This is my personal account of my quest to set the WUCA 100 KM and 100 Mile Outdoor Recumbent Track (50-59 age group) record on August 6, 2017. There were no current records for my age group and bicycle classification, so whatever time I rode would set a record. Still, I wanted it to be ‘worthy’ of being called a record so I was not embarrassed, if you know what I mean! I had my eye on WUCA’s all-time “fastest” Century for any unfaired bike for any age or bike classification. That record is Michael Secrest’s time of 3:46:16 set back in 2011 on an indoor velodrome riding a fixed gear bike. The all-time fastest for any outdoor track was Mitchell Anderson’s record from earlier this year at 3:54:06. (Read on to see what happened!)
Any official certified record attempt for World UltraCycling Association (WUCA) is not something you decide to attempt when you wake up one day and feel great and the weather is perfect and you go out and ride it, recording it with your Garmin or smart phone. That works for a personal best or local Strava bragging rights, but not if you want it certified by an internationally known and respected body like WUCA. If only it were that simple! Let alone the endless hours of training to get your body ready, there is also a small mountain of paperwork and preparation that must be accomplished to secure the venue, WUCA officials, Support Crew, and equipment.
I chose to ride my record attempt at the outdoor Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook, IL. I picked this velodrome because I had a little experience riding on it in a couple of events over the last few years. The surface is smooth and the banking is gentle when compared to many other velodromes in the country. The biggest issue I had is that it is 12 hours away from where I live, near Asheville, NC. This is where my good friend John Burrell comes in. John who lives close to the velodrome, and who is also a very accomplished racer and fellow recumbent rider in his own right, was kind enough to do the leg work with Northbrook Parks and Rec on my behalf. This was no small task as it turns out. He undoubtedly spent more time setting this up than I did riding for the record. In the end, John was able to secure the velodrome for me from 7am-2pm on August 6, 2017.
The velodrome is very popular and we only had a few choices of dates. Once we decided on Aug. 6, the next job was to secure at least 3 WUCA officials and a Support Crew. That also turned out to be harder than I thought. John & I both knew quite a few people in the area who regularly attended the annual Human Power Race America Series, which had just occurred 2 weeks earlier. But it just so happened that everyone we asked had other plans for Aug. 6th. John had committed to be an official for me, so I needed 2 more and a support crew. In the end, good friends, and fellow racers Mike Mowett (from Detroit area – 6 hours away), and Daryl Hanger (from Indy area – 4 hours away) were my other 2 WUCA officials. Note: To be an official, you must study the 42-page WUCA records rule book and take a short open book test. Not rocket science, but not trivial either. Being a WUCA official included agreeing to be “impartial” to the point of not offering support to the rider and being time-keepers and observers for the event. They were happy to do it. Young racer friend Florian Kowalik, who lives nearby agree to be my Crew Chief, and as it turn out he was my entire support crew. He did a fantastic job!
On Friday August 4, 2017, I made the 12-hour drive from Asheville, NC to Northbrook, IL driving my minivan full of bikes and equipment. On Saturday, the day before the attempt John, Mike, Daryl, and Florian and I all met me at the Velodrome. The plan was to do final testing and tuning of my bikes, set-up the AMD timing equipment and test it to make sure it was operational and that they knew how to operate it for the attempt. Also to practice hand-offs, and figure the best way to set up the required foam blocks on the turns. (For track attempts WUCA rules state that foam blocks must be positioned every 5 meters on all corners to prevent the rider from shortening the course.) I brought 50 blocks. The best method we found was to spray a little contact cement on the corners so they stayed put even if they were run over. Florian and I practiced some handoffs as well. I would need 1 fuel bottle every hour, so not a lot of work, but it was intense when needed. The best method we found was for Florian to take off at a dead sprint when I was a few seconds away and hold the bottle out for me to grab. We could not do the pass at my estimated speed of 27mph, but seemed to be able to do it OK when I slowed down to about 24-25mph, so that was the plan. It would cost me 3 seconds for that lap, but since we only had to do it once every hour it did not seem like a big deal. Once that was done, we packed everything back up and headed off to a nice dinner together.
John had graciously invited all of us to stay at his beautiful home with himself and his lovely wife Cindy. We all thank you both! After testing and dinner, we all returned to John and Cindy’s house. I mixed up my fuel bottles and went over my final equipment checks. We all decided to get up at 5am and try and make it to the velodrome at 6am for setup, with a tentative “start time” for the attempt at 7am. Everyone turned in about 10:30pm.
