Last weekend was time to break the ice on a new racing season at the 24 Hours of Sebring. In sunny, warm Florida. Oh, wait, let me rephrase. In cold, damp, windy as all get-out Florida!
Artemous was chomping at the bit to start, he has been stuck on the trainer since the year started (only the Raven has been outside) but I admit I was apprehensive as it was dark, cold, and really really windy (the winds were gusting at 25-30mph). Drew was doing the 12 hour race, and our good friend Wayne (Deca-Ironman) came down to start his season with the 24 hour race. At 6:15am the three of us headed over to the start line. We lost Wayne in the crush, and at 6:30 we all set off. The announcer reminded us that 2 digit numbers were trying to qualify for RAAM and couldn't draft. I was number 110... I hadn't really thought about which category I wanted to be in since I've decided against RAAM, but with the blustery winds I started to smile since I was now draft legal.
The race starts with 3 laps around the Sebring raceway. I hooked up with a group with a tandem and 3 guys coming off the track. Rode out to the turnaround with them. (was quite fun, I forget how much fun pack-riding is, and way faster than I would have been into the wind alone). Chatting with them kept my mind off of the cloudy skies and the fact that I could not feel my toes. There was an aid station at the turn-around and they took time at the turn, so I headed back. I was also a tad concerned about the pace as they were all doing the 12 hours. They cruised by me a bit later and I said hello and kept on spinning.
I finished up the 100 miles in 5:58 (clock time), stopped at the car for some food, and headed out to start my 11 mile day loops. I met up with Drew at my 2nd 11 mile lap. We rode together for the rest of his time, not drafting just side by side chatting. The winds were still gusting, but for a while here the sun was out and I actually started to feel a bit warm. It was lovely! Was averaging 16.1 (bike time) at 11:52 when Drew was done (he got in 192 miles... a solid day! And then he spent the night crewing for me).
Wayne managed to break his Speedplay cleat, his wife went into town to see if she could get a new one but there were no cleats to be found. His day ended way early at 100 miles (but he did get a nice warm bed that night... I was kinda jealous).
After sunset the wind died down to a gentle roar (5-10mph) but it got WAY cold. I had on a long jersey, my winter bike coat, a windbreaker, Drew's winter bike coat, 2 pairs of tights, my gloves and Drew's gloves but it was still cold. I tried to do sets of 5 laps (3.9 miles each) on the track between pit stops. I stopped at 4:45am because I was just frozen. Stood by the BBQ pit for a while to try to warm up and decide if 300 miles was enough. I headed back out with 1:20 to go and finish it off.
I finished reasonably well compared to the other real bikers, but got SLAUGHTERED by the recumbants. I think the top 3 men and top 2 women were all on recumbants, the flat course and headwinds really suited their bikes. I finished with 321 miles, 2nd (and last) in my category, some 60 miles behind a recumbant.
When we got in the car to leave Sebring it was 32 degrees out. All in all.. I'm pleased. I feel MUCH better than last year and I feel like I rode stronger even though I came in 4 miles less. The wind and cold took alot out of me, but I never had that exhausted I need a nap feeling... well until the drive back to Tampa. Artemous needs to go into the shop as I broke a derailler cable (I think). Would not shift when I put him in the bike box... (did not notice it during the race but then I didn't shift much on the track).
I guess I'm done complaining about the 40-50 degree sunny days here in Denver. If it's not actively snowing, it's warmer here than in Florida!!!
Next race isn't until April... the 24 Hours of Davis... I'm looking forward to an awesome season!!!