After disappointing ending last year, Sebring 24h was on top of my priority list. Time for redemption! Following another 1200km brevet finish last June, I took my time to slowly recover until august. My index finger nerve is still recovering 7 months later. I was highly motivated and invested 3 x 8 week blocks of training, learning and changing some equipment. How else would I get different result if I do the same thing I did last year?
I completed 3 consecutive training plans with Trainer Road since august, and each took around 8 weeks. As a result, my FTP went up 15 % and increased by 42 Watts. Numbers are nice, but it is not everything that goes into a 24h race. Staying awake, pacing well, eating & drinking balance, and limiting the stoppage time are crucial. I was finally using power meter as well. This should help me pace better and control my output.
In addition, I invested in the fastest skinsuits available – BioRacer Speed Concept ( by Nopinz). It is made for Nopinz , with custom made race number pocket on the back leading to more power savings. Race number was not needed for Sebring but the skinsuit will come handy at the National 12h in may. BioRacer has won the most time trial medals since 2012 for a good reason !
My final upgrade was second light for the night portion of the race. In addition to my Exposure light , I was now armed with Busch&Muller IXON IQ. This should help me get faster in the dark and stay safe due to many wide open cracks at the raceway. Finally, I was testing the new Continental GP 5000 tires. Perfect race to test the claimed improved cornering in addition to speed advantages. In all honesty, Continental did not disappoint except decreased puncture protection ( details below.)
After exhausting drive from DC to Sebring , Florida, I was at the host town around 3pm. Improvement by four hours compared to last year and hopefully more time to sleep before the race. To be honest, it makes since to start flying and shipping my bike instead of wasting two days on the road. Lesson learned !
I met at registration more DC Randonneurs in Chip Adams, Barry Benson and his wife Amy. We had a quick meeting about how Amy was to move our supplies for the night portion of the race. I also saw Race favorite and my personal favorite Ultracyclist Marko Baloh. In just four months I will be helping him on his quest for RAAM number 10. Please support him and sponsor a Time Station by clicking here.
Before going to bed, I assembled my bike and mixed all 22 hydration bottles. After over five hours of sleep, I drove to the start. As soon as I organized my supplies , it was time for the grand departure. There was new timing system this year and apparently not everyone got the massage that they need to go through a mat before the start line in order to get registered in the system. After brief instructions from the race director , racers were flying out the front.
My plan was simple- attempt to maintain 18 mph moving speed and reduce my stops to one hour or less. This will be enough to put me over 400 miles. The start was extremely fast and the top guys simply vanished. I was not even all the way up front before we started pedaling and was unable to follow.
The race starts with 3 laps around the famous Sebring International raceway. I can only see taillights from the lead pack of about 10 to 15 racers. My plan was to start slow anyway and establish my own tempo that can be sustained for 24 hours.
By the time we finished the 3 loops and entered the 94 mile loop, I was behind the leader by half a mile.
The temperature was around 55 to 60 degrees and it felt so nice. I was steadily pushing forward. However, I was not catching anyone in front of me, but nobody from behind was getting closer to me either. Damon Taaffe from DC Randonneurs passed by and reminded me to not go fast in the beginning like I have before. The temperature was actually never much above 80 degrees and the Emcools cooling pads saved me during peak heat !
Few miles before the turnaround, the leader just crossed me and Marko Baloh was very close second. I gave Marko a word of encouragement and went on. They must have been about 5 miles ahead of me and I was still maintaining around 20.5 mph after 50 miles of racing. Simply Amazing ! As I headed back, I bumped into Chip Adams near the same location, so perhaps I was about 5 miles ahead of him. Little did I know , after 24h of racing , the distance between two of us would not change.
After fighting some serious headwind, my average speed was increasing with the wind behind on my way back to the racetrack. It was so strong and maintaining anything above 15 mph was hard to do. I then noticed the favorite in my category Marcus Blagrove from England. He was by the side of the road with a SAG vehicle. I asked how he is doing ,got no answer and kept pedaling. Five minutes later I noticed the SAG vehicle with his bike on it. Not a good sign!
The action moved to the 11 mile loop next. I really enjoyed the long loop. It had a “hill” that gives you chance to stretch.
Towards the end of my first lap, right before the rail tracks, I had flat tire. On my 0 miles Conti 5000 tires. Luckily, I had everything with me, but still lost about 8 to 12 minutes. With a mini pump, I managed to get 60 psi in that sucker and was rolling slow towards the pit. No foreign objects were found on the actual tire. Hopefully just a pinch flat. I had to stop and use normal size pump. This is hopefully my only flat I thought. I cannot afford to loose more time.
Sadly, almost at the same location on Lap 2 , I suffered yet another flat tire. What are the chances! Is there something on the pavement? I was now suspecting everything ! While working on the tire again, a SAG vehicle showed up and helped with a real pump. I was done and out this time in 6 to 8 minutes. So far I lost about 30 minutes due to two flats. It will cost me around 9 miles reduction in final mileage. No stopping anytime soon I guess.
I told Amy that at this rate , I will run out of tubes , therefore any luck to continue and stay competitive. I asked her to see if anyone can get my training wheel and swap the tires so I can use it in case of emergency. Luckily , that wasn’t needed, but kudos to the gentleman that changed it. He made sure to tell me after my next lap that it was ready to go.
Somehow I developed bad case of hot feet like never before. It was painful and I changed to larger and more comfortable shoes! Otherwise, I was feeling good and rested after all the stops. That showed as I had my fastest 11 mile loop at around 36 minutes.
