Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Post-RAAM Thoughts

The figurative RAAM chapter of my life is about to be closed - over a year later! But not without some parting ramblings that may come across as bitter, but is hardly the case.

While certain events in 2013 brought a furrowing spok-like eye brow to my demeanor at times, it was hardly a blip on the radar which couldn't overshadow the team environment and bonding that manifested itself over the first 6 months of 2012 - and still to this day. Despite us all being a year removed from that week, there still are brotherhood bonds that remain strong among the riders and crew, even as we are spread across the country, each training for our respective events, or simply enjoying the simple art of riding. Recent conversations about this reminded me of those that I am close with in my life and why, and just about all of those life changing experiences and strong friendships came from malice and suffering together while purposely seeking out adventure and challenge in meeting important life goals. Misery loves company, and I am happy in the company of my friends!

The Bicycling Magazine Article

Somehow, someway, in the post-race chaos, word got to Bicycling magazine about our little bike race and victory, and they wanted to do a little story on us. In true Team ViaSat, there was an insurmountable number of emails requesting information to sift through and write. There was a mild annoyance, but any medium to talk about our victory in public was still welcome in our world (for some anyways).

There was some dormancy for 6 months, and then all the sudden, in a week and a half, there were another flurry of emails requesting more and more information, and some things were lost in translation. Despite this, here is the article that was written about us winning RAAM.

First, the good stuff. We are in nationally published magazine, with a subscriber base worldwide. When I bought my first two bikes (Thanks Dan!) back in 2004, I'd never thought I'd end up rolling with the group I did last year, doing what we did, and being in such a magazine. I was stoked, proud and honored to be part of something like this. Naturally, the parents thought it was pretty cool too.

On the other hand, they completely missed some major points of what made our victory so sweet. Months of planning, thousands of hard miles over many, many months, a bazillion emails and discussions, a complete re-writing of how our crew could already make an well-oiled machine run nearly perfectly, aerodynamic analysis, time trials, being completely under the radar to two teams who had plenty of bravado about winning the race and setting the record, not talking one bit of smack the entire time, showing up and letting the pedals do the talking, outsmarting, outmuscling, and outclassing the competition. They dumbed it down to make it look like a freakin' google spreadsheet helped us beat former Olympians and National Record holders. Give me a break. The real story is here.

The Record

After setting the record in 2012 that was set prior in 2009, it fell again in 2013 to the Allied Forces team, made up of 4 guys from 4Mil, and 4 from Strategic Lions (both of whom we beat last year). Clever approach, I thought, with some level of suspicion and skepticism. But let's face it - what could possibly be the driving force for two teams who have competed against each other for the past few years, both of whom were going for the win and the record, to actually join forces?

OMG, don't shoot!
It's obvious that we not only damaged the course and record in 2012, but we did the same, if not more, amount of damage to some ego's. What these guys took was an innovative approach to chase our ghosts, chase the bar that we raised so much last year, to avenge ... whatever. We won with class last year, never speaking a word of smack talk or disrespect - before, during or after the race. Meanwhile, silly the kid, apparently their "captain", a role generally reserved for those who can exude leadership, couldn't even muster our teams name in all of the media attention he received from RAAM in the lead up to the race. "Yeah, it was whatever that team was from wherever they are in Southern California". Apparently, we beat him so bad, we gave him nightmares where he couldn't physically bring himself to say our name. They also had a cyclist who claims to be a "prolific winner" who referred to us as "ViaSplat". Really? But hey, can you blame these guys for acting that way, when we are the ones who hail from the city whose unofficial motto is: "Keep it classy"?

So to that, I say, congratulations on beating the record. You were the best team to race in 2013, even if there was no competition. 4Mil, congratulations for recruiting your only competition. Strategic Lions, congratulations on your evolutionary progressive mindset of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

Allied Forces a "Smashing" Success?

Hardly. Let's break down how much they "smashed" our record.

