Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Horrible Hundred 2012

If I had to pick my favorite annual ride, it would probably be the Horrible Hundred. It's a big ride (over 2000 riders) sponsored by the Florida Freewheelers Bicycle Club. It's up in the wonderful hills of the northern Lake Wales Ridge of central Florida. Most people visit this area for Disney, the other big Orlando theme parks, and non-stop shopping at malls, malls, and more malls. We pity them. The theme parks and shopping malls are boring compared to a day of riding a bicycle around here.


We put our suitcases in the car and the bikes on the bike rack and drove the 2.5 hours north. The Horrible Hundred ride was Sunday, but there was early rider check-in, a variety of rides, and a Cycling and Fitness Expo Saturday. It's a treat to wander through the dealer tents, checking out the latest bicycles from different companies. This year there also was a dealer with custom high wheel bicycles. He had some elegant antique track bikes, too. Real eye candy. In a more practical move, we needed new short-finger riding gloves, so we shopped the clothing racks and bins, trying on lots of gloves. We scored a couple pairs with gel pads. A nice way to spend an hour or two.

The desk clerk at our motel remembered us from a recent visit. We chatted briefly. The hotel was fully booked with cyclists. People were rolling bikes in and out of the motel, and a bunch of riders had circled comfy chairs into a casual conversation area.

Once up in our room, I called up tomorrow's weather forecast. Around 54 degrees at dawn, 60 by ride start time, going up to the mid 70s later in the day. Mostly cloudy. Very windy, 15 mph NE winds with gusts to 20 mph. "Good," smiled Al. "It won't be raining."


I spent a lot of time with the route maps over the past week. I wanted to see if I could patch together a custom route that mostly stayed on the roads the ride organizers were using, hit the climbs, didn't miss sag stops (chocolate fixes!), had the miles we wanted, but didn't worry much about anything else. My plan had us joining the route just after a nice long steep climb not too many miles from the ride's start. That would take some steam out of the engines of the galloping packs.

We pedaled away from the motel after breakfast. The motel's flags said it all. It was windy, very windy.

We rode a couple of miles to the Horrible Hundred route. As planned we watched the fastest riders thunder past. Followed by a reasonable gap. We got on the route, joining the next mass of club riders, their enthusiasm notched down some by the first serious climb of the day. We like riding with these people once they calm down after the start. They're competitive but they have an upbeat attitude. They're also unrelentingly supportive of the riders around them. We make no effort to join their groups. We ride as a pair, Al in front for a while, then I take the lead. Our cadence work and interval training has paid off. On climbs we ride at the cadence that keeps our intensity at a challenging but comfortable level. Al crests the climbs first, slows and waits for me to catch up, then we descend. I love descending, the faster the better. On descents I can keep up with just about anyone. Al usually lets me play, catching up with me at the next climb. But he stayed with me on every descent. Nice. We are going to have fun with this.

I had my camera mounted on my handlebars. A lot of riders, not knowing whether I was doing video or still photos, would pass me and turn and perform for the camera. I loved it and got to laugh a lot.

All too soon we reached the spot where my custom route split us from the ride and headed us back to the motel. There was a bar-B-Q lunch for the riders, but Al and I were planning on a meal out on our own.

When we got to the motel, sweaty, tired legs and all, the desk staff gave us a big welcome. "You won! You beat the other guys back!"

They were having such a good time with their riff, we just smiled and headed upstairs to our room.

In old age deceit and treachery beats youth and talent every time...