RAAM fauna

America is famed for its extremely diverse (and in some cases deadly) wildlife and with that in mind, Team Norton Rose’s first aid kit was prepared for everything. Luckily we managed to navigate the country without any major incidents but we did notch up a pretty impressive collection of animal encounters – the highlights of which (in no particular order) are below:

Brian had a mixed experience and probably takes the Gillian McKeith award for hilarious animal encounters. Highlights include the blabbered radio message that vehicle 2 received shortly after Brian had spotted what he describes as a “massive white rat thing with a huge tail” crossing the road just in front of him, avoiding a collision with a deer running across the freeway at full speed by inches in the dead of night, nearly walking straight over a snake while searching for a suitable place to use the toilet in Arizona late at night and filling the Kansas night air with a blood curdling scream shortly after a moth (Brian maintains that it was a bat) landed on him following a changeover.

My fears of encountering scorpians, grizzly bears and mountain lions turned out to be largely unfounded, however I did have a terrifying encounter late at night (are you noticing the pattern here….) with what turned out to be a roll of gaffa tape. Over the last few hours Brian and I had encountered numerous dead armadillos on the road – their use as possible replacement aero helmets was overlooked at the time. Readers that have never seen an armadillo are probably racking their brains and thinking back to the old Dime Bar adverts, but in summary they are blood thirsty predators (hmmm) about the size of a large rabbit, with a thick armoured shell and leathery tail. At a changeover later on that night several of us were attempting to gaffa tape my front light to the handle bars. I took my eyes off the bike to sort my bike computer and out of the corner of my eye spotted an armadillo charging at my legs. Cue what can only be described as the yelp of a teenage girl at a Justin Beiber concert coupled with a leap that would rival Michael Flatley for dexterity. The bewildered crew members swung around to see what the commotion was, just as the armadillo (read rolling roll of gaffa tape) wobbled slowly past my feet……

Dan and Anthony’s side of the race also had their share of animal encounters. Dan had an unfortunate incident where a startled mouse managed to run straight into his path and get run over despite a cat like attempted last gasp avoidance move. Hopefully the mouse made a full recovery and has learnt its lesson… Tanya momentarily bemused the vehicle one gang deep in the prairie lands by announcing that she had spotted a two headed cow , that turned out to be two cows standing next to each other and Ezra  stunned himself during an attempt to put his head through a closed window, a manoeuvre that has been the end of many a confused summer time sparrow.

We were also plagued by moths, crickets and beetles who were drawn to our headlights and internal car lights like the proverbial moth to a flame. Memories of Robbie having a Rambo moment and attempting to punch the moths and crickets that had infested our van will stay with me for a while. A particularly bad shift for this was the dead of night pull that Brian and I took on shortly after crossing the flooded Mississippi. Rumours that Brian was cycling along with his mouth open in order to increase his protein intake haven’t been confirmed, but I can say with some certainty that we managed to significantly lower the bug population in the nearby area.

While not a true animal encounter I should also mention the particularly unfriendly beer swilling bear of a farmer that spent an afternoon chasing Dan, Anthony and the vehicle one gang along the road in an attempt to prevent them doing changeovers in the vicinity of his land. He showed all the skills of Wile E Coyote however as the Team Norton Rose roadrunner ran rings around him and carried out their changeovers at will.

A final mention should be made of some of the truly epic animal encounters we had, two standouts being the numerous eagles we spotted circling overhead along the way (they were possibly following us with an eye on the growing stash of dried fruit that Tanya was accumulating) and the wild Mustang ponies that roam the West. These encounters really add to the scale and drama of the race and helped to make the tough pulls easier.

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Philip’s post RAAM catch up

The following was penned by crew member Philip Schock

It has now been a week since most of us got back to the UK, after what can only be described as an “experience”, epic in magnitude, superlative in scale and downright exhausting! I think everyone who took part will agree that it is a stressful experience, akin to racing to a deadline to close a corporate deal/ file pleadings at court (such drole lawyer references!!)……but continuously for 6 days 9 hours and 16 minutes, while planning a route across desolate, sparsely inhabited states, through towns with friendly (and sometimes odd) folk, as well as lush mountainous areas with winding roads and all the while trying to force feed citrus flavoured protein/carb shakes down the throats of the riders (who only rejected such nutritional advances when they were already ingesting a caffeine gel, or in the case of Anthony an apple turnover)!

