The challenge begins at 7:00 am sharp, just as the sun is rising. Temperatures were slightly cool, but we all knew we'd be baking in the heat in just a few hours. Over 14,000 riders waited at the starting line, and it was impossible to even mount your bike for the first 1/8th of a mile.
Brent readies himself for the start. We still hadn't decided how far to ride. I'd committed to 50 miles, but was willing to try for 100K (63 miles) if I was feeling good. Brent completed 100 miles last year at the HHH, but was willing to hang back with me for 100K.
The HHH is legendary for well-staffed rest areas spaced frequently along the course. In this shot, little cups of pickle juice (yes, pickle juice) are set out for sampling.
At the first rest station outside of the city, bikers line up to use the Port-A-Potty.
When you decide to pull over at a rest stop, you must find a place to "park" your bike. Invariably, the only place for your bike is laid flat on a field. These shots look a mess, and they are, but you're actually looking at very expensive, state-of-the-art lightweight bikes strewn around randomly. No one worries about theft, even if it's a $10,000 bike you've left in the grass.
I managed to prop up my borrowed (thanks, Mike Agan) vintage Schwinn Paramount against a barbed wire fence during one of my rest stops. Several riders took note of this bike. One older guy told me it was exactly like the very first road bike he ever raced, and marveled at its fantastic condition. I heard other riders murmur things like "Cool bike, dude" as I passed them. The biking community is notorious for burning money on expensive gear, and events like the HHH are full of ostentatious displays of wealth. When a rider sees a vintage bike like this, they don't think, "That guy must be poor," they think "That guy must be making a statement."
A group of riders smile as they cross the finish line. The HHH certainly makes you feel like a superstar athlete, even if you're just a weekend warrior like myself.
After crossing the finish line, many riders make a beeline for the hoses spraying cool water all over the street.