ABOUT HORSEY HUNDRED
The “Horsey Hundred” is an annual bicycling ride hosted by the Bluegrass Cycling Club every Memorial Day weekend in Georgetown, KY. I happen to be pretty familiar with this bicycle social because I have now ridden in it five times, and it happens to be in my hometown! “Horsey Hundred” is the largest group ride I have participated in and this year was expected to host around 2000 cyclists that had 9 route options over Saturday & Sunday from 25 to 102 miles to choose from. That’s a remarkable statement considering all of the other rides I have attended only offered 3-4 routes. This year I was fortunate enough to complete the century route (102 miles) on Saturday, but was unable to ride on Sunday due to being out of town with family the rest of the holiday weekend.
The following paragraphs are my personal review of the 2012 Horsey Hundred including some of my struggles, some of my better memories, and please check out what some others have to say about the ride at the conclusion. Also, don’t forget to catch my overall rating for this ride at the end of the review!
PHASE I: TO SWITZER
All rides departed from Georgetown College in the heart of downtown Georgetown, KY with the routes of 102, 76, & 51 miles heading north, while the 26, 36, & 60 mile tours went south. The first 21 miles was a great start, I thought, because we had some short decent grade hills to get warmed up on with plenty of shade along the roadway. I felt great upon reaching the Switzer stop, where the line for water refill was fairly long.
PHASE II: TO MIDWAY
The next section of road was a little more flat with just a few small rises leaving Switzer, but still a beautiful section of road passing numerous farms en route to Midway about 16 miles away. By the time I reached the church stop here, I was pushing an 18 mph average and thought I better slow down and pace myself as I felt the heat starting to intensify slowly. This was a very busy rest stop because I think every route came through this spot.
PHASE III: TO MILLVILLE
The next part of the route joined and left most of the other routes at one point or another, in fact, if folks had pondered about riding 76 or 102 miles they had to make their decision early on in this phase. There was no doubt in my mind, even though I knew it was going to heat up, I came to do the “Horsey Hundred!” Still somewhat flat with leisure rollers and continued beautiful farm scenery along the road way, I intentionally slowed my pace in an effort to not over work. I Had the advantage (or maybe disadvantage) of knowing the route somewhat, and knowing that the toughest climbing was coming after Millville. At Millville, I waited on my riding mate, the Renaissance Man, and he looked worn out stating, “I’m starting to feel the effects of the heat.” Inside I was proud of him, that he made the decision to continue on the 102 mile route, and I felt good knowing that thus far, I had not eaten any shot blocks or gels, only bananas and oranges and home-made trail mix. I would soon wish I had been fueling myself a little better.
PHASE IV: TO JACK JOUETT HOUSE
As we left the Millville stop, the route went up, climbing a hill immediately. A few miles later as we approached a long steep descent, I warned another rider to go slow until the sharp left curve. The Ride organizers also warned us with 3 or 4 road paintings in all caps: SLOW! It was a scary moment entering the sharp curve I spoke of as we witnessed a rider against the rock wall with several other cyclists tending to an obvious injury. I’m not sure how bad it was, but we heard an ambulance was called to pick them up. My route continued, and continued in low gears as we had a long normally fairly easy grade for me to climb, but I was starting to struggle. I could feel myself slowly starting to bonk, and I finally reached a nice flat spot and found a shade tree to stop under and rest. I ate 3 shot blocks and drank a bottle of water at mile 60, leaving me short on water for the next 10 miles which included even more tough climbing, especially for someone on the edge of exhaustion. I’ve never in my cycling career had to make an unscheduled stop on an organized ride (first time for everything). I was thrilled to see a water hose at the Capt. Jack Jouett house rest stop and I took a long break drinking water, and cooling off under the hose. This stop was exclusive for the century riders as we received our “2012 Horsey Hundred Century Rider” pin from a very pleasant gentleman proclaiming the worst was behind us and the next 30 miles was all downhill with the wind at our back. He was the same guy who had jokingly harassed me the night before at registration because I was wearing a Cardinals shirt. It was nice to hear his positive and cheerful voice, considering how rough I felt, and looking around, I was in common company! I went on and put my pin on, just to make sure I made myself make it.
