Friday, June 29, 2012

Still recovering

Just made a decision to not race tomorrow. I'm obviously still not fully recovered from RAAM and frankly, my 3 girls wanna have fun tonight so it would be very selfish of me to do my pre-race stuff tonight having just invested 7 days in RAAM. So it's fun tonight and maybe a big day tomorrow...time to focus on Kona!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

RAAM 2012 Race Report

2012 RAAM Race Report


I participated in the 2012 Race Across America (RAAM) as part of the 8-person CEO Challenges/Challegned Athletes Foundation (CEO/CAF) team.  This is a summary race report of that experience, which took place from Saturday June 16th to Friday, June 22nd.  This race report is in two parts—the first is a sequential review of the race from Time Station (TS) to Time Station and the second is a number of observations/lessons learned that I offer to the interested reader.

RAAM is considered by many in the cycling world to be the most difficult single-stage endurance bike race in the world.  For solo riders, it surely must be.  The race is also contested by 2, 4 and 8 person teams.  Our CEO/CAF team was one of the 18 8-person teams entered this year.  Our team was comprised of 7 CEO/Senior Executives and Sargent Major Chris Self, who has served our country with multiple tours in the Middle East in the Army Special Forces.  In one tour, he was shot multiple times and his right leg was paralyzed below the knee.  He was subsequently confined to a wheel chair.  He bravely elected to amputate his leg below the knee and with the support of CAF, he has resumed his athletic life utilizing various prosthetics.  Our team raised money in support of CAF, which helps people of all types overcome physical disabilities and participate in athletic events.  We raised nearly $25,000 as part of our race.

Our team broke into two sub-teams—the “A” team, which included Chris, myself, Jon Hill and Roger Martin; and the “B” team, which included Terry Harker, Brent Underdahl, Joe Marinucci, and Mark Biedrzycki.  We also had 9 support crew members on the team (plus we hired two commercial drivers to drive our RV).  The “A” team crew was Ted Kennedy (our Crew Chief), Tracey Armington, Simon Bennett (who was a member of the record holding 8-man team), and Meg Gray (our nurse).  The “B” team crew included Shawna Organisciak (Co-Crew chief), Emily Booth, David Clarke, and Dylan Stucki (our mechanic).  Additionally, we had Heidi Deprey who floated between the teams and prinicipaly stayed on the RV and provided massages and other support for the team.

We utilized three vehicles, a close-follow SUV, a larger “Sprinter” van that carried the active riders and bikes, and a very large RV that carried the non-active team from team rotation point to rotation point.

I, Randy Christofferson, am a 55-year old triathlete (and I am older by 9 years than anyone else on the team) whose strongest discipline is cycling, though by the standards of “real cyclists”, I am certainly nothing special.  Like all of the riders and most of the crew, I am a RAAM rookie.  In addition to being a rookie, we basically met each other for the first time the night before the race in Oceanside—it was going to be interesting to see how we melded as a team.

As for the race itself, it starts in Oceanside, CA and covers 2,993.4 miles with over 170,000 feet of vertical climbing, and finishes at the City Dock in Annapolis, MD.  In between, we pass through 12 states and more than 350 towns and communities.  We must successfully navigate almost 1000 turns and adhere to all traffic laws along the way.  There are close to 60 pages of rules and extensive time penalties for not abiding by them.

From Oceanside, the route immediately climbs the Coastal Range, crosses the desserts of the Southwest, climbs to the Coconino Plateau and passes through the Four Corners region.  We cross the Rockies and the Continental Divide at Wolf’s Creek, at nearly 11,000 feet in altitude, descend into the Great Plains and across the farmlands of the central U. S..  Finally, we cross the Appalachians and descend to the Chesapeake Bay.  Along the way, we cross all three major American mountain ranges and four of our five major rivers: the Colorado, Missouri, Mississippi and the Ohio.

With that, let’s begin!

Rotation One: TS 1-2: Oceanside, CA to Brawley, CA

June 16th: 3:44pm-11:52pm (EST)
Total time: 8:08/My time: 2:04:52
Total distance: 145.2 miles/My distance: 32.3 miles
Average speed: 17.86 mph/My speed: 15.5 mph
My number of pulls: 4
My average power: 238 watts

The race starts near the pier in Oceanside and has first 2 then 4 and 8-person teams going off in 1-minute intervals.  The solo riders had left on 2-3 days before the teams.  As team number T816, we were among the last 3 teams to leave—departing at almost 1 o’clock PST.

The first 24 miles are unsupported by follow vehicles and includes a parade or non-racing portion of 7.8 miles.  Chris and Roger left together in case one had a mechanical.  The early course is difficult to follow and at one point we went off course and that cost us several minutes—not a big concern, as it is a very long race!

In due course we executed our first moving exchange and I had my first pull of the race.  It was very surreal to actually be racing in RAAM.  I had no idea what to expect over the next 6+ days but my first pull had me immediately into an 800-foot climb as we ascended the Coastal Range—what a way to start!

We proceeded through Rotation One smoothly and without further mishap.  All of us were trying to feel-out how hard to go.  Simon, our coach, kept urging us to push harder, but I think we were all a bit skeptical of this advice and were definitely holding back, afraid to blow-up on day one.  None-of-us had ever done any of this type of racing where you have 4-16 very hard pulls of 10-40 minutes everyday.  Further, none of our riders entered the race in what you’d call peak fitness.  For example, I am planning on peaking for Kona this year so I won’t really start my hard training until July.  Still, I averaged 238 watts for this rotation, which is much more than I planned to do.  My second pull at almost 38 minutes would be my longest of the race.  During this time, the Sacremento Police blew pass us on the climb setting up what would become one of the most memorable nights of our lives—but that is a story for a little later in our journey.

After surmounting the Coastal Range we descended the “Glass Elevator”, from 4,200 feet to 187 feet below sea level at the Salton Sea.  The descent was treacherous at 8% but very beautiful.  Our team quickly settled into a pattern where Chris and Jon would take most of the major descents and Roger and I would handle more of the climbing duties—this of course lowered our average speeds below the team average—at least during the mountain sections.  Also, it tended to make our pulls more physically demanding and thus our team director tended to make them shorter than the big descending pulls that Chris and Jon emphasized.  This arrangement really served us well throughout the race and undoubtedly was a vital component of our ultimate success.

As we passed 7pm local time, the SUV was required to “close-follow” so that we were always in the headlights and could see what was ahead of us.  I had my first night pull, which was mesmerizing and I blasted along at 22.4 mph as I had my first taste of a non-climbing pull.  This pull was all below sea level and the air was thick with bugs.  I had to keep my mouth shut as I was peppered with literally thousands of bugs.

We finished our first rotation and executed a very slow, 5-minute or so rotation to the “B” team.  Because we were under “close-follow” requirements the rider couldn’t go until the SUV was ready with the new crew members.  We would eventually work out how to do this better, but at this early stage, our rookie status was costing us.  We passed TS2 in 10th place and all of us felt, at this point, that this is where we probably belonged—in the middle of the pack.

Rotation Two: TS 3-4: Brawley, CA to Parker, AZ

June 16th/11:52pm-June 17th/6:14am
Total time: 6:24
Total distance: 141.1 miles
286.3 miles completed/2,707.1 miles to go
Average speed: 22.16 mph
Team average for the whole race: 19.23 mph

Our team had our first experience of moving from Rotation Point to Rotation Point on the big RV.  I bought an hour in a very divey motel for $30 and we were all able to take showers—which was awesome.  The B team blasted through a relatively flattish stage and so our down time was very short.  I was unable to sleep at all and we were soon up again near 3 am.

Out of the road, the B team rocked and passed many of the other 8-person teams.  In fact we moved up into 5th place during the night.  The first three teams were way ahead and light-years above us (they were all basically pro/CAT1 teams).   However we were closely competitive with several over teams.  Team TDL/Believe and Achieve—a group of elite junior cyclists (the first all junior team in RAAM history) a team we would come to call “The Kiddies”, the Sacramento Police (“The Cops”), and Team XSTRATA.  Here is where we stood at TS4:

4th Kiddies 14:18 (HR:MIN)
5th CEO/CAF 14:30
6th X-Strata 14:48
7th Cops 14:52

So while we were all tightly bunched, we were just 12 minutes out of 4th at this point.  This was a surprising development to us and we weren’t really sure what to make of it, but we were certainly pleased.  We executed another poor, 5-minute Rotation and the A team was back on the road.

Rotation Three: TS 4-7: Parker, AZ to Prescott, AZ

June 17th/6:14am-3:08pm
Total time: 8:15/My time: 2:00:45
Total distance: 154.8 miles/My distance: 34.1 miles
Average speed: 18.8 mph/My speed: 16.9 mph
441.1 miles completed/2,552.3 to go
Team average speed for the whole race: 19.08 mph
My number of pulls: 6
My average power: 235 watts

We started at 3:20am local time and generally climbed up from the Colorado River valley in Arizona towards Flagstaff.  We started at 417 feet of elevation and finished at 5476 feet.  We had several difficult climbs including the Yarnell Grade, which involves 1800 feet of climbing over 7 miles.  Between TS 6 and 7, the climbing is actually the most difficult west of Maryland, averaging over 130 feet/mile.

