Tomorrow morning, I am riding in Southern Wisconsin’s famed Horribly Hilly Hundreds bike ride, often coined as the “toughest one day challenge ride in the Midwest.” It will be my fourth time participating in the early season event, and Karen’s first. Surely the only reason I registered for this year’s event is because I took last year off, and so the experience (also often termed a “sufferefest”) is less fresh in my mind.
The annual event begins and ends at Blue Mounds State Park (the highest point in Southern Wisconsin at 1,716 ft. above sea level) and features both a 100k and 200k ride. I will compete in the 200k event, which is approximately 124 miles (of hell). According to the race director, Karl Heil, manager of Blue Mounds State Park, a quarter of the participants drop out each year. Luckily, I have not been part of that statistic yet, and hope to remain so.
A great article about the upcoming event was featured yesterday on Madison’s Capital Times Web site. Titled, “A horribly ‘hillacious’ challenge,” the article offers great insights into the challenges and collective suffering experienced during the gruesome ride.
The course is extremely relentless. The 200k features 10,700 feet of climbing, and repeated hills with up to an 18 percent grade. According to the Cap Times article, most courses in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains feature a 7 percent maximum incline. In fact, the race director competed in Colorado’s Triple Bypass, a 124-mile, 11,300 foot elevation gain ride in 2004, and came back convinced that he offered a tougher course. I must say, I too, am a believer. People don’t realize the hilliness of parts of Wisconsin until they experience it themselves.
Who knows how long we’ll be out there tomorrow. The top riders finish the 200k ride in 7 hours, and obviously it will take us much longer. Luckily there are support tents every 20 miles or so where we can stock up on fuel and rest our weary legs. I do feel some sense of urgency to finish the race however, as tomorrow night is my friend Brodie’s birthday party, the first annual “Birkelbeiner” with big wheel racing and barbequing. And while I may barely struggle through the horribly hilly ride, you better believe I will dominate the big wheel racing.