Ride report: 2014 Horrible Hundred
Sunday, November 16, 2014 was the 35th annual Horrible Hundred and, overall, it was an excellent day in the saddle!
The weather was nearly perfect: my Garmin Edge 810 recorded a low temperature of 55°F, a high of 82.4°F and an average of 69°F. I certainly wouldn’t have minded if it had been a little cooler, but it’s impossible to complain about such a beautiful day. My Garmin recorded an average of 82°F at last year’s Horrible Hundred, so it was much cooler this year.
Before the ride I’d arranged to meet up with some of the Winter Spring Cycling club, as many of them were planning to do this ride at a fast pace. I wanted to stay with the front group the whole way, so it sounded like we had similar pace goals in mind.
Once again this year the ride had an “open start”. In other words, riders were free to roll out anytime they wanted. The official early start time was 7:30 AM, but cyclists were free to start before then, if desired. With more than 2,000 cyclists in attendance, I believe the organizers opted for the open start over a mass start in an effort to alleviate road congestion and make the start safer. It didn’t really work out too well…
I’ll get my one negative about this year’s Horrible Hundred out of the way nice and early: the first 10-20 miles were an absolute mess, and extremely dangerous. A large number of cyclists, including me and my group, decided to start at 7:30. The route this year, unlike last year, started off by taking us around Lake Minneola. I don’t think this was a good idea. The roads around the lake are winding two-lane country roads with practically no elevation, and unleashing a couple thousand fresh and excited cyclists on roads like that is just begging for trouble.
I was shocked to see riders taking up not only the entire lane in our direction of travel, but also the entire oncoming traffic lane. Every time a motorist would approach from the other direction–and this often happened at blind corners leaving very little time to react–the huge mass of cyclists in the proper lane would have to slow way down, move and adjust to absorb all the cyclists who were riding in the oncoming traffic lane. This happened again and again, and each time it created an extremely dangerous situation–both for us, and the motorists.
I’ve never in my life done this before, but I very seriously considered dropping out of the ride and heading back the way I came–it was that harrowing.
The looks on the motorists’ faces ranged from shock, to anger to fear. One poor old woman stopped her car as cyclists swarmed around her, and she looked as if she’d seen a ghost. As someone who tries very hard to be respectful of motorists, I am ashamed by how some of us behaved yesterday. Every single person operating a motor vehicle who encountered that early massive and ill-behaved group of cyclists no doubt came away with a negative impression, and I don’t blame them one bit. If we ever hope to improve cyclist-motorist relations, we’ve got to do our part.
Perhaps staggering the start and releasing groups based on desired ride average speed would help? There’s no good reason people averaging 16-17 MPH should start in front of those who average 21-22 MPH. It just creates a mess.
So about 10 miles in the lead group was still absolutely gigantic, and the average was just 18 MPH. About mile 10 we hit some of the early hills, and I was never more happy to see them than I was yesterday. Those rises in elevation thinned the pack considerably, and made things much safer.
By mile 20 the lead pack was still quite large, but it was continuing to shed riders and become faster. At this point the ride average had risen to 20.5 MPH, and with the next 30 miles containing a fair amount of elevation, I knew things would improve even more.
By mile 55 the lead group was well-defined, and had settled into a nice, fast groove. Despite the elevation, we’d raised the ride average to a little over 22 MPH. I was feeling great, and my only concern was how badly I had to urinate. I did not want to SAG on this ride, and I figured I was just going to have to hold it. I wasn’t the only one with a full bladder: one guy rode off to the left and, still riding, pissed from his bike like a boss. One of the other riders said, “That’s skill right there.” 🙂 I had to go pretty bad, and was tempted to give it try.
Just past mile 55 I felt the squishy/squirrely feeling of a tire with no air, and sure enough my rear tire was completely flat. I pulled off the road, and watched as my beloved lead group quickly became a speck on the horizon. Flats are not a big deal, but losing your group is. I was not happy.
Well, at least I could take a leak now. I did, and then started to work on the tire. I took the extra time to inspect the tire carefully, as I only had one tube, a patch kit and two CO2 carts: I did not want to overlook whatever had caused the flat and puncture again. Despite my efforts, I could not locate whatever had caused the problem, so it must have been an “in and out” puncture, or just a tube failure.
While I was working on the tube change, my friends Michael and his wife Gabrielle saw me and stopped to make sure I was okay. I told them I was just fine–only a flat–but I really appreciated that they took the time to stop and make sure I was okay. Thanks again Mike and Gabby!
