Heee hooo heee hooo heee hooo heee hooo heee hooo
Do we walk? NO! DO NOT WALK! one-two-three-four-five-one-two-three-four-five-
That's my breath, heart and mind as I struggle to climb the road into Blue Mounds State Park. It's the last climb of eighteen major climbs on the ~100K course. Sixty-seven miles in the searing heat of an early Wisconsin summer.
The Horribly Hilly Hundred's website advises that minimum gearing to complete the course should include a 27-tooth cog in the cassette. Many have attempted the course with mountain bike deraileurs and the third (or 'Granny') chainring in the front. All to provide as much mechanical advantage as possible to climb efficiently as possible.
Last week, I woke up early to pre-ride the course to get a sense of what was coming up. My bike was still set up in the original 12-23 cassette that came with the bike. Kris suggested that because I did the Ironman in that setup I'd be just fine. So I set out in the 45-degree morning, my teeth chattering as I headed to the penultimate climb up Blue Mounds Road. Fifty miles later, I discovered two things: 1) Chocolate milk is the best recovery drink ever, and 2) A 27-tooth gear was definitely in order. My thighs demanded it.
Me: "How much longer until the end?"
Supporters: "Not much. You're looking good."
I can't imagine how bad I did look. I certainly didn't feel like I was "looking good." I could feel and see the sweat dripping from my forehead, helmet, nose, sunglasses, chest, just about anywhere there was a sharp edge where sweat could drip off. I was "doing the paperboy" to get up the hill, biking back and forth across the road, much like a paperboy would cris-cross the road delivering papers from house to house. I finally sucked up everything I had, put my head down and counted my pedal strokes in groups of five to get myself to the top.
Never did the chirp of the timing mats sound so good. I purposefully slowed down, just to hear them for that much longer.
Overall, I enjoyed the ride. Everyone was super nice and the volunteers and rest stops were spetacular. The only hang-up was to have to pick up your timing chips right before the race, rather than putting them in the swag bag with the race numbers. It was hot, and the organizers provided extra water stops along the routes so that everyone could refill their water bottles and grab more gels. Highlight of the food was the hard-boiled eggs and slim-jims.
Nevermind that I showed up a half-hour later than I wanted to. I forgot my bag with my jersey, race number and other esential items at the house. Thankfully I discovered that only fifteen minutes from the house, rather than at the race start.
Below you'll see two graphs that show both the elevation and grades over the 68 miles that were recorded by my Forerunner. On a side note, I set a new speed record on my bike. 46.9 miles per hour. Sweet.