375 miles. Six days.
The 2016 Winter Break Training Trip to Panama City Beach, Florida was the most exciting trip I’ve been on during my three years with the program. As always, it was a great time to challenge each other, grow closer as a team, and start to conceptualize how we will win the Little 500.
Many workouts of prior trips reappeared in our training regimen, but this time, we increased our focus on recovery. All members of the team left the trip injury-free—something that I was very sure to secure, after battling knee pain the last two years.
All five members of the team were able to attend: Kyle, AJ, John, Jack, and I. Three seniors volunteered to help us with cooking and shopping: Sam Guidice, Lars Werner, and Tyler Cox. We would not have had nearly as smooth or fun of a trip without these guys, so we owe them a huge thanks for their support over the week. The House Beagle and Vice President of Panhellenic Relations, John Reilly Knox II, joined us as well.
In the remainder of this post, I’ll detail what we did each day on the bike and otherwise.
Day 1 (40 miles)
We departed from Bloomington around midnight on January 2. We made it to PCB without any speeding tickets, though unfortunately, we did inhale three different meals of McDonald’s.
We took off for a two-hour spin shortly after settling into the AirBnb near the beach. Kyle found us a place with three rooms and plenty of space for the boys. We made dinner at the house that night and relaxed before bed. Most meals we ate were some variation of chicken and pasta, so to be honest, I can’t remember what we put down that night. I can assure you all that protein and carbs were abundant.
Day 2 (75 miles)
We began our more-intense workouts with a four-hour exercise; we spent three hours in Zone 2, broken-up by an hour-long effort in Zone 3.
Jack flew into PCB from a family vacation on Day 2, and we quite literally met him at the airport with a bike for him to ride. He joined us for the last three hours of the workout, trading pulls with the rest of us and showcasing some fitness. We ate, stretched, and napped as soon as we returned home.
Day 3 (85 miles)
The third day of training was a long, five-hour day in Zone 2. Brutal—absolutely brutal—winds and sore legs made getting in the saddle difficult, but we had been in this position before. The temperature remained mild in the upper 50s, and the sun stayed out for the majority of the ride.
When we got home, we decided to cook up some burgers for dinner. No one spoke up when the meat happened to be slightly pink, and as a result, we all were punished that night and the next morning with sore stomachs. I think this was the only night we didn’t have Grill Master John taking care of the meat, so we quickly learned never to allow him to neglect his responsibilities with the spatula.
Day 4 (30 miles)
Ah, rest day. After sleeping in and discussing the rest of the week’s training, we spun our legs out for an hour and hustled over to the beach—something we never managed to do on the last two trips.
Seriously, it may have been the best decision we made on the trip. While our discussion of the training plan had gotten heated earlier in the day, going to the beach was a perfect opportunity to relax together. We played some football, relaxed a little, and probably bothered the locals a tad.
That night, we sought out the pinnacle of PCB nightlife: Rock’it Lanes Bowling Alley. We brought passion and energy that those lanes haven’t seen in years. I’m surprised management didn’t hang a picture of us on the wall by the time we left.
Day 5 (105 miles)
Day 5 was the century—maybe the last that AJ and Kyle would do as members of the bike team. While the majority of the ride went smoothly, a flat 45 minutes out from home—complemented by a downpour of rain—made the ending to the ride savage.
Rather than being frustrated by the rain, though, we all individually reflected on the fact that it was the last trip we’d have with AJ and Kyle. It’s weird to imagine that this is their last year with the squad—something that they worked hard to rebuild over the last three years. This day caused us all to think about where we’ve come from, what we were doing in that moment, and what we want to accomplish in the future. I’m glad we had the opportunity to reflect here.
Day 6 (60 miles)
We saved the best for last—Friday’s workout was the team pursuit simulation. We did two thirty-minute intervals at threshold, concentrating on maintaining a high cadence in a gear posing similar resistance to the 48×16 on the Little 500 bike. There’s something about shattering your limits, zooming with your brothers, hearing nothing but tire on pavement and your own breath escaping from your chest that makes you love being on a bike. I love this race.
On the way home from the workout, we stopped to collect a new edition of the PCB hats and take a picture to commemorate the trip.
When we got home, we showered, napped, and packed to take off again. We drove through the night, until Sam got pulled over for speeding just 15 minutes outside of Bloomington.
All things considered, this training trip was great to bring the team together, build fitness, and map-out the rest of the year.
We are stronger, faster, wiser, and more focused than ever before. We accomplished a lot on our trip, but we recognize how much work lies ahead of us before we are ready to take the track.
I assure you, though: the steaks will be ready.