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--
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.