Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Timmy's Lightning Swamp Time Trial


The summer weather in Florida can be fickle. The forecast for most days is a combination of hot, bright sunshine with the occasional thunderstorm. These summer storms can come from any direction: north, south, east or west, shifting course without notice. They can can be small, lasting only a few minutes and producing little more than a sun shower. They can also slam down an epic deluge of golf ball sized drops from a black swirling void of thunder, lightning and tornadoes. The dilemma is that you can never quite tell what you are about to face.

On May 14th, 2015, Tim Reifschneider planned out one of his legendary time trials to be held at the Carlton Reserve in Venice, FL. Tim is the creator of the long standing Tempo & Timmy's Time Trial Series which was done in association with the now closed Tempo bike shop. While these free time trials are done without advertising or even much notice they can get rather large. The peak attendance came during the summer of 2012 when 80 riders took part in an event held on Honore road in Sarasota. However, on this particular day in May the weather threw us a curve ball.


On that Thursday a long narrow storm crept north up the coast drenching the towns of Englewood, Venice and Nokomis with so much rain that the roads were flooded. Drivers had to slow down to 20mph or stop altogether. It appeared as if the time trial, scheduled for an hour later, was certain to be cancelled. However, if one were to travel fifteen minutes east of the storm the skies were clear and the roads were dry. Due to what appeared to be a wash out, the time trial was erroneously called off.

Not to be denied it was rescheduled for the following Tuesday. Here again the rain was sneaking around, peaking out behind the trees, dropping spot showers and taunting with mild rumbles. This time these weather threats were up against a resolute crowd. Riders gathered at Sleeping Turtle parking area and waited for the showers to pass. The storm remained implacable. It swirled in a circle promising only to sit right where it was. A vast red blotch on the radar churned in place waiting for victims. Timmy made the decision to have the riders drive their cars directly to the trail head to check the conditions. Everyone was informed but only a handful of cars arrived.


Under the cover of light rain and thunder with a few flashes of lightning, Timmy took a quick lap of the course and decided it was a little wet but good to go. By this time the numbers had dwindled to only 5 riders willing to take on the task. Timmy described the 10.25 mile route where significant turns were marked with large green arrows on the ground. After a fairly thorough explanation it was time to line up and blast off.

Riders started with one minute separations. Since I chose the first position I can give you my take on how the race proceeded. Ready? Set? Go! With my gears set easily on the second ring I kicked off with a high cadence into BoldlyGo. The numerous roots were slippery as expected but there was only a slight drizzle from the thick puffy clouds that hung low overhead. The first two sections of trail were surprisingly fast as the rain had hardened some of the sandy areas. I saw the green arrows just before the wooden bridge so I banked left onto the doubletrack and jumped to the big ring. This was the long haul to the picnic table where I'd jump back into the section we call Churchhill Downs.


After crossing the doubletrack into the deeper woods that where was it got really interesting. It is one thing to race a trail that you have ridden a hundred times but to race in these conditions was a unique experience. The drizzle was gone and suddenly the sun returned. I remember a brief smile coming to my face as I was thinking that we had beaten the storm. It tried to keep us from racing but our determination proved to be too strong and the weather gave up. Then my smile disappeared as I rounded a corner right into a five inch deep puddle that was ten feet long. It was the first of many that would drench our bodies and splatter our clothes. From there I would cross the creek, tackle the rollers and pin it through the pines.

Instead of turning in to the last section of singletrack, the green arrow pointed me down the grassy doubletrack towards the red trail intersection. It was at this point that I was amazed that no one had yet passed me. Granted I was feeling great, my lungs were open, my legs pumping away. However I knew who I was up against. Having been in this position before I was waiting for Eric Latimer, the lead mechanic from Real Bikes Venice and one of the areas fastest off road riders, to eventually pass me. You can imagine my surprise when he didn't catch up until I was more than halfway up the Red trail which was three quarters into the race. "On your Left Al," He zipped by on his CX bike slicing through more of those long, deep puddles. I managed to keep him in sight down the Red Trail and onto the South Powerlines, beyond that he handily took the win.


The powerlines was where I hit the wall. There was just enough water to make the dirt squishy and slow, there were just enough puddles to kill your cadence and a slight headwind added that extra obstacle. Most of the way down I pushed as hard as I could but knew that if there was one place someone might make up time against me, it was here. As I was about to turn off I looked behind to see a rider wearing an orange shirt gaining time.

Now it was doubletrack all the way back on the Red Trail. Here I finally remembered a focus trick where you count to twenty, stand up and sprint, then count again. It picked up my speed but as I came out of a dark muddy section the orange shirt flew by. It was Mark Lerch. He was making great time on his new Giant MTB. I did what I could to catch up but that man has legs. Mark finished 2nd and I came in a few seconds later in 3rd. Kicking back at the pavilion we hung out for a couple minutes when Jeff Finch pulled through. That was the race but there was a problem, we were missing a rider.


The fifth and final man, Kevin, had gone off course. He called Timmy to ask for directions. Well, four out of five ain't bad. Kevin found his way back in no time. In all it was fun race on a well thought out course with some wacky weather to boot. The summer rains usually ruin much of our riding so you have to fight a little harder to make these races happen. This one was certainly worth the effort. If nothing else we have some great pictures posted and a hell of a story to brag about. After all, how often do you get to start a race under a flash of lightning and end it in the sun?




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