We start in a very pleasant 72 degrees and the riding is fantastic!  The sky is a fire with stars and the night riding is hypnotic.  Soon however, the sun rises and by 8am the temperature hits 101 degrees, on it’s way to 113 degrees.  Fortunately, it’s a dry heat, as they say.  The road is very poor here—being an annoying chip-seal that rattles your very soul.

We all feel very good but continue to be tentative and the Police once again catch us on the road.  We are amazed at how much stronger they seem to be than us on the climbs. The Kiddies continue to rock and are clearly throwing down the challenge in this early part of the race.  We have now dropped 50 minutes behind the Kiddies:

4th Kiddies 22:34
5th Cops 23:07
6th CEO/CAF 23:24
7th Georgia Cycle 23:27
8th XSTRATA 23:39

At this point, we are in 6th 17 minutes behind the Cops and 50 minutes behind the kids.  We are beginning to realize that maybe we have a chance to compete and finish in the top half of the 8-person race!

Rotation Four: TS 7-10: Prescott, AZ to Tuba City, AZ

June 17th/3:08pm-11:31pm
Total time: 8:23
Total distance: 166.9 miles
608.0 miles completed/2,385.4 miles to go
Average speed: 19.9 mph
Team average for the whole race: 19.13 mph

The B team faces a series of up and downs between 3 and 7 thousand feet over the first two TS segments in this rotation.  While our B team is younger than the A team, they are also bigger and this climbing takes it’s toll as we lose time to both the Kiddies and the Cops.  Clearly, the more mountainous stages are going to be a challenge for us—especially against the far lighter Kid’s team.

However, the 3rd stage of this rotation has the B team heading down a screaming descent into the Navajo Nation and they are able to make up all the lost time and then-some as we are now just 12 minutes behind the Cops and 41 behind the Kiddies:

4th Kiddies 1:07:06 (DAYS:HOURS:MINUTES)
5th Cops 1:07:35
6th CEO/CAF 1:07:47
7th XSTRATA 1:08:21
8th Georgia Cycle 1:08:31

Meanwhile up the road in Tuba City, I feel a lot better after getting an Ambien from Roger and getting about 3-4 hours of deep sleep.  I hit the Sonic Burger in Tuba City and eat a great Cheeseburger and talk to my son Anders as he calls to wish me Happy Father’s Day.  It’s quite beautiful looking out over the desert and in the shade, the 95 degrees actually feels pretty nice!

Rotation Five: TS 10-12: Tuba City, AZ to Mexican Hat, UT

June 17th/11:31pm-June 18th/4:59am
Total time: 5:38/My time: 1:24:06
Total distance: 116.5 miles/My distance: 32.5 miles
Average speed: 20.7 mph/My speed: 23.1 mph
724.6 miles completed/2,268.9 miles to go
Team average speed for the whole race: 19.45 mph
My number of pulls: 4
My average power: 243 watts

In our first stage this evening we face a long, moderate climb of 30 miles and we are very focused on trying to not lose any more time to the stronger climbing teams.  Each of the four of us are putting extra effort into our pulls—there is a new sense of urgency in Team A.

My second pull involves an 800-foot descent into Kayenta, AZ.  I close in on a Brazilian 4-man team and crank my speed up to 38 mph and try to go around.  Their support vehicle, which is driving down the middle of the lane (against the rules), pulls ahead and seems to try to keep me from pulling back over to the right side of the road.  The Brazilians are honking like crazy and I hardly know what to do.  I decide to power onward and eventually am able to move right ahead of the Brazilian rider.  My follow vehicle tucks in behind me and then a train of 8-cars comes past honking their horns in frustration at being held up.  I keep looking back but can’t figure out what’s going on because I’m blinded by the lights.   I average 26.4 mph on this 24-minute pull.

As we hit TS 11, we have closed to within 6 minutes of the Police!  We continue to push and we begin to see the Police and the flashing lights of their support vehicle up ahead.  We don’t know how far ahead they are but feel we must be close even though you can see a long ways ion the desert.  They pass in and out of view as various hills are crested.

About halfway through this rotation’s 2nd TS-section, we pass into Utah and Ute country.  We are now in the heart of one of the most beautiful places in the world, Monument Valley—of course it’s pitch black so we can’t see a thing!

We continue to close on the Police and we are very excited in the Sprinter.  We throw caution out the window and are urging each other to really go for it and catch the Cops.  Roger and Jon do a great job of eating into the Cops’ lead and I start my last pull just 50 seconds down.  Almost immediately into my pull, the Police counter our change by putting a fresh rider out against me.

I’m giving it a monumental effort but I notice the new rider starting to pull-away.  I keep urging myself to dig deeper and limit the damage.  Soon the gap stabilizes and then begins to shrink!  As I start to reel in the 50 second deficit, I begin to realize that I have to get in front of the Police rider so that Chris can start the descent ahead of the Police—the descent into Mexican Hat is perilous and it would be next to impossible to pass once they start going down.

I jump out of my saddle for 5-6 minutes as I surge up the climb.  Finally, I catch them and move pass the Cops.  Unlike the Brazilians, the support vehicle moves out of my way their rider yells his congratulations.  I am absolutely at my redline limit.  I don’t know how much further I have to go and I’m looking desperately up the road for the Sprinter’s lights and the exchange with Chris.  I glance behind trying to see if the cops are coming back but with the high beams of the SUV, I can see nothing.

Finally, up ahead I see blinking lights and surge again only to find it’s a Brazilian support vehicle waiting for their rider who is many minutes arrears at this point.  Arggghhh!  I pantomime putting a gun to my head—I’m absolutely cooked at this point but I try to carry on.  I began to worry that my team could not find anyplace to pull over for the exchange given the soft shoulders and I might have to do the 13-mile descent that awaits at the top of the climb.   And then, there it is!  I feel a flood of relief and stand-up and surge yet again.  I race to the van and as we execute our stationary exchange I say to Chris: “that’s for you, brother”.

As we put my bike in the van we realize that I have opened up a 2+ minute lead.  This is the pull of my race and one of the best rides of my life.  I average 313 watts over 17 minutes.  Chris surges down the descent at times reaching 52-54 mph!  Jon brings it in and we reach TS 12 4 minutes ahead of the Police.  However, another slow night-time exchange allows them to essentially catch us as the B team takes over.  Despite this slow exchange and all of the climbing we actually make up a minute on the Kiddies and 12 on the Police.  The other teams have dropped further back and we really don’t focus on them anymore.  For the first time, Team A is really racing!

4th Kiddies 1:12:35
5th CEO/CAF 1:13:15
6th Cops 1:13:15

Rotation Six: TS 12-16: Mexican Hat, AZ to Pagosa Springs, CO

June 18th/4:59a-2:53pm
Total time: 9:54
Total distance: 188.3 miles
912.9 miles completed/2,080.6 miles to go
Average speed: 19.0 mph
Team average for the whole race: 19.36 mph

We now have new team names—we have been christened the “Cop Killers” and the B team is now the “Killer B’s”.  The B’s have a longer rotation today and begin by quickly putting distance on the Cops—we are destined to not see them again until the Award Banquet.  At first the riding is easy on this rotation but as they move past TS 13 and 14 they begin to enter the heart of the Rockies.  At TS 14 the Cops have to serve a 15-minute penalty further putting them behind us.  Our team gets held up at a rockslide for about 7 minutes but still continues to make time against our prime competitors.  About 2/3rds of the way through TS 15/16, we start a 45-mile section that leads to Wolf’s Creek/Continental divide and the highest point on the course.  During this time we’ll gain 4,281 feet of elevation but will in-fact climb over 6,500 feet.  The B’s complete the first third of this section.  Here is where we stood at TS 16:

4th Kiddies 1:22:49
5th CEO/CAF 1:23:09
6th Cops 1:23:41

Rotation Seven: TS 16-19: Pagosa Springs, CO to La Veta, CO

June 18th/2:53 pm-9:45pm
Total time: 6:52/My time: 1:55:49
Total distance: 152.9 miles/My distance: 42.5 miles
Average speed: 22.3 mph/My speed: 22.0 mph
1065.8 miles completed/1,927.6 miles to go
Team average speed for the whole race: 19.73 mph
My number of pulls: 5
My average power: 216 watts

After the excitement of last night and “The Battle of Monument Valley”, today was far more subdued as we never saw another racer of any type the whole day.  Also, after the herculean efforts of yesterday it seemed prudent to back down our efforts just a tad.  Further, the cumulative stress of the race was beginning to take its toll.

The route itself was anything but mundane.  We crossed the two major Rocky Mountain passes on the course: Wolf’s Creek and La Veta.  Wolf’s Creek leads to the highest point on this year’s course: 10,856 feet.  We did pretty well on the climb and didn’t have any major problems with the altitude.  We learned latter that in rotation six, one of the members of the Killer B’s suffered from altitude sickness and had to miss a few pulls.  We also Passed George, the race director and his wife—George insisted on completing the whole Wolf’s Creek pass on his own—George is the real deal!

We lost 25 minutes to the Kiddies on the Wolf Creek pass but surprisingly made back 5 minutes on the next two sections, despite the second major climb.  Even with these two major Rocky Mountain climbs we averaged 22.3 mph today and we were able to put 9 minutes on the Coppers.  Two of my five pulls were in the climbs.  Here is where we were at TS 19—now more than 1000 miles into the race:

4th Kiddies 2:05:21
5th CEO/CAF 2:06:01
6th Cops 2:06:44

Rotation Eight: TS 19-22: La Veta, CO to Walsh, CO

June 18th/4:59a-2:53pm
Total time: 9:30
Total distance: 205.1 miles
1,270.9 miles completed/1,722.5 miles to go
Average speed: 21.6 mph
Team average for the whole race: 20.01 mph

In rotation 8 the Killer B’s pull the longest rotation so far at 205 miles.  Fortunately, these 4 TS sections are basically a long gradual descent through the High Plains.  Throughout this rotation, we lose 4,000 feet of elevation.  From TS 21 to 22, we run through the flattest section on the course.  Our team average speed climbs above 20 mph for the first time in the race.

