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A Week in Panama City Beach
31st Dec 2012Posted in: Blog 1
A Week in Panama City Beach

The winter training trip is always one of the highlights of the year, and our journey to Panama City Beach, FL, was far and away the most memorable of the 5 I’ve been on. Going into the trip I was looking at three things: how my legs would hold up after taking a few months off for IUDM, how Kragie/Chris Craig would do on their first training camp, and how focused we’d be as a team. Needless to say, I was blown away in all three of those areas.

Middle of the night in the middle of nowhere

We left B-town around 10 PM on Friday the 14th. Kragie and Green were in my car, with Laser driving Chris Craig, Gdew, and TCox. Google said it’d take us about 12 hours, but we were determined to shave some time off of that. After stops for gas in Franklin, KY, and Jemison, AL (a.k.a. middle of nowhere) where we could not have possibly been more out of place, we found ourselves in line for breakfast at McDonald’s in PCB just before 9 AM. Unfortunately, after a wrong turn and a little too much dubstep, our otherwise perfect drive was ruined by me getting a $125 speeding ticket just 4 miles from the resort. Life goes on.

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Green and Kragie on a detour

Upon arrival we discovered that check-in wasn’t until 4 PM, and that PCB was on central time. With plenty of time to kill, heavy naptime by the pool ensued, where we all marveled that we were in a perfectly-heated pool in 70 degree sunshine despite being in frigid B-town just 12 hours prior. Pretty crazy. Plans were made to ride in time to catch the 2nd half of the IU vs. Butler game, so after scoring an early unit we kitted up and rolled out to explore our surroundings. A trip up and down the beachfront confirmed that we were pretty much the only non-locals in town, as just about every hotel/motel was completely vacant. That being said, the roads were pristine and pancake flat, so we knew we’d be getting some solid training in. We won’t talk about the IU game because needless to say things weren’t pretty, but our guest’s arrival raised everyone’s spirits and we set out for Sam’s Club.

A few days' worth of food for 8 guys

A few days’ worth of food for 8 guys

As some of you may know, to buy things at Sam’s Club you need a Sam’s Club membership, which none of us had. Usually you can get away with using a “trial” one-day pass, but I guess in the panhandle getting one of those requires a trip to one of the many local bingo parlors. That didn’t seem like a viable option, so instead we decided it was a good idea for me to pretend to be my dad. After enjoying all the free samples, Green worked his magic on the friendly cashier, my dad texted me his membership number, and we rolled out of there with a ridiculous amount of food. Over dinner we checked the weather and confirmed our plan for the week. With four consecutive 4-5 hour days on deck, we all pounded some melatonin and hit the hay.

Standard on-ride selfie courtesy of Green

Standard on-ride selfie courtesy of Green

18 eggs, an entire loaf of bread, and a few pounds of ham prepared by chef Laser provided the fuel for our first journey, where we hoped to ride the majority of the Ironman Florida bike course. We set out around 10 eager to test the legs and lay the foundation for the rest of the week. The roads could not have been better, with more than enough bike lanes and wide shoulders to keep us safe. Everyone was trading pulls as we maintained a steady pace in the low 20’s, cruising along like a well-oiled machine. 107 miles and only one flat later, we were back at the ranch. It was Kragie and Chris Craig’s first century, and they came through with flying colors.

Ice baths are cold

Ice baths are cold

One of our key priorities on this trip was a focus on refueling and recovery, which we did consistently after every ride. The nutrition was on point, with TCox having all the post-ride essentials at the ready as soon as we got back, and Laser consistently whipping up unbelievable meals. Something we incorporated after a pilot test during spring break last year were ice baths, which we did every night. Certainly not the most pleasant 12 minutes of the day, but the anti-inflammatory benefits made for a dramatic improvement (and some hysterical pictures). We spent the night watching race tape, and after some light stretching, we all passed out before 10 PM.

Waiting out the storm

Waiting out the storm

Monday we woke up to Green singing his own rendition of The Angels’ classic “My Boyfriend’s Back,” which he somehow turned into “hey la, hey la, your boy got a job.” Everyone graduating in May except Green had already figured out life post-graduation, so we were all extremely proud and excited for our brother to land a tech consulting gig with UPMC in Pittsburgh. Spirits were high until we realized there was a thunderstorm rolling in, which led to a 20+ MPH headwind for the entire first hour of the ride. We took refuge under the awnings of a local apartment building, but after the initial winds died down, we set out to finish our ride in the pouring rain. It was definitely one of those days where we were all forced to remember our ultimate goal, but we pushed on in a steady 2×2 formation, fighting the water/sand mix constantly spraying off the tarmac. The miserable road conditions led to quite a few flats, but we completed the workout despite being soaked to the bone. In addition to the usual recovery routine, we all cleaned our bikes thoroughly and enjoyed some Bud Diesels to celebrate Green’s job offer over some more race tape. Gdew even decided to start his own Little 500 team, so watch out for the Velomanati. Another great day in the books.

