Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Post Race Stuff

I just wrote thousands of words (about 8 grand) to describe the Race Across America from my perspective.  Sometimes those words come easy, and sometimes I know that whatever I type, it simply doesn't do the justice.  I wish that everyone could experience something like RAAM. It's just so frekkin cool!

Everyone has asked me how it compared to last year.  It's hard to say - last year was my first year, and everything was new.  This year, I tried to improve upon what I did last year, and I also rode a different shift, despite their being overlap between my shift this year, and my shift last year.  This year meant more in a way because of the challenges I had just getting to the start line, and the challenges we had during the race with Tobias.  But also too, I knew that I gave it my absolute all this year, mentally and physically, and had more fun in a way because I knew I wanted to enjoy & document it a little more.

Was it a success?

We were faster this year, by a whole .01mph / 44 minutes.  At first, this is a little disappointing since we were a much stronger team than last year.  But, it was a different course this year, arguably more challenging because we stayed in Colorado for some more climbing, as opposed to dropping down into New Mexico.  Although staying in CO is less miles to travel south to NM, RAAM also added a 50 mile stretch in AZ that wasn't there last year.

Also, even though TT1 beat us, they beat us by less this year, 4h15m, as opposed to 7h last year.

Then there is the minutia of comparing time station data from 2009 and 2010.

When Tobias was feeling good, all I know is that TT1 and us held each other to within a few minutes.  Sometimes we beat them, sometimes we beat them, but it was never by more than 5 minutes.

Team4Mil

Like I said before, it was great having Team4Mil so close for the first third of the race.  This brought a nice element of actual racing that was a lot of fun.  Their team captain was interviewed by the durango herald, and he said this:

"We were doing a fine job," he said. "We were right on the verge of catching the second-place team, and we were probably 45 minutes from catching the first-place team, which previously set a course record."

Yes, 4Mil was definitely doing a fine job, but there wasn't a chance in hell that they would have caught us, or TT1 (Even James Stout from TT1 thought the same).  When J&A handed off to us in AZ, we had a 3 minute lead, and when Tobias and I were done, we put 15 minutes into them.  Larry & Kevin, then Brad &John continued to do the same.  But that's OK, because I like it when people talk trash through the web, just as TT1 did a few times.

Communication

Communication during RAAM is comedic.  Andrew and I would text about shift changes sometimes.  At a shift exchange, sometimes we would converse, sometimes we wouldn't.  Then, Tobias and I would talk through Dave when on shift.  When we should do a shift exchange with Larry & Kevin, again, sometimes we would talk, sometimes we wouldn't.  Then with Brad & John, we conversed more via facebook than anything.  Hell, when we parted ways in O'side, we said "See ya in Annapolis" because that's really the next time we would!

Numbers

3005 miles
100,000+ ft of elevation gain
54 time stations
Apx. 700,000 pedal strokes
12 states
7GB worth of pics and videos
Lifetime of memories

Course Profile

Ever wondered what the course profile is for RAAM?


Recovery

The race is basically 5.5 days / 400 miles of threshold work for me (A "crash" block in Joe Friel speak).  My legs felt like they could have pedaled through a brick wall about 3 days after the race - bulletproof.  It's a great feeling let me tell you!  Recovery is actually very easy - just sleep as much as possible for as long as it takes.

Swimming?

Back when my knee was acting up, I wasn't cycling everyday, and I sure wasn't running.  So, to get some exercise, I was swimming quite a bit.  Chuckie (half jokingly) called me "the fastest swimmer ever to do RAAM", telling me that no one shows up to Le Tour bragging about 10K swim weeks!  We laughed at it then, I still laugh at it now.

The Team

We had a great team this year, all of whom have bios here.  They are:

Jeremy "Toro" Gustin
Andrew "Metal" Danly
Tobias "Turbo" Panek
Me
Larry "The Godfather" Bice
Kevin "Quasimoto" Hunter
John "Tynee" Tyner
Brad "Gorilla" Exmeyer

I can't thank these guys enough for being my teammates.  A big thanks goes to Kevin for giving me the final push to be "in" for this, and for having my back when my knee was troublesome.

