RAAM Qualified 400+ miles in 24 Hours - Bike Sebring 2022

Graham Skardon raced more than 400 miles in 24 hours on his Cruzbike V20 and is now part of an elite group of cyclists who are RAAM-qualified. This is an incredible accomplishment. Enjoy his race report below.

After I built my Vendetta V20, I was encouraged to ride Sebring by my friend Ward Joines, who had ridden the 12 hour once.

I regularly ride long road distances with Audax Atlanta and their annual calendar of brevets.

I reached out to members of Audax Atlanta via the facebook group page to ask if anyone else was thinking about going to this year’s Sebring, in the interest of leveraging resources and sharing lodging at the event.

A group member from outside of Georgia chimed-in that having just a 1-person pit crew would be critical to my success. I made it known that I was trying to create that “team” with my search, as much as trying to find someone else going.

Wayne King, Audax Atlanta’s Regional Brevet Administrator, and recently retired Delta Airlines mechanic, volunteered to drive us down and be my support for the event.

For nutrition, I chose to have with me:
  • 12 Berry bars from Ucan
  • 12 Peanut Butter Chocolate bars from Ucan
  • 12 Ucan electrolyte packets

The night before we drove there, I browsed the shelf, thought about what I still might need, bought at a Neighborhood Walmart:
  • 4 pack of Redline drink to mix-in to my bottles
  • Xtend BCAA + Electrolytes

Also, I took with me a jar of 200mg caffeine pills and 750mg L-Citrulline pills, after hearing that they were good for circulation and feeling like I was experiencing initial positive results using them before workouts.

Before the ride, I was worried that I wasn’t ready for a “serious” attempt at Sebring. I am a very laid back rider, who tries very serious rides. I have a lot of experience, and do take each ride seriously, but I always feel like I am seeing if I can figure out only what I will need for a particular ride. So, I don’t have a list of go-to’s that I bring to every ride I do. Nor do I have must haves that become my secret weapons. I stay flexible, consider what’s been coming up for me during recent rides, look at the weather, check how I am feeling, and think of what I might need for the next ride.

Anyhow, I signed-up because of past encouragement, and framed this as a chance to see what Sebring is like, so that I can do it again.

I felt better about my choice when Wayne offered to go. He’s a good man. He bought a big classic cargo van to do his adventures in, and I knew it’d make a perfect travel and pit vehicle. Also, I enjoy Wayne and knew he’d make good company, if he could tolerate me!

As uncertain as I felt before making the trip, I was very calm once we were on the road, and maybe more-so once we Wayne and I arrived at the Hotel for registration. The organizers were very helpful and polite and encouraging with their manner.

I took it as a good sign that we appeared to park two cars down from the Cruzbike tent! Between us and Cruzbike was RAAM finisher Reed Finfrock and his fun and lovely and supportive wife Jen. So, I was feeling blessed already.

Once I got warming up and Cruz-ing around the pit area, I saw and seized on the opportunity to introduce myself to Vendetta rider Jim Reeves and his wife Beth. Jim’s bike had so much character that I believe he jokingly said something to the affect that his customizations probably horrified Jim and Maria Parker when they saw what he’d done with his Vendetta!

Jim was full of character. I sincerely remarked about his awesome goggles. Dealing with eye fatigue was a concern of mine, and I didn’t have a solution by the time of the event. The truth for me is, due to not regularly wearing eye protection, when the miles get long, especially laid back on a recumbent, my eyes can get sore and my vision and ability to easily focus can be affected. Serendipity being how it is, after he told me about his goggle solution, Jim realized that he had a pair of brand new goggles in his vehicle! He was kind enough to offer them to me and then said, if I promised to take 1st place, they were mine as a gift! I laughed at that one, even at the thought of taking an age-group 1st. Still, his kind and encouraging gesture and words were greatly needed.

The goggles are the Dewalt Safety Goggles Concealer with Clear Anti-Fog Lens https://www.homedepot.com/p/DEWALT-Safety-Goggles-Concealer-with-Clear-Anti-Fog-Lens-DPG82-11C/202220499

Jim gave me these goggles only 35 minutes before the start, and he and I both had things to do to get ready that didn’t include this exchange. I only spent a moment adjusting them, and I did hear him warn me that the rubber rim of the goggle could leave marks. In my case, it was a source of discomfort, as I never quite got the fit right… there was a race, after all, and this was the epitome of making a change at the last second.

These goggles were so critical to my comfort and success on the ride. I want Jim to know that. Because of the way I had them fitted, I always felt them around my face. But, I also experienced zero eye fatigue, absolutely clear vision, no fogging at stops, and just enough air circulation to know they weren’t an air-lock around my eyes, which I assumed wouldn’t be healthy in its own way. Eventually, I did find a better fit that relieved much of the uncomfortable pressure from my face… just maybe not an ideal fit.

For my ride, the hardest part of the opening miles was navigation; I was relying on the audible cues from the iPhone in my pocket plus the course road markings, both of which I missed hearing and seeing at especially critical times! The V20 is inherently fast, and missing the first turn wasn’t that big of a deal. However, the second turn I missed required a little more caution and time to get safely turned around, and I never got back with the group I was riding around (not drafting).

I was very comfortable with my ride to the turnaround, when I stopped for a restroom break. For the return, I experienced just as much comfort and strength as I had on the first half, but I was more alone with the ride and the roadside fans. On the return, it was great to begin recognizing the family and friends who were driving ahead to cheer on their riders! I had fun cheering these ride fans on, and they did the same for me!

