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Transplant Athlete
Monday, June 30, 2008
  The Rock Cried Out I Can't Hide You

Wow. I'm shocked. What would be an appropriate title for this post? My first thought was some reference to "American Pie", maybe "The Jester stole his thorny crown", but nothing really appealed to me. I then thought something Depeche, but nothing seemed depressing enough (imagine that) as well as appropriate. Nina Simone's "Sinnerman", seems a bit more apropo, "Sinnerman where you gonna run to?"

I honestly believed Landis was going to squeak by the Appeals Board. Sports Illustrated has just released the news. Guilty

Did he dope or didn't he? According to the evidence I've seen, I don't think the Lab work was accurate enough to decide whether he was guilty or not; but according to the arbitrators, he's guilty of doping regardless of how sloppy the lab work was. Hopefully, the lab will get its act together for future cases.

Hopefully, Landis will take his suspension, and come back to the sport and prove that he can win. Clean.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
  I'll Bloody Well Walk Out Of Here

I very nearly spent the night at the hospital and didn't get the surgery. I had blood drawn first and then went back to model the latest in hospital attire. The nurses were all expressing concern for my well being, above and beyond what I would normally expect. As I was getting an IV put in, the anesthesiologist explained why...My hematocrit is 16. No, there must be a

OUCH

Are you using a larger needle than normal for that IV?

Yes...In case we need to give you a transfusion.

Basically, they wanted to admit me to get my blood work back to some semblance of normal. I didn't want to stay at that hospital, it's an hour away from my house. The anesthesiologist said he'd get me an ambulance to transport me to another hospital. I had my HIGHLANDER moment...I walked in, I'll walk out.

In the end, they discharged me with instructions to take 2 doses of Procrit today, then follow up with Aranesp next week and for the next couple of weeks. After 4 weeks of blood boosters, I should be able to have the surgery.

 
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008
  AV Fistula

Surgery tomorrow 2pm. The surgeon will create access for dialysis. He's going to connect an artery in my arm to a vein. Over time, the vein will increase in diameter and when mature will provide access for dialysis. I'll post pictures.
 
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Monday, June 23, 2008
  Team Type 1

I had the opportunity to talk with two members of Team Type 1 after my rider DNFed. This is for Maggie and John.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008
  Deanna Adams RAW

This is video I shot in Blythe, California of Deanna Adams. She described herself in a forum post (link) as a 19 year old vegan suffering from Epilepsy. She showed amazing spirit every time I saw her during the race. Late in her race, when my rider was grumpy and saying he didn't need any crew, he could make it across the country without us, Deanna pulled into the time station and danced a happy little jig. I would definitely crew for her if she needed it in the future.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008
  Big Feet, Big Head, And Monkey Boy

With a touch of edema, (understatement of the year), I earned the nickname "big foot" on this year's RAAM trip. My legs actually looked like caricatures of real human legs as you can see from the photos. It actually started on the flight in to Oceanside, sitting in that airline seat allowed fluid to build up in my legs. A couple of days into the trip, I couldn't put my socks on anymore, they were just too tight.

So, I started just wearing sneakers, but eventually, even sneakers became too tight, the sneakers rubbed me raw along the ankle. At that point, there was so much fluid in my feet, I could feel it sloshing around as I walked. My ankles were swollen with fluid and would feel real stiff when I got up from an extended sitting or sleeping period. When I had my feet up on he dashboard, they were like silly putty wrapping themselves around the indentations in the dashboard. It was comical. I had to switch to Flip flops (not the one in the picture) because my feet just wouldn't fit into the sneakers anymore. They were the largest Walmart had, and they still weren't large enough.

After talking with my Nephrologist, Robin and I got a prescription of Lasix filled to get rid of some of the excess fluid. My feet are finally back to normal.

Unfairly, Dale got the nickname "Big Head" for his awkwardly sized noggin. Unfortunately, there's no medication for that. Robin almost had Nick wearing the moniker "monkey boy" for the way he would hop up onto the roof of the van to get stuff in and out of the roof rack.

 
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Saturday, June 14, 2008
  Paint It Black

RAAM has always been the definition of "epic" on par with anything the Greeks could have imagined. A rider must battle not only the terrain, but the bike itself, the weather, and the worst enemy of all: the clock.