The Crew

Without our incredible crew (funny bios) none of these would be remotely possible.  A big thanks to Dave our driver.

Finally

Talking about RAAM, especially with those who have done it this year and last, never gets old.

Would I do it again?  If we could ride to win, WITHOUT A DOUBT.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The finish line

Although the race ends at the dock, all racers must stop at a shell station to get an escort from an official.  I had about 4 hours to kill between our last shift and the escort, so I checked into the hotel, showered, continued not shaving for an entire week, got some food, and went over.

My tank was seriously emptied.  I half jokingly said that if the car goes over 15mph, I would get dropped!  It was all small chain ring soft pedaling for the 4.2 miles to the dock.

Officially at the finish line:


Cyclists making fun of a triathlete and an aerobar water bottle holder:



Like I said - "The only thing that is less spectacular than the start is the finish."  You be the judge:

Starting line crowd:


Finish line crowd - our crew:


There's no cheering fans, no stadium seating, none of that.  Again, its the anti-Ironman / triathlon, and I kinda like that.  There's a few race officials, your team's crew, and maybe a few random people walking around.



For us, it was a little different since Team4Mil, who dropped out of the race because one of their crew members fell asleep driving their RV and crew/riders sustained injuries, came to watch us finish.  I thought this was really cool because we were neck and neck for a about the first third of the race.  We all shook hands, and it was great to see them.

However, it wasn't all cool.  When teams finish, they stand up on stage, say a few things, get medals, and then leave the stage.  RAAM wanted Team4Mil to get up on stage with us, and their team captain had the mic, and said some things.  Some of the things he said were good, things like "spirit of competition" and such, and how they look forward to racing against us next year. 


But you know what, get off the stage.  Give us our 10 minutes of glory on our own stage, and maybe address us from below, or when we are off stage.  Don't steal our thunder.  But, more on this in the next post.

We were all a little like "huh?", but got over it pretty quickly, signed the RAAM banner, and went back to the hotel to take the stickers off the trucks!  Yeah, there is no glamour after finishing RAAM - back to work!  We all hung out drinking beers, cleaning up the trucks (some more than others), finally got some food and drank more beers, then I passed out for a while. I got up later, got more food and drank more beers, and finally passed out for good. Let me tell you - post-RAAM sleep is hands down the best sleep anyone could get!

This cheer took lots of energy, trust me:



The next post is the final one (finally)...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Shift #7: WV/MD Border to just past Gettysburg

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.

Shift #6: Ohio

The drive from MO to OH was kind of a blur, I don't remember anything significant happening during the ride.  All I knew was that I was really tired, and that we were driving to OH, so I tried to get a lot of shut eye in the back of the truck.  If I remember correctly, I think I did a good job in doing so (can ya tell fatigue was settling in?).  I was kind of excited because our next shift in OH was from 2am - 7am and I dig riding at night.  Honestly, I don't remember where we stayed in OH, or much about the hotel.  We were approaching the final stretch, and just like last year, things started getting blurry.

The first few hours were fairly uneventful (I think), with rolling hills, and dropping temperatures.

As the sun was starting to come up, it was revealing the layers of fog that we could only see with the FV headlights.  This was a pretty cool part of the shift because it was a flat to rolling "course", and you would go in and out of the fog banks.  Really neat stuff.  This pic doesn't do proper justice, but trust me, rolling through a fog bank with nothing but the FV headlights, and the slightest of glows from the sun is pretty cool!



The shift was kind of fun , and it was a shift I was looking forward to because of riding at sunrise.  Last year, I looked forward to the "sunrise shift" because while a lot of people were hitting their snooze bars and wondering how many cups of coffee they were gonna need to wake up, I was riding my bike in the Race Across America. Bad ass.  This is the stuff that keeps me ticking, but that is a whole other post by itself.

About 90 minutes later, Dave snapped this great picture of Tobias and I right after an exchange.


