RAAM becomes a series of contrasts. You go to sleep in one place, and wake up someplace completely different. You frequently don’t know what time it is, what time zone you are in…I didn’t even know what day it was half the time! This contrast was most apparent when I awoke in the middle of a corn field. The previous night, I was admiring the dusk amidst the tall mountains and forests around me…today I am in a corn field and have NO IDEA which way is east or west! So began my trip across the Midwest….
My van pulls up to the RV and we start doing the recumbent bike shuffle. The first thing you always do is pull off the outgoing riders’ primary bike. Why? Because when Willie comes screaming into the exchange point 10 minutes ahead of schedule, I can actually jump on my bike and ride, even if my follow vehicle isn’t ready (this only applies during daytime transitions). I ask my crew if there are any turns coming up…”no.” Good, I’m off with only a minute or two lost in the transition. Another team just passed our RV five minutes ago, and I really wanted to catch them. My van will catch me down the road…
I’m off…I cruise the slight rollers for 13 miles into Kim, CO, speeding along at 22.8mph. The 140 watts I’m putting out are a little low as it is early and I’m still tired (remember, we are still a mile high!). I also didn’t know how long I would be out on the road solo, and didn’t want to blow myself up. Once we leave Kim, it really starts the official “descent” for hundreds of miles.
On my next pull, it was time to pick things up a bit. Given the consistent terrain, we decide that 10 mile pulls would be about 20 minutes. JV and I were working to perfect our 25-30mph rolling exchanges. Let’s see if I can describe it…
We can only pull over at a pull out that gets us 5 feet off the road. These aren’t always easy to find. So, my hope as an outgoing rider was to ensure that the incoming rider can get off the road at the same pull out that we are using (to avoid having to ride further up the road). To do this, after getting the bike off the van, I would walk it back down the course about 100 yards (we can’t ride backwards on the course, but we can walk). This would give me time to get up to speed right as we passed the turnout.
Here comes JV…he’s moving at 25-30mph! It’s hard to judge how soon to start pedaling, and I don’t want to blow myself up doing it. Closer…closer…go! I hit it, get up to 25mph right as he is crossing my rear wheel. JV then reaches over as he passes, puts his hand on my seat and pushes. It’s like having a turbo boost! Woo hoo! He then pulls off the road and walks back to the van, and I continue on at 30mph. (note, we saw many teams losing time because they weren’t doing fast rolling exchanges, and losing 5 seconds per pull adds up to 30 minutes more time at the finish line!).
So, my second pull carries me 9.8 miles at 28mph with an average wattage of 188! We are cruising now and halfway through the pull I pass the Aussie team! JV takes a pull, I eat and try to post to FB…this is fun but there is no internet out here!!!!
Time to mellow out a bit…I went too hard on the last pull and we have a ways to go ahead of us. 10 miles go by at 27.1mph, and I’ve backed it off to 162w. The next pull carries me another 10 miles at 27.4mph and 150w. Definitely went out too hard… JV blows through Walsh, CO and proceeds to miss a train crossing. We are now even at one missed train each!
We continue to see the crew of the Aussie team, and we take turns cheering each other down the road. Right after I passed them, I remember seeing the entire crew from their team coming out of the RV to cheer me on. That was quite cool!
CO and KS are beautiful, in a different sort of way. Yes, it’s a lot of corn, but it’s not so tall that I can’t see over the corn and look for miles in all directions. Corn, corn and more corn…but lot’s of neat barns and wildlife too! I waved to all of the drivers and gave the universal signal to a train conductor to blow his horn (yep…I’m always looking for reasons to act like I’m 10 again)!
I cross the state line into KS and continue cruising at 26.8 miles for about 13 miles. That’s my final pull, and I meet JV at the RV in Johnson City…er…JV rode by the RV at Johnson City because folks weren’t ready for the exchange…again… JV continues a couple miles down the road until Kent’s van can catch up with him and drop Kent on the course. JV’s van then brings him back to the RV and then moves Willie further up the course.
Shower time…damn, out of water in the RV! Besides, it’s 90 degrees out and standing in the shower doesn’t sound like much fun. JV has a better idea…we grab 1 gallon bottles of water and shower in our cycling shorts with it behind the RV. This was SO refreshing that it became our standard routine for most of the rest of the race!
Our trip across KS continued four hours later…KS is quite long! We picked up somewhere around Ensign, KS. The scenery was the same, but at a certain point after Ford, we moved onto a busier highway. We rotated with Kent and Willie somewhere before Pratt, KS.