I ended up going to HHH, and while it was very hard, I really enjoyed it. The ride definitely lived up to its name.
I drank so much water on the week leading up to HHH. I took off of work on Friday, Aug 22, and left for Wichita Falls around noon. I packed my car and hit the road, stylin with my dinosaur sunglasses:
I stayed in a church that offers lodging to HHH participants every year. I was a little worried (but when am I not a little worried?!), but things worked out well. We stayed in the church's rec center. The women stayed upstairs. I went over and picked up my packet, ate the spaghetti dinner, and then went back to the church to relax. I got up at 4:15am, because I needed to meet my friends at the flagpole near the start at 6am. I live in fear of being late lol. I could have started from the church that I stayed at, but I was worried about getting lost on the way back (it was a 2mi ride). So I parked my car at another church parking lot, roughly 3 blocks from the start. I drove over there, unpacked my stuff, and rode over to the flag pole.
Kennon, me, Adam, and Sandy at the flagpole (Kelli is the photographer):
Adam, me, Sandy, and Kelli:
We started up behind the Scorchers (the fastest group) because those riders are experienced. I should have started way way back with the Hopefuls (9+ hr expected finish time), but that's where the start is dangerous. People lose water bottles, don't know how to ride in a group, and it's packed. So, while I was very nervous about starting up with the fast kids, Adam, Sandy, and Kelli assured me that it was for the best (and they were right!). I only saw about 6 water bottles, and I never saw any wrecks. I did see a guy go by with his buddies in identical kits, but his shorts had a big rose on the back. It took me a minute to realize that his shorts were actually ripped and that was road rash on his exposed butt cheek. I'm not sure that I would have continued on, but kudos to him.
Sandy and Kelli left us fairly early on, so I drafted behind Adam for the first 30 miles. We did catch them briefly about 10 miles in, because a train had stopped roughly 500 people at the railroad crossing. I imagine that they were pissed, and we basically had a second start. It was very packed and a little bit scary.
I took a selfie every time I stopped at a rest stop. I am in a sign language interpreter program, so I signed the number of every stop so I'd know where the pic was taken. I didn't stop until the 30mi stop, which was my plan. I needed to make Hell's Gate before the cutoff. HG is at 60 miles, and closes at 12:30. I wanted to ensure that I made the gate, otherwise I would have been diverted to a 75mi route.
30 mile rest stop, having a great time. I averaged roughly 18mph for the first 30 miles, which is ridiculously high for me. At every rest stop, I was very careful to not lay my bike in the grass because of stickers, and I checked my tires before leaving. I was super worried about getting a flat, because I'd had one on the last 2 group rides that I did.
50mi rest stop. Adam started feeling sick somewhere around 40 miles in, so we agreed that I'd continue on alone, and he planned to take the diverted route voluntarily. I caught Kelli and Sandy at the 50, which shows how bad Kelli was feeling. I shouldn't have seen her again after the start (she's really fast). I was still feeling great at 50 miles:
I made Hell's Gate at 11:30, with an hour to spare! I was so excited. My friend Heather and I met up somewhere around 58 miles. We took a right turn right into the headwind, and OMG. It was like hitting a wall.
After HG, I hit every rest stop. The temp reached 104F, and we had a 20mph headwind from about 80 miles on. You could feel it after that right turn before HG. That wind was not pleasant.
65mi rest stop. People had laid their bikes down in the grass. A gust of wind came through and it was strong enough that all of the bikes fell completely over. Not a good sign. That's Heather in the blue behind me, pouring water on her head. It was hot.
I started to feel the heat by this point. I was very careful about drinking water and gatorade, and eating on schedule. I ate every hour from the gel flask, and I had 2 bananas and a clif bar at every rest stop. I carried a 50oz camelbak, a 24oz bottle for gatorade, and a 21oz bottle with water for pouring over my head and back. I remember one brief feeling of nausea (shortly after the 50mi stop), and occasional chills. Both are signs of dehydration. Thankfully, the nausea went away. I drank water and gatorade every time I felt a chill.
This is the 75mi rest stop. It was the first time that I sat down (every rest stop had chairs and cots). I was afraid to sit down earlier than this, because the temptation to just stay there was strong. This was my favorite stop-they had a little girl with a pesticide sprayer-type contraption, filled with ice water. She was spraying people down, and it felt amazing. This was also the only stop that had a theme (neon 80s I think). I had been told that every stop had a theme, but I guess they slacked on that this year. You can see that I am growing less happy. My face is getting redder and redder, too.
