Race Report: Sebring 20/20 – Comments from an Ultra Distance Racer
By Rob Decou, Bacchetta Brand Ambassador
Sebring Florida |Rotary Club of Highlands Country
The spirit of competition and comradery flowed through the air at the Sebring Raceway in Florida on Saturday morning as almost 150 racers lined up at the start line, 40+ of which (including myself) were recumbent riders. Each of us stood ready and prepared to execute our own race strategies and goals in the journey before us.
Personally, I’m chock full of one-liners that will either get me into trouble or sustain me through some of the world’s toughest endeavors. The one that comes to mind for the Sebring 12/24 is, “You don’t get ready, you stay ready.” As I prepared for my second ultra-endurance event of a 20-ultras year (yes, I have committed to completing a total of 20 ultra events in 2020), I focused on being ready. With this level and quantity of racing, it’s imperative that I’m always ready, and that I take each course with the seriousness and gracefulness that it deserves.
Since my solo Race Across America in 2016, I hadn’t ridden a bike in over three years. Then, about six months ago, I returned to my cycling journey with a brand new Bacchetta model bike. The first event was the Borrego Springs 24-hour race last November, and unlike my motto for Sebring, for Borrego Springs. I chose, “Mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” My goal was to stay on the bike as much as possible and endure the pain, exhaustion, and lack of preparedness.
Now that I have a good six months of base training, I’m leading into a year filled with more than ten double century cycling races, a 625-mile (1,000K) race in Oregon in July, and finishing it off with the World’s Toughest Ultra Ironman (Uberman) in October. Clearly, it is important that I stay ready for these races.
What does it mean to “stay ready”? For those of us who engage in long distance racing, we often have one major event that we lead up to all year, our “A race,” and the entire season might be focused on aspects leading to that one event. Once you’ve gone past “normal” ultra-distances, in order to go after what I like to call monsters, you have to stack smaller monsters—or “B races”—along the way. By the time you get to your intended event, your mind, body, and spirit are ready for it.
Throughout 2020, I will be preparing my body, mind, nutrition, and mental focus so that at the drop of a hat, the blow of a whistle, or the firing of a gun, I’ll be ready. It’s a shift in awareness and perspective, and it feels so good to be back in the flow of the way that I was created to be.
For Sebring, this played out very well for me. There were multiple setbacks from the start: I showed up later than I would have liked; the wind was more pervasive than expected; the route for the last 13 hours of the race was changed within two weeks of the event start date; and I took over an hour break after the 12-hour race to celebrate with the other recumbent riders before heading back out on the track to finish the 24-hour course. I’d set a mindset for the weekend to cycle what was in front of me, enjoy the company of the people I encountered, and be joyful. So, even though I had to adjust my plan a bit on the fly, but I wasn’t rattled by all the situations that came before me!
The Sebring 24-hour race was a major leap forward in a few aspects of my training. 1) I’ve been struggling with tingling feet after extremely long rides, and this time I felt it coming on even earlier than usual, at around eight hours in. On the advice of a well-experienced cyclist, I doubled up my socks, thinking in my head there was no way it would work. I’m glad I listened to his advice, because sure enough, it worked. Now I have a solution for my most pressing physical concern on these long bike rides. 2) My speed endurance is improving. Even with the extra time off the bike and the mild weather conditions, my speed increased over a 24-hour course I completed three months ago. I would say I’m at about 70% of my cycling ability level, and with the next five months of training, I should be up above 90% and ready for Race Across Oregon in July. I’m always ready to perform, however there are still a few key races this year that I don’t just want to finish, but finish strong, and set new personal achievement levels for speed endurance.
My main takeaway from Sebring after covering 323.6 miles was immersing myself in the idea of staying ready. When you get to the start line of any event, knowing that you’ve prepared, and you have a good mindset, you’ll have the wits to take on any obstacle before you.
Check back here for more race reports as I spend a year cycling my way through 20 ultras. I’ll be focusing on nutrition for a race, packing preparation, post-race care, crew logistics, and other aspects of the journey. If there is a particular topic you want me to focus on, write a note in the comments or send me a message on the website gorobgo.org. I’ll do my best to address the major aspects of endurance cycling from my perspective and experience in a future blog post, or I’ll respond directly to you. Thanks for reading!
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