Gatsby, RAAM and me: a crew member’s thoughts two weeks out.
There’s a quote from F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ where narrator Nick says “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”
For me this sums up my thoughts about RAAM as well as it did Nick’s view of the USA in the roaring twenties. I’m just a few weeks away from my first RAAM experience, crewing for Tom and James, and the enormity of the challenge is well and truly upon me, bringing with it excitement and fear in large and equal measure.
I’m excited about the thought of being part of an event that lies on the very fringes of human existence. It’s the cyclist’s Everest, an unparalleled challenge on two wheels. RAAM, from all I’ve watched and heard and read, is a crazy cycling carnival spanning 3000 miles and 12 states. It’s a roadtrip of a lifetime. It’s not a holiday. It’s a somnophile’s nightmare, it’s a massive test of resilience for everyone involved.
I explain the concept, the incessant rhythm of the race to friends. Their jaws drop and my heart races. The fact I’m about to be part of this is very special. The fact I’m about to watch my eldest son Tom attempt to beat ‘the machine’ leaves me fumbling for words.
But back to Gatsby. Everyone involved in RAAM is a pursuer. Even winners like Strasser are chasing something. He’s chasing a better time than last year, the perfect ride. Crew members like me are also chasing something elusive, craving an experience that’s beyond the norm. Everyone who attempts RAAM is chasing something, a category record, a cutoff time, a finish. On the flip side everyone is also being chased. I’m excited about the race within the race. Trying the catch the next team. Trying not to be caught.
The busy? That’s everyone. We’re looking at 12 hour crew shifts. 4 hours driving, 4 navigating and 4 doing everything else. And everything else for me includes mechanicals, feeds, water, ice, social media, videography. And very occasionally, sleep. But spare a thought for the riders. Busy doesn’t even come close.
And the tired? From what we’ve heard daily sleep averages hover around two hours out of 24, snatched upright in moving cars, roadside camp beds and if you’re lucky, the nirvana of a motel bed. This is my biggest fear. Functioning as part of a team and doing my level best for Tom and James, who have spent their last two years preparing for what is to come. They’ve become exceptional athletes and I hope to honour their hard work and help them exceed their own expectations.
What are my other fears? The risks are there and we need to be vigilant, focussed and calm amid the chaos. Keep our guys safe and rubber side down. Other minor fears circle around maintaining decent levels of personal hygiene and not putting on 5kgs on a diet of trucker food.
So yes. Excitement and fear. Two sides of the same coin. Just like effort and reward, a coin that we hope lands reward side up in Annapolis around 23 June.
This piece was written by crew member, Eddie Allen, my Dad (Tom’s Dad).