The Big Finale

It started for Peter, Kathy, Mr. O and the rest of Pete’s family in 2007, when he pursued his first RAAM. Truth be told, the concept of endurance and ultra endurance sports has been in Peter’s blood for a long time. While his ride today through the last 5.5 stages of RAAM, was arduous, frustrating and painstakingly slow at points, it was a brilliant finish to what is the world’s most difficult bicycle race. Peter is absolutely blessed with a network of support that is a requirement to achieve this outcome, as critically important as his FTP levels, his strength or his incredible drive to succeed.

TS 49.5 to Finish Line!

With the finish line figuratively in sight, I thought we would adapt Lyrics from Eminem -To appreciate the song, I suggest that you listen to it if you don’t know it as I think the music adds impact to the lyrics.

Songwriters: Jeffrey Irwin Bass / Marshall B Mathers / Luis Edgardo Resto

Look

If you had

One shot

Or one opportunity

To seize the best RAAM race you ever wanted

In one moment

Would you capture it

Or just let it slip?

Yo

Pete’s hands are swollen, legs weak, arms are heavy

There’s spittle on his jersey already,

He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready

To descend the glass elevator, but he keeps on forgettin’

What he wrote down, the Mindset crowd goes so loud

He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out

He’s chokin’, how, crew’s jokin’ now

The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!

He’s so mad, but he won’t give up that easy? No

He won’t have it, he knows his whole crew’s supportin

It don’t matter, he’s dope, he knows that, but he’s

He’s so stacked that he knows, when he goes back to his Mindset studio, that’s when its

Back to the lab again yo, this whole rhapsody

He better go capture this moment and hope it don’t pass him

You better lose yourself in the riding, the moment

You own it, you better never let it go

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow

This opportunity comes once in a lifetime you better

It only grows harder, only grows hotter

But hold your nose ’cause here goes the cold water

This opportunity comes once in a lifetime you better

The competitor’s escaping, through this hole that its gaping

This world is mine for the taking

Make me king, as we move toward a, new world order

Coast to coast shows, he’s known as the RAAM rider

Best believe somebody’s payin’ the pied piper

All the pain inside amplified by the

Fact that I can’t get by with my nine to

Five and I can’t provide the right type of

Van for my crew ’cause man, these Races don’t pay no money

This is my life and RAAM is so hard

And it’s getting even harder tryin’ to chase down riders, plus

I am dreamin of another sleep on my cot,

For me to want to stay in one spot, another jam or not

Has gotten me to the point, I’m like a turtle I’ve got

To formulate a plot before I end up last in my lot

Success is my only option, failures not

So here I go is my last RAAM shot

Legs fail me not ’cause maybe the only opportunity that I got

You better lose yourself in the scenery, the moment

You own it, you better never let it go

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to roll

This opportunity comes once in a lifetime you better

You can do anything you set your mind to, Peter!

The day began for us at the usual 3am wake-up call, quickly shower and get on the road to find Peter, our Greencastle Super 8 motel was right off the hwy, with a McDonald’s and Burger King right there, so we were eternally hopeful that we could grab some breakfast before shift. Nope thwarted again. Instead we found Sheetz which is a decent gas bar food emporium (The word gives it a good feel) so we stocked up and started rolling to get to Janet, CA and KMan. These stages leading into Annapolis were still going to be challenging for sure. On the basis of ft/mile of climbing, it was going to remain difficult, with that said, as we entered PA and then back into MD again, we had great scenery and road conditions. We made the exchange at around 4:15am, it seemed like Peter had been rolling smoothly but had experienced some challenging bits as he thought he had seen some raptors tickets on the road, that he swerved around.

Peter was tired (funny that) and he was rolling along with 50 cadence or so. Every 8-10 miles or so he would be stopping to put his chain back on. Unfortunately, his specialized bike was over indexing on the smallest cog of the cassette and throwing the chain into the frame. Not good. We had tried to alter this back in Chillicothe but to no avail. At one point, having jumped out the car for about the fifth time to help him fix the chain, I told Peter not to use that gear. It is only useful on downhills and not even really helpful there given you aren’t pedalling fast enough. With that said, it happened a few more times before he got the message.

The big debate in the van was whether to put him on the TT bike. The only problem was that he had flatted the tubular and there was too big a gash to fix. Regluing a new tire wasn’t practical and we didn’t have rim tape to do the job. The other rear wheel with a 10 speed cassette was a 10-28, which means lots of speed on flats but lots of grinding up climbs. We didn’t think Peter could handle more fatigue, so we left him on the road bike.

We would spend the next several hours finding things for him to eat, pushing out some hydration and yelling at him to pedal….pedal Pete was a near constant refrain for him. Just think, from June 11 at 6:30am until 9:30am of June 22, Pete would have had approximately 45 hours of sleep. These were comprised of 3 hour sleeps per day and then typically 15 minute naps when required. In most instances the decision when to sleep or nap were Peter’s to decide although at any point if the crew felt there was danger (head nods, or significant variance in riding (wandering across the road)) then the crew would stop him. With this as context, amazingly to me, after so much time in the saddle and lack of sleep, he was still able to keep himself upright, at times riding no hands and do track stands as we waited for lights. Those riders out there will know that a track stand is hard enough to do without all that fatigue. We finally changed him from the road to the TT bike at approximately mile 25 of TS50-51. We felt it was paying off as Peter had to work a little harder in climbing mode but had much more speed everywhere else. Remember speed is still a relative thing as his speed had fallen off but the TT bike was definitely faster than the Specialized.

