The Road to Sebring, Around Sebring and back again. If you are looking for a race report you probably should look elsewhere. I am only ever interested in measuring myself against myself and my self-perceived limitations; and this trip was not even about that. But it was fun none the less. So…. it is Tuesday Feb 14th, has it been almost a week now? I guess so. I am sitting here to write down my thoughts about bike Sebring 2017. Technically I should be in the garage unpacking the Truck which is still full of bikes and gear from when I rolled in to the driveway at 5am this morning from the trip back. The last 7 days where without a doubt, a long week of rolling with wheels Total Ground Mileage: 4036 (3813 in the truck, 234 on the bikes) Total Rolling time: 83 hours (70 in the truck, 13 on the bikes) Why in the world would you do that? Well… it all started out as a lark back in September. After going down with our bikes to Iowa for some “how fast can I ride on a flat race track” fun… Tanya and I were suddenly left with the fact that, a super busy Fall and looming Winter where about to come crashing down on our northern riding season. The end of the season is never fun because riding provides an excellent escape from the daily grind and crazy jobs. Confronted with 5 to 6 months of getting out of shape or riding goal-less on the trainer; I decided we could use some motivation (fear of failure if you prefer). Something was needed to ensure we would get off the couch, and go down in to the cold basement and exercise daily. (We have 5 kids and jobs, so “off the couch” is figurative here, but you get the idea). Enter Bike Sebring, sure why not. Tanya and I are experience with the big summer social events in our area of the country. There are usually 15-20 bike events to choose from all within 1-4 hours. These summer events draw 500-3000+ people and you get told 20 times it is a “ride not a race” and then the gun goes off and the 100+ subset of the riders, entered in the century ride “race” off down the road to see who will win with no rules, safety, or race timing that you get at a proper race. After you weave your way through 100’s of regular riders you can actually enjoy some very fast riding on mostly closed roads; but it never quite seems worth it for those of use that can ride steadily over 18mph. Chasing a sub 4 hour group century is the only real carrot. Sebring, meanwhile, is about just those 100-150 like minded people showing because, it is a “race not a ride” and all the official stuff is handled professionally assuring most anyone of any skill level can take their personal measure. With nothing shorter that 100 miles and positioned so early on the calendar; only the go-long go-fast bike nerds are going to show up for this event. Now I will admit that it is my opinion that the Sebring event as a premier ultra-race event is too early in the year for most riders in the U.S. and it is a bit of a challenge to get to it for people more than 15 hours travel away. Basically, you need live close or want to go to it; true of many things. Never the less, you should want to go to it at least once. Sebring feels part season opener, part beginner’s event, part “A” event for special records as such it has a bit of a blended flavor to it. If none of that appeals to you; remember it is in Florida and the weather is always great in February in Florida. (no spoilers for the uninformed). There’s time to get fit right? Because of the timing, training to not embarrass or injury ourselves at Sebring was going to be a challenge. From a cycling fitness and training standpoint; If you are going to be truly in competitive shape you need to train. A period of 12 weeks of based training is usually required followed by another 8 weeks of building strength to reach a solid 20 weeks’ foundation. That approach leaves about 8 weeks of peak form to fine tune your training during which your top competition events can occur. If you want beat your competition or find you person limits against that clocks; that’s how you go about it. May – Sept are the racing season in the northern hemisphere and most people start a training program in late November with the goal to be race ready by late spring. Given that we finished our previous peak in September, the timing for Sebring did not make much sense for the “I am going to beat you approach” nor the “I am going to set a person speed record.” Because of the timing I almost let the idea drop. But the I decided to accept that this was not going to be “the” big event for the year, and that it would be rather expense to get to. I talked to the wife and we decided that it would be a nice place to break her through the 12-hour barrier. That alone is a milestone worth shooting for, and one that pays dividends in a long-lasting adaptation for the cyclist, it was achievable and the effort to do it might accomplish other things in the process. Game on. By the time all of this was decided we were deep into fall, we had taken our 2 weeks off and let our fitness drop and we were just wrapping up some strength training. There were only 9 weeks left, not even enough time to even complete full base training