Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hotter’n Hell Hundred

August 29, 2009
Wichita Falls, Texas

The event talked about year round has come and gone. From all reports, it was a roaring success. Starting on Sunday, reports of having a good time were posted on places such as Facebook.

The Hotter’n Hell Hundred is widely known in the cycling world and is the largest biking event in the USA. For example, the attendance this year was tagged at over 14,200 registered bikers. Other stats that marked the event were 30,000 visitors, 3,800 volunteers, and 112 sponsors. It was the 28th annual production of a fun filled weekend.

Part of the fun of the event is to get there early and check out all of the vendors and their wares.

And, as usual, go broke saving money.

Registration was a breeze, well organized, and painless.

Broke but happy, it was time to check out the crit races.

The women were first and for the most part stayed in a tight grouping.

The men quickly formed about three groups. Lead, follow, and lag. All were fast, just some faster than others.

The spaghetti dinner was served at the Kay Yeager Coliseum this year.

Ice rink adjacent to the dining area.

Finally the big day arrived..

Start time was to be 7:05

Opening ceremonies were started by Olympic gymnast Carly Patterson's singing the national anthem, then there was the jet flyover from Sheppard Air Force Base, and then a canon was fired marking the start of the ride. A side note, Carly won a gold medal in the all-around competition of the 2004 Olympics and now has a recording out called Back to the Beginning.

Last year the staggered start was flawless. A block barrier was rolled out of the way and a block of riders pedaled off. As a block cleared, the next barrier was moved. This year, we had to scoot along or push our bikes for about three blocks before we could start pedaling. The event coordinators explained it this way “It was a record year in terms of weather, good times, riders, racers, trail runners, trail riders, the Michelob Finishline Village and the consumer show. The mass start was incredible. It would have been perfect but for the 'I want to do it my way' riders who started in the 5 blocks ahead of the start. In spite of our efforts to explain the value of the mass start, some insist on lining the road ahead of the start. When the canon fires, they jump to the road and create a bottleneck. Their disregard for your safety slows the start and increases the density of bikes per lane, thus reduces the safety margin.”

Despite the less than perfect start, we all had a good time at the various line-ups. Scott White and his group started from a different location but were nice enough to share their pictures and I will draw upon them heavily.

The weather was almost perfect. At start time it was 64 and the high was about 87. The wind was calm at the start but later picked up to 12mph with gusts of 20. Naturally, the wind picked up just before it was time to head into it. But if it weren’t for the wind, I would have had nothing to whine about this year. No mechanical problems, no flats, no falls, and no cramps.

Speaking of cramps. As we still think of ourselves as beginners, we like to dispense tips so that new comers will not make the same mistakes as we have over time (and that includes looking up every once in a while especially when barreling down the road at 20 or so miles per hour). But I will turn the keyboard over to my editor as she will talk nutrition, hydration, and yucky things like pickle juice. (Men, before I give her the keyboard, I will make this short; chocolate chip cookies and Oreos suffice on short rides).

Our bicycle guy, Randy, tries to convince me (Christine)we are athletes. As such we must condition our muscles and take our nutrition seriously, daily and especially on rides. (I'll cut down on Diet Cokes for cycling and Randy, but not for my doctor.) In other words, there are ways to prevent muscle cramps. Between miles 45 and 50 I could feel the threat of leg cramps. One gets quite familiar with specific muscle bundles by trying to massage and nurse soreness out of them, and I knew I had depended too much on my dominant leg. Time to make the other leg work harder until the next rest stop. Thank goodness there were Pickle Juice and real pickles at #5 where I saw much younger riders trying to work out their cramps in the medical tent. I had been drinking Gator Ade; eating bananas, Enervit tablets, and gel shots; and seeking out salty snacks, but I attribute the addition of Pickle Juice, pickles, and deep stretches to staving off cramps. At our subsequent rest stops Roy and I chugged as much Pickle Juice as we could stand. (One can drink only so much of that stuff, and real pickle juice is too strong, although I've resorted to drinking it, too.) Roy and I always use our Camelbacks on tours. It is simply much easier to drink an adequate amount between rest stops. We carry a bottle of plain water to pour on us if we start to get hot, a tip we picked up from Velma. I guess it all worked, because we weren't bothered with cramps for the remainder of the ride. For the record I did eat one cookie.

When Chris mentioned that she was close to getting a cramp, I suggested that she hang back and ride with me since I was on a slower pace. Now, other than being nice and concerned, I knew that the chips we had on registered only TOTAL time of a ride, not how fast one goes. If I could get her to ride along with me, our times would be the same. Even at the end, she asked if we wanted to sprint or ride in together. I said together. Almost worked. Our hours and minutes were the same so I was feeling pretty good since she really had a higher MPH than I did. But on real close inspection, she beat me by 3 seconds!

Rest stops were plentiful and well spaced. Rest stop #2 is one of the most colorful, and perhaps the most crowded.

Last year it took me about 20-30 minutes to complete the re-stocking, looking, picture taking, and other necessities. We chose to by-pass # 2 this year but others from San Angelo stopped. And this is one reason it takes so long at this stop.

Shortly after rest stop 2, riders were slowing on an incline and then came to a halt. The incline did not look that tough so the back up was a mystery. It finally came to light that a crash occurred with injuries. As with accidents on crowded highways the rubber necks slowed and backed up the entire field.

Terrain was mostly flat with a few inclines.

There were quite a few riders from San Angelo, but we saw only a few. In the vendors section were Mike and Christy Nesbitt. We saw Kathy Walker and David Durbin at the crit races. At rest stop 2 we saw Rangarao Chilukuri (ex-San Angeloan) and Elaine Cox. On the road we saw Dean McKenzie who said he was going only the 80 mile route as he had not been able to ride much this year. Later he was seen at Margaritaville near Burkburnett. When he arrived at Hell’s Gate he told me later, “I felt fine and said what the heck, I will go for it.” And he completed the 100 mile endurance test with flying colors.

In the pro category 4, Christina Templin placed 11th with a time of 2:57, only 7 minutes back from 1st place. All of the top 22 had an average pace of 21.2 mph.

Hell’s Gate and Pyro Pete.

The first of two goals.

One must get to Hell’s Gate by a certain time in order to be allowed to continue on the 100 mile route. Of course, the other goal is to finish the ride.

Christine (my editor) asked why I took the below shot. I don't know. After 60 or so miles taking the picture just seemed like a good idea. I asked her if the one below it was more interesting. We compromised and you can have both.

Scott and Marlon had even a better idea.

At rest stop #5 and Charlie, #8, there were water sprays that really felt good. It was getting warm by this time.

Still smiling after 70 plus miles.

Rest stops are fun.

All good things must come to an end. For some the feeling was relief; for some such as Liz Rappe who ventured the 50 mile ride, “It was over too soon.”

Well earned stretch.

And a well earned shower.

Before, during, and after--take time to smell the flowers.

Outside of Wichita Falls


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