Whew Wee, it was hot. There, I've said it.
We drove up to Wichita Falls, TX on Friday afternoon. The drive seems to get easiest and faster every time. Can't figure that one out... We arrived about 5:30 and headed over to the MPEC (Multi Purpose Event Center) in downtown. The whole central part of the city is torn up. They are putting in a major overpass through downtown to route I-44 through the city as a limited access highway. Before, it was limited access coming into town and leaving town, but it dumped into downtown on the south side, ran through about 10 stop lights through downtown, and became limited access going out the north side! What was that all about??! The new plan has a giant overpass going north-south over the whole downtown area. It will be very nice for cars when complete, but it will make a lot of the downtown area be under the freeway. Kinda strange, like that episode of The Simpsons where the traveling monorail sailesman sang Springfield into buying a monorail through the city. hmmm... One effect of the construction was to block a _lot_ of roads. More on this later.
We parked at the MPEC and walked in. As usual, the registration was extremely well organized and we completed registration in less than 5 minutes, then walked over to the Consumer Show to pick up our T-shirts and water bottles. The show was _packed_ with people. We wandered through and picked up our T-shirts and water bottles, Anne picked up an HHH jersey that she wore the next day, and we found new seat covers to replace our old ones that we had bought at the HHH two years ago.
The show was nice and we were done shopping so we headed out from the MPEC to find our hotel, the Radisson. It was on the east side of the freeway on the north side of town. To get there we ended up in a maze of roads. I never saw anything like it. Here's a picture of the map, and I've marked the roads that were closed and the one-way roads. There was exactly one way to get out of the maze and the roads all ran around in circles around this community center. We were stuck in there for a while with about 6 other cars. We finally figured it out and headed north through a poor part of town looking for a way to get on the freeway. But the entrances were all blocked. After about 15 minutes of wandering around we found an underpass and started heading back south trying to get on the freeway going back into town. And there it a was! The Radisson! As we pulled in we saw the Wichita Falls right there across the parking lot, across the river. We could see it from the parking lot! We had never seen it before.
We checked in along with a _lot_ of other bikers and headed to the bar for a drink or two while waiting for dinner. The bar looked out on the Falls and it was very relaxing. Dinner was a very nice pasta buffet in the Radisson restaurant. We talked with Mr. Songster, a busness man from Houston, and Danny Thomas and his wife, bikers from south of Arlington, TX. The Thomas' also got stuck in the maze.
On Saturday the HHH started at 7:30am. We decided to bike over to the starting line, leaving about 7am. We were a little late and arrived just in time to get in line at the 100K (62 mile) lineup and hear the announcement and the gun go off. We walked our bikes forward for the next 10 minutes until the crowd started moving enough to actually get on and roll. The crowds thinned slowly as people separated on the road. We passed up the first rest stop as we headed west into the southwest wind. The first 20 miles was basically into the 80 degree wind, over rolling hills. Not particularly difficult, but not a fast ride. The second rest stop was a Flintstones theme. This rest stop always has a theme. Last time we rode it was a Gilligan Island theme. They had setup a big display of Bedrock along with Fred and family and were posing for pictures. It was a nice rest stop. We refilled our camelbacks here and got gatorade in each of our water bottles to carry along. The best riding came after the second rest stop as we headed north. With a southwest wind we flew. The 10 miles between the second and third rest stops went by very fast. The road was good, there were few hills, and that southwest wind let us put it in the largest chain ring and average about 23 mph. Wow! The third rest stop marked the halfway point at about 31 miles. We stopped here and refilled out camelbacks again.