PHASE V: TO KEENELAND RACE TRACK
The next 15 or so miles was still tough as we probably were now riding in the hottest temps of the day, and the rollers were starting to make me frustrated. I recall turning onto a road called “Dedman Lane” and thinking how appropriate. As we turned onto the Lexington airport property I passed one guy walking his bike up a short steep hill and another guy sitting on the guard rail at the top, as I reached the summit, I ask “why do we do this to ourselves?” He said, “No clue!” Again, I was more than happy to find a water hose with cool water at a barn area where we stopped for fuel at Keeneland Horse Track. I was past physical exhaustion by this point, but I still had it mentally, because I knew how close I was getting to home now. Three more shot blocks in and off I went.
PHASE VI: BETHEL ROAD STOP & FINISH
Only 8 miles down the road was our last stop and I stopped briefly to refill my water bottles again. Back on the road less than a mile from the last stop, I felt a wobble on my tires. I stopped to find that my front tube had somehow forced a small section of the tire off of the wheel. I was amazed that it had not popped, but mad that I had to deal with it. I let the air pressure down until I could re-seat the tire, the took my portable pump and went to work. It was at 40 psi when I began pumping, then about 15 minutes later, the Renaissance Man rolled up to find me struggling and offered a CO2 inflator. I was at 80 psi and I was whipped. Then the Scheller’s SAG van pulled up with a real pump, and I was relieved. I managed to break the stem trying to pull my pump off, so I gave the bike tech my spare tube and he generously changed it for me. Back on the road, I got to finish with my good friend Tim the Renaissance Man and was very happy to be done. His wife Kelly and son John were waiting on us with smiles, and soon after we finished my wife Maria along with my sons Charlie and Dawson arrived with my vehicle that conveniently had my bike rack mounted. We cycled to the start that morning from my home 2 miles away, but were more than happy to rack our bikes and sit in the air conditioning on the way home.
WHAT OTHERS HAD TO SAY
* Karen G. from Denver, CO rode the 60 mile route and gave it an (A-) grade saying, “Long line for water at the first stop. The staff was very nice. Wanted a bench to sit on at Keeneland.” She told my wife how she had forgotten how beautiful this area is.
*A. E. U. from Richmond, KY rode the 50 mile route and gave it an (A+) grade saying, “There were plenty of stops with everything you needed to refuel. The road markings were very visible and easy to follow! I’ll come back again, just please put sprinklers at the finish line … too hot!”
* Larry Cheser from Harradsburg, KY finished the 76 mile tour and said of the ride, “Great and Excellent. It is well ran.”
* Libby Barnes of Nicholasville, KY rode the 102 mile route and gave it an (A-) overall grade commenting, “Wonderful, beautiful, scenic, and plenty of fuel.”
* Linda S. from Mansfield, OH finished the 60 mile route and gave it a grade of (B+) stating “The breaks could have had food variety and some seating. It was HOT and beautiful.”
CONCLUSION AND MASHER’S GRADE
I had set a personal fitness goal to complete the 102 mile tour in an average speed of 16 mph or better, but in the back of my mind was the knowledge that I had never ridden that far in that kind of heat, and the ultimate goal was to finish 102 miles. Well, after bonking around mile 60, I focused on the ultimate goal and achieved it. The stops were well positioned to enable riders the chance to complete the century ride in temps near mid 90s, and everyone was very friendly along the way. I saw no real traffic issues either. All things considered, I look forward to riding in the “Horsey Hundred” again next year and will definitely recommend it to followers of RAM Cycling as I give it an overall (A) grade! For the registration fee, I would like to receive a free t-shirt, but I will admit that the quality of the ride t-shirt is 2 or 3 times better than the ones you get free at other rides. Great job Bluegrass Cycling Club, I look forward to Memorial Day weekend next year!
If you think your ride is worthy of a rating from RAM Cycling please contact us, we are always looking for rides to complete and review. Please click on the “Contact Us” box in the right side column on the home page. Thanks.
