I don’t know if you would call this a race report, since it’s not a race, but here are my thoughts and recap from the Hotter Than Hell 2013. This event really snuck up on me. I realize that it is planned months and months in advance, so feel free to quit judging me for making excuses about my level of preparation for this race. I wanted to ride it last year… just not as bad as I wanted to celebrate my 5 year anniversary with The Wife, the date on which the HH100 actually fell. So this year, it was on the day before and The Wife so kindly reminded/asked if I was going to participate.
I was in no way ready to put up a respectable time on the 100 mile route, so I opted for the 100km version. Everything was up in the air until the last week when our arrangements were made (sister-in-law living in Wichita Falls ftw). A few other logistical items put in line, and the “race” was on! We drove up to Wichita Falls Friday afternoon and I was in line at the MPEC registering for the race in person (late registration stupid tax and all).
THE EXPO: I’m no expo expert by any means, but I would call the HHH expo average at least. There wasn’t anything particularly amazing about it. All of the usual suspects where there including the local (and not-as-local) bike shops were there along with a few smaller manufacturers pedaling their wares. Nothing major like bike manufacturers, but definitely some big names such as Pearl Izumi, WD-40, RBM, etc. My own, local, bike shop had a small booth but they were closed by the time I got there around 7:30pm. I got registered and picked up my packet with the included swag and called that good enough. Nice bottle, t-shirt, coupons… The thing I most tempted by was what I would estimate to be 32oz draft beers. The will-power was strong with me that night. “Save it for after the ride tomorrow,” I thought.
GETTING THERE: The starting cannon goes off at 7:05am. That’s good news for a ride called the Hotter Than Hell, but bad news when your ability to get dropped off at the starting line depends on a 9 month old getting up at a planned time. Parent critique if you like, but we don’t wake a sleeping baby. Luckily, I chose a route from the Sister-in-law’s house that had a HUGE shoulder. 7 miles – a good warm-up in my book. As an aside, it always cracks me up when I ask how far away something is and get a story about how FAR it is and how it is on the ENTIRE OTHER SIDE of town. You know, like 6-7 ENTIRE MILES. Again, critique me if you like, but riding 7 miles before I ride 62 miles is of little concern. It turned out to be perfect! I showed up with tons of time to spare before my corral was allowed to hit the road. Strava data below. Perfect!
THE START: I hit the starting line just after the canon went off, which was fine because I still ended up waiting about 15 minutes. This gave me enough time to text The Wife to let her know I got there safely (the sun wasn’t fully up when I left the house), and my Dad to keep him updated throughout the ride. Quick picture snapped, a few mosquitos swatted, and I was ready to go. The 100k riders were lined up behind 3 groups of 100 mile riders (3 different speeds). From my observations the majority of the riders are doing the full 100 miles, which is why it took awhile to get started. It’s also why I spent the entire ride passing folks (more on that later. Behind me where the 50 mile, 25 mile, and 10k riders. All in all, the 13,000 or so riders of the 2013 Hotter’n Hell were line up across 7 city blocks.
As expected, once it was my turn to get moving, it was slow going for the first mile or so. This is always the most wreck-prone part of the ride. I made it through unscathed, as did all of those I saw around me. Once we really got moving and I was able to get up to my cruising speed, I was passing everyone. This is the disadvantage of starting behind the slowest 100 mile riders. My 100k pace is much much faster than those “hoping” to finish 100 miles. I have to say, however, that you do feel like a real bad ass when you’re doing nothing but shouting “on your left!” and passing folks one after the next after the next. This went on for the first 10 miles.
THE RIDE: At about 10 miles in I came across the first bit of carnage on the road. All riders came to a quick halt with much shouting of “SLOWING!” and “STOPPING!”. There were sirens blaring and clearly an ambulance was on the way. It was coming up from behind and there was a lot of confusion about what everyone needed to do. With normal driving conditioning setting in, everyone first moved to the right. Then someone was shouting “come on guys!” and “ambulance!!”. The ambulance was coming up on the right side. Once it got close enough that we could see it, everyone quickly got to the left of the road and moved on. There was already a medical crew on site and the rider was on a stretcher. I tried to see as little as possible. Things like this are a constant reminder of how diligent one must be at all times. Never get comfortable.
If I had to guess as to why the crash occurred I would definitely put my money on a bottle on the road. Side story: my mother-in-law is a nurse. She once told me that she volunteered at the Hotter Than Hell in the medical tent and that she would NEVER do it again because of how bad it was. IV’s as far as the eye could see, treating patience for exhaustion and dehydration. Let me tell you – with as many bottles as I had to personally call out for riders behind me, I can see why people were getting dehydrated! I have never seen so many dropped bottles in a ride in my entire life. It was crazy! I have seen many others comment on this fact through twitter and other means. Just crazy. I had one close call… I bet you can see the HR spike in my ride data.
It was shortly after that situation that I finally hooked up with a rider that was going my pace. I led him out for about 3-4 miles, and then he took over for the next stint. He ended up being a bit too fast for me, but this was probably the best 10 miles of my entire ride. We were in a groove and working together. It was awesome. I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have at the time, because I figured I would be able to hook up with more riders down the road that I could work with. That turned out to be wrong wrong wrong.
Once the 100 mile riders continued down the road and I turned off along with the rest of the 100km riders on a different path things changed considerably. I was already passing pretty much everyone, but at least I had the opportunity to work with some people as mentioned above. Once I split off with the 100km group, I was ALONE. I don’t mean alone in the sense that there wasn’t anyone else around. I mean I was ALONE at my pace. This is not a brag. I am not that fast. The simple fact, however, is that I was the fastest person around for the next 45 miles. For over 2 hours I did nothing but pass folks with one exception (I’ll explain later). While you do feel like a real bad ass when you’re just passing everyone, it also sucks because you have no one to share the work load with. And let me tell you, I put in some WORK!
One of the coolest parts of the ride was definitely going through Shepard Air Force Base. This is a unique opportunity and the Airmen were very welcoming. I was sure to thank all that I passed (along with the other volunteers and police as well). They had planes out and many were stopped to have their picture taken. It was really cool. At one point, while on the base, they had over 100 Airmen lining both sides of the road cheering very loudly as we rode through. Let me tell you, the Air Force knows how to cheer! It was awesome! It actually made the finish line kind of lame. This cheer made the hair on the back of my neck stand up – I felt like a rock star. There was a woman riding in front of me who did a little swerve that I had to dodge. The Airmen went from YEEEAAAAAHHHHH to OOOOOOHHHHHH. It was pretty funny, and loud! Very cool…
Less than 5 miles later I was coming in to the finish. The Wife and Baby B were there to cheer me in. It was a great ride overall, which was made even better by the support of my family. I went and picked up one of those giant beers I wanted badly the evening before and immediately began to carb back up. Cycling is hard work, after all!
I really enjoyed the Hotter Than Hell. This is definitely something I plan to do next year, although obviously it’s all about the 100 mile route. Not finding a pace line for 45 miles was a bummer. Next year I’ll hopefully join a local shop. Hope you enjoyed!