I had never done 100 Miles on my bike even Pre-accident had I biked that many miles. But I can finally say I have done a Century Ride!
It all started when I was a work and Don Vick dropped by. The athlete that he is and once living in Wichita Falls Texas he told me about the challenging century ride that he had done a few times. All I had to hear was challenging and I was in. Once he left I pulled it up and read up on it. Said to be the biggest race in the United States and supposedly the biggest race in the world. Entry being 13,000. Although a flat race with a few climbs the challenge was the heat with temperatures hitting a high of 105 degrees? Something inside said this is a race that I am meant to do. I ran into the back and said “Brett I have found my last big race of the year, Hotter N’ Hell 100! A 100 Miles in Over 100 degree weather!” Think he was a little upset that Don Told me about this race but was supportive and told me if I find someone to do it with my then it would be fine. I set and thought who would do this with me other than Bob. I didn’t want to bother him with another race since he was already going to do the Salty Dog Triathlon and lets just point out it was 2 weeks before the Hotter N’ Hell. Who else could I find to do it with me? Someone who will understand my determination and my limits?
For those who don’t know Beth Shaver then you are just missing out on one of the warmest hearted bubbly people you will EVER meet. She was the first women civilian and second person to receive the ExoSym. Which is the same device I have that makes all of this possible. And her reasoning for the device cutting it short and sweet “Limb Salvage- complications from surgeries. Very painful to weight bear on without ExoSym”
But a lot like myself she loves to share about the device and spread the word about it but wants people to know that there is more about her then JUST the device and her injury.
Knowing she lived in Texas and is just like me ready to jump on any challenge that comes her way I thought this would be perfect! Sure enough she was able to do it and because all hotels were filled she had a friend who lived in the area and was happy to have us stay there.
Once again doing this race was just meant to be! Brett was very uncomfortable since I had never met Beth before only talked to her on Facebook and via text. I felt like there was no worries. I mean come on she’s our spokesperson for the ExoSym! It was me she should be uneasy about. But knew she could just call Ryan and ask if I was real ExoSym patient and normal. But he would probably had answered “What is normal?” A question he has asked me a few times. Anyone who knows me knows I am a fun handful or “A genuine Free Spirit!” That describes me perfectly. Which you will understand this better later.
So I had to wait until I knew Beth had registered before I could and Brett really wanted Bob to go too. May 21 I received a text from Beth and then a tag in a post saying she had registered. I let a loud exciting squeal in the truck with Brett. This is going to happen this is really going to happen!!! The next day I registered and sent Bob the information on the race. Time to up my bicycling miles and plus training for the Salty Dog Tri.
Of course I was finding it hard to put in the miles since there are not a lot of safe places to ride in the Barber County area, plus I can’t keep bothering Bob and Cindy every day for a distance ride. I didn’t want to be that person that made them terrified of going out in the yard in fear I would run out wanting to go on a ride. So I just tried to keep it at Saturday mornings. Our first distance ride was to Harper which was a 32 mile ride. Was not a challenge at all other than when I would start to have panic attacks from people driving to close at a high rate of speed. Then it turned into our morning rides to Sawyer for delicious Cinnamon Rolls and every time we met someone new One day a man who came from Uganda Africa who was visiting the churches and learning our customs but I was just in awe at his customs, Cindy’s niece and nephew who came from Turkey to visit, the man who came and took pictures of us riding for the Hutch News and so many more. These people just fascinated me and brought even more joy into my love for cycling.
So I could go on about my training plus then there was the Salty Dog Spirit Triathlon which is another race report. But this is all about Hotter N’ Hell race.
So ended up Bob was unable to join me in the race it was just Beth and I ready to take on this challenge.
Friday August 26 finally came! My gut was in knots from all the excitement. Bags packed bike washed and maintained. Nutrition I was sure was perfect. Even invested in a 1.5 Liter Camel Pack for the race. Apple Cinnamon Skratch Lab to keep my hydrated and my homemade Chocolate Sea Salt Rice Balls and Banana Pecan 2 bite Pies are sure to keep me going.