One of my favorite sayings of all time is: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
I am a numbers guy. Why? I think it is encoded in my DNA. I am an engineer by education and an operations/financial guy in real life. Numbers drive me. So when I took up cycling three years ago, I started to track all of my stats. From the beginning, I have always used a great app on my iPhone called Cyclemeter. My initial review is here: http://ramcycling.com/?p=239. I am still using Cyclemeter and I love it.
This season I made a significant upgrade to my tracking and analysis. I added Wahoo Fitness Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor and Bluetooth Speed and Cadence Sensor (http://www.wahoofitness.com/Products/Wahoo-Fitness-Wahoo-Blue-SC-Speed-and-Cadence-Sensor.asp). Both have allowed me to track more data and analyze my efforts. (I also recently added Wahoo’s RFLKT display device. More details here: http://www.wahoofitness.com/Products/Wahoo-Fitness-Wahoo-RFLKT-iPhone-Powered-Bike-Computer.asp. This allowed me to eliminate the old Sigma computer and keep my phone in my pocket.) With this change, Cyclemeter no longer uses GPS for speed and cadence. By using the SC Sensor, GPS does the pathing and elevation and the bike generates speed and cadence. Adding the Bluetooth HR monitor now gives me an idea of how hard I am working.
Then KP the Masher introduced me to Strava (www.strava.com) . Strava tracks all of our rides and segments. (See our Strava data on our homepage.) Segments are parts of rides like a tough hill or a fast downhill. Now I have a real life app that will do the analysis for me and compare to all other people who have ridden where I ride. It is a form of virtual racing, even against myself. I get instant feedback on numerous stats:
In July 2013, I rode 12 times for a total of 353.56 miles. One of my best months of cycling. I attribute this to many things including riding with some awesome people in the Bluegrass Cycling Club. But I also know that I feel and see a difference in my body that is also supported by a lot of data and statistics.
The bottom line: Numbers drive me. Let them drive you too.
“Pain is weakness leaving the body.” We have all heard this quote and some cycling friends have even credited Lance with its origin. In reality the quote comes from General Lewis B Puller who was in the Marine Corps. And it simply means if you work through the pain, then strength replaces it. Well after the Assault on Mount Mitchell, my body has a whole lot of room for pain.
The Assault on Mt. Mitchell (AOMM) is a ride that brings the pain like no other I have ever experienced. And after 11 Hours and 8 minutes, the pain stopped. This is my review of pain and suffering that I have labeled “the hardest thing I have ever undertaken both physically and mentally.”
A year ago, my good friend KP the Masher, completed his first AOMM. I was there along the ride, specifically in Marion, 2 hours by SUV from the starting point, and at the top of Mt Mitchell, 2 hour bus ride up the mountain. As I recall my spectator status was filled with “those people are crazy” and “I would never attempt this.” Yet one year later, I had helped organize 8 fellow riders from the Bluegrass Cycling Club to attempt the AOMM. Besides myself and Kevin, there were Linh, Gene, Ken, Howard, and Adam, all going to Mitchell. We also had Steph and Rusty going to Marion.
All along, my plan was to just ride to Marion. I knew I could do that. After all, it was just 5500+ feet of climb and 72 miles. I was telling myself this so that I would not have to cross the mental hurdle of facing the 20+ mile climb so far away from the ride. So as I do, I poured myself into the details of the organizing the ride – the hotel, the cars, the meeting places, the car drops, etc. Still not even thinking of the climb but focusing on the fun our group was going to have.
I trained more this year for this ride than any previous ride I have ever performed. Several of us went to Clingman’s Dome and after a near death experience, I decided that I could make the climb. It was on and the climb became my focus. I was even helped by the news that Clingman’s climb was rated harder than Mitchell’s by some bloggers. Next up was a practice century that was dubbed the Masher’s Hilly Hundred. Awesome ride at over 8,000 feet of climb that was challenging but reinforced that a century with 11,000+ feet of climb was now possible.
