Trish and I left for Sebring in the Sprinter on Thursday morning. The weather had finally turned from winter to spring and it looked like it was going to be a great weekend to be riding a bike. We stopped on the way down and caught a quick 30 minute ride on the long-leaf trace in Mississippi before stopping for the night in Tallahasse.
This was our first trip with the Sprinter as the race support vehicle so everything had to find a new storage spot for everything we wanted to carry. The van travelled extremely well and it was great being able to go in the back and jump on the internet or make a sandwich while travelling. Overall, I think the Sprinter will be a great race van. I just have to convince race directors that their rules need to be written so Sprinters are allowed as a follow vehicle, or I just won't worry about those races. Also, everyone at the race seemed to want to get a look at the Sprinter and see how it packed. Had a couple of offers, but it's hard to find a low mileage Sprinter at a decent price and I'm not ready to part with mine just yet.
Friday's drive from Tallahasse to Sebring was a tale of two citys or actually two drives. I drove the first part down to the rest stop at Gainesville and since we were flowing on interstate we cruised along just fine. The second half of the trip was more like dying a death of a 1000 cuts at every stop light on hwy 27. Based on the GPS estimate of when we should get there versus when we finally arrived - we had burned an hour waiting on lights. I was lucky because for most of that section I was in the back working on the computer when not being bounced by the bumps, but Trish kept us going and we finally arrived at the race site around 2.
Once we got to the hotel, I started to setup the bikes and get ready for a hot lap around the middle loop while the Tbear checked us into the hotel. We parked next to the b-boys and I talked with John S, Sara K, Jackie and Jay Yost for a while as I was unpacking. After about 30 minutes of B.S. and prep I headed out for a fast lap around the middle loop. I was able to push better than a 23 average for the 11 miles without working too hard and I was feeling great. I had come with a goal of beating Chris Ragsdale's 502 mark and this seemed like a good omen.
After cleaning up and moving all of the bikes and luggage to the room we headed off to Publix for some last minute purchases and then to Ouback for one of my standard prerace dinners. Every time I eat at Outback before a race I get the New Zealand Rack of Lamb, Cabernette sauce with Garlic Mashed Potato, Black Bread (lots of Bread) and a Stella. A balanced loading of carbs/fats and proteins. As Mr T would say, "I Pity The Fool" that carb loads eating only cheap pasta that doesn't give you the balance that you need in your prerace meal. Enough Preaching.
As usual my dinner was excellent and as I had talked Trish into ordering a Steak at Outback, hers sucked. Outback sucks at steaks and Trish never orders them, but they had a special Tucson ribeye that waitress said was "so good" that I talked trish into trying it. Bad Choice. Medium, came out rare on one side and medium rare on the other with a crappy cut of meat. Thing is that Outback is good about not wanting you to pay for food you don't like so Trisha's steak was free so it was a cheap date.
As we were walking out I was able to add to my carb loading and do my good deed for the day by buying two boxes of Girl Scout cookies. I got the berry flavored one and Trish got the thin mints. They were a great dessert.
Once we got back to the hotel it was time for check-in and more B.S. with people, then up to the room for last minute preparations and a bottle of pedialyte. The forecast was for highs in the 80's so I knew it was going to be a day I needed to prehydrate and prefeed correctly.
Well, we finally made it to race morning. It's 4:30 and time for me to do my morning yoga then it was time to take the bike down to the race van and cook my first omelette. Back up to the room and another trip to the van to get everything laid out and cook my second omelette. Then after some more Faffin' around I got on my Race bike and rode to the timing mat to check the chip and pick my spot at the start.
Sometimes when you line up at the front of the pack you get some posers but, as it would play out, the people that got up front Saturday morning knew where they wanted to be and why. To the left of me was Brett Walker, the top RAAM Race Finisher at the event and to the right of me were two of the top 12 racers who stuck with the group for the 100 miles. As we took off Brett sprinted off the line and led everyone out. I was close behind, but since he was a RAAM racer I let him go and didn't see him again until mile 40. The group was content to hang behind me for the first lap, but then I was able to drop into a rotation with Wes and Jeff and a couple of other 12 hour riders.