With the sun right over the horizon, I looked over just in time to catch it there and started thinking about how lucky I am in life to have the abilities and opportunities to do this.   Few people are blessed with the physical and mental abilities to do this, along with the external support from sponsors.  My good friend, and arguably one of the coolest dudes on the planet, Homa, told me before the race to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.  He then corrected himself: twice in a lifetime.  It is seriously times like this where I feel life is being lived.  I am truly lucky.

I got in the truck, and Dave and I drove about half a mile, and HAD to stop over to take this pic:



One exchange hour later - still lovin:


A little bit, those deep, philosophical thoughts were wiped away with reality, and it might have been one of the funniest parts of the race.

There was a detour from the route book, and a lot of confusion.  Long story short, I just did a 5 mile pull, Tobias & the FV got lost, and 2 minutes later, I was put back on course so we didn't lose any time.  As I approached a small hill, off to the left I started hearing dogs bark.  I didn't think much of it because even if the dogs weren't on a leash, this person had a huge yard, and there was no way they were going to catch me. 

What I didn't realize is that a little hill was blocking my view because when I crested, there was a pitbull coming at me in an ALL OUT SPRINT barking ferociously.  Let me tell you I dropped the proverbial hammer like my life depended on it, because I think it did!  I would have loved to have a power meter on the bike to see how many times over my power multiplied. 

Right before he got to the road, the dog slammed on his brakes so hard that he actually kicked dirt into the road. It was surprising that he stopped so sudden (but maybe b/c he know he didn't have a chance catching me ;)  I looked back at the FV, and was all smiles and laughing at this situation.  I later learned that the FV actually swerved towards the dog (protect the rider at all costs) - thank god!!!  I crested the hill nearly in tears from laughing, and when Dave picked me up, he was like "Uh, why were you laughing so hard?!"

I told Dave to put Tobias out there for 6-7 miles since he was close to feeling 100%, and I was starting to get pretty cooked.  Well, when we went to pick him up at about mile 7, I looked at my bike to get on it, and SOB, I had my 4th flat (3rd on the rear).  F!  I realized this as Tobias was closing in at 200 yards at about 25mph, so I had to tell him to keep going.  Honestly, I didn't feel bad because I had shouldered the load for the past 3 shifts, and he had arguably the freshest legs in the damn race!

The rest of the shift was all about digging deep to hand off to Larry and Kevin so that they could continue our fast pace through Ohio (despite a few navigational miscues).

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.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shift #4: Pratt, KS to 10 mi past El Dorado, KS

After navigating through a gnarly rain storm, we arrived in Pratt, Kansas around 2-3am.  I realized that this was the hotel Larry and I stayed in last year in Kansas as group #3.  But wait, as group 2 we would be riding about the same area as I did in Group 3 last year?  This means we are already hours faster than we were last year.  SWEET.

Tobias still wasn't feeling all that great and was still unable to keep in anything liquid or solid.  Shift #3 was basically a recovery day for him, and it was appearing that shift #4 would be the same.

As usual, we underestimated Jeremy and Andrew, and they shot past our hotel, but we still started our shift on time.  Unlike last year where it was 105 degrees with 100% humidity for third shift, it was only 85 degrees with 90% humidity for us riding 10am-3pm local time.

That doesn't mean it was "cold" though.  In true nerd fashion, I was using the angled A/C vents to point right into my helmet when I was in the truck b/c it was too much of a pain to take it off and put it back on all the time:


I knew Tobias wasn't feeling well, and with the flat roads we had on this shift, I had no problem shouldering the load again.  Unlike most people, I frekkin love riding my TT bike, and I love riding in the TT position.  I am about the only person I know that enjoys riding in the aerobars for 5 hours at a time.  Now, put me on terrain where I get to HAMMER in the aero position on flat roads?  Word.

