Having missed Barry-Roubaix due to a work trip, the lower-key Hellkat Hundie would be my first event for 2015. There is a 50 mile and a 100 mile version, but of course I had to do the 100 miler! Mike Clark and Cathy ‘Kaat’ Tahy put together this fun, challenging event as a JDRF fundraiser. The course was well marked.
Last year I rode it and completed the course in seven hours. This year I hoped to better that time, but at the last minute opted for a second goal. Teammate Marnie Tencate was riding the 100 in training for her debut at Lumberjack-100, so I decided to ride with her for the 100 miles. Scott Tencate was planning to hammer the 100 and teammate Matt Remelts was racing the 50-miler.
As we rolled out from Third Coast Cycles, we soon encountered a strong headwind. When we went south we rode into a headwind and when we rode east we rode into a headwind. Oh, and did I mention the headwind!? Frankly it seemed every direction was into a headwind.
At one point we were climbing a long shallow grade- yes, into a headwind- and I recall saying “Okay, headwind or a climb. Can we have one or the other rather than both?!”
Marnie and I picked up a couple other riders. Eric Sooy rode with us in the first 25 miles until he split off to complete the 50-mile event.
Shortly after the 50/100 course split, a rider from Novi (Ken) joined us. Later, Chicago rider Paolo caught up and decided to ride with us as well. He had an interesting bike with 50mm cross tires and said it was built specifically for races in the ultracross series. These two guys would ride with us pretty much into the finish line.
I felt pretty good and fairly strong this day and so I went to the front of our little pace line for most of the ride. The gravel roads were hard packed most of the day though they did get a little bit tacky after Noon as the temperatures warmed up a few degrees.
Marnie and I discussed race and food strategies for Lumberjack. At one point she couldn’t reach her Endurolytes so rather than stop, as I rode along side her I started pulling items out of her back jersey pockets until I could reach the Endurolyte bottle. Le Domestique hahaha.
Not everyone can do the Hammer stuff on rides but I have gotten quite used to their products. I had my standard fare all one me for the race: one bottle of Perpetuem for fuel, two bottles of Heed for hydration, Endurolytes, and a flask of espresso Hammergel. Other than filling one of the Heed bottles with water at the third checkpoint, these items would get me through the entire seven hour ride. After numerous 100-milers I pretty much have my nutrition needs dialed in for the expected duration and distance of such events.
The most disconcerting aspect of the event was the darn dogs. On a couple of occasions, the dogs were quite determined. One chased us for over 100 yards. Marnie had to put a foot out and kick at the last one as I and one other rider started to turn around to defend us from the charging canine. The dog then dropped off as we rode onward.
The Hellkat route is unique in that it can seem like it goes forever at times. Left turn, right turn, left turn, left turn. At some points you forget if you are going east or west or north or south until a familiar street sign at an intersection reminds you of your location and orientation. And just when you think you are heading in to finish, the course takes another dodge left and seemingly away from Hudsonville, before turning again back to the finish.
Marnie ended up second on the podium for her women’s category! I was surprised to find I was third for Master’s Men category though I had not been actually racing this day. We got nice Sram ball caps as awards. (First place finishers got a special pair of tightie-whitey Hundie Undies hahahaha).
The roll-out started at 8:00am and we crossed the finish line at about 3:10pm. Our moving time was 6:58 per my Garmin though the actual finish time was a bit over 7 hours when stops at the aid stations are taken into account.