It's not as horrible as it sounds. Well, maybe if you are from Florida, those horrible hills may cause some altitude shock :)
I wasn't really looking forward to this event because it has been over a month since 6-gap and that event really did a number on me. I am still having nightmares of my smallest chain ring helping me move a speedy 5 mph up the mountains. Karel kept telling me that I can easily ride 100 miles and as long as I stay on a wheel and stick with a group, this event will be really enjoyable for me.
This was the 2nd time I have done this event (first time in 2007) but the first time I did the 100 mile event, rather than the 70 mile event.
After dropping off Campy at bman's, I picked up Karel at work and at 4pm we made our 2 1/2 hour drive to Clermont Florida. If you haven't been to Clermont, the National Training Center is located there and many professional triathletes travel to Clermont for actual hill training in Florida.
When we arrived at the Cycling Hub bike store, we were impressed with the organization of packet pick-up, as well as the yummy selection of food. This year was the 30th anniversary of the Horrible 100 and for the anniversary there was a catered happy hour with wine, beer and healthy appetizers. After our pre-dinner snack, we headed to Outback for my favorite pre-race meal. Yum!
We checked into the hotel and before we knew it, it was 5:45am on sun morning.
A few of our Gearlink friends from Clearwater were staying at our hotel so it was great to eat a light breakfast with them and like always, enjoy a few laughs together. Back to room to change and we headed to Waterfront park.
I couldn't believe the number of riders for this event. There are 3 rides (35, 70 and 100 mile) for this event, in addition to a fun family ride. The 100 mile ride started at 8am and we headed over to the event start around 7:45am. It seems as though everyone knows Karel so he was saying a lot of hello's as I was preparing myself for this 100 mile ride.
The ride started like a normal group event....chaos among 3000 riders (actually I think there was around 1000-1500 for the 100 mile ride). No surprise, the ride started fast and there was a few crashes and falls with the tightness of everyone riding so close to one another. Without even trying, I stayed toward the back because my wheel doesn't like to be that close to people I don't know. However, I still had Karel in my head telling me to stay on a wheel.
After the first few climbs, I began to notice how many people didn't know how to change gears. There was a lot of snapping of gears and people falling over due to chains slipping off chain rings. Although I have had a few instances where I was not prepared for a climb and I was careless with my gears, I was successful in all of my changing of gears during this ride..and this helped me a lot in this event.
I managed to stay with a group of around 15-20 for the first 30 miles of the ride and the course was not too hard. There were a few bumps here and there but overall, we were just riding fast and you could hardly feel any climbs. When we got to "the wall" I got dropped. Ughh, I was so upset. The climb comes right after a sharp right hand turn and there was a guy in front of me who was struggling with his gears. I got dropped and was unable to catch back up by the time I got to the top of the short, but steep, climb. Besides that climb, I didn't find any of the climbs challenging, but I knew the ride really started around mile 70. After I got dropped I thought to myself, there is NO WAY I am going to ride the last 70 miles by myself! I rode up to another guy on the course who got dropped from this group and we took turns pulling each other to try to catch up. Finally, a group of around 10-15 came up behind us and I was relieved to see some wheels to help me out for the remainder of the ride. I knew we had a long way to go but this group was fast, but doable. There wasn't really any organization to the group but we were passing people on the course and it was beginning to be a lot of fun to just ride fast and work on my skills (especially changing gears and handling skills).
Around mile 60 I started to get a little bored. Ok, 2 more hours to go..no big deal. However, I kept reminding myself that mile 70 brings a few tough climbs and mile 80 is the well-known "sugarloaf" mountain.
I was holding on to about 1/2 of 1 of my 2 water bottles. in case the group decided to pass the 4th rest stop at mile 70. Luckily, they stopped and I was in need of some fluid. If the group didn't stop I would have kept going because there was no way I was riding the last 30 miles alone.
I refilled my bottles and to my surprise, there was Karel calling my name.
He got a flat around mile 50 and after changing it, the front group was far gone and he couldn't catch up. He waited for me at the rest stop, hoping that I would stop and we could ride together.
This was the best news ever because I was ready for a change in the ride. Although I knew our pace would be a bit slower than riding with the group (although, not that much slower, Karel was still holding around 23mph) my power had been really low because of the group effort. Even though this is a group event and a fun ride, I wanted to have some fun with Karel and he wanted to have some fun pulling me the rest of the ride.
I had to take my time up the first section of big climbs before Sugarloaf because I didn't want to toast myself. I was really taking advantage of the downhills and rather than just coasting down hill, I was pedaling in my biggest gear to get some momentum up the climbs.
Finally..mile 80 came and as we made a right hand turn onto Sugarloaf mountain Karel was telling me stories of his races here. Once he did a time trial down and up sugarloaf as well as a road race course which included loops up sugarloaf. I love when he tells me stories because it helps me from complaining and thinking negative thoughts. However, I had my own stories in my head this time around and while climbing sugarloaf I kept thinking of my 45 min - 1 hour climbs in Dahlonega Ga. Ok-so sugarloaf wasn't as bad as I thought and before I knew it I was at the top and ready to keep on pushing.
The rest of the ride was fast and Karel wanted us to pass as many guys as we could on the course. In all seriousness, it was just fun and I was smiling the whole time. We would pass a group of guys and Karel would turn to me and say "you dropped them babe". I was just thinking to myself "No babe, you dropped them. I am just trying to not get dropped my husband who is riding super strong and fast".
The last 10 miles of the ride are just brutal. I was still feeling strong and ready to push but the ride never ends. The course takes you through a few neighborhoods with super steep (but short) climbs which just keep coming and coming. 5 miles to go and you are still wondering how many more climbs your quads can survive to get back to Waterfront park. I felt strong throughout the entire ride but I give a lot of thanks to the groups I was riding with and of course, my super strong and fast hubby who makes being on our bikes so much fun. There was no complaining by me on Sun and I had a blast!
We finally made it back to the finish and Karel let me beat him to the line. I had a best time for 100 miles and unofficially finished in 5 hours and 6 minutes. Although I beat Karel to the line, his overall time was 20-25 minutes faster than me due to his flat tire and long rest stop to wait for me:)
The best part of the ride was the post-event food. There was no pizza, cookies or pretzels. We are talking REAL healthy food. Although I was really looking forward to a slice of pizza I recovered really well with fresh and steamed veggies, a vegetarian burger and veggie chips. Karel had fish with his veggies.
If you are ever looking for a challenging and well-organized event, I really recommend the Horrible 100. I can't wait until next year and hopefully I will be able to ride with Karel for the entire 100 miles.
......so, as I write about the event and how great I felt during the ride, I was totally toasted on Sun evening. Mon was a DAY OFF from exercise and Karel and I (and campy) did yoga after we slept in until 6:30am. However, this event was a "fun" ride and another event checked off my bucket list.