RAAM Blog Entry 1
Race Day – 231 days and counting
I haven’t been on the bike for over three weeks and am currently struggling to type, but in just less than seven and a half months I will be on the start line of the hardest bike race in the world.
Cut back to Spring 2010 and having just completed the London Marathon I am in need of a new challenge when I get an email from Dan saying that Anthony is putting together a team for RAAM 2011 and I had been headhunted. I replied within minutes saying that I was up for it and would love to join the team on the basis that we went out to America to race and not just to ride.
At this point I’ll outline what a 4 man team RAAM involves:
- 3005 miles divided between the four of us
- Over 100,000ft of climbing
- One man always on the road twenty four hours a day
- A maximum of 4-5 hours break at a time
- Living out of a glorified camper van
- Burning approximately 8000 calories a day
- Weather extremes from -5c to +40c
- Relying on up to twelve support crew to feed us, navigate and conduct rider changeovers
- Competing against teams from around the world to get to the finish first
A few weeks of radio silence followed until we started to get a bit of momentum and the three of us had our first chat. Top of the agenda being – find another team member. Being keen to source all the team members from our department at Norton Rose, we drew up a shortlist of potential candidates that was topped by Brian. To look at him he may not be the most obvious long distance cyclist due to his international scrum half build, but he snapped at the opportunity and we had found our fourth team member.
Now that we had our team and the entry fee was paid, it was time to suss out our abilities. Our first tentative steps into training began with a 7am rendezvous at Regents Park on a cold and damp Tuesday morning. Anthony had already filed a sick note so the first session was a mixture of me chasing every other cyclist on the road, Dan laughing at my competitiveness and Brian insisting that cycling could still be a contact sport having had a disagreement with an ambulance. With this success story under our belts we managed to squeeze in a few more training rides with some particularly brutal 5.30am starts to get out to Richmond Park. One thing was clear – we have some way to go before we can make good on our desires to put on a good show during the race.
As part of my qualification package I managed to get 4 weeks off work in September which I planned to use for some pretty serious training. I built on a decent summer of riding (apart from my monumental bonk on a ride with Dan out in Surrey) by heading out into Hertfordshire and Kent as much as possible as well as following some particularly tough hill repeat sessions on Swains Lane in North London.
The crowning glory of my training so far came in late September with my trip out to the Pyrenees to take on the “Epic Cols” challenge. This involved 400ks of riding over three and a half days in an area famous for its Tour de France mountains. Over the four days I “bagged” 7 Cols including the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden (both of which proved pivotal in Lance Armstrong’s cycling career and tower over Ben Nevis, with the Tourmalet reaching the dizzying altitude of 2115 metres). The highlight of the trip however was successfully making a gear change in the exact spot that led to this year’s “chaingate” scandal which saw Andy Schleck wave goodbye to his Yellow Jersey prospects.
Once back in the UK however my training took a massive hit. An old shoulder injury had been causing me a lot of problems and the only solution was surgery and a 6-8 week recovery period. I bit the bullet and had the operation in early October and set about focussing on a quick recovery. 3 weeks on and the pain is starting to subside and having exhausted my library of cycling literature I am hopeful that I will be able to make it onto the turbo trainer this weekend to see just how much fitness I have lost.
I fear it will be a humiliating experience, but am hopeful that my legs will remember the work they put in earlier this summer and regain their lost fitness in short order. In the mean time I just have to focus on getting fit enough to average 20mph over the course of the race and raising money for our charity Barretstown.
- Get fit
- Ride several thousand kilometres
- Find a crew
- Arrange flights
- Arrange for three support vehicles
- Countless other things……