I left my house and drove for Oceanside CA. on June 11, for what was sure to be an experience of a lifetime — The Race Across America. Packed up the family and everything else I thought I would need for 6 straight days of cycling across the country. I made sure to show with two perfectly working bikes thanks to the help of Cervelo and the mechanics at Pedalers Fork Bike shop. The crew and riders had secured a guest house close to the beach in Encinitas CA. I pulled up with family in tow and we found the biggest room in the house to accommodate all of us — only had to kick Wayne Dowd out of it first. He can take it — He’s Wayno. As with most bike events, even the Tour de France, everything seemed to be coming together at the last moment and the garage and house were filled with boxes of equipment that had been freshly delivered. The RV/toy/body hauler soon showed up with Ben Bostrom and Silent Bob the camera man. We all went down to Nightrider HQ to take a look around and say thanks for the lights and support. It’s always cool to see how companies are being run. It was cool to learn the history of the company and really appreciate how much they support cycling. We went back to the house and I got the family and went out for dinner. I found a Native Foods — one of my favorite places to eat. The kids fell asleep on the way home, which is always nice. We had a meeting in the house about race logistics. Things like rules and reflective tape placement and a little bit about strategy. We didn’t get too detailed, and I heard the word “tomorrow” a lot — which reminded me of Spain.
We began the day with a press conference. It was fun to meet some of the other teams and talk about what we would be doing. Most teams at RAAM have a cause that they ride for. The Legends of the Road — which was what my team is called, by the way — was riding for “Yield to Life” to promote its road safety campaign.
Ben seemed to have a little bit of bike work to do on his steeds and Mirra really enjoys doing his own wrenching. Mirra really wanted to glue a tubular to a disc — a skill he had not yet conquered. We eventually got the wheel glued on but I think it was closer to the night before the race and Ben was having all kinds of issues, like he broke his Shiv. Lucky for him, he had some super secret phone number at Specialized and they red labeled him down another one, but it would require a full build. This took a long time and changed his position a bit. Oh, I forgot Ben broke a rib a few days ago as well. The crew was busy getting all the supplies unboxed and ready for the trip. There was also an intense cleaning of the RV which transformed it into decent condition. The battery went dead on the thing before we even took off and it took them some time to get it going again, but, hey, it should be up for a for a 3000 mile trip. On this day, Micky begins to complain of a pain in his mouth. Something happened to his tooth and he was looking to get to a dentist. Friday was going to be inspection so we were all busy getting reflective tape all over the bikes and shoes. I also sorted through all the Pearl Izumi clothing and made a rain bag with fingers crossed I wouldn’t need much from it. I was slightly concerned about what the food situation would be on the road so I brought about a million bars from Vega.
This was my wife’s birthday and I felt badly that I wasn’t able to do much for her. Tomorrow was race day and everyone was scrambling trying to get things together. Also was amazed that Mirra was putting cleats on a brand new pair of shimano shoes he had never ridden before that he planned on riding for the race.
Saturday June 14, 2014
Today is the departure day for RAAM. A 3000 mile bike race that is supposed to take about 6 days. It will be about 900 miles more than last years Tour de France and only take how many days? The numbers are mind blowing! My family was at the start line and I gave them all big hugs before we took off. They were sending off the teams one by one at about 1 minute intervals. We all started off the line together and after a few turns Ben and Mikey got in the car and it was up to me and Mirra to make it through the unsupported area which was 20 something miles. Before we took off we had gotten a tube, some stans, and a co2 inflator with some air. I didn’t think it would fix much — Mirra had tubulars — but it was better than nothing. We were escorted on a bike path to the real start of the race. I was getting way too excited. The plan was to take the lead early, so I was ready to hit out hard not even thinking about what was to come. The escort finally peeled off and it was just Mirra and me. I started going for it a little too fast and he didn’t want to draft all the way so he was doing about the same work that I was doing. We were passing other teams at a pretty good pace. We got to some hills and he started skipping gears and was getting frustrated. Then, on a downhill, his rear disc blew up! This was kind of the plan: if one of us had a mechanical, the other could continue on. Before we took off, I had decided to get a very important number, that of Wayne Dowd, past Raam winner and ex-navy seal. I called Wayne and told him that Mirra had flatted and was going to need help. I figured this would mean I would not be transitioning for a while. It felt like I wasn’t going in the red, but I was too excited and going to hard. I was losing fluids and even lost my Garmin on one of the bumpy downhills — pissed me off, too; it was a brand new 1000. I knew where I was going. I was going to the base of Palomar. Halfway up to the base, Mirra appeared in the car and I got my first break. I had just done the first 56 miles of Raam much