Even though they are quite fatigued at this point, the B’s continue their solid performance putting almost 40 minutes into the Cops and taking back 13 from the kids:

4th Kiddies 2:15:04
5th CEO/CAF 2:15:31
6th Cops 2:16:50

Rotation Nine: TS 22-26: Walsh, CO to Pratt, KS

June 19th/7:15am-5:41pm
Total time: 10:26/My time: 3:15:57
Total distance: 202.6 miles/My distance: 68.2 miles
Average speed: 19.4 mph/My speed: 20.9 mph
1,473.5 miles completed/1,520.0 miles to go
Team average speed for the whole race: 19.93 mph
My number of pulls: 8
My average power: 223 watts

Today was the crucible.  The crux.  The day from and of Hell!

It started innocently enough with Chris and I both enjoying the descent and tailwinds that the B’s were benefitting from at the end of rotation 8.  My first pull lasted 26 minutes and averaged 25.0 mph and I was cruising along at what now seemed like a pedestrian 223 watts.  We had our longest day of the race so far on tap (203 miles) and we wanted to build into it.

We were really counting on hurting the kids as we entered Kansas.  Theoretically, our superior power output would allow us to make up time on the flat lands.  Boy, were we in for a rude awakening.  As the sun rose and began to heat things up, the westerly winds shifted dramatically to the south and greatly intensified.  Soon we were facing dramatic side-winds—even by 9 am they had reached 40 mph.  Here are my notes from this rotation.

-At TS 23 we have made up 4 minutes on the kids and we are now just 23 minutes down.  We are psyched but concerned about the growing winds
-We rapidly get 3 flats in succession, a couple cost us several minutes but we feel like we are doing a good job at dealing with them.
-My second pull is surprisingly difficult.  I’m having trouble controlling my bike.  I decide to ditch my TT helmet.
-The temperature continues to rise and by 10am has reached 99 degrees
-There are wind/driving warnings—at least for east/west travel—unfortunately we have to go east.  A woman is blown off of her motorcycle and is killed.
-Simon has a lot of difficulty keeping the Sprinter on the road—the winds are crazy.
-I now conclude that these are the worse winds that I’ve ever ridden in.  I gear down to put more torque on my rear wheel in an attempt to keep the bike under control.  I keep repeating my mantra over and over again—I’m trying not to think of anything but just the next pedal stroke.
-We pass our first soloist, despite their 2-day head start.  He is in last place as their have now been 13 DNFs—most here in Kansas.
-We continue to have bad luck flat wise (this is Flat Tuesday and we have 5 flats today).  On one of my pulls I roll up for the exchange and a towel blows out of the van and into Roger’s rear wheel.  It lodges between his spokes and rips his valve stem off resulting in an immediate flat—as a result I just keep going for another 3 miles.  All of the flats are very challenging but we rally as a team and handle them very well.

Given all of the challenges we faced, I think we did pretty well on this rotation.  We ended up losing just 3 minutes to the Kiddies (we clawed back 15 minutes over the stretch from TS 25 to 26 as we finally didn’t have any flats for a stretch) and we put another 6 minutes on the Cops—at this point, we are only focused on catching the Kids:

4th Kiddies 3:01:27
5th CEO/CAF 3:01:57

We actually continue on beyond TS 26 all the way to Kingsman, KS.  This is in-between TS 26 and 27 so in-fact the Cop Killers end up doing a back breaking 235 miles today and we spent more than 12 hours in the saddle.  What a very brutal day.  The good news is that we are now half way through the race!

We are in good spirits.  We are concerned about the continuing wind and the tough conditions that the B’s will face tonight.  I’m doing fine physically and I’ve now had 8 hours of sleep over the last 3 days so I’m feeling better.  Simon came by and asked me to up my intensity tomorrow and that I will—on it goes!

Rotation Ten: TS 26-30: Pratt, KS to Fort Scott, KS

June 19th/5:41pm-6/20th/5:29am
Total time: 11:48
Total distance: 234.4 miles
1,707.9 miles completed/1,285.6 miles to go
Average speed: 19.86 mph
Team average for the whole race: 19.92 mph

So we started in between TS 26/27 and we ended between TS 30/31 so all of this data is approximate.  I’m guessing that the Killer B’s just put in the biggest rotation of our race.  The road for the most part, this being Kansas, is flat and generally very good.  There is a modest downward slant as the B’s will lose about 1000 feet of elevation over the 234 miles or so that they ride this night.  The winds are still high, but much less than during the nightmare of rotation nine—probably in the low 20s.  The temp is a comfortable 75 degrees now.

After the trials of Kansas, the Cop Killers all sleep really well.  It’s a long shift so we get an extra long break.  With the help of the magic little white pill I get a full 8 hours of very deep sleep—fantastic!  We awake in western Missouri and as we look around we know this isn’t Kansas any more as the road seems to wander in all three dimensions.  It looks pretty and we are pumped to get after it again.

With the reduced wind the Killer B’s are able to exploit our power advantage and put another 17 minutes into the Kiddies—we are now just 13 minutes behind:

4th Kids 3:13:32
5th CEO/CAF 3:13:45

Rotation Eleven: TS 30-33: Fort Scott, KS to Jefferson City, MO

June 20th/5:29am-1:32pm
Total time: 8:03/My time: 1:35:53
Total distance: 172.7 miles/My distance: 37.5 miles
Average speed: 21.5 mph/My speed: 23.5 mph
1,774.3 miles completed/1,219.1 miles to go
Team average speed for the whole race: 20.05 mph
My number of pulls: 5
My average power: 247 watts

We actually start and finish in-between TS locations today so the above data is slightly off—we started in Nevada, KS (I think) and we definitely finished in Hermann, MO.  The latter is a very charming little town filled with Wineries and Breweries with tasting rooms (off-limits to us racers).  There is also a farmer’s market and a fantastic deli—more on that in a minute.

Out on the road we all felt great today.  We had two more flats bringing the team total to 8.  One of them cost us a few minutes as Chris was up the road between support car leapfrogs.  We were very concerned with the rising toll of the flats and called ahead to a bike store in Jefferson City and arranged for an employee to meet us by the side of the highway and deliver us 4 tires and 6 tubes.  This involved some complicated navigation but due to the miracle of Wi-Fi and Mapquest we were able to execute this maneuver successfully and we rapidly joined back up with the close-follow vehicle and Roger who was on the road at the time.  Ironically, we were to have no more flats for the rest of the race.

The roads are smooth and nice as we are basically traveling in the breakdown lane of a highway.  The traffic is heavy and seems to be dominated by trucks but as the shoulders are wide we feel very safe.  The terrain is always either up or down with constant 100-200 foot elevation gain rollers.  Unlike Kansas, the countryside is verdant and the trees help shield us from the wind.  We are flying and Chris pronounces this as his favorite riding of the whole race.

It is quite warm out and we now really feel the humidity.  It’s in the mid 80s but my guess is that humidity is above 50%.  We cross over Lake Ozark several times and we are struck by the beauty of Missouri.  This is soooo much better than the hell of Kansas!

Competitively we do pretty well as we put 21 minutes on the cops and stay even the kids.  We are now just 13 minutes behind them—we actually saw them go by in Nevada, MO at the beginning of our shift.  Our average speed is once again above 20 mph, where it will stay for the rest of the race.  As we had it off to the Killer B’s there is a sense that now is the time to surge forward and catch them.

4th Kiddies 3:16:49
5th CEO/CAF 3:17:02

Rotation Twelve: TS 33-37: Jefferson City, MO to Effingham, IL

June 20th/1:14pm-June/21th/1:30am
Total time: 12:03
Total distance: 244.7 miles
2,125.3 miles completed/868.1 miles to go
Average speed: 20.30 mph
Team average for the whole race: 20.14 mph

The Killer B’s rotation actually started in Hermann, MO so their actual distance was 196 miles and their actual time was around 9:30 or so.  The support crew for the B’s is a bit fried from nighttime close-follow so we opted to shorten their rotation so that they can get a daytime shift on the next rotation.

Our teammates staged an epic battle akin to our Battle of Monument Valley.  They finally passed the Kiddies on the road just past West Alton, MO as they crossed the Mississippi—it took us almost 2,100 miles to make up the 8 minute head-start they had us.  These Kids are very good and have truly raced a fantastic RAAM.  The B’s are very pumped and throw everything they have into it and open up a 23-minute lead on the Kids—undoubtedly it is psychologically very tough for the Kids and their effort-level is probably lessening.