If you compare our 5d5h5m (23.93mph) to their 5d3h45m (24.19mph), it looks they beat us by an hour and 20 minutes / .26mph. But, the course was actually cut short by 31 miles because of flooding, so the course was rerouted and AF rode only 2962 miles, whereas we rode 2993 miles. AF actually finished their course in 5d3h4m, but RAAM tacked on 41 minutes to accommodate the shorter course. Seems like a noble and fair idea, right? In concept yes, but by math, no. RAAM giving AF 41 minutes to travel 31 miles makes for an average speed of 45.3mph!

Let's assume that AF averaged for those 31 miles about what they had been averaging in the time stations before and after the flooded area: ~24.75 mph. Given the shorter course, I'll propose that RAAM should have added 31miles / 24.75mph = 1.25 hours = 75 minutes. Add 75 minutes to 5d3h4m, and you get 5d4h19m. By that math, they only beat us 46 minutes. Take out the 15 minute BS (although totally within the rules) penalty, and they really only beat us by 31 minutes of actual hand-to-hand combat.

Whether you slice it by 31, 46 or 80 minutes, it was hardly "smashing", despite all of their pre and during race hype / trash talking, and ripping tailwinds from Borrego Springs to Colorado.

Truck1 vs. Truck2 - The Fight for Supremacy of Efficiency

Each truck on our team is a roving subculture of chaos, motivation, stench, and personality. It's an honor to ride this high up in the rotation, and one I took very seriously. It's impossible not to, having multiple RAAM veterans in the truck, AND with Truck1 (affectionately known as METAL1) setting a ridiculously high bar with torrid pace and professionalism that may not even be rivaled in professional cycling events. METAL1 comes to RAAM, guns a blazing with sheer power, tenacity and motivation, but even off-shift, they roll deep. Somehow, annually, they set up a wifi connection in their truck so everyone can benefit. They bring buffets inspired by Las Vegas for their crew to minimize stops and maximize sleep. They're never late and always give it full gas until the end.

Now what kind of RAAM rider would be to let the bar slip down when the figurative baton was handed over to us? Not our truck. We brought some extra food for our crew (a la a bazillion Allen Lim Rice Cakes), never showed up later than 10 minutes early, were arguably just as efficient off the bike, and (ahem, cough cough), might have even been more efficient while on the bike. Airey and I discussed an exchange strategy in advance of the race that took a few shifts to really refine, but once we had it down, we were a well oiled machine, ultimately amassing 38 exchanges during our Kansas shift, for an average pull of less than 8 minutes! I don't have a metric of how much speed was not lost on our exchanges, but I'm pretty confident we raised the bar on how efficiently 2 men can race RAAM within a shift. Our hats go also go off to our driver, Tyner, for being equally as efficient and adaptable as conditions changed. Somehow, someway, without much discussion, The Hammer and I just gravitated to these 8 minute pulls and it_just_worked flawlessly.

What we lacked in agro and teeth gnashing cycling personality and a funny truck name, we made up for in different levels of professionalism, efficiency, road ripping prowess and laughter off shift, generally with the help of Bal when he rotated into our truck. Immediately post-shift is when I'm most susceptible to laughing to tears at bad jokes and stories from our team, and Bal certainly did not disappoint when he emigrated to our truck at every other shift change.

Another RAAM?

Never say never, but at this point, doubtful. After spending a few years letting long distance endurance training and racing take up just about all of my free time and energy, it's time to dial back the volume, up the intensity, focus on short(er) course racing, and have fun more in life off the bike. My standard Saturday lately has been to ride for about 3-3.5 hours, go home, take a nap, hit the beach then grab some beers - the way a San Diego summer should be!

Never before published Videos

Nope, not from our RAAM media team either.

This final blog post is a tad too serious, and so it's time to introduce some comedic relief. There is no shortage of personalities on our team, and if there was a slight lack of it, METAL would more than make up for it. Below are a few videos I made over the course of training in anticipation of lightening the mood of 8 hungry, type-A roadies who have a tendency to get a little excited over things. Of course, they are all in good fun. They were never completed before xtranormal stopped their services, but you may enjoy them regardless!

Note on next video: Language NSFW.

In closing - we got to have our cake and eat it too!