It seemed like we were no longer racing as we had lost sight of the Kiwi, Leah Goldstein was no longer catchable and the ability to go sub 10 days was out of reach. Under these circumstances, the athlete needs to figure out the motivation in order to draw inspiration and drive performance. It seemed to me that Peter was flagging on this. He saw things slipping away and started to focus on just getting it in under the 12 day cutoff. This was very clearly achievable barring catastrophe with 100 miles left. Pete has completed tons of century rides, he could easily do this one in 45 hours! With this said, he could be much faster than that but he needed to see it happening and want it and at this juncture that didn’t seem to be in the cards from a crew vantage point.

At Gettysburg, PA we stopped at the historic site for another nap and a change of clothes. What a great site that extends down the road of SR16 for several miles.

We changed Peter after his nap, which would pose a bit of a problem later for the parade. Once changed, fed and hydrated we put him back on the road and soon thereafter the Gopher van with BT, Mr. O and DW would join us in getting Peter to the finish line. The team in Gopher would go up the road and plant themselves at turns so that Peter would be cheered on and would have clear directions as to where he was going. Again, given the state of mind and fatigue, this was critical to keep him safe and to keep him on track to posting the fastest time possible. We had another nap on the roadway as Peter was showing fatigue again. During this downtime of 15 mins, we decided to change the cassette on his rear wheel, from the flatted disc wheel, so that he had a little more spinning power for a few more ascents.

The TS at Mt. Airy (TS 52) was brilliant, it was at ‘the Airy bike shop, a spot that Peter would have liked to see if he wasn’t napping! They had a guy bbq’ing hot dogs, washrooms and mechanics, if required. The guy cooking was excited to see us and tell us how the course was all down hill from this point (don’t care what the race or who is telling you, a race is never all downhill (anyone who has ran the Sporting Life “downhill 10k” knows about this lie!). With that said, Mt. Airy is at 789ft of elevation and Annapolis is at 13ft, but…..

We put Peter into the Follow van for a nap, while the crews used washrooms, ate burnt hot dogs on burnt hamburger buns (yeah not sure why the combo – but anything tastes great at this point) and hung out. With about 7 minutes to go in Pete’s sleep, Bruce needed something out of the gopher van but Mr. O had locked the doors and taken the keys to the washroom. Seeing a window down, I thought it was a brilliant idea to reach in and unlock the door. Imagine what came next? The horn is blaring as the alarm goes off while our rider is sleeping 15ft away – way to go rookie! Peter didn’t even move.

After the Airy time station we had 49 miles left until the “finish line”. There was still time to break 11 days but it would likely mean a Herculean effort from Peter and it wasn’t clear he had it in him. Peter was riding well as the nap and the smell of the finish line seemed to put some snap into his peddle stroke. With about 22 miles left to the “finish line” we made some time calculations. Peter had time bonuses available of 50 minutes that were composed of 20 minutes from the delay for another rider’s crash on the glass elevator descent, 90 minutes from a delay during flooding reroute between TS42 & TS43, less a 60 minute penalty ( we won’t mention where that came from ;)). The official finish line for this race is at the docks of Annapolis but the final 5.8 miles to that point is completed with an escort vehicle and everyone receives the same time for that stage – 26 minutes, which is added to the time at the timing line. It was 4:01pm, Peter’s race had started at 4:36pm EST, and we had a 50 minute time credit but from that we would deduct 26 mins for the parade stage. So, we had 4:36-4:01 =35 minutes + 50-26= 34 minutes or a total of 69 minutes to travel 22 miles or 35.2kms. Of course you want to leave 1 minute to spare, so we had 68 minutes to do that distance, which equates to a speed of 31.1km/hr. Greg wanted to recheck the number before talking to Peter and yes the numbers were right.

Greg: Peter, do you think you have your best 1hr time trial in you?

Peter: not in this traffic!

Greg: well, if you want sub 11 days it is available.

It is extraordinary to me that Peter’s response had nothing to do with being tired, his legs hurting, his butt sores/chafing killing him (all of which would have made huge sense) and had everything to do with an exogenous factor like traffic. I can’t be sure if sub 11 days mattered to Peter because I hadn’t talked to him about this. I do know that he wanted to try and break 10 days and likely wanted to beat his previous time of 10 days 15hours, 57 minutes; despite the fact that the race course is different. What I do know is that he is a keen competitor in his own reserved way and competitors do get motivated by these things including keeping the big number (10 vs 11 days) as small as possible.

