Bike Your Heart Out

Posted by admin on February 16th, 2010 filed in bicycles, travel

Wow! What a weekend! Despite the cold, windy weather we had a great time at Sebring (and I may have fallen for this race thing). Here’s a recount of the happenings:

Thanks to the long weekend, Mom was able to fly to Florida to help crew for the race.  On Friday we met up with some friends to caravan to Sebring:  Dad rode with Matt, his wife Lisa, their son Trevor and Matt’s Aero, while Mom and I toted Dad’s Aero and three beautiful black Corsas: Lisa’s, Trevor’s and mine.

After a quick carpool down from the St. Pete area, we registered for the race at the Sheraton next to the raceway, had some dinner and settled into our motel for a night’s rest.  My alarm when off a little before 4am Saturday morning and I headed straight for the room’s lamentably tiny coffee maker.  Dad – the one of us without the caffeine habit – popped right out of bed and started getting ready.  He hadn’t slept all night, but apparently this is normal for him the night before a race.  Yikes!

We arrived at the track a bit before 5:30 and started prepping our bikes, fuel, water and tailboxes.

Pre-dawn prep

Reflectors charged and ready!

The van setup

God bless the ajar-door dome light

We were scheduled to start at 6:30, ride a few laps around the track then head out on the long loop and after completing the track laps and the long loop, we would have ridden 100 miles.

At registration the night before, each rider was given a number to affix to their bike or clothing, a poker chip with their number on it (to toss into a bucket at the long loop turnaround checkpoint), and a little blue timing chip that hangs from the front wheel quick-release skewer and registers the time of each lap:

Timing chip

Everyone lined up at the start after initially registering their timing chip, and in the dark it was quite a flashy show of taillights, headlights, LED blinkies and reflectors:

The starting line a few minutes before everyone got serious

This was my first race, so I lined up near the back and took a leisurely start.  Supposedly there was a lead vehicle, but I wasn’t anywhere near the front and so can’t comment on that.

Eventually they redirected us out to the open road, and other than the cold, the nasty headwind and an 8 mile wrong-turn detour, it was a wonderful ride.  The route leads out into the countryside and zigzags through cattle ranches and orange orchards so the ambient aromas alternated between the lovely scent of orange zest in the morning dew and that all-too-familiar smell from the Texas roads we’re used to: wet cow poo.

The fast group (which included my Dad!) rolled in from the long loop, finishing that initial 100 miles in about 4 hours and 45 min.  I took a lot longer: about 7 hours 20 minutes (fyi, you can sing a lot of songs to yourself over 7 hours, but it helps if you or at least the cows know the lyrics).

After completing the long loop, we were sent out to do as many short loops (at 11.7 mi each) as we could before 5:45pm, at which time we were redirected onto the raceway to do as many laps on the track as possible (at 3.7 mi each) until 6:30pm for the 12 hour riders, or 6:30am for the 24 hour riders.

During a break between two of the short loops, Mom introduced me to a man named Jim who was crewing for another Bacchetta rider.  He recognized me from this blog, and I don’t think he knew how much it thrilled me to know I have a reader I’m not related to. (Although, Family, I am delighted that you read my stories. And know that I certainly enjoy yours. That means you, Uncle John!) Yesterday Jim emailed me some pictures he took during the event. Hopefully he won’t mind if I repost them here:

Me behind bars

Taken by Jim Dibble

Dad passing through

Taken by Jim Dibble

He’s got more great photos of the race posted on a Fickr slideshow. Thanks for posting them Jim!

And here are a few from my mom:

John Schlitter and Dad between short loops

Me at the finish line

Me on the track

After I finished the 12-hour race (I did 154 miles officially and 162 counting the bonus miles), Mom continued to crew for Dad while I hit the awards ceremony then took Matt and Lisa up on the offer to use the shower in their hotel room.   Partially thawed and slightly refreshed I hobbled back over to the pit, helped crew for a couple of Dad’s laps, then passed out on the floor of the minivan for about six hours.  Mom woke me around 2am to trade off – she slept while I crewed for Dad the remainder of the race.

Highlights of the night’s downtime included listening to an Italian rider’s crew yell at him in Italian and listening to nearby Bacchetta crew people joke about the different misnomers they’ve encountered for recumbents: “What’s up with those incumbent bikes?” “Well, the problem is when the party isn’t yours…” and “How about those recombinant bikes?” “It’s that unnatural DNA…” What a great group. =)

The finish line

The pit after most crews have packed up

Dad hit his goal of 400 miles with plenty of time to spare and only a handful of riders remaining on the track.  He went back out to ride several more laps, came in for a break to thaw his hands in front of a propane-fueled heater, then headed out again. When we could no longer defrost his completely immobile fingers, he finally called it a night. Or morning. Or whatever.  All told he rode about 427 miles.

They held the award ceremony for the 24-hour racers around 7am Sunday. Dad won first in his division (55-59, male, recumbent) and 3rd (we think) overall (the final results haven’t officially been posted online yet, but some unofficial results can be found here).


Especially amazing were all the females riding recumbents in the 24-hour race:  Sarah Kay Carrell, Sandy Earl, Shellene Foster and Peggy Petty were unbelievable! Go ladies, go!

With the race over, the awards distributed and the sun back in the sky, we called to wake up Matt, Lisa and Trevor, then started packing up for the ride home.  While we were prepping for the return trip, Sebring was gearing up for another day of racing:



We eventually got on the road and though Dad and I had the best of intentions to stay awake and help keep our drivers alert, we both passed out shortly into the ride home.  Ah well.

And after unpacking everything upon our return we had the best of intentions to stay awake and do our ride reports, but shortly into our time home we both passed out for a good 8-9 hour nap.  Between 9 and 10pm we managed to crawl out of bed for a few hours before passing out for another full night’s sleep.  Now we are fully rested and working on recovering.  With some tender care to our joints, we’ll be back on the bikes mid-week, ready to do more centuries.

With a lot more training, I hope to log 200+ miles in next year’s 12-hour race, and there’s no telling what Dad will do.  Between now and then we’ll just keep riding as often and as far as possible.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about that New York trip again…

Oh, and for those of you who are counting, some Quick Stats:

Stampedes: 0 (for local Sebring cows, this bike invasion is annual – nothing surprises them)

Roadside Pees: 1

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