Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Race Report - Sebring

24 hours is quite a long time to do the same task. 3 normal workdays, 48 episodes of Family Guy, the list can go on. 24 hours on a bicycle is something most sane people cannot even begin to comprehend. As an early season challenge, I went down to sunny Sebring, FL to try my legs at a 24hr road race along with a few of our coached athletes. This is my (short) story…

Saturday, February 16th, 2008, 5:00 AM – Wake up in the RV to get ready for the race. I asked to be woken up at 6 since we were literally on the start line but Mike was simply too anxious. About 200 riders were going through their own race prep rituals to get ready for a long day in the saddle. Bottles being filled, lights being checked (sunrise was around 7:00 AM), tires being pumped, you know the drill.

6:30 AM – 3, 2, 1. GO! No sprinting from the gun but a strong pace was being set behind the pace car by the supermen of the Ultracycling world. I was in the drafting 24hr category since it was my first attempt at this distance and didn’t think I was ready to join the non-drafting, RAAM (Race Across America) Qualifiers. Three laps of the famous Sebring road course got us all moving and I managed to stay near the front group of riders as we left the track to head out into the countryside for our first 100 miles of the day.

8:41 AM – My little group which grew in size then shrank whenever we hit a hill reaches the turnaround point at 48 miles. Fill bottles and get going easy waiting for some help to catch. Feeling strong and trying to conserve, 22 hours to go.

10:29 AM – My new group of 6 riders hits the next rest stop where Lois from the Rotary club had the best tasting oranges on the planet! Fill bottles again and head into the wind for the last stretch on the big loop. Two of the guys in the group are pushing the pace on all of the climbs and I want to hang on even though it means 600+ watts for short bursts.

11:22 AM – 100 miles in the bank in under 5 hours, not a bad start. The top solo guys were already finishing some 13 mile afternoon loops riding like they were being chased. Another quick stop and ease into the slightly rolling loops, picking up a few riders here and there, trying to keep the speed in the 18+ mph range. Here is where I rode with Frank from Sarasota, a 20 something racing the 12 hour and heading for a new age group record. This was also Frank’s first century and he ended up with 180+ for 12 hrs!

6:04 PM – Finished my 8th loop giving me 205 miles in just over 11 hours. Time to put the lights on and head to the track. Sebring International raceway has a 3.7 mile pancake flat road course which would get us through the next 12 hours of riding. The RAAM guys were whipping around the track at unbelievable speeds, racking up huge miles. We gathered up a few riders and put together a small paceline cranking laps in the 11-12 minute range. Miguel and Maurizio had plenty of strength left and we would grab another rider or two every so often to share the work.

10:30 PM – Reality is starting to set in for lots of riders. People are of the bike in the pit area taking a nap, getting in some real food, contemplating whether they want to get back on the bike. I am still feeling good and have around 270 in. Mike had a spoke break which took some time to find the spare wheel and swap and he decided to grab a nap to come back out later and get the miles he needed to hit 300.

12:15 AM – The dream of 400 miles fading rapidly as fatigue caught up with me in rapid fashion and I started to have a hard time focusing on the turns. 290 in the bank and lying down for a bit is too good to pass up. At the RV, Mike is getting up to head out and I crash within a minute or so, failing to ask to be woken up. Mike has worked out that if he manages a steady pace of 15 min a lap or better he will have enough time to make up for a bad start and hit 300 miles. Miguel and Maurizio keep turning laps and both get 300+.

5:00 AM – The alarm goes off from the morning before and I wake in a panic. I just slept almost 5 hours of the race! I gingerly jump on the bike, take about half a lap to warmup and hit TT pace (about 17-18mph at this point) to get in as many laps as possible before 6:30. My legs still feel good and I am passing riders keeping my lap times in the 12-14 min range. I catch up to Mike with enough time to squeeze in 2 more laps and we ride together jumping on the wheel of a tandem. The sun is starting to break through as we finish up the last official lap at 6:24AM.

The final tally – 309.9 for me, 305.9 for Mike Abney who rode most of the night by himself. The other Two Wheels representative was Wendell Hyink who stopped after 10 hours with severe back and neck pain. Wendell’s legs were strong and he managed 167 in the non-drafting class, winning his age group of 60-64! Look for more huge numbers from Wendell and Mike in the future.

Just in case you want to know what it take to actually win an event like this, the top rider hit 503 miles! There were quite a few riders over 450 and the official results will be posted on We are trying to put together a larger group to head down next year so mark your calendars for Valentines Day 2009!

A special thanks to the Rotary Club for putting on a great event. Miguel nearly ripped my legs off during the wee hours of the morning while Maurizio helped keep him in check and allow us to all get in big miles. Lonnie was our driver, support crew and all around do everything guy. A thankless task that helped us all reach our goals.

Get out there and challenge yourself this year, you just might be surprised by what you can accomplish. I'll have more info on the training and power data from the race later this week.
Good riding - Coach Kevin

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