Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I have no idea how, when or if Rob will make it to the finish line. I hope he does, and I think he will, but if he doesn't, so what.
He has already accomplished so much in the preparation and execution of this race. The miles he's ridden in a handful of days are more than most people will ride in a lifetime.
He has raised more than a thousand dollars for a good cause.
He managed to convince 12 smart and busy people with lives and careers and families to drop everything and sit in a van for more than a week and follow him across the country, getting little sleep and eating bad food.
He must be a pretty decent fellow.
This was an important RAAM for Rob and he has acquitted himself well. I'll stack up Rob's character, courage and convictions to do well and do good against most professional athletes in the world today.
Regardless of when you are reading this - June 15, 16, 17 - or soon after Rob crossed the finish line in Annapolis, I'll say again (as I did after the 2008 race) how proud I am to tell - no brag - to anyone who will listen:
"Let me tell you about my best friend and what he did one week in June 2010. It was quite something."
***June 20, 2010 - 9:30 PM UPDATE***
Of course, since I drafted (but did not publish) that post nearly a week ago, Rob did what he does and finished 7th today - moving up the leader board by one position over his RAAM finishes in '96 and '00.
It was awe-inspiring watching him cross the finish line this afternoon. He bitched about how bad he felt for the last 100 miles (and I am sure he did, in fact, feel awful), but he looked fantastic the whole day.
(And that $1,000+ figure for money raised for the Lance Armstrong Foundation is now $2,815. Who knows - we may yet push it over $3,000!)
This evening, a few of us brought Wendy's take-out back to the room and Rob feasted with abandon - a post-race tradition for him.
If past is prelude, tonight will be a rough night, as his metabolism is still operating as if he were on the bike burning 12,000 calories per day. He will want to sleep, but will wake up every hour or two with crazy hunger pains as his body continues to crave energy.
Keep checking back on this blog every now and then for the next week or two. We'll post more videos, photos and a final post race Q&A with Rob so you can hear out of his own mouth how he felt about the race.
Thanks for reading and following Rob on his journey and helping him across the finish line.
Luis says that Rob appears ready to do whatever it takes to ride straight in without a break today, so they made up a "special breakfast cocktail" of Coca-Cola, No-Doz, chocolate-covered espresso beans, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, automatic transmission fluid and kitty litter. Hey - whatever works.
A word about day crew: Remember a couple of days ago when I had all those nice things to say about night crew? Well, it was total crap to keep them motivated. The REAL heroes are DAY CREW - Mike Perron, Bob Conrad and Luis, who have to put up with traffic and heat. Just ask night crew. They'll be the first to admit that every night on shift is like a walk on a Caribbean beach and that day crew is where the action is.
So day crew, day crew they're our men. If they can't do it, nobody can!
I'm about to head out onto the course with Kate and Michelle and I'll post some quick updates via the BlackBerry.
I simply could not believe how good he looked and how fast he was riding up that hill. It was truly something to see. Dave, who is quite a cyclist in his own right, echoed my sense of awe at how Rob was doing.
At the time station in Hancock, we met up with Rob's wife Kate and her sister Michelle, and visited with Rob for about five minutes before he took a break.
According to night crew driver Mike Desilet, Rob has been dodging weather bullets for the entire race. It happened again tonight. Almost as soon as he went into the motor home, the skies opened up. By the time he was ready to ride again, it was 10 degrees cooler and there was not a cloud in sight. (I think it's his mom running the show up there...)
We had a small fire drill (which Rob will not know about until he reads this): the battery on the pace van was dead. We could not get the van re-started, despite a jump start from my car. Motor home driver Javier Lowe checked the water level in the battery and it was bone-dry. We couldn't find any distilled water at 11:30 at night and AAA was not able to get us a new battery, so we just dumped some Poland Spring into the battery, jumped it again from my car and Rob was back in business.
RAAM is a thousand little fires like that, and this crew is so calm, cool and collected, it's almost eerie. That, or they are just so dog-tired, nothing can get their blood pressure up.
This is night crew's last shift. In a few hours, they will transition and day crew of Mike Perron, Bob Conrad and Luis Ramos will take Rob into Annapolis.
I hope to capture video and post it later Sunday evening. No promises as I am using a borrowed video camera (forgot mine, thanks AGAIN, Dave and Robin.)
Today will be a great day!
I am typing this on my BlackBerry. Not easy.
Rob ripped through the toughest climbs like it was day 2. It was amazing to watch. A couple of friends joined me out on the course to cheer Rob on. Thank you Robin and Dave!
About 170 miles to go.
Sent from a smartphone. Please forgive any typos.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
According to Tom, Rob still has good snap in his legs (how is this even possible?) when he was going up the last few climbs.
At the last Time station, Szonyi had closed the gap on Rob to about an hour.
I just arrived in Annapolis and will soon be heading in Rob's general direction. If all goes according to plan, I hope to catch up with Rob and the guys on the road between Cumberland and Hancock, some time between now and 10:00 PM.
I think Rob's finish is more likely to be between 3-8 PM tomorrow.
