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Transplant Athlete
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
  Martin's RAAM Race Report

I present to you in an uncensored form, Martin's RAAM Race Report:
Note: I have added some HTML commands to make it a bit easier to read.


After reading Lou's account of the race, I finally decided that I had to write this. I'd tried to write a race report several times but had deleted it every time because it never ended up sounding "happy". I wanted a "happy" report and because I couldn't write that, I wrote nothing. Lou's report finally convinced me that I should write about the experience from my viewpoint because there is information in Lou's report that is factually incorrect. I'm sure he thinks it is true, but he wasn't there (when I "went AWOL"), so I'm going to help him out with some of the finer details. There were many GREAT things about this race, but as with anything, there were some things that could have been better.


I arrived in San Diego as the last arriving rider/crew barely 24 hours prior to the race start. I'd wanted to come on Friday, but the decision had been made for me to arrive on the following Monday. One of our sponsors, Independence Air (THANK YOU!!!- you guys were GREAT), provided all the flights to San Diego. Bruce (team captain) had determined who flew on each of the dates that Independence could provide flights. As I had feared, as I was the last rider to arrive, I missed the mandatory registration and rider meetings. What I hadn't counted on was that my team conducted media interviews prior to my arrival. Somehow they also forgot to pick up my official starters jersey when they picked up their own. Finding all this out contributed to the feeling that I'd had every time I'd met with the team - that I was a necessary "add on" to the team rather than a part of the team. Maybe that is my fault, but it's how I felt.


So as I got to the house that served as our San Diego base camp I quickly found that there was really no place for me to stretch out to sleep. Riders or crew who had arrived in previous days had occupied every flat surface. I inquired about perhaps sleeping in the RV, which was parked down the street, but was told that Bruce and Clay had claimed that for the evening. I ended up sleeping on the deck next to the pool. Between dogs coming around and the bugs, I got very little sleep. I thought not to worry, we'll get this show on the road and all will work out. I just wanted to ride my bike.


So the race began. Initially we were not allowed to follow directly behind our rider, so we passed Bruce and waited up the road for our first transition. We waited some more and some more. Finally Bruce showed up and he was mad! Seems that he had taken a wrong turn and somehow thought that it was our fault. In any case, we were suddenly 30 minutes behind only 45 minutes into the race. It was an ominous beginning.


Bill and I took over riding at some point and rode much of the first night. At around 2AM, I got out of the vehicle to take my next pull and noticed that the thermostat said it was 102!!! It was a very warm ride all the way across the country. On the positive side, I only got rained on twice (though once I was soaked for several hours)! For those of you who know how much I hate rain, that was a blessing!


Then came the interesting part that has been misreported. How could it be accurately reported? They have no idea what happened! I did not go "AWOL" in Mexican Hat, Utah. I was left! Bruce ignored me as I (and several members of the support crew) yelled at him to stop as he rode past. The support crew, Bill and I had figured out a way for everyone to get a couple hours of sleep as no one really had slept much by this point. We had a hotel room for Bruce and Lou to sleep in, but Bruce sailed on by and left the crew, Bill and I to scramble to catch him and come up with another plan. I was left standing alongside the road in front of the hotel in riding clothes with no bike, no car and no way to catch up. The crew told me to go to sleep and they would figure out what we were going to do. I woke up about an hour later and I asked the crew if they could take me forward, but they were exhausted at that point and needed to sleep. So let I let them sleep for 1 1/2 hours, then woke them and asked them to shuttle me forward. They said they needed more sleep. I woke them after another 2 hours and at that point one of the crewmembers said to me that he was tired of Bruce ignoring everyone's advice and making what he called "bad decisions". He said he was going to leave Bruce out riding until he decided to listen to anyone else. About an hour after that, the crew got up and drove me forward and at that point I rejoined the race not having slept more than an hour because I was so upset at Bruce for creating this situation.


So the race continued. Over the next couple of days it became apparent that Bill and I were not getting the same level of support as the Bruce and Lou. We were riding as two - two person teams. It seemed that frequently Bill and I got Bruce and Lou's leftover food. There were several times that we ran out of water or food during our legs. There was a particular moment that just sums up the support that Bill and I received. At about 7am one morning, Bill and I were finishing up a leg in which we'd been out for around 6 hours with very little to eat. I was riding and for some reason THREE of our support vehicles were driving within 1/4 mile of me. I noticed a McDonalds as I rode past it and motioned our follow vehicle up to me. I told them that Bill and I hadn't eaten and that it'd be great if someone would stop at the McDonalds and get us both some pancakes. The follow vehicle relayed that information over our radio network. I was really looking forward to getting those pancakes a couple of miles up the road! You guessed it, we got done with that leg and not only were there no pancakes, but the crew was sleeping on all of the beds. I made Bill and I some oatmeal and slept on the floor between the beds.


There were also a couple of times that Bill and I ended up riding for two consecutive legs (it was never planned). That left us with little time for sleep. Speaking of sleep, we were getting very little of it. Originally, the RV was supposed to immediately shuttle the riders who were not riding up the road, then park so that they could sleep. That never happened and I STILL don't know why. Every suggestion to do that was agreed to by the crew, and then often vetoed by the team leader. Bill, I, and eventually some of the crew decided that we would rather be riding (or crewing) than be anywhere around that RV - it was drama central.


Oh, there were some good times on the road. You can read about the parade we got involved in. The funny part about that was before I started throwing the Organic Food Bars out the window of the RV, everyone was telling me not to, that we'd get in trouble. After everyone saw the crowd scrambling to get those bars, there were bars flying out every window of the RV. There was one woman in particular I remember. She was probably 40 and of generous proportions. She knocked over a child of about 8 and DOVE onto one of those food bars. I was amazed.