By the time I got to the 85mi rest stop, I was ready to go home. I couldn't remember why I thought that this was a good idea. It was hot, I was tired, and the wind was wearing me down. I saw a guy pass out cold at this stop. He hit the ground face-down, unconscious. This was the "muddy stop." As you can see, there wasn't much grass. Add in a lot of water and gatorade, and you have a mud pit. They put down plyboards for people to walk on. I saw several people stopped down the road after this rest stop, trying to get the mud out of their cleats. I discovered the cool rags soaked in ice water at this stop, and they were a god-send.
From 85 miles on, the rest stops were at 5 mile intervals. This is the 90mi rest stop, and I was so over it by this point. There was a carport, and people were setting their bikes down there. I laid my bike down, and sat on the ground until I had the energy to walk the 50 feet to the portapotties. I started putting the cold rags under the leg bands of my shorts to help cool me off. I was passed by many many full SAG vehicles. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to run out of people to pick up.
Somewhere between the 90 and 95mi rest stops, I passed a guy. I was so tired that I yelled "On your right. I mean on your left. I mean, I'm on this side of you." (I was actually on his left) He laughed at me as I slowly passed him. Pretty much everyone was stupid tired by this point, so I'm sure he understood.
At the 95mi rest stop, I didn't even have the energy to make a number. I was just done by this point. Thankfully, there were only 5 miles left.
The last 5 miles were actually some of the easiest, with one exception. Someone decided that the route would go up a highway overpass. One of the ones in cities that goes over other roads. I don't know whose idea that was, but I yelled "this is just cruel" at the cop standing there as I started up the incline, and she agreed (and laughed. GAH). However, once I got over that, we came into a residential area, and the buildings helped block the god-awful wind. I finally felt like I was riding a road bike again, rather than pedaling through molasses.
I finally (FINALLY) got to the finish line around 4:40pm. My official time was 9:33. Nine and a half hours. According to my watch, I spent 6:45 of that on the bike (I had to pause my bia at every stop because it doesn't have autopause yet). After Hell's Gate, my goal was survival and finishing, not any kind of time goal. Unfortunately, my watch did not say 100 miles when I crossed the finish line (it said 99.25), so I did laps in the parking lot until it did. The course was actually 101 miles, so I was a bit irritated. I'll touch on that in an upcoming bia review post. But anyway. Adam and Sandy were waiting for me at the finish. All 3 of them (Kelli included) had taken the shorter route at Hell's Gate. Adam and Kelli were sick, and this was Sandy's 5th HHH and she didn't care which route she took. Kelli left immediately after finishing to go get married in New Mexico. Sandy took my picture at the finish line. This was completely not my idea, but apparently holding up your bike is a thing at HHH.
I distinctly remember telling them to hurry up before I dropped my bike on my head. I was oddly euphoric and sarcastic (probably from adrenaline). This is how I really felt, though:
I was so worried about the people waiting for me at the church that I immediately left and went to my car, loaded my bike, and drove back to the church. I was prepared to just leave so the poor woman wouldn't have to wait any longer, but she insisted that I take a shower and eat (wise woman). I did snap some pics at my car before leaving for the church:
You might notice that the medal is backwards. That shows how out of it I was-I carefully checked to make sure I could see the front of the medal, except I looked at the medal instead of at the iphone screen. LOL.
I did have some side-effects from riding my bike for forever in 104F Texas heat. I did not get a sunburn (thankfully I remembered to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or so), but I did have heat rash on my upper quads (right below the short line) and on my torso.
It went away within 2 days, thankfully. I haven't had too many lasting effects, though. I was tired for about 2 weeks, and my right knee has been pretty upset with me. It's finally getting better. I still haven't remembered to take the sticker off of my helmet.
Notes for next year (because I am signed up for lodging for next year-I'm crazy enough to do this again):
-take more money to the expo.
-taking frozen water bottles is not worth the effort; also, the church has ice.
-look for a cot
-make sure the sunscreen bottle is full (I used the last of it at the 90mi stop)
Now that school has started, I am unable to do any mid-week group rides. I am limited to the Saturday morning rides (ie the pre-donut and donut rides). I bought a bike trainer so that I can continue to ride through the winter. My goal on the bike front is to be able to stay with Smitty's group at Overholser when school is out in May. His group averages 18-20mph, and I've never managed to keep up with them (he has kindly stayed back with me on the 3 times I've tried his group).
Now it's time to switch back to running mode. I have the Spirit of Survival Half Marathon on Oct 6, and I'm going to run the full 2015 Memorial Marathon. Training for the marathon starts right before Christmas. I haven't been running as much as I should be, so the SoS half is probably going to be quite interesting. My goal for that race might be survival rather than a PR.