Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred

I had a blast at the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred again this year. Sleeping in the rec center the night before the ride makes it all seem like a camping trip, and there were even more rbenters in the rec center this year than last, and it was great getting to spend some time with everyone. A couple of meals out with rbenters, and spending time looking and shopping at the MPEC show was lots of fun, too. I’m still amazed at the effort that Wichita Falls and the area puts into this ride. It’s just an event that any rider should try to do at least a few times.

Because HHH is a relatively flat route with good traffic control, it’s always a great place for riders to try for their best century time. I was especially curious to see what I could do after all my health issues since last year’s ride. I knew I couldn’t physically do now what I could then, but I wondered how much riding smarter could help me with my time.

I like to go for the best overall time, and compare there, but since we had discussed a recumbent paceline here, I decided that if I rode with rbenters and spent too much time at the rest stops for an overall time comparison, I would settle for an on the bike time comparison. Last year, I had finished HHH in 5:34, with an on the bike time of 5:16, both personal bests for me for a century ride.

I had a 3 point plan for getting as good a time as I could this year:
1. I would not go out too fast this year like I did last year. Last year, I hit the wall at around mile 60, and was pretty much just turning the pedals to finish after that. I wanted to watch my heart rate early, and save some matches for late in the ride.
2. I would suck more wheels. Last year, I spent way too much time out in the wind, hammering on my own. There are 10,000 bikes to draft here; I figured I should be able to find a few to ride behind.
3. I put a coroplast wheel cover on my rear wheel this year. Last year, I didn’t add one until after HHH, just before TTTT. On a flat route like HHH, good aerodynamics does help.

As soon as the jets roared overhead, the cannon fired, and we were off at the start, I found a tandem doing a steady 21-22 mph and got on its wheel. I decided this was a reasonable speed for me, that I wasn’t willing to ride much faster, and that I would resist chasing any of the many rabbits sure to race by. I waited behind the tandem to see how the rbent paceline would shake out. I didn’t have to wait long. Paul came blasting past me, and Steve and Peggy took off in pursuit, at a pace way too fast for me, so I let them go, and figured I was on my own.

It turned out that the tandem I was behind was very slow on hills, and when we hit the small rollers at mile 15, I found another wheel to ride behind. And so it went. I felt good, tried to pace myself well, and changed pacelines from time to time. Several riders I knew said hi as they zoomed past me. I resisted the temptation to join any of them. I knew my water and mix would take me to mile 50, so when I didn’t need to stop for any other reason, I made that my first, and as it turned out, only stop. It was a long stop. I spent 12 minutes eating, drinking, visiting mother nature, and refilling my Camelbak and mix bottle. I realized shortly after taking off again that I hadn’t taken electrolyte capsules, so I downed a couple of those as I rode.

I reached Hell’s Gate just a few minutes after 10:00 am, and still had a 20.5 mph average there. That’s much slower than the average I had at that point last year, but I felt MUCH better. I knew there were rough roads, and a wind to face ahead, though, along with fewer pacelines at my speed to join, so I knew that speed would come down. It fell to 20.2 fairly quickly, but held there until I turned into the wind at mile 78. I had passed the paceline I was riding with on the big downhill just before that turn, but I spun an easy pace and waited for them after the turn. What had been a pretty big paceline got whittled down rapidly on the next stretch; riders were hitting the wall, it seemed.

On the hills that start at mile 88, the last of the paceline broke up, and I was pretty much on my own after that. At mile 90, my average speed finally fell to 20.0 mph, and I realized that if I could pick my speed up just a little, I might be able to finish with 5 hours of on the bike time, and a 20 mph average. Both were things I considered way out of reach before the ride. I also knew by that point that I wasn’t stopping again. I downed a GU gel pack, and set about seeing how fast I could finish. I figured that even if I blew up at some point after that, I was still going to beat last year’s overall time.

Although I was feeling pretty tired, things were looking good, and I was still on my 20 mph pace until mile 98, when my legs started giving me one of those “we’re done, and can’t do this any more” cramps. I knew I had to start spinning easy, or have my legs lock up with cramps. I eased off, keeping a good fast, but easy cadence. I was going so slow up the overpass at mile 100, I think the crickets were passing me, as they hopped along.

As I passed the finish, the loudspeaker announced the ride time, 5:18. That made my on the bike time 5:06, and my average speed 19.9 mph. My total miles were 101.8 It was a bit disappointing to come that close to a 5 hour riding time century and 20 mph on the bike average and not get them, but that overall time is 16 minutes faster than last year, which I never thought would happen. It says a lot about pacing yourself well, which I seem to be better at these days.

It sounds like most other rbenters were pleased about their rides today, too, although I expect Joe would rather have had those tire woes another day. Congrats to all who rode well and those who had personal bests. I’ll let them tell you about their rides.

One last note: watch out for Steve if he sneaks up on you after a ride…

Steve at Hell’s Gate
Hell's Gate

FWBA Muddy Doggy Stinky ride

I enjoyed the 70 mile version of this ride last month, but the 100 mile route is more challenging than I care to tackle again. I thought I had ridden all the roads inside the triangle of Venus, Maypearl, and Waxahachie, but plainly, I hadn’t. And this ride seemed to pick the roughest and toughest roads in that area, coming back from Waxahachie.