Our group set a fast pace on the way out to the turn around with an average 23.5 mph. We caught and dueled with Brett for about 4 miles and finally were able to put him back after 3 stong pulls in a row. The turn around at the race was a mess. It wasn't marked well and didn't have a cone to signify where to turn just a couple of buckets on the side of the road to throw the chips. So we all came to a screaching stop and threw our chips and headed back. The ride back was even faster than the way out and we had gotten our average up to 23.7.
Mile 84 is where things started to come apart on my run at 502. My shifter cable broke and I was left with 53x11 or 39x11 which isn't that bad a deal when you're in Florida, but will get old after 24 hours. As we cruised back into the turn around at the 100 mile point our group had dropped down to 8 people and we formulated our stop strategy to allow for a quick bathroom break and the shedding of clothes and picking up some bottles.
Some people stuck with the plan and some didn't. We left the first stop with 3 in our group and two in front of the group and the other 3 nowhere to be seen. Our group of 3 caught the two that didn't stop within the first two miles and one of the riders jumped on so we were a group of 4 for about 1/2 a lap until the one that didn't stop decided he now needed a pee break and we were a group of 3 again.
On the next lap I had to stop to change bikes to my backup bike. This is a change because you have to move the timing chip from the front fork of one bike to the other. The change only took me two minutes, but the two guys I was riding with decided they couldn't wait for me. This toasted both them and my 502 run. So after mile 112 I went from a drafting race to non drafting race. I rode alone for the next lap and 1/2 until I caught my two riding buddies, but by then they were fading and only rode with me for another lap and 1/2.
While I was out riding in the 80+ heat Trish had been trying to get a new shifter cable put on my bike so I could switch back to my race bike. Finally, she got it back after having 3 different people work on the bike. So I came in with 216 miles in the books, switched the bike chip again and jumped on the race bike. Then I started to really get mad. Somebody, claiming to be a bike mechanic had completely toasted my shifters. I could only shift up not back down. I got it to work for a while, but then I had to jump off the bike and undo the bike cable and go back to riding 53x11 or 39x11 for the next lap.
Back in at mile 228 to switch bikes and this time pedals also because the cleat had broken on the backup bike. So I was finaly back out on the road. During the heat I hadn't eaten much so I was starting to get slow with my lap times dropping from 32-35 range to the 39 range and I was finally caught at mile 239 by John, Jacquie and either Troy or Kent, so I jumped on as we headed into the track for the rest of the night. I finished up the 12 hour with the B-Boys with 256ish miles and kept riding.
Once I got to the track the temps started dropping and I got into a pretty good rhythm turning 12 minute laps and getting down a pretty good feeding and drinking schedule. For most of the night I would have a cheese sandwich on the even hours and a starbucks coffee and ibuprofen on the odd hours with cytomax to drink along the way.
As the night progressed the wind kept changing directions - for a while it was from the east then swung back to the west. That's when the racers were treated to a rare south Florida treat - the bog fire. About 2 miles west of the track was a bog fire backlit by the lights from Sebring. So when you would make the turn west on the long back straighaway you could see what looked light a volcano of smoke billowing into the sky. The problem was temperature inversion which brought the smoke back down on the track, which meant we were treated to a large dose of second hand smoke during the last few hours of the race.
Overall it was a good race for me finishing up with 473.3 miles. The race could have been much better but if it weren't for the Bear keeping me going I could have just quit and walked away after all the bike B.S. So a large thanks to my TBear.
The best part of the race was how I felt after the race. After I finished, I turned in the chip, got in the van and went back to the hotel for a quick shower then back for awards. While waiting for the awards a person told me that it wasn't fair because I looked like I wasn't even tired and the thing was that I wasn't I could have kept riding and riding at the pace I had set up.
After awards I did go back to the hotel and Trish said it was like I just passed out as she posted the last race report on F.B. But I was up in two hours and packed the van while the bear slept. So, I'm happy with this race and now it's on to the Texas Hill Country 600K.