Although the farthest I had went was 40 miles I felt ready!
When we arrived at Beth’s friend’s house she was in the parking lot waiting for us. It was so weird to see another person outside of Washington wearing the same device. I could even see the look on Brett’s face when I looked back like “Whoa! This is just crazy!” Another emotional experience that I find hard for others to understand unless you had been by my side through all this. Just an impacting moment!
So we unpacked my stuff and left to pick up our registration.
Pulling up to the Kay Yeager Coliseum it was PACKED! Roads blocked for the USA Cycling Criterium Race and USA Cycling Road Race. OOOOOHHH THE BIKES!!!
Beth quickly found out I was an easily distracted person and you have to hold my hand just so you don’t lose Ha Ha. Especially when it’s around bicycles. We picked up our packet with instructions on what to do with the 3 bib numbers we were given and then directed to where we can pick up our tee shirts. Where we walked into a gym packed with everything bicycling. Oh I never wanted to leave that place!
We walked buy a place selling jerseys and cycling shorts and a beautiful blue jersey caught Beth’s eyes. Along with the matching shorts. It matched her perfectly but the price was just unreasonable. I said “It says discounted and this is the full price you might go ask them.” With a little charm she got them to come down to a price that would make any bicyclist jaw drop. She went to try it on and came running back out saying “Amanda, (who is our project Athena Coach) says never try something new the day of a race. But these are just too cute!” And I had to agree.
Then we went to helmets were I seen a Giro I had been wanting. So I am a HUGE fan of Giro Helmets since that was the one I was wearing when I was hit and for everything I went through I only had a minor concussion and the helmet just had spider vein cracks all over it but held together. So I was fitted for this helmet and it sounds silly but I felt a lot more comfortable now being back into the helmet that saved my head and one of the contributors to saving my life that day.
Brett was starting to get hungry and if Beth and I spent any more time in there we would be the two broke girls living on our bikes. So off to what is my FAVORITE place to eat Jason’s Deli. Where we had to carb load for tomorrow!
Brett dropped us off and he wished us the best of luck for tomorrow gave me a big hug and told me to be careful and he would be tracking me throughout the race.
Beth and I went back to get her tire looked at because she was having problems with a flat. Thankfully they gave her a free replacement tube and got her all fixed up. Then readjusted my back derailleur since I wasn’t fully catching on a gear. Then went back to Beth’s friends place in hopes to get to bed soon.
We started getting everything together for tomorrow figuring we would have to be up at 3:40 and leave at 4:30. Then spending about 20 minutes looking all over for the bib number that goes on my helmet which was in my bag that I checked numerous times and wasn’t found until Beth slightly reached in the bag and said “I found it!” Finally we hurried to get some sleep with only 3 hours until we would have to be up. We both make sure there is nothing more to get up and do before taking our shoe and device off and laying it right next to us. Almost like a safety blanket.
Alarm goes off and two girls get out of bed pretty much one legged to shut the alarm off they slip on their Swiftwick compression socks and Knee sleeves for me because I have the knee attachment I had to add a 2XU full leg compression then they both reach for the miracle black carbon device that is the start of their day.
Anxiously making sure we are fully prepared and not missing anything. We hurry out the door worried we won’t be able to find parking. Lucky for us we were early enough that the only people there were the people that stayed the night. Couldn’t ask for better parking. We get our bike rear wheels put back on and start towards were we go for our breakfast. Beth has found it easier to pedal in her clips without the wedge that supports our ExoSym in our shoe so when it comes to walking in the shoe it causes her pain so we got on our bikes and headed to the building for breakfast Just to find we had to take our bikes back take them apart and walk back because they didn’t allow bikes in the building. I felt so bad for Beth worried it might affect her whole day but although in some pain she didn’t let it rule her life. Still laughing and joking the whole time we had our breakfast and visited with others who were veterans or first timers. We looked around and Beth said so far I haven’t seen anyone in our age group. Man this girl was checking out our competition.
