The Heartbreak Hundred
Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing. Or maybe it was my relationship with my dad. Maybe I’m just defective. Somewhere, somehow, I blurred the line between suffering and fun.
Confusing suffering and fun is like confusing blue and orange or atheism and Catholicism. Truly, they don’t have much in common. Or, at least, they shouldn’t.
The upshot is that I’m at my best on rides between 60 and 80 miles but I keep choosing to do centuries and gran fondos that take me way beyond my comfort zone. And despite the fact that I’m not particularly fast, my preference is for rides reminiscent of a Yes song—long and difficult.
This season, for the second time since it has been offered, I’ve undertaken the King of the Mountains Challenge. Three centuries and the easiest of them is the final one, the Heartbreak Hundred. At 100 miles exactly, and containing 8500 feet of climbing, it’s both the shortest and flattest of the bunch. That’s relative, of course. Finding a century with more than 5000 feet of climbing is tougher than you think.
Here in the United States there is an organization called the Bicycle Ride Directors’ Association of America. The BRDAA has a Ride Rating System that ranks rides with a six-star legend (apparently, five wasn’t enough). Rides that rate six stars are centuries that have at between 3000 and 3500 feet of climbing (maybe a bit more).
So the rides I think are fun are off the chart. And I’m not good enough to ride them at a 20 mph average. Maybe set my sights lower?
And miss something like the Heartbreak Hundred? Are you high?
Every now and then you hook up with exactly the right wheel. Some angels wear lycra.
It’s easy to look at the course profile and imaging that because the sustained climbing is finished, the shorter climbs ought to be easy enough to tackle, right? That might be true if you weren’t above 5000 feet of elevation. It’s the rare rider who can hit those at full gas.
Amazingly, when you top the final climb at roughly mile 88, you have an unbroken descent the final 12 miles to the finish. Ride judiciously and you might pick up some riders to form a group. Between guys who caught me and other guys we caught (and dropped) I rode with a quartet back to the finish. Quick, powerful turns kept our speed easily above 30 mph.
It’s impossible to know how close you are to the top of the climb.
No matter how badly the last climb goes, a fast finish can cure all ills, can’t it?
Amazingly, the ride had fewer than 500 participants. For a ride with a course this good, this devoid of traffic (I could have counted the cars and not lost track) and perfectly supported, not to mention the RFID timing system I don’t see how every century-prone cyclist within two hours of Lebec didn’t do the ride. I don’t think any part of LA was more than two hours from the start, so that should have been thousands.
When I walked into registration I could see my time on a monitor. No wait.
One of these days I’m going to get all the details right and hit Heartbreak Hill full gas. I can’t wait.