So despite his answer that traffic was going to make a strong TT effort difficult, you could see a marked change at that point in Peter’s focus, cadence and positioning. It was like nothing was hurting any more. It was as though he had a TT repeat that he needed to accomplish in training and of course he would lay it down. At 20kms, he was on pace and we now tell him he needed the 30km/h pacing and he was digging in. Janet and crew were at the “timing line” finish waiting for us. I asked her if there was a live timing clock there and she said no, that the official had it with him. I asked her to check the time so we would know if our van time was the same, it was! With 3.5 miles left we hit a snag. We were stopped at a left turn at one of those interminable lights. 30 secs, 45 secs, 60 secs passes and we start looking for pedestrian buttons or the inductive loop detector (yes that thing buried in the road to detect cross traffic) – nothing. At 90 secs we got the change and we were off. Peter was putting out full gas and all we could do is watch it unfold in front of us, finally the timing line appeared and the finish of this epic race was now in clear sight. He put his head down and gave it his all and went over the timing line at 10 days 23 hours 36 minutes.

An aside:

As we begun the final push to the finish line we started to think about getting Peter ready for the finish line “parade”. There was a RAAM kit that he was going to wear, we might switch him into pretty shoes, polish his bike and when the time came, give him a towel bath to freshen him up. One problem, I couldn’t find his special ‘RAAM sponsorship kit. I turned the kitchen upside down looking to no avail. Called Janet to ask her where she thought the kit was and she told me exactly where it was left. Only problem was, it wasn’t there. Lo and behold, that kit was on Peter’s back already as Greg had pulled that shirt out at one of our changes during the day. I call the Gopher van to see if they have a kit in the dirty laundry bag for Pete, yes we do they answer, so we ask them to drop it off to us. We get the jersey, wet with sweat, throw it on the front defroster, hit heat and after almost 2 minutes almost throw up from the stench. Ok, that is not going to work, so I go into MacGyver mode. I walk back to the rear of the van where we have the Gatorade cooler, pull everything out and start soaking the shirt in the ice cold water, grab a bar of soap I had in my pack and start an old fashioned clean. Rub, rub, rub with soap, dunk dunk and repeat, doing all of this while we are moving down the road. Ok, the shirt is now a little cleaner but soapy. Given time is of the essence, I figure I need to dump that water and put in some clean water to give the shirt a good rinse. Ok, pull the 5 gallon jug to my rear passenger seat, lock in with the seatbelt, pull the sliding door open, dump water, close door! Easy! Wipe out the cooler, pour in water, rinse shirt, sprinkle with baby powder, wring out, rinse, repeat. One more time, then send it back to the defroster position, Voila we have a parade jersey!

Peter would join the parade car at the Shell gas station, which was 3.5 miles from the official finish line. He would wash up, put on his Sunday kit finest, and ride to the official end of the World’s Toughest Bicycle Race. The crew would join him to go down the finishing chute to share in this wonderful accomplishment.

We would holler, Let’s go Oyler, let’s go Oyler, let’s go Oyler and he would get down on his knees, kiss the finish line and then hoist his bike over his head – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!! Peter would finish 6th overall in his division of males under 50.

Kathy was there to great him with a huge hug and kiss as was his mom. Diane and Sue had come down from Toronto, to see Peter cross the line.

What a great experience led by a brilliant rider and a marvellous crew! RAAM 2019 is now in the record books.

Storytelling Interlude

We have been overwhelmed by the response to Peter and his Race Across America. Many of you sent in your own lyrics, some quotations and some jokes. We have tried to read them all out to Peter in addition to the heartwarming and supportive comments for Peter and the crew.

For your reading pleasure, as you sit in front of your computer watching his dot go across your screen, here are your thoughts, (I apologize if I missed one of your songs, jokes or quotes) captured without attribution.

Some of your favourite adapted lyrics:

1) Follow the yellow brick road. Follow the yellow brick road. Follow follow follow follow Follow the yellow brick road. Follow the rainbow over the stream. Follow your dream. Follow, follow, follow, follow Follow the road to Annapolis.

We’re off to see the Wizard. The wonderful world of Oz. We hear he is a whiz of a wiz. If ever a wiz there was. If ever, oh ever a wiz there was. The Wizard of Oz is one because Because, because, because, because, because. Because of the wonderful things he does.

We’re off to see the Wizard The wonderful wizard of Oz. We’re off to see the Wizard. The wonderful Wizard of Oz. We hear he is a whiz of a wiz. If ever a wiz there was. If ever, oh, ever a wiz there was. The Wizard of Oz is one because Because, because, because, because, because. Because of the wonderful things he does. We’re off to see the Wizard The wonderful wizard of Oz.

