February 29, 2012/ Maria Parker
What follows is a ride report from my recent race in Sebring Florida. I’m so grateful to my cruzbike family for all the support you have shown me. Thank you for all the encouragement.
Several years ago my friend and mentor, Tom Florian, began encouraging me to try to qualify for RAAM at Sebring. I smiled and politely agreed, but inside I was thinking, “ain’t gonna happen.” Why would anyone want to cycle for 24 hours? I’d done a couple of 12 hour events at that point and felt completely used up by the end of each of them. Besides that, sleep is very, very important to me. Still the idea kept niggling around in my head. Finally another friend, Dan Fallon told me I’d better do it, because the idea wasn’t going to go away, and besides that, I needed to find out what it would feel like to “come to the end of myself.” That actually didn’t sound like a lot of fun either, but Sebring was coming around again and I had to make a decision.
That’s me at the Start at 6:30 am.
I read a terrific article written in Ultracycling News by Jim ”JV” Verhuel and decided to see if he would be willing to coach me, he agreed. Having a coach provided structure to my training and JV’s plan involved a lot fewer miles and much higher intensity workouts. Having JV coach me turned out to be a great decision.
I was really frightened coming into Sebring. One of the issues I routinely struggle with is nausea, and I wasn’t even sure I could stay awake on the bike for 24 hours. The early morning fog at the start was actually rather comforting. I knew I would have to start slowly and take the turns carefully. This allowed me to concentrate on riding safely and not on speed or power for the first 45 minutes. By then my anxiety was gone, and I started to feel the rhythm of my Cruzbike and enjoy the ride. The weather during the first 50 miles was perfect and I enjoyed the encouragement of other cyclists. It was fun to watch the Bachetta train go by, then Ted Barnett and Jim Parker, the other Cruzbike riders. I saw my friend and training partner Lee Ann too. Everyone seemed to be having as good a morning as I was. The second 50 miles was lonely, I saw very few riders. I kept my eyes on the road looking for the painted symbols, hoping I had not gone off course. It was great to get back to the track for the 11 mile loop portion. Our crew of Scott Lamm, Kelly Palace and Kent and Will Parker was well organized this year and they managed perfect handoffs. On the 11 mile portion I felt strong and steady and was taking in plenty of calories. At JV’s suggestion, my crew gave me ice packs in the hottest part of the day so that I could stay cool. I lost track of my mileage because my Garmin went haywire on me, but I figured I was doing fine. I remembered reading Sandy Earl’s description of this part of the race last year, and looked for the Manatee mailbox during each lap.
coming around at the 11 mile turn around
My crew chief (also Silvio customer) Scott Lamm helping me at a turn around.
Getting onto the track for the night time portion seemed momentous. This was when the real race would begin for me. The first few laps went well. As darkness fell, I began to realize that my little light was not going to be sufficient. I went off the track twice and narrowly averted falling. I slowed way down and asked my crew for a helmet light. My husband Jim had finished his race and during a quick stop, he told me he was happy with the results. All through the night, I continued to be supported by my son Will and nephew Kent who changed my light battery, refilled my water, gave me a new Garmin and whatever I needed without me having to ask. The nausea came on in full about 10:30 pm. I tried different foods and drinks but my stomach roiled, then cramped, and I felt worse and worse. I reminded myself to just do one lap at a time and not worry about anything beyond finishing each lap.
My terrific night (and day) time crew, Kent and Will Parker
The wind picked up, but I had given up looking at my speed so it didn’t bother me much. My feet never bothered me, a friend had suggested a new pedal, and it seems to have eliminated hot foot. The encouragement from all the support teams would buoy me up each time I came around. All through the night Will and Kent stood up looking for me as I came around each lap. Having them there and knowing they were staying awake with me kept me going.
The B team passed me regularly. Each time they went by, John Schlitter, Jacquie Hafner, and JV were very encouraging. It looked to me like they were getting stronger with each lap. At one point when Jacquie was pulling the group, I tried to match their speed, but they were moving along at about 22 mph with apparent ease. I couldn’t keep it up for long. As the night wore on, the bright lights on their bikes would illuminate me from behind as they came upon me and I’d hear and feel them coming like a freight train. As they passed, the b riders would always encourage me. I was also passed by others: other Bachetta riders and a low bike Jim later told me was called a Nocom came by a few times looking really strong. I reminded myself to ride my own race and to stay in the moment as I had been instructed by my mentor Kelly Palace.
At about 3:30 am, I remember pulling up to the boys for a short stop and telling them I was hurting. I knew I needed some nourishment, but I couldn’t get anything down. I asked them how many miles I had, and they told me it was well over 400. I gave myself permission to ease up a little on the next couple of laps and my nausea lifted just a bit.
By 4:30 am Jim and Kelly were back on the track and soon after that my dear friends Lee Ann Musselwhite and Scott Lamm. Seeing them there lifted my spirits and I reminded myself to just keep moving forward. At that point I was aware I would have a new record, but I was unaware of what else was happening. I figured the Bachetta team must have over 500 miles, and knew it was going to be a great race for Jacquie Hafner.
Finishing any hard race or effort is one of the best feelings in the world and everything painful drops away in the joy and relief of that moment. When I finished the last lap, I felt ecstatic. My official mileage of 474.5 miles exceeded my highest goal. The best part may have been the massage I received from a new friend and customer, Timmothyray Labor after the event. I credit his work on me for being able to work a full week after coming back from Sebring.
Kelly Palace, crew member and wonderful supporter with Kent and Will
I am so grateful to all the other crews and riders who called out encouragement to me, especially the Bachetta team, riders and crew who have always demonstrated incredible sportsmanship. I’m humbled by the challenge and inspiration of other female bent riders, especially Sandy Earl, Jacquie Hafner, and Marilyn Hayward who each motivated me to come to Sebring this year.
I’m so fortunate to ride an incredible machine like the Cruzbike Vendetta that takes everything I have to give and gives it back in speed and power. Thank you John Tolhurst for making me look much better than I am.
so glad it’s over – celebrating with Jim
JV’s coaching was an integral part of my success. His own success this year demonstrates the validity of his coaching methods. He also encouraged me and was vital in assisting me with the many technical aspects of this race.
I’m lucky, too, to have friends at home who are willing to meet at 5:30 am so that we can ride together before work; their support and camaraderie have meant so much to me. My amazing friends Lee Ann Musselwhite and Matt Thompson are among those. I’m the most grateful to my brilliant husband Jim who’s nudging, support, and incredible love made this possible and makes every day fun.