On my fourth loop, I stopped for five minutes and ate some real food. It was time for proper lunch. Amy got me very nice Salmon meal with Mac and Cheese. Thank you. This was actually part of the plan. I wanted to reward myself this year and have real meals, one for lunch and one for dinner. This was in hope of preventing my digestive issues in 2018.
The next few laps were very decent at 36 to 38 minutes each. The last few , I was slower after stopping for supplies and preparing for the night loop. Mark Poland was there cheering and I heard my name every time while passing by the racetrack. He did the 100 mile race and was now supporting Joe Barr on his 24h attempt. Simply amazing! Thanks for the support.
After nine 11 mile loops the sun was coming down. The action moved back to the racetrack for the 3.7 mile loop. I was able to complete 50 laps, and thirty of those were between 11 and 15 minutes. The average lap timr for those 30 was around 12min30 seconds. This should be my benchmark for next year. To help stay away on the boring track, I carried around 12 Caffeine loaded SIS isotonic Gels. They sure kept me up and running.
My two bright lights really improved the speed. The Busch & Muller Ixon IQ was powered by 2 x 2AA Lithium batteries and lasted the whole 12 hours on low setting. The Exposure was nice for the last 2 hours when I was extremely tired. I was able to see while taking the corners and areas of low light, specifically the straight line before the right turn leading to the start / finish line.
One can easily tell from my lap times what the strategy was. Generally, to ride 3 to 5 fast and consistent laps , followed by rest for few minutes. It wasn’t long rest, but rather time to treat my ankles in a minute or so. Luckily ,my hot feet issue disappeared or was forgotten with the new ankle pain being introduced.
I never had ankle issues before and used three different kind of cream to alleviate the pain. Additionally , during my short brakes , I was pulling a bag of ice from the cooler and placing my ankles on top of it. I didn’t even realize how bad things were until after the race. What I think happened was something called ” ankling” :
Lowering of the heel as the downward force of the pedals takes place and a lifting of the heel as the pedal begins the upward movement of its revolution
Stats from the racetrack:
- 3 Laps under 10 minutes
- 8 Laps between 11 and 12 minutes
- 11 Laps between 12 and 13 minutes
- 11 Laps between 13 and 14 minutes
- 2 Laps between 14 and 15 minutes
My lap times were really inconsistent, but considering all issues, somewhat acceptable. Amy and Joel did great job supporting us all night. So were Bruce , Vaune and Maggie. Thank you all
There were less and less riders on the track at this time. On some laps , I was not able to notice more than few racers ahead and few behind me. The leaders were still going strong – Evens Steivenart and Marco Baloh. It was nice to see them work more often since we were at the track.
Some riders had almost no lights and I had to really watch for that. What a waste of effort if I crash at the track. My stoppage time was already over one hour. What was keeping me in the game was the average speed. My final average speed was 18.2 Mph.
This was the usual time to crunch numbers on a fuzzy brain while sleep deprived 🙂 I had about 10 mile buffer ,or in other words about 35 minutes for issues and can still reach 400 miles. The funny thing was that the race organization calculates our lap mileage differently. I was showing just like everyone else almost 10 miles over what my GPS unit was reading.
Barry was still going strong , so was Chip Adams. I saw Chip few more times and he was still 5 miles behind me in the standings. However, he was a bit worried and experiencing his own problems and pains.
After 5 minute brake after the 42nd lap , Chip told me that he might not make the 400 magic miles. I told him not to worry and that he is actually ahead on schedule. We partnered up and this was the best decision of the day. We kept each other awake, rode together and made good progress. I showed him the official results ( he was so close that all he had to do is maintain 15 mph until the end) and he felt a little better.
This was actually the most consistent effort for me all night. We did 2 Laps at a little over 13 minutes. With over 30 minutes left, I was above 400 miles after chasing it for last two years. I knew it was possible !
It was time for a nice long brake before going out for another Lap. This time I was flying , there was nothing to loose and all to gain. It is funny how you always find that extra energy you’ve been saving for the last push. I even had my fastest lap time since the first 3 Laps at the beginning of the race at 9 minutes and 58 seconds.
With only 9 minutes left, it was time to put an end to the race. Final mileage and new PR 410.04 miles. The result was enough to win my Age group. Apparently, I also finished under 2 minutes ahead of RAAM Legend Valerio Zamboni. We were exchanging positions all day. It was really nice to see him throughout the day working hard with his great support crew.
14th place out of 50 Racers in the Male Category
16th Overall in the standard division out of 54 racers.
21 Racers went over 400 miles.
Evens Stievenart was unstoppable and won by 19 miles while braking Marko record with 535.28 miles. Marko Baloh himself had another amazing 500 mile performance and finished with 516.68 miles.
Barry Benson had great race and finished with 310 miles.
Damon got sick, didn’t ride for over 6 hours and still finished with almost 400 miles.
Chip Adams finished with 405 miles. Congrats on the great achievement !
Nancy Guth finished with 226 miles in the 12h race
John Guth finished with 215 miles in the 12h race
What went into my body in 24h:
- About 10 bottles of Ensure
- 20 Rice cakes
- 2 Salmon Meals
- 20 Energy gels SIS – about 12 of those were with 150 mg caffeine.
- About 18 x 32 oz bottles of water mixed with Skratch Hydration.( 4 Gallons).
Upgrades since last year.
- Continental Grand Prix 5000
- Connix Chain
- PowerTap C2 Power Meter
- NoPinz BioRacer Skinsuit
- Busch&Muller IXON IQ
- Aero gloves
Next is SR Series in order to officially qualify for Paris Brest Paris and the National 12h race in May.