Man, was that FUN in a way that only people who do this stuff could ever understand! My teammate Skip and I completed the Race Across America (RAAM) bike race. The race spans over 3,000 miles, from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. It took us 10 days and 16 hours and included an incredible 100,000 feet of climbing. Some of the highlights<br>
We lost our crew chief and two crew members one week before the race. We scrambled to find a replacement crew and organize race logisitics. A process that normally takes months, we were forced to complete in less than a week.
We had some insurance problems with the support can at the start of the race, so I had to ride for the first five hours unsupported! Good thing I had a spare $20 on me, since I had to stop at convience stores for food and water.
We rode in a 1-hour on/1-hour off shift during the daytime and 2-4 hour shifts at night to sleep. I averaged just three hours of sleep a night for the entire ten days.
I climbed the extremely difficult 9-mile Yarnell Hill in Arizona in 100-degree weather. You can see the pain and suffering on YouTube.
I climbed a 10,200 foot pass in Colorado. The 30-mile climb took 3 and ½ hours from 2:00am until 5:30am and featured lots of suffering, hallucinating and a constant battle with hypothermia which forced me to put on four layers of clothing just to keep going.
Skip and I went on a 30-minute on/30-minute off rotation for around 20 hours to try and pick up time to make the cut-off at 1,000 miles. The only problem with this strategy is it exhausted both of us at the same time and we ended up falling asleep from exhaustion for over an hour! Not a strategy to be repeated.
I made one final push to make the 1000-mile cutoff by averaging over 30mph for the last 55 minutes. Half of that time was on a downgrade, and half was was on the flat. Unfortunately, we ended up missing the cut off, but we made a team decision to carry on and finish the race anyway!
Our team battled 116 degree weather in New Mexico and Oklahoma, with a fierce headwind for the “cherry on top.”
In Kansas the headwinds were so bad that even the leader went through the state at 9mph. We were forced to take lots of detours due to the flooding of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
On day 9 I rode seventeen straight hours through West Virginia and straight into a thunderstorm, complete with not-so-far-off lightning bolts illuminating the skies. My support crew began urging me to get off the bike, but I consulted with Skip who lives in Colorado and has some experience with lightning, and he assured me that unless it was directly overhead, we’d be safe. After riding another twenty minutes, a huge BOOM went off directly overhead, and promptly asked Skip if it was time to get off the bike, and he agreed although he noted that there had been only one boom! I waited 20 minutes for the storm to pass, and I’m still holding on to my “He Died Stupid” tombstone.
Skip and I went to a strict one hour on/one hour off rotation the the last 18 hours into Annapolis. There was little fanfare at the end of the line, but at 2:00am I spotted some RAAM supporters who started cheering us on and shouting encouragement. The last words I heard from them were “You’re my hero!” which choked me up as it had been a long ten days by that point!
We finally finished around 6:00am Sunday morning, 1 full day and 16 hours after the last official finishing time. Our time was 10 days, 16 hours. We had to guess where the finish line was as they were setting up booths for the next event. We won’t show up in any official RAAM list, but we gave it our all and lived the RAAM Dream!
I want to thank my crew who did such a wonderful job under extremely tough conditions. Everyone absolutely worked their butts off and it was greatly appreciated. I want to thank Skip for carryong on and being a great teammate right into Annapolis. And I want to thank everyone else for their support.