Almost home, Robbie
Remember the fight scenes in the "Rocky" movies when, at some point, Sylvester Stallone and his opponent du jour are basically just standing there, half out of their minds, sort of punching each other whenever they can muster the strength to lift an arm?
Well, that's pretty much what RAAM is like at this stage of the race.
Spoke with the "A Team" (aka day crew) just a few minutes ago and everything is pretty much as it has been for the past 36 hours in that Rob is riding well, punctuated by waves of fatigue. So, he takes a break, recharges, and jumps back on the bike.
Crew chief Mike Perron says that he is, once again, attacking the hills today, and that's good, because he has a few more to climb before it's all over.
When will he finish? At this point, I would predict between 8:00 AM and noon Sunday, but, again, that could go either way depending on what he does today and tonight.
He has another racer about 90 minutes behind him, so that should be a motivating factor.
Can Rob catch Kaiser, the guy ahead of him? It's unlikely unless Kasier has a meltdown because he is about 60 miles ahead of Rob and there is a "10 percent" theory in RAAM that says you can never make up more than 10 percent on the guy in front of you. Rob has about 340 miles to go, which means Kaiser would have to be 30 miles or less in front of Rob for Rob to have a shot at catching him.
So now, it's about maintaining and taking it into the finish.
Speaking of which, I am heading there this morning, so this will be my last blog post for a while. I am going to head out onto the course to see Rob and the guys, and try to blog from my mobile, including photos. Not sure it will work, but check back later this afternoon.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Rob smells the barn. (It smells, not surprisingly, a lot like he does right about now.)
I just hung up with night crew cool guy Mike Desilet and he says that they stuck to last night's tactic of giving Rob a bit of a rest right around transition and then sending him on his way for the night.
These next 24 hours can be brutal for Rob and the crew. It's sort of obvious why this is so for Rob, but why the crew?
First, they are pretty tired themselves. Second, sometimes Rob rides like it's day two, other times he can barely get out of his own way. It is these low points that can be agonizing to watch for the crew.
Speaking of the night crew, if I am not mistaken, with the exception of one night when Jeff Sturges swapped out, these guys have gone straight through the race as a single unit. Joe Muprhy, Jeff and Mike are night crew GODS and, if there was any money whatsoever in this silly sport, they could hire out their total crew awesomeness to future RAAM riders. Though I suspect now that they've done it, they will both cherish the experience and want to purge it from their memory.
RAAM is unlike any other race in the world. It dishes out some of the worst punishment imaginable in sports, which brings out the best - in the riders, and the crews. And based on what I've observed from my perch here in Connecticut, this may be Rob's best and smartest crew ever.
I hope they are savoring the smell of that barn.
Stop in all the by-ways, playin' rock 'n' roll.
Gettin' ROBbed, gettin' stoned,
Gettin' beat up, broken boned.
Gettin' had, gettin' took.
I tell you folks, it's harder than it looks.
It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll.
So here we are, nine days into the race, and Rob has completed about 2,545 miles, or 282 miles per day. As we mentioned this year's course with the different climbs in Colorado, combined with the ferocious head winds through that section, has caused every single racer to re-evaluate their plans and expectations. In fact, given the conditions, I think Rob is actually ahead of where we might expect. Were it not for the full day of headwinds, he might be 8-9 hours further up the road, so 282 miles/day is simply fantastic.
But, it's all academic. All these racers are facing the same conditions and you play the cards you are dealt. In fact, I find the whole notion of setting a course record in RAAM to be a very curious thing. Robic's desire to break eight days in a RAAM is laudable, but maybe not all that practical.
- The course changes every few years. Dramatically. Rob has done California to Georgia, Oregon to Florida and now California to Maryland. Entirely different routes.
- The distances change. RAAM 1996, Rob's first, was 2,905 miles - 100 miles shorter than this year. At the speeds these guys are averaging, that means this year's race is 6-10 hours longer.
- The conditions change: Rain, sleet, wind, heat, you name it.
- The competition changes.
This is why the RAAM organization actually notes two records: one for speed (Pete Penseyres, in 1986 at 15.4 mph) and one for time (Rob Kish, in 1992, at 8 days, 3 hours, 11 minutes.)
Bottom line: For anyone to ever break either of these records, lots of planets have to line up just perfectly. This was not that year.
But if it was easy, we would all be doing RAAM.
Note: I will be going AWOL from the blog for a few hours. Back around 9:00 PM.
In Sal's opinion, motor home crew members Ginger Gagliardo and Wave Smith are two of the many positive factors that have contributed to this year's effort.
Ginger is new to Rob's crew this year. She is a licensed massage therapist and has been providing leg massages every night as Rob goes down to sleep. This has helped in (at least) two ways:
1. Rob gets to sleep faster
2. His legs recover faster and he gets going more quickly when he wakes up and gets back on the bike.
She is quite the hero. She is the only woman among a band of 11 men, all of whom have memorized the most important parts of the "FCC v. Pacifica" Supreme Court decision. These are cops and firefighters and war veterans and college dudes, gentlemen all, but they're guys.
Luckily, Ginger spent a good chunk of time with Wave Smith, who is about a solid a RAAM crew member as there has ever been. Wave has driven the pace van and the bikes out to the start of all five of Rob's RAAMs, and this year decided to take the trip back as part of the crew as well.
