Ok, so I wrote this about a month ago & then forgot to post it, so here is my account of a very long bike ride. Strange side note, I’ve not go on by bike since that day, I need to rectify that soon!
August 24 2013 I rode 102 miles on my bicycle in the name of , well, it seemed like a good idea at the time J
I had intended to write about this before, but apparently I keep forgetting.
The event is the Hotter n Hell 100, it is held annually in Wichita Falls, TX. It is the largest organized bike ride in the USA & if there is a bigger one anywhere else in the world, well, let me know because I want to go.
The day started early, my alarm went off at 03:30, I didn’t sleep particularly well the night before, partly because I hadn’t slept well the entire month of August & partly because I never sleep well when I know I have to get up early & go somewhere, it’s a really annoying trait that I have no control over.
The drive from my house to the ride was exactly 100 miles & completely uneventful. They had reworked the check in process from when I rode previously in 2010 & it was quick & smooth. I was back in my car at 0600 trying to eat cold spaghetti for breakfast, not easy but it was a good choice!
The official number of entrants in this year’s ride was 11,196. Over eleven thousand people on bikes, I told you it was big. Like the check in, they reworked the start & it was much more efficient than when I rode the 100 km ride in 2010. They had the riders divided by distance & for the 100 milers estimated ride time. They then held each wave a few minutes so that when it was time to go, you could actually ride instead of walking with the bike for 10 minutes like I had to in 2010.
After the pleasantly smooth start I got comfortable & tagged on the back of a line or riders working their way through the crowd. This went well for about 7 miles until I saw the first wreck of the day. Some poor guy looked in a bad way on his side. Cops & paramedics were in attendance & everyone was very respectful 7 responsible getting around it. Unfortunately this decimated the line I was on & so I was making my own way for a while. Somewhere at around 20 miles I latch onto the back of a couple of guys & over the next 18 miles that turned into quite the line, we were averaging around 25 mph which made for some great progress.
Prior to the ride I was more than a little concern about my ability to complete the full 100 miles, my preparation had been ok, but not as good as I had intended. So when at 30 miles in I felt stronger than I ever have on one of these rides I was pretty happy.
The group I was riding with kept going strong, unfortunately at around mile 38 after we had made the turn back east, I couldn’t hold the pace anymore. We were headed very slightly uphill & had a wind coming at us out of the southeast, it wasn’t by much, maybe 1 mph but they started to slowly pull away from me. I could have stepped on the pedals & kept up for a while, but this was mile 38 of 102, this was not about keeping up, even if their draft made riding easier, this was about leg preservation for the task ahead.
I took my first rest stop at around 55 miles in, which is the longest I’ve gone without a break. I was out of liquids at this point & also needed to stretch my legs. The rest stop was great, well stocked with food & drinks, iced watermelon is especially good on a bike ride. The folks manning the rest stop were really friendly too, its little things like that that can really make a difference to your ride experience.
Soon it was time to get going again, the sun was coming up strong, but it wasn’t too hot (yet). The next 20 miles were fairly uneventful, I should have written this closer to the ride so I could have been more details. I do recall that my left knee was painfully stiff when I started pedaling again, fortunately that was only brief. By my next stop at 75 miles I really felt like I was on a long ride, I felt good, but the thought of another 27 miles, or more importantly, 2 hours more riding, was a little daunting.
I left the pleasant shade of the rest stop & headed out again, by mile 80 I was feeling pretty tired, the heat was getting up there and I could not get comfortable on my bike anymore. Pushing on, but fidgeting on the bike so much that I kept losing momentum. I decided to stop at the next rest stop just to get my head right. I forced myself to drink some pickle juice too, I can’t stand the stuff but it is supposed to be the best thing for cramps which I felt starting to creep in. I hated it, but it did the job. I set out once more determined just to survive to the end.
By this time in the day the sun was high & hot, my speed was dropping & I was doing constant calculations in my mind as to how much more time I had to ride base don various average speed scenarios. You could say that I was ready to be done. One of the most difficult points was at 90 miles, you would think that would have been a good milestone, but realizing that I’d gone 90 miles & there were still 12 to go was rough. The ride is supposed to be 100 miles, but I had researched it in advance & from what I saw I actually thought it was going to be 103.
By mile 95 I was running on instinct alone, my legs were shredded & I was so hot, it felt like my neck was swelling. I knew I could finish the ride, but it was going to be hell doing it, there was no way I was about to quit though. I had gone straight through the last rest stop, not wanting to delay finishing any more. However at mile 96 was the final rest stop, I decided to stop just to try & cool off. They had some paper towels that were being stored in ice water, I grabbed a few, put them on my head & around my neck. I only stopped for 5 minutes, but they were 5 of the smarted minutes of my life.
I set back out for the final 6 miles & I felt like a new man, my core temp must have gone through the roof because having cooled off I was flying again. I could barely get up to 15mph before I stopped, now I was up over 20 again. It was going great, I was flying towards the finish & then while we were going up a bridge on the highway to get into downtown, my chain dropped. I had to get off to free it up again, ordinarily I can do it on the move, but this was uphill & 100 miles into the ride, my brain was going slow. So that sucked, but it could have been worse. I quickly got going again & then finally crossed the finishing line, completely & utterly exhausted.
The finish line area is crazy. Once you cross the line you are given you medal, there are photographers there & a mass of people trying to sell you things. Food vendors beers stands all kinds of things, you can make a day of it if you want to. Personally all I wanted to do was get back to my car, I didn’t want to eat, I certainly didn’t want a beer & I didn’t want to be around people anymore. Once I got back to the care, I put the bike up, did some stretching & then sat in glorious air conditioning drinking my recovery drink. When I called my wife to let her know I was still alive, my speech was so slurred she could have been forgiven for thinking I’d been drinking the whole time, not bike riding. After 20+ minutes of cooling off, gathering myself & deciding if I was ready to eat or not (I wasn’t), I headed home, 100 more miles, this time in the car, but still, when are they going to invent teleportation?
All in all it was a great event, I met the challenge I set myself, crossed this off the bucket list & although it was monstrously difficult towards the end, I really enjoyed myself. Will I ride it again next year? That depends on how my cycling season goes. I will never ride this again in the condition I was this year, which is pretty good condition! I will only attempt 100 miles again if I have really prepared for it & if I am confident of finishing in 5.5 hours or less. It is not the distance that got to me so much as the amount of time it took to do it. I didn’t need anything to give me anymore respect for pro cyclists than I already have, but the notion that they would do that ride, literally twice as fast as I did, then be able to hit a sprint finish at speed that I can only get close to on a downhill with a tail wind, really just blows my mind. It’s probably a good thing I move freight for a living, not ride a bike.
Full stats from the Hotter N Hell 100. Without doubt the most difficult physical undertaking for a single day in my life.
Distance: 102.04 mi
Total Time: 6:26:00
Moving Time: 5:43:49
Avg Moving Speed: 17.8 mph
Max Speed: 32.0 mph
Avg Speed: 15.9 mph
Calories: 3,266 C
Avg HR: 153 bpm
Max HR: 172 bpm
Elevation Gain: 1,385 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,375 ft
Min Elevation: 881 ft
Max Elevation: 1,199 ft
Avg Temperature: 87.8 °F
Min Temperature: 68.0 °F
Max Temperature: 114.8 °F – pretty sure this is not accurate, it just felt like it, my Garmin must have felt the same way I did