Last year, I rode the Hotter 'N Hell 100 for the first time. The annual all-things-bike event held in Wichita Falls (near the border of Texas and Oklahoma) draws tens of thousands of cyclists for criterium races, mountain bike races, trail running and the ultimate — the Hotter 'N Hell 100, a 100-mile rally that can sap anyone's enjoyment of cycling.
|That's one crowded bike rack. Poor TPG's superlight tribike, sandwiched between my roadie and MTB bikes. Saris Bones 3-Bike is a capable rack.|
I applaud the Times Record News for delivering the newspaper right to the tent-steps of those camping on Friday morning. As a former employee of a Scripps sister paper (San Angelo Standard-Times), this touch made me proud.
This year, I signed up for the Triple Threat — racing the 22-mile cat 2 mountain bike race on Friday, riding Saturday's 100-mile road rally and finishing with a half-marathon trail run on Sunday. Because why not?!
As soon as I awoke Friday morning, I knew the weekend wasn't going to be easy. I felt the first symptoms of getting sick in my throat — scratchy — and felt a little "out of it." I remarked that I might be getting sick. I hoped it was just an effect of dust blowing into the tent.
The cat 2 MTB race was set to begin at 10 a.m. — a perfect time. Not too early as to need to rise at a ridiculous hour, nor was it too late when the heat would be searing (the poor cat 3 racers had to contend with that when they rolled out for their single loop race at 4 p.m.).
Breakfast consumed, paper read and geared up, I approached the ag barn for the beginning of the first race of the Triple Threat.
|I'm a fan of No Meat Athlete — the site and the jersey. I started "running on plants" about 7 years ago. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. If you're considering making the switch to a plant-based diet, this site is a treasure trove of information for becoming and being a vegetarian or vegan.|
|Note the tents in the background. I wasn't joking. You've got a great view of the trail races if you put down stakes here. One warning: The band playing the night before the big rally might keep you up later than you'd like.|
Most of the course is not out in the open; this is just the best spot for taking pictures. The twisty singletrack that dominates the trail is some of the best-designed and fun to ride in the state.
My first lap was 1:06:01. All Triple Threat contenders' first lap is what is used to rank the racers regardless of category. My slow time ranked me 117th, at least 50 spots lower than I thought I could race. Alas, it wasn't my day. But I still had a great time. Now that I am more familiar with the trail, I hope to ride it again, whether for a race or just for fun.
|That's all dirt, sand and sweaty mud, folks. This is easily the dirtiest I've been after just two hours of racing.|
No matter how bad I felt, I still needed to eat. The last time TPG and I drove through Wichita Falls, we hoped to try Gidget's Sandwich Shack, a local cafe that specializes in sandwiches, including a good veggie option; but it was closed. This time, we made it happen. In addition to the food, the decor is straight-up garage sale treasures. It's a unique spot that we were happy to frequent; anytime we can shop "local," we do.
|This might look like a sad setup, but don't get it twisted. Above these super-comfy chairs is a Big Ass Fan that provided much-needed cooling. Oh, and in addition to a break from the heat, we charged up our phones and noshed on our homemade sandwiches. Even one of the barn's maintenance workers commended us for finding the best spot to relax in the area. It was a blissful escape from crowds and the sun.|
Now, I wish that I could blog further about how kick-ass I felt on Saturday morning and how I cut some serious time off my century PR en route to a fast trail half marathon. Well, that's going to have to wait until next year. I woke up Saturday morning feeling even worse, and TPG felt pretty lousy, too. So we decided to pack up the campsite and head home once the rally started and the streets were open. I must admit, it was disappointing. I hadn't necessarily trained hard for Triple Threat. I maintained my fitness with regular running and riding. IT was something I signed up to do in February, and I felt like I could meet the challenge. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. These things happen. We made the right decision to return early. Riding 100 miles in near-100-degree heat when you feel puny would have been a recipe for disaster.
So, this recap ends with a whimper. But as I type this, I'm feeling strong again, and more adventures are on the horizon. Stay tuned.