4th CEO/CAF 4:09:31
5th The Kids 4:09:54

 Rotation Thirteen: TS 37-40: Effingham, IL to Greensburg, IN

June 21th1:15am-11:02am
Total time: 9:47/My time: 2:36:18
Total distance: 203.6 miles/My distance: 60.1 miles
Average speed: 20.8 mph/My speed: 23.1 mph
2,328.7 miles completed/664.8 miles to go
Team average speed for the whole race: 20.19 mph
My number of pulls: 7
My average power: 256 watts

We start just after midnight local time and race through mostly the rural portions of Illinois and Indiana.  In the first two sections there are lots of small hills but nothing of any real significance.  The last stage has a number of more impressive climbs and I find that I am increasingly comfortable hammering the descents.  I stay in my aero bars if the road is nice and the descent isn’t very technical and I get down in my drops when it gets a little sketchier.  I’m routinely getting above 40 mph now on the descents.  This is nothing compared to Jon and Chris but it is a noticeable improvement for yours truly.

We are now rolling through more populated areas from time to time and we are having to deal with more traffic and stop signs/stop lights.  The congestion is especially bad near Indiana University in Bloomington and a last minute detour and some confusion about which way to go costs us a couple of minutes.

The four of us feel strong and we are able to put another 16 minutes on the Kids extending our lead to 39.  We are apprehensive about the Appilachian Mountains ahead of us and feel we’ll need at least an hour lead to be able to hold the kids off due to their superior climbing capabilities.

I feel exceptionally strong for the whole rotation.  I seem to be getting stronger as the race goes on.  I’ve been getting good sleep and eating a ton so I’m sure that helps.  I average 256 watts for my 7 pulls over 2.5+ hours and Simon seems to notice as I get a much larger proportion of the time on the road today.  My last pull averages 308 watts/28 mph on a final dash into Greensburg.  Later, most of our team, racers and crew, hit a local restaurant and eat cheeseburgers and the like.

4th CEO/CAF 4:19:18
5th Kiddies 4:19:57

Rotation Fourteen: TS 40-44: Greensburg, IN to Athens, OH

June 21st/11:02am-9:17pm
Total time: 10:15
Total distance: 217.1 miles
2,545.8 miles completed/447.7 miles to go
Average speed: 21.2 mph
Team average for the whole race: 20.28 mph

The B’s head out for rotation fourteen knowing that this is the last mostly flattish section before we face what will likely be 20 hours in the mountains.  It’s our last chance to put time into the Kiddies before the terrain swings largely in their favor.  Our guys hammer it but the Kiddies are very good and refuse to give up and over the first three sections of this rotation no time is gained or loss.  However, the boys really suck it up on their last two sections (this was their pattern throughout) and put 29 minutes on the Kiddies so we reach TS 44 with a 69-minute lead on the Kiddies:

4th CEO/CAF 5:05:33
5th Kiddies 5:06:42

Rotation Fifteen: TS 44-47: Athens, OH to Kaiser, WV
June 21th/9:17pm-June 22nd/8:18am
Total time: 11:01/My time: 2:28:22
Total distance: 201.9miles/My distance: 42.4 miles
Average speed: 18.3 mph/My speed: 17.1 mph
2,747.5 miles completed/245.7 miles to go
Team average speed for the whole race: 20.12 mph
My number of pulls: 8
My average power: 234 watts

Our end-game strategy is now clear.  We’ll fly over the next 3 sections and about 200 miles.  The B’s will jump in to a very difficult 160 and the Cop Killers are up to bring it home in rotation 17 over 85 miles.  The next 7 sections, our 3 and the B’s 4 will determine if we finish 4th or 5th.  In the prior 3 major climbing stages we lost 25, 32 and 42 minutes to the kids.  We have 7 major climbing stages in front of us and it’s entirely possible that we will drop to 5th.  The Cop Killers are very tired but very focused on passing the lead back to our bretheran.

I felt like superman in rotation 13 and definitely carried a bigger load.  That was not the case in rotation 15.  I complained to Simon that I was “missing 20 watts” all day.  Fortunately, Rog, Jon and Chris all had a monster day today.  I rallied down the stretch with my last couple of pulls today but no question, all 3 of my teammates made it happen today.  I think Roger had his very best day today—right when we needed it.  I was very grateful for how my teammates carried me!

The terrain was extremely difficult—in fact the 3 stages we faced today, in terms of elevation gained, are the 3 hardest in RAAM.  They were very tough.  I felt very good on my many descents.  All of us, between pulls, would pass out for a few minutes after each pull.  We were definitely at our limit at this point—just trying to minimize the damage the kids did to us.  We end up just losing 11 minutes over these three stages of mountain racing.  This is such a moral victory for us!  We still have a 58 minute lead and if the B’s can do it just one more time, we’re confident that the Cop Killers can seal the deal!

4th CEO/CAF 5:16:34
5th Kiddies 5:17:32

Rotation Sixteen: TS 47-51: Kaiser, WV to Hanover, PA

June 22nd/8:18am-4:25pm
Total time: 8:07
Total distance: 154.7 miles
2,902.2miles completed/91.2 miles to go
Average speed: 19.1 mph
Team average for the whole race: 20.06 mph

The B’s are very tired but they get it done.  They lose some time early but come roaring back in their last section and the net result is that they stay even through this very, very difficult climbing section.  They surmount Sideling Hill which may in-fact be the single hardest climb in the whole race.

Ted, our leader talks to the Kid’s manager and learns that they really wanted to and believed that they could catch us over the last two rotations but eventually decided that we were too strong.

Meanwhile, as we waited for the B’s to come in and Chris was once again getting interviewed by the local press, I happened to go into the bus and called out to the B team via radio and learned that they were just 45 seconds out.  We went nuts for that time and happily got Chris out with no loss of time.  We had 85 miles of racing in friendly terrain with an insurmountable lead—as long as we made no major mistakes.  We started in the late afternoon feeling very confident.

Rotation Seventeen: TS 51-54: Hanover,PA to Annapolis, MD
June 22nd/4:25-9:02pm
Total time: 4:37/My time: 1:20:21
Total distance: 85.5/My distance: 27.3 miles
Average speed: 18.5 mph/My speed: 20.4 mph
All completed:
Team average speed for the whole race: 20.01 mph
My number of pulls: 3
My average power: 234 watts

With our big lead—thanks B’s!!!—we just rode easy down the stretch.  For the first time in the race it rained—and rained and thundered very heavily.  No worries.  We knew we were going to finish and finish 4th.  We stay steady and put another 15 minutes on the kids.  We tried to TT in all 4 of us but with the heavy traffic, lights, and close follow requirements, Rog and I turned it over to Chris and Jon to seal the deal—which they did in style, despite the heavy traffic.  We finished above 20 mph, which all of us feel extremely proud of—this is not easy to do, trust me!

We, all 8 of us meet up about 5.7 miles from the final finish line—the racing was over.  We had two vehicles escort us in, and as we wound our way through Annapolis, the eight of us were treated to many folks calling out their admiration for our accomplishments.  We hit the final finish line recording an average speed of 20.05mph.  We took a lot of pictures.  We were interviewed on stage and most of us jumped off the dock into the Chesapeake—it felt awesome!

Judy was there to help me celebrate, which was extraordinary.  We went out to Buffalo Wild wings and had salad and queasidillas.  I wiped out mid-way past my 3rd IPA and we went back to our hotel.  The youngsters on my team were just heading out at midnight for 5 hours of bodily punishment but we were very happy to retire to our room.  My first bed in 7 nights and it was all the better to be there with my bride—our first time together in 16 days.  And so it finally ended!

Final 8-team standings

1st ViaSat 5:05:05/23.93 MPH
2nd 4Mil 5:08:49/23.24
3rd Strategic Lions 5:13:17/22.46
4th CEO/CAF 6:05:18/20.05
5TH TDL (KIDDIES) 6:06:31/19.89
6TH Cops 6:07:57/19.70
7th XSTRATA 6:09:42/19.47
8th Georgia 6:13:59/18.95
9th Docs/Jocs 6:14:50/18.85
10th Tli Cho Landtran 6:15:41/18.74
11th Ohio Cycle 6:18:33/18.41
12th Atlanta 6:18:56/18.37
13th Above/Beyond 6:21:17/18.11
14th Stormwind 7:01:08/17.70
15th Wounded War 7:02:50/17.52
16th Brazilian Bike 7:03:53/17.41
17th Battle Back 7:07:38/17.04
18th Crystel’s Gift 7:07:51/17.02

Random Observations/Lessons Learned

Team Deployment Strategy

We used what is probably the most common racer deployment strategy as we split into two 4-man sub-teams.  This has the advantage of being the easiest from a logistics perspective—especialy since we had three support vehicles.  The two-team structure allowed one team to always have the opportunity for a bit of rest—critical for both racers and crew.

Our two teams were fixed so the teams had very little interaction during the race—really just a few minutes at every rotation.  I imagine a team could break into 4 2-man teams and send the 2-man teams out two at a time but very the pairings. For example: AB, BC, CD, DA, AB…..This would add some variety but I don’t believe it would be of any material strategic advantage.

Our two teams were relatively well balanced.  I think the B team was competitively stronger than our A team although I think the A team did relatively better on the climbing stages.  This makes some sense since the B team was both younger and bigger than the riders on the A team (on average).  As it played out, the A team had much more of the climbing stages (Coastal Mountains, both Rocky Mountain passes, one of the Appalachian rotations).  It worked out that each team had descending and climbing specialists so I think our structure really made sense—especially since we were all rookies.

I could imagine teams having more specialization (climbers, flat-landers, etc.) and an explicit strategy of matching riders to the terrain.  This is a complicated strategy and probably would necessitate the addition of a 4th support vehicle.


