When Coach Chris asked me to do a little write-up about Race Across America I wasn’t sure how I would be able to summarize a race that encompasses 3000 miles (4800 kms) and 175,000 ft (about 55,000 m) of climbing and do it justice but then it kind of speaks for itself. I was a late addition to a four man team,Team Cyclonauts, as one of their riders had to drop out due to health reasons. To say I was at first intimidated by the resumes of the other riders was an understatement as Tim Skipper has 14 RAAM’s under his belt and Robert Baldino at 69 y/o was doing his fourth. Luckily Steve Sussman was also a rookie to RAAM although he had lots of triathlon experience in the past. The experience of the others was a great help to me and they soon made me feel welcome and an equal team member.Besides the team riders we had 12 crew including our crew chief Bernie Barge who also had a number of RAAM’s to his credit. Our entourage consisted of an RV,a follow vehicle and 2 vans which carried 2 riders and crew each.
RAAM is known for its adversity and we had our fair share. Like everyone else we had to put up with what officials were calling the most extreme weather in RAAM history. The west (CA,AZ,UT,CO) was smoking hot with temps reaching 45 C and not dropping much in the night.We were to do 30 min pulls during the day but to minimize the damage from the heat we kept it to 20 mins.At night to allow us some sleep we extended our pulls to 45 mins. We had some big climbs in Colorado but they were mostly at night and we were able to tackle most of them out of the searing heat.The mid-west was flat (east CO,KS) but temps remained in the high 30’s with an off-right tailwind which was nice and we were able to get back to our 1/2 hr pulls.From eastern Kansas thru Missouri the humidity rose to near 100% which made it really difficult to stay dry and then we hit torrential downpours off and on the rest of the way (IL,IND,OH,WVA,MD,PENN).
Just to make things a bit more interesting our RV had mechanical difficulties and we lost it for the first 2 1/2 days and then it had to leave in Missouri as the crew had work commitments they had to return to.
Also on our first night,the van I was riding in was t-boned by a car which ran a stop sign and while luckily no-one was hurt the van was undriveable. We kept going by putting us all in one van which was doable if not a bit crowded until we could get another van a day and a half later. Sleep was at a premium those first 4 days and you got it whenever you could.Coach asked me how much sleep I got and overall I figured 3-4 hrs per day which actually wasn’t bad.I learned how to ride hard and rest harder!
It was difficult figuring out what to eat and started out with the usual endurance “foods” which included gels,powders and Boost along with assorted fruit.By day 3 my guts protested and through the Rockies I developed heartburn which apparently is not uncommon.By Kansas I was eating more regular food which eventually included noodle meals,Subway subs and even chicken fried rice. You could definitely feel those rides where the tank was near empty and by day 6 it was ride,change,eat,sleep and repeat.
Loved my pulls and never tired of getting back on the bike.Thanks to Coach Chris and his intense training routine I felt fresh almost every time I rode.Had lots of hills and lots of extra pulls when it was needed and is the case with me ,my favorite time to ride was often the night. You learned to gauge your intensity to the length of ride and to ride without a warm-up and your body just seemed to get used to it even when you just woke up.
The last night was filled with what seemed like climb after climb and the last day we road 5 mile pulls to stay fresh and finish the race.My best supporter and loving wife, Correne and my son ,Cody were there in Annapolis to see us come in which was an added bonus.
While there were lots of adventures within the adventure I would be taking up most of the Newsletter and that’s not fair.Would I do it again? Already making plans with teammates for next year!