Monday, October 21, 2013

Musings on the Hilly Hundred

According to America’s Health Ratings, Indiana was ranked 41st in overall health and 42nd specifically in physical inactivity . Therefore, it’s heartening to discover that the hard core bicycling community is still going strong in central Indiana. This weekend marked the 46th annual Hilly Hundred, a challenging bike tour in which 5,000 entrants mostly from Indiana bike 100 miles in two days through the hills of southern Indiana, climbing over 6700 feet total. It’s a moderate challenge to the uber racers, a major challenge to the super riders, and a grueling ordeal to everyone else. I should know since I just completed my 4th Hilly. Cue dramatic music.

Of course, the weekend is immense fun. They feed you, fête you, and cheer you on. The rest stops have donuts, muffins, apples, bananas, cider, and granola bars. Lunch is a modest affair, but there is plenty of food available, even for vegetarians like me. They give you ice cream, bands play at the rest stops, you get a t-shirt, and the vendors in the vendor tent separate you from your money an artistic flair. And then they kick your butt throughout the hills of Indiana.

Here are some semi-random thoughts and observations regarding the weekend.

Be proud of your accomplishments. My goals for the Hilly Hundred were to a) finish the entire ride, b) not be the last person to finish, and c) ride (not walk) the ENTIRE ride. And yes, I did all three. I rode up Mt. Tabor without walking, all 0.2 miles of 20% spank your bottom grade. And I rode up the hills in Bean Blossom, all 2.0 miles of slap your face. Of course, since all the other riders are also riding these hills, I have to go back home before I get any real appreciation.

There is always someone faster than you and someone slower than you. I try not to judge my progress by how many people pass me on the road, but sometimes it’s difficult, especially when half the ride is zooming past me, and the other half would zoom past me if they hadn't started at 10:00am instead of 8:00am. So, I can’t help but feel some personal pride every time I pass another rider. Of course, the riders I passed included a 70 year-old woman, a 12-year old boy, a guy on a unicycle, and another guy fixing his tire.

The Hilly is a great time to make new friends. This year, I rode part of the Saturday run with an attractive 23-year old chemist. She told me that she is a runner much more than a bike rider, which I could pretty much tell by the lack of any fat on her body. Nonetheless, she dusted me on most of the hills. I took a small amount of pride in passing her when coasting down the hill. I told my wife that this was because I had a superior bike. “You don’t think it had something to do with the mass differential?” she asked. “Shut up,” I suggested helpfully.

Wind is not your friend. Or rain. Or cold. On Saturday we had all three. So, I had a second donut to make up for it. It kind of helped.

The Hilly is a great time to meet up with old friends. I have some friends that I literally see once a year at the ride. We typically start together, and they proceed to leave me in the dust. But they meet up with me at the rest stops, and we talk about our past year. Today, one of my friends was talking about his new bike. I mentioned that the bike can make all the difference. I told them about the young lady I rode with yesterday, and how my superior bike coasted past her on the downhill. “I think that has more to do with the difference in weight than the bike,” my friend commented. “Shut up, “ I suggested helpfully.

Sometimes it is all about the physics. Last year, I asked my coworker, an avid biker, how I could improve my speed without getting a new bike. “You know,” he said with a smile, “it’s usually more about the rider than it is the bike. You have to improve your legs and reduce your center of gravity.” So, this year at the vendor tent, I bypassed the fancy new tires and frames and handlebars , and I looked for someone selling new legs. Can you believe it? No one was selling. What’s up with that? I was so disappointed. The best I could do was lower my center of gravity. So, I had another pumpkin spice donut.

You are never too old to ride the Hilly Hundred. I don’t have any official statistics, but my unscientific assessment is that the median age of the riders was about 48. There were lots of young, college-age uber racers in their full regalia, but there were plenty of men and women in their 60s zooming past me as well. Of course, many of them have paid off their mortgages, so they can pour more money into their bikes and equipment. Yeah, I’m sure that’s why the portly old man was passing me on the hill. Either that, or he found the vendor selling the new legs.

No comments:

Post a Comment