100-mile, 200-mile and 12-hour
“How did I keep my sanity whipping around a steeply banked concrete track 1052 times? My first answer is that I didn’t”
Rider: Gerald Eddlemon, WUCA member #3996
Bicycle category and division: Standard, mens 60-69
Record type: Outdoor track
Location: Major Taylor Velodrome, Indianapolis, IN
Record: 100-mile 200-mile 12-hour
Date: 29 Sep 2007
Elapsed time (hh:mm:ss): 4:57:40 10:56:22 12:00:00
Distance, speed: 100 mi, 20.16 mph 200 mi, 18.28 mph 217.9 mi, 18.16 mph
Officials: Mike Jacob, Jeff Ryan, Bruce Shawcroft, John Mead, Joe McNeeley
Crew: Mikki Eddlemon, Mark Cristy, and David Lang

By Gerry Eddlemon

The day of the record was mostly sunny and 47 degrees at the start, rising to about 80 degrees generally, but to 90 degrees down on the track in the afternoon. Light to moderate winds adversely affected my speed somewhat as well as bike control. I had to wear arm-warmers, knee-warmers, and tights, and was still pretty cold in the self-generated 20 mph wind for the better part of an hour. Later in the day, I was uncomfortably warm, and lost more time than I had planned getting the tights and knee-warmers off.

A strategically-timed handoff
A strategically-timed handoff during the attempt.

Any self-respecting athlete would like a “flyover” by the U.S. Air Force to open his big event! Well. . . shortly before the start we were blessed with an amazing very low flyover by a beautiful V-formation of Canadian geese, prompting one of the officials to remove his cap, place it over his heart and face the flag. After browsing in the infield for a few hours and taking no notice of my labors, the huge birds took off en masse straight at me at a closing speed of maybe 40 mph! I half expected to get hit square in the face by at least one of them, but they skillfully cleared my head by inches.

Why do a record attempt? Breaking or setting three records in one big ride seemed like a worthy adventure, but I’ve been asking myself this question more and more every time I get 80 to 100 miles into a ride. I’m learning that I am not an especially gifted ultramarathoner, and by 80-100 miles, most of the fun has evaporated and been replaced by serious discomfort and often pain. From then on it’s a slugfest between the pain nagging at me to give up, and pride, fear of failure, and something else I cannot quite as yet identify, perhaps simply my sense of adventure, urging me on. A definite factor has to be the sense of urgency visited on a man on arriving at his seventh decade of life – the sense that there’s a big ending coming up sooner than later, so let’s make the best of what one has left to give. During a ride (and at other times as well), I often find myself pondering the value of this and hoping that this hard adventurism is pleasing to God.

Underway — note “WUCA racing” sign.

The best part was the great job done by all the crew and officials. Four of the five WUCA officials (Mike Jacob, Joe McNeely, John Mead, Jeff Ryan, Bruce Shawcroft) were strangers at the beginning of these record attempts, their names gleaned from the directory of WUCA members published in UltraCycling magazine. What a wonderful gift from perfect strangers to a grizzled old cyclist! Another great part was the help and great encouragement from crew members Mikki Eddlemon, Mark Cristy, and David Lang, especially the slick and efficient hand-offs of food and drink from Mark Cristy. I hardly slowed at all to take the many hand-offs from the man I used to hand off the baton to in my high school track team’s two-mile relay team more than 40 years ago.

The hardest part was trying to maintain a 20+ mph pace mile after mile with temperatures, winds, and bladder steadily increasing, and the view never changing, except for hot, bright concrete straight ahead, and hot, bright concrete curving to the left (2104 times!). The track surface is generally excellent, but rougher than one might expect. It’s probably no problem for typical track races, but over 12 hours one’s derriere, joints, neck, etc., take quite a beating. After about five to six hours, I found my hands on the tops of the bars more often than I would have liked, just to provide slight changes in body geometry, and to relieve pressure to the soft tissues almost unavoidable in an aero position nearer the nose of the saddle.

