Reflections on the RAAM Adventure
By Don Smith
July 17, 2011
In my bio on the RAAM website I predicted that my RAAM experience would be as follows:
It will be hard as hell.
Certainly I would have to say that all of those things would accurately describe my Race Across America experience. However there were many other things that I did experience that perhaps I did not foresee.
For example, one of the most difficult aspects of racing in RAAM was the style of racing. I am used to the Ironman type race where you go out hard for an extended period of time, within that time you might have periods where you work extra hard like during a big climb or to pass other athletes. However in Ironman it really is all about pacing and efficiency. This is not so much the case when racing on a team at RAAM. Instead, RAAM is like a never ending series of Time Trial efforts that continues 24/7 over the course of almost a week. I found this style of racing extremely difficult to get used to. You go out as hard as you can, maintain maximum heart rate during your pull and then suddenly stop and get into a car. There was no transition period that enabled you to gradually bring your heart rate down in a controlled manner. You were either motionless or going flat out.
Riding in the dark was quite challenging for our crew because they had to follow us racers quite closely so that us cyclists were always in the van's headlights. That is a tough thing to do when we were on windy country roads, rolling through the "hollars" of West Virginia or speeding down that backside of the Colorado Rockies. There were many times when I would suddenly find myself flying through complete darkness with only the center line as the only discernible navigation aid. Meanwhile the poor van driver was frantically trying to catch up to me before I crashed.
One of the most enjoyable experiences during RAAM was working with our crew. Our team was made up of people from 3 countries and most of us had never met each other before. We all had very different lifestyles and certainly possessed varying skill-sets. It is amazing to me how we could all come together and with very little training, perform as a fully functional team within a very stressful environment (even when pushed beyond our own personal limits). How did we do it? We improvised. We worked together to resolve problems. We helped each other. We looked after one another. We respected our team-mates. Most importantly, we had fun! We joked and teased each other non-stop throughout the entire week.
To give you an idea of the diversity of the team members, in the following photo (in no particular order) we have a senior bureaucrat from the Obama government, a travel agent, a lawyer, a retired medical professional, an unemployed man from Australia's outback, an LA celebrity, a taxi driver, a PR professional and a designer. We could not be more different and yet we all brought very valuable and useful skills to the team (that were sometimes used in ways quite unanticipated).
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Race Across America: Team4HIV Hope Cycles to Raise Awareness and to Win
Team 4 HIV Hope
The Race Across America is a bicycle race in which cyclists ride 3,000 miles/4,800km from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., in June each year. There is about 110,000 feet of climbing involved. This year for relay teams begins on June 18.
RAAM is not a stage race such as the Tour de France. In RAAM, there is only one stage: start to finish. It is essentially a time trial, but a very long one! Challenges include heat, deserts, violent winds, thunderstorms, riding at night, sleep deprivation, muscle injuries and mental acuity. And for the HIV-positive riders, there are more health challenges. An HIV-trained nurse is part of their crew.
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June 1, 2012 - This Year's Race: That Was Then, This Is Now -- A Blog Entry by Carol Hyman
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