Wave is funny, smart and about as easy-going as anyone can be.
Ginger and Wave are a huge part of why Rob is where he is right now.
Right now, Mike Perron says that the sun is pretty warm (~85) and that can both tap strength and make Rob sleepy, so they are keeping a close eye on him. On the other hand, Mike says that every time Rob hits one of the uphills, he "attacks" it.
This is how it is going to be through the weekend. I still think a Sunday morning finish is in the cards. The specific time depends on how much "attacking" Rob decides to do between now and then.
I will be heading down to Annapolis for the finish and plan to head out onto the course to see Rob tomorrow night and on into the finish. As a result, there may be some gaps between posts to this blog, as blogging and driving do not mix (or so my wife tells me.)
Also - there have been some more course changes from race HQ in Ohio and into West Virginia, so if it looks like Rob is off the grid, fear not. All is good.
- From Julie, who drove from Denver to Trinidad to see Rob last weekend:
"ROB IS A ROCKSTAR! I am so happy that he is in the position to fulfill so many of his goals this RAAM. Give him a big hug for me in Annapolis!
(Note to Julie: Remember how he smelled in Trinidad? Well multiply that by about a bazillion, so there will be very little hugging in Annapolis. Sorry.)
- From my mother-in-law, Jane:
Rob is our focus this week, and these last two days particularly. May the muses and the Lord and his mom in the heavens and Kate's love and the devotion of his many friends and admirers give him the physical and mental strength to finish this superhuman event for which he has so arduously trained and carefully prepared. He deserves a grand finale. May he reap it!
His overnight progress was nothing short of spectacular. He reached TS 42, Blanchester, OH, at 6:00 AM and as I type, he is almost halfway to Chillicothe.
Until I speak to the van in a few, enjoy this video, starring Rob, from the RAAM organization. (Thanks to Noah Bessette and the Vermont Fan Club for sending the link.)
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Please note, however, that at this time, Rob is not accepting the following:
- Marriage proposals (actually, he's set on this one for life)
- Invitations to the White House or Buckingham Palace (the whole "U.S. versus BP" thing is a bit dodgy)
- Product endorsement offers (Naked Nuggets excepted)
- Bras thrown at him (they get caught in the spokes)
- Invitations to go for a bike ride when he gets back to Danbury (But we are planning a big "bike burning bonfire" next week in the back yard, after which he takes up lawn bowling.)
It is worth mentioning only to point out how truly hard this year's race has been. Robic was looking to break eight days. He is going to miss that by almost 20 hours. That kind of says it all.
Back to Rob: He took a break in Greensburg at TS 40. The crew thought it would be a good idea to recharge his batteries for the night ahead and Rob agreed. It appears Szonyi had the same idea, so he really didn't pick up that much time on Rob.
As previously mentioned, the sleep breaks from here to the finish become a bit of "trial and error" scenario. One long break before the final push? Or dose it out with mini-naps over the next 36 hours.
It will largely depend on how Rob feels and the crew's analysis of his physical and mental performance. These last few hundred miles are about staying on the bike and moving, but not at the expense of safety or not finishing at all. Rob told the crew that he just wants to finish. That's the most important thing to him right now.
I just hung up the phone with night crew mechanic Joe Murphy who says the break at TS 40 did Rob a world of good. There is some tough terrain right now with steep uphills and screaming downhills and Rob is on top of his game.
Mike Perron will rejoin day crew tomorrow for the push into the weekend finish.
It will be exciting to watch.
Well, that wasn't fun. Lots of traffic and a 27 mile gradual climb into time station 40, Greensburg, Indiana, home of... well... other than time station 40, I'm not really sure. From here, Rob has about 3.5 hours to the Ohio border.
The next 36 hours will be critical for Rob. Sleep decisions will be weighed against how he feels and a desire to pick up as many miles as possible. It's a very thin line that only Rob can truly navigate, but his crew will always make sure any decision are made with his safety in mind.
I think it's safe to say that, barring a blow up from Strebel, Kaiser or O'Keefe, Rob will not contend for sixth place. Anything is possible however, and while I would never wish anything bad on any of the other RAAM competitors, racers have had meltdowns in the late stages of RAAM. One of the most famous was a guy name Mark Patten, who in 1999, dropped out at the 2,788 mile mark. His team could not get him back on the bike.
In this race, anything can happen right up until the very end. Rob sure knows this. The best strategy for him is to keep maintaining this steady, solid pace, leave something in the tank for the grinding climbs in West Virginia and Maryland, stay safe and let the chips fall where they may.
I received this email moments ago from the great people at the Lance Armstrong Foundation:
Luis Ramos (day crew navigator) says that this last stretch into Bloomington had a lot of traffic, stop lights and stop signs. That can be VERY annoying for a RAAM racer at this stage in the race because it's hard enough to get comfortable on the bike and as soon as he does settle in, he has to change gears, click out of the pedals, stop, put his foot down, lose momentum and then start all over again.
