Jim and I were excited to return to Sebring Florida this February for the annual 12/24 bicycle race. The pandemic killed the 2021 event and the usual fitness that we would have acquired preparing for it. We’ve tried to participate in the Sebring race every year since we started doing endurance events. We love the location in central Florida, the timing in early February and the fact that they welcome recumbent bicycles and keep close, accurate records. We also are usually fortunate enough to see many of our Cruzbike family there.
Knowing the race was coming was not the same as training for it.
Knowing the race was coming was not the same as training for it. Around October I started to get worried enough to find a Training Peaks program to put myself on to start training for it. I had no specific goals, I just wanted to be fit enough to complete 12 hours. I had been doing a lot of riding indoors on Zwift with a team of women - the Margaritas - from all over the world. The Margaritas participate in virtual team time trials and Zwift Racing League races. These are short but tough events that have been really challenging me. I have never had big power numbers, and still don’t, but working with a team and trying to keep up has helped me learn to surge. It’s also so much fun to have friends to cycle with no matter the weather.
I worked my way through the Training Peaks program and also did Tuesday and Thursday night races with the Margaritas on Zwift. I was a little worried about my ability to ride outside as almost all of my training was inside on a smart trainer. Two weeks before the event, Jim and I did 100 miles outside on our V20s. Prior to the race, that was the longest ride I’d done and it was really tough.
We arrived in Sebring early Friday afternoon and were delighted to see many Cruzbikers already there. Some we knew, others became new friends. Cruzbike product lead and friend Robert Holler flew in from Portland, OR and helped us make sure our bikes were tuned and tight. We sat and chatted with everyone in the parking lot and then did a warm-up 11 mile loop which followed the course of the short loop you do repeated times after the 100 mile loop.
The start of the race is 3 laps on the Sebring race track and is always blazing fast.
My race plan was to try to keep up with the front pack on the 100 mile loop, and then just see how many more miles I could get in. I had no idea if I could keep up. Some of the strongest ultra cyclists in the world would be there, most of them trying to set or keep 12 hour records. I hoped that all the training I’d done with the Margaritas would make the difference. I have typically been dropped by the front group in Sebring, or just never caught them from the start. The start of the race is 3 laps on the Sebring race track and is always blazing fast. I typically feel a little disoriented in the dark and have to fight my natural tendency to start slow.
Fortified with coffee and an electrolyte drink, I took off and tried to stay near the front. There were several other Cruzbike racers in the pack, a few other 2 wheel recumbent bicycle riders and some fast traditional bike riders. The track has many twists and turns, so navigating these without slowing too much or running into another cyclist is also very challenging. I managed to stay with the front group which had about 20-30 riders in it through the track portion and out onto the road. Once on the road, it was much less stressful as there were many long straight sections. I just tried to hang on the back. I knew if I was going to make it the 100 miles I would not have the energy to take any pulls. The most difficult sections were right after turns when the group would accelerate and I would tend to fall off the back a little. At the halfway point there’s a U-turn that is always a little scary as we all basically come to a near stop and often there are collisions. This time was no different, but I managed to make it out unscathed.
The second half of the 100 was much more challenging for me. I was having trouble keeping up with the group accelerations and the group was getting much smaller. There were still 4 Cruzbike racers and at least 2 other recumbent bicycle racers in it as well as 6 or more traditional bicycle racers. At one point a gap formed in front of me and Jim (who was behind me at the time) called out that I should close the gap. I tried, but just didn’t have the energy. I waved him around and he sprinted up to the group. I was slowly giving up and thinking how awful and slow it was going to be to finish the 100 mile portion without the group. Just then Larry Oslund came by. I pushed to get on his wheel and he pulled me up to the group. You can read about Larry’s difficult race on the forum here. He had many technical difficulties which would cause him to fall behind and then he would have to sprint to catch up. I was grateful for him.
I made a deal with myself to just continue to give it all I had on the 100 mile loop
I made a deal with myself to just continue to give it all I had on the 100 mile loop and then I would give myself permission to ease up on the 11 mile short loops when the big group eventually broke up a little more anyway. I was incredibly delighted when we finished the 100 miles in about 4 hours and 6 minutes. That was a PR and probably the fastest 100 miles I will ever ride. The weather and winds were perfect and the fast group kept up a great pace that I was able to draft off of. I went right through the start finish area without stopping, just yelled to Robert what I needed for the next lap.
Jim was finished after 100 miles (his race report is here) so he and Robert along with Ken Holzhausen who had stopped his race early provided support for me over the next 7 and ½ hours.
I rode much slower, but kept moving during that time. I felt grateful that my stomach was mostly holding out. I drank electrolyte drink and water and ate pretzels, a couple of orange slices, a strawberry and a square of dark chocolate through the rest of the race. By the last 30 miles, my stomach was starting to shut down - it’s as if a door slams shut and I have a hard time even drinking a sip of water. This was familiar to me and I knew I could keep riding. Finally, as I was riding the last 11 mile lap, Doug Kline caught up with me and pulled in front giving me a much needed pull. Together we rode onto the track and I followed him around the track for 3 more laps. I’m really grateful to Doug as I was feeling terrible. Just concentrating on his wheel kept me moving at a reasonable rate. He was feeling good and could have gone faster, but he stayed with me.
We finished that third lap with just a few minutes to spare. Unfortunately, my Garmin ran out of juice at 250 miles, but my official mileage was 258 miles, a new age group record! I did more miles than any other woman in the 12 hour event. I was delighted.
I’m so grateful for all the Cruzbike racers who showed up and raced. You make us proud.
The awards ceremony that followed was one of the best moments of my year so far. So many Cruzbikers represented us well at the 100 mile and 12 hour events and received awards. I’m so grateful for all the Cruzbike racers who showed up and raced. You make us proud.
I’m also grateful for the love, pressure and support of Jim. He always encourages me to do more than I think I can. Having Robert Holler to provide continuous food and mechanical support was invaluable. If a rider must stop and get food and drink it is so hard to get moving again. I am also grateful for the support of all the recumbent riders there, John Schlitter and Kent Polk were incredibly powerful and helped make this race a success for me. I’m mostly grateful for the Cruzbike family. Seeing you all out there riding, and knowing many more of you are at home riding inspired me during the race and inspires me every single day.