This year the Hilly Hundred turned 50! Of those 50, I have ridden 20 or those years. I did my first Hilly in 1995, skipped two years, and since 1998 have done it every year. Let me tell you why I love it.
I was clueless for my first Hilly. A friend told me her husband Chris had ridden it and thought I would enjoy it. I had done some low-mileage biking, and, despite the name, I wondered, “How hilly could it be?” My “training” consisted of riding 20 miles a couple weekends prior. I was in for a rude awakening. I rode my 1983 Schwinn World Sport, which weighs about 20 pounds. I wore an outfit that I would turn my nose up at now - running tights, a cotton sweatshirt, a large jacket that blew up like a balloon, cross-trainer shoes and a cotton bandana around my head to keep my ears warm. Despite the freezing temperatures, I was a hot mess. I walked up each major hill (maybe three each day, not including the many rollers). Poor Chris waited for me at the top of every one of them, bless him.
|1995 - Chris and Linda before the ride. Excited!|
|Linda after the ride.|
|Chris and Linda post-ride. Exhausted!|
|I did it!|
For my second Hilly, I actually trained, and I even rode in hilly Brown County a couple times during the summer. I redeemed myself and made it up every hill in that Schwinn. I will keep that bike forever.
Even though I loved the Schwinn, it was way too heavy and difficult to shift, so I eventually bought a new bike the next summer. And got a huge shock at bike prices. I rode my new LeMond Tourmalet for the next 15 years. A bit lighter. Better shifting. And it had a granny gear.
In 2012, I purchased a carbon fiber Trek Madone. I was concerned that it had compact gears and no granny. I told Graham from Matthews, “If I don’t make it up Mt. Tabor on this bike, I am not going to be happy!” Graham assured me I would, and I did. (More on that monstrosity later.)
Throughout these years I rode with different people. Chris, who was exceedingly patient. My brother Paul, who amazingly rode it on his mountain bike. He and his friend Dave joined us a couple times. Dave rode a hybrid with brakes that squealed. We always knew where Dave was. He resembled the Wicked Witch of the West with his upright riding posture and we “sang” the witch’s theme song when he rode by us. My friends Julie and Krista rode a couple times. Krista hates hills so go figure. Kathy (Chris’ wife) even rode once. My niece and nephew’s PE teacher Diane and her friends rode for several years. Then it morphed to Greenwood Steve (I have about five bike friends named Steve, so I have to nickname them to differentiate) and his friends, Jan, a co-worker, and three fun guys from Ohio - Andy, Boris and Duane). And I always run into people I know along the route or at the rest stops.
|1998 - Dave, Julie and Paul|
|2002- Diane (R) and friend. I don't stick out at all...|
|2012 - Jan, me, Joe, Duane|
|2015 - Me with the Ohio boys - Ed, Boris, Andy|
|2017 - Ready to roll with Andy, Ed and Boris (missed Duane - he broke his wrists rollerblading)|
My lodging has varied over the years as well. I’ve driven back and forth and slept at home. I stayed a couple times with my Aunt Esther and Uncle Ed, who lived in Marlin Hills, which is on the old Hilly route. The past few years I have driven to Ellettsville Friday after work and slept in the Edgewood Middle School cafeteria. I bring a mattress pad and some earplugs and sleep mask.
Why do I ride the Hilly? There are several reasons (in addition to this T-shirt).
The hills! They don’t call it the Hilly for nothing! I always get a bit nervous, but certainly love the challenge. Some years are “easier” than others. If I do a week-long camping ride in September, that helps. This past year my week-long ride was in June. I rode all summer and then September came, and it was the Penrod Art Fair, Auburn football game, Purdue football game, rain, uh oh, the Hilly is in two weeks! But I did ok. And the hills have such great names - Water Tower Hill. Bean Blossom. Bear Wallow. The Three Sisters. And the coup de gras – Mt. Tabor. Mt. Tabor is a .2-mile, 21 percent grade hill (if I remember correctly). I tend to have hill amnesia.
My method of hill-conquering is to sit and slowly churn up the monster hills. Except for Mt. Tabor, which is so steep it gets me up out of my saddle. And not only do you have the hill itself to contend with, there is the car traffic (sometimes going both ways). And riders often stop in front of you to start walking up the hill. You have to be super alert and most times I’m riding on the “wrong” side of the road to go around people. I am slow, but if I slow down any more I’ll fall over. My best hill story is when I was climbing Mt. Tabor. It was warm and my legs were bare. I was about halfway up when I passed a guy and he yelled, “Nice legs!” Being the polite person I am, I barely responded with “Thank you.” That compliment gave me the burst of adrenaline I needed to push me up the hill.
The scenery! The Hilly moves around in October based on Indiana University home football games, so later in the month you see more of the fall foliage. We ride on country roads and sometimes pass through Morgan-Monroe State Forest.
The people! I already mentioned all the people I usually ride with. There are thousands who ride and it’s just plain fun to be out riding with other bike enthusiasts. You see all ages and level of cyclist. The occasional jean shorts sometimes make an appearance. Ouch.
The music! A band plays at each rest stop, which makes for a festive atmosphere.
The food! There is FOOD at the rest stops. Pumpkin donuts, chocolate chip muffins, apple cider, apples, bananas, trail mix, Scholars Inn granola bars. And that’s just at the first and third stops. At the second (lunch) stop, there is fried chicken, pasta salad, quinoa salad, carrot sticks, wavy potato chips, cookies and Schwan’s Ice Cream. I ride to eat.
The deals! After a long day of riding, it’s fun to get back to the school and head to the vendor tent. Cycling is a racket! Items are marked up to 50 percent off. It’s a great time to stock up on tubes, tires, arm warmers, and to look for other fun accessories.
The challenge! I love a good challenge. I don’t race against anyone else but me. Do these legs still have it? Yes.
|2017 - Early-morning sunrise.|
|2017 - This was a warning for walnuts on the road. Or was it?|
|2017 - At Sunday's first rest-stop.|
|2017 - This I am NOT. I just thought it was cool.|
|2017 - We signed the HILLY letters for posterity!|
If you’ve never done the Hilly, give it a try. They have shorter options each day if the mileage intimidates you. And if the hills intimidate you? They’re not that bad. And there’s no shame in walking. I should know.