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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Describing RAAM

How do you describe that which defies description? RAAM is one of those things. The enormity of riding a bicycle coast to coast in 12 days or less is staggering! I suppose I should start at the beginning. The ramp up to the race........:
My arrival in San Diego
I flew in on United Airlines and it was a really nice flight. The interesting part is the arrival at San Diego International. The final approach is so low the pilot could have stopped in a McDonalds Drivethru for a cup of coffee if the plane was out of coffee, as a matter of fact, I could read the drivethru menu at the McDonalds we overflew on the way down the glide path! I had a little trouble finding my bag as it didn't come out on the conveyor at baggage claim. It turns out my bag actually got to San Diego 4 hrs before I did, it flew direct from Indianapolis! Why couldn't I have been booked direct, my bag was!
Organizational Procedures
The ramp up to RAAM is very busy, what with setting up the vehicles, getting equipment inspections done and all the foofarah involved with the opening ceremonies. You saw a good bit of that in my video earlier! The appearance of total chaos only contributes to the general excitement. It only looks chaotic, though. The fact is, you hit the ground running, because there are a thousand details to attend to.

First order of business is to clear all the paperwork, and get final registration done. In this process, you have to get crew assignments done, get all the associated crew paperwork done with RAAM officials, and get the bikes set up and tweaked. In the meantime, the chase vans are being set up and organized for the event. There are publicity photos for the rider, and it culminates the night before with the prerace banquet. During this time period, the athletes go from being a jolly bunch to the "getting their game face" on stage. They just keep getting more and more serious, and introspective. The thought has to set in at some point in this of "What am I doing here? Who am I kidding?" It has to be nearly overwhelming to be faced with the prospect of riding that far, that fast.

The next morning is race day! Here it is, people, the trump of doom, so to speak. Each rider is testing him or herself against a monster. RAAM is literally a duel with Grendel and each rider is Beowulf riding to the cave. Each rider gets to find out for him or herself whether they have what it takes to slay the dragon known as RAAM or it slays them.
Next installment: The Furnace, to be continued

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