Race Report: Bike Sebring 12/24

Ken traveled down to Sebring, Florida last weekend for Bike Sebring 12/24 and crushed the 12 hour race, logging 229.7 miles. He wrote a race report chronicling the training and race itself, and you’ll see it was quite the adventure:

“After Dakota Five-0 in 2019, I started training for the Sebring 24 hour RAAM qualifier. My plan was to complete the Spotted Horse 150 in Oct, One Night Stand in Nov, then focus on the TT bike. Spotted Horse didn’t go as planned and ended with 60 miles and a DNF. It was then I knew I wouldn’t be ready for a 13 hour overnight MTB race three weeks later. This is a little foreshadowing to plans changing. I had surgery in April 2018 and a double procedure in Feb 2019. I haven’t trained or raced in a couple years. My recovery was slow and made training and racing Dakota Five-0 a miserable experience. Training in the fall and over winter proved to be challenging with the weather and trail conditions. I spent weeks on the trainer. I had a trip to FL planned in Dec to pre ride the course and train in warmer weather for a week. As I was prepping my TT bike for air travel, I found that the dropout was broken. The bike was sent to a repair shop in LR, AR. So I adapted and packed up the road bike for the trip. The day I was to leave, my flight was delayed, then later canceled. Allegiant only has two flights a week from Omaha to FL, so my trip was canceled. Back to the basement. I did get some longer rides outside on the gravel and road bikes, but not having the ability to get ample saddle time on the TT bike would rear its ugly head on race day. After my 2018 surgery, my power came back quickly, but this year it is taking longer. I wasn’t going to get my FTP where I wanted it to reach my goals, but whatever, FL in Feb, right? Soldier on. Flight was paid for and other plans were in place. My TT bike repair was delayed a week due to the shop owner getting the flu, then when the frame returned, the fork wasn’t with it, so delayed another day to wait on FedEx to overnight it. I got two trainer rides on it before packing it up for the trip. The rear tube let go half way through the last ride, so I cut it short. Seems nothing is going as planned.

To add to the pile of changes, the race promoter announced that the track was rented to SCCA on Sat night, so we would not be racing overnight on the fast, closed course. The new proposed course, which would be ridden for the second 12 hours, looked and rode more like a circuit or crit course, three left 90 degree turns followed by a right 90 on one end, and a hairpin 180 on the other. Add in that being overnight with lights in your eyes and I decided to bail on the 24 and do the 12 hour course. Oh, I haven’t mentioned yet that my support guy was stuck in a snow storm in Ohio. There’s one more. The hotel only booked me for Friday night and not Saturday, so the morning of the race I had to check out and hope that there would be vacancy when I was done to check back in. Backing up a bit, the team Speed Hound bike bag got my bike and gear to and from FL beautifully. I got to FL on Monday night. Two shakedown rides on Tues and Wed, rest Thurs, then an easy drive to Sebring on Friday.