On the other hand, it gives him something to focus on and bitch about, rather than all the other stuff that's annoying him at this point in the race (like the hills, the heat, the food, the crew, the bike, the road, the wind, the saddle sores, the stiff neck, the swollen feet, the inability to shave or bathe, the canker sores, the utter exhaustion, the road kill, the potholes, BP, the North Korean soccer team and Lindsay Lohan.)
So, there's that.
(Who wants to give this a try next year?)
(Photo from RAAM web site)
Rob will likely finish on Father's Day. Rob's dad, known to family, friends and business associates alike as "Bullhead" (the name says it all), passed away several years ago. In some ways, Rob could not be more different than his dad, and yet, what else beside "Bullhead" would you call someone who insists on racing a bicycle across the country in 10 days?
My dad died 45 minutes after Father's Day, six years ago. In many ways, my dad and Rob were nothing alike either, in that my father would have rather set himself on fire than ride a bicycle 20 feet or do any kind of substantive exercise (perhaps because he was always slim and trim.)
Yet my father was one of Rob's biggest fans. I remember when we went to see Rob at one of the annual charity hockey games between the Danbury PD and the fire department. We went down to the ice to say "hi" to Rob. At that point, he had played almost every minute, was bleeding in a couple of places and had a broken finger (I think.) Rob greeted my dad with a big smile and hearty handshake before going back onto the ice and knocking some firefighter into the boards.
My dad got a huge kick out of that. Of course he was always impressed with Rob's RAAM exploits. Like Bullhead, my dad never quite understood why Rob did RAAM, but I think both of them got how much it meant to him.
One classic Bullhead moment that some of you have heard many times: In 1988, Rob did an Ironman triathlon on Cape Cod (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). As Rob was leaving to drive to the race, his dad offers this classic piece of strategic wisdom:
"Robbie - find the guy who is supposed to win, stick with him, and then pass him just before the finish line."
Still the best race advice I have ever heard!
I'll be thinking about my dad and Bullhead as Rob gets closer to a Father's Day finish.
We can see why Rob likes riding out west.
So, Rob is sticking to his schedule of sleep every night at about the same time, which seems to be working for him. The crew has done a great job of adjusting both the duration and the time of his sleep breaks to maximum advantage.
At this pace, I am sticking to a finish prediction of some time between midnight and 8:00 AM Sunday morning, which would be great because I am planning on having brunch in Annapolis on Sunday around 11:00 AM and it would be so irritating if he interrupted that.
According to the day crew (which, by the way, now includes Javier Lowe, who has moved into the pace van from the motor home, obviously wanting to experience some of the glamor of mixing Spiz and helping Rob go to the bathroom), he gets a bit sleepy again around 7:00 AM every day, but a breakfast that includes some Coca-Cola chases the cobwebs away.
Rob just asked me to crunch some 24-hour split numbers for him and he sounded fully engaged and anxious to crank out some miles (and to get out of Indiana where, unless you are dribbling a basketball while you ride, they don't really care all that much about bicycle racing.)
The staff and management of this blog disavow any hostility toward the good citizens of Indiana from the author of this blog post. We are well aware that the greatest bicycling movie EVER - "Breaking Away" - takes place in Indiana. The author of this blog is both misinformed and a geographical snob who thinks that civilization ends at the western bank of the Hudson River.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
- Rob is making really good, steady progress. Everyone - day crew, night crew, Kate (via phone) - all say he looks and sounds great.
- He seems to have gotten into a great pace/rhythm with regard to sleep breaks and how his rest cycles are affecting his riding. He is steady with solid average speeds. I don't want to say too much here about strategy, but I like the way the numbers are trending.
- He is VERY psyched that he has less than 900 miles to go. It seems to be giving him a second wind.
- Within the hour, I expect the first relay teams to pass him on the road. These teams go by like a freight train, as I described on this blog during the 2008 race and what happened in RAAM 1996. Great little anecdote about the "community" of ultra-distance racers.
- When he hits Indiana tomorrow, he'll be in the eastern time zone.
- Mike Desilet (night crew driver extraordinaire) relayed a really nice story that happened earlier today: As you know (because of my constant haranguing), Rob is raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. You may have also noticed in many of the photos that he has been wearing one of the yellow "Livestrong" bracelets, which he says keeps his mom constantly in his thoughts.
The bracelet broke yesterday and Rob was hoping to find another. Shuttle crew superdudes Wave Smith and Mike Perron went looking, but came up empty. Later, they struck up a conversation with a woman at a gas station or a rest stop who was asking about RAAM. They told her the bracelet story and she took off her pink bracelet that she was wearing in memory of a family member and gave it to Wave to give to Rob. So, now he'll be wearing a pink one into Annapolis.
(Sorry for the sideways things again. The crew gets punchy too.)
Body all achin' an' wracked wid pain,
Tote dat barge! Lif' dat bale!
Git a little drunk an' you lands in jail.
Ol' man Rob just crossed Ol' Man River at almost precisely seven days into RAAM 2010. His average daily mileage is now 292, which is really strong. Extrapolate that out to the length of the race (see, I TOLD you there would be math), and we're looking at a 10 day, eight hour RAAM. This could go either way because, of course, he is getting more tired and there are some really tough hills ahead of him in West Virginia and Maryland (yes, Maryland. Go figure.)