One little hazard about Kansas is the kamikaze bugs.  Every once in a while, one would hit me in the chest or helmet, and it would literally feel like someone was hitting me with a rock!  After getting beat up on one pull, I was telling Dave about it, and not one second after I finished, a kamikaze flew right into our windshield, where he stayed for the rest of the trip:



No offense to anyone from Kansas reading this blog, but there isn't much to see here.  It's flat, there's lots of corn, and that's about it.  I'm not gonna lie - the shift was relatively boring.

The highlight of the shift was when I was did a 30 minute pull.  We were supposed to do an exchange right at a turn so that I wouldn't get lost, but unfortunately due to a course detour, Tobias and Dave weren't at the turn, so I was relying on the follow vehicle to guide me.  I was out there for about 20 minutes (long by our standards), when I realized that something must have happened.  I figured they made a wrong turn and got lost.  Hey, it's a 3,000 mile race - this stuff happens.  But, surprisingly, I was cool with that because I was firing on all cylinders, and then some.  The follow vehicle was calling me a rock star through the bull horn, and I was lighting up the town of Maize KS (original, huh?).  I was having an absolute blast!  Eventually, Tobias and Dave drove past me, and Tobias stuck his head out the window and said "Hey, we got you a cheeseburger!"  I wasn't really sure how to respond, but I was ready to get off the bike! They finally drove up far enough and we did the exchange.  Dave said Tobias wasn't feeling well, and had to stop and use the restroom.  He also confirmed the cheeseburger was for me.  Being very lactose intolerant, consuming cheese in that weather would have put me in the same spot as Tobias, so I passed on it.  The rest of the shift went really well - blazing through the corn fields and highways of Kansas.

After the shift, I did my normal recovery stuff:

* Take a "shower" using baby wipes in the backseat
* Consume premade bags of whey protein and amino acids with some high glycemic carbs
* Throw on compression pants
* Ice my left knee
* Stretch my legs
* Elevate my legs
* Self Massage

Being in the nosebleed (3rd) seat of our suburban, this is what a third of RAAM (basically, the driving portion of an off shift) looked like for me:


When I would feel a little saucy, I would really stretch out my legs to the roof:


It's a good thing a 5 hour shift can take a lot of you, or else I'd actually be bored!

Now, riding in the heat and humidity of Kansas, one would need to take some additional salt during a shift, which I did.  But after the shift and my normal recovery stuff, I opened up a liter of V8.  5 minutes later, I killed the entire thing!  DAMN! I guess I didn't take in nearly enough salt during the shift...

We stopped at a grocery store about an hour after the shift to get some food.  Dave made his way to the deli portion of the store, and tried ordering a few things from the menu.  Unfortunately, he was denied every time ("we don't have that").  So, he mulled it for another moment, and then asked "Do you have anything that isn't fried?"  It literally took the woman about 10 seconds to respond, and all she had was a taco salad.  This was the first instance of many where I said "We aren't in California anymore".

Here we are, looking like old men, hanging outside of the local store, eating, and watching the world go by:



Tobias was still feeling like crap, and we were stopping literally about every 30 minutes for him to use the bathroom.  A few hours later, we stopped at a walmart for more food, and I finally suggested that we find a hospital for him.  Everyone agreed.  We tried stopping at a few ER's along the way to Missouri, but all were kind of crowded.  We made the decision that the best course of action would be for Dave to bring him to a hospital at our destination (Washington, MO).  It would be around Midnight, and there should be significantly less people waiting for doctors at that point.  It proved to be a sound decision, since Tobias was treated immediately with 2 bags of IV.


The doctors realized that he had a stomach flu.  After speaking with his wife, he learned that a bunch of people on their street had the same thing.  Lesson learned: fence yourself off from society before any kind of race - especially RAAM!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shift #3: Alamosa, CO to (Almost) Trinidad, CO

We stayed in South Fork Colorado (I like calling it sofoco) that "night", around the area where we expected to pick up Jeremy and Andrew.  I got in some solid sleep (by RAAM standards), and I woke up around 1000am (early) for our 2pm shift so I could grab some breakfast.