period. So, I crafted a compressed 8-week plan (10 hours per week) to get in shape for the event. If you are interested in what that looked like; it is well documented in a daily journal on the Cruzbike community forum. That thread covers pretty much the level of training we put in and all the crazy planning for the wide range of possible weather Florida can offer up in February. Read Set Go Tuesday Feb 7th - Time to pack up the truck, that entailed about 5 hours of triple checking the piles of gear; and then about 1 hour of loading it all into the truck for the trip. Fortunately, last year’s trips made the actual truck loading go fast as we had previously solved most of those problems. Got everything packed; had dinner; than worried about the weather and when to leave. Wednesday Feb 8th – Woke up after about 5 hours of sleep and rolled out with the truck at 4am to try and beat the winter weather that decided to blow in at the last minute. I would drive down and Tanya would fly to avoid missing too much work. I would meet her at the Airport in Florida. I would like to say the drive was uneventful, but it is after all winter. In the end, I saw 30 cars in the ditch and 3 or 4 semis’ like the one in this photo. Thursday Feb 9th – I arrived in Sebring around noon; drive time was 27 hours with about 5 hours of sleeping at the rest stops. I decided to take a slightly longer route and completely avoided the mountains; turned out to be a good trade, much less stressful with a truck full of bikes making the vehicle heavy and hard to stop. I gained back some of the extra travel time on the drive by eating pretty much the same way I do on long bike rides with light and portable foods. This approach saved time and got me mentally ready to do that on the bike. I was planning to ride the race on a fat adapted diet so we had more than enough food packed to cover the travel time. In the end, stops were limited to getting gas and sleeping. I was fortunate that when I got to the hotel they let me into the room ahead of time so I could unpack the truck and setup Bikes. By the time I finished it was 3pm and Tanya was due to land in Orlando at 10pm. So, since I had gone to college in the Orlando area I contacted my all-time favorite professor (newly retired but still in the area) and was lucky enough to be invited to the weekly poker game. Excellent way to spend the time. Unfortunately, no one warned me about the road construction on I-4 and the trip to Orlando that should have taken about 2 hours; turned into another 5 in the car in rush hour construction disaster traffic. After displaying my complete lack of knowledge of poker games (sad for a kid that grew up playing cards every Friday from age 6-16). I head over to the Airport and picked up the real athlete in the family and we drove back to the hotel arriving about 12:30 in the morning. Friday Morning Feb 10th – Slept in a bit on Saturday, then headed out for the classic Florida breakfast with the bluehaired. It was about this time that I discovered that I had completely failed to dodge the stomach flu that has been raging around our part of the country. A quick trip to CVS for some medicine made sure that was not an issue for the weekend; but for a bit I was rather worried. After breakfast, it was closing in on 10:30 am, as planned we drove the long loop of the race course. Having never been to the event this seem like a good idea, but it was a pretty big time investment with the clock ticking down. We were out on the route about 2 hours looking at intersections discussing the “hills” (cute little things) and planning how we would ride it. The entire time we did it I felt like it might be wasting too much time; but when the ride came on Saturday I was glad we did it as it allowed for confident cornering and climbing of the few hills on the course. That scouting was worth every minute invested as it lower any ride time uncertainty. Friday Afternoon Feb 10th – By the time we got back, the Cruzbike tent was going up; and preparation for a group ride on the 11 mile loop was getting under way. We spent most of the time between 1 and 4pm hanging out at the tent; fine tuning bikes while getting to meet many longtime online friends in person for the first time; and adding to the list of new acquaintances. As is the norm for me I spent too much time on the bikes and chasing loose ends and not enough time on the people. After this photo, we went for a ride on the loop and got to stretch out the legs a bit; which was welcome after 2 days in the car and no riding. I quickly realized I had two problems. First I had forgotten that to get my bike into the car I had collapsed the headrest and had to fix that on the side of the road. All hail the Rojo Clamp. Second, I had modified my boom length this winter on the trainer; but never had weather that would allow a road test. Five minutes into the road ride it was obvious that my handle bars were too far back into my body and the bike was twitchy and would not hold a line as until I fixed that. Fixing the handle bars was going to have be left for a night tasked in the hotel room. When we got back there was not much time to waste the pit area