"The Dream the Turned into a nightmare"
The Story of RAAM 2002
The training proved quite difficult. Not due
to the intensity of the speed work or the number of miles, but to
the amount of time I was away from my family. Hour after hour, day
after day, mile after endless mile were separating me from time
usually spent with my wife and little girl. The Pacific Northwest
climate proved hostile and seriously deficient in preparing me for
the variety of climatic conditions I would experience on RAAM. While
other competitors were logging thousands of miles in the warmer
southern states, I was out riding in temperatures as low as 15 degrees,
which did little to prepare me for the sizzling heat and dense humidity
of the southeast in June. Much of the time I found myself going
nowhere as the severe weather forced me to the drudgery of an indoor
fluid trainer. Little did I know, that this boredom would help prepare
me for surviving the seemingly endless desolate highways of our
countries plain states.
In June of 2002, my crew and I were assembled
and ready to go in “the city of roses” Portland, Oregon.
Although we lacked experience, we weren’t short on heart.
It quickly became apparent that the competition was once again more
prepared than I. With doctors, nutritionists and massage therapists,
my crew, consisting of six people who loved me and were committed
to the goal, seemed laughably inadequate to those “in the
know.” 3000 miles of highway has a way of exposing all your
weaknesses, whether it be the logistics of crew organization or
deficiencies in ones training. Yes, we lacked experience, but in
the end we would prove that it’s not doctors and masseuses
that get a RAAM rider across the country, but determination and
commitment to complete the race, whatever the cost.
The start line activities
were invigorating with Outdoor Life Network conducting interviews,
multiple meetings and press announcements. I could think of nowhere
else I wanted to be. The festivities, exciting as they might be,
did little however to ease the tangled knots in my stomach as gripping
fear of the unknown invaded my thoughts. “Would I finish this
race?” “Would I do well?” “Is it possible
for me to reach my goal of ‘rookie of the year’?”
Or, would I become just another statistic along with the other 50%
of the riders expected to DNF (did not finish)?
The feelings were
nothing new. Before my previous races, I’d experienced these
thoughts and I’d went on to win. But this was a different
ball game, a whole new level of competition requiring demands my
body had never experienced. How do you know if you’re ready
to cover 3000 miles on a bicycle in 9- 10 days on 1½ hours
of sleep a night? As a rookie, you don’t. It’s not something
you go out and just do for a trial run. My longest training rides
had only been 24 hours over the mountainous Oregon portion of the
RAAM course covering about 400 miles. Now I had to do that same
400 miles, sleep for an hour and a half, get back on my bike and
keep going, for 10 days straight. This time I felt my feelings of
fear were quite justifiable.