WAR at Burke’s Park – Deja Vu

Decided to bring the family to Dade City this weekend to experience Wicked Awesome Racing (WAR) Cyclocross.

This year the series started at John S Burke Memorial Park, which is my favorite venue of the series. Josh and Kaleigh Thornton have been putting on races for years. I’m used to going to great places like Stanley Park, Brooksville Quarry, and even a couple of neat places in Ocala, but I still like Burke’s Park the best. It’s dusty and sandy but never muddy, which sits just right for me. It features a lot of off camber turns, which I find very challenging.


On Saturday it was very hot and sunny. We arrived in time to get ready for the P1/2 race, but way after the “beginner” course, which does an easier lap. Hence, my girls decided not to try the course, and saved it for Sunday morning.

I had a rough moment in the P1/2 race. After the uphill run up on lap 4, I started feeling really bad. I looked at my computer and saw my heart rate was up to 187. This is not good. My normal HR in zone 5 might go up to 170 for a second but usually stays in the low 160s. I stopped and waited for nearly a minute for it to go back down. I finished the race but I still felt unwell. It was probably due to dehydration but seeing big numbers like that can scare a guy. I took it easy from there on. Since there were only 4 of us, I got to stand next to the podium, no medal, but 4th place

4th out of 4 in the P1/2 race. Scared myself with the high HR but still finished, and picked up 13 series points

In the MTB race later, I felt much better but still the heat was a factor. Although I improved my lap times by nearly a minute, I still felt very hot.

Here’s a comparison of my laps on Saturday. I’m almost a minute faster on the MTB

There were 5 mountain bikers, which is pretty rare. Last year I was the only one. I’m really glad the series is coming back. WAR is the only series that has a mountain bike division. I’ve won the points jersey every year they’ve had it too, so I am defending my title. Even though I was faster than the earlier race, so was everyone else, so I finished last again.

5th out of 5, and Bob Reineke got 2nd. He will be my main challenge this year to repeat as champion

So the day’s racing was over, and we headed to the Ramada in Zephyr Hills. Surprisingly very nice, clean and well equipped. A quick shower and touch up and we headed out to the Truly Mediterranean Grill to have dinner with Kelly and Mari Edwards. Wayne Keller joined us a little later. Definitely one of our favorite places to stop in Dade City.

L to R, Grace, Kathleen, Sophia, (Empty seat for Wayne), Kelly and Mari Edwards.


We got up early to enjoy the generous free breakfast at the Ramada. I love those waffle makers! The girls were thinking about giving the “beginner” race a shot. Kathleen and Grace went out to try a practice lap. Kathleen didn’t even make it to the grass. “It’s on the side of a hill!” she yelled at me. “Well of course it is, this is the Dan Sullivan Memorial Off Camber Jammer after all.” Didn’t go over well.

Grace gave it a try. She finished half a lap and thought it was the whole thing. I registered her for the race and got her lined up. She got to the half lap point and dropped out. “I didn’t know it kept going” she said, “and I don’t like comparing myself to other people”. Geez if I worried about that I never would enter a race. (Later on she did complete an entire lap, “just to show she could.” Daddy’s girl after all, huh.)

So then we waited for the P1/2 race – another three hours away. Teenage girls get bored in a tent without WiFi rather quickly.

They decided to go out for lunch, bring me something back for after the P1/2, and then abandon me. Good plan.

I was much more careful on Sunday with the race. I didn’t want to blow up again, and although there was a breeze and some scattered clouds, it was even hotter. I concentrated on riding smoothly and coasting when I could on the downhills. I knew I was going to be last, and still 5th place, so I conserved my energy. Oddly enough, I had my fastest lap on the cross bike in that race.


5th out of 6 in P1/2, but didn’t have a heart rate episode! Also, this puts me in the points lead in the division with 24 points.

I finished, ate part of a sub that my wife brought me and said good bye to the girls. They headed for Orlando and I rested under the tent, waiting for the MTB race.

The Deja Vu Part

In 2014, I came to Burke Park for the first time, in what was that year WAR #2. I wasn’t any faster then, and expected to finish near the back once more. I passed John LaManna in the Saturday race, as he had a mechanical, and said “Huh, well at least I won’t be last”. (I didn’t know that there were 2 very new riders behind me as well.) Later in the race I caught up to Mark Schwab and passed him. Well well. I finished the race and had a beer with John, Mark and Michael Ploch, who was waiting for the podium, as he won the race. I was shocked when they called my name. I didn’t know it, but by passing Mark I had moved up to third place. First podium for me in a bike race!

First Cycling Podium

My first cycling podium ever. I don’t recall the name of the 2nd place finisher, but Michael Ploch is on the top step.

I had a little celebration that night with my gang.

So the next day, I was looking forward to the MTB race again. Funny though, as the day wore on, I saw more and more vehicles leaving the park with Mountain Bikes on the rack. It was hot, people were tired, and many decided not to hang around for a race that “doesn’t count.”

At the start it was me, Mark and his wife Connie, who at the last minute decided to give it a shot.

Connie Schwab MTB

Mark’s wife Connie entered the final race, giving us three riders, so the podium would be full anyway.

Mark took off fast, like he did the day before. I was wondering if I would catch him again. Well guess what, there he was, slowing down a bit out in front of me. I resisted the urge to speed up and catch him. It was early in the race any way. I kept going at my pace and was right on his tail at the end of the second lap. On the long climb on the front loop he finally faded and I passed him. I got the the finish line before the SS leader leader lapped me, completed four laps to Mark’s three and won my first ever cycling only race (I’d won a multi-sport in the 80s).

Oct 2014 WAR MTB Podium

Kaleigh Thornton gives me my first ever winning medal for a cycling race.

Back to Present Day

So here we are, 2018, I come out to the line and there are four mountain bikers. “Crap” I said to myself, “another 4th and no medal.”

The reader can probably guess what happened next. I started off at the back of the field. I’ve never been one to race for the “hole shot.” I like to start out easy and then fizzle out altogether.


Here I am doing my ceremonial last place wave as I head for the hole shot. I still don’t see how they all rush off so fast right away. Thank you Kevin Brown for the photo.

As the reader is probably expecting, I noticed a mountain biker trailing off the back of the field. “Huh. Deja Vu. Same course, same event.” Well history repeated itself. I didn’t get too excited. Held my pace, coasted down the hills, and concentrated on smooth turns. Several times I got right up behind him but he would pull away. I wasn’t ready to pass him yet anyway. I waited until the third lap, when I saw Kelly Edwards, the SS leader, coming up behind us. I had to time this right. If I passed him and Kelly didn’t lap us, I would have to hold him off for another lap. I wasn’t looking forward to that. Fortunately, just before Kelly caught up, I squeezed by Sam (Sam Sawdusky – a new guy but real glad he came) and took the lead. Kelly caught me on the finishing stretch and I manged to snag 3rd place.


My only medal of the weekend – and I worked hard for it

I was working so hard on getting the last medal place that I didn’t even stop for a hot dog.

I believe Jonathan actually threw the hot dog at me.
I couldn’t stop because as you see, Sam is right in front of me


What an interesting weekend. I learned I can overcook myself. I learned I can pace myself, concentrate on riding smooth, and go faster while expending less energy. I learned that FLCX is BACK. We had a great turnout, probably the most I’ve ever seen at this course. I expect Spooky er .. “Spookier” Cross will be even bigger in two weeks.

I had a great time at WAR#1, and I am glad we honored the memory of Dan Sullivan with such a great event.

Lap time comparisons of all four races. As you can see I was faster the 2nd day, without pushing as hard.