Mike’s RAAM Report – Part Three

Stage Nine – Effingham, IL to Bloomington, IN

Mentally, this was our toughest stage. We were starting at dusk, and with about 140 miles to ride, this was going to be be an all nighter. Being the sixth night of the race, Tina and I were already pretty tired, so already we were at a deficit before we started, and the amount of rest we had between our last stage and this was shorter than usual.

We began in the humorously-named town of Effingham, and rode east into the night over rolling farmland. There isn’t much to say about riding such terrain at night, other than it’s very peaceful, apart from the sound system on the van blasting out music to keep us motivated. With fewer cars and cooler temperatures, it was a pleasant evening to be riding. On the downside, there was a constant stench throughout the early part of the stage from the refinery that we eventually passed in Robinson, IL

One thing we did to help with the fatigue was to ride longer pulls. We went from 30 minutes to about 40-45 minutes, and the additional time on the bike compensated for the idle time in the van, when it was easier to get drowsy and distracted. Another thing that wakes you up is being chased by dogs in the middle of the night.

Sometime after midnight, I passed over the Wabash River, and entered Indiana. After my slight obsession at wanting to cross into Missouri, I was more blasé this time at our first state border crossing, probably due to fact that it in the middle of the night, and that I had kind of forgotten that we would actually be crossing into Indiana on this stage.

Sometime after passing the timestation in Sullivan, I was in the van and noticed that Tina was looking annoyed on the bike after having to stop at a light that was controlling a one-lane section of the road. I asked David and Brandon how she was managing her refueling while in the van, and they said they keep an eye on it. We ended up stopping for a discussion about this the next time we switched from me to Tina, and after talking for a short bit, I could see she was just tired and her nutrition was fine. But the discussion definitely lit a fire under her and not only did she look determined on the bike, but refused to get off after 30 minutes and ended up doing an hour. That was a joy to watch, at least until I fell asleep in the van, taking a quick cat nap before I got to enjoy my own hour out on the road.

Dawn broke as we approached Bloomington, and I took us through town and to the timestation. A highlight of the entire race was passing Indiana University in Bloomington, the site of the Little 500 bike race and the setting of probably the best cycling movie ever made, Breaking Away.

Stage Ten – After Oxford, OH to Athens, OH

After a good rest break, I felt energized and ready to tackle our next stage. We started out about 30 miles past the timestation in Oxford, which immediately took me through the cute town of Lebanon. After that, I enjoyed a series of short rollers before settling down into more gently rolling terrain. On my first pull, I caught and passed the two-man team, Crank Addicts, who were stealing our idea of using “crank” in their name. The nerve! As a two-person team, they were doing great, and we would see more of them on this stage.

The big highlight of this stage was reaching Chillicothe and meeting Bruce Smith, Tina’s friend who she met on RAAM 2011. The short version of the story is that the RV ended up stuck in his yard while trying to make a u-turn due to missing an earlier turn. With great grace and generosity that is quite common with the people that we meet during RAAM, while the RV was being extricated from his yard, he shuttled Tina and Michele Santilhano to the bike shop in Athens where they needed to go to get much needed bike parts and repairs.

Since then, Bruce has become a big fan of RAAM, and as we reached the outskirts of Chillicothe, he pulled up next to Tina on his motorbike. When we reached the timestation, he gave us some great gifts to keep us amused; silly string, paddle balls, and glow sticks. We chatted some before sadly leaving to continue our journey. His final gift was marking the turn that was missed in 2011 with a group of mylar balloons. There was no missing the turn this year!

Darkness fell as we entered hillier countryside on our way to Athens. We were passed by a couple of teams, including the Crank Addicts, but on my last pull into the timestation, I passed them again on the slight rise into town. Athens saw my only real goof of the race, where, due to my glasses fogging up in the high humidity and the brick road surface bouncing me around a bit, I was a little distracted and got halfway through an intersection in downtown Athens before I realized that it was against a red light. I was a little embarrassed about that, and happy that no race official was around to penalize us. The light turned green, and we soon reached the timestation, and our shift was done.

Stage Eleven – Grafton, WV to after Cumberland, MD

This part of the race that I was anticipating from the start, one with real meat on the bones, so to speak. We were entering the heart of the Appalachians, with its seemingly endless miles of long steep climbs. It was time to break out my faithful climbing bike, the Titus, which had been unused since the Rockies of Colorado. After enjoying the short climb up Thorton Hill, I switched with Tina, and while waiting in the van we were passed by a solo rider, Chris “Hoppo” Hopkinson, a well-known RAAM rider who was featured in the movie “Bicycle Dreams.” We pulled out and passed him and his support van, cheering him on and taking some pictures. He was not far behind Tina as she tackled the next 5-mile climb of the day, but she stayed out in front until our next exchange.

He passed me as I was getting up to speed after the switch. I respectfully paced myself behind him for a short while, and once the road kicked up again, I took the opportunity to pass him. I said a hello and said he looked great, and soon I was at the bottom of a nice 3 mile climb up “Cheat Mountain.” I never saw him again after that, but it was a treat to ride briefly with a legendary RAAM rider. The solo riders are the real deal, and for a team rider like me, the Appalachians are no big deal, but for the solo riders, every hill is almost like torture with 2,500 miles in the legs. I could only wish to do as good as Chris was doing if I was in his shoes.

After reaching the top of my climb, the road was a constant series of short climbs as we traveled along a high ridge for over 20 miles. At some point I started the climb of Difficult Hill. Yes, it’s really called that. While on the climb, I passed another solo rider, Arvid Loewen, who is also from Canada. He’s actually the real Canadian, since he still lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I said hi and introduced myself as a fellow Canadian, and we exchanged a few quick words before I moved on.

Soon enough, I was enjoying the fun and fast five-mile descent into Keyser. Before reaching the descent, a race official had passed me and I saw him at the side of the road, chatting with our crew. I didn’t think I’d see him again, but he caught me on the descent, which I thought was quite the thing, considering that I was really flying down the mountain.

We got through Keyser and on the way to Cumberland, we noticed that the microphone to the P.A. wasn’t working. It had been a problem for the crew on the previous shift, but I thought I had it working again at the start of the stage. It’s important to have a working P.A. to communicate upcoming turns to the rider, especially if they close to each other, or in more populated areas.

While on my pull, I suggested that the van go on ahead to try to find a replacement microphone, since there weren’t a lot of turns to the timestation in Cumberland, and I had studied the route, and had it in my Garmin cycling computer as well.

