The Year of the Recumbent


We started in warm (63 degrees F) weather, but roads were wet from overnight rain.  A calm morning (by afternoon, strong winds became our boss) and a modified course (the big loop had a detour through Selma making it 51 miles {instead of 50} so that riders no longer had to beat their old records by a full 7 mile short loop) enabled 15 division records to be broken or set/established.  A record 83 riders (out of 202) rode 200 or more miles.  41% of the field got double centuries! 


About 40 riders (including 11 recumbents & 4 tandems) rode our first 25 miles (to the first checkpoint in South Solon) in 1 Hour, 4 Minutes [1:04].  On our way back to the school, the tandems really kept the speed high.  About 35 miles in, I was almost peeled off the lead group.  I had to come by about 10 riders (including women’s winner Bena Halecky – 225 miles) most of whom were dropped.  I counted on the pace easing up (which it did do) long enough for me to get back on.  26 of us rode our first big loop (51 miles) in 2:06. 


On our 2nd big loop (68 miles in), HPV rider Dennis Grelk smoked by us at about 40mph.  Nobody even tried to get on him – as there would be little if any draft behind his yellow fiberglass enclosed machine – hardly raising much above the road.  Grelk started out on a recumbent, but flatted just a few miles into the event.  He rode back to the start/finish area, and traded his recumbent in for his HPV torpedo.  Despite restarting some 30+ minutes after we did, Grelk rode 5 big loops, smoked by our lead group again on the 7 mile loop, and set a new overall course record of 297 miles!  I wonder how fast/far I could ride with such a technological/aerodynamic advantage?  Thanks to Grelk, this was my first Calvin’s (out of 8) where I was not among the top mileage riders. 


18 of us rode our first 100 miles in 4:20.  Because of such a calm morning and so much horsepower in our lead group, we were able to set a record halfway/6 hour split of 140 miles!  We rode our first 3 big loops (153 miles) in 6:36.  The strongest man of the day was young Brian Nieport.  He did a bold/gutsy move just before the end of the 3rd big loop when it started to rain hard – he attacked up the hill, and came out of the school/checkpoint/pit area about 30 seconds ahead of the disintegrating lead group.  The tandems had burnt themselves out – they were the sacrificial lambs needed to keep the pace high the first half of the event so that 56 year old Larry Fitz (he mostly wheel sucked the entire day) and I could stay rested. 


So heading out in a driving rain on our 4th big loop, only 3 recumbents, Fitz, & myself were left in the lead group to chase Nieport.  What was he thinking – going solo off the front with over 5.5 hours remaining?  In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be in a pack outnumbered by recumbents.  Sitting so low to the ground, they don’t provide much draft, but they were good for pacing and motivation.  A day after the event, a rider described the strange sensation of riding in a recumbent pack like being in a swarm of insects – you only see their rotating legs in front of them when they are next to or slightly behind you.  Many times I thought they were pointing out road hazards such as potholes or gravel, but they were just hanging down or dangling one arm to rest it.  If my lower back keeps deteriorating with age, I may very well have to finish up my million miles on recumbents.


Our lead group kept Nieport within sight on the long straight-aways.  About 175 miles in (just before the South Solon checkpoint), Nieport’s left aerobar armrest fell off, so he briefly waited for us in a driveway.  Soon after in Selma, Brian stopped while his father Ernie quickly Duct taped the pad back on, but it didn’t hold for long in the rain.  Brian had no trouble catching back up.  6 of us rode our first 200 miles in 8:56.  By the time we got on the 7 mile loop, the rain had stopped, but the wind was nearly as bad as it was in 2005 – when I called it an Invisible Force Bastard (IFB), but it was much warmer this year with a high temperature of 72 degrees F. 


We were going to get 8 or 9 small loops, as I calculated the speed/lap times to do so.  I didn’t want to see what happened to me last year – when I left 15 wasted minutes on the clock.  Despite the IFB, we had a good double paceline going, but still there were skeptics in our group who doubted we could get that 9th loop before time ran out.  Even though people may have clear pre-race plans of what they want to do, they can get so damn tired and delirious in ultracycling events that they just don’t care anymore.  I could tell this was happening as gaps (I tried to keep filling them the best I could) were opening up in our paceline.  This is why it is so important to have a good crew in longer events like RAAM.  After our lead group of 6 completed our 7th small loop, the doubters and optimists separated.  I begged the recumbents to not give up hope on a new course record especially since they worked so hard all day. 