2) Heh Peter, I’m inspired by your crew and their inspirational song quotes.  I’ve thought about a few more, songs most definitely not Rush in nature, that might give you

First off, I’m Not Ready to Play Nice, the Dixie Chicks.  You are not out here just pedalling.  Nope – you are an inspiration to all those talkers out there.  You are doing. You are making things happen.   So then we can ease into just a “O What A Night”, who cares if its late December 1963.  Its 2019 and from what I understand its hot as hades out there.  Just pretend its December.     I think now we’ve definitely got to pay homage to the great Toronto Raptors.  That requires Queen.  Obviously  a We Are the Champions moment, but right now certainly calls out for a Don’t Stop Me Now interlude because “I’m burnin’ through the sky, yeah two hundred degrees, that’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit. I’m traveling at the speed of light, I wanna make a supersonic man out of you… Now I’m going to bring it out from anthem rock to a decidedly more pop, more girl music really, with Wilson Phillips.  They really had a very nice song with Hold On.  This will remind you:  Don’t you know things can change, Things’ll go your way, If you hold on for one more day, Can you hold on for one more day, Things’ll go your way.Hold on for one more day… Ok.  Pretty bubblegum.  I’ll give you that.  So throw some Doobie Brothers in there.  Taking it to the Street.  Or even Taking Care of Business, with BTO.  I could go on, with like Peter Gabriel and his Solsbury Hill, even Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds, but maybe now you’re just thinking Just Stop!!  

“Fly by night, away from here

Change my life again

Fly by night, good night my dear (original lyric is goodbye my dear – all others are original)

Start a new chapter

Find what I’m after

It’s changing every day

Quiet and pensive

My thoughts apprehensive

The hours drift away

Leaving my homeland

Playing a lone hand

My life begins today”

3) Adaptation from the Wheels on the Bus:

The Wheels on the bike go round and round

Round and round

Round and round

The wheels on the bike go round and round

All down the road.

The lights on the bike go blink, blink, blink

blink, blink, blink

blink, blink, blink

the lights on the bike go blink, blink, blink

all down the road.

The crew on the board goes clap, clap, clap

clap, clap, clap

clap, clap, clap

The crew on the board goes clap, clap, clap

all down the road.

The pedals on the bike go faster, faster, faster

faster, faster, faster

faster, faster, faster

the pedals on the bike go faster, faster, faster

all down the road.

Something slightly different:

Peter, you’re looking good!  Here’s a limerick to keep you going:

In Oceanside there we did find Pete,

Saying RAAM I know I can beat,

His mind he did set,

He spun that cassette,

To Maryland again-what a feat!

Jokes

Peter seems to love getting bad jokes read to him, so here goes some of your contributions:

1) No doubt your great crew is taking good care of you. Here’s todays joke titled “Bad Date”.

“Hi Sarah, listen, I only have a minute. I’m about to get picked up for a blind date. Can you call me in a half hour just in case its going bad?  Great, thanks.”

Raquel gave herself a quick spray of perfume, checked herself one more time in the mirror, and headed outside to wait for the guy.

Sure enough after 20 min, Raquel was discreetly checking her watch. After 10 more long minutes, her phone finally buzzed.

Raquel listened for a few seconds, grimly pursed her lips, and turned to her date.  “I feel terrible but my Grandmother is terribly sick, and I must go home now.”

“No problem!”. Said her date with a big grin, “in a few more minutes, my dog was going to get run over!”

2) A priest, a minister and rabbi decide to have a friendly competition to see who is best at their job. To make things interesting, they agree to see who is best at converting the bears in the local woods. A week passes and they get together to compare notes.

The priest says, “I was walking thru the woods and came upon a patch of berries where there was a bear, gathering berries. I walked up to the bear and gave him Holy Communion, and thus converted the bear”.

The minister goes, “I too was walking thru the woods, and came across a stream.  There was a bear in the stream catching fish.  So I waded out to him and baptized the bear right there, and so converting him”.

The priest and the minister look over to the rabbi, and this guy is in rough shape. He’s in total traction with a full body cast, cuts and scraps on his face and hands.

“Oy vey”, the rabbi says. “In retrospect, I shouldn’t have led with the circumcision”.

3) golden retriever light in colour is sitting at his desk wearing black glasses which are falling slightly onto his nose.

The desk light is on and he has a cup of coffee next to him.

He has his paw on the papers on the desk and is looking the papers over.

He finally saids.   “I did the math and we just cannot afford the cat

4) A golden retriever wearing a hunting cap is sitting at a table with it’s paws on the table with a Budweiser between it’s paws and a rifle in front of the Budweiser.   And says, “Damn Chihuahuas, they took our jobs”.

5) A man walks into a bar holding a piece of asphalt.

The man says, “A beer please, and one for the road!”

6) What’s the difference between a dog and cat?

Dogs come when called, cats just take a message and get back to you when they are ready.

7) Q:How do you know you’ve married a cycling addict?

A: Your laundry has more bike jerseys than clothes

Q: Why is sex like riding a bike?

A: You can do it by yourself but its usually not as much fun    

Q: Do you know what is the hardest part about learning to ride a bike?

A: The pavement

Q: What do you call a professional cyclist who just broke up with his girlfriend?

A: Homeless

Favourite inspirational quotations:

1) Thoughts are vital, living things, little bundles of energy, if you will. Most people don’t stop to consider the nature of their thoughts and yet the quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life. Your thoughts form your world. And what you focus on shapes your destiny.