harder than I should’ve. I was already borderline cramping and had a killer headache. Mirra and I started switching off every so often — no real formula to it yet. When we began we were thinking 30 minute turns was going to be our formula. I got to a big descent called the “Glass Elevator,” and the plan was for me do go down it. So I did. I used some caution as they were really talking highly of this downhill. It was a big downhill with some swirly winds. At the bottom was the desert. And it was hot! The next thing I knew, I was making a transition. I thought it was going to be Mirra, but it was Bostrom. We had already done our first shift and it was time for Mickey and Ben to take theirs. I got in the RV and went to the back where they had set up two army cots side by side with some sheets and some of those eggshell foam pads on top. The A/C was blasting and it wasn’t that bad — for about 5 minutes. The RV generator went out, which meant no AC in the desert and no charging for portable electronics from the outlets in the back. As the sun was dropping, I looked outside and saw a sea of sand dunes and just couldn’t believe what I was doing. I had to hit the liquids to try and get on top of the cramping knocking at my door. I put my earplugs in and tried to rest. The RV had really stiff suspension, and it was really banging us around. I wasn’t too concerned at first, figured I just wasn’t tired enough to sleep yet. Next thing I knew, it was time to suit up again and be ready for Mickey and Ben. They rolled in and we took off. I really enjoyed riding at night in the headlights of the car. We were in the desert somewhere with some decent rollers and again I was probably going to hard but I was so happy to be on the bike doing this. Mirra and I were getting more of a rhythm going, and it was interesting how fast the miles were ticking off. It’s like you just do intervals on the bike and recover in the car — over and over. We had passed a lot of teams, but there was one more in front of us, Team Innovation Africa. Starting to get smarter and realize there were many more days to go in this event, I did not rage up to them, but rather slowly brought them in. At the transition point, where the RV was parked, I handed it over to Mickey and Ben and said that’s the first place team right there, just stay with them. I think they had a pretty good battle that night, according to Bostrom. This is how we settled on how it would go. We tried to do a six hour shift once so we could get six off, but it proved to be just a bit too much. So, we reduced them all back down to around 4-5 hour shifts. We made our way through the deserts and mountains of Arizona. I distinctly remember going up a nasty climb in AZ that had a really cool downhill, somewhere near Flagstaff I think. I was in front of a truck and I couldn’t tell if he was nice or not, so I kept looking back at him to just let him know I knew he was there – so he’d think twice before pulling anything funny. At the bottom he finally came around me. Turned out, he was a real old timer with barely any teeth and a huge smile. He was screaming at me, “you were going 60 mph!!” Now, because of the big downhill, I lost contact with the car a bit, but regained contact with Team Innovations Africa. I needed some water, and they handed me a bottle from Contender Bicycles. I was blown away out here – of course by their kindness, but also here, in the middle of nowhere, to randomly get a bottle from the very shop that helped me so much when I just began cycling. I kept the bottle on my bike all the way to Maryland. We took the lead of the race again, and Mirra and I were doing some damage. We handed off to the other guys. I was beginning to really understand the race and how important it is not to make mistakes — Ben and Mickey took a wrong turn and when they handed back to us, we were 13 minutes back. Mirra and I were kind of down, thinking that, wow, the race is over — that’s a lot of time. As it turned out, we went out and had some amazing tailwinds and, before we knew it, they were in sight and we passed them again. We began to understand that gaps are a little different in RAAM. When we caught them, I became concerned, as it looked like they had a real plan and were pacing themselves, while we were just going balls out all the time. At the end of this shift, we were rolling into Utah, my home state! We found ourselves on an amazing ride through little sandstorms. The road was just filled with sand blowing along with us. We took it to Monument Valley. Wayne said to take a look around at how beautiful it was and he was right. It was unreal to see. Also, the theme to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly came on the headphones at that very moment. Wow! Back in the camper. Fatigue was for sure setting in, and it was still hard to rest because of the bumps, noise and the heat of the unit we were rolling in. Ideal would be for the RV to move fast enough so there would be time to park and sleep, but when we would park and almost be asleep the knock on the door would come to say that it was time to get ready — the RV was so packed that people could only get stuff done when it was stopped, so it took time to get going every time. I tried to stay positive and upbeat about this whole thing and remember that I wanted to do this! Mirra was upbeat and happy most of the time, especially when we were winning. When we would get lost and fall behind in the game, I would think of the name of the team: Legends of the Road. For me, “Legends” meant that we could overcome anything and get through anything and that the harder, the better, because we could handle it. That’s what makes a legend.