Honestly, I didn’t know exactly what Sebring had planned for me. I thought we were riding the RWGPS loop, and then returning to ride the track the rest of the time. I didn’t know what to think when I saw familiar riders riding in the other direction on the road I was taking towards the track? Okay, now I know. There’s an intermediary loop that transitions the event between the opening long, inverted lasso, and our return to the track.

On this 11 mile loop, I wasn’t super-conscious of my flow. I treated it in a very novice manner, having to repeatedly remind myself that organizing my thoughts and actions around the loop would only help me reach my 400 mile goal. We were given traffic control in two areas, close to track. I am not all that interested in riding irresponsibly, or daring or scaring traffic in order to save power and shave time (ideally, I’d like to be seen as a responsible member of traffic), it soon was clear that there was ample opportunity to safely gain and maintain momentum by applying better technique to this road loop. Next time.

The Vendetta makes so much possible. Because I am new to the format of the bike, I am considering purchasing a trainer as a method for developing more of a spin. It’s not that I have the best pedal stroke around, but I’ve ridden all of my life and I don’t think I have a bad pedal stroke. There’s nothing like riding, and I owe it to this bike to spend more time on it as a means of learning how I can best apply power around the pedal stroke.

It appeared that the fastest riders on the course were trained for the 12-6 am effort, judging by how they kept the pressure on their tempo lap after lap. I slipped into tiredness at different times of the night, and there was a big block when I just kept pedaling while being past by everyone on the course.

Once it was clear that, as long as I didn’t give up and stayed consistent, I could reach 400 miles. That made time for potty breaks which, no kidding, I began to need and want. My stomach was solid, and I felt good. Seriously, and maybe this is the slacker in me, I didn’t want to keep riding past a port-a-john while thoughts of going to the bathroom were on my mind. So, I was liberal with those breaks. Honestly, I think carrying urine and waste product around is a mental and energy drain, and I like to get rid of it if I think I can.

I wasn’t calculating my speed or necessary laps. My 1-man crew was following the online tracker. In my head, if I only spent as little time as possible in the john, the worst case was that my real average was going to drop near 10 mph, and this was allowable.

I have an above average amount of experience with long distance riding. Although, in this day and age, it’s worth emphasizing that my experience in Ultra distances literally is above average, and not much more than that.

  • 2000: solo recumbent across America from Sea Tac airport to Hampton Beach, NH
  • 2017: Brevets 300k & 400k, Trans North Georgia Adventure (TNGA), Tally Tango, Cross Florida Individual Time Trial
  • 2018: Pisgah 36 hour MTB Adventure Race DNF, Huracan 300, Brevets 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k, Mountain 420 (~465 miles, ~60,000’+ on single speed), TNGA, Tally Tango XL edition, CFITT
  • 2019: Pisgah 36 DNF #2, Huracan #2, Brevets 200k, 300k, 400k, super 600k, Fried Clay 420k, Mountain 420 finish #2, TNGA finish #3, Tally Tango XL #2, CFITT #3
  • 2020: Pisgah 36 DNF #3, Huracan #3, Mountain 420 #3 DNF with 25 miles to go, Trans Virginia on Single Speed
  • 2021: ITT Huracan #4, Hit by car in February… 5 broken ribs, April Shakerag Shakeup/Shakedown 24 hour last rider standing race, Pisgah 99 (113 miles, 31 hours), Rockstar 270 Trail Edition Single Speed, Hut-to-Hut Molas Pass to Moab, 24 hours riding Pisgah, CFITT #4
  • 2022: 200k x2, 300k x2, Huracan #5, Sebring!!

I was messed with by the pandemic. I gave up my gym membership when they closed, so have lost that fellowship and mix of people, plus the HIIT that was practiced nearly daily there. I broke my mountain bike frame in October of 2020 and have struggled to this day to get my new bike all together; that’s been frustrating. Friends have helped me get on the bike for big rides. Otherwise, I have not been riding much.

I was hit from behind on my V20. I stopped riding on the road until recently. I bought a S40 last fall, and have used it sparingly.

I felt like my Sebring ride almost qualified as an “off the couch” attempt. Yes, I did some rides beforehand. Still, I gave it very little focus. Mostly, I believed the V20 in Florida for a limited amount of time would make hitting 400 miles doable.

It was meaningful that I enlisted the support of a teammate. That means that I asked for help and my community of friends, at least one, stepped into that supportive role. He gave me a reason to perform, as I didn’t want to miss hitting the 400 mile threshold with someone there who was taking responsibility for supporting my ride so that it could be a success. Barring a breakdown, anything less than 400 miles would have felt like a letdown.

Honestly, being 47, with no children, never married, and no pets, I spent part of my Sebring ride thinking about how important and significant it was to me. Last year, I rode with a new girlfriend and she and I did some of the most amazing rides together. She had incredible ambitions to ride that I was able to help her fulfill, and she was new to riding. In addition to absolutely just wanting to be there with her, the types of rides we did were a total challenge for her, and they challenged me as a man and a human being to adapt my sensitivity, compassion, vision, knowledge bank, expectations, communication and behavior to match what she and I were going through together. To me, that was so much more of an exciting and rewarding challenge, and where I’d rather be at, than just getting on my bike and riding some “amazing” distance.

I have to think about how seriously I want to take Sebring, and RAAM. In my mind, the team and planning aspects of riding RAAM are the reason I should consider doing it. It would be a growth opportunity for me to prepare and coordinate an attempt. I would welcome that. Yes, I could make a solo, unsupported ride, and maybe I will. Or, maybe it’s enough for me to return to Sebring more prepared and ready to stay competitive through the night. Maybe 450+ miles in 2023?

1 comment

  • Ward Joines

    Great job! Great write up! Glad I could be of help. I’m looking at 2023 myself…the 12 hour.

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