I’m not sure about the details of all of the planning and organizing that Ted and his team put into getting ready for RAAM but I can assure you they did a ton of it.  They consulted with George-the race director-and Simon, who had the benefit of having raced in a record setting 8-man team.  Ted and several of the team members participated in a 400-mile trial run in Colorado, a month or so before RAAM.  This planning work was critical to our success and there is no way we would have had such a glitch-free race without all of the up-front work.

Racers and Crew

RAAM history is filled with tales of really nasty relationships between the crew and racers and within each of those two groups.  Happily, we had the opposite experience.  Of-course, when you move 19 people, 8 bikes, and 3 vehicles 3000 miles tensions do arise but we were blessed with nothing of any real significance.  To a person, we emphasized please and thank-yous and this focus on courtesy really paid off.

I think one of the positive things that happened is the racers didn’t look at all of the non-riding tasks as being solely the domain of the crew.  Racers pitched in getting bikes ready, helping with navigation, cleaning up, etc.  Obviously, only the cyclists can race but everyone can pitch in to do the countless things necessary to have a great RAAM experience.

In many respects, Crewing is more difficult than racing.  Obviously, not the physical part, but surely the mental part.  Following 10-20 feet behind a rider all-night long is tedious and requires a great deal of concentration—especially on a 50 mph descent.  Getting in and out of the van 400 times and exchanging bikes, turning bike lights on and off, etc. is no cup of tea either.

The strategic and tactical decisions made by our crew were also critically important.  How long to make a rotation and how long to make any individual pull makes a huge difference if done right.  Navigating and exchanging and rotating are all driven by crew effectiveness and a good crew can gain the team real time—free speed.  I think one of the most important stories in our RAAM adventure is the A+ performance of our crew—all the more impressive because they were rookies.

Lastly, I think it’s telling that all of the crew members have already indicated a desire to return and do it again next year.  I certainly wouldn’t want to do the race again with any other crew than the one we had on this race.

Rotation Characteristics

We utilized a two 4-racer team structure.  We rotated 17 times from one team to another.  Our team, the “A” team had 9 rotations and our teammates had 8.  Since we covered 2,993.5 miles our average rotation was 199.6 miles.  We took 6 days, 5 hours and 18 minutes so our average rotation was 9:57 time-wise.  Of course averages are misleading.  Here are some stats about the individual rotations:

Shortest rotation--#17 (the last one): 4:37/85.5 miles
Shortest other rotation: #5: 5:38/116.5 miles
Longest rotation (I think): #11: 11:48/234.4 miles
Fastest average speed: #12: 22.4 mph

Early on, with the challenging initial terrain, we used shorter rotations.  Once pass the Rockies we increased our rotation time to 10 or so hours—this allowed the down-team more time to rest and recover.

Our slowest pace between Time Stations was between TS 6 and 7 (Congress to Prescott, AZ) where we averaged 15.65 mph (this excludes the last two Annapolis sections).  Our fastest was between TS 17 and TS 18 (South fork to Alamosa, CO) where we averaged 24.97 mph.  In 25 of the 54 race sections we averaged less than 20 mph.  In 29 sections we were greater than 20 mph.

Individual Pull Characteristics

I had 50 individual pulls during the race.  Based on this I’d guess that we had about 400 pulls all together as a team.  This means our average pull was about 7.4 miles in length and on average took 22:27 time-wise.  Of course, the individual pulls varied wildly.

From a personal perspective, my 50 pulls covered 376.9 miles or about 12.6% of the total race distance—almost exactly 1/8th of the total.  I took 18:42:23 to complete my 376.9 miles, which works out to an average pace of 20.1 mph.  I averaged 236 watts over these 50 pulls/377 miles/18.6 hours.  My average pull was 7.4 miles in length and took about 22:27 to finish.  So all of my averages were nearly identical to the team’s overall average!  My shortest pull was about 9 minutes and my longest 38.  I had one pull that was just 1.5 miles in length and my longest was 14 miles.

I was very skeptical, before the race, of our plan to pull for 25 to 30 minutes.  This was completely counter to my prior experience and I thought pulls of 1-2 hours made more sense.  Having now experienced RAAM it is absolutely clear to me that shorter pulls are superior—in fact I think 15-20 minute pulls might be optimal, at least during the day when you can have moving exchanges.  Maybe 20-25 is right for the night with stationary exchanges.

How your body responds

I was very shocked to have this 55 year-old body hold up to 50 pulls of the duration and intensity that I did.  My guess is that my Functional Threshold Power was about 280 watts before the race so my 236-watt average translates into about 84% of FTP.  I had expected to average somewhere in the 200-220 range.

Interestingly, I seemed to get stronger as the race progressed.  I had a little dip in my 4th and 5th rotations but my power numbers seemed to trend upward down the stretch:

1: 238
2: 235
3: 243
4: 216
5: 223
6: 247
7: 256
8: 234
9: 234

The last 3-4 rotations I probably had higher average power than reported above as these involved a lot more urban riding and we had to deal with stop signs and stop lights much more so than our west.

As I write this five days after the end of RAAM my body is still not anywhere close to recovered.  Once I took a day off of riding, my body seemed to shut down and went into repair mode—almost like it does when I taper for an Ironman.  I think I understand now why Tour de France riders still ride 4-5 hours on their rest days.  It seems you can really keep going day after day as long as you pay attention to nutrition and hydration.

Simon was really good at pestering us to constantly eat.  After every pull I would eat 200-400 calories (sandwich, Snickers Bar, pretzels, donuts, etc.) and drink at least 20 ounces (Gatorade, soda, water).  My guess is that I ate 3000-4000 calories a day and I still lost 6 pounds during the race.

It’s also critical to take care of the “Boys” during the race.  That meant chamois butter before each ride and anti-fungal cream a couple times a day.  We also took to stripping off our kits after each pull and sitting in the van naked with a couple of towels.  We took the B teams example and bought some cheep ones at Walmart—I strongly recommend that you buy some cheap towels 4-5 times during the race.  One of my fondest memories of the race is during exchanges and all of the resting racers, standing with our butts to the wind, beside the Sprinter Van and our bibs at our knees airing things out.  Towels in the front but our bear-nakeds hanging out the back  (this was easier to do out West than it was once we rolled across the Mississippi!).

Four times during the race we secured motel rooms where we were all able to shower and use the toilet.  This did wonders for team morale and I highly recommend this practice.

I used an aero road-bike (Cervelo SLC-SL) with clip-on aero-bars.  The 3 pro teams that finished in front of us all used TT bikes and I think truly strong cyclists (Pro/Cat1) probably should do so.  I’m more of a Cat3-4 rider so I think the lighter and more stable road geometry was the right call for me.  Ideally, you’d have a road bike for climbing/descending and a TT bike for the flatter stuff but we didn’t have the room for that.

I used a compact drive-chain: 50/34 by 11/23.  Some of the other guys used 53/39s but they had a 26 or 27 tooth cassette for their small gears.  I found the 34/23 to be just fine for all of the climbing on the course but I’m a relatively good climber.  Maybe a 34/35 would be a better choice for some.

I used Zipp 404s and with the viscious cross-winds of Kansas I would not have wanted anything deeper.  One fellow on our team used a disc but he had to take it off in a bunch of places.  I also brought my aero helmet which I used from time to time—I probably should have used it more than I did.

The Experience

RAAM is very different than anything I have ever done before.  I’ve had some great endurance/adventure experiences through the years—my first Ironman, my first time at Kona, climbing Rainier, etc. but this experience in many ways tops them.  They are hard to compare but the sheer scale of the race is so compelling.  Also the team aspect and the intellectual and mental challenges are very different than Ironman racing.

I know I’d like to do it again for sure.  I could imagine doing a 4-man team but the 2-man and solo stuff I’ll leave to stronger souls than I.

If you’re into endurance sports and enjoy the challenge of LC triathlons, you seriously should consider doing this race at some point in your life—it is a true-life highlight!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

RAAM Post 49

Back from the award ceremony/banquet.  This is just the coolest thing to have done--if you've ever thought about doing and you get an opportunity you should.  If you can do it physically, and you haven't thought about it--you should!

We each received our finisher plaques (which is now my all-time favorite), had a couple of beers and a nice meal, took some pictures, and said our good byes.

I'll post an analyses of some of the key tsake-aways and lessons learned in a few days after I've had a chance to crunch a bunch of data--check back in, you might find it interesting.  In any event, thanks for following our most perfect adventure!

RAAM Post 48

I'm lying in a bed (A BED!!!!!!!!) in the Hampton Inn  in Annapolis this morning.  There aren't 8 other smelly, delerious people around me for once.  This must be heaven!

Last night was fun--we finished at TS 54 at 8:10 in the rain, just as the light was fading.  Chris and Jon TT in the last 9 miles together.  There was a ton of trafic so they averaged 11 mph but we still ended up above 20 mph for the whole race!

They then escorted us the last 5 or 6 miles into town and we rode in the dock area and people were cheering.  I saw Judy for the first time in 17 days.  We went up on stage and they gave us our medals and interviewed us.  We hung out at the dock for a while and a bunch of us jumped off the dock into the water.

We went to the hotel and had some IPAs (yes this is Heaven!).  It was really fun last night.

As for the race itself here is some info:

It took us 6 days, 5 hours and 18 minutes to ride 2,987.54 miles (this doesn't count the last 9 miles after the racing was completed) and climb 170,000 feet.  This was an average of 20.01 mph.  We finished 4th, well behind the first three teams.

