Day 6 commentary Ulysses to Pratt 148miles and elevation change -1,010ft.
We have been working our way across America and we were now staying in a town named after a famous war hero and US President. Ulysses has definitely seen better days, but it wouldn’t be the worst place we will experience. We are not sure if you would need to travel back to the days when he was President in 1869 for it to have been hopping, but it might not be far off.
Reader note: the following is a little crew entertainment and has little to do with the race and more to do with the crew entertainment.
The plan was for me to go back in the Follow van with Greg and Diego at the next crew change, which meant the three of us were bunking again, I was losing my solo bed experience and had to spoon with Diego. Funny thing when you are the rookie on the team (Greg has crewed as coach on 4 of these and Diego 2) some fun loving kidding occurs. First was the bed selection. Gannon was all freaked out by BT’s insistence that all beds needed to be inspected for bedbugs. Up till this point, we just grabbed a bed and went to sleep but now Greg was shining lights all over the sheets and taking pictures of stains, of which there were several, so he could compare what he was seeing to the internet images of bedbugs. Thinking he saw some, he immediately choose the other bed, leaving Diego and I to fend for ourselves. Shortly after this happening, Diego and Greg were then conniving to give me the modestly soiled towel that was hanging up ‘clean’ in the bathroom, for my shower the next morning. After all of the fun and games, we got to sleep at 12;30 to be up for 6am. Breakfast was available at the hotel…what that meant was coffee, instant oatmeal, English muffin with PB and add a bacon like substance.
Now we will get back to racing. Given the town we were staying in, we thought it might be interesting to use quotes from Ulysses S. Grant. Here are some choice thoughts slightly modified:
“The art of RAAM (war) is simple enough. Find out where your competitors (enemies) are. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”
“In every RAAM (battle) there comes a time when competitors (both sides) consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins”
“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity”
The RAAM experience epitomizes much of what Grant described of war. It is interesting that we had a conversation in our car about RAAM as a race. Can something be truly a race for 3,000+ miles, 179,000ft of vertical over 8+ days? In most cases we think of races in the context of competitors going head to head, is that even possible over this distance and time? At this juncture, we aren’t there yet, but suspect we could be closer to that mode in the not too distant future. Christoph Strasser on the other hand, went after his competitors almost immediately, setting down a pace that breaks the will and desire of others to go with him in competition. He is set to become the winningest rider in RAAM history this year. Like any pro-athlete in any sport (put Kawhi Leonard here), you impose your will on the game or race and everyone else falls to the wayside, that has been the secret to Strasser’s success.
Anyone who cycles knows the feeling of being pursued or being the pursuer. Knowing that someone is behind you and is gaining time and space, minute by minute and inch by inch gives those who are pursuing great strength while leaving those being pursued with feelings of anxiety as thoughts of being caught work into their psyche. It always seems much easier when you can see the rider in front of you and make decisions regarding your position on the road. The rider in front does not have that same luxury to know when they can ease off or when to bury themselves to avoid being overtaken or to take advantage of that pursuing rider’s weak moments.
Like few other athletic competitions, RAAM brings every competitor, at some time in the race (and likely many times) to a decision point, left to continue racing; right to quit. Those who believe they have been beaten choose right (wrong!). Does any racer in RAAM endure the race with far greater aches and pains than any other racer? Likely not, rather it is really all about that choice that Ulysses S. Grant talked about. Peter is continuing the attack!
Finally, RAAM is about darkness in so many ways, literally and figuratively! There has been great beauty and serenity that comes from cycling under the stars, with nobody else on the roads for miles and miles. An ability to have clarity of mind regarding the task at hand with no transport trucks moving past you at 115km/h. Night also brings cooling temperatures, becoming your friend relative to the unrelenting heat of the day. But there is truly a darkness to RAAM that has something to do with night and day but has more to do with the battle that rages inside as you set out to accomplish what is truly impossible for 99.999% of people on this earth. That “gloom of my dark hours” that Ulysses speaks of, are when the true markers of high performing people and athletes become evident. We have seen Peter on several occasions do battle with that inner self, the one that was prepared to call it a day, that devil on the right shoulder whispering “you have completed this race twice, what is there to prove?” “Pssssst Peter, why endure those ever increasing saddle sores/pain in the butt, the ever thickening hands, the throbbing feet that are creating so much pain that you cut holes in specialized s-works shoes ( you cyclists know how much those cost!), or the stiffening neck that you can barely hold up to see down the road; it is not all worth it – call it quits man!” While certainly extremely challenging, Peter has been unequivocal in his response and has overcome that darkness on several occasions in this race, we just hope that we can all share in the prosperity of the sunshine.
The travel to Pratt and the crew exchange was quite uneventful. CA was now joining the crew and now we had had two people who are experts in helping Peter overcome his aches and pains. When we got to the Walmart check-in point, BT had organized the transition like the proverbial formula 1 pit crew, arranging for some shade, privacy to allow for Pete to do a kit change and even a chair for Peter to lounge in while Diego and CA worked over his body. 15 minutes later and Peter was on the road with Janet, KMan and CA. Meanwhile, we gathered up our stuff and headed out to the next sleep at the Townsman in the thriving metropolis of Yates Centre. I am not sure that it should be on your list of vacation destinations.
Quotes from the road:
Peter: can I get some paper towel
Greg: sure Qb, some paper towel for peter, GG hands the paper towel over,
20 secs elapses;
Greg: What did you do with the paper towel?
Peter:I put it between the cheeks of my ass! Go Peter Go!
So if you are ever thinking of crewing a RAAM race, be mindful of the exciting destinations that will be on your hit list and the wonderful breakfast (the 3:30am godawful breakfast sandwiches from the 24 hour gas station across the street), the lunch sandwiches, Pringle’s and beef jerky prepared by the kitchen in the back of the minivan and the dinners from your local Subway given everything else (read 1 grocery store and 1 restaurant) were closed by 8pm.