Chris and Melrose, the solid “vehicle 1” crew duo, stayed on in the US to continue a roadtrip to Chicago and the Great Lakes. Clearly they had not had enough of the US highways, gas stations and general road related paraphernalia with an American twist in that week covering 3000 miles! I look forward to hearing the details of their extended adventure.

RAAM has affected all of us, particularly our sleeping habits. I am not referring to the jet lag, but the post traumatic effects of having “lived” RAAM for breakfast, aperitif, lunch, dinner, midnight snack, mahlzeit, high tea and elevenses 24-7.

Both Marina and Shratty woke up in the middle of the second night in the hotel in Annapolis, got dressed and ran out of their room ready for a “rider changeover”, I have only recently stopped talking about lycra, helmets and water bottles when I wake up in the morning. Rob, I hear is still finding it hard to not wake up at 3am worrying where the third support vehicle is ready for his changeover!! I am also adamant that some of the people having lunch outside the office are plain clothed RAAM officials – just as well I’ve got my lights on.

Ivan, the Norton Rose media guru, has received most of the footage we’ve taken, so we will hopefully have a video of the adventure for everyone to see in a short while. We are also in the process of writing an epic day by day account of the race which will be published as soon as we have got our head around where we were at what time….. Finally, there are some photos on the official RAAM website of both the riders and crew!

Fund raising efforts have so far been really successful, but we’re still trying to get closer to our target for Barretstown, so please check out our JustGiving page on the link below:


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Smashing it!

Wednesday 22 June – Missouri causing all sorts of headaches with route changes and the “Go-for” vehicle having to make up for lost time spent getting mechanical repairs to Dan’s Planet X bike – repairs all sorted now though. How much of a difference will the rejuvenated Planet X make? TBC but expectations are high!

Time Station 32: Camdenton, Missouri 1,821.4 miles so far: 1,168.1 miles to go. Long blinks getting longer but the boys are smashing it!!

Tuesday 21 June – Kansas. It’s now day 4 so we have had 3 nights on the road. The nights are the toughest because you always have to have a rider in the headlights of a follow vehicle and then another vehicle which leapfrogs the rider with the next rider and his bike in tow ready to swap in 20 minutes later. We are heading to time station 3. Blythe, Rob and Brian on the road, Anthony and Dan resting after a pretty intense first 9 hours First rider exchange – tick!

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The big day is here

Currently eating our last breakfast before the race kicks off at 2pm this afternoon. There are a few last minute nerves but in the main we are ready for it and cannot wait to get cracking.

The plan is to hit the start hard and go from there. Stay in touch and keep following the blog for regular updates.


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One day to go!

We had all our inspections today for the bikes and the vans – all passed ok! Thank you to Frank (our crew chief) for all the hard work today and making sure it all went smoothly. We’ve got a big race meeting tonight for the final instructions from RAAM HQ.

It’s all very real now we’re here and seeing all the other teams (who are all very friendly). The riders are out now on the first part of the route and warming up for tomorrow. We start at 2pm Californian time tomorrow which is very scary.

The weather here is very hot which means making sure the cyclists are slapping on the sun cream.

Check back tomorrow to hear about the start!

Laura P

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We arrived in Oceanside late last night following much fun and games collecting our vans and clearing customs with 15 tonnes of luggage. We’ve awoken this morning to overcast cool weather, fingers crossed for that Californian sunshine soon!

The next couple of days are going to be pretty full on as we have a massive amount of stuff to do to get everything ready for the race. Keep an eye on the blog and twitter feed – http://twitter.com/#!/TeamNortonRose.

Keep checking back for updates!

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Not long now…

Things have continued to move really quickly with the last couple of weeks becoming a blur of final training and logistical hurdles. One of our biggest headaches has come from trying to ship all of our race nutrition to the states, however as I type, over 100kg of High5 products will hopefully be arriving in Oceanside.

Other last minute jobs have included having our bikes serviced, ordering bike boxes and trying to find a way of getting our vast quantities of gear out to the start line without incurring too much in the way of excess baggage charges.

Brian arrived in California over the weekend, with the rest of us due to arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Once we arrive we will have a manic few days getting the vehicles and bikes ready for the race as well as attending various meetings with the race organisers (hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to get some time in at the beach as well…).

We are loaded up with technology to hopefully ensure that you can track us during the race, with regular updates appearing on this blog as well as on our twitter page @teamnortonrose.