I passed the timestation and texted my arrival time to the crew, and kept going on my own. Soon enough, I was passed by the van, and made a switch with Tina. The crew wasn’t able to find a working microphone, despite a huge effort on their part, so I set to work on trying to fix ours. I broke out the tools, and clipped away the section of the wire that seemed to be the problem. I figured that since the microphone was working or not working depending on how the wire was positioned, there was probably a problem with either the wire being broken somewhere inside the insulation, or that it was pulled away from a contact point at the switch inside the microphone itself. I spliced the part of the wire that was working directly to the microphone itself, bypassing the bad switch and/or the faulty wiring. Sure enough, it started working again, and thus we were able to use the P.A. for the rest of the race.

Stage Twelve – Hanover, PA to the Finish

Tina and I had the honor of taking the team to the finish line, and I don’t think I got much sleep before this stage, my head filled with thoughts and feelings about the race, and things that we would need to do once we were done. First though, there were about 85 miles to race, and it was nice to get on the road knowing that this was our final stage.

We started just after 1am, and the route was through the countryside, over rolling terrain, where the rollers seem to be short and sometimes steep, making it difficult to get into a rhythm. However, the legs started to cooperate, and we made good time into Mt. Airy, which was the last cutoff and where we would have to serve any penalties. The officials at the timestation were huddled around an inviting fire they were using to keep warm, and we were told that we didn’t have any penalties and we were good to go to the finish!

At around this point, I told David and Brandon that they needed to arrange the pulls so that Tina would cross the finish line. So for my very last segment of RAAM, I got to do 18.3 miles in just under an hour at an average speed of 19.5mph. That got us to the timestation in Odenton, where Tina got on her bike for the final 9.5 miles to the finish.

I got to play DJ for this last part, as Tina had asked Brandon to play Bob Schneider’s “The Other Side,” from the movie “Bicycle Dreams” and “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III, and I took control of the iPod so Brandon could concentrate on his driving duties. I slipped in a little Lady Gaga after those two songs, to keep the energy high.

That got us to the finish line very quickly, and soon enough Rams Head Roadhouse came into view, and Tina took the honor of crossing the finish line. Lonni and Doug were waiting for us in the parking lot, and we soon organized ourselves to do the parade into the finish. It was a real mix of emotions as we approached the dock and the finishing banner. I was very happy and not a little bit tired, but I really enjoyed the medal presentations, and just being able to take in the very last moments of my RAAM experience.

Conclusion

My RAAM ride surprised me in a number of ways.

First, I didn’t expect to get stronger as the ride went on. It wasn’t that I felt bad or anything at the start, but after two days or so, I got some great form that I carried all the way to the finish.

Secondly, I didn’t expect things to go so smoothly, with the bikes and within the team itself. David and Brandon were great support in the van, and they always looked out for our safety and comfort. I couldn’t have done it without them. Our crew chief Sara kept things running so smoothly in the RV that I didn’t have to worry about anything during my rest time. I wouldn’t have been so strong on the bike without being able to get such good rest during my down time. Dan and Jordan kept the RV itself so well maintained, with good grace and humor, even when us riders were making demands of their time and resources. We truly couldn’t have done it without them.

Finally, I was surprised at how well my food and hydration worked during the ride. I ate all sorts of stuff in the van to keep me fueled: sandwiches, yogurt and fruit, potato chips, Chef Boyaredee ravioli, various food bars, Snickers bars and Mountain Dew, and my favorite breakfast, Nutella and banana wrapped in a tortilla. And ingesting all that never ever gave my stomach any problems, and I always had enough food to allow me to ride my best on the road.

Once again, I want to thank our crew for their tireless efforts on our behalf. I want to Doug and Lonni for being such good teammates and with whom we never actually rode with for almost all of the race. They got the work done when we were resting, and we were happy to do the same. I also want to thank Doug for having the dream of doing RAAM, which became our dream as well.

Lastly, I want to thank Tina, for having such a passion for this race that I couldn’t help but be passionate about it myself. It’s such a beautiful race that deserves that passion.

Looking back at RAAM now, my thinking is that this was one of the best experiences of my life. Before the race, I was pretty certain that this would be my one and only RAAM, due to the costs and the amount of effort required to prepare. However, all thoughts of that were forgotten after almost eight days of simply riding my bike, and now I’m just as certain that this is just my first RAAM. I don’t know with whom, how, or when, but I do know simply that I must return.

Mike’s RAAM Report – Part Two

Stage Five – Alamosa, CO to Trinidad, CO

I was looking forward to this stage, as Tina and I were going to cross over two of the three high Rocky Mountain passes, La Veta @ 9418 ft, and Cuchara @ 9939 ft. The only downside was that we were starting in the middle of the night, so we didn’t see much of La Veta, and with a slight headwind combining with the uphill grind, it seemed like I was climbing through molasses. Even so, it wasn’t a difficult climb and soon enough Tina reached the summit and I was ready for the descent. It was a little chilly at the top, and I put on every piece of clothing that I had brought: long-sleeved underlayer and jersey, thick vest, thin vest, Shower’s Pass jacket, leg warmers, long fingered gloves with hand warmers, and shoe covers. Dawn was breaking but it was still dark, so I made sure I took no chances on the downhill. Also, the turn to La Veta would come up quickly, and it wouldn’t do to miss that. As it was, the descent was very enjoyable, and I particularly enjoyed the rolling twisty road just outside La Veta.

Dawn saw us on the climb to Cuchara. The Cuchara pass is one of the prettiest, and it seemed especially so in the early morning light, that is when I was on the bike. In the van, I managed to actually get a quick nap in as I was pretty tired from it still being so early.

I ended up taking the last pull to the summit, and I felt great. While I hadn’t been feeling bad on the bike at all up until this point, I felt like I was starting to get stronger, or more likely, my legs were getting used to the work I was asking them to do. I reached the summit and kept going for the first part of the downhill. It was a great downhill, with Titus and me carving through the winding road as a single unit. The only downside was passing the RV of the two-person Team PKG PedalFreeks, which was in the middle of the road protecting one of the riders who had crashed and was being helped at the side of the road by his crew. I found out later that the rider’s front wheel or what had failed, and he went down pretty hard. They had to pull out of the race, which was sad to hear, but understandable under the circumstances.

There was still a long way from the top of Cuchara Pass to Trinidad, on a rolling road in a river valley, trending downhill. We made good time and I continued to marvel at how good my legs felt on the last short climbs before reaching the timestation in Trinidad.

On the way out of Trinidad, we stopped at an RV park to dump waste and fill up on water. As a special treat, we we able to use a normal shower there, which I pretty much jumped out of my seat to get to. In fact, I was so quick to get there, I forgot to bring any clothing to switch into, so I ended up walking back to RV with my towel wrapped around my waist. No one even said anything, such is life on RAAM.

