One eighth of RAAM: Part 2

PhotoIf you look at the final results of the 8 man teams for RAAM, you will see about three tiers.  The biggest difference beyond rider strength between the top tier (Strategic Lions, ViaSat, and us) was the ability to master the logistics of the race.  Each of the top tier crews were ready to go before the race went off. It was really up to the riders to make it happen once the gun went off on Saturday afternoon, June 16th.   Team4Mil had us in Camp Pendleton starting five days prior to make sure vehicles were ready, navigation and nav aids were ready, and the crew completely understood their roles once underway.  The riders were there to do some warm-ups and practice hand-offs or individual transitions.  We were also there because our bikes had to be completely stickered up with reflective tape and small light systems.  Thanks to our very dedicated crew, we looked very professional from stickered vehicles to beautifully done reflective tape from wheels to frames to shoes.  It was impressive.  There was even an inspection by RAAM officials on every piece of gear that would be used for the race.  Our team, run with military precision, was more of a display of perfection for other teams and the RAAM personnel.  Our team members have been through an inspection or two throughout our careers.

PhotoLet me briefly explain how we would be going fast.  With a large crew, we were able to break down our 8 man team into two 4 man sub-teams, that would rotate with enough time to keep our crew rested and operating with enough rest. We would call each stint out as a sub-team a “shift” and individual times on the road a “pull.”  Our sub-teams were very evenly set, as we saw some teams yo-yo around us in the results because they had a strong team and a not-as-strong team. Each one of our individuals pulls was relatively short because of the precision of our crew and vehicle set-up.  For example, going over Wolf Creek Pass (10,856 ft), we would change pulls as quick as every mile.  On some decents, instances of failed transitions, or in times of needing gas for a vehicle, a rider could end up on the road for 10 miles.  With these short distances, we were able to go VERY fast, and then get full recovery riding in the van to the next transition.

PhotoOne last explanation of the rules would be helpful to explain individual transitions.  We had to overlap front of off-going with rear of on-coming rider in order to allow the oncoming rider to begin.  This could be done while moving during the day.  However, at night, the on-coming rider could not start until he was over-lapped, thus a slightly slower individual rider hand-off.  Efforts to get started were VERY high to maintain momentum and speed and slipping a pedal was always frustrating.  At night, we always had to have a follow vehicle and we had to ride within their lights. Finally, it was not that easy to find places to do these transitions.  Vechicles ALWAYS had to be parked at least five feet off the road and we had to avoid high grass to avoid fires and muddy ditches to keep from getting stuck.

I will also add that we each had radios and our vehicles each had a radio.  One of the biggest helps for piece of mind and directions was the constant stream of communication, especially between the rider and the follow vehicle.  Our follow vehicle’s navigators eventually became our bestest friends and our biggest harassers. They would spend hours looking at our butts while we stared down the empty road. They would guide us, encourage us, or berrate us depending on what we deserved at the moment and it was a huge addition to the journey.

 

When our sub-team was not on the road doing our shift, we were in the bus, attempting to sleep/eat or prepare for our next shift on the road.  The only unfortunate part about this set-up was that we never really got to see our other sub-team.  On the other team was our Rider Captain- Captain America (retired USN, Spec War), our team’s Director of Operations- “175” (AF dietician), an amazing Armed Forces Team rider- pBro (AF engineer), and a relatively small team climber and ironman age group stud- Relaxed Doc (AF pediatric cardio doctor).  Our sub-team was lead by the brains of our overall team strategy- Jimmy Neutron (USN submariner), and we had an amazing time trialist and decender with great riding credentials- ABConfire (USN meteorlogist), my classmate and always steady rider- Kyle (former Marine engineer). My sub-team would not actually start riding until late into the first day.

The first day for our sub-team was spent getting our gear packed and then relaxing in the sleeper-coach-bus 200+ miles out onto the course.  The Alpha sub-team would put two riders on the road for the start because it was not supported for about 25 miles and if there were any mechanicals, an individual rider could go ahead. They would do the mountain ranges that lie just off the coast and then get Team4Mil into the eastern California deserts.  Our team knew what we had to do in order to break the course record (5 days 9 hours, 3 minutes), and the Alpha team lost some time over the first 200 miles to that speed average.  We were going fast, racing with the known strong teams, but oddly were already facing conditions that seemed a little adverse…

 

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