Team TDL-Believe and Achieve (The Kiddies) finished 73 minutes behind us.  The Sacremento Police finished in 6th, 2 hours and 39 minutes behind us.  As of this morning, 10 of the 18 teams have finished.

I'm off for breakfast with my bride.  The award ceremony is tonight.

Friday, June 22, 2012

RAAM Post 47

We did it.  We finished 4th.  We averaged 20.01 mph.

Lot's more when the dust settles--what an experience!

RAAM Post 46

We've gone through TS 52 and we are now 25 miles from the finish!  We did 21.1 mph as a team last stage and our average is up to 20.07 mph.  It's a beautiful evening and the roads are nice.  We'll pick up a bit of traffic down the stretch but no worries.   Our plan is for all 4 of us to time trial in the last stage--we're almost there!!!!

My last ride was real easy--enjoying the scenery:

9.9 miles
19.0 mph
210 watts
66 rpm

RAAM Post 45

Chris and I done with our pulls and we are about 65 miles out.  It's lightning and thundering all around us and beginning to rain heavily--we don't mind, almost seems fitting that we get at least a little rasin--of course, we'll take care to keep the rubber side down and the bald side up!

Still haven't heard the Kiddies' TS51 time--we are currently averaging 20.06 mph--might be nice to do over 20 mph...We just passed the German 4 man team again....back-and-forth!

11.0 miles
23.2 mph
266 watts
77 rpm

Late breaking news--we are 62 minutes up on the kiddies....yeowwwwww!  Annapolis, here we come!

RAAM Blog 44

At TS 50 we are up by 47 minutes.  We just left TS 51 for the final 85 miles--we'll update our lead at 51 in a little bit.  We have a nasty looking storm chasing us but so far no rain.  Chris has astarted us out and I am up next....We should be in Annapolis by 9!

RAAM Post 43: Trouble in river City?

B Team has 4 very tough stages against the kiddies.  At TS 49 they actually picked up 1 minute to move to a 59 minute lead over 5th.  However, at TS 49, they must have had some typed of problem as they lost 24 minutes and our lead has shrunk to just 35.  We are sitting on pins and needles awaiting the TS 50 report--we hope they've corrected the problem and are now furiously gaining back time....

We'll find out soon!  Our team is ready to give it 100% no matter what!

RAAM Post 42

Well, the "Cop Killers" aka the older ones are done with their 3 mountain stages last night and this morning.  In our third stage we lost 7 minutes so we passed the batton to the Killer Bs with a 58 minute lead.  We are thrilled to only lose a combined 9 minutes to the kids over the three toughest mountain stages in RAAM.  In our prior two head-to-heads in the mountaions with them we had lost 32 and 25 minutes--so we were able to really step it up!

Our team manager talked to theirs at TS 47 and said that the kids got up all full of vinegar to come run down the old guys.  Their manager confirmed that they have 3 climbing specialists--one who weighs 95 pounds!  They also have a descender who weighs 220 pounds (although our team has several of those--unfortunately, these are also our climbers for the most part!)

Anyways we are in Kaiser, WV having raced our bikes 2,747.7 miles so far and we have 245.7 to go.  The B team is going to attack 160--mostly mountainous--miles and then we'll be back up--probably aropund 5pm for the final 85 which are fairly straightforward country roads in MD.  We are psyched about what we have accomplished so far and barring any major mistake, are confident that we can drive for home and secure 4th place--certainly far beyond our expectations.

My final pull of the day:

Pull 47
8.0 miles
226 watts
19.2 mph
67 rpm

Almost done!

RAAM Post 41

Great news.  We lost 4 minutes at TS 45 but held even at TS 46, so we are still 65 minutes ahead--we are holding our own!  More in a few minutes after I geg this computer recharged.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

RAAM Post 40

The RAAM reporting for us seems to be screwed up right now but we believe we lost 4 minutes to the Kiddies on the last stage, leaving us 65 minutes in the lead--if this is true, it's a bit of a moral victory for us given all of the climbing and descending....I'll up date when we can verify the TS 46 data...

RAAM Post 39

Ellensboro, WV--TS 45...we're cruising along, up and down in the dark.  We are in good spirits and just passed a German 4-man team, who managed to stay ahead of us this long (they started about a half hour ahead of us) so we can't be doing too bad.  We'll find our how the kiddies did in a bit.

Pull 41
7.4 miles
218 watts
19.7 mph
75 rpm

Pull 42
4.7 miles
225 watts
18.0 mph
70 rpm

We are making the pulls shorter because of all of the ups and downs.  It's hard to really look at the power and cadence data and deduce anything--ther descents are 1-2 miles in length and I'm just crouching down in my drops and letting it fly (seems to be about 40 mph max drops)--since I have a compact on it only makes sense to soft pedal. 

RAAM Post 38--take me home West Viginia!

Just entered Parkersburg, WV.  420 miles to go.  We are in good spirits and dealing well with the countless hills.  At TS 44 the B-team had erxtended our lead over 5th to 69 minutes--now with the climbs the test begins.

My first pull of the day and 40th overall:

9.8 miles
18.7 mph
211 watts (soft pedalling on descents)
70 rpm

RAAM Post 37

We are in Athens, OH awaiting the arrival of the B team at TS 44.  We will be off a little after 9pm on this Thursday night with less than 500 to go and hopefully 24 hours or so of more cycling.  To say that we are tired and wanting to stop does not do it justice.  We are frayed both mentally and physically and getting a little testy.  We hug and make up and all of us are trying to be on our best behaviour despite our deep mental and physical fatigue.

The B team and the kiddie were even for the first two stages this afternoon but the Killer Bs sucked it up and put 15 minutes on them and the last stage and we now have a 54 minute lead.  We are heading into some serious climbing, which will work to the kids advantage.  Because they are chasing us and we a re male and have egos we have no choice to push ourselves to the limit tonight.  We'll probably do one 8-9 hour shift tonight and another 4ish shift tomorow and one way or the other we'll be done.

Here we go!

RAAM Post 36

Long-feeling 10 hour shift across Indiana today.  On our second and thirs stages we lost 2 and then gained it back against the TDL team so we gained a big 16 minutes today--we sent the B team out with a 39 minute lead...they'll be looking to extend that today.  We get a few hours sleep and have to get back out there at 10 tonight and we'll ride into West Virginia.  We are also looking at a pull tomorrow afternoon and hopefully we'll be in Annapolis late on Friday.  It's going to be tough because are pretty fatigued from hammering today and the Kiddies will most certainly outclimb us on the many Eastern climbs that await us.  Even with our lead, the odds are tough.

Here were my other pulls from today:

Pull 35
8.7 miles
19.8 mph
243 watts
77 rpm

Pull 36 (lots of climbing at 3am)
6.6 miles
20.1 mph
234 watts
64 rpm

Pull 37 (lots of lights in Bloomington)
10.1 miles
20.9 mph
225 watts
71 rpm

Pull 38 (Heavy congestion in Columbus)
10.2 miles
22.6 mph
253 watts
73 rpm

Pull 39 (Finish stretch but with 2 lights)
4.5 miles
28.0 mph
308 watts
83 rpm

See ya later tonight!

RAAM Post 35

We've gone through 38 and we are anxiously awaiting an update on the kids.  Here's the statsd from my 2nd and 3rd pull of the night:

34th pull
8.5 miles
23.7 mph
268 watts
87 rpm

35th pull
8.7 miles
243 watts
77 rpm

Great news!  The old guys just put 18 (count 'em!)  minutes on the kiddies and now have a 41 minute lead over them!

We have a long way to go and we have the big climbs of WV, PA and MD where they will hurt us so we are dfetermined to try to gain more time over the next 2 TS.  WE are working very hard and hopefully we can stay on it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

RAAM Post 34: Yeahhhhh!!!!!

The Killer B's rocked.  At TS 37 we were up by 23 minutes!!!!!

The old guys are on the case now and we are going to throw a couple of extra lo0gs on the fire to maintain or extend.

It is an incred9ibly beautiful night.  It's 78 degrees but feels way cooler.  The road is very nice and it is an awesome experience to just blast down the road full on.

Here are the stats from my 33rd pull (I had to slow down at one point for a light to change but other wise I was letting the big dogs hunt!):

9.45 miles
24.0 mph
276 watts
89 rpm

RAAM Post 34: Good Morning America!

Well, it's actually just 11pm here if Efingham, Ill.  We are at TS 37 awaiting the arrival of our compatriots--the Killer B's.

As you know, we have two team--A and B.  They are remarkably well-balanced on whole.  But in the view of this blogger, the B's are our stronger team.  Just by a tinch.  Of-course, they are considerably younger than we the As, but we take solace in the fact that we are way better looking.

Awayways, while we've been asleep, the B's have been staging an epic war akin to our battle in Monument Valley with the Cops and as of TS 36, we have moved into 4th!!!!!!

In fact, we have an 11 minute lead.  they started 8 minutes before us, so we are just 3 minutes in front of them on the road.

Our team will be riding for about 195 miles--should be 9-10 hours and our task will be to try to maintain or even improve our lead.  We were able to improve it by 3 minutes last shift so we are capable.  Of-course, our opponents have at least 2 separate teams as well, so who knows.  At the very least, if we lose time, we must keep it to a minimum.

