Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hotter-N-Hell Hundred Part 3: The 100K Ride

The 100K Ride
By Christine 
Liz Rappe' (left) and I had planned our ride for months; changing strategy right up to the last days. My hip has been bothering me this year so I didn't want to do the 100 mile again, and Liz wanted to test the waters with her longest ride yet--62 miles.
Daylight was just breaking and the excitement-and adrendinline-was building up.
As the sun rose higher, the more crowded it became at the line up area. We were 8 blocks from the front 100 milers start line! To pass the time, we listened to a local radio station broadcasting live from the start line. They would play a song, interview some rider, then have announcements and information about how to stay hydrated and safe. One doctor was telling us not only not to become dehydrated, but also not to drink too much or it makes the brain swell and is just as dangerous as dehydration. As long as all our plumbing is working we know we're taking in enough fluids.

When it was getting close to the official start time, they had an American Idol contestant sing the National Anthem. While our helmets were off, they requested a moment of silence for a rider who had been recently killed while riding her bike. Shepard AFB provided us with a fly over of four jets. The timing was perfect as they flew over just as the National Anthem was finished. Marvelous! A cannon's firing marked the official start of the ride, but we still had about 10 or 15 minutes before the riders in front of us took off and cleared our way.

 Liz and I stopped at the first rest stop in order to enable us to skip the second. Even though it is always cute with a new theme each year it is a chaotic mob scene and better left to those who must use it. After 20 miles those who aren't too well prepared are getting pretty loopy. They don't pay attention to riders trying to go by and do things like stand in the road, stop without signaling, and take off without looking who's behind them. Our third rest stop was at mile 30. Back at about mile 25 the 100 milers turned left, and we 100K folks continued straight. I briefly thought about Roy's turning left, wished him luck, and happily continued pedaling. We had only 37 miles to go--Roy had 78.

 One of our rest stops. They all start looking the same. We usually remember them for the kind of goodies offered to us for which we are extremely grateful. There are thousands of volunteers who make this happen--2000 military folks alone. (I do not take pictures on the move so all my shots are at a total biking stop).


 Wonder if I will ever get into facebooking-text messaging-tweeting at rest stops. Nope! I'm into recovery drinks, pickles, pickle juice, bananas, and cookie power at rest stops. Besides, all my family think I am crazy to bike over 10 miles and couldn't care less if I am at Rest Stop 12 in North Texas.
I really respect the volunteers for all their work and long hours. Note the two trash cans full of powerade and a third at the ready. Yes, I'm sure they were cleaned and the oars used to stir the sport drinks were cleaned, too. 

After a respectable time, Liz and I arrived at Rest Stop 13--or 40 miles into our journey.

I was so impressed. Rolling into mile 40 rest stop was a man on a unicycle. Maybe if one enlarges the photo the one wheel may be seen better. Can you imagine riding 62 miles with one wheel? A man I met who came all the way from Iowa said that unicyclists complete the RAGBRAI (a 5 day ride across Iowa)!!!

If one looks hard enough, the weariness shows on some faces by this time. Hope there weren't any goat heads (grass burrs) in the grass.

Liz enjoying her endorphins after 50 miles. "Just give me a cushioned lawn chair in the shade with a fan and a cookie, please." 
The volunteers stayed cheerful and friendly.

It doesn't get any better that snow cones.
The gentleman serving snow cones stated that he had been volunteering at HHH for thirty years.
After mile 50, the heat started taking its toll. That SAG wagon eventually filled to capacity.
Roy and I knock on each other's heads for luck as we have yet to SAG in from an organized tour. But knowing that there is help if one gets into trouble is very reassuring. Thanks to all SAG vehicles.

Rest stop 15 is almost to the end of the ride but it is one of my favorites. Our first year at HHH we experienced #15. The 100 milers don't go through Sheppard AFB.
 The 50 and 62 mile riders get to go through the Base which sponsors rest stop 15.
Being an Army veteran (WAC), I still get a thrill from our military might.
In my next life I think I will be a jet mechanic instead of the Adjutant General Corps.
Liz and I find a perfect shade.

Liz in a moment of glee. Her birthday is the next day, and she is about to finish her longest ride to date.

God bless these young Air Force "volunteers!" "...nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!"

Still on Sheppard AFB.
They even held our bikes for us while we refreshed ourselves in the shade!!!
If one has to run the gauntlet, this is the one to choose. The airmen cheered us on and made us feel very welcomed. I sure hope they all got comp time for giving up their Saturday.
Soon after Sheppard, we were at the end of our ride. The finish line was in sight.
Liz celebrates completion of her longest ride.
We both celebrate the end of the ride. I'm surprized we could hold our thumbs up. It was long, hot, and grueling but we are already talking about going back to the 100 miles next year. We shall see.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hotter-N-Hell Hundred Part 2: The Ride

Line up started while it was still dark. For the 100 mile riders, there are three starting line up areas: the Scorchers (Fast Guys); Keepers (have previously completed 100 miles or think they can within a certain time); and Hopefuls (the title says it all). I was to line up with the Keepers as (loudly clearing of the throat) I had previously completed the 100 miles. The Scorchers had two blocks to use as the assembly area as there are obviously a lot of fast guys/ladies, so Gregg Wheeler had said he was going to get to the area at 5:30 a.m. to get as far to the front as possible. As I was in the Keeper group, there was only one block set aside for us, so I didn't have to get there until about 6:30. It didn't matter to me to be in the "front" of the Keepers, they would pass me anyway, so why not let them get the jump on me. Being in front of the two blocks of Hopefuls was good enough. And really I was a hopeful. I had two goals. One: to complete the 100 (102.5) miles, and two: not to be the last one to complete. Jumping way ahead of my story--I met both goals.

