Hotter 'n Hell

After our first century ride, Uncle Keith and I decided to go for another. This time we went for the largest bike event in the US and decided to prove we were gluttons for punishment. The race is called Hotter 'n Hell and it takes place in Wichita Falls, Texas in August. Someone had the idea to have a 100 mile bike race in 100 degree heat. In our year, 13,500 cyclists joined us.

After my first century ride, I took a break from my diet and took a break from cycling for three months. My weight ballooned back up to over 200 lb and didn't seem to want to come back off. While I objectively trained just as hard as I did the year before, something seemed off.

The night before the race, I couldn't sleep because every few minutes, I was back on the toilet trying to clear stuff out of my system. I even started to think that I couldn't ride because I had to be next to a toilet the entire night. Finally, about 15 minutes before we left for breakfast, I think I got it all out, or at least enough that I could stray longer than 30 seconds from a toilet.

The race split people up into three starting groups. There was the Scorchers, Keepers, and Hopefuls. Scorchers were fast, keepers likely to finish, and hopefuls not so likely to finish. Uncle Keith and I were Keepers trying to qualify for Scorchers in this race. That meant we had to shave an hour off our last year's time.

I raced on a borrowed bike which was nicer than mine. Early on the ride, I let Uncle Keith leave me behind figuring that this race played to his strengths far better than to mine. Skipping a couple aid stations, I stayed on pace to qualify for the Scorchers for the first half of the race. However, at mile 40, I knew I wouldn't make it.

Through my training, I learned that once my back stiffens up, I have 20 more miles before my legs are done. Normally, I could make it at least 60 miles before my back stiffens, but this time I only made it 40 miles. At that point, I decided to not skip a aid station the rest of the way and just try to finish.

At mile 75-ish, I had to spend 10 minutes inside a Porta Potty clearing things out from last night. My best guess is that I got food poisoning.

With thrashed legs, I kept finding someone to draft off of and never offered to pull. Something weird happened to me around mile 95 and I caught a second wind. Now all of a sudden, I'm passing everyone in sight, skipped an aid station and finished strong with a time of just over 7 hours. Uncle Keith finished around 6 hours and 45 minutes fighting off cramps for a significant portion of the race.

Shooting for a sub 6 hour century ride to make Scorcher status was a mistake. If I shoot for 6.5 hour time, I probably finish about when Uncle Keith does at the latest. Using a different bike threw off my body position making me stiffen up sooner than normal. That would also help improve my time. I know I lost at least 10 minutes to food poisoning, and maybe more. If you add all that up, than I was a significantly stronger rider than the year before...until you remember that this course had no hills. I left admitting to myself that I was the same rider as the year before.

In my head, I could hear the voice of one of my baseball coaches, Coach O'Brien, saying that if I didn't train I would simply be the same person as the year before and out the money I spent on the race. So I went back to the drawing board and didn't stop my diet or my training this time. In fact, I added in strength training to fix muscle imbalances I inadvertently developed over the year. Failing to reach Scorcher status may have been the best thing that happened to me as it forced me to make changes to take my fitness to the next level.