After we handed it off to Larry and Kevin, we headed east through West Virginia, and stayed just over the border in Hancock, Maryland. We checked into our hotel at about 2pm to rest up for our final shift at 11pm EDT. This was essentially the calm before the storm.
I didn't sleep much, but I did rest a lot. In the 4 hours before the shift, I put down two plates of brown rice pasta dishes I brought to top off the tanks and be ready for battle. We met A&J promptly at 11, and Tobias took the first pull. It was now officially time to empty the tank.
Jeremy and Andrew, our fastest guys and best climbers, opted to help us out on this one hill we were on, each doing an additional pull after their 5 hour shift was finished. I felt like I wanted to pay it forward to Larry and Kevin, but didn't want to make that public in the event that I couldn't.
The shift was generally fun since it was at night, and I felt like I was climbing much better than I was doing on the flats. The flats just HURT, whereas I had no problem taking a 700ft climb in the middle of the shift. Michelle and Desi joined us for part of our shift, and as much as you are sick of seeing pictures of me riding, I am posting this one to remind Dave and Michelle that they almost got themselves killed taking it!
Most of this shift was flat, and I revisited something on this shift that I did "randomly" last year, and on Ohio. As I was cranking along on the flats, everything just hurt, but I refused to let up the pace/effort. I eventually "boiled over" and just screamed - out in the middle of nowhere, at no one. I ended up asking Wei about it after the race, if he ever just heard me yell. He said Yeah, and the FV always wondered what was going on with me. "Pain - get ready for it next year" I told him.
As time went on, we went through gettysburg, and sunlight started to show towards the end of our shift at 4am. Tobias did a long pull as his last one, and while I was waiting, Larry and Kevin drove by, saying they were going to meet us up the road.
I had been pacing myself accordingly throughout the shift to have the tank completely empty, and I knew I had one last pull to end my RAAM, possibly forever. I asked Larry to only go 2 miles up the road, but by that time, they were already 4 miles up. I know I had to dig, since this 4 mile pull was going to hurt like no other.
TIME TO EMPTY THE TANK.
Tobias got to the intersection, gave some words of encouragement, and off I went. Oh, it hurt so bad, but felt so good. When you are hurting this bad, everything hurts, and after every pedal stroke, you are just praying that you will see their car around the next corner. Finally, I saw their blinking lights, and completely unleashed everything I had. I came roaring up to their car at about 32mph, and because night exchanges have to happen in the headlights of a car, immediately slammed on the brakes. It took me about 30 seconds of heavy breathing and not moving before I could even swing the leg over the bike and walk it back , and I knew there was no way I could help them out in their shift.
I had finally done something everyone talks about, and something I have never done - completely emptied the tank. I didn't have one more pedal stroke in me at that time. It was a great feeling to know that I gave it MY ALL, and that I have NOTHING left to give. I got in our truck, and we headed towards Annapolis for the finish line escort. The work was done.