I'm back doing my own posts now. This one will probably be a little short, but I just wanted to get a few thoughts posted as quickly as possible. It may be a week or so before I get a more complete write-up posted.
It sounded like a lot of people used this blog to follow the race. I hope it helped everybody that was interested feel like they were able to follow along and stay in tune with what was going on. My mom certainly posted as much information as she could get from the crew early on, but cell service is pretty sporadic in the early parts of the course. Heather would occasionally check the blog and tell me who had left comments and I'd really like to thank all of you that did. I appreciate the encouragement. Sometimes the messages would find me at just the right moment to give me a badly needed lift. Ultra-distance-anything is really a psychological battle and its sometimes hard to believe how easy it is to turn a low into a high...unfortunately the reverse is true too.
First, what a crazy, crazy thing that was...It was difficult, and strange, and surreal, and sometimes scary and disturbing...but it was also mostly really fun.
The crew was unbelievable!!! In the last post I wrote (prior to the race start) I mentioned that it was total chaos packing the vehicles and getting ready for the start. I wasn't 'afraid' of how things were going to unfold, but I was sure expecting it to be interesting. By day two of the race they were functioning like seasoned veterans. It was a really cool thing for me to see and one of the highlights of the race. My perspective on it, which is certainly limited and not necessarily accurate, was that they all had a sort of generic role that they filled, and then they sort of rotated into other roles as necessary.
As for the ride, I had stated a long time ago that I expected it to be a very difficult race physically but probably not as hard as the Iditarod Trail Invitational mentally...I was way off base. For about the first five days this was probably true but around that time my body adapted to the long, relatively high intensity days of riding, and I started getting stronger and stronger. Along with this I was experiencing some of the weirdest most twisted things my mind has ever done. Two mornings in a row while Heather and Co., were trying to get me dressed and on the bike I had no comprehension at all of what was going on. They told me I was in a race and I didn't believe them. I had no memory of being in a race, no interest in being in a race, nothing. Than after about a half hour of riding at 6 mph things started to come back to me and I realized I really was in a race.
A lot of this probably comes down to luck as much as anything, but the most serious physical problem I encountered the entire race (once I got my dietary issues resolved) was a slight saddle sore problem for the last two days that occurred after riding all night in the rain through West Virginia. I had some knee pain, but nothing I wouldn't consider normal for this type of race. I had no upper body pains at all. Physically I felt like I could have kept on riding at the end of the race, so that was a good thing.
Mentally I was pretty fried. I found it so hard to motivate myself to keep pushing on days 5, 6, 7, when the excitement of the start was long gone and the energy of the finish line was still half a world away. At this point RAAM really became more of a "crews" race than a "riders" race. And my crew did a great job of just taking over and putting me on my bike and yelling at me to ride. Ben and Heather especially seemed to relish this role. At times I felt a bit like a wind-up toy that was there for their entertainment, but that's the way it needed to be and they got as much out of me as I think they could.
Sleep deprivation...man this is a whole different ballgame in the heat and high intensity of RAAM than in is in the Iditarod Trail race. I had planned on two hours a night and thought that that would be plenty, that I might even cut back to 1.5 hours. Within a couple days I realized I was going to struggle with 2 hours, on a couple days I (my crew really) pushed it to 2.5 hours and I think 3 hours one day. Even at that it was a conscious struggle to stay awake on the bike and I found myself dozing off a lot more than I as comfortable with. Somehow this never led to a crash. I don't really understand how.
I'm sleeping a lot right now. All night long and about every two hours during the day. It's that time again. More Later.