Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shift #5: Across the Mississippi

I normally like to get up 2-3 hours before a shift so I have time to wake up a bit, have some coffee, real/solid food, and to mentally prepare myself for the onslaught that is a 5 hour RAAM shift.  With the numerous bathroom stops the day prior, this cut into sleep time, and at best, I was looking at about 3.5 hours.  I decided to wake up about 1h45m before the shift start instead, so I set the alarm accordingly.  Well, even during RAAM is the snooze bar my friend.  I hit it a few times without even realizing it, and then I had a holy sh!t moment when I realized it was already an hour before our shift started.  I jumped out of bed, and starting running around like a mad man trying to prepare everything.  Fortunately, I did a lot of that stuff the night prior, but still, I was in a frenzy.

After the dust settled, I was still barely awake.  My eyes were about halfway open.  We were probably going to be late by a few minutes to take over from J&A (never cool).  But the worst part was that we were riding at rush hour.  Here's why riding at rush hour absolutely sucks:

* The roads we were riding on were single lane roads (each side), where cars still drive about 60mph
* Riding at rush hour (6am at the time) means that teams need to follow night rules, meaning the rider needs to stay within the headlights of the follow vehicle.  This isn't so much of a problem, except:
* On these single lane roads, the follow vehicle is moving along much slower than how traffic would like to move
* Now that we are east of CA/AZ/CO, drivers REALLY don't like cyclists
* There is a RAAM rule that states that if a follow vehicle is seriously impeding the flow of traffic, then the vehicle AND rider must pull over to let traffic pass
* It was pretty foggy

So, here I was, groggy, cranky, with lots of angry drivers behind us.  Recipe for disaster.

I think I was on my second pull, and I was going up a roller at about 13mph.  I had no visibility into the traffic building up behind me, but the follow vehicle did.  So, as I am climbing this hill, one of the guys in the FV pulls out the bullhorn and yells "RYAN"

It scared the crap out of me!  I instinctively just yelled back "WHAT!?" and immediately came to a stop.  I was totally shell shocked.  It reminded me of a father yelling his kids name to scold him because it was just so damn BOOMY.  Wei (crew member), told me to keep going, but to pull over at the first place I was able to to let traffic pass.  What Wei didn't realize is that I was half asleep still, cranky, that there was no wind to prevent me from hearing him, and that the volume on the bullhorn was too loud.  We eventually got to a stop sign, and I let him know to back off a bit!

We eventually got out of town, and into the corn fields.  By this time, I was awake, not cranky, and ready to rip the flats, and rip the flats I did!  I was in a much better place now, and like I said before, I love crankin on them!

Digging deep to keep it above 30mph:

A quick shot out to DeSoto Sport, one of our sponsors.  I was one of 4 ViaSat racers who used the arm coolers, and let me tell you, they are THE REAL DEAL.  These things definitely work really well when its hot out.  In a way I was shocked at how well they work, but in a way I wasn't since everything DeSoto makes is top notch.

As we exited the corn fields, it was time to cross the Missippi, and I wanted the 7 mile pull.  About 1 mile into it, I got my third flat of the race on the same wheel (rear).  Fortunately, the follow vehicle was right behind me, and I quickly got out, and grabbed a spare wheel, and kept on going.  As I approached an intersection, the light turned yellow, but since it was daytime, I could ride ahead without needing to be in the FV headlights.  I was hammering along on the side of the road when I just couldn't navigate through the minefield of road debris, and got a flat on my front wheel.  F!  2 flats in one pull! WTF!  Since the follow vehicle was back stuck at the red light, I had to sit on the side of the road and wait for them to get *another* spare wheel.

I eventually crossed the great Mississippi, and handed it off to Tobias.  The Mississippi marks the unofficial start to racing, and I was officially starting to get a little tired.  We had an hour left in our shift, and I couldn't feel happier.

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