I’m now crap at all other exercise

When I write this we are 67 days, 6 hours, 5 minutes and 14 seconds out from RAAM and believe me that’s terrifying.

I’ve just got back from Budapest, the last break I’m allowing myself in training until RAAM – it’s now full steam ahead with training, no distractions just get your head down and get to the States in the best physical shape possible.

Budapest and the break itself was amazing and anyone training for a big event I would whole heartedly recommend that you take a step back from it to refocus the mind and body. When over there I didn’t think about riding my bike. The closest thing I go to training was sitting inside an 85 degree sauna for “heat acclimatisation” – that’s the story and i’m sticking with it. However, I did realise that I am now useless at all other forms of exercise. So, when on a city break we (Me and Fiona) did what most people do and walked ourselves into the ground, going from ice cream parlour to the next recommended tourist attraction and it was after about four-hours of walking round I started to notice some niggles; a sore back, sore hip, tired legs. The dickhead part of my brain springs into action

“aren’t you supposed to be riding a bike around America and you can’t even go for a gentle walk”

I was ruined. How is this possible?! I am the fittest I have ever been and probably ever will be but I’ve been broken in the space of a few hours walking gently around a city. I suddenly feel old and realise that training for an event like RAAM has turned me into a finely tuned athlete, finely tuned for one thing and one thing only. Obviously, I wanted to share my new found atrophy with James which amused him.

A few days later James texts me after walking around London all day.

I couldn’t be happier; solidarity.

There a few lessons I’ve learnt and would like to share with fellow competitors or people thinking about their next challenge. First, take a break and enjoy the break. If your life is just training you will fail. There needs to be some balance in your life and this is especially true if you have a family. Second, you’re going to be crap at any other sport but that’s fine.

A Day in the Life of a Crew Chief

I have known James for about 8 years through work at Wythenshawe Hospital, he was aware I liked cycling and when I told him I was retiring in July 2018 he responded by asking me to do this RAAM event with him. At first I thought, are you joking, I cannot cycle across America, he reassured me it was as part of the support crew so I was relieved and also honoured to be asked.

So…. I retired from the NHS and then spent the next four months in France and Spain, travelling and cycling with my own support crew, Pat (my wife and fellow retiree). Didn’t think much about the event until we were on a beach in Torremolinos when I was contacted by James to ask if we would be prepared to drive an RV back from Annapolis (Near Washington DC) back to San Diego. Pat agreed, eventually, as long as we didn’t sleep in the RV on the way back and had chance to see some of America.

When we got back to England James contacted me to see if I knew anyone else who might want to join the crew. I thought … I know someone who would be ideal, my good lady – Pat. I managed to persuade her (I am not sure she would agree that I persuaded her – lol) to join the crew.

It is currently the 8 April 2018 and I am wondering what the heck I have let myself in for. James and Tom asked me to be their Crew Chief for their Race Across America – sure why not guys I said – and then it hit me after the London RAAM seminar. This is going to be something of a ‘challenge’ as they say in the NHS! Temperatures as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit, roads with desert to each side or grass that can catch fire if you park over it, potential for Tornado’s and severe thunderstorms or torrential rain along the way sounds wonderful doesn’t it.

I have read and re-read the rules, I have read the gear book too, 55 pages approx.. in each. However I could not get my head around the magnitude of the event from a cyclist point of view. I hatched a plan to map out the whole route on lining wallpaper which I had a spare roll of in the garage. This took me the best part of 6 hours one Sunday afternoon and I have now plotted out the whole route over the 3100 miles of the race, I can now see where the mountains are and where the flatlands will be. I did have to buy another roll to complete the route, it is stretched out over about 30 feet of lining paper showing all the climbs, the Walmart’s the gas stations and all the Time Stations along the way.

James and Tom are aiming to complete the ride in 8 days, we set off on 15 June and will aim to complete on Sunday 23 June, eight days and nights of cycling at an average speed of 16-18 mph. We will have two vans, equipped with bike accessories, food and fluids, washing equipment etc… but when do we rest?

This is really difficult to plan and will need the whole team to consider what would be the best approach. The race will not succeed unless we have a great team who are all working towards James and Tom’s objective. The race crew consist of Darren and Maggie Weatherall, Eddie Allen, Fiona Comley and Gan and ourselves

The crew and racers are meeting this week on 13 April to plan our strategy. We will be talking through the roles and responsibilities of the crew members. Driving, navigating, bike maintenance, nutrition, shopping, washing and most importantly keeping James and Tom entertained and motivated during those difficult times when they would just like to give up and go for a well-earned beer! After our strategy meeting we will practice handing bidons to James and Tom, both at the roadside and from the window of the car. This is not as easy as it sounds. Then we are off into the Peak district practising leapfrog handover of riders and a small amount of direct following which we will have to do each night for 12 hours during the race – 8 long long nights driving at 16-18 mph keeping the riders at a distance of 30 feet in front of us. Easier said than done.

So……. Pat and I continue to discuss tactics, what resources we are likely to need – how many bananas can they eat in 8 days? Where will we get James’ Spaghetti Bolognese (we will get you one somewhere James)? How much water can we actually carry in the van when they will be drinking 1-2 litres per hour. The whole thing is scary but we are determined to get this done and to make sure that James and Tom’s goal is achieved.

What a party we will have when we finish, roll on Annapolis!

Pete, Crew Chief