Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hotter Than Hell

And now a word about Hotter Than Hell.

Hother Than Hell is a hugely popular weekend of cycling in Wichita Falls, Texas that happens every year. There are lots of events- criterium racing, road racing, mountain biking, endurance rides, even a 5k run…It’s huge.

I decided to give the 100 mile endurance ride a try last weekend. (Of course, I didn’t just “decide” to do it on a whim. I had been preparing for the last 10 weeks or so...)

The number one thing I heard about the century was how many other people do it. “Prepare for crashes,” “Get there early,” “Be ready to stand with your bike waiting to start for a long time,” “Be ready to ride shoulder-to-shoulder for a long time…” Indeed there were at least 13,000 people out there on bikes on Saturday morning doing one of the various distances. (100 miles was the longest route.) But I must say I wasn't locked into a pack, shoulder-to-shoulder for very long like I expected (and worried about.)

Unlike other bike events I’ve done, every intersection was protected by police or blocked off for the entire length of the course, which is a real luxury. It seems like automobile traffic in the whole surrounding county or two just shuts down for this weekend.

Was it hotter than hell?

No. It was merely hot as hell. No hotter. In actuality, at 7am when the ride started, it was rather perfect riding conditions—mid 60s. Not particularly windy. As the ride progressed, however, and the sun started to climb in the sky, it got to the mid 90s. Not ideal, but certainly better than what’s possible in Texas in the mid-to-late summer.

How did it go?

I started off the ride like a man possessed, like I usually do, passing people like crazy, feeling awesome and not working really hard. As we made a turn to the north I got even faster with a good tailwind.

And right about the point I hit 50 or 60 miles, I faded quickly. This was the point where the crosswinds and headwinds appeared and someone turned on the heat. The last 30 or 40 miles were miserable due to the conditions, the sparse, unshaded landscape and the strange things my body started doing as a result. I got nauseous, couldn’t really take in enough calories and was sweating out salt like crazy. My clothes weren’t so much sweaty as they were white with salt. Not a fun time.

But...I finished—in what turned out to be just about an average pace for me on long rides this summer.

And after crossing the finish line and sitting down staring into nothing while my pal Mindy (who kicked my ass and finished well before me I have to admit) tried to snap me back into reality, I went to the medical tent to lie down, cool off and take in some Gatorade. Luckily I didn’t require any IV fluids, but the doctor said that I had shown an “impressive” amount of salt loss. Um...thanks? About 30 minutes later, after proving that I could pee on command, I was off on my merry way.

So, all in all it was a pretty tough day. It was much more about endurance- what I could make myself do- rather than about speed, which was a little disappointing.

Sometimes it goes like that.

The tough days make the good days seem sweeter, however.


At 7:14 PM, Blogger Steven Stark said...


At 9:52 AM, Blogger jenn said...

Yay for finishing! You are awesome!

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

Good job Mike! Makes you appreciate the pros that can do that distace in about 3.5-4 hours! Sounds like you had a good ride and glad to hear your sodium loss wasn't to the point of IV fluids. Not a fun place to be. I'll probably pick back up with the running a couple weeks, lets get together!


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