12 Hour Women's Distance

Date: 
Fri, 2009-10-09
Record: 
240.01 miles
Rider: 
Maria Parker
Record class: 
World
Location: 
White Oak, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Bicycle model: 
Silvio 2.0 Frameset

I've been looking forward to, and dreading, Saturday October 10th for as many months as we have had the day marked on our calendar to set a women's recumbent world record. What a terrific day it turned into, what a celebration of the Silvio's tremendous potential.

We woke (or finally got out of bed) after very little sleep at about 4:15 am. Both Jim and I were so nervous and keyed up. I made a pot of coffee and a big pot of oatmeal for Jim, Doug (our wise, wonderful mechanic and all around bike expert), my son William and our two judges who joined us at 5:00 am at our house. At around 5:30 we left for White Oak. Jim and Doug had packed the cars the night before. When we arrived in White Oak, we found Jim Artis (author of Cyclingexperiences.com) already there set up, ready to blog about and witness the event.

We unloaded the bike, I got on, and at the last minute Doug noted a slight rub of my rear brake pad. He quickly adjusted it, and promptly at 6:30 I was off. My heart was beating so hard those first few miles in the dark. I had to concentrate on slowing my breathing and trying to relax. Within seconds Jim was behind me with the others in the follow car. Though I had a light, their beams lit up the road ahead of me for the first 7 miles as the day brightened.

Though our plan was to try to do at least 220, we all were aware that it would be wonderful to best 240 miles, the UMCA women's record set on a diamond frame bike by Nancy Raposo, 17 years ago in Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Going into it, and knowing what I had done in training, I was not at all sure that I could average 20 mph for 12 hours.

The first lap whizzed by and I was astounded to look down at my GPS read out and see that I had traveled the 20 miles in well under an hour. After that, it began to feel more like work and I hunkered down to trust my training and just pedal. I made a mistake in the second lap and took a too large bolus of Hammer Gel. I felt nauseated almost immediately. Unfortunately, I struggled with nausea for most of the rest of the ride. Jim offered me pretzels around lap 4 (80 miles) and I reluctantly took them and ate them. They made me feel a lot better, but they were soon gone and the one little shop on the loop didn't have any. I managed on iced tea, water, and small sips of Hammer Gel for the rest of the ride.

Parts of the course were simply beautiful

I felt very safe on the course. We had previously received permission from the Bladen County Sheriff to roll through the 5 intersections. These were well covered by friends and family who volunteered to help, and I was able to slow just enough to safely make the turns. I was constantly followed by our suburban with the judges and my crew in it. Up to four times an hour they were able to briefly pull up beside me and hand out food or drinks. It was wonderful not to have to worry about traffic behind me. In general the traffic throughout the day was fairly light. On the seventh loop I was getting a little light-headed and came too close to the Suburban as it was pulling beside me.

I lost concentration and with only one hand on the handlebar, I bumped into the side of the vehicle and went down. Fortunately, I was only a little scraped. The bike was scratched and Doug wanted to look at it, so we pulled Jim's Silvio off the back of the Suburban and I continued on it. I felt good and relieved not to be hurt. I reminded myself to stay far from the car during the next hand off. We had practiced hand-offs, but not when I was tired. As a result of the fall, I rode the first half of the event on my yellow silvio with SRAM Rival components, 38 cm drop bars, and wheel covers. The second half I rode on Jim's black Silvio with Campagnolo Components with a comp triple, Gary bars and no wheel covers.

It rained on and off throughout the afternoon. Mostly it was just light drizzle. At one point it rained hard and the salt from the sweat on my face combined with the rain water and formed a delightful cocktail that dripped into my mouth.

Keeping mental focus and not giving in to dark thoughts was a major part of the ride for me. Mentally, I broke it up into 12 one-hour (roughly one 20-mile loop) sections. Each loop I thought of as roughly 4 - 5 mile pieces. As the ride continued the 5 mile pieces became one mile pieces and then 1/2 mile pieces.

When I switched over to Jim's bike I had no GPS and speedometer, so I quit worrying about how fast I was going, or how far. I just pedaled as hard and fast as I could. Sometimes that meant just moving forward into a headwind. Other times I could sense I was flying. I knew that I had built up a few miles of buffer in the first few laps, but I sensed that I was slowing.

As we got to the last two laps (only 2 hours to go!), the crew encouraged me, and told me if I just kept up the pace I was on I would do 240 miles. The last lap they told me I needed to pick it up just a little bit. I remember feeling angry, but I didn't want to finish at 238 miles. I gave it all I had in the last lap. Each mile marker I went over, I celebrated. At mile 236, at an intersection Doug yelled "I'm so proud of you." The crew in the Suburban yelled, pounded and made a ruckus. I couldn't make out their words, but I got energy from their enthusiasm. People on the side of the road who had been watching us from their yards all day yelled, "Never give up." I'm not even sure they knew what we were doing, but they must have known I needed the encouragement. We finally passed the start, and I knew I had done close to 240 miles. I continued pedaling for another few minutes, but now I was wild-eyed. Finally, Jim honked the horn and yelled stop.

The crew and judges piled out of the Suburban and began celebrating. I had great difficulty getting off the bike and immediately felt light-headed. I was so glad it was over and grateful to the team, I burst into tears. The judges painted a mark in the road where I was when the 12 hours ended. We drove back down to the start and thanked the volunteers and those, like Jim Artis, who had supported us by their presence and enthusiasm. John Tolhurst, who had been up all night getting regular updates from the crew called and we celebrated on the phone for a few minutes.

It was such an incredible experiencing being part of this Cruzbike team. In the past I have always competed in running or triathlon events by myself, for myself. To work with John, Doug, Jim and our crew was amazing. To know that many in the Cruzbike Community care about what we are doing and were supporting us with their encouragement, e-mails and posts was amazingly uplifting. Thanks to all of you who have been part of that.

Thanks to John whose wonderful bikes provided the inspiration and tool for this 46 year old housewife to do something she could never otherwise have done, to Doug whose expertise with the bikes and hard work gave us confidence, and to Jim whose love and support make me so grateful to be his wife every day.

Maria Parker