There was another woman I won't soon forget. I don't remember what town (or even what STATE) it was. I went into a diner to grab something to eat before one of my rides. The waitress looked at me and said something about me being in rough shape. She asked about what we were doing. I explained the best I could and at some point mentioned the charity we were riding for and what it does. She told me that her mother and sister were both waiting on a kidney transplant and that she had just been tested and was a match for both of them. She was touched by what we were doing and it brought home to me that the organization we were raising money for really would help save lives. That chance encounter was one of the highlights of the trip for me.


A funny chance encounter happened in Kansas. I never knew Kansas was the mosquito capital of the world, but trust me, it is. I've been to Alaska at the end of June, I've been to Louisiana in July - you guys have NOTHING on Kansas! We were trying to spend as little time outside the vehicle before riding as possible. The mosquitoes were THAT bad. We stopped at the end of a driveway that served a plant of some kind. It was around midnight. We were very close to another team so there were several vehicles with flashing lights moving around. One of the guys from the plant came out to see what was going on. We explained it to him as he opened a beer. He couldn't believe what we were doing, and then said we seemed like "good fella's" did we want a beer? We explained that we couldn't, as it was a banned substance for the duration on the race. He then told us he had 80 acres that everyone thought he grew corn on. He said 64 acres were corn, 16 were marijuana - did we want some of that? Again, we had to decline, but we all had a good laugh about that later.


The scariest part of the trip for me was riding through Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. We were riding on one of the major roads through town. It was sometime after midnight when we got there and it was either Friday or Saturday night. The terrain there was generally downhill, so we were moving pretty fast, but kept getting "buzzed" by fast moving cars that the occupants of the vehicles kept screaming out the windows at us. I'm certain that many of these people had been drinking or were drunk. I was sure that one of them would finally hit me, but we made it through unscathed.


One of the highlights of the trip for me was when eventually we caught the soloists (they started 2 days ahead of us). I think all together I was riding as we passed about 4-5 of them. It's certainly not because I'm a better cyclist than ANY of them, it's just they'd been riding about 20 hours a day for the last week! I had a real nice, but short talk with Trout and a quick "race" with McDonald. Trout seemed to be one of the nicest guys you could meet. McDonald was an animal! I first saw him at the base of the first of two fairly tough climbs. Even after riding as hard as he had (he finished 2nd) it was still VERY difficult to catch him going up the hill...We went over the top of the first hill together and I had to ride HARD to make sure he didn't pass me going up the next one. My crew told me later that his crew was telling him not to chase me as I was on a four-man team. He was still VERY strong with 500-600 miles left to go in the race!


In the event that anyone who is contemplating a RAAM team reads this I'll end with some things I learned during the event:


  1. The riding is not as hard as I imagined. I thought the logistics/dealing with all the personalities was going to be the hardest part and it was - by far. The crew really does make or break the team.
  2. Splitting into two teams of two works well.
  3. The support personnel MUST come from a sporting background. Our support that came from that background was superb; those who did not come from that background had great difficulty. They could not understand what the athletes were experiencing and had trouble being effective at night. I spoke with another team that actually did psychological testing on their support team - it's not a bad idea.
  4. There must be a dedicated support team for each team of two. They should support while their rider is riding, sleep when their rider is sleeping. We didn't have that and the result was CHAOS. Most of the support crew worked during the day. Nearly all the cooking was done during the day. That meant at night (mostly when Bill and I were riding) there was very little support other than drivers. It affected our performance. Further, when Bill and I were trying to sleep (mostly during the day) the RV was a zoo with everyone running around to provide support to Bruce and Lou. There were other times that there was no one who could really drive safely (Bill and I both were almost hit by our own sleepy support drivers). That isn't a criticism of the drivers - they were tired. It is an observation of the way our team was organized - it was done poorly. Initially we didn't know any better. Later no one would listen.
  5. Things will not go as you plan. We planned on having laundry done everyday. At one point I rode in a T-shirt and gym shorts because I had no more clean clothes (laundry hadn't been done in 3 days) though the need was mentioned several times. Take more shorts and jerseys than you could ever possibly need.
  6. The riders, who are teamed up, must get along. The ONLY reason I didn't abandon 1/2 way through was because Bill told me it was very important to him to finish (I asked). I'd had it at with some of the antics of the team/support and was ready to pack it in. If I had been teamed up with anyone else on this team (or didn't feel obligated to Bill) I would have left the race.
  7. On a four-person team, you can ride harder than you think you can. My coach recommended that we ride in upper Heart Rate Zone (HRZ) 2 and for the most part I did. I think I could probably have done the whole ride in HRZ 3. I just was never really working that hard. I kept waiting for the cumulative effects to really nail me, but other than "bonking" a couple of times because I didn't have anything available to eat, it was really a pretty comfortable ride.
  8. I can't really leave this without saying that ALL the riders (and most of the crew) lost their cool at some point. One rider had at least one heated argument with every other rider on the team. You may get to see my blow up some day if you watch the RAAM video. I knew our cameraman was taping, but I didn't care. I "went off" on one of our support people. Bill and I had been left out to ride a double leg (unplanned) for the second night in a row. At the end of ~120 miles we were once again out of food and water and we still had no relief. I had our support vehicle take me to the RV where I expected to roust the other riders and get them riding so Bill and I could eat, drink and sleep. When I got there I was already upset. The other riders got on the road and one of the support people and I got into it over the level of support I thought we were/were not receiving. I shouldn't have said some of what I said, but I did mean every word of it. The reason I mention it here is because everyone associated with a team is going to at some point be at their absolute worst. If the team is going to finish, everyone has to be able to roll with the punches and keep their eye on the finish line. It's the only way you are going to make it.
 

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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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