The terrain occassionally goes in your favor, with a downhill here, or a flat section there giving a rider respite. The weather may host a heatwave hellish enough to fell the mightiest sailor, but it also can cool down to near freezing; somewhere in between, a rider will find his or her sweet spot. The bike, being a machine made by man, requires man to adapt to fit it. The contact points with the bicycle are where the war is waged; however, a bicycle provides mechanical advantage giving riders a levered return on their energy investment. There is one enemy however that is brutal and unforgiving; the clock. The clock doesn't care how long you've been riding, it doesn't care about your suffering, it doesn't care what your plans were, it marches on and rolls over everything in it's past. There is no stand of trees that will shelter you from time. There is no downhill to let you coast through time.
Time marches on.
Time is always marching on.

At 3pm on Thursday, we were approximately 10 hours behind the cut-off point in Taos, NM. We asked for and received an extension to continue along the course. Stephen had a tough slog in to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Dale, Nick, and I had fallen asleep at the hotel and didn't get back to the course to cheer Stephen. He hit numerous obstacles from wrong turns, to failing lights, to sheer fatigue along the way. Could we have made the difference and gotten him in to Pagosa Springs sooner? We'll never know. His speed for this section dropped to 6.94 mph. He needed a long sleep break to recover (3 hours) with a half hour before (for food, massage, shower) and an hour after (to prepare to ride). This long sleep break lowered his speed to Chama, NM down to 5 mph. His speed from Chama was excellent considering the elevation and amount of climbing, a whopping 10mph! This was the 15th fastest time for this section, a solid mid-pack performance.

He started off strong to Taos, but the cold was beating him up and the cumulative miles were taking their toll. At one point, we told him he had 1.1 ish miles to go to the time station. He said he could make it but, "if it's more than ish, I'll need to stop." His body was beaten, his mind was showing signs of cracking, but he remained upbeat.

In Taos, I overslept by a half hour, meaning Stephen got to oversleep a half hour. Like a Trooper, he got up to get ready and to get back on the bike, while his wife groaned and pulled the blankets over her face.

Dale, and I decided on a short cut to meet up with the follow vehicle in Eagle's Nest. Due to some miscommunication with the follow vehicle, we ended up in the wrong place and they ended up waiting for us at the top of the mountain for a long time.

On the descent into Cimmaron, Mark, Robin, Kristi, and I supported Stephen in the follow vehicle. The descent down the mountain was twisty, but fast. Well, I should have said could have been twisty and fast. As I've said here before, Stephen's got plenty of heart and endurance, but he's only been riding a bike for 2 years (before that he ran ultra marathons). He looks down to see what gear he's in, he is usually in the wrong gear (often climbing in the big ring with a cross chain condition (the chain ends up on the largest cog in the back and the largest ring on the front). Because of the extreme angle the chain forms, it puts incredible stress on the chain and wears out the gears faster. His descending skills are rudimentary at best. His line is choppy, he brakes mid turn, and he keeps the pedals level throughout. At one point in the descent, It occurred to me that allowing Stephen to continue without doing anything to correct his technique was a safety issue, so I asked Nick to hop on a bike and ride alongside Stephen to give him some pointers. Stephen objected, so I told Nick to "go stretch his legs." Nick had been dying to get on the bike, so he enjoyed blasting down the mountain.

I think the funniest part of this section to me, was during a hand-off from the vehicle to Stephen. Again, Stephen's skills are new, so he tends to swerve towards the vehicle either during or after the hand-off. This being the first time Robin had ever seen Stephen swerve towards the vehicle she screams out, "You're going to hit him." Mark, who is driving the follow vehicle, immediately tries to react, so the follow vehicle starts lurching all over the road alongside Stephen who is also swerving all over the road...a recipe for disaster. I turned to Robin and shushed her, but it may not have been in the most diplomatic of fashion, I was reacting on instinct which is sometimes colored by prednisone (meaning I don't have time to censor myself). I probably should have warned her that he sometimes does that, but I just didn't foresee it being an issue.

In Cimarron, the team vehicles started catching us. Stephen pushed on. In Springer, Fred and Rick Beothling pulled us over and asked us to call the officials phone line. We all knew why. We were getting pulled. We tried to shelter Stephen from it, but it was obvious. Fred actually recognized me and introduced himself, I had been attempting to maintain a low profile during the race. I wanted the focus on Stephen, not my politics, my kidney transplant, or my previous attempts at RAAM.

