The Hotter N’ Hell 100 2016 was awesome! 13,000 riders assemble in downtown Wichita Falls every year for the largest single day 100 mile bike ride in America. My wife Rebecca and I woke up early at 4:45. We had our first baby May 1st. One of my college roommates lives in Wichita Falls, and that was awesome for 3 reasons. 1. There is not an empty hotel within 100 miles 2. We got to spend time with friends (that had a pool!) 3. They took care of the baby during the ride which was super kind of them. Rebecca fed the baby and got her back to sleep before we headed downtown in the dark for the start. The ride starts long before the sun comes up, and the tandems get to start 10 minutes early at the very front which helps a ton.
If I had to bet money that morning whether or not we would finish, I would’ve put money on the 100k or maybe 80 miles, but no 100 miler. In this ride, the 100k turn off is 25 miles into the ride, and at that point we were both feeling great so Rebecca was all about continuing on the 100 mile route. At mile 35 we turned east into a headwind. It’s harder to draft with a tandem. You can’t just get on the end of a 20 rider group because back there they pedal, coast, pedal, coast, pedal, coast. About the only way to draft is to get behind 1 or 2 riders. That makes the headwind hard. Rebecca bonked about mile 45. We made it to the stop at mile 50 and recovered nicely. At mile 50 they had burritos in addition to all kinds of good food for energy: bananas, pickles, pickle juice, all kinds of cookies, clif bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, little smokies, and more. By the way, we did stop at almost every 10 mile stop because 1. My wife was uncertain how much water to drink in the heat and didn’t want to dehydrate, which led to constant peeing 2. By 10 miles I had consumed both of my big water bottles and needed a refill. But hey, that’s way better than getting dehydrated and having to quit. We saw plenty of those people riding in the sag wagons trailers.
We rode hard again to go through Hell’s Gate at mile 60. This is the last chance to do 80 miles instead of the full 100 miles. If you’re not “feeling it” they encourage you to do 80. We took a picture, I looked at her and said “Well babe? Last chance to not do the 100.” She said “LET’S DO IT!” The ride really thins out after this point. You have to ride over a counter so they know how many dead bodies to look for after the race…..kidding, kinda. Still tons and tons of riders but it no longer feels like you’re in a pack of 100 surrounding you. At the 75 mile stop we were both glad to get off the bike. It was about 93 degrees at this point, and there is really great shade at this stop. We sat in a couple of lazyboy recliners for around 15 minutes. They were actually just folding metal chairs but it felt amazing to just sit and let your legs relax. We felt pretty good and got back on the bike.
We skipped the stop at 82.5 because we felt good and wanted to get done, and then we hit the wall. It was 1:45 now and a sweltering 95 degrees in full sun. Also, this was the hilliest part of the ride so we weren’t getting great airflow. We were still surrounded by tons of riders. I only saw one tandem after Hell’s Gate. I’m sure there were more but we didn’t see them. We trudged on slowly and through the heat to make it to the mile 90 rest stop. There was a giant horse trough full of ice water. It was probably nasty from all of salty cyclist dipping their heads, arms, and even whole bodies in it, but I couldn’t have cared less how gross it was because it felt AMAZING! 10 miles to go and we knew we could do it. Every mile after 90 felt better and better. At mile 96 we could see downtown Wichita Falls. We crossed the finish line at 3:00! 8 hours total time. It was a great experience. Rebecca said “We’re never doing this again,” but I bet she changes her mind. They did an excellent job with all the logistics of the ride. Overall, it was a great ride.
Warning not all the smiles are real. Picture 4 was, “what the heck are we doing?”, pic 5 was, “we can’t let them know how we really feel… FAKE IT!”