It's 5:00 AM on February 12th as I pick up Wiford for a whirl-wind 3700 mile trip to Florida and back for a 24 hour bike race. The sanity of the trip has been questioned by many friends as well as me. Drive 1100 miles, sleep, drive 4 hours, ride a little, get ready for a 24 hours race, sleep, race for 24 hours, drive home. The race and drive 22 hours home was going to be the tough part. But the weather forecast for Sebring Florida combined with the weather forecast for Iowa make the trip seem like a great option.
Another insane aspect of the trip is completing in February one of our longest rides EVER. Combine that with the nasty winter we've had and you have a recipe for pain and suffering.
After leaving Wiford's place we picked up Larry Ide and Paul Carpenter in Monmouth. The van was packed just about as full as we could get it. Four bikes on the roof, two coolers on the luggage rack on the back. Inside we had the four front wheels for the bikes on the roof, two complete sets of backup wheels, two more coolers, four big Tupperware containers, and our duffel bags. It was a tight squeeze but we made it.
The great part about driving south in the winter is the excitement as you watch the temperatures keep getting warmer and warmer. It was 50 degrees the first stop, 65 in Nashville and by the time we stopped in Lake City Florida at 11:00 PM it was still 60 degrees.
The plan for day two (Friday) was to get up early and arrive in Sebring in time to ride, buy groceries, check in for the race and get ready for Saturday. The ride was 33 miles in the 85 degree sun. Just being outside with that kind of weather threw the sanity of the trip out the window. We should have kept riding but we had other things to get ready.
There was over 200 riders registered for the three races (24 hour non-drafting, 24 and 12 drafting). The format is a mass start down about a 1/4 mile straight then a 90 degree turn onto the 3.7 mile road race course for three laps before heading out of town on a 91 mile loop. After the 91 mile loop you complete as many 11 mile loops as you can before 6:00 then on to the 3.7 mile course until your 12 or 24 hours is up.
The start reminded me of my days of road/criterium racing. Everybody wants to get in good position for the first turn and then stay to the front as several riders push the pace to try and shred the field. Wiford and I were in hog heaven. Two recumbents went to the front and blasted the first lap with Wiford and I in tow. After 11 miles on the track our average speed was 24 mph.
Once on the road 20 more cyclist caught on including Larry and Paul. This group stayed together until the 50 mile sag stop when about half stopped for supplies as the rest of us rolled on. At the 75 mile mark there was another sag. This time Paul, Wiford and I stopped for water. 12 miles of chasing later we were back with the group for the finish of the loop. The average speed for the first 101 miles was 23.5 with the first 100 covered in 4:16. That beat my previous fastest 100 by 4 minutes.
Now we were on the 11 mile loop for a couple of hours as the heat increased and the winds kicked up. The four of us got split up at this point with each of us stopping for different lengths of time at different laps. Getting ready to go for the third lap I noticed I had a flat rear tire so had to grab one of the extras we brought. It sure is nice to have entire wheels instead of having to change the tube.
The fifth lap is when I got my first cramp and they lasted for three laps. The wind was kicking my butt, my neck was killing me and my rear was starting to get sore. This is when I started questioning this entire "Race Across the West" idea. How was I going to be able to handle more heat, more miles, and much more climbing at altitude. Was my body really able to handle this endurance riding or should I go back to shorter racing.
After a brief pity-party I switch from race mode to RAGBRAI mode. I would slow up and chat with other rides as I passed them. I saw a lady with her husband at one corner cheering us on as we passed. She was wearing a neck brace as she sat and watch the riders go by. Once I saw that I was ashamed that I was complaining about my neck that was going to be sore for about 16 hours when he's was probably sore for many weeks. This really put the entire ride into prospective and the pity-party ended. I finished my first 200 in 10:15. I think that is my second fastest 200 ever.
At 5:45 I entered the 3.7 miles track for the first of 55 laps. I thought this was going to be pretty boring and I was right. At least it was not an oval but more shaped like a balloon letter C. It was tough not to stop each lap and take a break as my neck was killing me and my rear end was on fire. About midnight I decided to do 5 laps between stops. Paul was doing 11 at a time. At different times I would catch up with Paul and we would ride a couple laps together until I stopped. Total we rode around 20 laps together and that helped.
After midnight Larry got his wheel stuck in a crack and went down breaking his collar bone and getting road rash on both his knees. He rode another 4 laps before calling it a night with 308 for third place in his age group. Paul gained a couple laps on me during the night and finished with 415 winning his age group, I had 408 good for second in my age group. Wiford ended with 238 for third overall in the 12 hour and second in his age group.
The drive back was long. Almost 23 hours after leaving Sebring I pulled into the drive way. Wiford and I share the drive home with him doing the majority.
I will post pictures as soon as I have some.
More water during the heat of the day, loosen up your shoes the minute your feet feel tingly, I need a different seat and maybe different chamois cream. More neck strengthening workouts.