It's going to be intense tonight and there is a pretty good chance we'll be neck and neck for the final 860 miles.  Fasten your seat-belts as we are rounding the far turn!

RAAM Post 33--done for the day!

We are currently in Hermann, MO, which is a beautiful little town repleat with Winery's and Breweries (which are of-course off-limits to us racers and our crews).  Hermann sits at 1,909 miles into the race so a little over 1,000 to go.  Our shift was mush shorter today--about 8:15 and thoroughly enjoyable!  Compared to Kansas, the weather was awesome--about 94 right now and humid but the wind was manageable and the course was up and down all day with rollers--lots of fun.  Hermann is short of TS 34 so I don't have up to date info but this is where we were after TS33:

4th TDL
5th Us Guys: 10 minutes behind--we gained 3 minutes
6th The Coppers: 96 minutes behind us--we put 21 minutes on them today
7th XSTRATA: 21 minutes behind the Coppers--we put 22 minutes on them today.

We managed our two flats with probably only a minute penalty in total and were even able to call ahead to a bike store and have an employee meet us on the road for more tires and tubes.  A pretty successful day.  The Killer B's are kiddie hunting right now!

My role seemed to be shorter, very high intensity shifts today.  I averaged my highest power output today.  Here was my last pull:

6.4 miles
21.9 mph
258 watts
84 rpm

We have a short rest period.  soon we'll head up the road to TS 37 (Effingham, IL) where hopefully we'll be in 4th or very close to the kids and just 868 miles to go.

OK--I'm going to try to get 2-3 hours rest as we'll pull 200 or so from 1-10 a.m. tomorrow.

RAAM Post 32

At TS 33 we have closed to just 10 minutes!!!  Yeah for the old people!

RAAM Post 31

Just rolling into TS 33 in Jefferson City, MO, 1881 miles down and 1123 miles to go.  We just rolled off the course and met someone by the Highway to get 4 tires and 6 tubes.

My last two pulls:

Pull 30
229 watts
78 rpm

Pull 31
235 watts
75 rpm

RAAM Post 30

Cruising towards jefferson city, mo, which is where we will change teams--a short shift today, about 150 miles.  Warm and hilly but beautiful and the traffic is not so bad given Missouri's reputation.  We are having a blast this morning.  The Sargeant Major got a flat, the 6th for us 4 and ther 8th for team overall--we were just a half mile behind so we lost just a minute or so as we are always keeping somebody on deck ready to go.

My 29th pull/2nd of the day (I'm starting to bring it a bit harder now):

7.2 miles
268 watts
23.3 mph
81 mph

RAAM Post 29

We are on the way on Wednesday morning.  We are between TS 30 and 31 in western Missouri.  We have done about 1750 miles with about 1250 to go.  We changed teams in between 30 and 31.  We had a glorious 8 hours sleep.  We are each currently doing our first pulls of the day.  Hot and humid but way less wind--constant rollers which is a real treat after yesterday.

My first pull:

9.5 miles
244 watts
20.0 mph
75 rpm

At TS 30 we were 13 minutes down to the kids (but we lost 4 minutes changing teams because we are still on  close follow.

We are 82 minutes ahead of the police and 113 minutes ahead of XSTRATA

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RAAM Post 28: Flat Tuesday

Well its Tuesday a little after 8 local time in Kingsman, Kansas.  We had a rough day in the office today.  We (successfully) dealt with five flats.  Definitely cost us a fair bit of time but all-in-all, not fatal.  The wind, as I've documented was unbelievable.  At least it didn't make us dwell on the near 100 degree temp.  We basically went for 12 hours today in brutal conditions but managed to get 235 miles in.

Here is where we stood at TS 26, Pratt Kansas:

4th TDL
5th Our team 30 minutes behind
6th the coppers 75 minutes behind us
7th XSTRATA 20 minutes behind the Coppers

and the other 11 teams are probably too far behind to catch us.  The top 3 teams are well beyond us and in-fact are vying for the course record.

At Pratt we had covered 1473 miles in 3 days, 1 hour and 57 minutes--an average speed of 19.93 mph. In Kingsman, we are exactly 50% of the way done.  At our current pace we'll arrive in Annapolis around 9pm on Friday night.

The Killer B's are out on the course trying to chase the kiddies down.  They should enjoy much cooler and less windy conditions tonight.  With any luck, they'll also avoid our mechanical troubles--we wish them well and believe that they can close the gap a bit--they are very strong as a team.

As for me, I've been taking good care of myself, eating and drinking constantly.  I've kept my energy levels up and stayed hydrated.  Obviously with with 27 separate bike legs so far--all of them 215 watts, and with 66+ miles in brutal conditions today, my legs are a bit sore--but I'm really surprised at how well I'm holding up.  Our team coach has asked me to up my intensity tomorrow saying i can do more to help the team move up into 4th so I'll give it a go.  Who knows?  I was very surprised by the Battle of Monument Valley that we staged with the Coppers the other night.

I was able to sleep for 4 hours last night (brings me to 8 over the first 3+ days) and I'n\m hopeful for another 4 or more tonight.

Talk to you tomorrow!

RAAM Post 27

Back at TS 26 (Pratt, KS), whch we just passed, here is the competitive situation

4th TDL  --------
5th Us  + 30 minutes

Rest aren't in yet.  We've clawed back 15 minutes over the last segment.  We also had our 5th flat--very challenging day.

My 8th pull of the day:

4.4 miles
241 watts
17.9 mph
83 rpm

RAAM Post 26

My 7th pull of this endless day:

6.8 miles
216 watts
18.1 mph
85 rpm

We are rapidly closing in on TS 26.  Competively the kiddies have been able to pull away from us todasy--we are doing our best to try to limit the damage--we have another 32 miles to go today, having already put in 200+.  We, just put 8 back on the coppers so we are back up to 80 minutes ahead of them.

RAAM Post 25--Welcome Back to Hell

The fun continues!  I didn't think it could get worse but I was wrong!  My last pull was right at the limit of my ability to control my bike.  I went over a overpass and the winds were beyond anything I have ever experienced on a bicycle.  when I finally got to the end of my pull as I was riding up for the exchange, a towel flew out of the van into the rear wheel of my teammates bike and he immediately flatted--the fourth of this segment.  So on I went for another 3 much did I pay for this?

My pull:

9.4 miles
18.0 mph
220 watts
76 rpm

We lost 7 minutes to the kids, we are down 27 minutes for fourth--the war continues!

RAAM Post 24: Welcome to Hell!

Who would have thought that Kansas would be more difficult than the Rockies?  We are at 99 degrees (but it feels like 100!).  The wind is steady 40-50 mph with gusts to 60.  There is a high wind advisory with dangerous driving conditions.  Since this is a south wind and we (of-course) are heading east, we experience this as a very scary side-wind.  No aero-bars.  I almost went down once.  This is the single worse winds I've ever ridden in.

I spent my whole last pull repeating my mantra, over and over again.  I was just trying to not think about it and just keep going to they pulled me off.

We just passed our first soloist, having made up 2 days on him.

Here was my pull from hell:

7.4 miles
17.0 mph
215 watts
72 rpm

I geared up to put more torque on my rear wheel to try to keep more control....

RAAM Post 23

TS 24 we made back 2 minutes and we are now down 20 minutes to the kids.  We've now had 3 flat tires.  Lots of wind and heat.

My last pull:
8.1 miles
227 watts
21.6 mph
82 rpm

RAAM Post 22

Well we are through TS 23 and we have good news and bad news.  The good news is that there must have been a problem with the last TS reporting but we fine ourselves just 22 minutes down at TS 23.  The bad news is the wind that was from the west is now from the South--and it's well into the 40s--it's extremely difficult to control the bike.  Also, as I blog Jon just got a flat and we've had to cycle back and are not putting Roger out on the road--we probably lost about 2-3 minutes....crazy, tense.

My pull, which was very demanding:

8.9 miles
19.3 mph
214 watts
78 rpm

RAAM Post 21

We are now in Kansas--TS 22 is no in arrears.  We are solidly in 5th--the Kiddies are leaving us behind with their TT bikes on the flat lands.  None-the-less we are extending our lead over the Coppers--uo to 80+ minutes now.

My first pull this morning was an easy effort with a nice tail wind:

11.2 miles
25.0 mph
223 watts
83 rpm

Monday, June 18, 2012

RAAM Post 20

Quick post at the end of a long day.

Our team averaged 25.0 and 24.5 mph on the last two legs.  It was good enough to claw back 5 minutes on the kids so we are 40 minutesd out of 4th.  We gained some more on the coppers and now enjoy a 40+ minute lead over the sixth place team.  In sharp contrast to the exciting racing of yesterday we never saw another team today.

My last two pulls of the day (the last was up the final Rocky Mountain pass we'll face:

Pull 18:
14.0 miles
210 watts
25.5 mph
83 rpm

Pull 19:
4.5 miles
212 watts
15.2 mph
79 cadence.

We are now just leaving (in the sleeper bus) TS 19 at La Veta, CA.  We'll pick it up tomorrow near Kansas at TS 23--we have a big 200+ mile day tomorrow.  We were able to shower in a hotel room and eat at a restaurnt tonight which was awesome.  Fatigue is setting it but we are still on it!

More tomorrow!

