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Race Report: 2013 Hilly Billy Roubaix

Hilly Billy 2013 StartThe 2013 Hilly Billy Roubaix was hour for hour the hardest race I’ve done to date. I’ve done some very tough races. And some of the longer races have been harder overall for me. But for the length of race Hilly Billy was TOUGH. It was hot, hard, and long. But it was still a blast. I was racing with a number of friends and AFC teammates so I was looking forward to a great day suffering some of the  roughest “roads” (a term I use very loosely) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. That’s what we got…plus a lot more.

The start was a neutral start so we rolled down the hill from the finish area, climbed a little, and ended up by the main road where we would have a very fast downhill start. I wasn’t jonesing to be in the front but also didn’t want to get stuck behind too many riders when we hit the fire roads so I started just about midway back in the pack near a few of my teammates and friends.

The start was fast, downhill, and dangerous. Fortunately everyone around me stayed upright and it wasn’t long before we hit gravel and started climbing. That lead to a very hard effort for about fifteen minutes to stay with the folks around me and even pick up a few spots before reaching the top of the first climb. My heart rate was skyrocketing but I wanted to work hard and then settle in to a sustainable pace.

Hilly Billy 2013 Gravel

I chose to ride a mountain bike for the race after talking to quite a few veterans. After last years Hilly Billy Roubaix racers I knew were immediately saying they wish they had done it on a mountain bike rather than a cross bike. Many of them changed their minds and reverted to cross bike talk but I chose to go with their post race assessment rather than their current opinion. My friend Alain told me the weekend before the race: ride your MTB and you will thank me. He was right.

I gave up some time but my day was a lot more comfortable than my cross bike friends. I’ve found a lot of cross riders hate riding a mountain bike for an American Ultra Cross event (“It’s a cross event for cross bikes”) but the podiums are filled with both kinds of bikes so it really comes down to picking what works well for you. After riding my Trek Superfly for three National Ultra Endurance races, cross country races, and 2012 Iron Cross I knew it would feel great to ride for Hilly Billy Roubaix 2013.

I would have liked different tires but I was leaving after Hilly Billy for two weeks of vacation and then coming home to the Patapsco 100 the day after I returned so I stuck with my Maxxis Ignitors. Ideally I would have Maxxis Aspens or even cross tires mounted tubeless on my Bontrager Race X Lite TLR wheels but I didn’t want to risk a problem at Patapsco so I stuck with what I had.

I could feel it when I tried to stick with cross riders on the roads. But it was fun to bomb the descents and on one section of deep mud ruts I passed dozens of folks who were somewhat gingerly going around the mud pits.

Hilly Billy 2013 Mud

The short summary my day was this: climb and lose a few spots each climb, descend and gain a few spots each descent, or tuck in on the roads and try to hang with riders on cross bikes. This race is a climbfest. And the course is a nutty combination of gravel, road, mud, hard pack, etc. It has a little of everything and a lot of gravel.

It was HOT. My race plan called for me to stop at one aid station at mile 38 and refill my camelback. I thought that 140 ounces of Hammer Perpetuem (two 70oz camelbacks) in a 5.5 hour race would be plenty. So I blew through the first aid station without stopping.

Big mistake. I should have at least topped off with water. The temps were in the mid 90’s and by mile 30 I was out of liquid and I was dying. I spent the next 8 miles just trying to survive and get to aid two where I had Hammer Perpetuem powder in a baggie ready to refill my camelback.

I rolled into aid two parched. There were a lot of unhappy people at aid two. It was rough and the heat was taking it’s toll. My friends, Alain and Dave, were both there and both were struggling with cramps. I refilled, drank about a bottle full of gatorade, and kept rolling.

Once I refilled with liquid I felt much better. I wasn’t fresh but it I’m used to just plodding along at a reasonable pace and I settled in with a small group.

Around mile 50 I started having cramping issues. I’ve ridden 10,000 miles in the last 18 months and have never once had a single cramp. Today was my day. I rode through them and fought with them on and off. A couple of times I walked a steep hill section just to give my legs a break and that seemed to keep the cramps at bay. At mile 58 I refilled the camelback with straight gatorade because I didn’t have any Perpetuem. Once I drank enough of that the cramps disappeared.

Miles 58 to the end were more of the same back country West Virgina and Pennsylvania gravel roads, ATV trails, and roads. The climbfest suffering continued and the descents continued to be a welcome reprieve from the hot climbing.

Hilly Billy 2013 Finish

I was shooting for 5.5 hours for the race but knew because of the heat that was going to suffer. Around midway I changed my goal to be sub six hours. I finished in  6:07. Not the result I wanted but given the conditions I was happy. Another race with room for improvement next year. The 2013 Hilly Billy Roubaix was race number 7 of the year for me. I finished 37 in the over 40s and 102  overall. I love Ultra Cross Racing. Looking forward to Three Peaks in September and then Iron Cross in October to finish out my American Ultra Cross races this year.

My AFC teammates posted some impressive results:

  • Adam Driscoll: 2nd overall and 1st under 40.
  • Lance Byrd: 2nd single speed division behind the overall winner, Gerry Pfug who is having an incredible season with his second overall win on a freaking single speed bike (he won the Mohican 100 overall).
  • Andrew Dunlap: 7th under 40 division…awesome race.
  • Jerry Jackson: 17th over 40 division.
  • Kyle Olak: 6th in the clydesdales.
  • Alain Philippe and Matt Cooper had rough days: Matt had a flat early on and Alain bonked pretty hard after having an incredible race last year.

Alain and I will be duo’ing it tomorrow for the Patapsco 100. I’m REALLY looking forward to that.

Keep moving forward,

Written by

I am the CEO of Blue Ocean Ideas, a creative agency in Baltimore, Maryland. My job is to clarify the strategy and take care of my team. I am married to the beautiful Elise Rittler and we have four great kids. When I’m not at Blue Ocean Ideas or with my family I am riding a bike, running, playing ultimate frisbee, eating, or sleeping. There is a little more about me here.

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