Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bike Sebring 12-Hour Race

   On February 18, 2012, I participated in my second ever 12-hour bicycle race. Sanctioned by the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association, the event was held in Sebring, Florida, with the start at the famed Sebring  Race Track.  This was my first12-hour (drafting) in the 60 - 64 age bracket.
  The 6:30 a.m. start found the raceway and environs bathed in a thick fog. What a way to start a race! I was happy to have the required lights attached to my Ridley Noah-RS.  Looking around the start line I  must have been among the elite of the Ultra world.  With this being a RAAM qualifier, 24-hour, and 12-hour event, we had close to 200 racers.  There were HPV's, recumbent, and regular bikes under the strong, calm legs of the contestants.  As a newcomer to the Ultra scene, I did not know the names of the big-guns, but I did notice the reverence paid to certain riders by the race officials and other contestants.  I was directly behind a World Champion jersey on the start line with Monaco labeled on the back, his support team fluttering around him.  I muttered, "This could be very interesting" to nobody in particular as the race director barked instructions into his megaphone.
   We were to ride 3 laps around the race track.  Each lap at 3.7 miles would send us out on to the road course with 11.1 miles recorded.  The road course was an out and back trek registering approximately 45 miles each way.  Upon return to Sebring, we were to shift to a 12 mile road loop course.  At 5:30 pm, racers would shuttle back on to Sebring race track to complete either their 12 hours or continue on through the night for 24 hours.
  This being my first experience with a drafting event, my tactics were rather straight forward; draft in a group of riders with equal capability.  The wind being a factor at this time of the year in Florida, it was very important not to waste energy pushing it.
   With the heavy fog, the start was rather hairy.  The pace car took a wrong turn on the race track and a number of riders were immediately off course.  I ended up in the second group pace-line, about 50 seconds behind the lead pack at the turn-around on the road course.  This was an excellent position to be in. My computer reflected 56 miles completed in just over 2 hours.  Then reality hit with my having to take time to urinate.  I lost the draft and found myself solo, pushing the wind until linking up with two recumbent riders. Living and training in the mountains of Southwest Virginia we do not see many recumbent style bicycles.  Drafting behind these machines proved beneficial to a higher average speed. They flew down the road.  What a strange site, I imagined it to be, a regular bike trading pulls with two recumbents.  With the three of us hammering I noted hitting the century mark right under 4 hours and 28 minutes.  Not a bad average speed, but I had hopes of bettering 22.4 MPH for 100 miles.

   I took stock of where I was at physically. All things considered I felt pretty good.  Coming into Sebring Race track to start the 12 mile loops, as my electronic chip chirped as it crossed the timing pad, it was  sobering to realize I had 7 hours and 32 minutes remaining in the race. Could I maintain the level of effort it was going to take to match the mileage necessary to place in my age category?  I emptied my mind of this thought and pressed on, ever mindful of the need to stay out of the wind.  Not having support, I had to stop at the truck and restock fluids and food.  This again cost me time and a wheel.  Losing time pushing the wind, I was forced to bridge up to riders already on the course. Nestled into the draft 2 other riders and recovering, I realized this was a good group and started sharing the effort.  Then I realized that if you take a pull, some riders will bank on your charity and not pull through upon completion of your effort.  Not wanting to play this game, we finally shamed the rider into sharing the work load. 

  Upon completion of the second lap, I developed a "hot-foot" problem and had to stop at the truck and massage my feet with "Kool-n-Fit", change socks, and reload bottles into the cages and food into the pockets. This along with a "bio" break, cost me major time.  I never caught a group of riders to draft and rode almost an entire lap solo.  Thankfully, on the remaining laps, I rode in a group of at least one or more racers.  This was important as the bank account was dwindling a bit and I wanted to have enough money in the account to finish well.

  I was out on the road course when that 5:30 p.m. arrived and my riding partner, Rick, commented we would be funnelled to the track the next time we crossed the timing mat.  What a great feeling to realize you had one more hour to ride and your effort would be applauded by the fans gathered along the checkered start/finish line at Sebring Raceway!  With the sun gradually setting, I was fortunate to link up with the compatriot and fellow travel companion responsible for bringing me into Ultra Marathon Racing.  Wes Wilmer and I finished the 12 hour race together!

   At the awards ceremony immediately following the 12-hour race, medals were handed out to the top three finishers in each category. Wes collected first place honors in the 55 - 59 age bracket with 241 miles.  I garnered third place in the 60 - 64 age group with 217 miles.

  In review, my performance in this event was hampered by too much time off the bike. Losing 42 minutes out of 12 hours cost me 12 to 15 miles. I have to improve in this area. Ed Burkes words are echoing loudly in my head, "Champions adopt training procedures that match racing situations as closely as possible....." It is time for me to heed these word.  Calvin's Challenge is less than two months away.

No comments:

Post a Comment