I barked out orders to rush through the school checkpoint, and when we got past the pit area (alongside the school after the number punching area), Brian Nieport and one recumbent (I think it was Troy Timmons) were no longer with us.  Two recumbents, Fitz, & I cranked out a fast 8th loop in 17-18 minutes, leaving us 20 minutes left for our last loop.  The four of us finished our 9th loop together with two minutes left on the clock.  The two recumbents (Jim Verheul & John Schlitter), Larry Fitz, & I set a new course record of 267 miles – breaking the old record (by 3 miles) of 264 miles set 6 years ago by Wesley Wilmer & I (who along with Al Muldoon did 5 big loops).  I would like to thank the sacrificial tandems, the recumbents, Brian Nieport, and anybody else who pulled our lead group along.  In a mass start, drafting event like Calvin’s, everyone who contributed to keeping the lead groups speed/pace high deserves recognition. 


Nieport finished with a new PR of 260 miles.  Recumbent Troy Timmons must have really been shattered because he stopped riding with 38 minutes left on the clock.  I figured he would have at least been able to ride one last, slow loop.  The Schoettinger/Fuson tandem set a new tandem record of 253 miles – matched by the Provosty/Gillespie tandem at their first Calvin’s this year.  Considering that Dennis Grelk’s yellow HPV torpedo is simply a recumbent covered in fiberglass, the 2007 Calvin’s Challenge was the year of the recumbent.  3 of the top 5 mileages ridden were done on recumbents. 


I would like to thank mixed tandem record holder (249 miles with Bob Schoettinger last year) Melissa Cover for feeding her Cincinnati area friends and me.  Before the event, I shared a hotel room with race founder Calvin Congdon.  Afterwards, I spent a week at Ty Provosty’s Cincinnati home – riding the beautiful Kentucky hills.  Also, a huge thanks to Ann & John McKinley, Barry Schroeder, and Kathy Williams for working so hard at making Calvin’s the best 12 hour race.  The fact that they kept the event going after the tragic death of Bob Bachtel in 2004 says a lot about their character and perseverance.  Even though they leave some mighty big shoes to fill, I hope somebody steps forward to keep this wonderful, unique event alive.  If not, there will be a big void in the ultracycling community. 


Spreadsheet of 2007 Class Results: 

I have finished with the lead group for all the Calvin’s 12 Hour Challenges I have ridden since 2000.  Before 2000, nobody had ever gone over 250 miles in the 12 hour event.  Here are my mileages:


2000 – 263 miles (Finished alone.)

2001 – 264 miles (Set course record doing 5 big loops with Wesley Wilmer.)

2002 – 256 miles (Finished with Mark Hekman & Steve Marshall.)

2003 – 256 miles (Finished with Mark Hekman, Steve Marshall, Jim Amelung, & Brian Tober.  HPV rider Frank Geyer finished about 5 minutes before us with same mileage.)

2004 – (Was 110 miles into event with Karen McKee, Tracy McKay, Gary Waggoner, & John Jurczynski in the lead group when Robert Bachtel’s death cancelled the event.)

2005 – 242 miles (Finished with Brian Nieport seconds behind Bob Schoettinger/Adam Fuson tandem.)

2006 – 256 miles (Finished with David Young.  9 minutes later, Brian Nieport finished.  Two minutes after Nieport, John Jurczynski, Frank Sebode, Larry Fitz, & Michael Flood all finished with the same mileage.  7 people are the biggest top mileage group ever at Calvin’s.)

2007 – 267 miles (Finished with Larry Fitz, and recumbent riders John Schlitter & Jim Verheul.  HPV rider Dennis Grelk was top mileage rider – setting a new course record of 297 miles!)


Discarding 2004, my average miles per year ridden over 7 years are 257.71, so I was 9 miles above my average this year. 


The course is a mostly flat 51 mile loop, but is has 36 turns making it almost like a giant criterium.  With little shelter from the wind, the big loop has two checkpoints (one at the start/finish area {Shawnee High School} and the other 25 miles into the loop in the town of South Solon) where riders have to stop and have their numbers punched.  At 3:30pm, the 7 mile loop opens, and riders have to finish the full lap within the 12 hour limit for it to count.  Potholes and bad sections of pavement were well marked with orange spray paint.