Friday, September 24, 2010

Not So Hotter 'N Hell

It's been almost a month since I did this ride and started writing my post. Pardon the delay. . .

Friday night, about four weeks ago, I headed up to Wichita Falls for Saturday's Hotter 'n Hell Hundred. It's about a hundred miles from home, almost all of it on one highway. There's nothing better to get the juices flowing than seeing half of the cars on the road with bikes on the back, on the roof, in the truck bed, etc.

First stop was the expo to register. I must say, this was about as efficient a process as there could be. Five minutes, in and out. Walked around the expo for about an hour drooling over all the bike stuff, then off to the hotel.

The hotel was just about 2 miles from the start. I'm pretty sure there wasn't a single non-HHH rider in the place. I brought my bike up to the room, got it ready for the morning and off to bed.

Up early Saturday, well before the alarm, time to get ready. This was a quick process, with all of my gear ready to go. I went down to the lobby, bike in tow, to find a sea of spandex getting ready to ride. The hotel was truly a haven for the riders -- free full breakfast, open at 5 am. Way to go, Holiday Inn at the Falls!

Off to the starting line. Walking outside, it's seems to be a fantastic start to the day with temps in the upper 60's. Actually a chill in the air.

Unlike other organized rides I've done that have a "show and go" start window, the HHH has a 7 am start, just about sunrise. First off are the professionals. Then, the sea of 13,000 cyclists are grouped first by how fast they expect to be for the full century, then in groups for the shorter rides.

It's one thing to be in a mass start for a running event. You just wait until the people in front of you start to walk, then run. On the bike is another. There's that whole clipping into the pedal thing. Doesn't work so well at low speed, especially when you've got four blocks to the start line and carbon fiber and more spandex every inch in between.

After 15 minutes or so, I was off and riding. Once the riders started to break up, I was cruising. There weren't as many pace lines as I had expected. Skipping the first rest stop at mile 10, I pulled into the second after just over an hour -- flying at 19.5 mph. Couldn't help but to think how great the day would be if the pace was anywhere close to that.

A quick stop and back on the bike. By mile 30, my pace had dropped, but just slightly. The course went through the quaint little town of Electra, TX. The population couldn't have been more than a hundred -- all of the out to assist at the rest stop, replete with American flags anywhere that they could put one.

To this point, the course headed west. Now, turning north to just south of the Oklahoma state line, then east. Seems that the great ride so far was turning -- into the wind. As soon as the course turned, it was clear that the pace would suffer. All I could think was how much the next 40 miles into the wind would suck. If only that were to be the worst of my problems.

I felt good, but the ride was now a challenge. There was not much in the way of climbing, but rollers into the wind was not fun, especially without a paceline in sight.

By mile 42, I started to feel some cramping in my thighs. By 45 it was excruciating. I stopped, got off my bike and stretched. By 47, more of the same. Just three miles to the next stop. The next three miles were actually five miles and I know I spent a half hour doing that distance, stopping a couple more times.

As soon as I hit the Margaritaville themed rest stop (sans margaritas), I headed straight for the medical tent. I queued up for the physical therapist who helped to stretch me out. She also offered some pickle juice. Apparently pickle juice helps with cramping. (It is exactly what it sounds like -- YUCK!) Feeling better, but still not 100%, I walked the stop, grabbed some lunch -- grilled sausage, mmmm! -- and considered my options.

Hell's Gate is the point at which, if you don't pass through by 12:30, you don't do 100 miles. The ride diverts to an 80+ mile ride. At 11:15, with plenty of time to get to Hell's Gate, I realized that my day was likely over soon. I could make Hell's Gate in time, but the day was getting hotter and there was no guarantee that I wouldn't be confronted with more cramping.

I got back on my bike and headed for Hell's Gate. It was a slow ride, but I made it with about 20 minutes to spare. At that point, I knew my day was done.

During my earlier long rides of 50+, I had experienced some cramping. I am diligent about my banana a day for potassium, but the cramping keeps coming.

At the Hell's Gate rest stop, at about 12:20, the call went out for the SAG ride back to the finish line. I hopped in the back of the trailer with about 20 other beat cyclists for the 20 mile ride.

At the end of the day, I rode about 63 miles, my longest ride of the year to date. Without the cramping, I know that I would have finished the ride. I don't feel bad about the result, in fact, I feel pretty good about it, given that I had ridden very little much before six weeks leading up to the event.

As for the cramping, I think I've narrowed the cause down to a lack of magnesium. The cure is to take Rolaids before and during long rides. I haven't ridden long since the HHH, but I'll give it a try next time out.

I do have some pictures. Just haven't downloaded them. I'll post separately.

All for now. . .