at the track opened and we moved the vehicles in and picked out our spots. This was when I made our first mistake. We had planned on having to support ourselves during the ride since it was impractical to bring friends and family down for the event (older kids in school; and little kids too little for the trip). It was clear that the Cruzbike team had planned to help us, I knew this going in; we had even emailed about the concept, but I am always reticent to inconvenience others by expecting them to help me so and I like to plan for things not to workout. As such I did not think it through and I completely missed the chance to brief Robert on what was in our truck; and where it was, but worse we had not at that time figure out the schedule and plan for water and food on the bikes. So even if I had taken the time to explain what we needed it would have been incomplete on the most important topic. Being new to the event I figured there would be plenty of time in the morning to cover what amounts to 3 minutes of info (mistake #2 – there is never plenty of time). Friday Evening Feb 10th – After reviewing the pit area we moved the bikes back to the hotel room, and went down to the Registration area and handled all of that. Turns out I was famous as I had accidentally registered for two events when I tried to update my registration. So much for keeping a low profile. Back in our room I fixed my v20’s boom (no time to test it, but we got lucky on that one) and began to arrange things to put in the truck as a supply room for the race; and did final prep on the bikes. We made our food and fuel plan for the ride. This was organized chaos; but we came up with a great plan to label bottles with “obvious” codes so we would know what was what and numbered our food bags as well. Piece of cake to find stuff in a hurry during the race and it should be easy enough to explain to someone else. (mistake #3 – write things out long hand. Codes are dumb when the pace is fast) Figured out our clothing plan; I hate being cold; I would rather be a tad warm and drink more water than be cold. So, I opted to wear my sub 55F riding coat, wool socks and full fingered gloves. I wisely skipped the warm leggings and arm warmers and went with the sun/uv protection ones; the forecast was for 80-85F before the century was done even if it was only 54F to start width. We would go with warm stuff in layers and then right before the start ditch the extra coat layers at the pit and hustle over to the start line. Note to future self; lips need sunscreen too. Finally, around 9pm we moved the truck back to the pit row ready for the race. Tanya wisely crashed before 10pm and of course I stayed up too late to about midnight getting the last of the bike computers setup the way I wanted them. About 1am I went to sleep as I realized Tanya had been smart and eaten some food for dinner and I had forgotten and had only snacked a little. Saturday 4:00am Feb 11th - <<Insert loud and annoying alarm sound>> (This is 3am back home mind you) Time to get up and go race. We got up and got kitted up. Had a light breakfast of nuts, almond-butter, coffee and, by 4:45 we were rolling the bikes over to pit-row. This is where time gets funny; We are at the truck at 5:00am-ish and the race does not start until 6:30am. We worked on getting everything exactly like we wanted it; finalized the bikes and waited for others to show up. The more experienced people who knew what to expect or had people that would be staying behind to setup their pit area after the gun came much closer to the start time. Next thing I know Larry’s ready to race and reminding us to ride down and test our timing chip in the gate. What? It is that late already? Ok so we ride down; still wearing all of our cold weather gear; and we go through the timers and test. About this time, I spot Lucia talking to Maria and I manage to give Lucia a super brief heads up about where our water bottle spares are (so her and Robert can take some up on the course). This is not a big worry as our bikes are rigged for Solo Century riding and we carry 5 bottle and do not need to refuel the bikes at those distances (Mistake #4 bikes heavier than they need to be). This conversation lasts for about 2 minutes and then I realized we need to line up at the start now; it is show time. Saturday 6:25am Feb 11th - So, we are in the gates and I am now stuck with my coat there is no place to toss it, guess I am doing a century wearing it. We line up with Larry beside Jim, and me and Tanya behind Larry. (Mistake #5, I should have gotten behind Tanya). I was not sure how the start would go; but adrenaline won out. We roll out and Jim gets going right away; and Larry has trouble clipping in so I went around him and floated in the space between him and Jim. I have now lost track of Tanya in the sea of people at this point; but she good at taking care of herself. I stay with the lead group with Larry and Jim; knowing that she will either be in group 1 or 2. The plan had been to see if we could get in the lead group and ride with them for at least part of the start the race. We knew that might not work for long if Tanya had trouble finding