When I came back to the room, Tobias was mentioning that he felt like he needed to vomit, and was asking me if he should - not exactly the question I would have expected (despite having to expected the unexpected) to answer.  I told him that's what he should feel like that during a shift (from riding so hard)- not before or after!  He kept saying his stomach was acidic, and and made the executive call to go for it.  I grabbed him some V8 (alkaline liquid) and some antacids to help calm in stomach.  Without going into detail, he was much worse off than just vomiting - he simply couldn't absorb/keep in any liquid or solid food.  The V8 and antacids, were helping a little, and he said he was feeling somewhat better.  I was mildly relieved.

Andrew and Jeremy flew by our hotel (literally) earlier than expected (as usual), so we packed up the truck and got on our way.

While we were on our way to catch Jeremy and Andrew, I noticed Team4Mil looked like they dropped a few hours behind.  I figured either something happened, or RAAM hadn't updated their website yet.  I didn't think much of it at the time, but I will talk about this later.

On the look out and all ready to go whenever we see them:


We took over from Jeremy and Andrew just past Alamosa, CO, and I was ready to rock.  The first 60 miles of this shift were on arguably the flattest roads of the course, with a rockin' tailwind.



With racers going at maximal effort on every pull, the first pull is always one of the hardest because you have been at rest for 15 hours, then all the sudden you just blast out on the bike.  Having a tailwind seemed to help ease into things.

Southern Colorado may flat, but has many 14'ers within sight:



A couple hours into the shift, Dave was telling me that Tobias was feeling like crap.  This is one weird thing about RAAM: despite Tobias and I being riding partners, we never talk to each other during a shift - we always talk through Dave.  I was feeling good, so I told Dave that I could shoulder some of the load for now.

Shortly up the road was the La Veta pass, peaking at 9,300ft.  I let Tobias get the downhill to the start of the climb, and I said I would get the 5 mile / 1,500 ft pass myself.  Normally, this is horribly in efficient to let one rider take that much at once.  Ideally, we would have split the 5 miles up into 1 mile intervals to maximize speed, but with a warrior not firing completely, I took it on.

I opted for my new road bike on the climb to crush it...


... and descended down the other side.


Last year, I did all of RAAM on just a TT bike, and never really felt like I was at a major disadvantage.  But then again, the third group barely gets any climbing.  This year on the second group, I wanted to bring a road bike to my arsenal, and having it for this climb and descent was almost worth it alone (that, and the fact that I felt more like a "roadie" - gasp!)

When I handed it off to Tobias near the end of the downhill, I WAS CHARGED UP!!!  There is a pretty funny video of my reaction (that our media crew is editing) that I will have to post once it's completed.  I was feeling on top of the world.

There was another exchange with Tobias, I took another downhill, and took the right towards La Veta, where I continued to fly downhill.  Just another amazing view of a few 14,000ft peaks in Colorado:



I got into this little village, took a left, and all the sudden, I heard the follow vehicle honking at me.  We missed a turn about a quarter mile back (the clock is still ticking), and just like that, my mood went from great to pissed.  I was cursing anything and everything, but chilled out after a few minutes.  Grrr....

The next hour was tough.  It was raining with the occasional sleet, cold, windy, and the wrong turn just took the wind out of my sails.  We were approaching our second climb, La Cuchara pass at 9,937 ft, and I knew it was time to let go of the wrong turn, and crush this climb.  Tobias was still feeling like crap, so Dave and I were strategizing on where to do rider exchanges to make it easy on Tobias:


I told him I'd take the majority of this climb again.

An exchange - you can see how unhappy T looks:


AMPED halfway up the climb!


Having a little fun seeing where we just came from:


In case you're wondering...


Crushing Cuchara near the 9,937ft summit - it really is that beautiful out there...


and about to hit the top:


There was one long ass descent after this climb.  Tobias and I did a few more exchanges, and we handed it off to Larry and Kevin.  One of the few times you get to talk to someone outside of your truck:


With Tobias firing on a few cylinders, our times against TT1 didn't really fair well (8 minutes at one Time Station, and a whopping 29 minutes at the next), but it happens.