Stage Six – Ulysses, KS to Pratt, KS

The mountains of western Colorado quickly gave way to the high plains of eastern Colorado and western Kansas. We had a nice long break in Ulysses waiting to start our stage. While we were waiting, we could see storm clouds in the west, clearly moving towards us. I couldn’t get a sense of which direction it was headed, as the weather app on my phone didn’t have such a feature. However, the timestation was manned with volunteers manning a van with an Internet-connected laptop. As it turned out, there were storms all around us, but the one to the west was looking like it would miss Ulysses. Perhaps we would be lucky and not get hit by the storm.

Doug arrived soon after 7pm local time, and we were quickly on the road. My hope of not getting any precipitation was soon dashed, as it started raining lightly, and the winds started picking up, settling into about 20-25 mph crosswind, coming from my 2 o’clock position. With the wind gusts, it was often difficult to control my bike, and most of the time, I felt like I was leaning my bike to the right into the wind.

Even so the rain wasn’t too heavy, but that would change as the edge of the storm caught up to us. First, I noticed the road went from mostly damp to very wet. Then, we made rider switch to Tina, and it really started to pour, and Tina came back into the van to put on more rain gear. Just as we were getting ready to start moving again, a cop came up behind us and warned David that there was a big storm to the south that had golf-ball sized hail and was dumping about 2-3 inches of rain. We didn’t see any hail, but it certainly was raining hard.

The rate of rainfall ebbed and flowed until well after Montezuma, KS, and didn’t seem to let up until we were close to Greensburg, KS. As it was, we decided to do slightly longer pulls, so that we didn’t have to dread getting on the bike in the rain as often. While in the van, I kept checking the weather radar, which seemed to show a rain band following us around. I think it was going about the same speed as us, which probably made it seem to last longer than it would have if we were simply standing still. While I was pretty wet from the rain, I never felt particularly uncomfortable, as the night was still relatively warm, much more so than riding in the rain in California during my winter training.

Another fun thing I noticed on this stage were all the fat frogs in the middle of the road. It reminded me of the old video game, Frogger, where the goal is maneuver a frog across a busy road, while avoid being hit by one of many types of motor vehicles. Anyway, the frogs were numerous and looked very well fed.

While at the Greensburg timestation, we saw the Flying Frenchies, a two-person team, stopped while one of the riders was yelling something at his crew. I don’t know a lot of French, but there were definitely some swear words in there.We got out of the timestation before they did, but they soon passed us on the road, wisely choosing to spend that passionate energy on riding, rather than yelling.

Dawn saw us finish our rather wet stage with the storm clouds dissipating around us. It had been a very difficult one, and now it was time to dry out, get clean and rest up for our next segment.

Stage Seven – El Dorado, KS to Fort Scott, KS

The flat plains of western Kansas started turning into rolling cropland. There were more trees and everything seemed greener. We started in the middle of the day, as Lonni pulled into the RV park we were waiting at just past the El Dorado timestation.

To keep focused, I concentrated more on my power output than I had previously, generally riding the flat sections at about 170-190 watts of power, and turning it up to around 220-230 watts on the uphill parts of the mild rollers. My legs were feeling great, and the 30 minute pulls suited me just fine, giving me a few minutes for the legs to really loosen up, and then about 25 more minutes to keep the pace steady. My heart rate never got very high, certainly not as high as the first day or two, but my power was very consistent. If I had ridden on just heart rate, I might have pushed too hard trying to keep it at the same level, but by using power, I was always in the right zone.

Because we were riding in the daytime, it was pretty warm and the humidity was starting to increase the closer we got to Missouri. I made sure I kept hydrated and caught up on my electrolytes. I was really enjoying doing my strong pulls, and then getting into the van to cool off, eat, and drink.

This was the stage where we started to see more of the Brazilian team. This was our competition, so to speak, as they were the only other four-person mixed time in our age group. At the closest point, we were about a mile behind them, which is pretty close in a 3000 mile race. They were a very experienced team, so it was nice to see that we were doing almost as well as they were, given that our team was comprised of rookie riders.

The only contentious point on RAAM that I had was this stage, as I was under the impression that we would stop on the Missouri side, allowing us to bag a state border crossing. Tina and I hadn’t crossed a border yet, and while I was satisfied with our team effort, it’s nice to have a little goal to set for oneself, and the border crossing was my goal for the day. Naturally I was disappointed that the RV was actually waiting at Fort Scott, in Kansas, where the facilities were better. There was a discussion afterward with our crew chief Sara about this, and I hope, in my tired and disappointed state, that I was able to convey to her that my personal goals for the day weren’t important at all compared to the much higher priority of making sure that the RV was always stopping at the best spot. I think, though, that this underlines the mindset of a rider setting little goals within the larger goal of actually finishing the race.

The only other eventful moment on this stage was missing a turn which required me to get off my bike, get back in the van and get shuttled back to the turn, which we had only gone past by about 200 yards. I could have easily just turned around and rode back to the turn, but that’s against the rules, which are there for our safety. So back in the van I went, and soon enough, I was riding again, reaching Fort Scott just before dark.

Stage Eight – Past Camdenton, MO to the Mississippi River

This stage would see us reach the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, there was a route change near the Mississippi that required both riders to get in the van and drive forward on the course and across the river. Even with that, it was still a long stage.

We started off in the early morning light, tackling the rolling terrain that would take us to Jefferson City, and our first crossing of the Missouri River. There wasn’t much to say about this section, as we were on a busy highway with many fast moving vehicles whizzing by us. Fortunately, the shoulder was ample and with two lanes going in our direction, there was plenty of room for traffic to pass. A highlight of Jefferson City was going right past the state capitol building, topped by a rather nice statue, which turned out to be Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, which I looked up online later. Right after passing the capitol building, I crossed the Missouri River, and I was glad to have the van following me on the narrow and busy bridge. We soon turned off onto a nice country road that generally followed the river. Alongside the road was a nice bike path, and there seemed to be some local bike event going on that was making use of it, as the there were a number of cyclist that were on it. The road even had a turtle or two sunning itself on the warm black surface.

While most of the road along the river was flat, we still had some climbs up and down the bluffs along the river. I quite enjoyed these little hills, being a nice change from the flats, and they allowed me to use my climbing muscles and to also have fun on the quick, steep descents. Wheee!

