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Tales of an endurance athlete
Duathlete at heart, but will do aything running/cycling/swimming/multisport related. Within reason of course:-)

RAAM Part 3 - silly things happen out there!

tiggaby tiggaJul 27th 2011
Arizona in the rear mirror and we're bearing down on the RockiesÂ... this race does not have all that much that is easy?
Surprisingly, even though I still struggled to sleep, I felt pretty good considering I'd given a lot in that wind through AZ. In funny way that gave me a lot of confidence to know I could push relatively hard and still recover for another 7 hour block with 7 hours rest inbetween. The key is to eat loads in your 7 hour break, and continuously eat and drink whilst you're out there battering yourself. I didn't have a nutrition plan as such, but as I'd done a lot of my training on Jelly Babies, I decided doing the race with them made sense. Unfortunately the particular brand I'm partial to, you can't get in the USA. No problemÂ... I'll pack what I need. In then end I took out 5.75kg of Jelly Babies out with me, thatÂ's a whole TWENTY TWO THOUSAND CALORIES worth. Mostly to use during the riding stages as I'd planned to eat more substantial meals with protein and other 'goodness' inbetween. That worked very well.
We were lucky to have Jacks in our camp, she worked tirelessly. Cleaning the RV at least twice whilst we were in there in our 7 hour, cooking for pretty much everyone at least once, sorting out the laundry that needed to get done. At one stage she sat inbetween the driver and the navigator of the RV and was asked by Will who navigating at the time, 'are you tired?'. To which she repliedÂ... 'no, I'm fine'. Not 20seconds later Will had to carry her to the bed as she'd fallen asleep sitting there? Of all the crew, I'm guessing she slept the least. This race is tough on the riders, but I know how hard it is drive at cycle speeds when you are tiredÂ... the crew had it tougher than you think, and without them we would not be the fighting position we are at this point.

Wil Daligan, our physio, was drafted into the team fairly late on and up until 3 weeks before the race had only met Nick on one occasion. Not ideal from a team point of view as we don't really know what he would be like under those conditions, but given his army background we thought he'd be ready to rough it and muck in. And that he was and did! Will was switched on and 'will'ing (hahaha), apart from driving the RV onto the motorway down an off ramp and not an on rampÂ... easily done you know, those Americans drive on the wrong side of the road did you know? It was funny at times when he was driving the car as Jacks would get so scared about how close he was pulling off on the verge of road to do a rider change, she'd keep reminding him how close she thought he was getting and afraid of getting stuck or perched somewhere and Will would sayÂ... plenty of room, plenty of room!

Actually, Andrew and Dave had a bit of incident. Nope, let me rephrase that, they had many incidents! But the funniest of which is being pulled over by the friendliest policeman as we bombing down the motorway in Illinois. Andrew is quite the chatty, friendly guy, could probably talk himself out of any situation, except maybe the one where he entered the USA and having been arrested at some point in his younger life and not declaring it - Them not so friendly immigration people pulled him aside into one of them booths for 15mins and gave him the 20 questions about why he did not declare it on his form! Luckily, they let him go through he wouldn't fess up to whether he had been strip searched or if he'd been asked to touch his toes by the man with the big rubber glove. Andrew had sneakily distracted this nice Illinois policeman and got him talking about his family, and boy did this chap want to talk! The only problem was, we were running behind really needed to get going. Eventually, he told us about some or other law in his state and let us go. Yes, there is lot to say about Andrew and Dave. Their endless banter, unfailing sense of humour made them first class guys and if we were to do it again I'd have them as my 'bitches' again any day! ooops, back to their major blooper. Day 4 I think it was, on another one of the many route diversions and Andrew was the only one with the new directions. For some reason he was not sure he had the right directions so he wanted to make a call to race HQ, but we were in some of the deepest, darkest and least travelled parts of the USA and no mobile signal. When all of a sudden he shouted at Dave to pull over he had signalÂ... Dave followed his instructions dived off the road only for the car to get bogged down in some serious mud in the verge. Properly stuck. With me on the bike and only knowing the route had changed but not where we were going, a radio in the ear but not getting any directions.
Will and Jacks went back to find them as they had no mobile signal so I was left travelling east on this fairly busy road. Andrew has a fairly good Southern American accent and as he explained - a local farmer in dungarees(well, that's the picture I have in my head anyways) says to them, 'you awwwwl, shouldn't have pulled over heeeeeerÂ... it's been raining and it's muddy over there.' By now Dave is out the car looking under to see the whole front of the car is sunk deep past the axles in mud. By the time he looks up, this American local farmer has stopped the traffic in both directions has his V8 Chevvy backed up and ready to tow us out. All this Andy reckons in less than 3mins! Add to that this farmer's mate had hauled a crane truck from the queue of cars to near us as option two should his chevvy not do the job, this crane already had it's side supports out and planted just in case. This was a major state road, and here were these farmers holding the fast building queue for us and they helped us out of a potentially tricky spot of bother! Quite a spectacle I'm sure it wasÂ... alas, I saw nothing and heard nothing and had been travelling at around 38km/hr for 20mins. They were a long way behind me, how long before I got radio reception and some directions? If I'd missed a turning I could well be going miles off course.
Luckily all was well and they managed to get on the road and in touch with me to guide me the right way. The only drawback of that was I was out on the road for 50mins in midday heat and was running on empty by the time the caught me up.
All I can say is, the crew have to deal a whole lot more than just driving and as much as we, the riders, wanted to do well, the crew also had the same urgency the same 'want' to do well and lose as little time as possible. To have that kind of commitment and support was incredible and invaluable.