I was so glad that I had a road bike for this shift.  The climbing was awesome, and the elevation and descents were epic.  Fortunately, I didn't really feel the effects of being near 10,000 ft at all.

This was also the shift I was looking forward to the most.  Most people know how beautiful Colorado is, but I never saw it last year because I was riding in the dark, bonking, and sleeping.  I wanted a piece of the Rockies last year, but they really got a piece of me.  This year, I wanted to crush them, and see how beautiful CO really is.  I wasn't disappointed.

I took a few minutes after this shift to reflect on what just happened, and took this picture to remind myself:


Colorado is absolutely beautiful, and this picture, as much as it doesn't do the justice, is a good representation of CO (in my opinion).  Green, undeveloped land, really tall mountains in the background, some clouds, and sun.  Just absolutely beautiful.  God's country.

I was also really happy with the shift.  My riding partner was down, but not out.  Despite having a knee injury that was still a little unknown, and not putting in the training I wanted to, I handled a tough shift very well - mentally and physically.  The element of teamwork was at play, and I was diggin' it.  This is part of what RAAM is all about!

We started making our way east towards Pratt Kansas after a quick stop in Trinidad for some food.

Sun falling over our machines in the back:


One gnarly ass rainstorm that we were about to drive through:


Sunset to a great day on the bike - I love this stuff!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shift #2: Tuba City to the UT border

**This might have been my favorite shift!**

With our 5 hour "on" / 15 hour "off" schedule, sleep and not rushing are luxuries.  We don't know what we did, but somehow got record sleep, AND showed up about 90 minutes early to take over from Jeremy and Andrew (not that we actually took over from them early).  So, I played media person #3, and got a few pics of the boys:

Good mix of blurriness and focus - kinda like riding at full throttle:


Snow covered mountains in the background:


We learned that while groups 3 & 4 were on course, them and Team 4Mil were leapfrogging and trading places for hours on end.  When Jeremy and Andrew took over, they were behind, but they surprised no one when they made up time on them, and handed it back over to Tobias and I with a 3 minute lead.  T and I knew what was up, and knew it was time to throw down and show these rookies how this works.

We had an absolute blast blazing through northern Arizona to the UT border.  Our media crew, Michelle Valenti from Active.com, and Desi Klaar, multiple Ironman finisher, joined us for our shift, where we (mostly them) got absolutely killer pics:

Nerds with aero helmets in the car, lax before the shift start:


Accelerating on my first pull:


Long road through the Navajo Reservation:


No need to ask slowtwitch to critique my position ;)


The approach - check out those clouds - gods country out there in the Navajo Indian Reservation:


Hammering:


Rolling up the sleeves (actually, putting on arm warmers) to do work:


Game Face:


Tobias killing it:

Night exchange (7pm is "night" by RAAM rules, even though its still light out):


Towards the of the shift I was feeling like a rock star.  I had a long downhill with a tailwind, and was just killin it!  A RAAM media van came up next to me and had the camera rolling, and I absolutely dropped the hammer!  I approached town so quickly, that Tobias and Dave weren't even ready for the rider exchange.  So, they drove up the road to do another one, and again, I was too fast.  Tobias did this to me few times too, but there are no hard feelings because it's a great "problem" to have.

I pulled the team across the UT border (yelling "Gimme two!", naturally), and 3 minutes later, I handed off to Kevin and Larry.  We put 15 minutes into 4Mil alone on our shift (upping our lead to 18 minutes up on them), and didn't let TT1 put a second into us.  Here are the average speeds from the time stations we rode through:



  ViaSat     4Mil      TT1
Mexican Hat, UT   24.34 24.12 24.34
Kayenta, AZ   23.55 22.56 23.55
Tuba City, AZ   27.08 26.09 27.08


WE DID WORK, AND WE WERE FIRED UP!  There were 3 teams within an hour of each other at this point, and this race was unfolding much better than I could have imagined.  I was feeling great, my knee was just as a good, and I was amped to hit the Rockies.  BRING IT ON!