Tina got to cross the Missouri a couple more times, and in what seemed like no time at all, we were approaching the suburbs of St. Louis. I noticed a lot of turns onto roads that were identified as simply letters: turn left on T, turn right on D, keep straight on Z. Soon we had to make three quick turns in Wentzville, and the van was in front of me, instead of guiding me from behind. It ended up going past the last turn, as I watched in puzzlement. Instead of following, I turned onto the correct street, and found a parking lot and went to the other side, where I had a good view in the direction that the van had gone. Soon enough I saw it coming back and I rejoined it as it passed the parking lot, and soon we were back on course. It wasn’t much of a wrong turn, and I was glad I had studied the route book before I got on the bike for this section, as well as having my Garmin map turned on, with the route that I downloaded to it confirming the turns I had studied.

After some not so fun sections through busy suburban traffic, we arrived at the end of the stage, got in the van, and were shuttled across the Mississippi, which is indeed a very big river.

Mike’s RAAM Report – Part One

This is my slightly random collection of RAAM memories and experiences, mainly what I saw, how I felt, and my feelings as I write this report over a week after finishing. Since Tina and I were riding together, a lot of my on-road notes are likely to be the same as in her wonderful reports. I do hope my meager dispatches adds something more, giving my slightly different perspective on the race.

To start, my only previous RAAM experience was crewing a segment of the 2011 RAAM for 60+ solo rider, David Jones. That was from Durango, CO to Wichita, KS, for about three days. Even though I joined the crew fairly early in the race and left before the half-way point, I could already see the crew suffering from the stresses of sleep deprivation, lack of hygiene, and logistical issues in running the RV and van with a crew that was probably too small.

However, our situation was completely different, riding as a 4x person team. Our crew number was seven, with two RV drivers, Dan and Jordan, and four crew directly supporting the riders. David and Brandon would support Tina and I, while Raoul and Guy would support Doug and Lonni. Our super capable crew chief Sara would keep everything running smoothly. And I’ll say right away that everything ran very smoothly indeed. We had practiced our crew swap transitions until we were a well oiled machine, and our practice weekend in May gave us experience in switching riders on the road and in moving a very large RV from point to point.

Personally, my main questions going into the race were how well my body would physically handle the challenge of riding over 750 miles in about 7-8 days, with only a small amount of time for recovery between our shifts on the bike. This was unknown territory for me, so I approached the racing part of RAAM with no small amount of nervousness at the task ahead.

Also challenging for me was the preparation of the follow van. I’ve had some experience in setting up the van for the Furnace Creek 508, but RAAM is a whole different thing. Going from a two-day weekend event where everything has to be stuffed into a single vehicle, to RAAM, where there’s an RV that can be used to help restock the van meant paring down the stuff that we carried. The practice weekend had also resulted in a list of things to modify or add. The bed that was useful for 508 wasn’t needed as a bed, but became a surface to attach baskets to hold rider items. A clock showing race time, not needed for the 508, was added. By the time we pulled into Oceanside, I felt pretty comfortable with the follow van setup.

Oceanside

Seeing the start line in Oceanside was a particularly memorable experience. There were a number of events to attend, from getting our pictures taken, getting fitted for our finisher’s jerseys, to attending the rider meeting and seeing all the teams that would be on the road with us. It was a whirlwind of activity and I just tried to enjoy each moment as it came, knowing that we would soon be on the road, with Oceanside a distant memory. Race inspection was particularly memorable, as I got to talk with solo veteran Gary Verrill, who was a race official responsible for our inspection. I enjoyed listening to his previous RAAM experiences, as a racer and official, and chatting with him about bikes in general.

Soon enough, we lined up for the start. The two-person teams went first, followed by the four-person teams, with the eight-person teams leaving last. Soon enough, we got to the start line, and were introduced. The announcer shoved a microphone at my face, and asked why we were doing RAAM. Being unprepared to say anything, I stammered out a fairly non-coherent answer and soon enough we were on the road.

We started out with all four of us riding the eight-mile parade, escorted by a cyclist named Jim “The Machine” Dover, who seemed to exemplify the laid-back Southern California lifestyle. I had thought the parade portion along the bike path was going to be fairly mellow, but Jim set a faster pace than I expected. However, we soon settled into a collective rhythm and we quickly reached the end of the bike path, where Doug continued on alone (the race is on!), with Lonni joining the follow fan, and Tina and I with David in the Tracker to meet up with the RV.

Stage One – Almost Brawley, CA to Blythe, CA

The initial plan was for the RV with Tina and I to proceed to Borrego Springs and make the initial shift switch there. However, we were a little slower getting out of town than anticipated and some slight confusion with directions required a change in that plan, with the RV heading out further along towards Brawley. However, that was the only minor navigational mishap, and our excellent RV team of Dan and Jordan very quickly got up to speed with their navigation and were like seasoned RAAM veterans in guiding the RV for the rest of the race.

Getting on the bike to race for the first time was very exciting, and there was a fierce tailwind when Doug finally pulled up beside me. Soon I was flying down the road, and with my cruising speed settling in at over 30mph, I was really enjoying my first pull. I was sad that the tailwinds didn’t last all the way through the shift, as we made the turn onto the highway into Brawley, but we still made good time.

Desert riding at night is very peaceful, but doesn’t always make for interesting riding. I do remember powering through rolling terrain, concentrating on keeping a sensible pace on the short rises, and enjoying the brief downhill sections. I was on the bike when we passed through the U.S. Border Patrol Station in the middle of the night, with the friendly officer waving us through, unsurprised at seeing yet another cyclist and his trusty van passing through.

We reached Blythe at around 12:30am, and with that, there was an exchange of riders and van crew. I concentrated on what would become my recovery ritual, which I would perform in roughly this order:

  1. Get night lights charging, along with phones and Garmin bike computers

  2. Eat some food, and stay hydrated

  3. Cleanup, usually with a shower, sometimes with just a Fresh Wipe when I didn’t have any sunscreen to clean off (e.g. after a night shift.)

  4. Get some sleep

  5. Wake up, eat some more food, and start getting ready for the next stage, clothes, sunscreen (if needed), helmet and shoes

Stage Two – Salome, AZ to Prescott, AZ

It was early in the morning when Lonni pulled into Salome, AZ. I started on my bike immediately as she arrived since it was already 7am local time and I didn’t need to wait for the van. It would would drive over to the RV for the crew swap and would quickly join me on the road.

The road to Congress, AZ, the next time station, was pretty boring, with a long 20-mile perfectly straight section, and the road very gradually rising, punctuated by a short slightly steeper climb near Congress. Tina would take the last pull into Congress, and we went ahead to visit with the volunteers manning the rest stop. There was a pool for hot riders to cool off, popsicles and ice, as well as a place to get a quick shower.

