Growing up in Wichita Falls, the Hotter’n'Hell Hundred was just something that took place every year and turned our little corner of town into a circus. I was enrolled in dance classes at the parks and recreation building, and remember vividly the massive number of people that would be downtown – in and out of the building – and the chaos that seemed to erupt.
What I didn’t really recall is what it was. In my little mind, it was just something with a bad word in the name. It wasn’t until sometime late last year, when I was browsing for 2012 races that the HH100 website came up. I got an instant smile. Bike racing! Bike riding! All back in the place I was born and raised! A chance to ride through all of the areas I remember from my past, including Sheppard Air Force Base! I sent out a note to the family and let them know my plans. Soon enough, I had commitment from both the folks and my sister. Eventually the attendee list included my second cousin and her husband – and he was going to ride the 100 miler too!! Needless to say, I was pumped about this trip all season.
The Friday before the event I flew into Dallas, met up with Becca and Adam, then we drove up to Wichita Falls. We got into town, got checked into the hotel, then went to packet pick-up. Driving into the downtown area, things looked so different. It’s been 20 years since I had been there, and I was glad to see such great improvements to the town. We got into the MPEC area and saw the spandex rainbow. Inside, the expo was no joke. We got my packet for the ride, and then my packet for the 13.1 trail run that I would do the next day. AND – Becca and Mom signed up for the 10K trail run! I was super happy that they’d get to participate in the weekend’s activities with me.
After packet pick-up, we waded through the expo a bit, then headed out for some dinner at the only Italian restaurant we could find on Yelp. Shelly (cousin) and Scott (her husband) met us there, and we had a great time – the food and the reunion! After that, it was back to the hotel room to build my bike and get some sleep.
Knowing that there was somewhere around 12,000 riders registered, I made the plan to be there early. Roll out was 7am, so let’s be there no later than 6am. Up early, ate my breakfast (including my secret weapon – Starbucks Via), got the car packed and we (myself, Scott, Shelly, Becca and Adam) headed out right on time. We got to the parking area, found a spot, I hit the kybo, then Scott and I set out for the start line.
We came at it from the front and were instantly amazed at how many people were already lined up. We worked our way through the crowd and nestled into a cozy little spot. Eventually the sun came up. The national anthem was sung. The AF did their flyover. Then the cannon went off. Slowly but surely we made our way to the official start line and our day began. I told Scott to be nice when he eventually would pass me. He thought I was joking but I wasn’t. I knew he underestimated what the pack riding would allow him to do.
My plan for the day was to stay out of the pack as much as possible. I wanted to limit my time in the draft so I could put in a good day’s work, try out my nutrition/hydration/salt plan, play in the wind and maybe take a few risks. With the huge crowd, it took until mile 38 until I could ride on my own. But even still, I spent a lot of time in the drops as huge packs would catch up and pass me.
The course had us going in all directions, and the wind did the same. 20-30mph had my speeds all over the board. 8-28! Some of the roads were awesome, and some were HORRIBLE! Railroad tracks….cattle guards….just crappy roads in general. That’s rural Texas for you.
Aid stations were supposed to be every 10 miles-ish. I passed the first couple, as I had plenty of water on board and wanted to try to get out in front of the crowds. I stopped three times, and each one was really easy. They had plenty of help – lots of methods for filling bottles (pitchers and buckets filled with ice water and gatorade). I think they had snacks and stuff too, but I never sought out those things. Even with 100+ people at each stations, they still moved pretty quick, and I didn’t have to spend more than a few minutes.
As predicted, Scott eventually caught up to me along a nice stretch of highway. For someone who had only recently started riding long, he was doing great! I would see him off and on throughout the remainder of the ride. Turns out that he had a bit of drama in his last miles, including riding the last few on a flat tire! BAMF! I think he finished about 7 minutes behind me.
After the ride, it took us a bit to all meet up, but once we did, we headed back to the hotel, hopped in the pool w/ a few beers and just relaxed! We eventually hit up the Mexican restaurant for some post-ride refueling.
With bellies full, Mom, Jim, Becca, Adam and I set out for a little trip down memory lane. We drove around the Wichita Falls area and visited all of the places we had previously lived (yes, there were a lot….). It was fun to see how much the area had changed, and testing our memories on what road to turn on. Each little stop
brought up stories and memories – it was a great time but I was exhausted! We headed back to the hotel, I put on the Normatech boots, and within minutes I was zonked out!
As I mentioned, I was signed up to run the Wee-Chi-Ta 13.1 Mile Trail Run on Sunday morning. This time, Mom and Becca had to get up and ready along with me, as they were doing the 10K run! We got our breakfast and coffee down and headed out.
We were there a bit early – I wasn’t sure how busy it would be, so we played it safe. Wasn’t too bad though. We were able to sit around, chat, and people watch. I was amazed at how many of the folks were wearing bibs for the Triple Threat – MTB ride on Friday, 100 Miler on Saturday, and 13.1 trail run on Sunday! Rockstars!
The 10K’rs went off first, so I said goodbye to Mom and Becca as they headed out. Then it was my turn. It was really low key and I wasn’t sure what to expect except a creek crossing at the end. Turned out to be a little pavement to get us over to the trail, then the fun began. It was mostly single track, winding through some tree covered area not too far from the MPEC. It was humid that morning (a storm had moved through earlier) and in the trees there was no breeze! I was roasting and sweating like a hula pig!
I was really glad I wore my fuel belt, as the aid stations were few and far between. I got a little behind on my salt – I was having a hard time keeping moving while grabbing stuff from my belt, all while not falling. The single track required me to keep focused on what I was doing, or I’d end up in the brush or down a cliff.
One of the cool parts of this run, for me, was getting to run across a hanging bridge in Lucy Park. When I heard this was part of the course, the memories of this came rushing back. We had taken my
Grandmother out to this bridge on one of her few visits to Texas from Iowa. But as I came to this on course, all of my memories seemed so distorted. My memories were from the perspective of a 8-10 year old. Everything seemed so much bigger and scarier then!! But now it just seemed like a little bridge and no big deal (other than the fact that it wasn’t much wider than one butt, so as two runners tried to cross, it was a bit tight).
For the type of course it was, and stopping briefly at each aid station (and once to use the kybo), I was pretty happy with my time. Overall I’m pretty encouraged with my fitness moving into this build phase of my training.
I had such a great time that weekend, both at the race events and getting to spend time with the family. I would definitely come back again (and I might next year, as a prep for Rev3 Cedar Point which is just a few weeks out???)