It is interesting that during a race that is expected to last at least 8 days and up to 12 days, there is a lot of tension and expectation that builds for crews in the first 24-36 hours. As a reminder, the storytelling for this blog is coming from the perspective of the second crew (Diego, Greg and Quentin (author)), but I suspect that a lot of our experience mimics that for the first crew (Janet, KMan and Dave). Of course, we both have the benefit of our forward team, Jack and Mr. O, setting the pace and ensuring that we have the things that we need to keep Peter rolling.
Having got to bed at 11pm, we got up at 2:30 in the morning at the Best Western; had a bit of chuckle about the free breakfast being served….at 6am (missed that perk!) and made our way to an exchange point. At night, Peter must always have a follow van directly behind him and consequently when we do a crew change, he must stop and allow us to exchange vans. Of course, all the time that it takes for us to make that exchange happen costs Peter time as the clock never stops. This was the first exchange and so it was to be expected that it would take a bit of time. With that said, we probably were able to get everything moved across in 10 minutes.
And so, it began, like WKRP in Cincinnati we were on the air, ready to take Pete through to the Congress time station (mile 395) before having a sleep.
Friends, if you’ve ever wondered
Wondered whatever became of me
I’m living on the highways from Oceanside to Annapolis
Got kind of tired packing and unpacking,
So I let the crew do it for me
Town to town and up and down those mountains
With the black top sizzling and dust bowls twirling
Friends think of me once in awhile (lyrics adapted from Steve Carlisle)
That would likely put him at 24 hours of continuous cycling. As a coach, Greg defines two effective battery recharges – full charge; 3 hours, or take the edge off charge; 15 minutes. These two “tools” need to be utilized effectively in order to get Peter to the finish line in a timely fashion but also to make sure that he is operating alertly at all times. Of course, there is always a fine line to manage when the racer wants to get more rest and the clock unmercifully marches forward.
Being one of two rookies on this crew (Dave is the other), it is interesting to experience endurance racing from the perspective of the crew. If you contemplate how you are going to spend the next 12 hours after you read this blog post, you can probably come up with 100 different ways you are going to spend your time. If I told you that you were going to spend those hours in the “Back Seat of 60 Chevy” I am sure that you could contemplate getting lots done on the laptop, read a book, shoot photos of the marvellous scenery – and on and on. I thought that too. When I volunteered to join Peter’s RAAM crew, I thought I would be able to bring some racing/endurance sport experience to the crew but I also agreed to try and keep everyone at home informed about the race through social media and blogging given the legion of people that care about Pete. Hey, 12 hours in a Dodge Caravan, I would have way more room to type than in a 60 Chevy. Hmmm…..the best laid plans.
So, back to the race. Peter was looking very good on the road, very alert, pedal cadence was smooth, and his posture was strong, not at all slouched. To be honest, this was a dramatic change from when we last saw him during bike change at Borrego Springs, when he looked hollowed out. In the van, Greg was driving, Diego was navigating (a crucial role, given wrong turns mean more time ticking and rider frustration) and I was in the back, being social media guy – NOT. For the next 5 hours, it was important that Peter make good progress, it was 68 degrees, which is a huge benefit versus the 95-110 that it would climb to during the day. The plan was to have Pete ingest a bottle of Gatorade G2 every hour, and take in calories over the same period. We also had an ice-water bottle that Pete used to cool himself and to drink. For calories, we had real food – bananas, strawberries, watermelon, bread, wraps, peanut butter, jam, eggs, rice, avocado, cheese, turkey, chicken and gels (eload and etap). Greg also wanted a concoction of 5 different items that created calories, protein and fat in a drink. The point of all of this is to keep some level of caloric replenishment, while maintaining hydration, so your body stays as close to stasis as possible given you’re doing an inhuman race.
During night follow (7pm-7am) we would prepare Pete’s bottles, and do handoffs from the window every 25-30 minutes, ask what he wanted to eat and then hand that out the window, Keep rinsing and repeating always asking what Peter needs. Of course, one of the beauties of doing a race like this is that you are up at ungodly hours to experience a world that is truly breathtaking. The night sky is lit up with stars as far as the eye can see. The sunrise is very special and portends the heat that will befall us.
The day continued to unfold exceptionally well. Our racer was moving along with limited challenges that were evident to us (apparently his butt was getting sore) and as a crew we were getting more and more comfortable in our roles, particularly anytime that we had to get out of the van to change bikes, or do a cooling routine with Peter. A memorable experience occurred after one such exchange. We had likened ourselves to a formula 1 pit crew. For those who watch racing you know it is all about efficiency and getting your driver/rider back on course! In this particular stop, Diego was to give Pete’s legs a rubdown and in particular his feet where he had been experiencing some challenges. Greg was going to doing some further cooling with towels and it was my job to exchange his bike from the TT bike to his Specialized.
Peter arrived at the grocery store where we had parked, Diego sat him in a chair and started massage, I grabbed his TT bike, and Greg started cooling. I pulled the Specialized off the roof, put on the front wheel, I switched his lights over, put on new bottles, washed off his garmin, put his iphone back on the bike and adjusted his brakes. After about 4 mins, we had created a little break for Peter, he got back on his bike and was off. We put the TT bike on the roof, and we were off, high fiving each other with a brilliantly executed formula 1 pit stop. We were in the van for 30 secs when Jack (who was up the road) came over the radio, “boys, Pete says he has no batteries”. Me – “What do you mean no batteries Jack, we just changed his lights!” “No QB, his SRAM shifters don’t work cause the batteries aren’t in!!” Rookie mistake – I had just sent him out to climb a mountain on a single speed – oops! So off we went to catch-up to him and provide some juice for his gear changes.
One of the really cool things about being crew and not athlete is to watch the dynamic of racer and coach. Greg is focused on getting Peter to the finish line safely, and within that construct, to “express the fitness and experience” that Pete has built into the training leading up to RAAM. Peter, of course, wants those same things, perhaps even more but there is a difference……Greg is sitting in the van and Peter is sitting on the bike – perspective is everything. Having done a bit of endurance racing, there are many times that mind, and body disconnect themselves and what one wants, the other wants no part of. Greg was constantly trying to figure out what Peter had in his legs, heart and mind that he could rely upon to express that fitness to its maximal level. As I said earlier, our original plan was to get him to Congress, at which point he would have a 3-hour sleep, we would change crews, and our day would end. Fortunately (as it turns out) Mr. O and Jack could not secure hotel rooms in Congress and could only find something in Yarnell – Ok, no problem, we go to Yarnell – problem, Yarnell was 9 miles and 2,000 feet of vertical past Congress. As anyone knows, Peter had already locked into the fact he was getting relief from the bike at Congress – it was now a “conversation” between coach and athlete. Greg was able to engage Peter in that conversation, finally getting HIM to assert that it probably was better to get this climb out of the way, have a sleep and then have a downhill stretch coming out of Yarnell to start his ride post sleep. And so it was, Peter was exceptionally strong climbing that mountain, which is extraordinary to me given he now had been cycling for more than 25 hours, put in a huge amount of climbing and importantly the temperatures remained in the 100s. We got to our Yarnell “hole in the wall” and put Peter to bed, changed crews and our day was done.
Our Shift Metrics
Total distance travelled Blyth to Yarnell – 169 miles
Total Climbing 6,400 ft of vertical
Total time – 10:30
77.1kgs morning of race start
76.2kg at Yarnell