We enjoyed our syrup less pancakes which was probably a good thing, fruit, eggs, sausage patty, coffee, and orange juice then back to get out bikes and find our place. By this time parking was packed and hundreds of bicyclist heading to the start. We got our bikes and went to a Specialized Tent to get a maintenance check and make sure Beth’s Tires were still good.
They checked my tire pressure and gearing again. We then headed for the start.
Each block they had separated. The start was the Scorchers the people who can finish in 6 hours or less the next block was The Keepers which was were Beth and I were. Were we had to finish in 6 to 8 hours then the maybes which were they might finish they might just stop at 20 miles. Thankfully we had been early enough that we were at the start for the Keepers. Still dark but could see a hint of pink in the sky where the sun was starting to come up. Beth and I did a small video for our fellow Exo/Sym”ers to wish us luck. We talked for a while to two men who had done the race a few times and got some advice to try and was told to skip the first 10 mile stop because it’s crowded and impossible to get to the restrooms. Also warned us to try and get to Hell’s Gates mile 65 by 12 or we will have to do the 75 mile route. Beth said “There is no way that’s going to happen we did not come here to do just 75 miles we are doing the full 100!” A breath of fresh air to meet someone as determined and stubborn as I am. The Anthem starts. As I hurry and grab my phone to video this incredible experience I become chocked up from emotions.
The men and women who gave their life’s so we can be here today. The men and women who went through so much and made this device possible for Beth and I and many others. The gift to be standing with someone who knows on a personal level the struggles I face and knows how to overcome them so that we can help each other through it. The fact we were both here around 13,000 people ready to do one of the most mentally challenging rides and biggest rides. The gift God has given us both. The fact out of everything I have been through that this should be a piece of cake!
The canon goes off and the race begins!
For a moment everyone was mounting and dismounting a few times but then it started to speed up as we pass the start line there was no more stopping for us. A little incline up the bridge that everyone passing said was going to be our biggest climb which had me thinking “Oh this is going to be easy then.”
Thousands of bicyclist as we go down the highway closed off to traffic. People setting in there yards with their kids drinking coffee cheering us on. There was an empty spot left on the left hand side that Teams would speed past as you can hear them coaching each other, Tri bikes flashing through, even had an older man possibly in his 70’s long grey hair and beard with very little fat on his body and riding an older bike peddling away at what looked like an average speed of 23 mph. As we start to exit out of town there starts to be more moving room. “To your left!” “To your right!” as people let you know they were passing, sometimes people passing by with their music on with all there focus on the road ahead, and the occasional humming sound of carbon fiber wheels speeding past. I looked over to Beth and asked if she wanted to get into the fast lane. She was ready to go! We moved to the fast lane and went for it. Once we were out of town the site was UN real!
On top of a hill looking down at the miles of rolling hills and the road covered in nothing but bicyclist. THOUSANDS OF THEM!
As we flew by the first rest station at mile 10 it felt like we had only been on the road for 5 miles. I looked down at my watch and seen that our average speed was 18 MPH. Yet I felt like I was putting in no effort to be at 18mph. We kept going on and seen the amount of riders started to go down. But still felt packed on the road. Mile 15 we both grabbed our nutrition. I reached for my rice balls and tried to get the foil off while trying to keep a good speed and not hit anyone. How in the world do professional racers do this!?! After finally getting the foil open I looked at them laughing and showed Beth “Does this look like throw up?” “Yes!” I try to eat it but it made my hands gross and then there was no place to throw my trash so I tried putting it back into my jersey were it had gotten all over my phone screen. “So I am googling how the pros eat these things on their ride. This is too much of a pain in the butt to do!”
As we got closer to our next stop I had not experienced this yet on the bike but had a panic attack when an ambulance went by with their sirens on. Beth kept looking over at me to make sure I was okay. I took a few breaths pulled my self together and we pulled into mile 20 stop. I prayed that whoever it was okay but knowing it was probably a heat stroke.
