It was another grand adventure for me at HHH this year. As usual, the folks at the Lamar Baptist Church gym did a great job, and I really enjoyed my stay there. But I’ve never seen so many cancellations at the gym before. Recumbent riders were especially hard to find. There were actually more recumbent riders from Oklahoma than Texas in the gym this year. We changed our route to ride to the start, with the new security measures requiring everyone to get to Scott Ave from Lamar St. We were there plenty early, and visited with lots of recumbent riders. Rbent was better represented at the start than in the gym.
With my riding mileage down so much this year, I had my doubts about how my HHH ride would go. I remember three years ago, when DJ and I were talking, he said that anything under 6 hours was probably a good ride at HHH, for old guys like us. I decided he was right. HHH classifies riders who can finish the ride under 6 hours as “Scorchers”. They start Scorchers ahead of all the other 100 mile riders (except for tandem and recumbent riders), and require verification of a century ride finished in less than 6 hours in the last 3 years, before they’ll classify a rider as a Scorcher. So, I’m thinking that as long as I can do HHH in under 6 hours in my old age, then I’m not too bad off. So that became my goal for this year. I knew I was in no kind of shape to threaten my best HHH time (5:01 two years ago), but I figured if I paced myself to try and finish in just a little under 6 hours, maybe I could do it.
I started 10 minutes earlier than what was scheduled. I had just turned on my Garmin, and while it was still looking for satellites, someone yelled, “Go!”, and off we went. I fell in with a paceline of tandems, but they were riding too fast for me. I kept thinking their adrenaline would die down and they would slow, but that didn’t happen. At mile 9, I fell off the back, and joined a more moderate paced group. I stayed with them until that first hill at mile 16, where I fell off that group. And so it went. I would ride alone for a while, then behind a tandem or group for a while.
I still had over a 21 mph average at mile 20. I knew that was too fast for me, and slowed down. But I still felt blown up by mile 43, and my legs were getting crampy. Not good. I kind of expect that at mile 80, but not mile 43. Nothing to do but ease up, and I did. As I passed Hell’s Gate at mile 60, my average had fallen to under 19 mph, but I realized that I had recovered well and felt pretty good. I was much more optimistic. Still feeling good past Hell’s Gate has to be good.
At mile 70, I started having thoughts about riding the entire 100 miles without stopping. I’d never managed to do that before. Just about that time, Mark L passed me. I had to smile for a moment. Any time you get to mile 70 without Mark passing you, you must not be doing too badly. Of course, it turned out that he had started later than me. He passed me several more times, as he was stopping at rest stops and I wasn’t. At mile 73, my endurance drink mix ran out. I was almost out of water in my Camelbak, but still had a 24 oz bottle of water. I also had two GU gels, one designated for mile 80 and one for mile 90. So, I figured I would be ok for water and nutrition to finish the ride. The big question became whether or not my bladder could last until the finish.
The weatherman missed on today’s Wichita Falls forecast. It was supposed to be cloudy and cooler, but it was hot and muggy at the start, sunny during the ride, and my truck temp gage showed 102 degrees after the ride. I was really feeling the heat, and the sun beating down on me, before the ride was over.
I was fading by the end, but still holding up better than I would have expected. As I made the turn at mile 98, two different volunteers who were directing traffic shouted, “8 more miles! Just 8 more miles!” I completely failed to see the humor in that. By the time I got to the overpass at the end, I was barely moving, but I finished pretty well on the flat roads from there on, and did finish the ride without stopping for the first time. I don’t have the official time from the timing chip yet, but my Garmin says 5:36. So, I can still call myself a Scorcher. I ended up with 101.8 miles, and an 18.2 mph average. I was pretty wiped out at the end, but pleased with my ride. I drank two bottles of water, got on my bike and rode the 2 miles back to the gym, and then, and only then, did I finally make a bathroom stop.
The HHH 100 mile course.
8/26/13 EDIT: HHH gives timing chips to everyone, and the results are now up at Cadence Sports. Mine shows 5:19. I have no idea how it ended up so much less than what my Garmin showed, but I think I’m just going to brag about my 5 hour and 19 minute century, and go on about my business. I don’t know what this year’s HHH rider count was (probably around 13,000), but it looks like only 3,763 of them signed up for the 100 mile distance, finished it, and actually wore their timing chips.