For those readers that are interested in our training, I can confirm that the total distance covered in training between the four of us is currently hovering around the 30,000km mark. Looking back at my first post on this blog shortly after my shoulder operation shows just how far we have come. Its frightening to think about how many evenings and weekends have been lost to the turbo trainer in the interim, but it is clear that without all this work we would be struggling to make it through the first day, never mind the sixth or seventh.

So far our fundraising has gone really well, but we are still someway short of our target of £50,000. We are desperately keen to hit this target, so please make your way across to our just giving page and make a donation to Barretstown!

Donate here

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The blog has been neglected over the last few weeks due to a whole host of reasons but we are still here – it’s just over two weeks to race day and the nerves are starting to kick in!

A summary of recent developments:

We held a fantastic fundraising dinner during which we raised just under £10,000. Thanks to everyone who attended and made the night such a great success.

Our race kit arrived which we are really pleased with. We will post a picture when we get chance.

Training has progressed very well with the last few weeks being our final opportunity to really nail our sessions before the race. I always find this final finishing work to be the best part of training for a big event as it helps convince yourself that you are well prepared (whether I feel equally bullish on day 3 remains to be seen)…

We still have a few logistical headaches to deal with (such as sending over 60kg of high5 products to the USA….) but on the whole I think we are getting there.

Keep checking back over the next few weeks as we will be publishing regular pre race updates as well as a load of updates during the race!

In the mean time, we are desperate to reach our fundraising target so please follow the link to our justgiving page and make a donation!

Thanks for reading


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Upping the pace

A quick look at the diary tells me that there are less than 5 weeks until we get cracking from Oceanside. With so little time left, each member of Team NR is making one last bid to cram in as much cycling as our work/family commitments allow. In real terms, this means 6am starts 2 or 3 times a week to get in some riding before work, doubling up morning and evening sessions a few times a week and as much tough stuff as we can stand on the weekends.

It’s not easy to get across how physically taxing this kind of schedule is on the body. I rode for just over 5 hours on Saturday and by the time I got home mid-afternoon my legs were wasted – I was good for nothing except laying on the sofa and watching a bit of the FA Cup Final. On Saturday Rob and I set out to tackle a long ride with a difference – we planned to build in some hill reps at Toys Hill (a 3.5km hill not far from Sevenoaks). The route profile from my Garmin cycle computer tells the story of the day, up and down like the teeth of a T-Rex:

This is all helping us to up our overall strength and hopefully reach our target of ticking off 3,000 miles in less than 7 days. Well, that’s the plan at least.

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Apologies for the delay in updating the blog, but due to work, training and arranging our charity fundraising dinner, spare time has been at a huge premium.

Training post the Barretstown trip has been going really well for the team with us all making the most of the bank holiday fest that we have had over the last couple of weeks. Brian has been training in Switzerland, Dan and I headed off to opposite ends of the Peak District and Anthony has been hitting the turbo hard. All in all we are happy with progress and are ramping up our interval training so that we can train our bodies for the unique challenge of endless 20 minute back to back intervals. While this type of training can be very disruptive (not to mention extremely tough), we will definitely reap the benefits in the states.

I have now pretty much exhausted my turbo music collection and am getting pretty sick of listening to the Drop Kick Murphys, Metallica and Rage Against the Machine over and over again. I managed to find some relief in the form of watching Al Pacino’s locker room motivational speech from Any Given Sunday on loop over the weekend, but even that has worn thin. I am now on the hunt for cringe worthy speeches along the lines of this and the various ones from the Rocky films, so please let me know if you can recommend any good ones.

Having finally had enough of the turbo I managed to get out on the Essex Roads club run for the first time in weeks last Sunday which was great fun and gave me a good opportunity to see what effect my training had had in comparison to the other regulars by pace making at the front of the group and chasing down as many attacks as possible. Signs were promising as I set power output PBs and finished the ride with an average speed that will see me more than on track for RAAM.

In other news our fundraising efforts are progressing well with our recent work dress down day and cake sale rasing approximately £900 for Barretstown. We are still some way off our goal, however we are hopeful that our 24 May fundraising dinner will enable us to make some significant head way into our target of £50,000.

If you are interested in attending the dinner then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us. Otherwise, if you would like to show your support, then please follow the link to our just giving page below:

Donate here

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