As we dismounted we looked around at all the bikes laying on the ground when we found an empty spot to put our bikes we looked up and there was a row of men by the fence. Beth an I laughing and thinking if only it was that easy for us to do that then looking over at the long line at the porta potty’s. I went to fill my Camel pack up while Beth went to wait in line.
Off we went again! Mile 20-30 went fast while Beth and I talked about our stories of how we got our Exo/Syms and the steps we took to get to where we are today. The one thing that was hard for the both of use was the support after we had received the device or even when we found out about it. People were more terrified of us getting hurt or the what ifs then to see us experience living life to its fullest again! But within time the ones you love will grow past this fear and see how much the device has made us happy.
We talked about the options for our next upcoming adventure and the ones we have planned on our own. Possibly a Team Exo/Sym half Ironman or Biking from Texas or even Medicine Lodge to Gig Harbor Washington. So maybe that one is a little too crazy but it never hurts to dream.
Mile 30 we stopped again. Beth went to the restroom while I grabbed us some cookies, pickles, and filled up our water bottles. I didn’t even notice that I had not really drank anything and hadn’t ate anything since mile 15. Nor have I even used the restroom. Not a good sign!
We headed back out. Mile 30-40 I once again was into talking and laughing that I didn’t keep my nutrition and hydration together. Once my watch beeped at 40 miles Beth said “We need to celebrate Liz! This is the furthest you have went!” I said “50 we’ll be celebrate!” Beth started to notice I was becoming a little tired and concerned because I hadn’t used the restroom. She asked how much I had drank. I thinking about it had only had 3 litters in the 40 miles I had biked and the temperature was already in the high 90’s. Beth said “Liz you need to drink more! See if you can use the restroom.” as we pulled into Mile 40 stop. We laid our bikes down and she went to fill our water bottles and my camel pack. I waited in line asking if there was some water to slash on my face to take the pure salt mask off my face. Thankfully they had someone walking around with water that they poured into my hands. After 5 minutes of waiting in line I tried to use the restroom but couldn’t. I went to the sitting area were Beth was she handed me a pickle and was talking to a sweet couple. I had wished I could have stayed and talked but they told us we only had 30 minutes to get to Hell’s Gates. Beth says “Liz we got to go!” And we go running to our bikes. I’m throwing on my helmet and Camel pack and hook up pushing as hard as we can to get as much speed. Flying by other cyclist like we are on a motorcycle. I look down at my watch to see we are going 26 mph. We have 30 minutes to cover 25 miles. I was feeling pretty disappointed because I have never held that kind of speed for more than 5 miles since my accident. But I was going to give it my all. Because we didn’t come here to just do 75 miles!!! We are going to do the full 100 miles! As we go through a small town Beth about 6 ft. ahead of me we come to a guy listening to some hard rock, which I believe is the best music to train to in the theory that people who listen to hard rock tend to speed. So what better way to make yourself go faster than to listen to Hard Rock? The next few miles I tagged along listening to his music and talking about bands we had seen or would like to see. Beth still a few yards from me. Finally I hit a point my legs started to cramp. Oh no! I had neglected my nutrition and now am paying the cost. As I watch the guy I was talking to and Beth grow further and further from me and the music started to fade. I kept taking a few deep breaths punching my legs and taking big drinks of my Scratch Lab drink Mix. Telling myself “Come on Girl! Come On! Push through this!” Beth looking back saying “Come on Liz we are almost there you’re going to do this we are both going to finish the 100 miles! Only 10 more miles to go!” I started to drop to a lower gear thinking more spins and less effort would make it easier. Getting a little burst of energy I start to catch up with her as she keeps glancing back yelling out words of encouragement. I flat line again! “MY LEGS!!!!!” I take a few more drinks watching Beth start to disappear into a group I shift my gears up and stand trying to give all I have to catch up. In tears from the burn of my legs. I wasn’t going to stop! Finally catching up I see Hell’s Gates coming up in the distance. Going at about 27mph down a decent peddling as hard as I can then straightening my left leg and leaning in as I take the curb. There it is! There it is! Passing by it so quick we can’t even stop and fly past it. Finally getting slowed down enough about 1/8th of a mile past. We dismount and Beth gives me a big hug “We did it Liz! It’s all downhill from here!” Of course I am thrilled I am also a little concerned as a throbbing headache has come on, I had stopped sweating, and horrible leg cramps. I was embarrassed to tell her this. Because I my self was saying “What kind of athlete are you? You should know better and know how to take care of your self-nutrition wise.” Along with I was scared I was going to hold her back because I just couldn’t keep up the speed and stay with her. But I knew if I didn’t say anything then it would hurt me more and she has never came off like a person like that and I should trust her. So I told her the problems I was having and she immediately started to be a good friend and help me through it. She asked me how much water I had and I told her I had nothing in my camel pack. So this sweet girl gave me 90% of her water. And added her electrolyte tablet to my bottled water. Then she gave me 2 of her electrolyte pills and a couple of gummies Then had me eat some of my homemade banana walnut pies which were another mistake on my part because my mouth was too dry to even eat them. If you are not thinking it yet let me just say MY NUTRTION PLAN WAS AWFUL! It was graded D-. Only because I did put effort into it and the rice balls did work just too messy.