Stephen had been fighting headwinds all day, so he pretty much realized he wasn't going to make an official finish at that point. I think an unofficial finish was also a casualty of the headwinds. I've been in his shoes, I go the call last year. I know that it cuts deep into your core, but there's also a little bit of relief. I know that once a race like this takes hold, you may not be able to shake the obsession until you complete the race.

I've heard it said that the word "Hero" is used too often when describing RAAM riders. I don't know if hero is even a good word to describe the RAAMed (or should it be DAMNed?) They certainly fit the definition: showing exceptional courage, nobility, and strength. Someone who fights for a cause.

By definition, Stephen Bugbee is a hero.

I think however he's more than that. He's an inspiration. A hero completes his journey, Stephen has inspired others to complete their own journeys.

 
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Friday, June 13, 2008
  Touched By Breast Cancer

I have included the link to Stephen's fund raising page for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. He's just as concerned about the amount of money he's raising as actually getting across the country.

My mother is a Breast Cancer Survivor, her sister (Gaetana) is a Breast Cancer Survivor, my dad's sister (Sue) is a Breast Cancer Survivor, my mom's cousin (Linda) is a Breast Cancer Survivor. We wouldn't have Survivors without research, and we wouldn't have research without donations. Has someone you loved been touched by Breast Cancer?

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  Robin's Thoughts

Since I can't post to Stephen's blog yet, here are Robin's thoughts.

Adventurous? Yes.
Extreme? Yes.
A lifetime dream? For some.
Insane? You decide.

It was a dream of my husband's to ride in the RAAM, and he was motivated to succeed with the hope of helping those whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. He has dedicated the ride to our friend, Mary Neitupski, a beloved individual who had a heart that would and did endure almost any challenge that faced her. She died at the age of 53 with breast cancer.


The RAAM is everything I thought it would be, and more. Our team of 10 is living all of the experiences we had heard occur on this adventurous, extreme, and insane trip. Much of our time has been spent in planning and preparation. Our team is good at that. We are lucky enough to have a crew of intelligent, motivated, and dedicated people. We even have the expertise of a previous RAAM rider that for health reasons, is unable to now make the grueling journey by bike. He has expressed his desire to lend his help so that someone else may be fortunate enough to live their dream. This is a crew of wonderful people who are all being challenged by the RAAM. Emotions run high in otherwise calm, cool, and collected people who are faced with difficulties in their day to day lives and typically deal quite well with the stress. Now we find ourselves experiencing excitement, anxiety, anger, sadness, happiness, and fulfillment all sometimes in the span of one hour. Our team has experienced sleep deprivation and dehydration as we push ourselves to beat the clock. We have also experienced some of the most fun and laughter we have had in a long time.


What can I say about my husband? He is an inspiration to us all. I am very impressed by his strength and determination. The team's job is to keep him safe as he attempts to conquer the RAAM. But ultimately it is he who needs to display the strength and endurance to push on. I am very proud of him, and will always be, regardless of the outcome. He is a remarkable person.


We are only on day 5 of the race, less than half way through. In the end, will we all think of this trip as a dream? It will likely be one of the most unique experiences of our lives that has taught us all something about human nature that we never before understood.

 
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  Taos, New Mexico

WE MADE IT! We're in Taos, New Mexico.

Earlier today, we were met by Gary and Jerry Rivera. Who graciously opened their home to us in Chama, NM. They fed us and restocked our supplies and we are forever grateful. We've been looking forward to meeting them since the start of the race.

The climbing started soon after we left Chama. Stephen rode like a champ through the mountains today. We were up over 9000 feet for most of the afternoon and the lack of oxygen was definitely getting to me, but I heard nary a puff from Stephen as he ate it up. We shot some great High Definition Video footage at elevation. Then I got silly and started shooting beefcake stills of the male crew members for a Team Solomon Stephen Bugbee RAAM Calendar (all proceeds go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation). I'll save the sneak peeks for Stephen's blog. We're having trouble writing to his blog, by the way, so if his sister is reading this, please drop a line to the Transplant Athlete letting him know the username and password please. Tanks.

