Calvin’s Challenge: My journey to a double century

By Don Rose

Calvin’s Challenge 2012:

In 2012 my son, Adam, was asked by the Paralyzed Veterans Handcycle Racing Team if he would help fill out one of several two man relay teams the PVA was bringing to Calvin’s Challenge to do the 12 hour race. Adam, paralyzed by leukemia since age 4 and now 18 years old, was all for it! At the time he was the top handcycle racer in Michigan, having recently been overall winner of the Detroit and Air Force Marathons, among others.

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Adam racing at the 2012 Calvin’s Challenge

With Adam in the race I began giving some thought to entering the 12 hour race on my Musashi. With no idea what 12 hour bike racing was like, I registered a few days later.

I came to Calvin’s on May 5 2012 with 924 miles of unstructured riding since January 1. My  longest ride ever on a bike, 75 miles, had been done just 6 days earlier. My only goal was to get my first century (100 miles) at Calvin’s. After that I would see what happened. Was totally surprised when I kept up a reasonable speed for most of the 12 hours and finished with 185.5 miles!

Without much of a plan in place I had spent over 90 minutes off my bike during the 12 hour race. At the end of the day I immediately started thinking of how I should have done things differently. If I had cut my off bike time to under 30 minutes, and maintained my average speed, I would have gone over 200 miles!

I had to come back and get that double century!

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On my Musashi at Calvin’s Challenge 2012

Calvin’s Challenge 2014:

With the experience gained I came back better prepared in 2014. More training, a better bike (I was now on a Bacchetta Corsa 700), and a plan to minimize stopped time. During the race I only stopped twice, with my off bike time under 17 minutes out of 12 hours. Despite my efforts, it was not to be. Temperatures were cool at the start, but nice after mid-morning. The only rain was a brief sprinkle early. Brutal winds, however, were a show stopper. 25 mph sustained winds started early, with gusts over 35 mph. This went on all day. It was the most wind I have ever ridden in, by far. After fighting it for 12 hours I finished with the exact same mileage as two years earlier, 185 miles.

I would have to try again.

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On my Bacchetta Corsa at Calvin’s Challenge 2014

In 2015 I began training, but then needed major surgery in March. 16 days later, at my surgery follow-up visit, I asked the doc about physical activity. He said do what you can tolerate. That was enough for me! Maybe he did not realize what I would do with his encouragement to be active. So two days later I tried a one hour ride on my trainer. It went well. Over the next 10 days I did four more rides, increasing to 2-½ hours. It was going better than I expected and I began to make plans to do Calvin’s Challenge on May 2. At the end of my fifth training ride I had some pain, then I developed a bad infection at my surgery site. Extreme pain for over a week left me barely able to stand up. The doc told me to stay off the bike until at least June. No Calvin’s Challenge this year.

Calvin’s Challenge 2016:

Now it is 2016. Medical problems are behind me. Training has gone well and I am eager to accept another Calvin’s Challenge 12 Hour Bike Race!

About 150 riders lined up for the 7 am start. Temperature was around 45, overcast, winds around 10 mph. Rain started a little after 10 am. Rain was almost continuous the rest of the day. Temperature never went above 55. Winds varied from 10 to over 15 mph with gusts over 20 mph.

So, like Larry Graham says, the weather was perfect!

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The start.

I trained pretty hard for this with the goal of getting my first double century. Actually, with good weather, I was hoping for 230 miles or a little more.

With the training I had done I felt I could maintain a 20 mph, or slightly higher, average speed with an average heart rate no higher than 115 for 12 hours. I hoped to do 4 of the 50.5 mile long loops with a stop of 5 minutes or less after each one. Then hit the 7 mile short loop hard with whatever time was left.

But my adrenaline was flowing at the start. I felt really good and decided to see if I could hang with the lead pack. It was a fairly large group the first few miles. But I had to bridge the gap a number of times when caught among people dropping off. And there were accelerations out of corners that had me working hard to keep up. The pack was dodging and weaving around lots of potholes and rough spots. You really had to concentrate on what was going on ahead of you, behind you, and both sides. It was a challenging and fun ride for 50.5 miles!

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Riding with the pack on first long loop. Hard work but lots of fun! I’m on the blue bike, a Bacchetta Carbon Aero 2.

We completed the loop and pulled into the start area at 2 hours 19 minutes. My average speed showed as 21.7 mph. My heart rate was averaging 127. Last year I did a century in just under 4-½ hours at 22.4 mph average with heart rate average of 130, but was physically on the ragged edge crossing the finish line. So I knew I had to back off and lower my heart rate. Plus my almost 5 minute turnaround left me alone as I started the second long loop. Most of the pack only stopped for a few seconds. Long enough to make a quick resupply from their coolers. Some, with support crew, only slowed down enough to grab bottles and go! But I wasn’t prepared to do that and as a result was starting the next long loop alone.

But I still felt pretty good and was steadily passing riders. Then, at mile 15.6, there is a left turn onto Federal Road followed by a quick right turn onto Dean Road less than 0.1 miles later. The rain had started a few miles back and Federal Road was going straight into the wind and rain. Somehow I missed the turn arrows for Dean Road. After a while it began to feel like I had not seen a mile marker for too long. So I started watching carefully. About the time I was sure something was wrong I came to a “T” intersection with no turn arrows. Definitely off course! I turned around and backtracked to Dean Road. Back on course but lost over 24 minutes and added 7.3 miles! Larry Graham does an excellent job marking the Calvin’s course. It was entirely my fault for missing the turn.