We see two guys with a trailer go by and ask us if we were alright and we both smiled and said we are good but could you take our picture since we couldn’t get stopped at Hells Gates and we wanted to make it there before cut off. The said “Sure! But the strip you have to pass in order to keep going is a block down.” I don’t know if that was when the Dehydration drunk started to kick in but I died laughing. Beth “Liz, we got to go we got to get across that strip.” Let’s just say I love this girl! It was nice to have someone push me for a change. We crossed the strip with only 2 minutes left until they closed Hells Gates. We had the guys take our pictures but didn’t look at them we just decided to keep going to our next stop.
Beth asking how much I had drank every so many miles. Making sure that by the time we stop I had drank everything I had. Beth had finished the last of her water about 5 miles from our next stop. We had reached our next stop mile 70 and I was starting to feel a little better my headache was gone and my legs were starting to not hurt as bad. We went to the tent set our stuff down and grabbed some pickle juice shoots, pickles, and bananas. Then set down under a mister. Beth’s back was bothering her a little bit but other than that she would have probably already crossed that finish line if it wasn’t for me. After a little rest and a few more pickle juice shots we decided to go back at it. First I had to see if I could get a big pickle. And made my day adding that to be my 7th pickle for the day. My great Grandma Bolton was probably laughing at how many pickles I had that day.
When we started off I seen the porta potty’s and told Beth I think I might have to go and she held my bike as I headed down the steep red dirt ditch to the restroom. Losing my balance on my good foot twisting it making a loud snapping sound that everyone around heard and made some gasp. Then rolling down the ditch. I grabbed my ankle for a minute and heard someone say did you hear that snap? She done for the day!” So I jumped up gave a thumbs up and said everything’s good and went to the restroom. My ankle was very tender but if I could walk on it then I could peddle and I’m going to finish this!
The first two miles was a little painful but after I had forgotten I had even hurt it.
Beth had talked to some people and was told our next rest stop has Trees and cots and Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches. That I think motivated us both to try and get there quicker. As we talked more about our life the miles just go flying by. Beth keeps checking to make sure I am drinking water and giving my electrolyte pills. We somehow got into a conversation about how I can be considered by others as childish. Although I know my limits I always want to get out and enjoy life. This is when Beth looked over and said “Liz. You’re not childish you’re a free spirit. And there is nothing wrong with that” And my Free Spirit has led to a lot of laughter and lot of great stories like this one.
Mile 80 rest stop did look like a wonderful rest place. Beth laid down on the cot. I asked if she wanted anything and she said just water. Guessing she was tired because she forgot the PB&J Sandwiches. I said Okay and went up to fill our water bottles and grabbed 2 full PB&J Sandwiches. When I got to the cot I had hidden the one sandwich and started eating mine. I looked at her and said “OOOOHHH everything taste amazing when you have done a long bike ride.” She looked at me like where did you get that? I handed her a sandwich laughing. If only our life was “Being sponsored by Nike, Eating a full container or Peanut Butter, and getting paid to work out” We shared a cot for a min and laid down. Just had to get a picture of it. She looked at me and said “You are burnt! Does it hurt?” I said no after the accident I guess I built a pain tolerance because Sun burns don’t even bother me now. Then she shows me her perfect tan line. Not fair! Only 20 miles to go so we head off.