There is a point to my taking a picture of my computer at all zeros. Look at the lower left figure--zero--it is my distance indicator--hold that thought for later on.

I looked behind me and was floored. I can't get over the instant Facebooking, Tweeting, texting, and such. More that once on the ride I heard someone telling that they wouldn't provide any updates until they passed Hell's Gate.

As daylight came upon the scene, a glimpse at a major objective could be spotted. Pyro Pete will be moved to Hell's Gate after the last category will pass by. One must get to Hell's Gate about 62 miles down the road by a certain time or be routed to a different road and not allowed to continue the 100 mile route. The resultant rush to get to Hell's Gate has some riders paying the price as will be seen later on.

After the opening ceremonies of the singing the National Anthem, an impressive four jet fly over, and the explosion of a cannon marking take off time, we string out for miles. One may have to click to enlarge the photo to see the long string of riders topping the distant hill. My understanding was that some 13,067 registered riders clipped in after the cannon went off.

We were not twenty miles into the ride when the first crash happened that essentially stopped traffic.

Rider being worked on by medics. We could not tarry as the law officers kept telling everyone to keep moving as a helicopter was coming in and would be landing at the accident site.

Soon we were back to pushing pedals and spreading out. Memory fades quickly so I will document it to refresh my memory from time to time. Throughout the year I tell people that the HHH route is relatively flat. But not far down the road from this picture I measured a 7% grade on my Garmin and my read out elevation chart looked like other rides we do. Constant rolling hills with a few good hills thrown in to keep you awake.
This scene was before mile thirty. Instead of a crash, it looked more like heat or heart.

This was Rest Stop 3. The wind had started picking up but at this time was relatively to our backs.

This--rather than the wind held us up the most. Although there were ample porta potties at each stop, the shear number of people wishing to inspect the interiors of the portable sheds was a major time consuming event.

Before mile forty, riders either hammering or not stopping to replinish their bodies, began to fill up the SAG wagons. Unfortunately, this was not the last picture of riders having to SAG in.

Vehicle picking up more ex-riders.

Rest Stop 4. Only 20 some odd more miles to go for Hell's Gate.

For some, the goal was not met this day.

This gentleman welcomed riders before Rest Stop 6--and Hell's Gate.

Rest Stop 6. Instead of elation, pain showed on some faces.

But happiness came after seeing the words on the sign that can barely be seen: "Congratulations Hell's Gate is Open".

Once through Hell's Gate, the pressure was off. Many riders took advantage of the fact that they could now take it easy as there were only 40 miles to go.

Rest Stop 7 (70 miles). If one looks at the enlarged picture, the now relaxed look on people's faces is  pleasure.

Consistent with the wild west theme of the rest stop was a longhorn. As I was taking pictures of the longhorn, guess who stepped in front of my lens---

Martin Roberson, who I first saw at the Tour de Paris.
I was lucky enough to park beside him at Tour de Gap (and take a picture of him in his cowboy hat and boots) as well as the Melon Patch Tour. (In case one has forgotten, he was the one reading the "Water Line" sign at De Leon. And again, what are the odds of crossing paths at an event of this size? Coincidences continue to happen. 

Rest Stop 8 near Charlie, Texas. (Only a little over 20 miles to go). I was looking forward to this stop as last year they had a mister running and it really cooled one off, but not this year. 

This SAG wagon right outside of Charlie was the heart breaker. For one to have come this far and not to finish was a shame.

Rest Stop 9. The rest stops start getting closer together rather than the standard 10 mile mark. The event directors know that many of the good riders talk about "bonking" at mile 80 or 90. If one stops and rests such as these riders, chances are good that the ride will be finished.

Scenery varied from river bottom.

To river. (Give us a break, we're in Texas, remember?)

To terrain that looked flat but was a slight incline for miles and miles.

Rest Stop 10. This would have marked 100 miles if all were spaced at 10 miles. However, we had a short 12 miles to go.  

Down the road--seemingly miles and miles--I kept watching the lower left indicator of my computer.

Whopee. 100 miles. Only 2.5 to go. The hardest 2.5 miles of the entire tour.

Happiness is the end in sight. Major goal of the year accomplished.

After I rolled past the finish, I took stock of my self. My arms and legs were coated with salt and I looked like an albino. My jersey and shorts were covered with salt. I was a pillar of salt. But there was a temporary solution--

Shower time.

I forgot to mention that Christine and Liz had chosen the 100K (62 miles) and had finished long ago. At about mile 80 I had called Christine and told her I was still way out. She had long gone to the hotel room to soak in the tub.

It also dawned on me that since I had not hd a ride partner, not one picture of me was taken on the route. So Christine was kind and said she would take a pic of me even if it was in the room.

Sun burn, salt and all. I was still caked after my end-of-the-ride "shower" so it was time for a real clean up. The 100 mile ride was over and I was still standing.