Tuesday, January 13, 2015

200 Miles/12 Hours Elapsed Time Vanquished

Susan and Jeff at the start of the 200/12

I DID IT, yes, indeed, I did it Sunday, January 11, 2015: exactly 200 miles in exactly 12 hours according to the iPhone world clock. 

So why, 200/12? Well, it all got started in Springfield, Ohio in 2010 at Calvin’s Challenge, a 12-hour Challenge ride. The goal: how far can you ride in 12 hours? I’d never raced the clock before in an organized ride, had no idea what to expect. 

I don’t remember how far I rode in 2010, but nothing impressive at all. But I learned a lot as I watched how other riders set up their personal SAG stop, whether they were riding self-supported or if they had a crew managing their fuel and fluids. 

I rode Calvin’s again in 2011. I would again be riding it self-supported, but I had a much better idea of how to organize my fuel and fluids to manage my off-the-bike time, an essential for time trial success. My goal this time was to complete a 300k distance (186 miles) in 12 hours. My computer read out was 186 miles in 11:30 and so I stopped. I had met my goal. 

Only later did I realize that 200/12 was quite possibly in reach but I would have to hurry because Mother/Father Time was marching on: I was then 66.

2013 my husband Kirk and I drove to Coachella, CA for the 6-12-24 Hr National Championships. I would try again, this time with Kirk crewing providing my food, fluids, and nutritional supplements along the way. I abandoned the ride after about 150 miles because of seizure activity, a new diagnosis I had acquired about 3 months before the Time Challenge.

I was keenly disappointed because clearly there was no chance I would be doing anything serious with ultra-distance cycling at my age; I would not be registering for any more organized time challenge rides. And so, it seemed, a goal was removed from my bucket unachieved.

Then Dan Fallon, an ultra cyclist from Prescott, AZ who also rides a recumbent, offered to support me doing a 200/12 apart from any “officially organized” Challenge Ride. THANK YOU Dan, for your idea and your awesome support April 2, 2014!!

On Dan’s recommended course (Eagle Eye and Salome Roads West and South of Wickenburg, AZ) I punched out the first 100 miles in 5:30. Good start. Then this wall of wind just ground me to a halt. I abandoned the ride after 135 miles. No need to continue when 200 was nowhere within reach in 12 hours.

And so, the 200/12 goal was, once again, removed from my bucket unachieved.

Then, Good News! my cycling friend, Jeff Rogers, would be in Tucson for the month of January. He, too, had been questing after a 200/12. Maybe, just maybe, working together on the road with Kirk crewing for both of us, we could get ‘er done. And so the planning began.

We wanted to keep it simple, do it locally, but we needed to find a course that was flat, with no stop signs, minimal traffic, and with a reasonably good road surface, the latter being somewhat hard to find in Tucson.

And the answer to those questions was: the I-10 Frontage Road between exit 236 (Marana Road) and exit 212 (Picacho Blvd) on the East side of I-10. There was a McDonald’s at exit 236, lots of services at Picacho Peak, exit 219, and nothing at exit 212. Kirk would park the SAG vehicle at Red Rock, Exit 226, roughly half-way in between.

Our bike computers started rolling at 7:03. 

Outbound, heading northwest, was ever so slightly downhill, an elevation gain over 24 miles of 22’. We also had a tailwind and saw speeds between 20-25. While that felt good, we also knew those 20’s would become 12-15’s when we turned around to head southeast. And that’s exactly what happened. Not only did we have a headwind, but we also had an elevation gain of 428 feet over those same 24 miles.

Lap 2 was pretty much the same weather-wise. Kirk met us at mile post 236 at 1:00 p.m., with 96 miles done: a Micky-D burger for Jeff and my long-distance bike lunch of moist rice, tuna in olive oil, kalamata olives, and avocado. All the bio needs, including having eaten our fill, were met and we were back on the bike in 15 minutes.

