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100 miles… well, not quite

HHH 2005 StartThis past weekend in Wichita Falls, TX, over 9600 riders gathered at 7 a.m. on Scott Street for the 24th annual Hotter’N Hell Hundred bike race. The event, the largest sanctioned century bicycle ride in the nation, started as a way for Wichita Falls to celebrate 100 years.

As being from Wichita Falls, I’ve been interested in riding in the event for as long as I can remember but for various reasons, I never jumped into the saddle. This year was a bit different. Christy, who just finished the Texas 4000 ride, convinced me to do it.

I told myself I would train during the summer and everything would be just fine. After all, 100 miles doesn’t sound like a nice Saturday stroll on a bike during a Texan August.

The week prior to the ride came and I hadn’t trained at all. Thinking back, I don’t know if I had ever rode my bike for more than 10 miles at any one time.

Nevertheless, we fill out the online registration and packed up for the Falls. We stay at my place there, arriving to a dinner prepared by my mom. We had left Austin too late to make the dinner at the MPEC for the ride. We take our bikes inside and tweak them a bit. In my case, I fully inflated the tires and installed a couple of water bottle cages.

Saturday at 1 a.m. we go to sleep.
Saturday at 5 a.m. we wake up.

We arrive at MPEC a little after 5:30 and stand in line to pick up our registration packets. We figure out how to affix the bib numbers to ourselves, our bikes and our helmets and make our way to Scott Street. On the way to Austin, Christy realized that I was serious when I said about 10,000 people participate in this event. If there were any doubt, they didn’t exist by this point. As far as you could see up or down the street was simply packed with bikes.

At 7:00 a.m., they tell us the ride’s start will be slightly delayed since they hadn’t placed enough toilets at the starting line. They had put out a lot more at the rest stops but they seemed to overlook how many people would all want to use the bathroom all at the same time.

A few minutes later, not long but without a watch I don’t know how long it was, there was an Air Force flyover and a large cannon blast marking the start of the ride. The first quarter or half mile was spent walking our bikes. With 9600 people all going at once, it takes a bit to gain enough speed to be stable.
HHH 2005

The first 15 miles were uneventful- passed the first rest stop at mile 10 without stopping. I mentioned to Christy that I was in my highest gear virtually the entire time. In addition to not training, I was using the only bike I own. A Giant mountain bike. Between about miles 15 and 21, it rained. Good news- it would be a cool day. Bad news- a bit humid. We stop at rest stop 2- it’s the infamous Wells Fargo “Fruit Salad” stop. They had every kind of fruit I could think of but something about kiwi didn’t sound appealing at that moment. Bananas and oranges were my friends that day- along with plenty of the free Powerade.

We leave rest stop 2 refreshed and ready to go. The 100-mile riders broke from the 100K route with a turn that Christy and I missed. We realized it quickly and backtracked. Then, my personal hell started. The rest of the route until rest stop 3 (at mile 33) was on a slight uphill incline with a strong headwind. I realized that I didn’t mind hills, I didn’t mind the mountain bike but those headwinds I hated.
We make it to RS 3 and realize that we’re running close on time.

At mile 60.3, they have “Hell’s Gate”. A cutoff point that if you don’t make it within 5 hours of biking, they reroute you home. In short, that means your 100-mile ride becomes just over a 74-mile ride.

We pass through “Punkin Center” and rode past rest stop 4. We didn’t realize that it would be a long way until rest stop 5. I think Christy was fine with that but we didn’t get the tailwind I hoped for (we were traveling back in the direction we had just come, only a few miles north) and there were a fair number of hills.

We arrive at RS 5 around 12:15 or so. We heard rumors that the gate’s closure would extended due to the late start and the initial “bike walk”. I quickly get some fruit and head off. Christy stays behind a few more minutes- after all, I’m the slow, non-trained person on a mountain bike who had just done 50 miles.
HHH 2005

We ride through Burk, slow down through another not-well-marked turn. We reach RS 6, at mile 60 just prior to the gate. We arrive and quickly ask if the gate is closed. It is. We missed it by no more than a half-hour. Dejected, we ride towards rest stop 7. I’m not a happy camper and am tired after the push to try to make the gate. I take a couple of minutes on the side of the road to be upset. I wanted to do the full 100.

We stop at RS 7. Every time we stop, they say the route is a few miles longer than the rest stop before. We find out we only have two miles left in this wind that seems to follow us constantly. I ride off early since Christy at this point can’t physically ride as slow as I’m going. Uphill with the wind, untrained on a mountain bike. Half of that is my fault, but nevertheless.

We turn off of the IH-44 access road into a neighborhood in north Wichita Falls. At this point, we had remet up with the 100K and 50-mile riders and continued with them to the finish line. I don’t know if it was because I was trying to do the 100-mile and so I was used to try to keep up with how fast they ride or what but I starting flying past people.
HHH 2005

Then the fun started. The route directed us onto Sheppard AFB. I was born here, it’s where my dad worked all of my life before his death. As a little kid, I remember going out there to check out the airplanes, hang out at dad’s shop and whatnot. It was a nice homecoming so to speak. The signage for the route was excellent and they even had us ride by the hangers with cargo planes and trainer jets surrounding us. Oh yes, it was downhill also. I made a long stop at the final rest stop for a banana and kept going. Christy caught up to me as we were leaving the base. We made the final ride down Burkburnett Rd, turning onto Eastside Dr., Lincoln and back on Scott. The route finished with a couple of turns right to the Lamar St. Finish line. Sadly, I felt like I could keep going. So no, I didn’t do the full 100 miles. I was a little too slow to make it by their cut-off point, which Christy is still complaining about how early it was, but I still did 75. Not bad for an untrained, mountain biker, but not good enough. We hung out at the finish line and MPEC for a short while and then headed back to my place. I’ll get the full 100 eventually.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

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