“Why would you ever ride a bicycle for 12 hours straight?” - Mickey Witte Ⓥ: Triathlete. Neuroscientist. Vegan.
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“Why would you ever ride a bicycle for 12 hours straight?”

23 Feb Blog | 2 comments

Bike Sebring

This is a photo taken of one of the cyclists on the team we crewed for during the Race Across America (RAAm) in 2012. RAAm is known as the "toughest bicycle race in the world."

This is a photo taken of one of the cyclists on the team I crewed for during the Race Across America (RAAM) in 2012. RAAM is known as the “toughest bicycle race in the world.”

So let me introduce you to Bike Sebring…a 12-hour (and 24-hour) ultra bicycling road race held in rural Sebring, FL. I was encouraged to do this race by my good friend and ultracycling guru Major Jim Russell (who has coordinated many multi-day cycling events where a team of experienced cyclists ride 100-130 miles per day for anywhere from four to twelve days straight, all in the name of road safety initiatives). Jim and I crewed together on a Race Across America (RAAM) team in 2012, and to this day, we are forever changed after not sleeping for 9 days straight while navigating and caring for a team of four cyclists racing 3,000 miles across the continental U.S. on a tight timeframe in order to make the mandatory RAAM time cut-offs.

That sort of experience will toughen you up for anything life throws at you. Well, life threw at me the opportunity to test my mettle at Bike Sebring last weekend…

bike crash
One thing to mention is that I’ve been essentially out of commission in terms of the usual swim-bike-run training since my bike crash 14 weeks ago – which left me with a fractured shoulder and A LOT of pain. Ironically, despite being injured as a result of a bike crash, my biking has actually gotten stronger. This is because swimming has been very painful for my shoulder, as has been running (with the constant rubbing of the ball in the socket from the arm swing movement). So while I continue to be diligent with regular physical therapy to strengthen my rotator cuff muscles and gain back range of motion, I’ve been left with cycling (mainly indoors) as my primary form of cardiovascular training these past few months.

To learn more about this initiative to stop hit-and-run drivers and to protect vulnerable road users, visit: AaronCohenLaw.org.

To learn more about this initiative to stop hit-and-run drivers and to protect vulnerable road users, visit: AaronCohenLaw.org.

To that end, my orthopedic doctor cleared me to get back at it and ramp up the intensity, so that gave me enough courage to pull the trigger on the 12-hour bike race. I couldn’t think of a better cause to do it for than the Aaron Cohen Law Initiative, a grassroots initiative that I helped organize a little over a year ago with other road safety enthusiasts in South Florida. The goal of the initiative is to help change the law so that hit-and-runs will be discouraged and so that vulnerable road users are afforded additional protections (you can still sign our Change.org petition here).

The initiative was founded in response to a disturbingly low jail sentence that was handed down to a man who drove his car into two cyclists who were riding their bicycles in the bike lane on Key Biscayne (where I ride my bike often, as do hundreds of others on a daily basis). The driver never. even. stopped. Aaron Cohen, one of the two cyclists hit, was killed. The driver callously chose to leave the scene and hide, instead of trying to help or calling 9-1-1.

Aaron Cohen with his daughter Lily, who was 2 years old at the time of the crash. (Photo credit: Cristina Perez)

Aaron Cohen with his daughter, Lily, who was only 2 years old at the time of the crash that would take her daddy’s life. (Photo credit: Cristina Perez)

Bike Sebring was held on the day after Valentine’s Day – February 15th – the same day, just two years prior, on which Aaron Cohen woke up before sunrise, kissed his wife and two kids, and went out for an early morning pre-work bike ride… only that time, he would never come home.

Along with my friend and fellow road safety enthusiast, Xavier, we set out to ride 12 hours on our bikes in the name of Aaron Cohen.  We wanted to finish the bike ride that Aaron had started, but never got the chance to finish, just two years ago that day…

OurStreetsBelongToEveryoneIn bullet-format, this is the summary of my first time racing an ultra-cycling event (and the first time I’ve ever been on my bike for 12 consecutive hours):

  • The first part of the day began with a large 100-mile road loop throughout neighboring counties that started and ended at the Sebring International Race Car Speedway.
  • After those first 100 miles, we then rode a 12-mile pre-determined road circuit as many times as possible until the speedway opened up for the cyclists (this would not happen until around 4:45pm).
  • An area called “pit row” at the speedway was essentially everyone’s home base for the day. This is where we parked my car that morning and stored all of our food and liquids for re-fueling (as needed) throughout the day.
  • This is also where the course’s main timing chip mat was located. Once the speedway opened up for cyclists, everyone was directed onto the speedway to complete the remaining hours of the race by looping the 4-mile speedway course as many times as possible until the 12 (or 24) hours were up.
  • The day started out at 45 degrees F (cold for us Miamians!) and it eventually hit a high of 68 degrees F. It rained on us mid-way through the 100-mile loop (cold rain). Due to splitting up during the early hilly parts, Xavier and I ended up riding the entire 12 hours solo, which ultimately made it that much more challenging when it came time to fighting the winds. Oh, the winds! Let me tell you about the winds…. at mile 80, the course turned left and we suddenly got a beautiful tailwind on a desolate country road that enabled me to tuck in aero and ride for 10 miles straight averaging 28.7 mph ! I was starting to think I’d make it back to the speedway ahead of schedule to re-fuel and take off a few layers before beginning the 12-mile loops. But then, the WALL OF WIND happened. The course then turns right….and right we went….head-on into 17 mph headwinds (with LOUD 35 mph crosswind gusts!!!). In all the years and in all the 100+ mile multi-day rides I’ve done, I’ve never wanted to actually get off my bike and cry…until now. It was THAT difficult to fight against this ridiculously strong wind that I seriously wanted to just stop and cry. What kept me going, was the thought of Aaron Cohen’s kids and his widow Patty – the reason I was out there riding – and that’s what got me through those tremendously difficult last few miles in the 100-mile loop. Once back at the speedway/pit row, I was able to take off some of my layers and re-stock my supply of yummy BonkBreakers and nuun.
  • Garmin shows: 11 hours, 33 minutes and 52 seconds for total moving time (the race is entirely self-supported, so we had to physically get off our bikes to re-fill our waterbottles and re-stock our pockets with fuel when we ran empty); total miles ridden: 190.18, elevation gain: 5,866 feet, max speed: 28.7 mph.
  • Pretty good for it being our first time and no support crew. A truly amazing experience! I felt blessed to be healthy and able to partake in this endurance challenge and I was happy to learn that I was the 2nd overall female!

 

*GOOD NEWS! Update RE: Aaron Cohen Bill:

 

  1. Gabriel Yanni04-04-14

    What a remarkable mission , nothing is more significant that honoring the memory of loved ones ….

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