While the road to Congress was not particularly exciting, t was the road after Congress that was to prove more interesting, where we would almost immediately tackle the Yarnell Grade. On paper, Yarnell Grade isn’t a particularly difficult climb. I think I saw most 4-5% grades, and the elevation gain was only about 1,600 ft. However, the temperatures were starting to rise, so we decided to switch riders every mile or so, just to keep from overheating. That tactic worked very well, as I was able to climb hard and fast for about 5-10 minutes and then cool off in the van before my next turn. Before long, Tina had crested the top of the grade, and we went back to our usual 30 minute pulls for a while.

The next part featured another climb out of Wilhoit, where the grades seemed to pitch up a little more than those on the Yarnell Grade. Once again, we kept the pulls a little shorter than usual, and I really enjoyed the up and down winding mountain road more as a result. Pulling into Prescott wasn’t particularly memorable at the time, but afterwards, we would read about the 19 firefighters from here that died in the line of duty fighting the Yarnell Hill fire that started after we had passed through. Truly a huge tragedy that would darken my memories of a wonderful RAAM stage.

Stage Three – Flagstaff, AZ to Kayenta, AZ

This was our first full overnight shift, and the first one that was over eight hours. Our first two stages were about 6 ½ hours, so this was the first real challenge of the race for me, in terms of amount of time and distance, combined with having to be up from dusk til dawn.

Coming out of Flagstaff, there was a short climb, then the road took a downward trend for about 50 miles. As a result, we quickly gobbled up 72 miles in about 4 hours, and reached the Tuba City timestation in the middle of the night.

The next 72 miles were much more difficult. It was dark, this section of the course was mostly trending uphill, and I was definitely getting sleepy and maybe a little cranky while waiting in the van, and was the only time I needed a No-Doze caffeine tablet. To top it off, there was a nice long stretch of road construction, where the surface of the road had been stripped off, leaving it very rough and uneven. Trying to find the least bumpy line was pretty much impossible, so I just gave in to the rattling and hoped that this section would end soon. When it did, I raised a hand in victory at the end of the harsh road conditions and soon enough, I pulled into Kayenta, AZ at the crack of dawn, with the last 72 miles taking 5 hours. We were both tired, and I had no problems sleeping in the RV as made our way to Cortez, CO.

Stage Four – Cortez, CO to Pagosa Springs, CO

This stage would see us enter the Rocky Mountains, and pass the first cut-off point of RAAM, in Durango, CO. I had been riding the Ellis bike mostly up until now, which was outfitted with the very comfy Syntace aero-bars, but now it was time to break out the Titus climbing bike. Even though the Colorado climbs are not particularly steep, the Titus was lighter and equipped with lower gears, and without aero-bars, it had better handling on the descents.

This section was special for me, as it was where I started crewing in 2011, and the short climbs that I saw while driving the van then were much more fun to ride on my bike. We set a great pace, with the help of a slight tailwind, and did 44 miles to Durango at an average speed of 17.2 mph. I’m very proud of our performance through this section. We came through the timestation and with no penalties for our team, there was no need to stop. In fact, we ended up with no penalties at all for the entire RAAM, which was a great accomplishment in and of itself.

The section from Durango to Pagosa Springs saw us cross paths with the eight-person ProWIN team a few times. I always like a good carrot to chase, but their pace was a little too much for me and I let them go up the road. My primary, and really only priority on the bike was to ride at the best sustainable speed without going harder than I had planned, based on power zones that I had established after months of training. I knew there was plenty of road ahead, so I didn’t push any harder than I was already. Given that, as I was doing the last pull into Pagosa Springs, I began to see their follow van up ahead, and sure enough I was closing in. I had a certain sense of satisfaction as I caught them just as we pulled into the timestation, just doing the same pace I had throughout the entire stage

Part Four (and last) of 2013 RAAM- Tina’s Report

Stage “Eleven”: TS 46-48, Grafton, WV- East of Cumberland, MD

When I woke up in the RV to prepare to ride this stage & asked where we were, I was thrilled to be in West Virginia. Challenging hills! Closing in on Annapolis! Whee!

It was a very sunny, humid (of course!), and warm morning. Mike and I got started with a few small warm-up hills then the rest of this ~ 100 mile segment to Cumberland had several 500-1500′ climbs that reminded me of Old La Honda Rd. at home.

It was here that we started passing very tired solo riders. I was so honored to pass RAAM legend Chris Hoppo Hopkinson. That guy is tough as nails. He was one of the ‘stars’ of the 2005 RAAM documentary film, Bicycle Dreams. Bravo, Chris! We passed Maria Parker here, too. I wanted to give her my congratulations & encouragement for overcoming the tremendous challenges of her race, but she pulled into a TS in front of me & I needed to continue on. Bravo, Maria!

I got to climb the last ascent to where the RV was parked about 18 miles outside of Cumberland, MD. Whew, what a great end to a shift: a hot, exposed, warm-water-in-my-bottle, all-alone climb. When I got off the bike & took off my helmet, there was a giant bee-like insect in my hair! No sting, though..:)

Stage “Twelve”: TS 49-54, Hanover, PA- Annapolis, MD

This was a bittersweet stage since it was the last one of RAAM. Part of me didn’t want it to be over, I must admit. Mike and I got on the road about 1:30am en route to Mt. Airy, MD which was about 36 miles down the road. The TS was where penalties are served & we all were very pleased Team Crank It Up again had none :) So we rode on through! The TS is at a very RAAM-friendly bike shop so I was a little sad to miss visiting but RAAM goes on.

It was around here that I passed solo racer, Mike Wilson. Probably the only time in my life I will zoom by a dude with thighs about as big as my waist. Yes, I made sure to savor that moment :) And, of course, yell out encouragement to this brave, tenacious, soon-to-be-a-RAAM-finisher. We rode on through the warm night toward Odenton, MD, about 40 miles from Mt. Airy. The road had a gradual downhill trend with some little ‘bumps’ along the way. I could smell the hay in the barn by this point! Mike did the last long pull into Odenton and then graciously offered to allow me to ride the last 9.5 miles of the timed portion of RAAM.

This was the crown jewel of my RAAM. My legs still felt good (how is that even possible?), Brandon was playing some of my extremely motivational music, and I was ready to spend all I had left in me.

The ride into Ram’s Head Roadhouse was one of the best 9.5 mile rides of my life. The first mile or so I was sobbing with accomplishment & joy listening to Bob Schneider’s The Other Side (from Bicycle Dreams), then all-out hammering to Eye of the Tiger. I was so happy to get the privilege to finish this magnificent thing called RAAM. I hope this satisfaction and resultant personal sense of “anything is possible” never fades.