the draft which is not something we get to do a lot where we ride. The track is dark at this point and it is hard to see what is going on. I am slotted in at the back 3rd of the lead group, and I am cold still, I do not like cold; and the only way I am going to get warm is if I work a little bit. The pace of the group is ok, but not fast, I am not getting enough work to warm up. So I move out to the side and spot Larry and the strong riders who have moved forward. Right then I thought about going backwards to find Tanya’s group and pull her up to speed but the track is super crowed and I do not think that it will work to go backwards nor would it be safe. (Yet another Mistake, per Strava flyby data she is right behind me and I cannot see her in the dark). So, Plan B it is; help the lead group get the lead group animated and moving and see if we can split the fast contenders free of the rest better to sort that stuff out early. Then drop box to group number 2 where she will be and start to ride our ride. So I moved up by Larry; that was better a little effort and the knees started to warm up. I see a few of the other strong riders including Barefoot Biker on a V20 (at the time I don’t know it’s him but I have a suspicion based on who he is not and where he is riding) and the Schlitter team. After the first ¾ of the lap I moved to the front a couple of times and raised the pace which is of course when Tanya got popped off the lead group, my fault (I’ll stop number the mistakes the count is getting too high). I chatted with Jesse, Larry and a few others; while the pace continued to rise. I much preferred it up front with just the pace car, I do not know the track at all. They did not let us on it the night before and I need to see something like that on a map after I ride on it not the other way around. So, behind the car was much more fun just follow the light and pick a good line around the corner; visibility was better and I did not have to worry about what other sleepy riders were doing. I was with the front of the group as we headed out pit row; I thought about stopping and getting rid of the coat on pit row, but I was still cold and so I elected to keep it. I wished the people in the group fast group that I know a good of racing, made my apologies for not going with them, and then drop out the back to go find Tanya. Saturday 7:15am Feb 11th - I slowed down to about 20 mph and dropped back and out of the group, expecting a second train to show up. Now what surprised me was that a second group never formed behind the century / fast-11h group. Everyone got so strung out on the track and they stayed that way. The largest group after the lead group was about 5-6 riders strong; and of course, all the no drafting riders mixed in for good measure. It took about 15 minutes for me to realize the other group was not going to be happening period. So, I took a strategic break at the Start of Riverdale Rd. 10 Minutes later Tanya came around the corner pulling a several DF riders along with her for good measure. At that point, we started riding our 2-person pace line per the plan. Not much eventful stuff happened on the rest of the century for us. We settled in and just put down a steady pace. The turnaround at Frost Proof was silly. People were in the street and the tubs were positioned in such a way that rides pretty much had to come to a complete stop to throw their chips in and then turn around in cramped quarters and re-accelerate. I did realize during this stretch that I do not get to ride roads enough with Tanya and I have never taught her to how to brake late in a corner and hold speed on a line (Mistake). That over-sight cost her a lot of wasted energy on all the turns throughout the day as her bike slowed too much and then had to climb back up to speed as our drafting would break. Where we live, you must ride that way. The gravel and sand debris from the winters make every corner a wash-out trap. But as clean as the corners where on the Sebring route it was unnecessary. I thought about trying to point that out during the ride and then decided she had enough on her mind at the time. Battles for future days. Saturday 8:08am Feb 11th -The road near frost proof was awful; that wound-up costing us some time. I had not noticed how bad it was when me scouted it; so, I took on fuel while descending to the turnaround; By the time we were climbing back out; all the bumps had agitated my stomach and the lights went out for a few minutes and we had to slow to 17mph for bit. After we got back up to speed we crossed paths with Ken rode for a good chunk of the way back with him on his modified Quest Aero Beast. Saturday 9:00am Feb 11th - Around mile 60 Lucia and Robert where all set with water and supplies we did not need any at that point but it was great to see the friendly cheering faces just waiting to do anything we needed. This when the bottle error become obvious; with them there, we had not needed to have carried the weight of extra bottles on the bike. I also did not think to stop for 10 seconds to give them my coat which at that point I did not need temp as up to 74 and I wound up wearing it for 25 extra miles.