2) Never give up when a trial presents itself on the path. And many trials will present themselves along the way. Yes, before your greatest victory you will certainly face your greatest challenge. With an awareness that this is all part of the route that you must travel to return home to your authentic self, it will be easier for you: you will be prepared.

3) Balance success with significance. What is the point of achieving great things without having a great impact? At the end of our lives, what will be most important is who we have become – and the difference we have made.

4) Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Focus on your goal. Don’t look in any direction but ahead.

I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

If you’re going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill

Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance. – Samuel Johnson

Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway

5) you have the courage to respect your body – the temple that houses the person that you are – personal mastery will not be far away. Each time you get into the gym for a workout on a day you just don’t feel like exercising, you grow a little stronger as a human being. Each time you go out for a run on a cold winter’s day when the covers feels like the best place to be, you actualize your humanity just a little more. Working on improving your physical condition is a great way to improve your character and enrich the quality of your life. Good health is true wealth.

6) Courage allows you to run your own race. Courage allows you to do whatever you want to do because you know that it is right. Courage gives you the self-control to persist where others have failed. Ultimately, the degree of courage you live with determines the amount of fulfillment you receive.

7) The more disciplined you are with yourself, the easier life will be on you. The stricter you are with yourself, the gentler life will be on you. When you get stronger with yourself and rein in all those weaker impulses and have the self-discipline to do what’s right – every time – your life is certain to turn out great!

8) ‘Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.” Mark Twain

9) When you do your best and dedicate yourself to excellence, life supports you and puts wind beneath your wings. It sees a human being who is reaching for his ideals and trying to become what he was meant to be. The kind of effort never goes unnoticed by the eyes that watch over the world.

10) All things of value come with a cost

And this cost, it’s essential because without it there is no triumph, there’s no victory

It’s what separates out those who really want something; the determined

11) [Athletes] endure a lot of rough situations, a lot of painful training because of a tiny light at the end of the tunnel

That light is how you build upon you self-worth, it’s how you define what you’re capable of

and Success cannot come to be without adversity

How you handle yourself in those adverse situations….that is what defines a person. That is how you build your legacy

12) There will come a time when it hurts

When you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it, and consciously avoid quitting and turning to an easier approach

Remember, anyone can run downhill, not many people can run up

13) Pain is temporary, but quitting is forever

14) The pain in your body during the final stretch of your race

All that dissipates – That becomes pretty meaningless looking back

It’s the result that matters – It’s the result you remember

Because when the hurt is over and the struggle is gone, you either did something great or you didn’t

15) Rise above what is uncomfortable and see the big picture

16) Ride it out

17) Because when all is said and done, the guy who gives more when it hurts, gets more when it’s over

18)Truly successful people never seek to be like others. Rather, they seek to be superior to their former selves. Don’t race against others. Race against yourself. Just resolve to be better than who were yesterday and extraordinary things will unfold for you.

19) Success lies in a masterful consistency around the fundamentals. The best get better by staying wildly focused on the simple principles of excellence, principles such as treating people well, working hard, refusing to give up, seeing opportunity where others see failure and staying true to you.

20) Never give up when a trial presents itself on the path. And many trials will present themselves along the way. Yes, before your greatest victory you will certainly face your greatest challenge. With an awareness that this is all part of the route that you must travel to return home to your authentic self, it will be easier for you: you will be prepared.

21) Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Focus on your goal. Don’t look in any direction but ahead.

I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

If you’re going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill

Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance. – Samuel Johnson

Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway.

Mission Accomplished

No doubt all of you, who have been following the race, know that Peter crossed the finish line this evening in Annapolis, Maryland. What started on Tuesday June 11, 2018 at 16:36 EST, ended on Saturday June 22, 2019 at 17:28 EST. An unbelievable journey for me. Here are a few pics from the finish line. I will be posting three additional blogs, one to recap today, one that highlights some of the songs, inspirations and jokes that all of you delivered, and one for me to thank Peter for inviting me on this incredible adventure. Thanks for reading along and providing your incredible support to Peter over the past 11 days!

p

Not Much Left to do, But Drive for the Finish

Day 11, From Bridgeport to Cumberland, 126.6 miles and ~4,000m of climbing, some of the steepest climbing on the entire RAAM course

Adapted Lyrics from Joe Walsh

Life’s Been Good
life’s been good
I have a Franco, forget the price
Ain’t never ridden it they tell me it’s nice
My crew lived out of motels tore out the walls
I have Mr. O pay for it all

They say i’m crazy but I ride like the wind
I’m just putting out Watts it’s where I have shined
Life’s been good to me so far

My scott TT bike does 195
I lost my mojo now i just glide
I have a disk wheel that rides in the back
I lock the doors in case i’m attacked

I’m making blog posts my fans they can’t wait
They write us letters tell me i’m great
So i got me a studio with jerseys on the wall
Just leave a message maybe i’ll call

Lucky i’m sane after four RAAM races
Everybody says i’m cool (he’s cool)
I can’t complain but sometimes i still do
Life’s been good to me so far

Go to parties sometimes until eight
I need to leave when I’m training 24hrs straight
It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame
Everybody’s so different but i haven’t changed

They say i’m crazy but it takes all my time
Everybody says oh yeah (oh yeah)
I keep on going guess i’ll never know why
Life’s been good to me so far

These finishing sections are brutal on their own, let alone at the end of a 3,000 mile bike race. With that said, all of the competitors have to deliver, so we just need to get it done – come hell or high water (we have had a lot of the latter).