We turned east at the second rest stop and again flew. The wind still helped us, maybe not as much as the preceding 10 miles, but still, it was great riding and there were fewer hills. At the fourth rest stop at about 40 miles we again refilled our camelbacks and continued west. The turn south at 50 miles started us on the longest grueling 12 miles of the ride. It was into the wind, with a bumpy road surface on the access road to I-44, with the temperature climbing over 100 degrees. We started a 2-person pace line and alternated who was in front about every 5-10 minutes. It felt like a blast furnace. We kept our heads down, moved slow and kept pedaling. At the 50 mile rest stop we pulled over and again refilled our camelbacks. Those camelbacks are life savers. They hold 70 ounces of water and we refilled 4 times. I didn't have to visit the porta-can one time during the ride! The water was going in and coming right back out as sweat. I proved this with my socks. When we got back to the hotel I noticed that the top of my socks were black. This was from blowing dust getting stuck on my legs during the ride, then sweat rolling down my legs depositing the dust onto my socks. Wow. I also figured out that the cramps I had always gotten at 50 miles on every ride was due to dehydration. With the camelback I no longer get cramps at all. My legs felt great at the end, a little tired, but I could have probably gone on (except for by oh-so-sore butt!).
The 50 mile rest stop was really the best. At all the previous rest stops they only had water, gatorade, and fruit, bananas, grapes, strawberries, kiwi, oranges. Nothing non-fruit-like. At this rest stop they had all that plus great chocolate chip cookies. umm umm good! We talked for a while with a woman at the cookie stand. She said it was 104 degrees. It felt it. They had a large structure made from PVC pipe setup with water hoses attached to it. It sprayed a superfine mist of water in all directions. One could bike through it, or stand near it. The air was so dry (20% humidity) that the mist would cool the area down by at least 30 degrees. We walked through it to get cooled off. It worked _so_good_ that I was starting to get chilled when we decided to bike on. The last rest stop was in Shepherd Air Force Base. They always host the HHH through the AFB and it is a very nice diversion as we biked through the housing development, across the flight line, back in through the trees and out the south side. There are always a bunch of kids there giving Hi-5s to everyone who bikes past. Anne and I raced to the finish line, as fast as we could go, which was not very fast at all, and discovered that it wasn't the finish line, it was the starting line! We still had to curve around some streets, make some turns, and eventually end up at the MPEC where they had setup an area of about 100 yards with flags all around, a grandstand with an announcer who was talking up everyone who biked in, and hundreds of people milling about cheering the riders on. We biked in, picked up our HHH pins, and picked out a shady tree to stand under. It was good to be over the ride! We were mostly acclimated to the heat so standing under the tree in the shade felt like being in air conditioning! We watched the people bike in, listened to the announcers, and watched the trucks and emergency people bringing in the people who had overheated, dehydrated, or wrecked out on the ride. There was a constant stream of bikers coming and going. I saw three guys who had come in off the 100 mile route (they must have biked _very_very_ fast to get there so soon!). They walked over to a bare spot and stopped. These three guys looked like serious bikers, lean, muscular, tanned, fancy bikes. The most fit looking one of them squated down onto his hands and knees and threw up. The other two wobbled up beside him, helped him to his feet, and they all three stumbled over to the first aid tent.
We saw Richard and Ron at the second rest stop. They had plans for the 100 mile route this year. They said they might take Hell's Gate at the 60 mile point on the 100 mile route and cut the the corner off to make an 80 mile ride, but they really wanted to do the hundred. We got a call on our cell phone at about 6pm, it was Richard. They had completed the 100 mile route at about 5:30pm! (That's about 9 1/2 hours on the road). He said that one of the last rest stops was registering 109 degrees. He also said he'd never do another 100 miler and that he'd never bike again. But maybe that was the heat and dehydration and sore butt talking? We had decided not to stay the night at the Radisson even though we had reservations. Neither of us slept well the night before. I didn't because the air conditioner was sprewing out moldy air that I could smell, and Anne didn't because someone tried to break into our room at about 4:00am from the adjoining room. I don't think they were really trying to break in, but just tried to get through the locked door between the two adjoining rooms. Like they didn't understand that that door would let them into someone elses room! We could hear them talking over there, a woman and some kids. What were they doing at 4am?? Anyway, I felt good enough after the ride to drive so Anne's gave in graciously and we packed up and headed back. We were pulling into the driveway at home when Richard called.