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
If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize the best RAAM race you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?
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.
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.