Sleep was hard to find that night for me. Since we had limited time at the track I did not really get to do as much testing and prep work as I would have liked and I just could not turn off my brain. I did finally fall asleep only to wake up for good at 2am! I could not get back to sleep after that. I guess I was too excited, or nervous or something. I suffered in my room for the remaining 3 hours before it was “time to really get going”. Then we all got up, had a quick breakfast, loaded the coolers, and we were off to the velodrome.
We arrived at the velodrome exactly at 6am. Perfect timing! It was a cool 57 degrees F. Not the best temp for riding fast, as most know that you ride fastest when it is hotter. But considering yesterday’s forecast of 50% chance of rain, for half the morning I counted myself lucky. We all got to work unloading about 3 vans of equipment and supplies. We set up the tables, tents, all the timing equipment, tested it again, glued down the 50 – 3”x3”x20” foam blocks all around the edges of the curve as required.
About the bike: This is a pretty unique one a kind bike. I call it my “Frankenstein bike” because it is a combination of parts from 4 different recumbent bikes. The rear frame is a Cruzbike prototype designed and build by Thom Ollinger. The front end/drive train is a stock Cruzbike Vendetta (V20), the seat is a “railgun” seat designed and build by Kent Polk (for my M5 CHR), and the handlebars are the 12” wide stubby ones (with aeor brakes stuck in the ends) that I have been racing with for about 2 years on my Stock Cruzbike Red Vendetta (V20). The bike has SRAM eTap shifting, although I only shifted during the first lap and then stayed in the same gear the other 421 laps. I wore a Giro Attack helmet. The wheels are Boyd 60mm Carbon fiber with Wheel-builder disc covers. The tires are Vittoria Corsa Speed G+ Tubuless run at 100psi.
We were working like dogs! Suddenly it was 7:30am and I had not even warmed up yet. I think we should have allowed 2 hours for setup. Good thing we had the velodrome until 2pm There was so much to do, and the time just melted away. I got on my bike and started to warm up. I put my Casco Speedtime helmet on to see if it was going to fog up. It did after 2 laps. That was a bummer, as this helmet makes me about 0.18mph faster in my testing. I put my backup helmet (Giro Attack) and visor on and continued to warm-up. At about 7:40am I stopped and went over to the timing station to make sure we had all the timing computers running and ready to accept input. I was running with 2 transponders for the AMD timing system and they both checked out fine. We also had an Excel timing program on a 2nd computer and a Stopwatch program on a 3rd. You want plenty of backup in case the worst happens. At 7:41am I sat on my bike and said a short prayer with Florian and Daryl standing by my side. Then, I got to the line with Florian holding me up and clipped in. I turned on my iPod with my worship music in my right ear. Then the count down started; 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 – ignition – GO!
I rode hard and fast that first lap to try and get up to my top speed quickly. You lose about 8 seconds or so on your average when starting from a standing stop, so you need to make it up quickly and then settle into your speed. I think I did that well. By the end of the 1st full lap I was going 28+mph and by the end of the 8th lap my average was up to 27.3mph and I had made up the time lost on the first lap. I had my Garmin 1000 set to display average speed, wattage, cadence, and distance. My plan was to monitor my cadence and average speed for each set of 21 laps (which equaled 4.98 miles) and then hit the lap timer and do it all over again, 19 more times. That worked pretty good, and I was consistently keeping my speed well over 27mph for the first 50 miles. Only problem was that the Garmin was displaying “actual” speed and distance, not the track “calculated” speed and distance that you must measure your attempt by. My Garmin always measured a few hundredths over 5.0 miles each 21 laps. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you run 0.05 miles over and multiply that by 20, suddenly you have ridden an extra mile. That was expected because I could not ride right on the black line very well, but I was really surprised how fast the “extra” distance added up. It takes a lot practice and I just could not do it that well. That meant I was giving up free distance. Basically 27.0 mph calculated to about 26.7 mph. It is a little confusing but that is how it worked.
Prior to the event, I prepared a spreadsheet with estimated elapsed time that had to be met at each lap to break the 3:46:16 record set by Michael Secrest. John and Mike who were manning the timers, would call out to Florian every 5 or 10 laps and tell him if I was up or down so many seconds. Florian used a “lap” counter sign and put a “plus” or “minus” sign by the numbers. This worked very well!
The first 105 laps (about 25 miles) went very well. According to the Garmin on my bike I had average about 27.2 miles an hour and covered 25.26 miles. The AMD timing system, which was set for the actual track distance had me covering only 24.91 miles and showed an average speed of 26.77. That was about 1/4mph above record pace so I was feeling pretty good at that point. I was 27 seconds above record pace after 25 miles. That was great and just about what I was shooting for.
