August 24, 2018/ Jim Parker
“You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.”
― Walter M. Schirra, Sr.
I took first place overall for the second year in-a-row at the Mid-Atlantic 100-mile race, which was designated as the WUCA National Championship. Winning is certainly more fun than losing, but the highlight this time was not coming across the finish line first. I had the pleasure of racing with my son, Will, who finished only a few seconds behind me.
Twenty-five racers started at 7:30 AM. The pace car led us out of the pit area and kept us bunched up for about half a mile before setting us free. I was at or near the front with Larry Oslund (we were both riding V20s) and Ed Bernasky (on an M5 CHR). About 20 traditional frame racers were behind us, and Will (V20) and another recumbent racer, Don Appel (M5 CHR), were with them. About two miles later I dropped to the very back of the paceline to find Will and tell him to move up. But I couldn’t talk to him because he was riding in the middle of the pack of traditional bikes. I found out later that he was being told to get out. I know better than to try to ride inside a paceline of DF riders that do not know me, but this was Will’s first race and he was learning an important lesson.
I noticed that Larry and Ed were moving away from the pack and I shot back up to the front with them and hoped that Will would follow. But he didn’t. Ed opened the throttle and powered away from the pack with Larry and I wondering how we were going to keep up. But we amped up the power and worked with Ed to build a large gap. I had never raced with Ed before, but the M5 CHR is the only recumbent bike that I fear in a flat race because it’s more reclined than the V20 and very aerodynamic. Also, Ed had a very large tear-drop tail-box that was almost as wide as his shoulders and fit snugly over the top of his rear wheel. Ed was also wearing a skinsuit. All this told me that Ed understands aerodynamics and he means business. I was happy to leave the peleton completely out of sight, but I was sad that Will was lost somewhere back there in it.
I don’t know exactly how far a gap we opened with Ed’s early high-energy breakaway. But much to my surprise, Will caught us all by himself. He is a 24-year old medical school student who hasn’t ridden 100 miles in the past year, combined! And he’s never been in a bicycle race before. He agreed to race on a lark. I brought a bike, helmet, shoes, kit, etc. for him to ride and he drove from school to meet us an hour before the start. Having said that, Will is probably one of a very few people in the world who rode a Cruzbike as his first bike. He also grew up crewing for us on races and record-attempts. He rode a Cruzbike Q as his main means of transportation during college at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Now, the four of us (Ed, Larry, Will, and I) took turns pulling the rest of the first lap and for the 2nd and 3rd laps. Larry suggested, and I agreed, to take 1-mile pulls. Sometimes we pulled longer or shorter depending on the circumstances. Ed was very fast on his pulls the first two laps, but was slowing down like the rest of us by the 3rd lap.
Near the end of the 3rd lap, Larry and I both got hit with leg cramps, but Larry’s were much worse than mine. He screamed so loud it had Ed worried. I reassured Ed that this has happened to Larry before and he could still make a comeback. Larry dropped back and was out of sight when three of us started the 4th and final lap. Ed seemed to be tiring more and would fall back, far out of our draft. But then he would pull back up and race with us again. As the miles went on, he dropped further and further behind. Eventually, I couldn’t see him in my mirror at all. My legs were cramping again. It was 97 degrees on my bike computer. I was backing off the power and squirting water on my legs to cool them off. I wasn’t sure I could finish. I said to Will at about mile 90, “I don’t know what is going to happen in the next ten miles, but I want you to know this is very special for me. I’m enjoying this moment, being out in front with you right now.”
At about mile 95 my legs got worse, and I told Will to take off and finish without me. He slowly built a lead of about 200 yards. I was happy that Will would win his first race. Then I started feeling better. I gave it a bit more power. I caught Will. He said he was “bonking” and couldn’t go any faster. I told him that he BETTER NOT be sand-bagging to let his old-man win. He assured me he was not. I went ahead and finished the race with Will about eight seconds behind, and Ed about a minute behind.
There’s a line near the beginning of one of my favorite movies, Jerry Maguire, where Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) is trying to convince a star athlete to let him be his agent. He says “I will not rest until you’re holding a coke in your own commercial, — broadcast during a Super Bowl game — that you’re winning. It’s what I do best.”
I will never have a moment as glorious as a Super Bowl hero in a Coke commercial, but that quiet moment with my son, about 90-miles into a hot, difficult race, was a pinnacle moment that I will always treasure.
Larry, Jim, and Will on Cruzbike V20s before the start.
Despite severe leg cramps, Larry finished 4th, about 7 minutes after me and Will.
Ed and Don on their M5 CHRs… the only type of bike I worry about in a flat race.
Ed came in 3rd overall, and Don came in 12th. The fastest traditional bike racer finished in 4:29. Ed deserved to be on the podium with Will and me, but due to a family emergency, he had to leave the venue before the awards ceremony.
It’s actually closer to 103 miles. Here’s my computer data.
Now there’s a change… Maria handing off a bottle to Will. Despite no training, Will demonstrates the potential of youth and a well-designed road bike.
The race results.
Graphs of my cadence, power, speed, and temperature. We were cooking near the end.
Many thanks to Alvin Maxwell for hosting the Mid-Atlantic events. These are very well run. I haven’t missed one since he started them in 2012. Also thanks to Maria Parker and Doug Kline for handing me bottles as I came through the pits. I know you all were busy doing your own relay race.