Monday, August 25, 2008

Hotter N Hell Hundred 2008

This past weekend was the highlight of my bicycle riding this year.

I was in line at 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning with 11,260 other cyclists, waiting for the starting gun at the Hotter N Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, TX.

Linda and I prayed before the start.
The start line was organized by the different ride distances, with "Scorchers" (the fastest group doing 100 miles), the "Hell's Gate Keepers - 100 Milers, "Hell's Gate Hopefuls - those that were intending on completing 100 miles, and needed to pass the 65 mile mark by 12:30, next were 100 K riders (this is what I trained for, and where I was lined up), then the 50 milers, 25 milers, 10 milers, and finally, 10Ker's. In all, there was about a mile of cyclists lined up behind the start. From my position, there were about 5000 riders infront of me, and it took almost 25 minutes to cross the official starting line, then it was another 3 miles before I could actually get any speed up to get around the slower riders. It took about an hour to do the first 10 miles, which is unbearably slow. Next year I'll be lining up with the Gatekeepers.

I decided to train for the 100K (which was just short of 65 miles) to see how I would do. My official clock time was 5:03:15 including the 25 minutes it took to get to the starting line. My saddle time was actually 4:18:00, which is right in line with my training, and told me I could have made Hell's gate in plenty of time to finish 100 miles had I ridden that distance. I know it would have taken me another 3 hours, though, and I wasn't ready for that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this ride. The rest stops were well prepared with hydration fluids, pickle juice, ice-cold pickles, oranges, bananas, and icy-wet towels. My favorite part of the ride was near the end. We rode through Sheppard AFB, and the first sign we saw was one that said something about Sept. 18, 1947 - the day the Air Force was born. I immediately thought about my dad, who joined the AF in 1947. Then we rode through a static display of airplanes, and around the corner, we were met by about 100 or so Airmen in PT uniforms who were cheering us on. I saluted them as we rode by, and some of them snapped to attention and saluted me back. I yelled out at everyone I could, "Thank you for your service." As tired as I was, those Air Force guys really motivated me, and I finished strong. Thank God for the men and women who protect our skies.

After the finish, Linda met me with an ice-cold recovery drink, and we went to the "Finish Line Village" where they had live music, food, and plenty of cold beverages. I skipped the beer and instead waited until dinner to celebrate with a glass of red wine.

So this was another milestone, another personal best. I continue to train for longer endurance rides, and I feel confident to do the 100 mile Waco Wild West ride in September, and the MS 150 ride in October. Next year I'll finish the HHH 100 mile ride and plan to finish in 6 hours. Thanks to my trainer, Chad, the guys at Sun Country Bikes - especially John, who put on a new set of wheels for this ride - that keep me rolling, my cycling club who keeps me challenged, and my wife, who supports my crazy obsessions. I'm especially thankful though, to God, for giving me a healthy body, and for being my source of strength.

Here's my ride:

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