Kragie awaits the neutral support vehicle

Kragie awaits the neutral support vehicle

Tuesday was the exact opposite of Monday weather-wise, so we were all anxious to get out there and shake the legs out after the soggy sufferfest from the day prior. Unfortunately things were far from ideal. I woke up to a broken left cleat, and the theme for the day was “FLAT!!!” with everyone except Gdew and myself flatting. We went through all 6 of the flat kits we brought with us, so TCox actually had to come pick Kragie up after we crushed the first 20+ minute interval. All the stoppage due to flats led to a route change that took us by Steve’s bike shop in downtown Panama City, where we restocked our tube supplies and bought some miscellaneous bike parts. If you’re ever in the area, swing by, because they knew their stuff and were amazingly helpful. Usual nighttime routine ensued.

Brotherhood

Post-Interval Brotherhood

Wednesday was initially supposed to be a recovery day, but with the best weather all week and a miserable day looming Thursday, we decided to alter our plans and went out to really push our legs. We were already over 300 miles and closing in on 20 hours, but thanks to our focus on taking care of our bodies, we had one of the best rides of the week. There was one 12 mile stretch of road that happened to be a Strava segment, which we decided to use as one last big interval before our rest day. Not to sound horrifically cheesy, but there are few things in the world more enjoyable than a well-run paceline. There aren’t many teams out there who can hold a 26 MPH pace into a steady headwind for almost a half hour after 4 solid days of riding, but all 6 of us took our turns at the front and absolutely smashed our goal time.

Things got a little weird

Things got a little weird

With our guest leaving the next day, after a solid nap we decided a night on the town was in order, which quickly turned into one of the most ridiculous evenings of my life. TCox rapped “Ice, Ice, Baby” in its entirety, bartenders were pouring shots while swinging from the ceiling, we ran into the Chi O/Pi Kapps bike teams, Kragie met a Sigma Chi who played for John Wooden at UCLA, and we somehow ended up doing handstands on the dance floor at a bar that doubled as a liquor store. Absurd. Kragie and Green even woke up at 7 AM the next day to drive our guest to the airport, quite possibly the most miraculous feat of the trip.

Testing out the fishing rods

Testing out the fishing rods

Our Thursday recovery day was everything we could have wanted and more. Sleeping in has never felt so good, and riding out the monsoon in the hot tub was obviously one of our better ideas. Green, Laser, and Chris Craig invested in some boogie boards and decided to check out the waves, and fortunately no one died. Kragie and I spent literally an hour and a half at Wal-Mart, where the people watching and fishing rod selections were second to none. The highlight of the day was visiting the “Everything’s a Dollar!” store, where, you guessed it, everything was a dollar. We took full advantage of the “12 for $10” deal, buying everyone a bad PCB hat, picking up a few knick-knacks, and topping it all off with Dance Max Volume 2 in cassette form.

Dumpster legs

Dumpster legs

The recovery day was definitely needed, but not riding enough was a rookie mistake we all made, leading to a serious case of dumpster legs for the first couple hours of our ride. A brutal headwind certainly didn’t help things. After some high-cadence work to get the blood flowing, we pressed on and ended up with another solid 4-hour day in the saddle. We got back to the resort absolutely exhausted, and got to work on our holiday cards (supporters: check your mailboxes this week!). After packing and un-doing a week’s worth of the damage done by 8 guys living in a 2-bedroom condo, we settled in to rip apart the 2012 race for the umpteenth time, analyzing where things went wrong and ending the week on a very focused note.

No caption needed

No caption needed

After checking out Saturday morning we set out for our annual chill day and took some photos on the beach. With Graham “Johan” Dewart as our directeur sportif, we did some half-assed motorpacing to counteract yet another headwind before stopping to get some facetime in the sand. Our legs were absolutely toasted, so it felt great to finally be done with our bikes for the week. After bonding with an old couple on the beach about all things Chicago, we snapped some quick pics, changed, and started the journey back to B-town. Naturally after another painless 11 hours, BOTH cars got pulled over just 10 miles from home, bringing our speeding ticket count up to 3. Furious, we unloaded as quickly as possible, only to arrive at Kilroy’s at 3:01 AM. Sad day.

All in all, as I mentioned in the intro, this was without a doubt the best training trip I’ve ever been on, even though we don’t have any videos to show for it. Not only was it the most beneficial from a training perspective, but also the most fun. I think we’ve finally got a solid TEAM dynamic established, and you can just get the sense that we’re really starting to fire on all cylinders. The motivation’s high, but 8 days of training mean next to nothing if we don’t stay focused for the next 111. 2012’s been a banner year for Beta Cycling, and we can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store. We invite you to continue along for the ride!

in _kai_
Eric Anderson
-2760-

One Response

  1. Wooglin says:

    Good Post! The writing captured the team camaraderie, as did the pictures. April 20th!!!

    -Kai-

    Woogs

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