TS 45-46 – 46.4miles 5,539 of vertical climbing

TS 46-47 – 55.9miles 6,334 

TS 47-48 – 48.9miles 5,121

This race just keeps getting tougher!

Wow, morning comes early, wake up call at 2:30, shower and go. It sounded like rain was a nemesis again late yesterday and last night. They also had the time trial wheel flat, which is always challenging given it is a tubular disk, which is a pain to fix if it can’t be done by throwing goop sealant into the wheel. In any event, first order of business was for us to get some “breakfast” and coffee. Slim pickings in Bridgeport, the lone 24 hour joint, is closed for floor cleaning, the fourth time we have been thwarted by floor cleaning!!

OK let’s go chase down Pete and the crew and hope there is a gas station for coffee and food. Sure enough we were able to get 3 terrible coffees, 4 hard boiled eggs, 3 deli style vegetable and pork egg roll rotisserie tortillas and some beef jerky for our breakfast……I will just let that sink in for a bit. 

We do the crew exchange at 32.4 miles of this 46.6 mile stage and off we go – let’s go Oyler, clap,clap,clap clap clap; let’s go Oyler, clap, clap, clap clap clap, of course the rhythm was in keeping with our Raptors chant!

Making the final climb into the Grafton TS, the 8 man team of 807 was making a pass and with great sportsmanship the rider stopped and rolled with Peter for 500m or so talking to him – fantastic camaraderie from these athletes. 

Team pass is being made, but first a quick conversation with Peter

It was now 5:15am and the rain has continued to fall, Peter continues to push but the progress is slow. The key in RAAM or any ultra endurance race is to keep moving forward. Of course, moving forward at faster speed is the next thing to focus on, but time stopped is a big limiter to success. By 6:30 the progress had slowed considerably, the rain continued and Peter was increasingly complaining about the cold.  We took him off the bike for 20 mins and shortly after getting back on, Leah Goldstein, a fellow Canadian, would pass him. 

At 11:00am Peter had made two unexplainable right turns off the road to t-roads or driveways.  On the second one we decided to pull him and give him another nap.  This one was timed for 20 mins and following that we stripped him of all his wet gear and put on new dry clothing as the sun began shining….finally! For much of the morning we would go back and forth with Leah until she overtook us during this nap, and we didn’t see her again during our shift.

Pete was chasing Leah at this point.

Again, in this game, staying on the bike – safely, is key to success. If you take a 25 minute break/nap and your competitor rides by you at 20km/, they will be ahead by 8.3kms by the time you get back on the road. Now if you ride at 23km/h; to their 20km/h, it takes you almost 3hrs to catch them and that’s only if you can be 15% faster than they are when you are actually on the bike. At this stage of the race, being faster is much harder than outlasting, but outlasting, when you have already cycled 2,700 miles on ~40 hours sleep in 10 days, is no walk in the park either

Diego is capturing the action

The last 15 miles of the last stage of our day Into Cumberland was difficult as Peter struggled to keep his focus and drive. His heart was there but his mind kept wondering if his legs were going to get him there. Perhaps he began to question whether he could put down enough power to get him across the line and meet his goals. Or, if he drove all his energy into that next mile and then the one after that and the one after that, would he have enough in the tank to finish? I believe Greg’s view is that you don’t know that answer unless you try and fail. Even then, I would harbour a guess that even in those situations, Greg still suggests that you don’t know the answer when your sample size is 1.

Descending is Sweet only if you can find a comfortable position

We finished at a local gas station for the time station and crew change. It was now about 4:45 in the afternoon and Peter was going to have a sleep in prep for the push to Annapolis. We were hoping he could find the reserves that were being driven by all of your best wishes.

The Tough Part is about to begin

Day 10, Chillicothe, OH to Athens, OH – 92 miles, 1,153m of climbing 

We had one of our best nights, going out for dinner at Old Canal Smoke House for a good dinner with a potpourri of tastes. We then had the plush Marriott to lay down our heads. It was quite exciting!

Great dinner

Our day started in Chillicothe at 3am, I went out and gassed up the van and picked up a couple of bags of ice for the Follow van. I almost started our day real badly, not yet thinking straight at 3:15am, I jammed the diesel pump nozzle into our gas tank and squeezed the trigger…Nothing, so I squeezed again…nothing, thankfully the station clerk had not registered my pre-purchase yet or we would have had one fried engine!