Time ticked away at a rapid pace. And before I knew it we were on our way to Spartanburg, SC, the starting location. We got there Saturday night and rested up. On Sunday we went to Church and I prayed for surviving the ride. The Linn and I set out to Marion to meet Steph, Ken and Gene to drop vehicles for ride day. After getting back to Spartanburg, all of us met for the pre-ride dinner and tried to forget about the climb. We all went back to our rooms and prepared everything for the morning. Bottles filled. Attire laid out. Bike checked. Food and hydration checked. Nerves checked. Sleep.
Race morning was a blur. We met at Sunoco from the three separate hotels at 5:45 am and rode 2.5 miles down to the starting line. The weather was perfect and the nerves were settling down. We took lots of pre-ride pictures and prepared to start the journey along with about 1,000 other riders.
When the ride started, it was somewhat chaotic. I tried to just settle in and ride carefully watching for crazy riders and dropped water bottles. The ride to the first rest stop was fast at over 18.3 mph. I saw everyone there except for Gene, Kevin and Linn. I wouldn’t see them again for 10 hours. The ride to the second rest stop was a more realistic pace for me at just under 16 MPH and 42 miles complete.
Now we start the pre-climbing 5 miles to the next rest stop and an average of under 13 mph, which as consistent from 3 to 4. From 4 to 5 I was down to under 10 MPH for that section that included Bill’s Hill. I still felt OK after Bill’s Hill and Marion was close.
Marion – I rolled into Marion with Rusty right behind Ken, Howard and Steph. The ride so far was not very painful with an average pace of 15.2 MPH. A few big climbs, but I was rocking a new 11-28 cassette that was a huge improvement over the 12-25. I also had Skratch fuel onboard and my hydration plan was being followed exactly. Refueled my body and my bottles and decided to go check out the food with Ken while we were waiting on Howard to get ready for our departure. As I was checking out the food, a fellow taps me on the shoulder to wish me luck for the climb as he saw I had a Marion bib number. I turn around and low and behold, it is Phillip, the trail angel that saved my life on Clingman’s Dome. (Read Masher’s story about Clingman’s for more details.) His encouragement was all I needed to set out on the climb and know that God was with me and I would complete this task. (Insert story that many of us now believe Phillip may not be real but areal Angel.)
Now I knew there was no stopping. Most likely everyone would be waiting on me. And there was no way I was going across the finish line on top of the mountain in a SAG vehicle. I was either going to ride, walk, or crawl across.
Five rests stops left meant five five mile rides. The rest stops were not equally spaced but my approach was just that. Five rides. Nothing more, and nothing less. It was harder than I imagined. After the first two stops, I did not see Ken or Howard again. Ken had said at the second stop, that he was thinking of calling a SAG. That was all the justification I needed – if he could SAG out so could I. But did he? That crossed my mine at least 1,000 times in the final 15 miles.
At the Blue Ridge Parkway I was still average over 13 MPH but I still had almost 5,000 feet of climb ahead. The riders were thinning out. I was still being passed but much more infrequently. Was anyone behind me?
I remember vividly walking for a about a mile. I was looking out over the mountains and God’s creation. It was an amazing feeling. But then I started to feel pain in my hip. This was very unusual for me. But I think it was a message to get back on the bike. During this walking period, I did learn that I can walk at about 2.2 – 2.5 MPH and I can ride as slow as 3.5 MPH. Riding would give me about a 30% improvement in speed which meant I would finish faster if I rode and maybe less pain.
At about this same time, I was contemplating whether I had enough time left. I calculated again that even if I had to walk the rest of the way – I was going to make it.
Now it was time to bear down and make it happen. 2 miles form the top at the last rest stop, the volunteers lied to me. But I am glad they did. It was a tough 2 miles, but there lies made me not face the mental side of 2 more miles of climbing pain and suffering. The last four miles seemed like an eternity – 4.4 miles and 1500 feet of climb = PAIN!
The finish line – what an amazing view – eight friends cheering me on when I came around the last turn. All yelling words of encouragement. Steph and Rusty taking pictures. Kevin running along side of me. I had completed the challenge. I had beaten the mental and physical demons. I had accomplished what I had set out to do – finish the Assault on Mt. Mitchell.
Final stats from AOMM:
If I said it once I said it a hundred times – never again will I make this ride.
So after about four weeks, my goal for next year is to finish in 8.5 hours.