I’ve been hemming and hawing for awhile, and during the week I finally made my decision — I’ll be riding in the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred next month. Yes, it’s an organized ride, but there aren’t many like this one. It’s as much a happening as anything.
Held in Wichita Falls, Texas, in the far northern part of the state, the Hotter ‘n Hell always runs on the last Saturday in August — when summer heat is expected to be at its peak. As a counter balance to the heat, the route is flat. This year it’s been modified so that 100-mile finishers will go through Sheppard Air Force Base along with the 100-kilometer riders. In past years, the 100-milers missed the terrific welcome from the airmen.
Now, I’ve done centuries before. But as I mentioned in a previous post, I might have finished them, but I’ve been pretty trashed at the end. My goal this year is to finish and still be able to function normally.
I decided to start getting serious this weekend. Mrs. Noob wanted to head out for an easy ride Saturday, and I was happy to join her, knowing that when she wrapped up her 13 miles or whatever, that I could continue on and do my own ride.
She started to complain almost immediately. “I just don’t feel it today,” she said. She waffled about which route to take, but finally decided a Mopac loop would be good for her. But once on the shoulder of the expressway, she said she didn’t seem to be loosening up. I pedaled easily, to stay with her.
At the top of Escarpment Hill, I waited for her as usual, but when she caught up to me, she said, “I have an idea. Let’s go up to the next street, then work our way through the neighborhood and head back home.” Her hip was bothering her, which hadn’t happened for several weeks, and she was struggling.
When we went our separate ways, I headed for Convict Hill, the neighborhood hill that offers several short but steep climbs as well as a nice longer one in a generous shoulder beside the main road over the top. I did my usual repertoire of climbs, enjoyed the quick descent, and figured I’d head back to Mopac to do a complete loop before calling it a day.
But halfway back to Mopac, I started feeling like Pat. I had no snap in my legs. I turned the pedals, but didn’t pump them. My speed slowed. Once I got on Mopac itself, I realized I’d better pack it in. I turned off at the same street we had before, stopped in the shade of an overhanging tree, and rested before going home.
If this was the way I felt halfway through a summer of regular riding, I was concerned about getting ready for the Hotter ‘n Hell.
This morning’s club ride was going to do a Dam Loop — probably my least favorite ride in the Austin area. I knew that I wasn’t going to do the whole thing, given the combination of heat and higher-than-usual humidity we’ve put up with lately. But I felt good as our big group hit the road.
One of the highlights of the route is “Hail Mary Hill” — a tough one that ends at a church parking lot where we can take a breather. This is a steep one, and it has been my nemesis for as long as I’ve been riding. I made sure I was near the back of the group when we hit the hill, in case I had to unclip and walk up, as I’ve done so many times before.
But today, I felt strong. I was in my lowest granny gear, but stayed on the wheel of Jordan in front of me. I even got out of the saddle to pump a bit, which I’ve never done on that hill before.
I got to the top, and when I turned into the parking lot, got an ovation from everyone who was already there. We turned onto Bee Caves Road, which features a lot of long hills, and rode to our regular rest stop at a Walgreens. I decided to turn around at that point and head home, but instead of taking our usual route, I would go back the way we came, and deal with the hills on both Bee Caves and Barton Creek Blvd. A new rider decided he’d be smart to turn back too, so we swapped the lead as we made our way back, this time having a lot more trouble with the hills than we did on the way out.
Total mileage: 36. Average speed: 14.2 mph. Not big numbers for a guy who faces a century in a month, but because of the hills we tackled today, I figure the numbers did not represent our effort. If anything, the weather conditions this weekend were a good indicator of what the Hotter ‘n Hell ride will be like. I think I can be ready.