RAAM - Pre race week - Post 1 of ??
by tiggaJul 1st 2011
To say we have now raced across America is something I, and sure the whole TEAMFeat Data Techniques team are quite proud of. It is a monumental undertaking with all the pre-race prep, the training and the race itself it did consume my life for the best part of 6 months and more. Befitting of such a race and it's training and organisation I'm writing a few blog entries to try cover the the event. So much happened whilst out racing and in the final weeks preparation to just write a short little story about just won't cut it, so get yourselves a cuppa. The simplest things like getting to the airport becomes a logistical mare as we were a group bookingÂ... So lets starts the the week leading up to the race.
With one week to go we'd made the arrangements for the whole team to meet on the Tuesday (our departure day) at 9am, 3 hours prior to take off. As most were coming from Southampton area, along with 6 of the 8 bikes, just getting the gear there required the driving skills of Martin Fox who dropped the guys off with bike boxes and bags galore as Team Feat in all it's glory spread out at T5 before check in. It wasn't long before BA's baggage allowance 'rules' had us repacking bags to the maximum weight limits and number of pieces allowed etc etc. The weight limit thing irks us skinny little athlete types, but hey-ho we dodged most of the costs and paid for 2 bags. Having such limited space in the RV which was travelling from California to Annapolis meant the crew each had two pretty small bags for a few pairs of shorts and shirts and not much else, and the the riders we didn't take much more apart from additional cycling gear, which when preparing for all weather conditions can add up to quite a lot. My journey from Wimbledon to T5 was pretty painless as Jacks drove up and collected me before peak hour traffic got into full flow, I'd booked a meet n greet car parking so it literally was as smooth as it could have been getting us to the nearest resturant inside T5 for 7:30am and coffee and a bite to eat. By the time the full crew arrived the amount of gear we were travelling with seemed ridiculous. In amongst all that was bike spares/tools, nutrition (which included 5.5kg of Jelly Babies for yours truly), 4 TT bikes, 4 Road bikes, 4 sets of extra wheelsÂ.... the list seemed endless.
The one thing BA got right was delivery of all our gear in LA. I was half expecting at least one bike to go AWOL!
It all gets a bit messy when travelling en masse with so much kit and we literally filled up the Enterprise shuttle bus to go and collect the two hire cars. In the end we hired two Dodge Caravan's who's seats discreetly hid away to leave a massive open rear which when empty looked enormous, but once a couple of bike bags had been chucked in there didn't seem half a big. Loaded cars and two taxis for the team members we headed for the first hotel close to the airport. Hardly the Ritz, but living out of an RV for a week was not going to be 5 star either so squeezing us down gently was a good thing. First thing in the morning was the RV pickup for which the 8 or 9 drivers needed to watch a 20min video on how this massive thing works and some tips on driving it. Eventually we were all en-route to the start town in OceansideÂ... excitement is now building as race day gets closer and the travelling to get there is done. The next 3 days before the start are nerve wracking as the riders simply want to get going. It's not quite that easy though. There is still a lot to do as all the vehicles go through safety checks by the race organisors for all the correct signs/lights and the bikes have to be reflectorised so as to be seen from everywhich angle, it seemed that every flat surface had a piece of reflective tape on it! We still have to do a food shop to stock up the RV for the first day or two. Andy Patterson went on the search for a Tannoy and an amp so music could be played through the night, our race radio/comms had to be picked up and tested. There were race meetings and briefings to attend, photo shoot - what might have originally looked like 3 days of chill and simply put the bikes together turned out to be a manic few days. Each and every crew member was already being stretched to get things done. Ten member crew consisted of:
Simon Wright - Crew Chief, RV driver
Dave Doust - Bike mechanic, navigator RV
Nick and James crew team:
Mick Stevens - Driver/Navigator
Dave Corbin - Driver navigator
Emma Lack - Jame's better (?) half, driver navigator
Andy Wray - Driver navigator and physio
Ian and myself crew team:
Andy Patterson - Ian's brother, Driver navigator
Dave Baines - driver/navigator
Jacks Howe - driver/navigator and my better half
Will Daligan - driver navigator and physio
These guys had endless banter, were serious when needed to be and all were dedicated to us, the ridersÂ... basically they were our biatchesÂ... hahaha. As we go along there'll be stories on each of these guys who gave up two weeks of their lives to get no sleep and drive at cycle speeds across the USA. It won't be the first time I thank them for their tireless efforts!
We managed a couple of easy spins. One was along the coastal road through CarlsbadÂ... I really love a ride by the seaside. Memories of my hometown and my early days of riding up and down the coast. Another ride we took in the first 20km or so of the course. I was amazed at just much warmer it was just 10km inland from the coast. Warming us up for the desert I guess! That particular ride with James was interrupted by what I thought was a fly which had flown into my ear and it was buzzing away, as I stuck a finger in to help the noisy little blighter out, the fly morphed into a bee and stung me inside my ear. It was an extremely painful experience which had me wincing in pain and left me with swelling in the ear and neck glands for the next two days as well as a bit of headache. Not what I wanted with 2 days to go. Luckily by race start it had subsided and was a minor irritant for the first day and that was about it.
The first real excitement that this race was close was at the race briefing which was held in a hall on the beachfront with all teams in attendance there was a real buzz in the air. To me it was the feel of club organised event, the excitement of massive eventÂ... and real community feel and vibe and I felt quite special to be involved in something with a long history yet so few have the ability let alone the opportunity. Suddenly I was aware of just how privileged I was to be here ready to take on the toughest cycle race in the world.
Eventually race day dawns, the sun comes out, the nerves appear in full flow and along with the few other teams staying in the same hotelÂ... we all depart for the beachfront start. A special mention the manager of Fresh n Easy shop, a chain which is owned by Tesco's, thet were generous enough to supply us with loads of 500ml bottles of water and bananas and oranges which would last into day 3! Meeting up with Morgan of Metabender, who's GPS tracker was going to track us live for the entire journey as well as the other IT bits he'd sorted for the team to make this as easy to follow as possible for our followers back in the UK and scattered all over the world. As we lined up at the start line to ride the first 8miles together down a cycle path before the official race began and we put our race tactic in placeÂ.... the real countdown began as the teams were set off at 1min intervals. 2:17pm was our off time. The butterflies in my stomach were wild in those final few minutes before starting a race that could potentially take 6 or more days, with nothing like the experience to know what we were in for in the days to come. Damn, it was an exciting time of the race. Team Feat Data Techniques, Team number T422 were ready to roll!