Today we are taking some inspiration from Survivor and “The Eye of the Tiger”

Risin’ up, back on the street

Rode my bike, took my chances

Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet

Just a man and his will to survive

So many times, it happens too fast

You trade your passion for glory

Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past

You must fight just to keep them alive

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight

Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival

And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night

And he’s watchin’ us all with the eye of the tiger

Face to face, out in the heat

Hangin’ tough, stayin’ hungry

They stack the odds ’till we take to the street

For the kill with the skill to survive

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the dream of the fight

Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival

And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night

And he’s watchin’ us all with the eye of the tiger

Risin’ up, straight to the top

Had the guts, got the glory

Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop

Just a man and his will to survive

I had aspirations of going to the 24hr IHOP but we learned that Pete had not made it to TS43, so we were going to have to start working backwards to meet the team, which didn’t allow for much of a breakfast.  We got yogurt, coffees and started out to find Pete.

It turns out that a major reason that Peter did not make it was the weather continued to pound these communities with torrential rains.  This had led to detours over the last several stages, but on this stage it appeared that we were the first to report the flooding and impassability of the route. From there, phone calls with HQ ensued, trying to find alternative routes. In addition to the challenging conditions, Peter was also finding his legs were revolting and while he tried to “Jens Voigt it (shut up legs)”, he was not having much success of creating continuous power.  We finally met up with Peter with around 30miles left in the stage. It was raining, but not hard and so we focused on a quick crew change, in order to get Peter back on the road – remember, between 7pm and 7am, Peter cannot make forward progress without a direct follow van – so he was stopped until we were ready to go.  

It is wet and getting wetter

This was the first time that we were in the Follow van when it was raining, which meant the other crew has endured a tremendous amount of wet! In any event, we got Peter into his rain jacket and we were off – slowly, very slowly but at least we were moving forward! For the next 3+ hours we would roll through these rural roads of Ohio, as Peter fought with his legs, trying to get them to report for duty – from our vantage point in the car he was fighting a losing battle. This was slow!! At one point, Greg had me jump out of the van to escort Pete up the climb for fear that he might fall over. While walking a modestly brisk pace, I talked with Peter going up the climb reminding him of all your comments, support and encouragement and that it was time to dig into that reserve.  He was doing this again knowing full well that it always gets ugly, then uglier and then better and then ugliest.  There was no straight line to be had for completing the task at hand.

Peter was trying to problem solve his legs not firing and thought maybe he was low on electrolytes. So we then had the following exchange:

Greg: Pete, what is wrong

Pete: I think that G2 doesn’t give me enough electrolytes, I want some eload!

Greg: Pete, I think you are getting enough electrolytes, you are not cramping are you?

Pete: No, but I want to get some eload into me

Conversation in the car:

Greg: QB put some eload in a bottle

QB: we pulled the eload out, remember we felt the G2 was working well

Greg: Ok, lets put some Gzero in a bottle and say it is eload, we will see if he notices

QB: ok (note GZero has less electrolytes than G2 and half as much as eload)

Back to Pete

Greg: hey Pete, remember that the two chicken soups you just drank have lots of salt

Pete: yeah, I guess they do, but still give me the eload

QB: here Peter, here is the bottle of “load”

Peter: takes a drink, takes a second drink, puts the bottle in his cage and rides on!

We finally got to the time station and we had decided to give Peter a sleep. Our hotel was off the route, so to minimize the down time, we wanted to find a spot that was sheltered from any possible rain, but was going to be otherwise open to the elements. We found this great spot. Note, right across the street we had a Tim Hortons, which made me quite happy. We got Pete undressed, yes naked on a cot in some backwoods town in Ohio at an abandoned gas station (so exotic a vacation we were all having ;)) where he would sleep quite soundly for the next three hours. 

Peter: there is too much noise here 

Greg: here are eye covers and earplugs Peter, now go to sleep.

Sleeping Beauty

No sooner had we put the earplugs into his ears, he was sawing logs.

A high class place he was sleeping at

Three hours passed and we were back on the road with a lot more focus and more energy although the legs were still not what they needed to be to get us through the Appalachians. We would reach the second crew at 4pm at the Athens time station, where CA worked vigorously on Peter’s legs to get him ready for what will be the toughest stages of this race.  

Stage 9 – A picture interlude

I am going to cheat a bit by not delivering a stage nine recap, rather I thought I would provide some best of pictures to tide you over. I just want to be sure I am in a position to capture these later stages as things get a little more intense. Thanks to KMan for many of these photos!

I hope you enjoy these.

Pictures can tell a few stories.
Representing
At the start with Marlo Baloh, looking real fresh – Team Canada
Beautiful country
The storm is on the hunt!

Let the Racing Begin!

Day 8 commentary Racing has Begun

Jefferson City to Greenville, IL – 158.2 miles, 

This is the day, when the navigator came to the forefront and navigation was critical to our success. In our vehicle, we have settled in to the same roles, Greg in the driver’s seat, Diego as navigator and QB working the kitchen. We were now moving from largely rural settings to far more town and city settings with multiple detours or route changes.   The huge challenge is ensuring the rider doesn’t get lost, which seems easy given our van can accelerate to 130mph on the speedo and Pete is just riding his bike, but indeed things get complicated. 

