Hell's Kitchen

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On a whim, and without much (read: none) planning, I decided to do a 20-mile bike race yesterday.

While at work last Friday, I was e-mailing with a friend of mine from Competitive Cyclist, and he asked if I was going to do the "Hell's Kitchen" race. I told him that I wasn't aware of the race, so he sent me some information about it.


I decided to check it out... went back to the house on Friday night, hit the trainer for a bit, and then hoped for the best come Sunday. (Mistake #1)

Sunday morning came far too quickly, and the weather was just slightly better than miserable. It was cold (in the mid 40's), cloudy, foggy, and there was a light mist falling. The race location was about 10 miles south west of Fayetteville, and parking was hard to come by. There were cars lined alongside the road, in fields, and generally scattered everywhere. There were guys riding their bikes on trainers, next to their cars, effectively making the highway a one-lane road.

Found the registration "center" (an old, rundown church), paid my entry fee and bought a license so that I could enter future events. Total cost: $100. Got my number, and headed back to the car to get ready.


I was shocked to learn that the start and finish lines were about 4 miles from each other... why can't any of the race organizers around here coordinate the start/finish line in the same spot??

I went to the bike race in Lincoln last year, and it suffered the same problem - the finish line was a good 2 miles from the start. My 5k race at the Pea Ridge Military Park had the same problem as well - the finish line was a good mile from the starting line. Is it *that* hard/impossible to mate the starting and finish lines? I guess so.

Moved the car to the finish line, threw on my gear, and rode the 4 miles back to the starting line. It actually worked out for the best to do this; the 4 mile ride was a nice way to warm-up and to make sure that all was well with the bike. I found my staging area and waited for the race to start.

The race was scheduled to start at 10:00am, and I'm assuming that it did - I didn't have my watch turned on at the time, but I saw the Category 1 racers take off in a pack, complete with a police escort. After about a 15 minute wait, Category 2 and 3 riders left. After another 15 minute wait, the Category 4 and Masters (40+ age group) took off. And finally, after another 15 minutes, our group was let loose.

And therein was the first problem... our group, Category 5 (novices/beginners) were released at precisely the same time that the Category 1 (pros) were completing their first lap. Category 1 riders had to do four (4) 20-mile laps; Category 5 had to do one (1) 20-mile lap. So, as we hit the first corner of the race course, the Cat 1 riders were merging in and amongst our group.

Well, everyone freaked out, and wouldn't you know it, but there was a bit of a snarl/mess, and some folks went down directly in front of me. I was able to stop without incident, but by the time I got going, the first half of the Cat 5 group was gone. I cranked along, trying to catch up to them, but it was more or less pointless. Mistake #2: starting the race in the mid pack... next time, I'm starting at the front, no matter what.

Here I am on the course:


As you can see, I was all alone... well, not for long.... at about the 5 mile point, I was racing along at a nice clip - about 25mph, when out of no where comes this crazy dog, and he decides he's going to try to t-bone my bike. I swerve, slow down, then speed-up, yell at him, bark - but all for nought. He was intent on chasing me... so, I cranked as fast as I could, trying to lose him. I went around a slight bend, and there were 2 cars coming at me from the opposite direction, and thankfully, the dog decided to chase the cars instead, so he stopped (in the middle of the road), let the cars pass within inches of him, and then chased them. I LOVE - LOVE animals, but that dog isn't long for this planet... and his owner(s) need to be strung up for not taking better care of him... argh.

Ok, so now my legs are completely spanked, I'm rattled, I'm still riding alone, with no one to draft, and, I've got about 15 miles to go. Nice. Good thing there's a monster hill in about 10 miles that I have to contend with. The race is called "Hell's Kitchen" because of the monster hill that in previous years has caused portions of the field to quit when they reach it.

Well, I made it to the hill at about the 42-minute mark, and began the climb. They weren't kidding when they said the hill is pure hell - it really is. I swear it goes straight up, and it's about 1.2 miles long. My watch was yelling at me during most of the climb because my heart rate was too high... I checked the readings later, and it showed my heart rate was 237 bpm (beats per minute) during the climb. Sheesh!!!

With the hill behind me, it was time to motor to the finish line. I could see a few people in front of me, so I worked on catching them. One was a Category 1 rider, and 2 were Category 5 riders. I raced down hills - while they were coasting, I was pedaling as hard as I could (watch showed my top speed as 44.7 mph). My legs were on fire, my nose was stuffy, and my glasses were foggy, but I was going to catch them. And I did...

Here's me at the finish line:


The finish line was also on an uphill stretch, just for good measure, I guess. I finished in about 1 hour flat; not bad for a 20-mile race with a monster hill. I was just happy to finish without incident - I had escaped a wreck, a crazy dog, and the hill from hell. So, all-in-all, it wasn't a bad race. I didn't wait around for the results to be posted, just took off and called it a day. I'm guessing I finished mid-pack at best. Oh well. We'll get 'em next time.


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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on March 16, 2009 11:03 AM.

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