Last night, while in Washington, D.C., for the International AIDS Conference, I got to meet the staff and many fellow bloggers with TheBody.com. And I felt like a slug. Not only am I not writing, but listening to these passionate , inspiring people, I thought, well, here I am, writing about cycling. And all I'm doing is writing about it. I'm not one of the racers.
It is common knowledge that cyclists eat more than "normal" people. A cyclist doing a 50-mile ride on the weekend will put away quite a few calories.
But how about four cyclists riding 3,000 miles in less than a week, and their 11 crew members who are navigating, driving vans, fixing bikes and doing a whole host of tasks to keep those four racers going. And now imagine them living out of a recreational vehicle that would be close quarters for a family of four. And remember the RV has only a microwave oven, three burners and a refrigerator that could only be described as "cute."
RAAM is not like many other races. Most people who know anything about bicycle racing are familiar with the Tour de France. There is no question the Tour de France is difficult. Teams ride hundreds of miles, climb daunting hills and speed down treacherous mountainsides. Those things are also true of RAAM. But in many ways, that is where the similarity ends. Every day the Tour de France racers tackle another stage. In RAAM, it is basically one stage -- one very very long stage of 3,000 miles. At night the Tour de France racers retire to a hotel. The RAAM racers, when they get to sleep, climb into a bunk in an RV or curl up on the floor of a follow van. And they aren't getting 8 hours. Our four-man team is divided into two sub-teams, so while two are out racing for three or four hours, the other two are getting cleaned up, eating and trying to catch a few winks in the bumpy RV.
As soon as last year's race ended, Steven and Jim knew that they would race again this year, and several of the crew members knew they would be returning as well.
The Race Across America (RAAM), which begins on June 16th in Oceanside, CA and ends in Annapolis, MD, has been called the toughest bicycle race in the world. But Patrick Autissier, a scientific researcher at Boston College and racer, has decided to add a scientific component to the physical challenge of RAAM.
Team4HIVHope will be returning to Race Across America after an eighth place finish in 2011, its rookie year, with bigger aspirations and two new team members.
In my bio on the RAAM website I predicted that my RAAM experience would be as follows...
There are many amazing and memorable moments that occur during an event like Race Across America. Some of those moments are very public, like posing for photos at the finish line or the cheering of spectators along the way. Other moments are very personal and far from the glare of spotlight; it is these moments that are most meaningful to myself when I reflect on my week with my team at RAAM. In particular, there was one very special chance meeting with a man that happened to me in middle America.
Most of the crew and racers have returned home, though Steven and Marty are continuing a vacation in the States before returning to Australia. We're snug in our own beds with our dogs, cats and loved ones. We're catching up on a week's worth of sleep. We're massaging the aches and pains, and Cisco is seeing the dentist to deal with his teeth that got "pushed in" when he crashed in Gettysburg.
Team4HIVHope, the 4-person cycling team with 3 HIV+ racers and many of the crew members living with HIV, successfully completed the Race Across America. We took 6 days, 6 hours, 34 minutes to race from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., a distance of 3,000 miles.