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Hotter N Hell - 2012...maybe Winder N Hell...

Posted Aug 31 2012 4:06pm
Amber, Me, Michael...- Pre Race

Somebody ask me, “What is the hardest part about the Hotter N Hell 100 miler?” 
I respond, “The first 10 miles.” 
“WHAT? WHY? You are fresh…How can it be hard the first 10 miles?” They exclaim.  “Because you have 14,000 cyclists amped up on adrenaline thinking they are on TEAM RADIOSHACK riding into Paris on the last day of the Tour de France.” I reply.  “Then add those 14,000 cyclist dodging dropped water bottles and you have a white knuckle ride of epic proportions. “  But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves.  I make the pilgrimage to Wichita Falls on Friday evening to meet up with Team Legacy…and at about 7:00 PM… 15 team members or so gather and eat the carbo loading spaghetti dinner at the at the downtown convention center.  It is always so good to catch up with these guys…Jackie, Amy, Jason, Jim, Ken…Karl the Camel, Tony…Lots of laughing…lots of ribbing…and all of these guys can flat out ride.  After dinner many of us head over to the downtown Y where for $20, they give you an opportunity to sleep with 400 of your best friends…a couple of them with sleep apnea.  It’s all part of the HHH adventure….I had the lovely experience of the two guys next to me deciding to pack up at 3:00AM…you might as well have driven a Moving Van through Racquetball court number 3….and thus at 4:50AM deciding I might as well get up.  REALLY?  A 3:00 AM wakeup?  The @#$@ Race doesn’t start till 7:05AM…I can move an entire USMC Battalion out in 30 minutes….and these two knuckleheads want to get up at 3:00AM?  But let me add this for all you peeps wanting endurance race tips.  The sleep (or lack thereof) you get the night before a race doesn’t matter and will not affect your race performance.  Focus on the sleep and rest the week leading up to the event.
 Bunking at the Y - Court 3 So at about 6:30….most of Team Legacy gathers at the start line where the “SCORCHERS” (those anticipating riding the 100 miles in under 6 hours).  Michael and Amber met up with the rest of us as they decided to drive in from North Texas that morning…and I thought….”Well, at the time I was woken up this morning I should have driven in as well.”  But I would have missed all the camaraderie and good times with my buds…so no regrets bunking in the Y…plus they offer a post race shower.

 The Hell's Gates Scorchers looking back to Hell's Gates Keeper - Start line
It is said that it is better to be 10% undertrained rather than 5% over trained…and on that morning I felt like I was on the undertrained side.  I had trained hard…and ridden well up to the time of the race…doing back to back hard days on the weekend…but my longest ride was a 60 mile ride…make that a pretty fast and furious 60 mile ride.  Jim offers a long Saturday morning country ride leaving his place…a great place for training…for holding a pace…for some climbing at the end of the ride.  Despite the long Saturday ride followed by a Hammerfest Sunday Ride with Michael and Amber…crushing 35 miles where the heart rate is in the stratosphere…170 bpm…I wish I had ridden at least one 80 miler.  Because of family vacation, that was not to be.  I go into the race wanting to do better than last year…I overheard Amber and others saying they wanted to ride HHH in 5 hr 30 min….and I thought…ok…maybe…but I feel undertrained…this was my third HHH…and I know what to expect…and I know how bad you can hurt if you go out too fast…I know how it feels to sit on a bicycle seat for over 5 hours…I know how the legs feel at mile 90…but I might as well set the goal for 5 ½ hours.The Star Spangle Banner is sung…the Air Force Flyover complete….immediately followed by the cannon…let the maelstrom commence.   I feel like I can handle a bike fairly well…it doesn’t make me nervous in the middle of a peloton…6” from another experienced rider…but the first 10 miles of the HHH gives me the hibby gibbies…(is that a word?)  Team Legacy is intact as a unit….at least for the first 3 miles…ha…then things start spreading out…at mile 7 or so…a loud BANG…sounds like a pistol shot…someone nearby had a blow out…I hear Amber behind me yell…”MICHAEL! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”  I don’t dare look around….lest I face plant from a dropped water bottle.  I hear Michael exclaim, “I am good.”  Great…a quick flash back to Beauty and Beast100K ride where Michael was taken out by a cyclist making a turn in the first 3 miles. 

