Reclining Flyers at The Texas Time Trials

It was last winter when the seeds of entering The Texas Time Trials was first planted in my head. All winter long, my most frequent riding companion was Mark Metcalfe, on the Joe Pool dam. He was recovering from his late spring crash, and therefore spent the winter riding at speeds I could usually keep up with. We talked about a lot of things, but of course his long distance riding was a frequent topic. He told me I should enter an event in the next TTTT, but I hadn’t even done a century, and felt my best in even the shortest TTTT event would be too embarressing to be posted for the world to see. He said that a four man team for the 500 mile race gave you over a day to ride 120 miles, that there had never even been a four man recumbent team in TTTT, and that I should think about putting a four man team together.

When I mentioned it to Paul, he sounded reluctant, even though GDB folks had bugged him about doing something at TTTT last year. I only later found out that he just wasn’t going to consider it until he test rode the course, and was sure his lap times would be at least close to what other riders had averaged. When I asked Steve about joining the team, he also expressed concern that he wasn’t fast enough for something like this. I pointed out to him that I had ridden with him a little and he seemed fast to me, that we were all amateurs and none of us other than Greg on the TiCa were likely to post any times that looked like anything resembling pro times, and that no one was going to judge him too harshly if he was willing to come out and try (of course, both Paul and Steve ended up smoking the course).

Looking back, we were pretty clueless about so much of what was coming. We had picked up tidbits here and there, questioning people who had done it, like Nelson and Ray, but we still barely had an inkling of what we were getting into. Brenda had just recently mentioned to Paul that having two riders alternate for two laps during the night, while the other two took a longer break, was the best way to get a little sleep during the event. It also occurred to me that some kind of hint about what time a rider’s next lap would start would help, so just two days before the race, I wrote out a tentative schedule, with night breaks like Brenda had brought up, and passed out copies the night before the race. We ended up doing WAY better than the schedule, but at least it gave us starting times to adjust from.

At first, I had Greg pencilled in as the first rider to start, since he was sure to be the fastest on his new TiCa. Eventually, it occurred to me that Paul as the first rider would make more sense, because the crazy beginning mass start would be in the dark, an awfully tough challenge for Greg on the lowracer, and because the first rider has to do a 7th lap, 20 miles more than anyone else, and Paul’s endurance had looked better than any of us this year. While Greg and I were trashed at the end of HHH, Paul seemed in great form at the end, and with ample breaks, had maintained a 20 mph average for the 100 miles.

Focusing on the training and riding, you also have no clue about how much work will be involved with crewing an event like this. Ray’s saving us space at the start/finish, and Paul bringing a canopy for there, worked very well. Rose was less than enthusiastic about even going, and sitting around while the other riders and I alternated riding for close to 30 hours. She took her own car so she could make a trip or two home for sleep and tending to home matters. Once the race started, though, there was no way she was leaving. The crew work done by Rose, Terrie, Peggy, and Alexis were far more necessary and important than I had ever thought of, and Rose’s masseuse work on my legs were a big part of my being able to finish my laps.

Neither riders nor crew got much sleep. I’ve never known anyone else who can fall asleep on cue any better than me, yet when I finally got time to lie down, even in my exhausted state, it took 10 minutes for me to fall asleep, and the 2 hours and 20 minutes of sleep I got was more than any other team rider, and some of the crew.

Considering how we marched headlong into the unknown, I thought we did pretty well. Our relay handoffs could have been a bit better, but it all went a lot better than could be expected for a complete rookie team and crew. There were no flats or major breakdowns, but I had my trials and tribulations during the race. On my second lap, construction people laying tires to move a tracked bulldozer across the road, stopped me and made me wait. It was only a couple of minutes, not much in the grand scheme of things, but it seemed like life and death as I sat there. I also lost my main light during the second night lap. The battery died. It charges up today, but takes hours to do so, and only shines the light a bit over an hour. I don’t know if it’s dead, if I never charged it up and ran it down enough for it to be working right yet, or what ( a rookie mistake from a non-night rider). I had to stop in the middle of the lap and retrieve my puny Cateye EL300 from my bag, and use it the rest of the way. That was a very scary lap, with not enough light to see well. For my last lap, also a night lap, Paul lent me a helmet light which did a great job, but as I retrieved stuff from the back seat of my truck before the lap, my night glasses fell to the ground, and of course, I stepped on them. Paul also lent me glasses.

Mark Metcalfe had said what an uplifting thing a team challenge like this can be, and Nelson mentioned in another post how meaningful a team experience like this is, but without a reminder, you forget how team camraderie can be with the right teammates. I’d go to war with these guys, now.

Who knows if and when we’ll do something like this, again. Unless I can get faster, I don’t think these guys should keep me around for a second go-round. It will take a few more days for everything to settle in, but I can already tell that this was one of those adventures that I’ll always remember and cherish. Adventures like that are too few and far between.

Even with Mark Metcalfe’s prodding, I’m not sure this team would have ever gotten together without the steady chatter and exchange of thoughts that the rbent forum provides. Thanks, rbent.

Ready for the start

The handoff

JS and the Reclining Flyers