Crew B was escorting me up the mountain doing their best to keep me alert with radio chit chat containing encouraging words. My brother Larry and Jim had come back from the motel up the road in Vail where they had chosen to rest for the night. Despite their obviously sleep deprived state, they sensed a need to return to me and see how I was doing. I saw my brother, who’d traded his normal accountant suit and tie in for a pair of denim shorts and Mariner’s t-shirt, standing on the side of the road providing much appreciated words of motivation. Though growing up Larry did his share of picking on little brother, he was also one of my best inspirations and it was proving through as I continually heard his shouts of “way to climb” on many of the steep hills that accompanied this horrendous race. Shortly before the summit, my body had the last word. I pedaled right into my brother’s arms barely able to utter the words “I’m done.” As I collapsed, the crew quickly sprang into action and got me to the makeshift foam padded bed in the support van, designed for just such an occasion. Although we desired to reach the next motel, descending the winding road on the other side of the pass was definitely not an option as my body cried out for rest and was going to get it whether I was in bed or on the bike. Two sleep cycles provided the necessary rest to continue the journey. As I was sleeping, RAAM veteran Rob Kish finally passed me. It seemed inevitable that this was going to happen as every time we got word of his position it seemed he had gained on me. I was riding faster than Rob by our calculations, but he was still proving more consistent, a trait that 17 RAAM’s has a way of developing. Third place was nothing to scoff at as the race wasn’t even halfway over and being behind Rob wasn’t a bad place to be. Besides, this guy has done more RAAM’s than anyone, and was currently the only man to have won three times - so just being close to him at this point in the race was something to be proud of for me.

Back on the road it took me a number of miles to fully regain a state of consciousness. The effects of sleep deprivation were starting to take a toll. As dawn drew near I was on my way up the second climb. The steep walled and narrow canyon outside the Vail area was the gateway for the remaining miles to the divide. As I continued up, a headwind had developed that made what was already a challenging climb even more so. But the beauty and the cool mountain air was all I needed to keep me happy and pumping. Before long the Continental Divide, Tennessee Pass was in sight. At 10,424 feet, this was the high point of RAAM. Now with most of the races vertical behind me the route was expected to be much easier. Leadville followed closely thereafter where officials required a drug test upon my awakening from another desperately needed, but undesired sleep break. Pain was now without end as my rear side and Achilles tendons had fallen victim to four days of unceasing demand along with a severely sunburned set of lips and my mouths upper palette. Now it was not only uncomfortable to sit, but eating would also provide for a great deal of pain. John’s words rolled through my mind. Misery is the best way to describe the next 200 miles of riding.

As I descended from the top of the Rockies, I met with a serious amount of opposition in the form of relentless headwind. This was a very unwelcomed development along with the fact that it didn’t take long to leave the splendor of the mountains and I found myself back in dry wasteland. Riding in an aero dynamic position for most of the day placed an extreme demand on my already weakened neck muscles. By nightfall, I was approaching the half waypoint of the race, Walsenburg Colorado, when my neck muscles breathed their last and failed completely. “Shermer Neck” had set in.

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