Back to our race.

James and Nick hit the Rockies at speed, with James cresting the highest point of the race at 10,847ft above sea level and Nick bombing the downhill, Kamakaze style apparently! Myself and Ian climbe two peaks at near 10,000ft and the big bad downhill that followed. Not as tough as I thought they were going to be and felt quite strong going up the hills on my road bike and speedy going down the other side on my TT bike. Swapping bikes and wheels was all part of the plan, but it gives the crew more to do. A fairly uneventful stage and by the time we got back on the bikes in Kansas we were well and truly heading to the flatlands. Luckily we had a slight tailwind in Kansas and literally flew along these straight roads. We had the company of an 8 man team who we'd been swapping position on the road with for the past 2 days. I could tell they had two teams of 4 guys, one was definitely stronger than the other and we were up against their strong boys through Kansas. I'd picked out their two strongest riders, and at times when I knew they were on the road I'd put myself close to redlining it to stay in contact. A dangerous move when we were barely halfway through the race. At times when we turned a 90 degree corner and it would be a proper crosswind, scary riding with a disc and deep rimmed front wheel. Riding a disc is silly fast in those conditions though, and in one 20mins burst I'd put in a hard effort and clocked up a 53km/hr average speed. In fact for that whole 7 hour stint we had an average of just short of 48km/hr! It was hot work out there though, 15-20min of riding and I'd build up a decent sweat, climb into the aircon car and drinking 500-750ml every pit stop! Near the end of that session we came unstuck with one missed turn which was 2km from our exchange point and it cost us a few minutes. In fact, that was quite a stressful stage as in one of the route diversions we were given the wrong directions by race HQ on how to get to the course and that cost us 12-15mins which we weren't sure we could claim back. There I was, pacing up and down outside the car with Andy on the phone and him knowing and seeing I was getting more and more wound up. There we were as riders busting a gut, sometimes pushing it a little too hard but only to give time away for no apparent reason. The chaos of that rider/team change had stress levels high. Normally we'd send one car ahead with the other teams bikes to give them time to sort themselves outÂ... but as this one missed corner only 1.5km away from the rider exchange had both cars arrive at the same time. Knowing I'd redlined and made good time (as did Ian I know), but to lose time needlessly really got me down. I was pretty drained emotionally from the previous days fight with the wind and the bike, that this time I really was visibly upset. It's hard to hold those emotions back sometimes.
It took a while to feel happier about the situation, and part of that was made easier when were told we would be credited with 12mins for the race HQ misdirection. I had yet another one of those little chats with myself, and also with Jacks. We have to remember we're travelling suicidal speeds, 2+mph faster than we were aiming for, still within minutes of the lead. We had to be happy? I think the thing that got to me at that point was that if we were second by a matter of minutes I'd have a lot of 'ifs' and 'buts'. When we set out on this adventure though we knew things were not going to be 100% plain sailing, but as we got deeper into the race and it still seemed like a real race. Like a couple hour raceÂ... but here we were 3 days in and still going hammer and tong against the USA guys, luckily though, we'd opened up a decent gap on the Swiss chaps.

Anyway, our next effort was going to be an all nighter and we'd be heading into the state of Ohio, passed the halfway point and toward the feared Apalachians. Again, try and sleep, don't think of what has happened and focus on what is ahead. It was like preparing for a race within a race every 7 hours, but doing it on the move in an RV and getting no more than 1 hour of sleep in that 7 hours!
 
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