Things spread out…at mile 12 or so….I see a train of Legacy Cyclist…Jackie, Amy, Jim…maybe there were others…but I didn’t see who they were…I was moving well…fast…and the heart rate was in check…we have a goal…not just to finish…At mile 20 or so…I see Tony…looking strong…I know Amber is somewhere close by behind me…so I tell him to get in with us….let’s work this race together.  He responds, “I have to pee like a Russian Race Horse!”  I have no idea how the ethnic origins of a horse have to do with equine urination patterns…but I got the jest that he needed to get a bigger bladder…heck Tony…you and I were in line at the port-a -potties at the start of this race.  I respond, “Tony, just Pee on the bike.”  HE comes back, “Do I look like a Tri Guy?” (A reference to Triathletes who some have a panache for urinating without getting off the bike.)  Ok…I realize that not all of you are endurance athletes and the above statement alone grossed you out.  Just let me say that for most endurance athletes…conversations of “peeing on the Bike” don’t even move the needle on the “disgusting scale.” ) We motor on…and somewhere around the 30 mile aid station I lose Tony….but incredibly catch back up with him around mile 35…I still don’t know if he stopped to pee.  Our first aid station stop was to be at mile 40...the goal…get refueled….water bottles filled and move on!  The mile 40 aid station was chaos…a debacle…20 cyclist deep to fill water bottles…if we stay around here it will be 30 minutes of time wasted.  I have one full bottle left (carried 3 bottles total)…let’s move on to the 50 mile aid station.   So at the 50 mile marker we roll in…Amber, Ken…myself…I knew that Michael, being his first century, would dial it back after the start…so I wasn’t concerned with him.  Ken was looking for a mechanic…for some reason he couldn’t shift on the small gear cassette.  We refill…and move on …3 minutes stopped…success.

Now is a good time to point out that this wasn’t going to be a Hot Hotter N Hell…afar cry from the record setting 109F temps of the previous year …nope…not HOT…But WINDY…WINDIER THAN HELL….from mile 20…there was a constant 20mph wind gusting up to 30mph…and to the 50 mile point with only a barbed wire fence for a wind break… a cross wind blowing you all over the road.

 Flags at convention center...Welcome to Hell....at least Windy Hell

Mile 90 (pic courtesy of Don Westbrook)
We had agreed to stop next at mile 70 and then ride it all the way in…to the finish…I would pay for this decision…at Mile 66…I am out of water…and the next aid station was actually mile 72…I refill…still feeling strong…but my dehydrating the last few miles would come back to pay the piper later.  Amber is feeling great…she moves up ahead…I lose sight of her…but at mile 75 I get in a 40 man peloton holding a good pace at 24mph…and we, with a tail wind, fly through the community of Burkburnett at 31mph….and then we turn….South…straight into that head wind…brutal…the peloton is moving well at a 14mph…working…but I have a problem…my legs are starting to cramp…badly…both the quads and the hamstrings…to the point that my brain can no longer admonish the legs to continue.  At mile 83 I have to get off the bike…for 6 minutes…This is killing me…back on…into the head wind…for a total of 11 miles…and then into the edges of Wichita Falls…at mile 91…more Severe leg cramps…back off the bike…for another 6 minutes…it seemed like an eternity…and then Amber flys by…wait..you were suppose to be ahead of me…she had stopped to wait…worried that something had happened…I tell her to Go…Make it happen…I am back…through Shepherd Air Base…the Airmen lining the streets…you feel like a rock star…on ward…faster now…legs are cramping….overcome the pain…18mph now…to the finish…go…go…forget the pain….stand up in saddle to succumb the cramping…DONE…5 hours 38 minutes (avg speed 18.4 mph).  With that freaking Wind…DONE!  Just short of my goal…ironically…not spent…the tank not empty…but the legs gone…If not for the 2 abridged stops…5 ½ would have been easy.  Don, (Amber’s bud) grabbed my bike…I go sit…and Karl comes over…he had ridden the whole thing without stopping…with a camelback hydration pack…NO FREAKING STOPPING for 100 miles.  He tells us that Jason had finished in sub 5 hours.  Jim had come in just ahead of us…Amber and I talked…she had completed the century in 5 hrs 33 min…if she hadn’t stopped…she would have completed in way under 5 ½…and then we start waiting on Michael…Don brings me fluids…Tony makes his way in…with the Barbaro Tandem Rocket…physically I feel great…the legs start returning…I finally decide to go get a shower and then come back and wait for Michael.  I get back to my car…check my phone…and Michael had texted me…he was out…the blowout at mile 7…he didn’t get taken off the bike…but somebody had hit his back wheel….and for the next mile he rode feeling like he had a flat…only to find out that the rim was bent.  In the chaos of the first 10 miles…in the mass sea of thousands of cyclist where keeping a team intact is a herculean task…and Michael was out…Amber and I joked with him later…the next race we each will flank him…all the way to the finish line.  I am blessed to have these two as training partners.
 At the finish - photo courtsey of Don WestbrookLater on Team Legacy starts to make their way in one by one…Jackie and Amy stay with Ken….who only had one gear in that godforsaken wind… completed his first 100 miler. It was an epic day…let me close with this…at the finish line I got a bit emotional.  I have always rode for Carolyn Boyd who struggled with breast cancer and Sarah Grace,  the nine year old best friend of my daughter,  fighting Leukemia.  Her Leukemia is in remission…Praise our Father.     Two years ago Carolyn waited at the finish line with her family.  Last year I had to visit her in the hospital on route to Wichita Falls.  In October 2011, Carolyn went to be with her Lord…and so this year…I rode for her memory…when I ride the Hotter N Hell…I will always ride in memory of Carolyn.I am blessed…with 4 great kids…and a wife who is incredible in her support… PRESS ON!

Done!!(pic courtesy of Don Westbrook)



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