Sometime after the start, I began to experience an unpleasant sensation that I was climbing up a slight slope on every curve, probably due to the extra 0.25 G-force from centripetal acceleration in the turns. My bike and I essentially gained about 48 lbs in every turn (but not cumulatively thank goodness!), and the turns comprised about 63% of the entire distance. Unfortunately, re-entering the straightaways still felt like climbing a slight but, compared to the curves, less steep slope.

decompressing after the finish
Decompressing after the finish.

Maintaining a smooth, clean line was very demanding and surprisingly tiring. After accidentally hitting a sponge just inside the measurement line, I over-reacted and zoomed steeply up the 28.5-degree-banked track, losing considerable momentum and time. After a while, I found it easier and more relaxing to just try to maintain a line closer to the center of the sprinter’s lane instead of within a few centimeters of the measurement line, even though I went measurably further on each lap (1.0-1.5 meters extra per lap, or up to nearly a mile over the 218 mile course).

How did I keep my sanity while whipping around a steeply banked concrete track 1052 times? My first answer is that I didn’t! In fact, the wife of one of my judges just flat-out said (good-naturedly) we ultramarathon cyclists were all crazy from the very beginning (she’s an equestrian)!

But seriously, what helped to keep me going were the cheers and encouraging words I heard on most laps; the focus required to keep up a constant effort for 12 hours, and to track as close to the measurement line without crossing it, while fighting continuous discomfort, vibration and jouncing from the slightly rough concrete; mentally working out calculations of time, distance, and speed; counting my many blessings; and, yes, fear of failure when not only I, but so many wonderful family, friends, and strangers have invested so much time, energy, and not a little money in the success of these record attempts. I also hummed a lot — mentally mostly (for some strange reason, mostly Irish folk tunes I couldn’t get out of my head).

Acknowledgments: My heartfelt thanks to:

  • My crew, Mikki Eddlemon (crew chief and wife), Mark Cristy, David Lang, and Col Joe Eddlemon (my father, who just missed being there due to sudden illness); and WUCA officials, Mike Jacob, Joe McNeely, John Mead, Jeff Ryan, and last but not least, Bruce Shawcroft (who also took some terrific photos). The crews’ generosity in time, encouragement, and support, and the officials’ diligent and very professional service as the official WUCA Judge were absolutely essential to the success of these record attempts.
  • Master bike-fitter Eddie Sloan of Cycology Bicycles, Maryville, TN, who got my bikes in excellent tune with my somewhat off-kilter geometry — could not have ridden nearly as well without his outstanding expertise.
  • Ernie Calderin, Scott Allen, Denham, and Brian of Speed Weaponry of Indianapolis for the 606 Zipp Wheels set they so generously provide me for the attempts. I’m convinced their 606 aero wheels made a real and measurable difference in my times.
  • Tom Henley and the excellent mechanics at Bike Wave of Indianapolis for last-minute adjustments and repairs the day before my rides.
  • WUCA Records Chairman Drew Clark and the WUCA staff for their cheerful help processing the voluminous amount of paperwork and handling of a continuous flow of e-mail queries.
  • Linda Fink of Indy Parks, and the very helpful Marti and staff of the Major Taylor Velodrome.

I dedicate the 100-Mile Time Trial record to my father and crewman, Col. Joseph Eddlemon; the 200-Mile TT record to my dear mother, Mrs. Germaine Eddlemon; and the 12-Hour record to Bob and Rose Miller and family for showing all who knew them how to celebrate life, and face death with courage and grace. Bob Miller passed away August 29, 2007.

team photo
Team photo by crewman David Lang. L-R: Scott Allen of Zipp Wheels, Jeff Ryan, John Mead, Mike Jacob, Gerry Eddlemon, Mikki Eddlemon, Mark Cristy, Bruce Shawcroft, Joe McNeely.