By Jennifer Jones
Hotter’N Hell Hundred… the name alone says a great deal about what you’re getting into. However, this 100 mile Endurance Ride is only part of a much bigger picture.
Recently, I was able to speak with the Executive Director of Hotter’N Hell Hundred, Ben ”Chip” Filer, and the Executive Director for Wichita Falls Streams and Valleys, Sandy Fleming. Wichita Falls Streams and Valleys hosts the off road events that are included in the weekend.
They are smack in the middle of planning mode and are quickly getting the final details squared away for the event. Many people are aware of the headline event of the weekend, but there are so many other components to this family fun weekend! From a junior/family endurance ride, to licensed competitive races, to the “Finishers Line Village” complete with live entertainment and food vendors! These two were able to give me the scoop on the Hotter’N Hell Hundred and the multitude of other events for the weekend.
What sets the HHH apart from other rides throughout year?
One of the big things is, the main goal of the Wichita Falls Bicycling Club and the Hotter’N Hell Hundred is to provide an experience for the riders. We are, as you notice, a non-profit, so we take all of our efforts and put them back into making our ride participant friendly. Which is why we keep the registration so low. Our early registration for the endurance ride is $30 and regular registration is $35. So we have tried to make it not only rider friendly, but family friendly, so folks can afford to bring the whole family. I think the thing we get the most compliments on are the rest stops. We have 19 rest stops covering the routes. Which is about 1 every 10 miles and they are staffed by different organizations in the community. Churches, non profits, county employees, home depot, some of the groups from the Sheppard Air Force Base and they all compete to see how they can better serve the riders both with speed and whatever the riders need at a particular site. So I think that’s probably what sets us apart.
How many volunteers does it normally take to work the event?
I hand out about 4000 volunteer t shirts every year.
That’s in comparison to about how many riders?
We have about usually right around 11,000 riders.
We are very particular that it is an endurance ride because on the same weekend we also host licensed USA Cycling races.
Let’s talk about the whole weekend. The weekend starts on thursday when registration and the consumer show opens up. They are open on Thursday from 4pm- 8pm. The consumer show usually has right around 80 vendors and the vendors are almost exclusively focused on cycling gear and health.
Friday the day starts in the morning with mountain bike races on the Wichita Off-road Trail. We have Cat 1, Cat 2, Cat 3, and beginners categories and those races go on all day Friday. They usually wrap up about 5pm. Friday the consumer show opens up about 1pm and registration packet pickup opens up at 2pm and both of those go until 10 pm. On Friday we also have the USA Cycling Criterium races downtown for the Pro Cat 1, Cat 2, and Cat 3 men and women. Those start at 5:30 and wrap up about 8pm.
On Saturday morning we have the endurance ride, which most everybody signs up for. That starts on Scott street at about 7:05. It is whatever official sunrise is. We have people spread out and categorized with the fast 100 milers first and at the end of the group are the 10k riders, which are mostly families with small children or people that are just getting into riding.
Also on Saturday we have the licensed USA Cycling road races. We have 100 mile route and a couple of 100k routes and a 26 mile route for the Juniors. As you can see, what we are building to is a weekend event for the licensed racers.
They also come back on Sunday, we have a full schedule of criterium races downtown throughout the day. Criterium races on Friday and Sunday are on a 1 mile, figure 8 course in Downtown Wichita Falls. There are actually 2 different courses.
Also on Sunday, we have a half marathon trail run where the mountain bike races were on Friday. We also have a 10k run.
If somebody can brave the mountain bike race on Friday, ride the 100 mile endurance ride Saturday, and then run the half marathon on Sunday they get a specially made award that says “I survived the Triple Threat.” We have about 200 people that do that every year.
Sandy- More sign up for it than ever complete it, but every year we have about 200 people that actually complete the challenge of the Triple Threat.
What I haven’t mentioned is that Friday night and Saturday we have a huge tent out in “Finish Line Village” which is another venue right by the finish line that has about 25 vendors, mostly food vendors. Then we have a huge tent with a stage and bands in there. We have entertainment Friday night from about 7- 9:30 and then Saturday from about 1 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon.
We try to make it comfortable for anybody of any experience.
How long have you been directing the ride?