Living Life Large

We turn to Queen and Freddie Mercury for inspiration today

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle 

I want to ride my bicycle, bicycle, bicycle

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride my bike

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride it where I like

You say 508, I say RAW

You say 808, I say TorTOUR

You say car, I say hey man

Bullitt was never my scene

And I don’t like Fast and Furious

You say Specialized, I say Tarmac

You say God give me a choice

You say Lord, I say Christ

I don’t believe in Peter Pan

Frankenstein or Superman

All I wanna do is

Bicycles, bicycles, bicycles

I want to ride my Specialized, Franco and Scott

I want to ride my bicycles

I want to ride my bike

I want to ride my bicycles

I want to ride my bicycles, RAAM is coming your way

So forget all your duties, oh yeah

Solos and Teams, they’ll be riding today

So look out for those turns, and don’t get lost

On your marks, get set, go

Bicycle race, bicycle race, bicycle race

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle 

I want to ride my bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle

(I want a) bicycle race

Thanks Kathy for all of the Support!

This stage was relatively uneventful for us although exceptionally difficult from a navigation point of view.  Diego had certainly brought his “A” game today has we moved through a myriad of route changes in order to avoid significant amounts of flooding. While there were several occasions where one might have heard “are you sure, are you sure, check it again”, Diego was steely in his resolve that we were on track. 

Diego, don’t be feeding the wildlife!

Then it happened 🚴‍♂️🥇, a race broke out. At about 100 miles into the effort is when I would say “RACING RAAM” began.  We were starting to get messages from home that suggested Peter was fourth, with indefatigable Christophe Strasser leading the way, Marco Baloh and Jakob Olsen, a 25 year-old Dane who won last year’s 24 hour time-trial race with 478.8 miles completed, battling for the remainder of the podium.  Peter was sitting fourth just ahead of a kiwi.  An interesting side note, during one of the occasions I have been able to run alongside Peter, during this race, one time was climbing to Yarnell. I was spritzing him with freezing cold water and Peter says, “do you see that guy who just passed me”

QB “no Pete I didn’t” Peter-“he’s 25 years old and he left me like I was standing here!” QB -“That is the beauty of youth Pete.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now there was an intensity that extended beyond the current stage, there was a focus on who was up the road and who was behind us.  An urgency has begun for Peter and it was contagious for the crew.  

When the going gets tough, sometimes the tough need a bit of rest – this is a 15min nap

Navigation interlude:

Just to describe the process of navigation for everyone so that you have a perspective on the opportunities to get lost.  First, the route for the Race Across America is captured in a route book that is 136 pages long, with 55 stages each comprising 2 pages. One page is a map, while the facing page is the turn by turn directions. RAAM tried to be meticulous, with way points in between turns to try and ensure you are on course. For many of us, we have given up reading maps and become heavily reliant on gps. While gps is allowed, HQ is very clear that only the map book is the definitive reference point for the race route.  As a process of following the book, Janet and then CA, created sticky notes for each time stage. They are colour coded by turn. The navigator uses these stickies to remind the driver of the upcoming turns so that the driver stays alert and will peel each sticky once she/he completes the action (turn right, turn left etc.). One of the critical pieces of the whole process is the tripometer. At the beginning of each time station, you should reset your trip clock to zero as each stage has its own distance.  The navigator will then tell the driver that at 52.4 miles, there is a right turn and at 53.6 miles there is a left turn. These directions will each have a sticky note, that the driver peels off and hands to the kitchen for disposal. All seems simple…right?

Nutrition at 7:30am for driver and navigator

Well the whole process works really well until you factor in the rider. The rider is solely dependent on the crew to tell him/her where to go.  Of course, if you have a lot of history riding a particular stage (as Peter does with stage 1), then you may not need the crew telling you where to go. Otherwise the Follow needs to ensure the rider knows at all times where they are going.  Of course, remember after day 2, Peter was working on 3.5 hours sleep/day – which makes concentration challenging. Finally, there is one key rule, if you have been given no instructions…then straight is always the answer. This last bit seems very easy, with 8 hours of sleep and no buzzing cars around you, but add in fatigue, darkness, heavy rains and tricky intersections and things become messy quickly.  

So the cadence is as follows: navigator understands the route, conveys upcoming changes to the driver and passes sticky notes across to the driver for turns.  Then yells out the window to the rider to describe those changes. ‘The driver and rider then execute and then you rinse and repeat. When things become tricky, often I would jump out to let Pete know what was coming, of course when we have a rapid succession of turns, this can be challenging. With wind noise, automobile and trucks wizzing by, it is definitely difficult to hear. Up till now, we only have had two missed turns, one of those tight left-right ones where he went straight for 50ft before he stopped and one where we didn’t get to him in time to veer right. On that occasion he got about 500m past the exit and the rules say we have to put him in the van and drive him back. 

So there you have it, the backdrop to travelling 3,000 miles with a rider who needs to be directed from Oceanside to Annapolis. 

The remainder of the shift was pedestrian with very few exciting things happening. We handed over to Janet, CA and Dave and made our way to the next sleep stop.