In RAAM '96 and '00, Rob left a little something extra in the tank for the final 24 hours, so who knows what will happen. Every race is a totally different experience.
Today was a big day to be sure. So far he has:
- reached the 2,000 mile mark,
- crossed the Mississippi,
- crossed another state border,
- surpassed his fundraising goal for the Lance Armstrong Foundation
Thanks to all!
(BTW - we can go for even more. ;-)
Rob is riding well and heading toward the Mighty Mississippi. As you can see by the comment from night crew driver Mike Desilet to this morning's update, Rob had a decent sleep break last night and continues to ride at a good, steady pace.
Luis Ramos (day crew navigator) says they are dealing with some more highly traveled roads right now in Missouri, which can be more stressful for the crew than for Rob, since it's harder for the pace van to pull over to the far right to let traffic by than it is for Rob to do so.
I predicted last night that Rob would reach the Mississippi between noon and 4:00 PM. It will be closer to the 4:00 side of that range, depending on any stops he makes in the next couple of hours.
That will be a big lift for Rob as he crosses into another state, and a big lift for me as I will no longer have to type "Mississippi."
...but just a quick reminder: Rob is riding with a heightened sense of purpose in this year's RAAM for a variety of reasons, including the fact that he is raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation in memory of his mom, who died last fall after a four-year battle with cancer.
At this point, his stated goal is $2,000 and he is only $780 away from that.
This blog is getting in excess of 1,000 unique visitors a day. If every one of us contributed a dollar, we'd get Rob across that finish line. (For the whole "biking to Annapolis" thing, well, he's on his own with that one.)
Any new visitors here, or long-time friends who are so inclined, click here and you can make a donation by credit card.
(How cool would it be to be able to call Rob before he finishes the race and let him know that we reached his fund raising goal?)
Rob obviously slept last night after TS 33 in Jefferson City and is now making his way to TS 34 in Washington, MO. This time station and the next one (the Mississippi River) are relatively long distances (76 and 70 miles, respectively), as compared to the past few, which have been in the 35-60 range.
"Why does this matter?" you might ask.
Well, at this stage of the race, every little thing can become a big thing. I remember in the latter stages of past RAAMs Rob asking "How far is the next time station?" over and over again. He just looks for some kind of milepost or mini-goal to pull him along and the time stations are important ones. Also, back in the day, before we had the Internet and any semblance of cell phone service, the time stations were the only way we could get updates on what was happening in the race and where Rob was relative to the other racers. Rob likes to know that information and do the math while he is riding. (Of course, he is so tired, his math is about as reliable as a golden retriever's, but that's what the crew is there for.)
Anyway, I'll talk to the day crew in a bit and get a sense of how the sleep break was last night. I'll also remind them to grab, if possible, a photo or a video when Rob crosses the Mississippi. In addition to it being a time station, it also puts him into a new state, Illinois, and only one state more until the eastern time zone.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Looking at the elevation profiles for the next few time stations, this looks like the norm for the next 150 miles until he gets close to the Mississippi River, where it will head downhill, flatten out at the river and then start the rollers all over again as he moves east, away from the river into Illinois and Indiana.
At this point, Rob is about 175 miles from the Mississippi River time station. Depending on what happens tonight, he should arrive there tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, between noon and 4:00 PM. As an FYI, the Mississippi is the second cutoff in the race (the first was Durango.) Any racer that is not there by Thursday at 3:00 PM will be a DNF. Obviously, this is not a concern for Rob.
At that point he will have less than 1,000 miles to go, though the terrain east of the river is not to be taken lightly. Yes, the mammoth climbs of the Rockies are a distant memory, but these are the same legs that had to go up those climbs. Tack on another 1,000 miles of racing between there and here and you get the picture.
But Rob just keeps riding along and who knows what fireworks he has planned for the last few hundred miles.
Here's to a good night's sleep for all of us tonight, and lots of miles for Rob.
As we have discussed, RAAM is about riding a bike fast AND it's about managing on the edge of a complete mental breakdown due to sleep deprivation.
I can honestly say that Rob has never totally lost it, but he can be quite amusing in the later stages of the race.
- His "main theme", if you will, is elf shoes. He sees them lined up along the shoulder of the road, all the way to the horizon.
- Dancing vegetation
- Insisting that his niece and nephew were at a time station in Alabama (RAAM 2000). They were actually in Connecticut.
- Trying to convince the crew that he had already ridden in this direction, so he was going to turn around and ride in the opposite direction.
- Insisting that there were large construction vehicles backing into the road ahead of him, so he needed to swerve to go around them. (This was also RAAM 2000 and was actually dangerous, because he was crossing the center line to the other side of the road. We told him that the shuttle crew was about a mile up the road, clearing out all the trucks, so he didn't have to swerve any more. It worked.)
- Arguing with the crew about "Why do YOU guys get to sit in the van and I have to ride the bike all the time??? How about one of YOU get on the bike and I'LL sit in the van!" (We reminded him that the RAAM race officials would probably take a dim view of that particular tactic.)