Friends have asked me if I’ll do it again. Before the race, I said, “Nope, once will be enough.” The all-time great RAAM champion Jure Robic was right when he said that RAAM gets like poison into you. (It’s a good poison, Jure!) The sun will rise tomorrow and a lot of miles & adventure are waiting for me :)

Thanks to the rest of Team Crank It Up for riding your hearts out & meeting our goal of a safe, official finish in “7 days and change”. As rookies, we were neck-and-neck with the other team (with lots of RAAM experience) in our division, which makes me even more proud of us! Mike, Lonni, and Doug were spectacular!

Extra special thanks to our just *phenomenal* crew: Sara, Dan, Jordan, David, Brandon, Guy & Raoul. I am in awe of your beyond-excellent work getting us across!

Thanks lastly to all of you for reading this & taking an interest in this thing called RAAM. I fully realize this is the “lunatic fringe” to most folks, even folks who ride. I hope this at least made you smile and maybe want to get out on your bike and see what adventure awaits you!

Cheers & peace,

Tina

2013 RAAM finisher, Team Crank It Up!

Part Three-2013 RAAM, Tina’s Report

Stage “Nine”: TS 37-39, Effingham, IL-Bloomington, IN

This stage was another over-nighter. This was my most difficult shift of RAAM. The fatigue of riding a lot of the day in hot, humid conditions plus little sleep during a fairly short turnover had a grip on me as our shift passed through rural farm country outside Sullivan, IN and toward Bloomington. I knew how even more important calorie/electrolyte/fluid (CEF) intake would be during this segment given the fatigue that was threatening to consume me. I was using the same Spiz mixture in my bottle on the bike + Ensure off the bike. When my crew called a “pow wow” on the side of the road and said I wasn’t taking enough CEF & they were concerned about safety & could easily call back one of the other riders from the RV to replace me for the rest of this stage, I woke the F up! I got in the van, grabbed some paper & a pen and did a quick calculation demonstrating that YES indeed I had been taking in adequate CEF. There was no way in hell anyone else was going to ride even ONE MILE of my RAAM & I got a little..angry. Which was EXACTLY what I needed! All of a sudden, my focus and clarity were back and I knew what I had to do. RIDE and ride hard. So my 30 minute pull turned into an hour as I hammered up those little rollers and basically rode an hour time trial until I wasn’t so pissed off anymore :)

I thanked my crew afterward for teaching me something new about myself that night. The way to wake me up is to piss me off..

Stage “Ten”: east of Oxford, OH-Athens, OH

We got on shift just west of Lebanon, OH, a cute little town full of civic pride. I am from this area (Middletown; Lonni & Doug rode through there) and it was fun riding through. I knew we had a fan waiting in Chillicothe: Bruce Smith, in whose front yard two years ago, Brandon’s well-meaning attempt at an RV u-turn got us stuck :)

Bruce was our RAAM angel in 2011 & is now a huge RAAM and Team Crank It Up fan. As I rode into Chillicothe in the late afternoon humid heat, I got a unique surprise-a Harley-Davidson escort by Mr. Smith!

We stopped at the Time Station briefly to chat and take pictures. Bruce had all kinds of fun goodies for us: cans of silly string, bubbles, sparkling apple cider, glow-in-the-dark bracelets & a lovely hand-carved picture frame. Brandon found out Bruce doesn’t mind the ruts in his yard. Mike, David, and Bruce got to meet. For me, this was a wonderful but brief infusion of RAAM enthusiasm and fun. I left Chillicothe with a smile on my face and renewed joy in my heart.

The road to Athens held even more magic. As the sun was setting, the lush green grass next to the shoulder began lighting up in lazy pulses of green. Fireflies! What a beautiful treat. We had the pleasure of their company for at least several miles until the road widened & the grass disappeared. We rode into Athens quite late on Friday night. This is a college town and on this night, the streets were full of kids out having fun. They were incredibly supportive-cheering us on.

RAAM is not just a race. It is a journey and a metaphor for life actually, that presents so many opportunities to experience pretty much the entire spectrum of human emotion, connection & growth if one’s heart and mind are open and ready. I came to ride and I came for this.

Part Two of 2013 RAAM-Tina’s Report

 Stage “Six”: TS 23-26, Ulysses- Pratt, KS

As Mike and I waited in the RV in Ulysses for Lonni & Doug, we watched a thunderstorm arrive from the west in front of them. The clouds were fascinatingly beautiful and changing by the minute: purple-gray, and “pimply”. I knew we were going to get some interesting weather on this shift and I was not disappointed.

We got started about 7pm local time. The sky was dark with thick clouds and frequent “heat” lightening in all directions. It had already begun “spitting” on Lonni and Doug. As we headed east further into Kansas, the spitting turned to actual rain with gusty crosswinds of around 20mph. It was warm, though, and I was determined to enjoy the light show!

Soon I needed my rain jacket, so I stopped & put it on. While this was occurring, a local law enforcement officer pulled up behind us, got out and said the weather was going to get “worse” and 2 miles away, there were reports of “quarter-sized” hail. I thought: good thing it’s not hailing here :) Let’s ride. We saw very steady, heavy rain with even stronger winds but no hail that night.

Soon it was time to don my entire “goretex princess” outfit: showercap on helmet, Showers pass jacket, latex exam gloves over the regular ones, goretex pants & goretex socks. My shoes were soggy very quickly in this torrential rain which I could see was coming horizontally in the van’s headlight glow. The road was covered in water; the falling raindrops “bounced” as they hit. I started noticing rather large frogs on the road. Big, fat bullfrogs and more than a few. I giggled as I thought, “OK, this is becoming almost biblical here.”

I was down in my aerobars to get small against the wild wind and realized the hardest part of riding in this was getting out of the van & in IT. Once I was going, I could put myself in “cruise-control” and just go. Mike agreed so we lengthened our pulls to 40-45 minutes and got ‘er done.

Also saw a beautiful (but dead, unfortunately) yellow snake on the road. It was large enough I initially thought it was two of them, mating. Now THAT would have been epic.

By the time we reached Greensburg, the rain had tapered off to a drizzle but the winds kept on giving. Heading into Pratt, the wind backed off as the rising sun pinkened the dissipating storm clouds. They looked like upside down boiling water. As I rode through Pratt looking for the McDonalds which was the Time Station, I felt a strong sense of satisfaction creeping in. We had ridden through the night and through the storm. Yep, this was really RAAM!

