Monday, January 21, 2013

Shift 7: Prelude to the short and unexpected

Unexpectedly, we were going to be on for a short Shift 7. Even though it wasn't a full shift, it deserves a (long) prelude.


Picking up where I left off after Shift 6, I think our truck made the executive decision to actually order breakfast at McDonalds right after we packed up the truck. Mainly, because we were all hungry, and it was right across the street. After eating really good for months on end (the norm), and even eating really good during the race, we all threw our hats into the f&*k it bin, and got some sausage mcmuffins with cheese, hash browns and OJ's - even if it meant farting more in the truck - if such a thing is even possible from 4 dudes locked in a truck for the next 4 hours.

I'm pretty sure I was asleep within 30 minutes of eating breakfast, and was only awoken to a stopped truck so someone could take a leak in the middle of Maryland. After a quick pit stop, I was back asleep, and woke up moments before we hit the hotel in Maryland.

Part of me was curious how are boys were doing, but part of me really didn't care. We were done. The only thing I really 'cared' about though is whether we'd finish before sunset, or while there was still light out. A few weeks before the race, Barrie's projections had us finishing right around midnight Thursday, and that got me pretty jazzed up. In the years I had done it, the race started at 2pm on Saturday, and we always finished Friday mid-late morning. This year, with the race starting at noon, and with our extra firepower, I thought our team was flirting with a Thursday finish - nevermind Friday. Now, I'm debating whether we can finish under daylight. This, would be cool. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it, so I went about enjoying the rest of my day before the 'ceremonies'.

I think we got to the hotel around noon, unloaded our gear from the truck and just crashed in the room. I was rooming with Toby for the weekend, and even though the race was done, he was still furiously hunched over his macbook working on the latest video and what we could do for the finish. There were lots of high fives, laughs, and story telling, strong possibility of overuse of the words "epic" and "awesome" and the like. A little while later, the Hammer showed up in our room to hang out. Hammer and Toby go back further back than the Hammer and I and Toby and I, and so there was a serious bro down going on (no flat brim hats though).

We were all shooting the shit, reliving some laughs, talking about how this whole thing came together months in advance, and basically 'shut off' from the actual racing part of the race. We were done. Someone even mentioned checking out the jacuzzi. We'll assume that the sleep depravity was a major reason for 3 dudes even entertaining the idea of getting into a jacuzzi together, but whatever. Right after the decision was made to at least go check it out, I got a call from John (our driver). The conversation that ensued went basically like this:

John: Barrie wants us to finish up the race
Me: Whaaaaaat?
John: Yeah, Wildebeest is going to jump in with Truck1 after his last shift (!!!) and ride for about 3-3.5 hours with them. He wants us to take over from Truck1 for what he thinks will be the last 90 minutes of the race. He figures we'll start somewhere around 630 and 7pm. The idea is so that we can keep the average speed up as much as possible by having fresh riders out there.
Me: (speaking louder so that Toby and Airey can here me) Oh shit. Ok, we'll be ready to go for 530pm.

There were 2 sets of very wide eyes looking at me in the room. I summarized what John said to Toby and Hammer. After it sunk in, the conversation went like this:

Me: Dude, I gotta take a shit
Hammer: Dude, I gotta take a shit too
Toby: <bent over laughing>

After business was taken care of, it was time to get down to business. I'm not gonna lie, that was a tough transition. While we had a solid 3+ hours to get ready for the shift, it was actually a very long and hard 3 hours.

I was checking out the race results, and after we finished our "last" shift, where cumalatively we were averaging over 24mph, there was a slow decline towards 24. After a few more time stations, our cumulative average speed actually dropped under 24mph. This was no fault to the racers that were on course - the terrain was tough, and everyones legs were just fried. Immediately, there was a huge pressure on our truck: Keep it at 24mph or above. I thought it was doable, but definitely challenging. I knew we had it on ourselves, but would the outside environment of the tail end of rush hour, congested east coast roads, intersections and highway merging (!!) be enough of a hurdle to prevent us from keeping it above 24mph?

