Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Three Phases of RAAM

June 7 & 8, is the start of the 26th Race Across America - a non-stop bicycle race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis Md., covering 3000 miles and 100,000 vertical feet of climbing. It's no picnic but parts of it are fun. The race can be described in three distinct phases: Euphoria, Pain, and Focus.
Euphoria lasts about three days, when the pent up strength from months of training is unleashed. You can marvel at the scenic beauty of western America without having to worry about food, water, where your next nap will occur. A RAAM rider has a full complement of crew to take care of every detail. You might ride all day without hitting a single traffic light!
The second phase starts when your body reacts to riding more miles in three days than you've ridden in the last month. Everything hurts, everything is swollen. The difference between permanent and temporary damage is hard to distinguish, but you start poppin' Advil's like Jelly Beans, and ride through it.
Two orthogonal things happen in the last phase: your legs begin to grow like Popeye-on-Spinach, but your brain is fried. The scenery become numbingly repetitious (to you). You have the strength to ride, but all you want to do is sleep. The veterans wait for this phase - where huge gains or losses can occur. As eight time veteran Danny Chew put it, "the real race starts at the Mississippi".
To finish you must focus on getting to the next time station, the next bump in the road, or simply getting to ten pedal revolutions so you start counting to ten again. Repeat until your crew says stop and you are a RAAM finisher.

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