Hotter ‘N’ Hell 2012
While not literally hotter than hell this year, it was windier than hell out there! We were blessed with moderate temps in the low to mid 90’s and a bit of God’s own air conditioning in the form of a nice cooling breeze that was reported to be gusting to over 35 mph.
This was my first trip back to Wichita Falls, TX and the Hotter ‘N’ Hell since 1991. Obviously a lot of stuff has changed since then, the course, where I stayed, (Yay, no camping out in a tent with the fire ants), the weather, and my bike.
This year I decided comfort was going to be a deciding factor and I wanted a good night’s sleep the night before, this meant air conditioning, a real bed, and a real bathroom. This required finding a motel which was kind of hard to do when you have over 14,000 cyclists coming in for the ride. The nearest motel Vicky could find for me was in Lawton Oklahoma, 50 miles away. I will say though, it fit my definition of comfortable.
Ride day for me started at 0’dark 30, (0300) in order to get my morning routines out of the way, the van repacked the drive back to Wichita Falls and be there in time to get ready before the start of the ride. Rain was threatening the area when I looked at radar but due to all the cyclists devoutly praying it would go somewhere else our prayers were answered.
I got into the starting area with plenty of time to get things packed, repacked, repacked yet again, (do I really need to carry a spare tire? What about that extra bottle of pickle juice? How about more energy bars? Do I really need to carry three spare tubes?) Yes, I over packed as normal, (good thing I wasn’t towing a trailer, I’d have stuffed it full of crap also!)
However somewhere in my repacking my phone got lost and I didn’t discover it was gone till I was in the starting group and ready to go. I initially thought I’d left it in the van so I wasn’t super worried, I should have known better as it had fallen in the parking lot. It was picked up by a nice guy from Saginaw who returned it Monday. He earned himself lots of thanks and a couple $20 bills.
From previous experience on the Hotter N Hell I knew that the start was going to be were the most problems were going to occur. When you try and pack 14,000+ riders down a road, things can get a little "entertaining". Fortunately the start was well organized and the start was staggered by groups so we avoided the overwhelming crush or riders all trying to get going.
Lurking in my mind was also the other bane of the Hotter N Hell, the sheer amount of water bottles, seat bags, bottle cages, pumps and other bike bits that were going to end up littering the course. This year was no exception. By the time I got 30 miles in, the water bottles on the road were becoming a real hazard and causing numerous crashes. When that many people are packed up that tight on the roads at that kind of speed, crashes happen. I did manage to snag a nice Camelbak insulated bottle that was in a pull off next to the road, I saw plenty of others I wanted to grab but they were out of reach and I was out of room to carry stuff anyway. I swear one of these years, I am going to pull a trailer just to pick up all the bike bits that fall off/get dropped out there.
This is the route for the 2012 Hotter N Hell. The north running bits were fun, the south running bits, not so much so.
The ride start surprised me as it was earlier than announced, which is why I missed getting video of the start. Since we had started at the front with the tandems and the pace setters there were plenty of fast riders to set in with. At one point I’d found myself a nice pace line and settled in at 21 mph or so. I glanced in my mirror and see a recumbent coming up FAST. Turns out, it was Roy on his carbon wonder bike. I heard later the reason he was hammering that hard and flying that fast was to get to a bathroom.
I continued rolling past SAG #1 in hopes of getting to SAG #3 before stopping to avoid getting caught up in the crowd of 14,000+ cyclists. Unfortunately my own call of nature was beginning to scream so I pulled into SAG #2 and took care of business. I grabbed some more water a bite of food and tried to get back onto the road, but it was wall to wall pacelines flying by. After catching a break it was back onto the road. This stretch proved fairly dangerous due to some inconsiderate people who either passed me a little to close or cut in way to early, I had to remind a couple folks that the front end of a recumbent is usually where the feet and chain rings are and that they would not be very happy running into either.
By the 40 mile point I had used up the water in my Camelbak bladder and was down to my water bottles as had been my initial plan. This meant that skipping upcoming SAGS wasn’t going to be an option as I would need to refill my bottles about every ten miles. The SAGS were all well stocked with your typical ride food, lots of ice, water, Gatorade, (red & blue flavors) oranges, bananas, Clif products, (a sponsor), and in the later SAGS, pickles and pickle juice. Lots of the SAGS also had homemade cookies which I made sure to sample. The volunteers manning the SAGS were all extremely helpful and polite. The best sag though had to be Margaritaville as it had the most homemade cookies, the watermelon, and was ran by the high school cheerleaders. I found the blue Gatorade, Clif shot gels, Clif mini bars, watermelon, pickles and homemade cookies worked for keeping me hydrated and fueled during the ride. I also found out the commercial pickle juice, Pickle Juice Sport tastes flat nasty but seems to work.
At one point during the ride, I overheard a couple of riders approaching from behind. They were in full team kit and flew by me at a high rate of speed. I decided, what the heck, let's burn another match or three just to have some fun. I grabbed the big ring and cranked. They were more than a little surprised to have some old guy on a recumbent come smoking by them. I think you can see on my speed graph just where that occurred.
We had a nice conversation after I slowed down and let them catch back up.
The course was new this year to the ride and incorporated a few new features. There were a couple nice little hills in the course and two cattle grates which caused a spike in my heart rate as we went over them, all it would have taken was one person to fall and it would have been mass chaos. The 100 mile group also got to tour through Sheppard Air Force Base. Going through the base was an amazing experience. They had a nice aircraft display lined up for us to check out with friendly airmen and lieutenants to talk to. I did try and work a deal for a pair of JATO rockets to sling under my bike as the wind was starting to get to me. Unfortunately the three lieutenants didn't think so much of my idea. Riding south out of the base we rode through the gauntlet of airmen all out to cheer us on, seeing all these men and women who volunteered to serve their country was inspirational.
My moving time for the 100 miles was 5:59:43, I broke the 6 hour mark!
Overall, it was a great ride! I had fun, I didn't crash, and the bike ran great! Next year, Vicky gets to ride her first Hotter N Hell!