Much mystery surrounds this race. Being a bit of an outsider to the Madison biking scene I didn't have much to go on. What was the H8R trail? What type of bike should I use? Was there some sort of ritual that need to be performed before I was allowed to ride? Do I have what it takes to be a H8R? In the days leading up to the race, many questions were answered. I came to know the following things: Part of the trail is unfinished, there would be a pitch black, ice filled tunnel, a mountain stage, and there would be ponies.
At 10:00 in the morning, 70 or so like minded crazies paraded South out of Madison to the start of the trail, and to the official start of the race. Whats that? Gunfire! Wait...no...just an over inflated tire. Whew! Alright then, the first part of the trail was indeed unfinished and played nice with my fat tires. It even provided a little cyclocross action at one point - I'll be needing to hone my cyclocross skills before fall....After my legs loosened up a bit, I kept the RPMs high on my Singlespeed and settled in for the long ride ahead. After 5 miles, the unfinished section quickly morphed into a crushed limestone trail, with what appeared to be a slight downhill slope. An hour or so into the race I was feeling a bit spun out and began to wonder, how was I going make it another 2+ hours? These thoughts, which generally tend to linger, quickly vanished as I was greeted with a rather unique obstacle - a pitch black tunnel, filled with ice. I switched on my light, it didn't seem to be working very well, damn! I tried my best to focus intently on the small white dot five feet in front of me while my eyes tried to adjust. What's that? Voices? I didn't see anyone behind me. No lights anyway. Odd. I kept moving forward and picked up speed as daylight filled the back end of the tunnel. I looked over my shoulder after moving down the trail and still no one behind me. Very odd indeed.
I hit the turnaround at 1h 28min and was greeted with nice headwind. "Ahh, this is where the H8 beings." So very true. Not long after finishing the mountain stage, and seeing the ponies, I was treated to some powerful cramps in my right leg. The kind that'll toss you off the bike. Thankfully, my leg calmed down after a few miles and I was able to hook up and draft with a few people on the way back. It was rough going. The gear I had chosen, 32:13 on 26" wheels, made it feel like I was towing an sled full of pumpkins. The unfinished portion felt especially painful the second time around. Exacerbated by my numb hands and empty fuel tank. The last 5 miles were all a blur, though, I seem to remember someone with a chainsaw...Finally, the finish! I rolled in at 3h and 13min, quickly grabbed a beer, and spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with some truly great people.