“I really wanted to set a record to show it was possible for me to reach peak condition again at the age of 41, with two small children and working full time as a firefighter.”

Rider: Florence Bradley
Start date: November 12, 2005 at 0051
End date: November 12, 2005 at 1557
Elapsed time: 15 hours, 10 minutes
Mileage: 220.8
Start location: US 80 at AL/MS state line west of Cuba, AL
End location: AL/GA state line on US bridge 80 over Chattahoochee River at Phenix City, AL
Official: Tom Robertshaw
Crew Members: Marjorie, DeeAnne Poehler

by Florence Bradley, photos by DeeAnne Poehler

Alabama record!
Riding into the sunrise West of Selma on Highway 80.
Alabama record!
East of Montgomery, Bradley picks up the pace.

I started on November 12 at 12:51 a.m. at the Mississippi/Alabama line on Highway 80. It was about 42 degrees and clear. The conditions at night were beautiful. The sky was full of stars and the moon was at three quarters. My crew and I watched showers of shooting stars for a good 2 to 3 hours.

I finished 15 hours and six minutes later in Phenix City, AL on the bridge between Alabama and Georgia at 3:57 PM. When I reached Phenix City I sped up to 22-25 mph for the last few miles to the bridge. This was the best part! I don’t know who was more surprised, me or my crew at my newfound energy. My husband and step mom were waiting there for me.

The first 100 miles were the nicest part, even though I was riding at night and it was dark. I did the first century in under six hours! I watched the sun come up before I hit Montgomery.

I started to have stomach problems from too much Perpetum and Endurox and not enough water. This was hardest part of the ride – making myself eat and drink from mile 150 to 190. I backed off on the liquid food and my stomach felt better. My favorite foods during the ride were Luna bars, pretzels, and peanut butter & jelly, and diet cherry coke!

There was a headwind almost the entire ride, except where there were crosswinds! Traffic was heavy in Montgomery and I must have caught every red light there was for 30 miles in Montgomery. I averaged 17 mph riding, the traffic light stops, clothing changes, and bathroom stops slowed me down to 14.7 mph total time.

I really wanted to set a record to show it was possible for me to reach peak condition again at the age of 41, with two small children and working full time as a firefighter. I rode up to 400 miles a week to get ready for this event. The hardest part was training for the event. I had to take much time away from my husband and daughters on weekends in order to get the miles in. Doing the ride was easy compared to the training.

My coach, Tracy McKay, suggested I do a Trans Alabama record when he found out I my experiences with long distance cycling. When I was 14, I did my first double century. When I was 17, I did my first and only triple century. The American Lung Association sponsored a 24-hour bike marathon and I won the women’s event every year I rode it. I rode further than my dad, Woody (Graham), the year I did the triple. I confess the year I did the triple I had only ridden 100 total miles and did not train for it. I’m not as fast as I was when I was younger, but I still have good endurance.

I trained on my old steel Bianchi road bike for most of the year. In September I bought an aluminum Cervelo with a carbon front fork and did the Trans Alabama on that.

Two of my crew members Marjorie and DeeAnne were always keeping me guessing with what unusual antics they would pull. I joked about needing a fire hydrant and they found a fire station for me to take a pit stop at. They would do all kinds of dances on the side of the road as I climbed hills. Anything from cheerleading movements, to the hula, to a Rockette routine could happen.

Any time I needed to have pit stop they would scout ahead and find some small gas station or country store. Then they would tell everyone in the place that I was setting a state record and to come out and cheer me on. I was flabbergasted when a whole van full of church ladies from Virginia were clapping their hands and cheering me on after I exited one rest room.

Tom Robertshaw, the director of the Heart of the South 500, served as my official. I could not have done it without the support of my family and friends. My friends took time away from their families to help me and were excited to be a part of it.