I am sure I am missing many. Past crew members can add their own in the comments.
RAAM is not just a race; it's also a war of attrition. DNFs (Did Not Finish) are part of the race, as just about any veteran RAAM racer, including Rob, can tell you.
Obviously this moves everyone who was behind him, including Rob, up in the rankings.
And the race rolls on.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.
- Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
"What's the matter Cindy?"
"Oh, nothing Tracy. I thought that Danny was going to ask me to the prom today and he went and asked that hussie Mandy."
"What did you wear to school today?
"The usual: my Twilight sweatshirt with the picture of Robert Pattinson. Why?"
"BIG mistake! Robert Pattinson is so three weeks ago. You need to upgrade to Robert Morlock clothing!"
"You're right. If I wear a Team Morlock T-shirt, I bet I'll be prom-bound in no time!"
"That's the spirit, Cindy! Get online and get yourself some Team Morlock crap. You'll be the coolest kid AND all profits go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation to support cancer survivors."
"Thanks, Tracy! You're the ginchiest!"
In a future post, I'll share some of the lack-of-sleep induced wacky moments of past RAAMs.
He sounds like the day before the race started when we chatted: Happy, same old Rob, enjoying a nice bike ride. He says that he feels like he still has good power in his legs and he is just dosing it out steadily, in anticipation of those West Virginia climbs in a few days. I remember Rob in '96 and '00 at this point in the race, and while I know that he has his highs and lows along the road in every race, he really did sound exceptionally good this morning.
He was having a breakfast, on the bike while riding, of cold pizza, which he really seemed to be enjoying.
Last night's sleep was slightly extended. He has been having some skin abrasion issues, which night crew driver and paramedic Mike Desilet has been treating. Mike told me this morning that it actually looks like they might be starting to heal, rather than getting worse.
Don't forget that you can track Rob on My Athlete. As he moves toward the east coast, cell phone coverage seems to be good.
Enjoy the ride as he heads into day six of RAAM 2010!
Monday, June 14, 2010
(All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.)
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Night crew is back on shift and I just had another extended conversation with Mike Desilet. We were discussing different sleep strategies that Morlock crews have used in previous RAAMs and other ultra-races to maximize Rob's efficiency on the bike.
Since there is a good chance that some of Rob's fellow racers' crews might be reading this blog, I don't want to give away too much of our strategy, but I will reveal this to the other crews, in the name of good sportsmanship:
ROB IS PLANNING ON TAKING A 19 HOUR SLEEP BREAK IN THE NEXT TWO MINUTES. IN FACT, HE IS GOING TO FLY HOME SO HE CAN SLEEP IN HIS OWN BED. FEEL FREE TO TELL YOUR RIDER TO DO THE SAME. I'M SURE HE COULD USE THE EXTRA REST. I PROMISE - THIS IS REALLY THE PLAN. SERIOUSLY.
Other than the usual nicks and bumps that come with sitting on a bike for 1,570 miles, Rob is holding up well. Mike said he was making good speed has he moves along toward TS 28 in Eldorado, KS.
For those of you NOT keeping track at home, Rob has now passed into his third of four time zones. Local time for Rob's group is now the central time zone. Only one more zone to go.
These are the types of little incentives that you try to feed to a racer to keep him motivated: The next time station, the next state, the half-way point, the next time zone, the Mississippi River, the 2,000 mile mark and so on. It breaks the race up into mini-goals that pulls him along.
I get the impression that Rob is enjoying this RAAM, but it is an enjoyment tinged with a sense of purpose and sadness. He is remembering his mom and his fellow, fallen, police officer Don Hassiak, and raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation in memory of his mom and thinking about his wife and all of this adds up to a sort of zen-like approach which is "Let's just keep moving - for them, for the crew and for me."
Will this be his last RAAM? Quite possibly. He wants to make sure he takes in every moment as he works steadily to the finish.
On a cloud of sound I drift in the night
Any place it goes is right
Goes far, flies near, to the stars away from here
- John Kay
I sneaked a peek at what's happening in the standings and I just LOVE what Rob is doing. I figure that at 3:48 PM, he is just past the half-way point of the race at 1522 miles. That's 304 miles/day for 5 days, including all that climbing and weather through Colorado. Awesome.
As indicated in this morning's post, sleep breaks are key. Both Strebel and Warner-Smith look like they took a sleep break heading into TS 26, and yet they are still ahead of Rob. That's absolutely fine for now, but it will have to factor into the Morlock crew's tactical thinking tonight and over the next couple of days.
Generally speaking, there is a point where just about every RAAM rider needs to take a longer sleep break. Instead of two hours, they sleep for four or five. When (or if) that happens for any of the riders will be critical.
Rob has always said that RAAM is half about the ability to ride fast, half about managing sleep deprivation. As the race progresses, I might suggest that the ratio shifts to 70/30 in favor of the lack of sleep.
Keep an eye on those time station stats and enjoy the ride that Rob is giving us. It is genuinely thrilling!
Rob reached time station 24, Montezuma, KS, at 7:18 EDT this morning. He is now in 8th place - for the time being. He will likely move up again during the day today because there are a few factors affecting Rob's position right now:
- He was slower during the mountains than some of the other guys, so they crept up to Rob, but...