During the 8 or 9 minutes I was changing the tube, taking a leak and inspecting the tire, only a few riders passed by. Most of those riders were stragglers who had been dropped from the lead group, and I knew we’d put quite a bit of distance between us and any other groups of any real size. I wasn’t going to sit around waiting, so that meant one thing…
Just about the time I was resigning myself to riding the last 45 miles solo, I looked down the road and saw a decent sized group of perhaps 15 riders heading my way. They looked like they were moving, too! I quickly got my bike out on the road, and prepared to latch on. As the group passed by, I couldn’t believe it: one of the riders called out, “JOHN STONE!” It was my buddy Hector Cabrera, and I don’t think I could have been any more happy to hear his voice! I rode up next to Hector, and he said the group he was with was riding strong. What unbelievable luck–I was back in the ride. 🙂
I really didn’t want to SAG, especially after having to stop for the flat. It was getting warm, though, and I was running low on water with the toughest climbs still ahead. I knew I didn’t have enough water left to finish the ride, so Hector and I took stock of our combined water supply. We thought we might have enough to make it the whole way if we conserved and shared. Well, that discussion became moot because our small little group decided they were going to stop at the 70 mile SAG. We’d been working well together, so Hector and I decided to pull in with them.
I quickly filled one of my water bottles, and one of the riders in the group said, “Are you ready to roll?” Music to my ears. Hell yes I was ready to roll: I don’t like SAGs, and I HATE long SAGs. We were literally in and out of there in less than two minutes. Nice. Unfortunately the rest of our little group lagged behind at the SAG, so it was just me, Hector and two other guys as we headed out for the toughest part of the ride.
When our compact group of four riders hit mile 75, my average was 22.0 MPH. Because we were such a small group, I had to really work hard to maintain that average.
The horrible Hundred packs almost half the elevation into the last 25 miles or so of the ride, and the final 25 miles are pretty much one hill after another. At one point one of the guys in our group cracked and got dropped, which was too bad. Occasionally we picked up other riders as we passed them, but most of those guys latched on for a while, and then dropped away. A few of them took some pulls, which was appreciated, but for the most part we didn’t get any help at all.
Sugarloaf Mountain, which is the single toughest climb on yesterday’s ride, comes at about mile 82. Personally I love Sugarloaf, and if anyone happened to snap my picture or shoot video of me riding it yesterday there’s a good chance I had a big smile on my face. 🙂
The last 10 miles of this ride are always especially tough. The hills don’t let up at all, and with more than 90 hard-ridden miles already in our legs, we were all feeling the burn.
Hector and I both ran out of water with a few mile to go, so I’m really glad we made that quick 2-minute SAG stop–we obviously needed that water.
MY FINAL RIDE STATS:
Distance: 101.7 miles (163.7 kilometers),
Elevation: 5,210 feet (1,588 meters)
Average Speed: 21.2 mi/h (34.12 km/h)
Maximum Speed: 43.3 mi/h (69.69 km/h)
Average Cadence: 92 RPM
Maximum Cadence: 132 RPM
Average Power: 183 watts
Maximum Power: 923 watts
Average Heart Rate: 156 BPM
Maximum Heart Rate: 192 BPM
Route map, as ridden (click to enlarge):
Elevation profile, as ridden (click to enlarge):
As many of you know, I did this ride last year. I was in good shape when I did it in 2013, but I’ve been training extremely hard over the past year and was excited to see my improvement. My average speed in 2013 was 17.9 mi/h, and my average speed this year was 21.2 mi/h. Added to that, my average heart rate this year was 9 BPM less than it was last year.
While this century was not as fast as some of my other recent centuries–23.1 mi/h average at the Mount Dora Bike Festival (ride report here), and 23.3 mi/h average at the Horse Farm Hundred (ride report here)–this ride had significantly more elevation than either of those two rides (in fact the Horrible Hundred has more elevation than both of those other two century rides combined), and I was also with a very small group of just 3 or 4 riders for almost half the Horrible Hundred ride. I have no doubt if I’d not suffered the mechanical I would have remained with the lead group and finished with an average speed of around 22 mi/h, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Overall I’m happy with my performance yesterday, and with this year’s Century Season in general.
Unfortunately yesterday’s ride was marred by tragedy. One of the riders died yesterday out on the course. I believe the rider’s name was Howard Henley, and he suffered a fatal heart attack during the ride. I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to Howard’s family and friends.