Race Report by Bill Bailey- My most recent race was CFITT, the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial, a 240 mile self-supported mountain bike race from New Smyrna Beach, on the east coast, to Inglis Florida on the west coast at the Gulf of Mexico. It all starts on the beach, where the racers dip their back tire in the Atlantic Ocean. There are sections of stealthy urban single track, paved, gravel, dirt and sand roads. Two mountain bike parks compose 40 miles of the route, and about a 20 mile section of the Florida Trail. There’s also a ferry boat crossing that only runs from sunset to sunrise.
I had to drop out last year after injuring my knee in a crash. I did finish the 350 mile Huracan 300, but I set a new course record as the Lanterne Rouge finisher. On the Trans North Georgia MTB race, I had to pull out after 3 days and 235 miles again due to an injury. I’ve learned a lot from my failures.
Last year I trained very intensely for this same race. This year in the month before the race I just did a couple of easy paced, all day, dirt road rides. I went down to Florida the month before to ride the sections from the ferry crossing to the finish on the west coast with a friend and mentor who is an accomplished ultra-endurance racer.
I made a plan by breaking the intimidating distance into manageable sections, with water and store stops, and added approximate times to each section. I decided when and what I should eat, mostly from food that I would carry, and where I should stop at stores get more. I planned to sleep four hours, rather than try to ride all the way straight through.
Despite feeling slower and weaker than last year, I knew I could ride a very long time if I could stay below my endurance threshold. Last year there was a staggered start beginning at 6am, this year was a mass start at 5am, but I still wasn’t sure I could make the cutoff for the ferry at sunset. I very much wanted to make the ferry, but more importantly, I wanted to finish, and 36 hours seemed like a reasonable goal.
About 40 miles from the end, a small twig got caught in my rear derailleur, destroying it beyond repair. I quickly got to work and converted the bike to single-speed as one rider passed me. It was pretty disheartening since the next few sections were paved and I had hoped to make pretty good time, before getting to the last section of loose sugar sand roads. I had no choice but to accept that it was going to be slower and keep pedaling on, pushing the bike if needed in the deep sand.
These endurance races often have a finish rate of below 30 percent. The cooler weather, while it did mean dealing with layers of clothes made a huge difference, as did the earlier start time this year, with more time to reach the ferry. Having a solid plan meant that I could concentrate just on riding, and when I was tired, I could refer back to my plan to see how far the next stop was and to remind myself to eat something, or drink more. While there were some rough times, I enjoyed most of it, and as always I learned a lot, especially about what motivates me; mostly the promise of convenience store ice cream treats and coffee.
After the finish times were all sorted out, and a few racers disqualified, I finished in 11th place, out of the 30 official finishers from a field of nearly 50 who started. I dipped my front tire in the Gulf of Mexico 35hrs and 41 min after having dipped my rear tire in the Atlantic Ocean, far from Bryan Frantz’ winning time of 21 hrs 25 min, but I’m still pleased with it. I have studied my GPS data, especially the stops I made, and I'm hoping to trim some time off my race next year.