RAAM Post 19

We went through TS 17 and now are on a modest downhill with a very strong tailwind.  Here was my 17th pull:

12.0 mph
216 watts
87 rpm
28.2 mph

Back aty TS 17 the kiddies kicked our ass--they can really kill us on the climbs--we 25 minutes to them and we are now down 45 minutes to them.  We lost 2 minutes to the Police but still hold a comfortable 30 minute lead.

We are now over 1,000 miles and are paralleling Rio Grande.  We can see forever and their isn't a cloud in the sky--86 degrees.


RAAM Post 18: Over the Divide

We are currently nearing the top of Wolf's Creek pass and the Continental Divide.  I've had two rides--the first was on thelead into the 8 mile 7% grade climb:

8.0 miles
221 watts
19.8 mph
76 rpm
max power: 511 watts
max speed 35.6 mph

Jon led us up the climb proper, followed by Roger and then me--all 2 miles.  My climb to took me to over two miles high:
2.0 miles
220 watts
7.5 mph
66 rpm

Jon pulled another 1.2 miles and Chris took it to the top and will now do the big ass descent!

In the lead into our start the Killer Bs got caught in a rock slide and were held up for 10 miles.  We fell back to 20 minutes off of the 4th place team but we maintained a 32 minute lead on the Cops. 

RAAM Post 17: Route Profile

Here is a profile of the RAAM course.  Wolf's Creek, which we cross today is the highest point
 around 1000 miles....

RAAM Post 16

Good Morning America!

It is a very beautiful day here in sunny Pagosa Springs (TS 17).  When the Killer B's get here we will be at 961 miles with a mere 2,036 to go!  We've still been on the road for less than 48 hours!!!

Last night was awesone--our run into TS 12 last night we averaged 23+ mph and that included a 30 miles climb--albeit, not that steep (also, in the interests of full disclosure a bit of a tail wind helps)!  Anyways, our team , formerly know as Team A had no been dubbed the "Cop Killers" due to our exploits last night.  Through TS 16, our compatriots, the Killer Bs have continued to progress the cause and at that TS we were 38 minutes up on the Police and have moved to within 11 minutes of the 4th place team.  Looking good.

Today is the day that our team takes us up and over the Wolf Creek Pass at nearly 11,000 feet and we will then be on the eastern side of the continential divide.  Our first effort is either up or down.  I hope tio be assigned a bunch of the former and not so much of the latter.  I'm not sure if we will go TS 19 or 20 today but I'd guess just 19 considering all the climbing on tap.

OK here we go!!!

RAAM Post 15--Yeah Baby!

This is so much fun!!!!

Jon closed the gap on the Police to 50 seconds and I took over 4.5 miles from the top of a nasty little climb.  Chris was standing by to do the 13 mile descent.  I needed to get in front of the Police team so chris could have a clear shot at the descent--which looked technical.

When I took over the other Police rider started pulling away bit by bit.  I dug down and tried to minimize the damage.  Then i began to close a bit.  I stood up and for 5-6 minutes poured it on.  Up ahead I could see what I thought was the plateau at the top and I srtood up and gave it everything I had for 100 hard yards and I moved ahead!

I expected to see the change-over van up ahead but it didn't come.  and then, the Police changed over and I had fresh legs chasing me.  I kept looking up the road--wheree was the e4xchange.  Finally I see flashing lights and as i get closer, it's another team.  I am so red-lined!  I put my hand to my head and pantromined a gun--I was fried.  My follow car stayed close trying to urge me on.  I had no idea how far ahead I was because of headlight glare.

Finally I could see it and I sprinted to the end a nd stopped and did the stationery exchange and said "that's fr you, brother".

Of course the Sargent Major took off and hit 52 mph and we have opened up a big gap and we are now heading the last 10 miles to TS 13 and the end of our shift in 5th place.  I'm done for ther day.

Here was muy data from my last pull of the day:

4.4 miles
313 watts
15.5 mph
84 rpm
158 bpm
352 calories

RAAM Post 14

We have continually cut into the Police team's lead and now are within a minute or two.  Very exciting racing out here on the road.  You can see a very far way in the desert--very cool to look into the distance and see your opponent and go and run them down!

Stats from my last pull:

8.33 miles
223 watts
21.3 mph
145 bpm

RAAM Post 13: Hair on Fire!!!!

Just had the pull of my race so far.  I was up when the start of the 800 foot descent into Kayenta started.  I put my time trial helmet on and let it fly.  I quickly ran down a Brazilian 4-man team and their support vehicle would not get out of the way.  I didn’t know what to do but went for a pass across the divider—I went by them and hammered it hitting 38 mph and their team did not drop back making it difficult for my follow vehicle to drop in behind me.  This, of course hampered my visibility, but my headlight was giving me enough to keep it safe—in my judgment.  I figured the best thing to do was to ride away from them as fast as I could—which I proceeded to do.

What I didn’t know was a caravan of 8 cars had came up upon our two race teams and they were local and impatient.  One came over next to us on the other side of the road—I could sense them and started honking their horn art us.  The Brazilians honked back if you can believe it—completely against the rules and completely lacking in common sense.  The local then turned on some bizzare chicken sounding horn.  I was confused to say the least.  My heart was pounding I just decided the best thing to do was to ride away from everyone.  I did and everything apparently got sorted out behind me and we the rest of the ride was quite a bit less exciting.

We just hit TS11 and have closed to within 6 minutes of the Police.  Whew-hew!

Here are the stats:

10.4 mile
217 watts
26.4 mph
80 rpm
428 cal
146 bpm/156 max

Sunday, June 17, 2012

RAAM Post 12

OK--on our way to TS 11!  New update--our frineds from Sacremento ended up with just a 15 minute penalty so we remain in 6th--12 minutes bvack.  We believe they are stronger  climbers so we'll try to limit the damage on this 30 mile climb--which is where we are now.

My shift was great--I felt good and I had a more flattish section:  My 11th shift stats:

7.4 miles
21.9 mph
218 watts
350 cal
83 rpm
140 rpm

RAAM Post 11

We are on our way for shift number 3.  We just left Tuba City, AZ (TS10).  Ironically, the Sancrmento police where wrong up for some vioation and received a time penalty.  As a result we are back in 5th!!!  We are currently 41 minutes down from 4th so life is good.  Our first leg this evening is basically all climbing as we head yp to Monument Valley--one of the climbs is 30 miles long--so we'll grind away!

In other news, one of the follow vehicles exhausrt set some road-side grass on fire and the car ended up burning up!  That's way this is the toughest bike rtace in the world!!!

I'm up in 30 minutes--it is very dark out!  We are now at 615 miles--more than 20% done.

Keep on keeping!

RAAM Post 10

WE are chillin' in Tuba City, AZ (TS 10) about 9:30PM EST and 6:30 PM local.  We are about an hour and a half out from starting our next shift.  The B team is holding it's own and we are currently in 6th--we're a good half an hour behind the Sacremento Police as they are clearly very good climbers.

I took a sleeping pill and actutally slept for 3-4 hours so that will at least suffice to get me through our 8-9 hour night time shift tonight.  We leave Tuba City and climb up to Kayenta, AZ and then leave AZ and head towards Mexican Hat Utah in the heart of monument valley--which unfortunately we will not see because it will be dark--and then we head onto Montezuma Creek, Utah where we'll stop at TS13 after about a 160 miles or so or hard riding.

I awoke a couple of hours before their arrival so i went over to Sonic Burgers and ate a Cheese
Burger and admired the Arizona vistas as I ate outside in what feels like fairly comfortable 95 degrees weather.

Our team is doing really well for folks that were just thrown together.  We do a few things wrong but we quickly respons and don't look back.  Lot's of can I help, would you please, thank-you very much going around.  I really love my mini team of Roger, Jon and Chris as well as our drivers, Ted and Simon.  When you're flying at 30 mph down an decline in the middle of the night it's reassuring to have a competent driver 15 feet behind you showing you the way and literally getting your back.

I suspect the next two days will create some challenges as we head up over the rockies and cumulative fatigue begins to build but so far, so good.

I'll update you from the road!

RAAM Post 9: climbers we are not.

We arrived shortly after noon  on Sunday  (1400EST) at TS7.  We were outclimbed in some very demanding sedctions byt several teams and find ourselfs in 7th of the 18th teams--certainly wellwithin striking distance--we are hoping for the young guns to real in these teams over the next 8-9 hours.

We take over around 9 our time tonighht ehich I think is around 0000 monday for you and our shift will be entirely in the night.  My last two pulls: number 9 and number 10 were very different:

shift 9: all up a very steep hill
1.96 miles
228 watts
11.0 mph

shift 10:a bit of a climb fullowed by a terrifying 3.5 mile descent into prescot.
4.56 miles
159 watts
23.4 mph
53 rpm
163 calories
136 bpm HR/148 max

We are now leaving Prescot and rapidly nearing 500 miles in.  We'll hopefully get some sleep and be readt to go at 9 am in Tuba City

RAAM Post 9

I just the crux of the Yarnell climb just past the congres TS (TS 6).  The yarnell climb is a total of1800 feet over about 6 miles.  It was 108 degrees despite us being up to 4000 feet of altitude.  Stats:

227 watts
7.7 mph
66 rpm
326 calories
145 bpm/150 max

I piut it in diesel mode and just tried to stay steady and sub-threshold.  I felt pretty good.

We are doing fairly well competitively but two teams are way out climbing us--the Sacremento Police Department repassed us and we find ourselves in 6th place at this point.  All good--we are about 25 miles from TS7 and the end of our shift.