HHH goes off without a hitch

Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux, 82nd Training Wing commander, stops to explain more about Sheppard to new-found friends Charles and Joyce Talbott during the Hotter 'N Hell Hundred Aug. 26. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jacob Corbin)

Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux, 82nd Training Wing commander, stops to explain more about Sheppard to new-found friends Charles and Joyce Talbott during the Hotter 'N Hell Hundred Aug. 26. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jacob Corbin)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Over 12,000 cyclists descended this past weekend on Wichita Falls to participate in the Hotter'N Hell Hundred bicycle race. The HHH offers numerous courses for those wanting to participate. 

First is the namesake of the race, the 100-mile endurance ride, also, the race offers a 25-mile, 50-mile, 100K and off road race. There is also a shorter, 10K race "for those who don't ride much but want to experience the dynamics and human energy unleashed at the starting line," according to the Hotter'N Hell Hundred website (www.HH100.org). 

This year was the 25th annual HHH and was not only one of the hottest, but was the largest ever held. 

In fact, it was one of the few times in the race's history that it was decided that Hell's Gate, a point in the 100 mile race riders must make by 12:30 p.m. or be forced to ride a shorter route, be closed early due to heat. 

"It was the right thing to do and done for all the right reasons," according to the HHH website. 

Luckily for those participating in the "Team Sheppard" group, weeks of training and practice allowed the majority of their riders to make Hell's Gate in time, even with the early closure. 

Other than a few who broke off from the group to ride faster or slower, and a few who had mechanical issues, all of the Team Sheppard group made it, said Kevin Fruhwirth, a member of the Sheppard practice group. 

"We really did well, preparation is important," Fruhwirth said. "You could tell training came into play." 

Not only did Team Sheppard members participate in the event, but they helped facilitate it as well. 

"There were over 300 people supporting the event through the base," said Gregory Nowak, the Sheppard point-of-contact for the event. "That's in addition to the untold number that helped with registration off-base and hosting riders (through the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce). 

Nowak also said that even though Hell's Gate closed early and the Sheppard rest stop received an overflow of riders unable to complete the longer route, Sheppard kept their stop open and did great. 

Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux, 82nd Training Wing commander, said the HHH isn't just an event for Team Sheppard members to participate in, but an opportunity to show the relationship that Sheppard and the community has. 

"Our involvement in events like this reminds us all that Sheppard is a part of the community, not apart from the community. It's a great team-building activity for base people and provides an opportunity to give something back to the wonderful Texoma community," General Devereaux said. 

General Devereaux not only helped kick off the event, but rode one of the routes too, letting him see the race from a riders perspective. 

"It was a thrill to experience the honor of firing the opening cannon shot that started the race. The Hotter 'N Hell is one of the most well-known bicycle events in the country," he said. 

"I was excited to see the unending miles of riders all focused on completing their chosen distance and I was really pleased with all the Sheppard personnel that participated in the event as well as volunteered at our on-base rest stop." 

With this years HHH over now, preparations for next years race can't be far off. For riders, next years ride can't come soon enough. 

General Devereaux said he will definetly ride again. 

"Next year I'm going for the entire 100 miles." 

Fruhwirth said he was definitely going to do it again also, and that others will probably too. 

"The amount of support Sheppard and Wichita Falls give is crazy," said Fruhwirth. "That's why people keep coming back."