I got there early enough to ride the 11 mile loop, check in, join some Iowa friends for dinner, who I politely asked to crew for me, then back to the room to lay out all my gear like it was the first day of school. I’ve found that I need to get up two hours prior to start time to get all my things done and not feel rushed. The morning went well, despite running some first time gear (shoe covers, fully loaded bike, first long event on the Garmin 830). I grabbed my chip at the start, then lined up in the second row so I could follow some Sebring veterans. The start was at 0630 sharp and the guy in the HPV sprinted off like a rocket. The 24 hour fast crew did also. My HR was hard to control for the first hour. We spent 30 minutes on the track doing laps. These folks all need to spend some time watching auto racing. I wasn’t pulling the peloton, but taking good lines had me catching up and passing often, which is scary when everyone is down on aero bars racing a road course. One guy caught a concrete seam and put himself in the hospital with a broken collar bone on lap one or two. After three laps, we were sent out on a 90 mile out and back. This was much safer as the pack was strung out and single file. It was a chilly morning. I had a base layer, basic kit, thin arm covers, gloves, and aero shoe covers. At one point in the morning I had difficulty shifting because my hands were so cold. I was also over hydrated, stopping often to water the orange groves. I lost a couple small groups due to this, but eventually linked up with a group of five that were seasoned racers. They had a good pace and solid bike handling. I was either in the back or pulling. We were working well together. This went on until about the 85 mile mark. The road turned into the wind for about 10 miles, the longest single stretch of the day, and they fell off the back as they were on road bikes while I got as low as I could. I pulled into the pit almost exactly as I predicted with a five our century done. Only seven hours left! I peeled off the base layer, arm covers, and gloves. Applied sunscreen, lip balm, chamois cream, grabbed two bottles and went out on my first 11 mile loop. This loop was right hand turns until returning back to the pit, then it was a series of turns to get to the timing table followed by a sharp 180 and back out. The wind picked up on the century out of the east, then shifted to the north, and swung to the south before dying off around 1730. This made for ever changing tactics on where to sit up and where to work. There was one short hill half way through the 11 mile loop similar to that hill on the way to the white church. I was warned not to overdo it here, so I granny geared it almost every time, sat up, drank, then got ready for the last 5 miles into the pits. 11 mile loop was like shampoo, lather, rinse, and repeat. All was well until about the 9 hour mark. At that point my stomach shut down and was starting to evict unwanted inhabitants. I felt like I needed to vomit, but only burps came up. I felt miserable. I think I had a little over 175 miles in at this point. I wasn’t going to quit without at least 200, but honestly didn’t want to continue. I suffered through another three laps before chugging about 20 ounces of water in the pit. Things felt better, but I still hadn’t had any calories since the 9 hour point. I was just waiting for my legs to cramp up and shut down. I only had 90 minutes left though so I kept rolling. The 11 mile loop was closing at 1740 so I was timing to hit it right before it closed knowing the 3.5 mile course would be slow and busy until the 12 hour races were done at 1830. I hit the mat at 1735 with 207 miles, my current PR from DK200 twice. I was going to set a new PR for distance and ride the entire time. Backing up a few hours, every time I was coming off the 11 mile loop, I would see this guy I met the night before heading out. Each time I came in, he was closer to the pits. I was slowly making time on him. This was my rabbit. Little did I know, he was also the only other rider in my age category. The temperature was coming down, my stomach was feeling better, and I was getting faster. I finally caught him with two 11 mile loops remaining. He was still working with that strong group I rode with on the century. Every time I came by, they would grab a wheel. Their experience showed. My legs were feeling good on the flats, but I needed to test them on that climb. Occasionally throughout the day, I would stand to left some blood back into the pressure areas and move around. No cramps. This time I hit the hill in the big ring, stood over it, and then kept the power on to take advantage of the aero bike and wheels. A quick look over my shoulder showed the group not chasing. I was at the 11 hour mark and still able to spike my HR and stay on the gas without cramps. I powered through my last 11 mile loop the same way. Hard on the flats and hard over the hill. I hit the timing mat off the last big loop with 25 minutes remaining. Now to the short course. I noted the time, then went out as hard as I could. Sweeping the 90 degree turns in the aero bars, passing as many people as I could. I rode the first turn around there somewhat easy to make sure the corners were clean and read the lines. Back on the straight and back on the gas. Diving into the pit area, I noted that it took about ten minutes for the 3.5 miles and there was 15 minutes left on the clock. Time for one more.  I buried the needle and went as hard as I could, no one was holding a wheel as the traffic was high and I am very comfortable taking corners full speed in the aero bars. I set up for the last turn and swept the three 90s in one smooth arc, then back to the right and out of the saddle for the last sprint. I crossed the mat at 1155 with 225.2 miles on the Garmin. Good enough for a new PR and first place in my age group by about two minutes. A weird thing happened at about the eight hour mark. My body just kept moving. It was almost on autopilot. I could have probably rode another 2-3 hours comfortably (ignoring that the chamois now felt like a scalpel on my inner thigh).

Dinner was a few beers, a shower, then a burger and fries. I took food out to my impromptu crew as their main racer was still out on the 24 hour course. I felt great, minus some soreness on the front of my knees which I believe is from so much low cadence/high torque pedaling throughout the day, and well the crotch area. I had one more day in the sun before packing up and heading back. I stopped at a farmers market and nearly bought everything I saw. My metabolism is still raging today. I’m calling it good for base training, now to shift for CIRREM and Mid South. Thanks for reading.”

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