- ...sleep breaks will become an increasing part of any calculus - both for Rob and his competition out on the road, and for us at home trying to make heads or tails.
Rob is now rested (he obviously slept going into TS 24) and ready to ride for the day. Some of the riders around Rob are either sleeping now or are due to sleep. So these standings will continue to be fluid throughout the day.
Make no mistake - Rob has to bear down and put in some miles, but he is right there in the main group. With more than half the race to go, there is so much to play out over the next few days and these standings will change a hundred more times.
I know that Rob does NOT like to be passed. I also know that Rob is a smart RAAM veteran, who knows himself and knows when to be passed and when to do the passing.
I just had a long conversation with night crew driver Mike Desilet and he says Rob is doing well and had some good sleep again last night. His knee was bothering him when he woke up this morning, so it took a little extra time to get going. Also, his butt is pretty torn up, but probably nothing unusual for this point in RAAM. They took a little extra time to address those issues and now Rob is back on the bike and riding at a good clip.
***Note to Rob fans***
While blogging about my best friend is one of my favorite activities, the pay stinks to the point of non-existence. I have an actual job that will take me to Boston for most of the day today, so this will likely be the last road report until this evening. I may try to sneak one in before my return trip this afternoon, but no promises.
Rob's wife Kate is going to try to stay in touch with the pace van and provide updates over on Rob's Facebook fan page and, of course you can check My Athlete and you can keep checking the RAAM standings for position and photo updates. I'll be back here later tonight.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Mike Desilet is night crew driver, along with Jeff Sturges navigating and Joe Murphy in back. They want to keep Rob on the bike as long as possible tonight to keep peeling away the miles. Pattinson seems to be pulling away a bit and, for the time being, locking in third place. Rob is in a battle for 4-8 with Warner-Smith, Kaiser, Strebel, Payer and Sanz.
It seems to me that these guys found their legs toward the end of the climbs in Colorado and are now all formidable opponents.
The crew says Rob is in great spirits, but don't take their word for it. Here's some primary evidence:
Here's a shot of a welcome site:
Here's a video from the RAAM organization video crew:
And here's a video from crew chief Mike Perron (Warning: There is one expletive. Yes, they very occasionally use salty language on the Morlock crew:)
The valley is low
And you're confused on which way to go
So I've come here to give you a hand
And lead you into the promised land
- Edgar Winter
Here's a little trivia that you may not have known about the last time station: Trinidad is the sex change capital of the world.
As such, I am happy to report that Rob is now leading the women's race. Once again some quick tactical thinking on the part of Rob's crew.
Actually, Rob is through TS 21, Kim, CO at 3:10 PM EDT, in fifth place. That's about three hours behind third place racer Mark Pattinson and about 90 minutes behind Matthew Warner-Smith in fourth place.
If you look at the elevation profile, these guys are just rolling down, down, down into the plains of Kansas. It must be a relief, both mentally and physically to know that the 20+ mile long climbs are behind them.
Of course, Kansas can bring wind, heat and dust, but let's hope the weather gods are kind to them.
As of this posting at 3:48 PM, Rob will be exactly four days into his race and will have ridden 1,224 miles, or 306 miles per day. Considering the climbing and the headwinds, this is really, really good news as he should be able to log in more miles over the next 36 hours as he heads downhill into Kansas.
They are headed into some lonely country now and cell phone service will be a bit spotty, so the My Athlete tracker may be in and out and it will be tough for me to reach the pace van. I hope to have at least one more update before 10:00 PM tonight.
A quick conversation with Luis Ramos in the pace van just past the Kim time station indicates all is well.
Also - Rob is the featured photo today on the RAAM home page.
"That was absolutely wonderful!! I am so glad we drove down to see Rob. He appears to be in excellent condition, physically and mentally. He stopped to brush his teeth, tighten up his shoes and his crew wiped down the bike. So glad I got to see him!"
"...his crew wiped down the bike." As stated before: Rob likes a clean bike (and apparently minty-fresh breath.)
Thanks Julie and Tom for giving Rob a big lift. Three hours each way is a long way to drive to spend five minutes with a smelly Rob Morlock.
(More photos from the Trinidad time station as you scroll down the blog.)
Luis Ramos reports that Rob is feeling fine. He kept the phone line open for a few minutes so I could hear the conversation back and forth over the PA. Lots of laughs and high spirits.
There was a warning earlier about possible hail storms in the vicinity, but a check of radar and forecast shows, at least for now, clear sailing into Kansas, about 150 miles up the road. That is not to say that storms can pop up out of nowhere, but it looks good right now.
Yesterday was tough due to the wind, but overall, Rob's been blessed with some pretty nice weather so far this year.
Not to beat a dead horse, but this bunch of guys at positions 3-10 is really pretty exciting and to have Rob right there in the mix is just great.
CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE
John Browne tells me that Rob is sleeping better on this RAAM than on any previous race. He got some quality sleep last night and is riding with renewed vigor. He is definitely looking forward to the visit in Trinidad with our high-school friend, Julie and her husband. We'll have photos of that shortly after his stop at the time station. Cool stuff.
