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Bicyclist Amanda Coker of Zephyrhills breaks world record for total miles in a year

Amanda Coker celebrates with her mother, Donna, in September after setting the women’s record at Flatwoods Wilderness Park. She set the overall mark Wednesday.
Amanda Coker celebrates with her mother, Donna, in September after setting the women’s record at Flatwoods Wilderness Park. She set the overall mark Wednesday.
Published Apr. 8, 2017

TAMPA — As she pedaled around the paved, 7-mile bike trail at Flatwoods Wilderness Park, Amanda Coker let out a gleeful howl, just as she promised she would so her parents would know she'd done it.

But that's the only sign the 24-year-old Zephyrhills woman had achieved yet another feat of human endeavor. Already the holder of the world record for most miles ridden by a woman in one year, she shattered the overall record, too ­— 76,076 — around 11:40 a.m. Wednesday.

There was no fanfare, no cameras like before. She just kept pedaling, as she does seven days a week — starting around 5:30 a.m. in the Thonotosassa neighborhoods around Flatwoods until the park opens at 7 a.m., then around the park's loop until dusk.

Coker did stop for a few minutes about a half-mile later, for hugs with her parents, Ricky and Donna Coker. By the end of the day, she had increased her total to 76,233.9 miles and plans to add more until her year is up May 14.

She was the only bicyclist allowed on the loop Thursday after authorities closed the park to search for a missing teenager.

Coker has come a long way since she suffered brain trauma six years ago when a car hit her while she was cycling.

"We're so proud," Coker's father said. "This is amazing."

Visitors to the Facebook page of the UltraMarathon Cycling Association, the international nonprofit organization that certifies the record, posted that Coker broke the record. Still, it will not be official until the year is up.

Kurt Searvogel, 53, of Arkansas, whose record she broke, acknowledged the feat to the Tampa Bay Times. He set his mark in January 2016, topping a record set in 1939.

"I knew after I proved it could be done that someone else would beat me," Searvogel said with a chuckle, "but not so soon."

Coker declined to comment. She doesn't have much time for chatter, her parents said.

Once she gets off her bike, she goes right home for dinner and sleep — a schedule she has maintained since she started her campaign May 15.

She has averaged over 233.85 miles a day, according to her online log, at an average speed of 20.27 mph.

"She's taken just half a day off," Donna Coker said, "and it was only because of very bad weather."

The weather was Hurricane Matthew, in October.

Coker broke the women's record of 29,603 miles in September. That record dated to 1938.

Searvogel biked mostly on the open road, riding from Florida to Arkansas to Wisconsin then back to Florida, staying a while in each state.

But he completed his journey on the bike path of Flatwoods.

"It's the perfect place to rack up miles," Searvogel said.

Coker was one of the cyclists he met at Flatwoods.

"Congratulations to Amanda for putting all that effort in," he said.

Adding to Coker's accomplishment is how much she has overcome.

Shortly before starting her freshman year with a bicycle scholarship to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., Coker — then living in North Carolina — was diagnosed with a hole in the upper chamber of her heart.

After surgery, she tried returning to competitive cycling. Then, on a ride just 3 miles from home, a car hit her from behind and threw her 100 feet.

Her injuries included a dislocated shoulder, broken back and brain trauma.

"She put in a lot of work to recover," Ricky Coker said.

The family moved to Zephyrhills in 2014, and in 2015, Coker pedaled from Florida to California.

When Searvogel joined her for a few days of riding at Flatwoods, as he pursued his record, he suggested Coker go for the women's mark.

"The women's record, not my record," he said with a laugh. "She took it a step further. I'm proud."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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