Part II of Hotter’n Hell

After pulled from the race, we loaded our bikes on a trailer and I helped my wife into the truck pulling it. There was another lady in it so I went back to the trailer and sat down, waiting for the driver. I began to talk to another man who was dropping, when all of the sudden my wife and the other lady jump out and ran back to us.

The speed and urgency of their exit made me ask what was wrong. As it turns out, the other lady dropped because her husband’s bike had broke and she wanted to see him finish the 100k so she loaned her bike to him. Including the cleats to clip into the pedals. When my wife heard this she asked what size shoe she wore. They both had the same size, so her cleats and shoes would work, she told this stranger to take her bike since it was OK mechanically. So they exchanged contact info and off our new friend went, leaving her bike with us. You can read her account of it here.

After we got back to the start/finish line, we waited in the hot sun for our friends, including our newest one on the wife’s bike. This is where the hotter part sinks in. Texas is not comfortable in August, but there is a nice expo in an air conditioned convention center. I spend several hours in there, buying a new and nicer helmet. No more trusting my noggin to a cheap one.

Once all of our friends finished, I was really feeling the morning acrobatics. My neck and shoulders were getting very stiff, even after splurging on a 10 minute massage at the expo. Everyone was understandably wore out so we went to our cabin and rested for the next leg, the half-marathon.

After we got to the cabin, a powerful thunderstorm blew up over town. We were expecting the trail to turn into mud for our run. The course would be the same one that was used for the mountain bike ride a couple of days before, so some of the others knew expressed this concern. They said that a lot of it was clay. I’ve ran on wet clay, it can be very sticky, I began to mentally prepare for a fight to keep moving at a decent pace.

The next morning, we lined up outside of the J.S. Bridwell Agricultural Center. The course circles the building through the parking lot, then goes into a grassy area. Pavement was dry, but that’s not a good indicator. The grass was mostly dry, probably wet mostly from dew.

Then we entered the trail.

Things slowed down quite a bit due to the course narrowing significantly. I looked at my TomTom watch once and it was showing a pace of 25 minutes per mile. It occurred to me at this point, many of these people had rode 100 miles on their cycles yesterday and rode this same course on the mountain bikes the day before that. I looked around and could see the exhaustion. What I didn’t see was mud.  Maybe the storm had not hit this part of town. Several around me said that it had rained there and expressed disbelief at the conditions.

Being a mountain bike trail, there were swinging bridges and  switchbacks. The bridges were different, actually it was kind of nice to have something so unusual for a trail run. As for the switchbacks, they were plentiful as the picture shows.IMG_2362

The advantage to these was that I could see people I knew who were ahead of me. Some gave advice on upcoming aid stations and obstacles. Around mile 12.5 I saw my friend Jacob. He’s much younger and faster, so when I saw him it took some of the wind out of my sails. I thought that if I were seeing him that the course must have been long. After all there must be a lot of ground between the two of us, therefore this was probably going to be a 14+ mile run.

My hypothesis failed to take one variable into account…Jacob was doing the Triple Threat. This was the third day of extreme events for him. Once I realized that, I started to get a little speed. The trail had been mostly dry clay with a little sand, but by this point it was just packed dirt so navigating it was pretty easy.

The dirt gave way to grass again, running along a creek. I kept listening for music coming from the finish line, but could not hear any. Finally I came upon a photographer, he snapped my picture and said that it was only about 200 yards to the finish. I thought this was one of those little white lies that folks sometimes tell runners.

I turned and went up a hill and I could see it, finally I could see the end. I realized that I hadn’t heard anything because the finish line was on top of the hill and something must have prevented it from carrying down to me.

I suppose my biggest take away from all of this is not to pay too much attention to the external clues. I lost several minutes grumbling to myself when I thought I had more to run than I planned. Listening for the finish line was no good either. I have a race to run and I should just finish it. Keep moving until someone hands me a finishers medal.

I only attended two of the three events at Hotter’n Hell but they both seemed to be well organized. Hats off to the planners, pulling over 4,000 volunteers and over 10,000 racers together cannot be a small or easy task. Their aid stations were well equipped and the volunteers were amazingly helpful. The locals were very welcoming, even excited to have all the athletes there. Overall, it was a great experience and I look forward to attending again. I wonder if I could be a Triple Threat…


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