The other problem area was also unexpected. Going west, we crossed FM157 south of Venus on FM2258, which is further south than any of the rides I’ve done in this area, then went to turn north on CR206, to head to Alvarado. But CR206 was gravel for as far as the eye could see. Not just plain gravel, either, it was deep and perfectly smooth gravel, like it was going to be new chipseal as soon as they poured the tar on. It was so smooth, it looked almost like pavement, and obviously fooled Ray, as he turned too fast onto it and went down hard when his rear wheel slid out from under him. Greg and I were behind him, and it was a very scary looking fall to us.

But, Ray got up and rode strong the rest of the ride. I hope no serious injuries show up from it tomorrow. I think it’s another reminder that one of the nicest things about a lwb is that when you fall, you don’t fall far. Not knowing how far this gravel might go, we ended up taking a detour which added 1 or 2 miles to our ride, but kept us on good, low traffic roads.

In spite of how fast we took off (I still had over a 19 mph average at the first stop in Venus, 25 miles into the ride), the problem roads ended up slowing us down a lot, and I only finished with a 16.5 mph average. Total mileage was 100.9. Just as I suspected it would, the 100 mile route had a LOT more climbing than the 70 mile route. My Garmin had shown less than 1100 feet of climbing on the 70 mile route, but 3264 feet of climbing on the 100 mile route. That’s still not a lot of climbing for a 100 mile route, but it does have some tough, steep, albeit short hills.

It was great meeting Thomas and Cookie. Doing a shorter route than us, they were long gone by the time we got in, so I’d like to see a ride report here from them. There was also a tandem recumbent there (I can’t remember y’alls names, so if you read these reports, refresh my memory), so there was a total of 7 recumbents on this ride. That has to be some kind of record for an FWBA ride; I’m often the only one.

Riding with Steve, Greg, and Ray is about as fun as it gets, and the weather was really great, but we need to pick a little better route next time.

LSR Italy 200K brevet

Like these brevets often do, this one seemed like an epic adventure. Around 30 of us left Italy, Tx at 6:30 am, with most riders doing the 300k brevet. As always, I opted for the 200k. The first disappointment came quickly: FM667, just south of Italy had new chipseal, and it went all the way to our turnoff onto SH31 at mile 25. The 300k group was hammering quickly, at a pace too fast for me, and I fell off the back of the group before that turn. Even with a slow start, riding mostly on rough chipseal, going against the wind, and falling off the group, I still had an 18 mph average at mile 25.

When the lead group stopped at the first control in Dawson at mile 28, they were in and out of the store faster than any brevet group I’ve ever seen. George Elizondo was standing in line behind me, waiting to get his brevet card signed at the counter, when they took off. His mouth dropped open; he had intended on leaving with them.

Steve, Peggy, and I left a few minutes later, and kept a more reasonable pace against the wind after that. When Peggy stopped a few miles later to investigate a Camelbak leak, Sharon Stevens joined us, and rode with us the rest of the way to Mexia (which was her control stop; she was doing the 300k). We continued on to Groesbeck for our control stop at mile 64.

We stopped a bit longer at this control, but still tried to get going fairly quickly to get as far down the road as we could before the heat got too bad. With all the new chipseal at the beginning of this ride, it now has an awfully lot of chipseal, and that combined with the heat had my feet really screaming before we reached the next control, which is the famous Dixie’s Little Stop at Mount Calm, mile 93. Steve and Peggy were both also complaining of their feet, so we all shed shoes at this stop.

I don’t know what the official high temperature was today, but by the time we made that 93 mile control, the heat was really oppressive. I usually tolerate heat very well, but I had to admit to feeling as wiped out at this control as I have in a while. I wondered how I’d hold up the rest of the way, and since we were still 38 miles from the finish, we all agreed to make an unscheduled stop or two on the last stretch. As we left Dixie’s, we spotted Richard Wittenburg just about to pull into the control. Peggy said she thought he was doing the 300k, and even though I know he’s a strong rider, we were all amazed that he had gotten this far already.

Steve and Peggy are some kind of strong riders. They still had the energy to sprint for city limit signs and such on this stretch. I was content to just try to pedal myself in, riding behind them. Even though we were now headed mostly north, the wind was so southwest, it still felt like a head wind at times. But, our average speed was showing gains now, so it had to be a tail wind a good bit of the time, too. The bad part of a tail wind on a 100+ degree afternoon is that with no breeze on you, a slower speed up a hill gets you with almost unbearable heat.

We made an unscheduled stop in Malone at mile 109 to cool off and give our feet another break. I downed an RC Cola to see if the caffeine and sugar would help. I still felt pretty wiped out, but was turning the pedals ok. We stopped on a shady sidewalk in Milford, 6 miles from the finish, getting another soft drink from a machine, and resting our feet one more time. As we were packing up to take off again, Richard rode by. We were blown away, thinking that a 300k rider was going to finish before us. I should have known what was going to happen next…

After dropping a bottle, and having to go back for it, Steve went zipping past Peggy and I, and I had a feeling that I knew what was on his mind. Somehow I found the energy to speed up too, and did 20 to 21 mph most of the rest of the way in. I didn’t come close to catching Steve, but I caught and passed Richard, as did Peggy behind me. It turned out he was just doing the 200k, too. He had gotten started a bit late, and had stomach issues early. It’s a good reminder that, in this kind of heat, even strong riders can easily have a tough day. Richard said his watch was showing a temperature of 109 while riding.

I finished the ride in 10:24, with a 15.9 mph average, and a total of 131.8 miles. My gps showed 3100 feet of climbing on the route. As always, it was great riding with Steve and Peggy. I suspect I slowed them down a bit today, but it was the kind of day that being slowed down a bit probably helped them. I told Rose I was going to be pretty worthless tomorrow. She asked me what else was new…