Now we are getting into Colorado. Elevation. Now we really had to pace ourselves. It was hard to breathe and we were about to do a night shift into Pagosa Springs. First, we had to get to Durango. Feeling the temps outside, I put an undershirt on and made sure the rainbag was in the car. Once we got going and deeper into the night, it really cooled off, probably into the 30s. Mirra was not super prepared, so I took the big downhills, but, even so, just riding on flats or uphills the guy was not complaining that much — and he must’ve been freezing. He would just grit his teeth and get it done. It was really cool to see. It was great for me to be going back to Pagosa Springs. It’s one of the first places I ever went to race my bike when I first got started. I did the Iron Horse Classic and then a small stage race in Pagosa as a cat 3. There was a light blue hue over the mountain and I thought we were coming into a big city when I realized it was the sun beginning to rise. The trip was packed with so many moments like this waiting to be captured. We got to the RV, and Ben could tell I was freezing. He told me to use his sleeping bag. It felt like a hot tub and I slept so deep I think I got a little sick I tried to pee in the bathroom of the RV and noticed I couldn’t feel my arms and almost passed out. I took some breaths and made it back to the cot. We worked our way across the bottom of Colorado. It was full of wind, mountains, and elevation. The next state we would cross into would be Kansas. Everyone talks about the winds of Kansas. Mirra and I took a night shift in Kansas. At first we were cooking — nice road, good wind. Mirra suggested we do a double shift to give the other guys some more rest. I agreed. We took a turn to the right and started getting a direct cross wind that wasn’t very fun. It was blowing me across the road and stressing out my upper body. I switched to a smaller front wheel and then just got on the road bike and it wasn’t so bad. Mirra seemed to embrace the cross winds. I don’t think he even went to a smaller front wheel. He seemed to like fighting the wind. I couldn’t help laughing as I watched him get blown all over the place sporting a huge grin on his face. I haven’t seen many enjoy the wind quite like that. The cross winds kept up across the state and the 2nd place team was chipping away at our lead. I got to cross the border from Kansas into Missouri and got pretty excited reminiscing about the Tour of Missouri back in the day. The heat and wind and extremely large rollers ate into this excitement and provided a great challenge. I could tell the crew was getting tired at this point when we were doing change with Mirra. The car started driving itself down the embankment — whoops, the driver forgot to put it in park! He told me sometimes the car doesn’t move when it’s in drive. I suggested an unwavering OCD habit of putting it in Park with E brake. I think at the next change he almost had it, but then it started rolling backwards. Luckily nothing bad happened.
We were more than half way and the miles were ticking away. At a gas station in the middle of nowhere we were talking about buying some water when a stranger overheard us and said, “You fellas doin this for a good cause, put it on my tab.” It was very cool. On the next shift the 2nd place team caught us when we took a wrong turn. They got a good lead on us. Mirra and I almost pulled them back before the night shift was over. The race was so close when we were in Indiana. Indiana had some memorable moments for me. We did a shift change in Bloomington, where one of my favorite shows,”Breaking Away,” takes place. It was cool to see the town and the college kids walking around as we biked along. We were about to get caught near the end of our shift when we saw a bunch of lightening and rain in front of us. This seemed to wake us up and we opened the lead some more. When we woke up for our turn we were in 2nd place, but Mirra and I were able to switch it. It was not easy. At this point we had been riding for a long time with not much sleep in between. I wanted to go much harder but I was limited in my strength. I could only go a steady speed with this much fatigue. Going into West Virginia, we had the lead. The hills of West Virgina were some leg breakers, but we managed to get through them. That’s actually the only place I cracked, as I really needed an exchange and could see the car no where up the road. Finally, the exchange happened. The other team wasn’t that far behind and we had about 140 miles to go. Mirra decided to do a double shift. I thought one of us should rest just in case we needed to book it the last 40 miles. With Mirra’s double shift, we opened the gap pretty big, and I got back on the bike with 40 to go. Ben, Mirra and I were actually doing the last 40 together. It was a highlight of the race. Mickey was really hurting with his mouth and sickness. We all rode the last 10 miles together on the road to the finish line. We were there at about 3 am so lets just say the crowd was not gigantic. It didn’t matter. We had done it. We finished the RAAM and we won! I got to a hotel and passed out for a long time – after a nice shower, of course.
Mirra was staying at Travis Pastrana’s house, so Ben and I were invited over. It was amazing! Ramps everywhere. My jaw actually started to hurt I was smiling so much. Even drank some moonshine and rode 4 wheelers on his motocross track!
Thanks to the great crew! Everyone tried their best — and it worked!
Very special thanks to:
Greg, Cervelo, Camelbak, Shimano, SpiderTech, Rotor, X-Labs, Vega, Giro, NiteRider, Steve M. (G.Zero), 10 Speed Coffee, Pedalers Fork Bike Shop, Zipp, HED, Vittoria, Pearl Izumi, BlendTec, Mechanix, and whoever invented earplugs.