Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hotter 'n Hell Hundred Report

Welcome to Texas
A drought-ridden area. An announced optional start one hour early to beat the heat. 84 degrees at 4:30 AM. Sweat running down my back while standing next to my bike in the dark at 6:00 AM. This could be... not good.

It wasn't.

The Lead-in
I guess it really starts with the extra time it took my LBS to pack my bike. That extra day and a half backed up the shipping arrival. While I arrived in Holliday - outside of Wichita Falls - on Friday, the bike didn't arrive until Tuesday. That left me with three days of race/walking to try and get used to the heat and nearly every day was a record-setting heat-blaster of a day. That also left me with the strangest taper I've ever tried to do.

I took some pictures of Holliday that I'd like to share.

Here's the heart of the bustling downtown area.
Downtown - Where all the lights are bright.

Do a 90 degree turn to the left and you're looking down Main Street.

Here's the local jail, circa 1925. They've built a new one since then.
Who needs waterboarding when you have this.

After spending most of Tuesday putting the bike back together (UPS, I have said ugly, unprintable things about you and your handling of bicycles) I finally got out on the bike Wednesday and decided to go out after lunch. Maybe I should have gone out a little later after lunch... okay, I SHOULD HAVE WAITED LONGER - happy now? If you ever get antsy when you haven't been on your bike in awhile, you get an idea of how I was feeling. I ignored the big glob of gunk in my gut and started pedaling away to see how I did on the chip seal roads. The goal was to do somewhere around 20 miles at an easy pace.

My cousin would later note that about the time I was outside, it was 110 degrees. That would explain the cramping and the decision to turn and head back before I was 5 miles out. Riding on a full stomach on a road that makes you feel like you're the ice in a bartender's cocktail shaker explains other near-catastrophic events (no need to further paint that picture). I managed 9 miles in 45 minutes and was gasping and nearly suffering from heat exhaustion. So much for Acclimatization Ride number one.

At least I had the local scenery to keep me company.
Simulating Race Day Conditions

On top of all of this, my tendency to not tighten things like guys tighten things came back to haunt me. By the time I got back, my seat had lowered and my handlebars were drooping. My husband was on the phone scolding me and telling me to find a guy to tighten the bolts. I ignored his chastising.

Thursday, everything seemed to be working out better except that around mile 6, I realized that the same cleat issue I had before I left Massachusetts was occurring again. I turned around and headed home. That day, I felt better about the ride itself but still had mechanical issues to deal with. A trip into town for some silicone sealant, tightening everything up (again - yes, I still didn't tighten it up right) and a quick test ride around the block and that was as good as it was going to get.

The day before the ride, I added salt to a 32-ounce bottle of Powerade and spent the day drinking that and eating salty crackers, etc.

The Ride
The race day itself played out almost as I expected. When they gave us the go-ahead, I stayed to the right - out of harm's way to avoid the "dodgers" that were going to jut in and out of the slower riders in an attempt to break from the pack.

When the crowds started to thin out after 20 miles or so, it was easier to pick up a little speed. Not having had a chance to check out the hills on the course, I decided to do easy spinning on the smaller slopes to conserve energy.

At the mile 50 rest stop, I made what would turn out to be a crucial mistake. I had only 13 miles to go before reaching the Hell's Gate cut-off and it was only a little after 10;00 AM so I figured I was making great time. I also noticed that more and more people were starting to get treated for heat-related issues so I decided to stick around and bring my heart rate down a tad. I had two cups of Gatorade and spent some time under a tent and eating ice and a package of Honey Stinger Chews (I should mention that unlike the Powerbar Energy Blasts, they didn't melt in the heat.) Feeling refreshed but aware of a noticeable increase in the temperature, I took my time getting to the next rest stop. The people of Burkburnett were out with hoses for the riders and we snaked along the route to get a shot of each one. I also took the time to ride up and high-five the lines of kids that were cheering us on.

I arrived at the mile 60 rest stop only to be informed by one of the awesome volunteers that due to there being an increase in cases of heat-related stress and a temperature at 103 degrees, Hell's Gate had just closed. Yes, they closed the gate at 11:00 - one hour earlier than I had anticipated - and there I was, about 3 miles away.

Emotionally, I guess it was downhill from there. Between the heat, the missed Gate, and the fact that I couldn't get a clear idea if I had 30 miles to go or 13 miles, I pretty much gave up. I took my time getting going again - even taking time out to call my sister and tell her I'd missed the Gate and would be in early. When it neared about Noon, I saw a SAG wagon on the side of the road and, remembering my fun lunch time ride from 3 days earlier, decided that I should take myself out of the game before someone had to peel me off of the pavement. Once I felt the A/C in the cab of the truck, I knew I wasn't getting out until I was back at Finish Line Village.

One thing that ticked me off when we got there was that some riders actually jumped back on course to ride through the finish line and get medals. Here in New England, we call that, "Pulling a Rosie Ruiz," for the woman that in 1980, won the Boston Marathon only to be found out later that she actually jumped into the race a half-mile from the finish. Nice going people.

On the bright side, I was delighted to finally get the opportunity to meet Roy and Christine from the Pedal Pushers cycling club of San Angelo. Purely by chance, we met at the convention center where we were supposed to meet the evening before. The heat and health of my sister (she's a wimp - okay, she's got some health stuff that affected her that day) forced us to miss a meeting the previous evening. Chris and Roy invited us back to their hotel room where they presented me with a Pedal Pushers cap. Roy even gave me his Finisher's medal as a souvenir. That was incredibly generous of him.

We had a great visit talking about cycling, equipment, blogs, and the record heat and how miserable it was to ride in that climate. Of course, before we had even had a chance to shower, we were discussing how we would be revising our training strategy for a more successful ride next year.

Gotta love endurance athletes.


  1. Great write up and great story. I bet you make it with flying colors next year.

    If it is any consolation, of all the riders that I was aware of trying for the 100, only one made it. Bill is our hero now.

    We did another 100K yesterday at the Ranch and Rig ride at Andrews, Texas. Temp was below 100 and wind 7 mph. Great conditions.

    Been a busy week so just now starting on my write up. Hope to read many more of your stories. An important by-the-way, we really enjoyed meeting you and talking with you.

    (Chris) Must add my two cents. You didn't tell about your being interviewed by the Wichita Falls "Times Record News." It was great fun reading your story in their paper. Did you get a copy to show everyone back home? We've had a cool front come through--looking forward to temps in the 90's all next week.

  2. Hey, thats a lot more than I could have done in those conditions. I barely managed 65 in the 80 degree heat at Cedar Point. I guess the one good thing about being down here in NC is that by next summers racing season, heat shouldn't bother me anymore. And Im guessing you'll be ready for next year and will kick major butt.