Stage “Seven”: TS 28-30, El Dorado- Ft. Scott, KS

This was a hot, humid, rolling stage through what I called the foothills of the Ozarks. As we progressed east, the rollers became more pronounced and I noticed fewer grain silos. We experienced a minor turn mishap just west of Ft. Scott, but quickly realized the error & packed Mike and his bike into the van to get us back on course. By the end of the stage, it was past 7pm local time so we were back in direct-follow mode.

Stage “Eight”: TS 32-35, Camdenton, MO-Mississippi River

This stage crossed the Missouri River three times through hilly green countryside. I recall riding more or less parallel to the river which was on my right for a long stretch. There was a very nice elevated bike path to the left of the road which had fairly heavy bike traffic on it for a weekday. It turned out that there was a local cycling event going on (yay, local Missouri cyclists!)

There were several surprisingly steep little hills east of Jefferson and east of Washington, MO. Due to local flooding, the RAAM route detour had us get into the van in St. Peters, MO and be driven across the mighty Mississippi into Alton, IL where Lonni & Doug got back out on the road. Both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers were very high. The water was up at mid-tree level on the banks. So much water!

Part One of Tina’s 2013 RAAM Report

2013 RAAM Report-Tina Waitzman

Team Crank It Up!

6/26/13

Stage “One”: East of Borrego Springs-Blythe, CA

Stage 1 (prologue):

The starting parade–

Jim “the machine” Dover, from Temecula, CA, was our team escort. He led us on his bike through the first several miles after a staggered start. RAAM rules say a maximum of 15mph during this non-racing section. Apparently 22 is the new 15! We were a smoking fast train along the San Luis Rey bike path which runs along an old winding levy kind of thing out of Oceanside (my guess is an old RR track). It was so great to finally be underway! At the point where the racing began, Lonni got into the follow van, Mike and I got into the “errand” vehicle (the Tracker) which took us back to the RV which had not left the hotel (all going according to our plan). Off to Borrego Springs in the RV. Except Lonni and Doug got there faster than the RV did! So our first exchange was between Borrego Springs & Brawley.

 

East of Borrego Springs-Blythe :

 

The RV, our mothership, was quite a bit slower over the mountains than expected; Doug & Lonni beat us to Christmas circle. They kept going until the RV caught up. Mike and I were more than ready to ride when we did our 1st of many complete exchanges and my RAAM really began!

I got on Candy 2.0 (yes, my bike has a name!) for my first pull and quickly settled into a “high endurance” to “tempo” zone. The heat (high 90s to low 100s) was very manageable while wearing my long sleeved white jersey with a camelbak filled with ice water. I kept my sleeves saturated and it worked like a charm to keep me cool enough to push hard. I was down in my aerobars riding a very strong tailwind, flying along. THIS was the way to begin my RAAM!

Some things one notices more when out on the bike rather than in the van:

Imperial Valley is so incredibly unnatural- heavily irrigated, green, stank of fertilizer/chicken manure, lots of bugs, even a cattle egret (in the DESERT). Just wrong. Although the temperature dropped at least a few degrees, I was glad to get out of there.

Off the bike in Blythe for food & a nap!

Stage “Two”: TS 5-7, Salome – Prescott, AZ

Mike and I got on “shift” in the morning and rode through the Arizona desert as the sun came up and the day began to heat up. We really got very lucky. The high was only 102, there was a nice breeze on Yarnell Grade which kept the suffer factor down, and our wise crew took us down to 20 minute pulls. Neither one of us had any setbacks & climbed strong up the Grade and then into Prescott. The TS at Congress was a hoot & I was lucky to be off the bike then to enjoy a cold/wet towel straight from their pool & some delicious watermelon. Love the Bullshifters!

Stage “Three”: TS 9-11, Flagstaff-Kayenta, AZ

This shift was an all-nighter that began at dusk & ended after dawn. The descent out of Flagstaff was very fast, straight, and major fun. There was very little moon with solid darkness except for thousands of stars keeping me company. Our wonderful crew, Brandon & David put on my tunes & allowed me to really enjoy myself. We got down to Tuba City riding a nice tailwind then gradually climbed back up to Kayenta, arriving around dawn. This stretch of road was where Maria Parker’s van/bikes were rear-ended and totalled a few days before. Joan Deitchman’s van was also rear-ended on this road in 2012. I was happy to have an uneventful trip here. From the Time Station, I could see a few monoliths which mark the entrance to Monument Valley. Lonni and Doug got the honor & privilege to ride through this sacred place at sunrise.

Stage “Four”: TS 14-16, Cortez-Pagosa Springs, CO

The next Time Station after Cortez was Durango, CO, which was our first RAAM cut-off point. Of course, we wanted to hammer it into Durango to see by how much we could beat that cut-off! I was pretty happy with ~ 10hrs. Mike was on the bike through Durango. We had accrued no penalties, so we didn’t need to stop.

This shift was a bit of a “warm up” for the high Rockies soon to come. My legs felt great as I pedaled up, over, and down several hills. Most of them were very gradual climbs which reminded me of the top section of Tunitas Creek, minus all the curves. The little climb out of Wilhoit was a bit of a kicker, though. I had to laugh; it was certainly no Quinnhill! It was sunny, breezy, and in the 80s with a stunning mix of puffy white and gray-purple clouds; another day in RAAM paradise.

Stage “Five”: TS 18-20, Alamosa- Trinidad, CO

This shift was another graveyard one. Began in the dark on a very gradual, long climb up La Veta Pass, el. 9426′. The temperatures were in the 60s to begin, which was just perfect. As we climbed higher, it got a bit cooler but was still comfortable with arm warmers & a vest. Once again, the weather gods were smiling. It was only 44 (could easily have been freezing with precipitation) at the top and the sky was clear and full of stars. I consider myself super fortunate in that I got to ride to the summit of this magnificent pass with birds singing at high volume as the eastern sky was just beginning to lighten. I could begin to see the lush green hues of the different trees that make up the dense La Veta forest that blankets the earth up here. It felt very right to scatter some of my Bumble’s ashes at the summit. His ever-adventurous spirit belongs in this beautiful place. He would be sure to stir up some trouble :)

After donning a jacket, toe/hand warmers and full-coverage gloves, we descended into the town of La Veta very quickly and then began the surprisingly narrow, twisty ascent of Cuchara Pass, el. 9938′. The road looked like a driveway in some spots; it was that low-profile. We passed a property whose gorgeous fence I recalled from my crossing two years ago. It was a beautiful structure of stone and wood with just enough pattern repetition to please the eye. The sun was well into it’s rise with birdsong going full blast, a light breeze, and everything so vividly green it almost hurt my eyes. Mike rode to the summit of this beauty. We stopped briefly and scattered more of the Bumble’s ashes so he could investigate all those little birds :)

The descent off Cuchara was just as twisty & narrow and seemed to carry some bad juju. I flatted but fortunately I caught it while the tire was soft, not completely flat. The crew had noticed my tail light was too dim so they pulled me over to give me a new one; I checked my tires as I always do & discovered the soft front tire. The crew quickly changed out the wheel & I was on my way again. Further down the descent, we came upon a German rider who had crashed when his front wheel malfunctioned (the language barrier made more details difficult). His crew was taking care of him while he lay on the side of the road, looking ashen. They had already called 911 and had him bundled up in a blanket using their own body heat to warm him. I still do not know how he did; I hope he’s home and recovering.

