Sullivan smashes cross-state cycling record

Terri Sullivan with her crew as she readies for her cross-state ride. (Contributed)

Terri Sullivan with her crew as she readies for her cross-state ride. (Contributed)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA — There’s breaking a record, and then there’s absolutely obliterating a record.

Terri Sullivan set out on Sept. 27 to do the former, and ended up doing the latter, breaking the Alabama women’s cross-state cycling record by close to three hours. The previous record of 15 hours, 10 minutes was held by Florence Bradley and was set in 2005. In contrast, Sullivan’s time was 12 hours, 16 minutes.

“It was a crazy day,” she said. “(We) had a last minute change in departure time.”

Sullivan and her crew, led by coach Tracy McKay, noticed inclement weather on the horizon. Sullivan said they discussed two options: Moving the ride back, or moving up the departure time to Sept. 28 instead of early Sept. 29.

Not wanting to wait any longer for the ride, Sullivan and crew left Cuba, Ala., at 2:44 p.m. and set out to break the record.
Immediately, Sullivan began battling the elements.

“We anticipated no wind or a tail wind,” she said. “Instead, I got head winds for 60 miles. You have to work harder. (It) slowed me down.”
There were also scheduled stops along the way, as her crew followed behind in a vehicle and assisted her in changing out headlamps for her bike.

“At 80 miles in, We had to change headlamps,” she said. “(We) had a planned stop in Montgomery. At 180 miles, the head lamps went out.”
As she rode on, the sun began to set and with it, cast unknowns on the ride. Sullivan said she had never ridden at night before, and the concept of pressing into the dark brought concerns, Sullivan said.

“It was pitch black dark,” she said. “It was a little unnerving. I couldn’t see down the road.”

All the while, Sullivan fought cramping and dehydration, as the headwinds she battled early in the ride took their toll on her.

“All I (could) think about (was) the next 10 miles,” she said. “I had to take small pieces to make it. With the headwinds 20 miles in, my legs were toast.”

Sullivan pushed on, crossing the finish line at the Alabama-Georgia state line at 3 a.m. on Sept. 29, in record time.

As she was helped off the bike, Sullivan said she could tell the toll the ride had taken on her.

“When I got off the bike, I was so tired,” she said. “I felt ill. I was completely exhausted mentally and physically. I felt sick to my stomach. I depleted everything I had in me.”

Sullivan was quick to praise the efforts of her crew, and said the ride gave her a great sense of accomplishment.

“They did a great job,” she said. “My crew was incredible. Mentally, it helps me know I can push myself (that) challenging. It gives me a lot of confidence.”