The monthly spotlight was The Hotter 'n Hell Rally in Wichita Falls, TX. This ride is well known to cyclists across America.The 2012 event was the 31st H3. Here's the link to the event website if you'd like to know more about the event: http://www.hh100.org/about/
To say the H3 is a huge event is an understatement. With over 12,000 riders and approximately 4,000 volunteers, it's quite a spectacle to behold.
Many DFW riders - including many GDB members - make the pilgrimage to Wichita Falls for the event. Some make the pilgrimage numerous times. Others decide once is enough. There are also those who say "Never again"... and end up doing the event... again!
This year, we had 4 riders give their thoughts on the H3 event.
This was my third time to ride in HHH. I do the ride for two reasons: The start of the rally. The ride through Sheppard Air Force Base.
I signed up for the 100K route and lined up with my friends who were doing the 100 mile route. My plan was to roll with them until the route split. I lined up very close to Pyro Pete at 6:20am to be ready for the mass start. My favorite thing about HHH is the official start!
The rally started with the national anthem. Toward the end of the anthem, the Sheppard Air Force Base provided a flyover. The flyover was followed by a cannon blast at approximately 7:05am to officially start the ride.
This is always such a moving start with 12,000+/- riders. SO VERY COOL! It is so worth starting with the regular ride rather than jumping the start. The mass start can be dangerous with so many riders - but it really is one of my favorite things!!!
The 100K route was awesome! I rode with my friends to the cutoff split at about 15-16 miles into the route. At the split, I was by myself on the 100K route. I met a lot of new folks and had a great time. The early part of 100K route was hillier with more chip seal pavement than I remember in years past, but it was good.
I found out why the early part of the ride was so good: There was an awesome tailwind! Hmm... you know what that means: There would be a headwind on the way back to the "Falls"!
After a cross wind for 15+/- miles, the route heads to Burkburnett. A great town for three reasons: The town folks turn out to cheer for riders. They have homemade cookies at the rest stop, and the pavement is NOT chip seal!!
The final 15-20 miles of the ride was into a BRUTAL headwind. Challenging, to say the least! The payoff is the turn into Sheppard Air Force Base. The base makes it all worth it.
The "base" is a super moving part of the ride. The vintage planes are on display. The cadets are there to cheer on the riders, slapping hands with riders as they ride through the base. You don't care about the stiff headwind with the cadets cheering. Those cadets have made such a great sacrifice for our country. It is so incredibly moving to slap hands with those service men and women!
Overall review of my H3 experience: Even with the challenging wind, it was just an awesome ride!
When my first HHH100 fell short last summer, I was determined to go back and get it done. I succeeded with a time of 5 hours and 40 minutes.
Strong head winds were a huge factor in this year's rally. Winds were south and blowing 20-30 mph the entire ride. That was a lot of cross wind and head wind - particularly for the last 15-20 miles. It was a tough ride and I rode most of the course by myself.
The experience at HHH was unique. Over 12,000 cyclists participated this year, making the H3 one of the largest cycling events in North America.
I enjoyed the big start with the crowd, the fly over, the cannon... and the chaos! The best part was riding through Sheppard AFB. I enjoyed taking my picture with the pilots and the cheering (or jeering?) from the cadets.
As for the not so positive experience: The survival of H3 started with survival at the start and continued throughout the ride with the survival of avoiding close calls against newer and less-experienced cyclists. Despite the chip seal, cattle guards and other road hazards, my 2nd HHH experience was more positive than negative.
Overall review of my H3 experience: I will sign up for the Hotter 'n Hell again. The next time, I would like to ride with other GDB members on the 100 mile course. That would be more fun.
This was my first H3. I headed out with the 100 mile "Keeper" group, which didn't go out until 7:30. Seven miles into the ride, I flatted. I was so mad! I had bought Armadillo brand tires and slime tubes to prevent that sort of thing. Any chance of a peloton was gone by the time I fixed the flat and got back into the saddle. I rode the entire 100 miles by myself. I didn't draft the entire day. Really.
I passed parents and kids for many miles. I finally got my legs going well enough and hit my stride near Electra. 28mph by yourself feels pretty good - even if you do have a tailwind as an assist!
Once I turned east, the ride turned bad. The crosswind until Burkburnett really slowed me down. I kept going, and the ride went from bad to worse as I hit the 80 mile marker. As someone else put it: The Bataan Death March began! The last 20 miles of the rally was into a really strong headwind. It took me 2 hours to ride those 20 miles. I crossed the finish line at exactly 7 hours. I earned that medal.
About the course: It was almost all chip seal. Without a doubt, the UGLIEST route I have ever done in terms of scenery. It was like riding through Mordor from The Lord of the Rings. Keeping with the Lord of the Rings analogy, I kept looking for Orc's at the rest stop (Pickle juice, my precious?)
I think the nastiest part of the ride were the oil pump graveyards. Long lines of old oil pumps lining the side of the road. Piles and piles of old discarded oil field machinery. Ugly. It made me sad for my country that we treat our land with this disrespect.
Overall review of my H3 experience: The show at MOPAC was very crowded and not fun if you don't have the extra money to scoop up the deals. The best part of the ride was through Sheppard Air Force base. I grew up an AF brat - always on base - and riding through the line of cheering cadets really gave me the boost and allowed me to finish. I can check this off my list. I am moving on to other things!
Hotter 'n Hell is simply something any road cyclist needs to experience. At least once. Just the reality of putting 15,000+/- cyclists and unknown thousands of area volunteers together for a multi-day rally is an astonishing thing to see and participate in. The bragging rights to finishing a 100-mile ride will always result in a sense of satisfaction - no matter what the conditions.
This was my 7th consecutive year to do the ride. In all honesty, it was my least favorite riding experience. This was due to the changes made in the routes this year. Notwithstanding, the folks I carpooled with (Dave Rothgab, Justine Viera & Lynn Morrow) were fantastic and fun. The Lamar Baptist Church was an excellent place to stay. The Expo is always pretty cool. Last, but not least: It's always fun sharing a ride experience with GDB friends and friends in other clubs like RBENT (Recumbent-Bike Enthusiasts of North Texas) and PBA (Plano Bicycling Association). If nothing else, it's conversational fodder for an entire year!!!
The start of the rally allowed recumbents and tandems to start at the front. This year, somebody thought it was a good idea to put up chain link fences to "corral" the front riders at the start - NOT!
After the start, I rode with Dave the whole way. We had open roads for the first 30 miles before being caught by the faster packs. We hit it hard for the first 50 before backing off the pace the rest of the way. The last 15+ miles were VERY tough on everybody, thanks to the south wind. I finished the 100 (97 and change) with no flats, no wrecks, no significant leg cramps, and no broken wallet from spending too much money at the Expo!
Us "common folk" obviously have no idea what went on behind the scenes to cause the changes in the route. I won't go into specifics, but the changes were not for the better. Hopefully next year they will learn from the issues this year and make new changes.
I'll bet a lot of people missed the 100K/100mi split.
It wasn't well marked and I'm sure some riders ended up going the wrong way vs. the route intended.
Overall review of my H3 experience: I had a successful and reasonably enjoyable ride on my first (!) 100-miler of the year. That said: If the route is the same next year, I may just pass...
Please click here for our photo album page. There you will find a photo montage of the event, along with photos of the H3 Expo. Special Thanks to Paul Brown for taking loads of pictures and making the albums accessable to club members wishing to add their own photos to the mix.