I met Hell!
No Wind! Beth “82 miles!” No Shade! Is that a tumble Weed? Are we in the desert? Beth “83 miles” Me “83 are you kidding me!! It feels like 89 we should be at our rest stop!”
My legs start to hurt. I have emptied my water bottle and working on my camel pack. Beth tells me a little about her childhood. How she played soccer with her twin brother as a kid. And the activities she did as a teen. Beth “84 miles” Me “Beth quite saying it out load it’s like starring at a clock waiting for work to be over!”
Think she’s just doing this to give me hell! My face starts to burn and once again that girl just keeps pedaling away not effected by the heat or anything. I look at my arms and they are bright red. It feels like acid just got poured on me!! OH IT BURNS! I finally have to stop and put my face down to block the sun for a minute. Beth about 6 feet from me stops with a worried look on her face. She asks “How much water have you drank?” Taking the last drink from my camel pack. “All of it!” She then hands me another electrolyte pill and gives me a little of her water. And motivates me to push on. “86 miles!” Oh this is Hell! We hit a point where there was a boiling hot point and a climb. Beth just jumps up and starts peddling away and I’m shifting down as much as I can going at a snail’s pace up that miserable hot area. Finally when we got up the hill it went away and seen our first person since we left the last rest station. My face and arms are on fire, my stomach is feeling uneasy, and if I had the water I would be crying. “87 miles!” When we reached our rest stop I almost collapsed but the sight of a large water trough full of ice water had been calling me! As I walk to it I keep thinking is this a mirage? Until my arm hits this wonderful cold water. The burn on my arms went away! I splash my face and start feeling the salt coming off and subsiding the pain. I look over at Beth who is just watching and say “I’m going to put my whole upper body into it. I’m on fire!”
As I put my arms in first I slowly dip my upper body in. Not even thinking about it other than I’m hot. Throwing myself into shock I lost the few gummies chews and some PB&J Sandwich thankfully I held it in my mouth so I don’t get it into the water. Beth looks at me and says “Are you okay” A lady in the back ground “Oh my God she’s having a heart attack!” I run to the back of a truck and spit out what I had vomited and dry heaved for a little bit. Then busted out laughing and couldn’t stop.
Dehydration Drunk! This was the point I had recognized it and knew I needed to sit down for a moment. I went to the aid station were some were hooked up to IV’s don’t know how they could even find a blood vain if they are dehydr
ated but they must have. I set down on a cot and just relaxed for a few minutes.
“10 more miles to the end get yourself together, Liz.” I just kept telling myself over and over again.
Beth set down next to me and kept asking if I was okay. I knew I wasn’t but knew I could make it to the end.
LAST 10 MILES!
A storm moved in and blocked the sun. I had rested enough to push it. As we pull into Wichita Fall’s and get on a very busy road. Beth sees how it was causing me to panic as vehicles go flying by and asks if she could be on the outside. “I don’t want you to get hit again!” Although they had one lane blocked off for bicyclist some would get to close for comfort. We exit off of the highway and see our finish line!! YAY!!!! We gain speed for the finish we had been practicing on for 100 miles. Lol As we approach the finish line I didn’t want to admit it but I was very emotional we grabbed hands and yelled “Team Exo/Sym!” The furthest we had ever rode.
We have done more with our lives since we have received our Exo/Sym then what we had ever done when we had to good working legs.
We bikes 100 miles in one day in over 100 degree weather with a starting line of 13,000 and a finish of only 3,500. And we are proud to be a part of that 3,500!
To say we can’t do something is what we thrive for because we believe we can your just throwing another exciting adventure our way. And know that Through God anything is possible!