I was feeling pretty good, and energized. I was gaining 1 second per mile on the record pace. I settled into a steady rhythm. I am not sure what gear I was riding, but as long as I kept my cadence at 98, that would maintain my speed. Half way through, after 210 laps, my Garmin read another 25.3 miles with an average speed of 27.2 mph again. Per the AMD timing system, I had ridden another 24.91 miles averaging 26.99 mph. I was now up 54 seconds after 50 miles. Right on track.
Half way done now and was I doing and feeling great! I carried 2 fuel bottles with me from the start, so I did not have to slow down for a handoff until after 50 miles. I used a special mix of Infinite solution for the 1st 2 bottles. For my 3rd bottle, I had Florian pass me a bottle of Perpertuem. We did that at just about the 2-hour mark.
The 3rd set of 105 laps found me starting to slow some. I felt pretty good until about half way through this 3rd 25 miles, then it was harder to keep the speed and I saw my speed slowly degrade over time. At my 100K mark, which is a little over 62 miles, I had my largest margin against the record at 56 seconds. Then it started dropping. It was very discouraging to keep seeing all those seconds I had gained quickly melt away. They went away much faster than I built them up, too. I was starting to feel pretty fatigued. (Maybe doing that 19K TT yesterday in Harvard wasn’t such a good idea after all!) After 315 laps, my Garmin read another 25.13 miles (75.70 miles total) had me at an average speed of only 26.54 for that last set. The AMD timing system had my distance at 74.73 and my average speed for the last set at about 26mph. My Garmin reported that I have ridden an extra mile already when compared to the actual track distance. I knew it would be off by a little, but an extra mile was a little disconcerting! I had lost some ground as expected. Now I was only 20 seconds ahead of the record pace, and I was fading fast!
The last 25 miles was extremely hard. I had Florian pass me my 4th bottle, this time I chose chocolate milk. Sometimes that gives me an energy spurt. Not this time. I kept fading. At lap 332 (mileage 78.75) I was dead even with the record pace. I tried as hard as I could to pick up the pace so I would not lose any more time, but I just could not. My cadence and speed just slowly went down over time. It was very disheartening to see it happening in front of my eyes while I just did not have the energy to go any faster. It was physically painful as well, but the mental part was more for me. I just kept going. Near the end I was over 99 seconds over record pace and they just stopped posting the values since they only had 2 digits on the counter. I was riding about 25.5 mph at the end. I knew that I would easily break the 3:54:06 record, but that was little consolation for me at that moment since my goal was 3:46:16. I did manage to pick up the pace just a little with about 5 or 6 laps left. I finished the 422 laps that was needed, and then went an extra 2 laps just to be sure I did not go short.
After the dust settled my Garmin had me at about 101.2 miles for the “official” time of 3:48:10.1 seconds. My 100KM time was 2:19:33.3 Both new records for my age group and classification, and both the fastest time for any age group and any unfaired bike classification.
That’s me just after finishing and looking pretty rough! (Wow, look at all the grey hair: I could have sworn it was all black when I started!)
It was a great day and attempt! The best part was sharing this experience with my very good friends Florian, John, Daryl, and Mike. If I had to pick a worst part: It was starting to fall behind the record pace I had set for myself (at around 79 miles) and felt the ability to go harder and keep up slipping away. It was a little disappointing not meeting my initial goal of besting Michael Secrest’s 3:46:16 time. But, a little known fact is that he took 8 attempts to break the previous record of 3:47:26 set by Rod Ownes on an indoor track in 1994. So there is still hope for me – maybe! Neverthless: A 3:48:10 Century on a measured track is a great accomplishment!
There are so many people to thank. No effort like this is a solo effort. I first thank my wife Gayle for supporting me as I disrupt our household with all this training. I thank my church for continually praying for my safety and for the Lord to use me. I thank my Lord for giving me this fun thing to do where I can feel his pleasure in me. I give Him all the credit and glory for any success I have in life in whatever I do. Thanks to the Parkers and Cruzbike staff and all my encouraging friends and fellow races on the Cruzbike and IRTG forums. Thanks to HPRA for loaning me the AMD timing system. I thank Florian Kowalik for being my #1 Crew Chief and fast sprinter. (Florian (age 18) has enlisted in the Navy and will be going to basic training in Nov of this year. We all thank you, Florian, for choosing to serve our county, and may God Bless you and give you favor wherever he places your feet). Thanks also to my good friends Mike Mowett and Daryl Hanger. Their willingness to drive many miles to help me in this quest was amazing. Last but not least; Thank-you John Burrell. You did so much for me: from multiple meetings and inquires with the Northbrook Park & Rec for the velodrome, to putting us all up in your house, to helping me prep the days before, to being there and helping with the timing system, to mountains of encouragement along the way. (Give you wife a hug for us all too!) Your efforts will never be forgotten my good friends.
.. until next year!!!