April 13, 2016/ Maria Parker
Editor’s Note: Maria’s performance at Bessies Creek was superlative. We think Jim summed it up well in the conclusion to his forum post, “What can you say about Maria driving down to Texas and laying down the most miles ever (457.7) in the 24-hour race, topping the mileage of luminaries like Kent Polk, John Schlitter, and Chris Hopkinson? She’s a keeper.”
I pulled out of Lumberton in the Suburban early last Wednesday morning, headed to Brookshire Texas, near Houston to do Bessies Creek, my main cycling event of the year. I was loaded down with all the stuff we needed for my 24 hour race and for Jim’s six hour race. I also took a slight detour through Tallahassee, Florida to pick up Ben Tomblin’s Vendetta and gear so both he and Jim could save work days and fly into Houston on Thursday morning and out on Sunday after the race.
I enjoy these long road trips. I especially like to listen to novels or podcasts and don’t really have the time for that at home. The car trip was uneventful and after stopping for the night in Baton Rouge, I got into the Houston Airport pretty close to Jim and Jonathan Garcia’s arrivals. Jonathan is our new sales representative for Cruzbike, an excellent mechanic, passionate about Cruzbike and an excellent rider himself. He offered to crew for me for the race and I was so glad to have him there. The next day, our other crew member, Tom Roberts, joined us. Tom is a long time friend and has crewed for me many times including through RAAM. When Tom is there, I know I am in good hands. He also knows my needs very well and gets me what I need even before I know.
By Friday morning we had our Cruzbike tent set up. Jonathan, Jim, Ben and Tom worked hard to get the bikes ready. When I took my bike for a test ride, I realized how wonderful it was to have Jonathan there. He had it tuned so that the bike hummed along perfectly smoothly and shifted unbelievably crisply. While the guys worked, I mostly sat around and chatted with some of the other competitors. I was especially honored to have a visit from a Cruzbike customer, friend, and supporter of 3000 Miles to a Cure, Susan Winchell. One of the best things about these events is the opportunity to get out from the glow of my computer monitor and talk to people.
Ben and I napped Friday afternoon in preparation for the 7:00 pm start. I couldn’t sleep, but I relaxed in a cool dark room for about 2 hours before getting up to dress and get to the starting line. I’d never before done an evening start, and I found I really liked it. I was anxious to try my new very low carbohydrate diet in a 24 hour event. It had gone well for the 12 hours of Sebring in that I was able to go the entire 12 hours without eating anything, just drinking water and electrolytes and felt pretty good. I never bonked.
The race started and the first few laps went by in a blur. I had to remind myself to back off my power to save some for later. I felt strong and fast. The first six hours were painless and quick. The 1 am to 7 am section was a little more challenging as the buzz of the excitement of starting had worn off and my body was reminding me that I should have been sleeping. I was nervous that my Nite Rider light battery wouldn’t make it through the night, so I carried an extra, but it made it through the whole night and lit up the road well. I was very happy to see the sun come up at around 7 am and looked forward to getting a new influx of 12 hour riders on the course to add excitement. Over the 20 miles of the loop the riders got very spread out and I was often riding for long periods without seeing anyone.
Unfortunately, with the rising sun came traffic and wind. This course is famous for its wind but it built so steadily throughout the day that it became quite discouraging. Of course the back side of the loop felt great because we were pushed along by a wonderful tail wind. I always remind myself that wind is just an invisible hill and always comes to an end sometime. The traffic was something else. As usual, most people were courteous, but it only takes one rude person with a truck and an attitude to ruin your mood if you’re 18 hours into a 24 hour race. I had a few of those. Some motorists just hate having to slow, even a little, for cyclists. Apparently so many people come out from Houston to cycle this area, that a feud has developed between cyclists and motorists.
The last 6 hours were difficult. My stomach, which had done fine on water and electrolytes for the first 18 hours, simply shut down for business. When that happens, even a sip of water causes terrible gut pain. I felt very discouraged for those last few hours because I was losing lots of ground with each lap as I just wasn’t able to put any power on the pedals. My crew, Tom and Jonathan, were perfect, allowing me to move smoothly through the neutral zone without having to stop. They had everything I needed, usually without my asking for it. I now know from experience how difficult and thankless crewing can be and I am so grateful for these guys for serving us in this way.
There was a very bright spot in the last 6 hours as I watched Jim and the other fresh 6 hour cyclists rip by me. I was so proud of Jim, who has been training hard and pushing me in our regular rides. He had to keep up an average of over 23 mph to set a new 6 hour record. I figured it would be impossible with the winds kicking up to near 20 mph during the last 6 hours, yet he did it! Below is a graph of wind that I’m stealing from Jim’s forum post.
I’m also very proud of Ben Tomblin who experienced knee pain throughout the race, but did what he always does and pushed through steadily with a smile on his face. The finish party was at a local pizza restaurant where we enjoyed race director Ken Jessett’s wry humor as he gave out some of the awards. It was a well organized and run race and we’re thankful to Ken for having us.
I’m so grateful to my Cruzbike family, who watched, cared, and helped develop many of the components and accessories I used during the race. You Z-ers know who you are – you make it all worthwhile.