We pulled into the Trinidad, CO Time Station mid-morning. I got off my bike & there was my CTS coach, Dave McIntosh! Since he lives in Colorado Springs, I had never met him in person before. What a thrill and extra motivation. Thanks, Dave for making a long, early morning drive just for a brief visit with Lonni, myself, and the rest of our team.

Last thoughts for the Team

Early on as a team we decided on three goals for our race:

· Be Safe

· Keep it Simple

· Ride with Intent

I think we accomplished all three and more.

At no time do I think that safety was an issue. Although we all know that riding the white line is dangerous no matter where we are, I think we were courteous with the public and didn’t offend. We were fortunate that the weather cooperated and didn’t require us to make any safety decisions. All actions were performed under control, so there were no decisions that put anyone in warm.

As we all saw some teams were huge, with multiple RV’s and support vehicles, which required many people to make things happen. We kept our team small and focused on moving forward versus complicating things trying to go faster. We kept it simple and used teamwork with everyone working together, intelligently. RAAM is an enormous task with lots of logistics, tactical decisions and moving parts. I commend Sara for coordinating our team and also applaud each team member for fulfilling their role to the best of their ability, whether pedaling the bike, driving, or performing minor tasks, we all worked together focusing on our goals. And we did it while building bonds and making friends versus adversaries who won’t talk to each other after.

We heard the RAAM motto “this is not a tour”, and we took that to heart. I am really amazed at how all of the riders were able to continue to push through the heat, cold, wet and wind, from start to finish without any debilitating injuries, ailments or illnesses (maybe a sore butt). We all managed our nutrition, hydration, electrolytes and intensity to be able to reach the finish in strong and in good spirits. My personal thought was that the route was not hard, but it took mental toughness, fortitude, and trust in our legs. We each had prepared ourselves for the challenge and rode into unknown territory and faced it without fear of failing. We surpassed our goal of averaging 15mph by averaging 16.17 mph and gave the Brazilian team a run for their money. Even though they had a 2nd follow vehicle and over a dozen RAAM races under their belt.

I have to commend everyone for doing their part and pulling together to be a united team. All of you have heard about or were on RAAM teams that had “issues” which made for great story telling after the race. They had to do with poor planning, uninformed crew, un-prepared crew, poor personalities. I could go on and on. One can say that this team was “boring”, we didn’t have all these stories of what went wrong, who fought with who or how anyone of the team failed. This is admirable and I’m very thankful that you were all able to be part of these memories that will be cherished for a long, long time.

Reflections…

I really wish I could blog on the road…most of this, I should have said days ago, but it is really difficult to put more than two coherent thoughts together when crewing RAAM.  All you can think about is where are the next 4 time stations?  What is the estimated time of arrival for the riders at each of them?  Where is the RV going to meet the follow van to make a crew/rider switch?  If it is not a Wal Mart parking lot, is there enough room for the RV to get in and out safely?  Do we have a hot meal planned for the next full exchange of crew/riders?  What are the shopping needs for this and the next 24 hours?  What is the weather like now, in 4 hours, in 24 hours?  Are any alerts, detours, cautions given out by RAAM HQ still in effect?  Does Doug have enough Gatorade, PB&J’s and wafer cookies?  Does Lonni have enough blueberries, mini wheats and a can of coke?  Where are Mike and Tina’s Ensure, Mountain Dew and turkey sandwiches?  How much laundry is piling up, and where and when do we have enough time to find a laundromat?  Answering questions on the rules? Making sure that the great suggestion that was just made is doable and will not go against any RAAM rule…and so on…and so on…

This is RAAM crew experience #4 for me, and I am sincere in saying that each crew experience (RAAM or other ultra-endurance/personal challenge event) changes my life.  Each time, I get to meet and work with exceptional people who each have unique abilities, personalities and talents which come together for a common goal.  This year was no exception.

Dan and Jordan…what an amazing team of big rig drivers/navigators/maintenance/fix it guys/and more.  These gentlemen landed the mother-ship (aka the RV) each time in a new location to swap out riders/crew, obtain supplies, and helped to make this RAAM experience one of the safest, calmest and most comfortable ever!  Getting sleep and a shower before Day 3 is almost nearly unheard of in my experiences….Thank you, Dan and Jordan!  I’d love to think hat I might see you both again one day to crew another adventure.  I know though that the best and smartest crew members get the experience, give their all to the end goal, and then back away slowly until it’s safe to turn and run.  :-)  You are definitely smart, so you both may decide to cheer from a distance next time.  These guys survived on bagels, coffee, Starbucks fraps and nighttime driving cookies….

Guy and Raoul:  These boys worked hard and long shifts…some day shifts in the heat, wind, storms and some at night in the dark, with creepy wildlife running across the road.  They reminded their riders to eat even when they didn’t want to or were too tired.  Based on the depletion of rations in the RV, these boys survived their follow van shifts on Diet Coke, ibuprofen, pretzels and Fritos. When I told them I could not find any pretzels while shopping in Pratt, Kansas, I received the message that they were turning around for Oceanside.

Brandon and David:  These gentlemen also worked incredibly long shifts; sometimes longer than expected due to weather conditions, mechanicals, and other unexpected hold ups.  They calmly took everything in stride and handled all issues smoothly and seamlessly.  Both were able to do this because they were totally able to turn off and shut down when they stepped back into the RV for rest breaks.  I’ve never seen anyone better able to wind down quickly and rest like David and Brandon.  Other than Brandon’s Nutella sandwiches and a random turkey sandwich, I’m not really sure what else these guys used to fuel themselves in the follow van.

I consider myself very lucky to have had such and experienced, motivated and dedicated crew.  Rest well, gentlemen…you never know what Doug, Lonni, Mike and Tina may come up with in the future…

~Sara~