I moved to town in 1988 and got recruited for the Steering Committee and worked on rest stops and routes. When i retired in 2007 i took over as Executive DIrector in January of 2008.
What was the most rewarding experience throughout the years directing this event?
Annually it is Sunday night when I can go home and relax from Hotter’N Hell weekend. But really, I think the biggest thing is the number of folks that come and have a great time and everybody goes home healthy. That is really what we strive to do. We spend a lot of time looking at safety and health and we try and make sure people train before they come out and ride and they ride the distance they have trained for. It really is satisfying to see all of these folks lined up at the start line on Saturday morning. It goes from Scott Street to about 13th street. It is like a sea of people. It is just absolutely amazing.
Sandy- There is lots to see at the starting line as well. It is crazy. There are thousands and thousands of people that are all going after this same goal. It is hard to pick one thing out.
What suggestions would you give a first time rider of HHH?
First I would tell them to start getting ready in April. I would tell them to get ready for whatever distance they signed up for, they need to ride in the heat of the day, about 4pm. So that you acclimate your body to the heat. But then I would tell them to make sure that before they come to the ride that they take their bike into a good bike store or to a mechanic to make sure it is ready to do whatever route they have signed up for. I think if people’s bicycles are ready and they are ready for the conditions that they will just have a fabulous time!
How many people normally come out for the consumer show in the Exhibit Hall?
We figure that we have about 20-25 thousand people that go through the consumer show each year.
Sandy- There are many things you can’t get in your regular shops. There is some cool stuff in there. Don’t go in there without your credit card!
There are a number of products that were actually introduced at the Hotter’N Hell Hundred. SweatGutter is one of them. Probably the most well known introduced at the Hotter’N Hell Hundred was the CamelBacks. You can find a history on their website.
What are some other Must-do cycling events in the Wichita area?
The Vernon Burnin’ is the weekend before us and that’s a good one. The Opossum Pedal, Muenster, The Tour of the Wichitas.
Sandy- The Wild Pig Pedal in June. Really the biggest one is Muenster. The Opossum Pedal the weekend before, when I have time I go to that one, and it is cool seeing Hotter’N Hell jerseys. I am the shipping person for the store so that really tickles me to know I shipped all of those out. I don’t tell them that, but I just ride around and smile.
Another one is 90 for Dad, which is a fundraiser for the local hospice around here in July.
Any other information you want your riders to know?
Sandy- It is really important that you plan for your ride and ride your plan. If you trained for 25 miles, don’t get caught up and decide you want to go 100k. That doesn’t work out well most of the time. We have many SAG wagons, but we don’t want you to use them. Really we want people to get out and enjoy the ride and accomplish whatever goal they set out for in the beginning. If something happens and half way through the event you are just not feeling 100 miles, don’t be too proud to take the cut off and just do 100k.
Or the 75 mile- we call it the “bail out route.” It is right at Hell’s Gate with the Hotter’N Hell devil and Pyro Pete. You can cut off and go through SHeppard Air Force Base and do the 75 mile route. That’s another thing about the HHH, if you ride the 25 mile route, the 50 mile route, the 100K, or take the 75 mile cut off, you get to ride through Sheppard Air Force Base. Probably one of the things that will stand the hair up on your arms is riding down airmen alley. There is a 2-3 blocks route that is lined by the Airmen cheering riders on and high fiving them. It’s just amazing. It is a cool experience.
What is Hell’s Gate and how did that name come about?
Well it’s the Hotter’n Hell Hundred and that is the point in the ride that if you don’t make it there by 12:30 we shut down the backside of the route. Again, this is a safety issue. If someone is not making it to the 60 mile route by 12:30 then they really are not in the condition to do the full 100 miles. The toughest part of the course is the back 40 miles so we cut them off there are funnel them off to the 100k.
Sandy- For a lot of the people, that is the goal, to get to the gate before it closes and then they take the 75 mile cut off.
Thank you Chip and Sandy for taking time to talk to the WheelBrothers.
They look forward to seeing many cyclists and their families out at the Hotter’N Hell Hundred weekend events. There is something for everybody. Registration for the endurance rides are open now! Get your spot before it’s too late!
Here is an up close look at a full length ride of Hotter’N Hell Hundred in 2015.