This is a bare bones recounting of my ride, mainly because in signing up, I assumed too much and rational thought had gone on holiday when making the decision. But I will give just a little background.
My Tour de Gruene partner (we are three time defending champions) and Senior Games competitor, Dean, learned I was doing the HHH and asked me to join him and his son and a few friends. They would eschew the opening hoopla and crowd and start a half hour ahead of everybody and about a mile into the ride. This required adding a headlight. As my previous post mentioned, I've done ten of these, and no longer get a thrill out of navigating 13,000 riders. True, given my placing, it would only have been about 2,000, with the rest of them behind me. But that is where a lot of accidents happen and it is pretty intense for about ten miles.
The traffic jam starting about 5:30am, even backing up the interstate, is scary. I avoided that and arrived at our start about 6:15am, made introductions and we rolled out about 6:30am. We were not alone, folks with the same idea began their trek starting as early as 6am.
Our plan was to get to the 20 mile rest stop before the racers, watch them go by, then continue on. We were unaware that the organizers changed the racer's course so they wouldn't have to contend with all of the riders who left early. Anyhow, Dean set a pretty good pace, eventually ramping up to 19-20mph. The morning was cool and cloudy, with little to no wind. Great weather. We did side-by-side, switching out every few minutes, although when I was in the lead, the pace dropped off a bit. A few miles from the stop, I couldn't hang with a pace line and dropped off a bit. It took a little under an hour to go eighteen and a half miles.
The racers should have been just a few minutes behind, and only a chance remark from one of the volunteers clued us in. Our five-minute rest had turned into fifteen before we remounted and continued. Dean said we would probably become separated, but would all meet up at Hell's Gate (the place where the 100 mile riders turned left, and the 100 mile riders who over-extended themselves could cut off twenty-five miles). Our intention all along had been a seventy-five mile ride. Anyhow, two guys (never to be seen again) quickly left me , Dean and Lonnie behind, and I suffered behind those two for another twenty miles. A slight wind came up, but at our backs, and the sun was behind a thin layer of clouds. Great weather. I was feeling good, no problem with the legs. The heart-rate, which was in the 90% range for the first hour, now hovered close to 80%.
The forty mile rest stop again took extra minutes, due to unplanned bodily functions (not me). But we eventually got moving, with Dean reiterating regrouping at Hell's Gate. Lonnie fell behind but Dean and I grabbed a pace line and enjoyed that for awhile, until I became unlatched and watched them pull away. No problem, I had my aerobars to rest on until another pace line came by and I grabbed that. The pace lines were in the 20-24mph range so my heart-rate moved up to 85-90%.
By now I was on my own, so at the 50 mile rest stop I dropped out and had some pickle juice and a refill of Powerade. This was a three-minute respite, which is my norm. Fifty miles in three hours and eight minutes, I couldn't believe things were going so well. The sun was still hidden and the temperature still below 90 degrees, with the wind now coming from the right but not strong. Great weather. I found some more folks to ride behind and all too soon Burkburnett was in sight. My speed continued above 20mph in pace lines and 18mph in aerobars, with the legs moving quite easily. The heart-rate stayed around 85% and that caused no problem.
We made a right turn at the interstate, into the wind, and I was seeing a lot of 15mph on the computer. Pretty soon, the 60 mile rest stop came into view. I didn't need to stop since I had plenty of fluid, having filled both bottles just ten miles ago. But I think this is where confusion reared its ugly head. About a mile from the rest stop is Hell's Gate. I stopped at Hell's Gate to look for Dean. No Dean. No other two guys. Eventually I called Dean's cell phone and left a message. After about ten minutes, I mounted up and continued. About that time Lonnie came by and said he couldn't find Dean either. We rode on awhile but he fell behind on a hill and my speed actually moved up into the 17mph range.
This route takes us on a tour of Shepard Air Force Base and that is a lot of fun seeing the many planes displayed and riding through a gauntlet of airmen (and women) all shouting and exchanging high-fives (actually low-fives so we didn't get thrown off our bikes). From the base a lot of the road is down hill, so I again was on the high side of 20mph.
Shortly before the finish line, I turned off to get back to my car, so I missed both the start and the finish, but really did do the whole course. My average overall speed was 16mph, or saddle-time of 17.9mph. Overall time was four hours forty-two minutes which included thirty minutes non-riding. The average temperature a balmy 82.6 degrees, and when I finished it hadn't reached 90. Great weather. Still haven't seen Dean, and I'm wondering if he was feeling so good he did the 100 miles. Will email him later.