Toby's iPhone never left his hands
Time passed, and it was time to head out. We left the hotel extra early, in case we needed to go on early, Truck1was ahead of schedule, or anything else that the circumstances might throw at us.

Toby was excited about this. He actually saw it as an opportunity, and somewhat timidly asked us if he could roll with our truck. Of course he could! He was stoked, and so were we. The man never stops. He was always playing an angle on how to beef up our social media presence, and saw this as an opportunity to broadcast some live stuff - us racing. Very cool. He is a social media monster, and pulled all nighters in the back of a conversion van in the middle of Kansas. That's the type of people we roll with.

Shortly after we took off from the hotel, I mentioned to the rest of the truck that the pressure was on us to keep the speed at or above 24mph, based on the latest data. Hammer just turned around and looked at me with a look in his eyes like "oh shit, it's about to get f&*king real". He was up to the challenge.

The ride out there was about 45 minutes or so, and I won't lie - I was a bit stressed, but not worried. I don't know why, but I was. Maybe it was thinking I was done, maybe it was because I felt this pressure to keep the average speed up. How the hell did over 5 days of racing gets placed on our trucks shoulders for an average speed metric that would live in infamy? Whatever, this is the shit champions are made of and from.

So, what did I do to prepare for such a task? I fell asleep.

Game Face. At least they don't have to worry about a backseat driver.
Flat out, in the back of the truck, neck crooked and everything, I completely zonked for almost 30 minutes. Toby was in the middle seat creating a ustream account, and doing test videos. He asks the Hammer to do a quick little audio test, then pans to me to say something, but I'm lights out. Hilarious! I finally woke up and everyone was laughing at me saying "Dude, you were totally out!" Dude, I know...

After I woke up, I started keeping tabs on our time, but also our racers out there. I was thinking that I was going to take the first pull, but after driving on the course backwards, I just kinda non-chalantly mentioned to Hammer "Hey Dude, I think you should take the first pull on this one", patted him on the shoulder and enjoyed his laugh, whose tone wreacked of "thanks buddy, I mean, asshole". We arrived at the spot, scoped it out for the best possible exchange place, and parked it for a few minutes. Based on the information I was gathering, it seemed like we were almost an hour ahead of time. We almost didn't know what to do, since we had never bene so early to an exchange. I then made a very strategic, calculated decision on how best to proceed, and announced it to the truck:

Me: Guys, I gotta take a shit. There's a gas station a couple miles down the road. This is non-negotiable.

The truck bursted into laughter!!

We made it to the gas station, and all the sudden, it was like a location-based laxative - everyone in the truck had to take a shit. After having lightened the load, I felt a lot better, and was ready to focus on the task at hand. I quickly downed some caffeinated gels to clear out the cobwebs, and was READY TO ROCK!!!

It is possible to stand in this position for
20 minutes straight without moving
We made it back to the exchange spot, and within a few minutes, Truck4 + some of our media crew rolled up to hang out for a bit. Everyone was chatty, complete with stories on how everyone was killing it out there, war stories, laughs and the whole 9. This immediately lightened the mood.

Meanwhile, Hammer took on this stoic presence that I had never seen before. He's always been cool and collected, but never like this. Dude was just stone cold sober and focused. He stood over his bike for at least 20 minutes without really moving, or even talking to anyone. I knew what was going on in his head. I mentioned to him how I had MAJOR butterflies in my stomach. He looked at me and just said "DUDE". That was all I needed to hear. He was in the same boat. The pressure was on. But why? There's only 90 minutes left. 30 some-odd miles. We got this. We both had razor sharp focus because we knew it was on. We all knew of the stature of Truck1 and its riders, but Truck2 was being given the ball in the bottom of the ninth to close out a near perfect game and make it lights out.

Eventually, the beest came around the corner, handed off the figurative baton to the Hammer, and off he went. There were lots of cheers after WB finished his last pull, for many reasons. One, for doing an amazing job in his first RAAM, but also because everyone knew this wasn't going to be his last RAAM.

This post is long enough, and so our last 90 minutes (and maybe even finish) will be chronicled in the subsequent post...

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