Night shift is a strange and cool time on RAAM. A lot of it involves helping Rob through some serious low points caused by sheer exhaustion and/or the body's natural desire to NOT be riding a bicycle up the Rocky Mountains at 1:30 in the morning.
If he can, Rob likes to make it to about 2:00 AM and then sleep for 2-3 hours. That way, he is sort of waking up with the sun, in a half-hearted attempt to match natural sleep cycles. Of course, there is nothing natural about RAAM.
Night crew has it both easy and hard. The easy part is that because Rob is sleeping (in the motor home), they can get some shuteye as well. Usually, after Rob goes to sleep, the crew does some tidying up, including cleaning Rob's bikes (he likes a neat bike) and making sure the pace van is squared away. Then, you can catch an hour or so of sleep before it's time to wake Rob and get him back on the bike.
As the race wears on, the act of getting Rob back on the bike in the morning can be quite an ordeal. Rob is exhausted, he has trouble standing on his own and his brain is sort of fuzzy, so it's up to the crew to do at least some of the thinking for him. Once he is back on the bike, the pace is usually pretty slow for the first hour or so while he gets warmed up and back into his normal cycling groove.
So, who are the intrepid travelers who have the honor of night crew this year?
So far, the night crew has been ably manned by veteran Mike Desilet in the driver's seat. New crew members Joe Murphy and Jeff Sturges fill out the navigator and the chef/mechanic position. These guys are doing spectacular work. Some of the toughest moments on RAAM can happen during the night shift, when the rest of us are in R.E.M sleep.
Equally important is the motor home crew. This year, that includes veteran Javier Lowe, accompanied by Ginger Gagliardo, Sal Dicello and Wave Smith.
Ginger is a massage therapist and is absolutely critical to helping Rob recover during his short sleep breaks. She will provide a leg massage each night as he goes to sleep and also help his muscles warm up after he wakes up.
Sal is an EMT who, this year, will get Rob through most of the rough heat and climbing of the west before he departs for home toady. Sal will administer IVs, if necessary and check Rob's vitals. Wave Smith, who has been part of the Team Morlock crew since 1996 and who has been on the motor home crew thus far, will most likely step in to a shuttle or pace van role starting today.
In addition, later today/tonight, when Rob gets to Trinidad, John Browne will be heading back home to Connecticut, which was also part of this year's plan. That will bring the crew compliment to it's normal level of 10: Three day crew, three night crew, two shuttle crew and two motor home crew.