Mile 111 required a strategy change. Jeff was dealing with some digestive issues and urged me to continue on without him. He would keep riding, but didn’t want me to slow down. He and I had had several conversations the week before the ride considering as many “what-if” scenarios as we could imagine so each of us could be as successful as we could be, neither of us encumbering the other with whatever life happened to us on the road.

And so, I rode on. 

Daniel, our son who lives in Tucson, a strong rider who also just happens to be 6’-6”, would be joining our team at 5:00 p.m. to put his fresh legs and billboard-sized body in front and let us grab the slip stream behind his wheel. 

And so, at mile 160 I met him on the road, minus Jeff, and slipped behind his wheel.

Daniel shouted: “How’s the pace?”  We were going 20 mph. 

“Faster!”  I said. He picked it up to 21. 

“How’s the pace?”  

“Faster!” I said.  He picked it up to 22.

I said, “When you hear my Zipp freewheel hub clickety clicking, pick it up, cuz then I’m coasting!” 

And so we rode at about 22mph till we turned around to head South for the Marana Road, exit 236, for the last 20 miles. And then it got tough, really, really  tough.

It was full-on darkness now. Kirk was in direct follow-mode providing protection in the rear from any oncoming car traffic and adding his beams to the far less than pristine road surface.

I had a chance to make it, but a very, very slight chance. So slight that even taking a sip from my Camelbak hose would break up my cadence just enough to fall off Daniel’s  wheel. 

Every couple of minutes Daniel would shout out ”What’s your mileage?” I had put a little flashlight between my jersey and my partially zipped windbreaker. I’d dig it out and train the light on my Garmin and Cateye and shout out the mileage. He’d grab his phone out of his jersey pocket and quickly do the math. 

“Ok, Mama, you can do this, but you gotta pick it up, you can do this but you gotta pick it up. We’re going 20 but you gotta pick it up to 21.” 

“You can do this Mama, yes, you can!” 

Then I’d hit a dip in the road or a major hole or something unseen and my freewheel hub would start clickety-clicking. 

“No coasting” he’d shout, “you gotta keep pedaling; you can do this, grab my wheel. You can’t let up.”

“I can’t reach your wheel!” I’d shout, after having lost cadence managing through the road surface irregularities. 

He’d back off a bit while I’d shift down and up a gear to pick up the cadence and then grab the power.

And so the back and forth fighting against the clock continued. 

He never, never let up with his encouragement. As tired as I was, I knew he had to be nearly as tired to be in all out sprint mode for 40 miles, no break from pulling, doing math to make it all come out right, navigating the road in the dark.

Then he shouted: “Do you have to stop exactly when it turns 7:03 or do you have the whole minute?” 

“I don’t know, I said, I don’t know what the seconds were on my Garmin when I started. I’m taking the whole minute of 7:03.”

“Ok then”, he said, “I’ll stop you with 10 seconds left in the minute of 7:03.”

And then it was over. 

Kirk pulled up behind us and stopped. None of us knew how far I had gone till I pulled out my flashlight buried in between my jersey and windbreaker.

200 miles exactly before the stroke of 7:04.

I know, our rules wouldn’t have met RAAM standards, but I never was, and never will be  a RAAM-type ultra-cyclist.

But, it felt so unbelievably good to vanquish my goal of 200/12.

AND! Let me say how amazing Jeff did!! 

Not only did he had GI issues after lunch and had to slow a bit for awhile, but he never stopped. He was able to pick up the pace and continue to 7:03 with a PR of 187. AND, he did all of that without the benefit of Daniel’s slip stream, Daniel’s encouragement or Kirk’s protection and headlights after nightfall.

Now, his accomplishment is amazing. But, being +/- 11 years younger, he’s got a few more opportunities to hit that 200/12, if he chooses to keep that goal in his bucket.

And finally, NONE of this could have been even remotely possible without the wrap-around, comprehensive, cheerful support from Kirk. Crewing is hard, hard work and a sacrificial gift of love.

A huge hug of thanks to all who have supported me for so many years through so many times and events of joy and challenge.