes.  Not my fastest 100 miles ever, but I'll take it.

It was, after all, Hotter 'n Hell out there!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ready or Not, Here Comes the Hotter 'n Hell 100

Not photoshopped-the color really was like this.
I first heard about the HH100 when I was looking for some challenging rides to test myself against a few years back.  The Hotter ’n Hell 100 had everything I wanted, painful heat, distance, and notoriety.  But it was too far away from El Paso, where I lived, and my schedule at the time was not conducive to long weekend trips.

In the spring I moved to Lawton, OK, for a 5 month course, looked online for upcoming rides in the area and realized I was less than an hour away from the Hotter ’n Hell!  How could I say no?

I’ve spent the summer building up my training on the weekends and using some of the local rides to gauge my progress.  The Tour de Meers introduced me to the local riding scene. The Tour of the Wichitas validated my training plan.  The Dehydrator left my dehydrated and confident about finishing a big ride.

Last weekend was my last training opportunity.  I had planned a 70-miler on Saturday followed by a hard and fast 30 miles on Sunday.  Endurance, saddle time, speed, all crammed into one weekend.

Saturday started out uneventful with a beautiful sunrise through the trees.  Then there was the armadillo crossing the road who didn’t seem to notice me or Charla at all.  It was my first live armadillo and looked like an armored tank pig!  Then there was the angry skunk wandering through the grass.  I held my breath as I rolled by just in case.

I stopped at mile 15 to answer the call of nature and saw what looked like something stuck on my front tire.  Upon closer inspection, it was a tumor.  The side wall had split and the inner tube was pushing through.  I gambled that it would hold if I rode carefully and crawled the 16 miles back to my jeep so I could put in my first ever dollar bill shim.  (fold a dollar bill up, place against the tear in the tire, inflate and pray)  

From there it was another 40 miles of climbing and dropping through the rollers of the Wichita mountains.  I rode corner to corner across Fort Sill and was feeling pretty confident about being ready for the Hotter 'n Hell, apart from needing a new tire.

Sunday was a pure speed sufferfest, for me anyways.  Found a beautiful white tail deer to race with.  I lost.

May not have caught the deer, but I did shoot this sweet scene!

So, I poured out what energy I had left and convinced Char to take me out for an omelet.  Jimmy's Egg rules!

Go figure, the local bike shop didn’t have my tire in stock, so I bought a new Gator skin to put on the back tire, and moved the old back tire to the front. Having had no time to really test it out, this weekend should be interesting.

No more training time left, no idea how the new tire will hold up, and I've hydrated just about as much as possible.  If I don't have a heart attack somewhere around mile 85, I should be good to go!