There was a shift in last night's night crew, with Javier Lowe stepping into the pace van and Jeff Sturges jumping into the motor home.
Just hung up with Javier and he told a great story of tactical crew thinking:
Yesterday was a BRUTAL day, as previously discussed: Headwinds, dust storms, and lots of climbs. Last night, Rob kept asking the crew "How far to Cuchara Pass?"
They answered by saying it was still a couple of time stations ahead. Rob, being just a wee bit fatigued, didn't realize that he was actually climbing Cuchara Pass at that moment.
The crew wanted to get him up and over Cuchara before he went to sleep so he did not have to wake up and start climbing all over again. It was a brilliant tactical decision and one that will pay dividends today and throughout the remainder of the race.
This is why a Rob calls it "Team Morlock". The crew becomes Rob's eyes, ears and brains and makes sure that every possible advantage is pursued to get him to Annapolis.
- Rob needed sleep last night and took it. Based on the My Athlete tracker, he got up and over Cuchara Pass and then went down for a nap.
- Anyone who watches the Tour de France knows that on any given stage, the peloton sometimes is bunched up and other times is strung out in a long, thin line. Right now, RAAM has bunched up, except for Robic and Gulewicz, who are sort of in their own titanic death match out front. But the rest of the crowd has come together.
- As of this morning, places 3-11, which now make up the "second group", are separated by only eight hours. "Eight hours?" you say. "That's a lot - more than 100 miles." Well, yes. But with 2,000 miles to go, there is a LOT of time for things to change, and change again and again.
- Rob is now either in 5th or 6th. The RAAM standings have Georg Payer coming into TS 19 five minutes before Rob, but Rob is still listed ahead of him. I am not sure which is the typo, but they both can't be true. No matter. It looks like Rob, Warner-Smith and Payer are glued at the hip, separated by less than 30 minutes, with Strebel and Kaiser not too far behind.
- It will be VERY interesting to see where things stand after the the Trinidad time station. That's because I am sure all of these guys, in addition to Rob, slept. With it bunched so tightly, was there incentive to make it a short sleep break? And if so, what will that cost the rider later today?
The next few days will be fun to watch.
Thanks to Mark Longwell, who posted a comment that explains the standings. (I had forgotten about the staggered start this year):
"Rob started "officially" at 3:48 Eastern, and Payer started "officially" at 3:26 Eastern. So Rob started 22 minutes later- and even though Payer came in 5 minutes earlier than Rob, Rob is still ahead by 17 minutes (which is reflected accurately in the overall times).
Thanks, Mark. And my apologies to the RAAM organization for questioning their data!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
The good news is that most of the western climbs are behind Rob, with only Cuchara pass to go. He's in the top five and seems to be feeling just fine. His spirits and humor are all where the should be: good old Rob. The less-than-good news is that Rob is heading into unbearable head winds and possibly some violent thunderstorms. The weather so far has been great, but there is balance in the universe and payback can be a bitch.
He's still heading toward La Veta and thunderstorms are predicted through the night. Sounds like a good time to take a sleep break while the rain passes by.
I'll leave you with a video from yesterday with a brief conversation with Rob, around the 7:45 mark. Hard to believe he had ridden 800 miles at this point. He's fresh as a daisy. And I love that when the light turned green, he said "Adios." He's all business.
Rob is facing some fierce (30-50 mph) headwinds that are slowing him down to a crawl. Of course, the other riders in his "group" are also facing the same thing.
Rob has made it to TS 18, Alamosa, CO, at 7:00 PM EDT. By all accounts it is a brutal grind out there.
There has been a change in position since the last update. Rob is still in fourth, but Mark Pattinson has put a bit more time on Rob and now leads by about 3.5 hours at TS 18 (it was just under three hours at TS 17).
The interesting thing is that an Austrian rider, Georg Payer, has made a move and is now in fifth place, just 26 minutes behind Rob. This guy is showing really good strength and his move today is impressive. Warner-Smith is now in sixth, a half-hour behind Payer.
Not all is as it seems in RAAM, however. For the remainder of the race, an examination of when riders sleep is important to knowing how they are truly placed.
For example, by looking at the time station log for Payer, I can see that he was riding last night while Rob was sleeping. That means it is likely that he will sleep again before Rob does, so Rob will open up a gap on him. Of course the "X-factor" is nobody knows how long another racer's sleep break will be. One rider could need five hours, while another only needs two. All of this factors in to where riders are on the course and how they plan their strategy. Sleep too much and you lose ground. Sleep too little and you lose your mind. It's quite a chess match - with yourself and with the other racers.
BTW - in case you are wondering how I know when a rider sleeps, you just look at the their time station log. If his average speed has been 13 or 14 mph through most time stations and it drops to 6-8 mph, you know he slept heading into that time station.
Night crew is about to come on shift as Rob faces the second of his three mountain passes today - La Veta Pass, which is not horrible (by comparison). It is about 13 miles, with grades ranging from 2-5%. After the La Veta time station, he faces Chuchara Pass, which is about 17 miles long and gets to 6% in the last four miles.
Not an easy night ahead.