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That straight line in the middle is my off course track!

Finished the second long loop in 3 hours 6 minutes. Average speed 19.6 mph and heart rate 122. Then I spent almost 14 minutes in the pit area. Not a good second long loop!

Third long loop I was alone the entire time. But I still kept passing riders and can at least say that no one passed me on either the second or third long loops. Rain intensity varied from very light to moderate, but the wind was increasing. Finished this one in 2 hours 45 minutes. Average speed 18.9 mph, heart rate 114. The wind and rain were certainly impacting my plans and goals.

It’s now about 3:30 pm. Three and a half hours to go. I could probably do another long loop. But with the wind and rain I decided to get on the 7 mile short loop which had opened at 3 pm. I did not want to risk a problem on the long loop preventing a finish by the 7 pm end of race.

The short loop has several tight turns. Plus it was raining and the road was slippery. So that slowed you down. And the crosswind on the first mile was pretty nasty. With the extra, unofficial, miles from long loop 2 I needed 6 laps to record 200 miles on my GPS. But I needed 7 laps to get scored with 200 and make it official.

Maintained an average moving speed of 18.5 mph for the rest of the race on the short loop. But stopped 4 times, which had not been part of my plan! Very dark and ominous clouds moved in and we got hit with the hardest rain of the day on my 7th or 8th lap, along with a strong gusty wind. No lightning, fortunately. Glad it did not last too long! Ended the race with 8 short loop laps plus 5 miles on the 9th lap.

So 151.5 miles on the long loop and 61 miles on the short loop gave me 212.5 miles at Calvin’s Challenge. My GPS recorded 218.77 with the extra miles I did missing the turn on loop 2. Average moving speed of 19.3 mph.

Maybe I should have let the lead pack go on the first long loop and stayed with my plan to hold a 20 mph average and heart rate under 115. But it was a thrilling ride and something I will not soon forget. I’m glad I did it. And it gave me a great first lap. My disappointment for the day was making too many pit stops for too long. My stopped time was about 40 minutes. In 2014 my stopped time was less than 17 minutes. So I had 23 additional stopped minutes plus 24 minutes backtracking after a missed turn. Over 45 minutes not making progress on the course compared with 2014! That had to be worth another 12-13 miles.

But overall I was very happy with my first double century at the age of 61. Wish I could have had a bike like this 30 years ago!

Gear/clothing:

Used my new Giro Air Attack Shield for only the third time. I really like having the shield instead of wearing sunglasses. The helmet fits me so well I forget it is there. I’ve never been able to say that with any other helmet. Best helmet I have ever had! Love it.

Wore my Bacchetta Jersey and Zoot Endurance tri shorts, with arm and leg warmers. Also had on a new jacket that I had just purchase at REI 5 days earlier. It is not a cycling jacket, but I love it on my CA2! The Salomon Momentum Soft-Shell Jacket ended up being perfect for the weather. Lots of riders had trouble dealing with the cool weather, wind, and rain. Many dropped out. I was never uncomfortable the entire day, despite the changing conditions. The jacket has a nice trim fit, feels great, and seems to have just the right amount of wind and rain resistance. I like it so much I might just buy another at the current sale price!

Nutrition:

My goal was to do each long loop in 2-½ hours or a little more and consume about 800 calories in that time period. I carried two bottles. One water and one Gatorade. I thought that would be enough liquid for each long loop. Had two Hydrapak SF150 SoftFlasks filled with 50/50 Gu/water mix in my top tube bag. The SoftFlasks are a great way to carry a Gu/water mix. I had the equivalent of 5 Gu packets in my bag and did not have to rip open and try to squeeze out the contents of each packet.  Also tried to carry 2-3 Honey Stinger waffles in an open baggie in the top tube bag. But that did not work out well in the rain. The biggest problem was I had to stop at my cooler after each lap and refill the bottles and SoftFlasks. Way too time consuming. Next time (if there is one) I will buy enough bottles for the entire day and have them already filled. So for each long loop I had about 150 calories in Gatorade and 500 calories in Gu. The Honey Stingers are 160 calories each but I only ate 2 all day.

How I trained:

TrainerRoad on a Wahoo Kickr! I started my training program on January 13. Did the TrainerRoad 8 week Mid Volume Sustained Power Build, followed by the 8 week Mid Volume Century. TrainerRoad pushed me far harder than my training in past winters. Very happy with the Kickr and TrainerRoad. It is a great way to get through a long winter. In the two weeks before Calvin’s I managed to get outside for three rides. Everything else was inside on the trainer. My longest training ride was 3-½ hours two weeks before Calvin’s Challenge.

The bike:

My Bacchetta Carbon Aero 2 was perfect all day. Love this bike! Outstanding comfort and performance. Pain free riding all day long. Handling was great in a wide range of conditions at any speed. Braking and shifting were precise and trouble free, giving me confidence when I was running with the lead group. I have Flo 30 wheels with Continental GP4000s II tires and Vittoria latex tubes. Haven’t had a flat in over a year since switching to latex tubes. The Flo wheels have been fantastic for over two years. Have ordered a set of the brand new Flo 45 Carbon wheels and look forward to receiving them soon. Might even try to get a Flo Disc in the future.

My ride GPS data:

Garmin Connect - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1150184886

Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/562597119

RideWithGPS - https://ridewithgps.com/trips/8766478

Race Results:

http://goo.gl/ipdMKI