We saw sections of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. It's a narrow gauge train that runs over the mountains. My son RJ loves trains, so this picture is for him.

As promised, here is a pic of Stephen in the Shermer's Neck harness.

 
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Thursday, June 12, 2008
  Yellow Bubbles

On the leg in from Cortez to Durango, Nick and I volunteered to do follow support for Stephen so that the rest of the crew could shower and get a decent meal. In Durango, Dale, Nick, and I volunteered to shuttle Robin and Kristi up to a hotel in Pagosa Springs. Nick and I could get the showers we so desperately needed. Trust me on that one.

We were stupid tired, which is the point where we reverted to being 4th graders talking about bodily functions and laughing uncontrollably. We blew 45 minutes looking for food, it seems like every restaurant in the town closed their kitchens at 9pm. Unfortunately, Dale and I fell asleep at the hotel, but we had promised the rest of the crew we would return after a couple of hours to help support Stephen. He had the A-Team supporting him, so it shouldn't have been critical that we were gone, but things were going wrong from the start, and they really needed our help and equipment that had been placed in our vehicle.

Stephen was hours overdue and had had numerous issues on the road, from getting lost, to lights that didn't work, etc. He's going down for a massage, shower, and a long sleep break.

We hope that he'll recover enough to bag at least one more time station before the 3pm deadline today. We're also hoping the Race Director Terry Z will give him a chance to continue on. There's a possibility that given we get him over the mountains, he can make up time on the plains to reach the second cut-off in time. The wild card is his neck, will it hold out.

The sheer determination he's exhibiting is awe inspiring. Even after all he's been through, the trials, the tribulations, this last slow 70 miles, his legs are still churning over like the pistons of a great big steam engine. His spirits are high even with the knowledge that his may be an unofficial finish. Very few people can understand what he's going through. I've been where he is now, and rarely can I say, that with his situation, I'd have both the legs and the heart he's showing at the same time. I might have the legs, I might have the heart, but not to the extent of Stephen Bugbee.

As I sit here writing this, the sun is rising over snow covered peaks. Colorado is a beautiful sight. The temps last night were in the 30's.

 
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  Video From Yarnell

Here is video from the Oak Park Lodge in Yarnell. For all the ladies out there, the shirtless hunk at the end is Nick. He's 19, a Cancer (his b'day is soon), and single at the present moment.


 
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  Shermer's Neck

It finally happened. His neck "failed" and he started wearing a brace. It's a brilliant contraption designed and constructed by Dan. We are really behind the 8 ball here, we've got to make Taos by 3pm EST tomorrow. He'll have to maintain a 12 mph average over the last 200 something miles to do that, his overall average is somewhere near 10.5 mph.


Here is a picture from early in the race.


I'll definitely get a picture of him in the brace later.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008
  Mixed Up Confusion

The desert has been taking a lot out of the riders this year, Tuesday was no exception. We've had some issues with Stephen stopping too frequently. He's deathly afraid of Shermer's neck, so he wants to stop every 25 miles or so to get his neck massaged, the problem is those stops tend to turn into 30 minutes off the bike. We've been pushing him hard to stay on the bike and he's been pushing hard back.

We've gotten to the point, where he'll take a hand-off from a moving vehicle. I've been working on teaching him how to put sunscreen on while riding. We're working on his descending skills. With more confidence and experience, he could be going downhill twice as fast.

Just north of Flagstaff yesterday, while we were waiting for a head on collision to be cleared, our crew chief went to sleep. When he woke up, he was confused, had forgotten a whole day, severe headache and was belligerent. He was showing classic signs of severe dehydration and we were doing our best to rehydrate him. It felt really touch and go for awhile there, I thought we'd be taking him back to Flagstaff for a hospital visit.

He's recovered completely, but he still doesn't remember anything from yesterday.

We're under the gun to get to the first cut-off point within the time limit.

 
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  First 300 Miles In The Books

He made 300 miles in 24 hours. It's pretty amazing and he's pumped. He's been steadily increasing his overall average miles per hour from a dismal 8mph to 12.3, 12.5, 12.8. So we feel pretty confident he'll be able to keep up this pace. As in previous years, I've felt the top of the Yarnell grade is a good place to stop, so we got two motel rooms, showered, slept, and cooked a meal (Chicken Parmesan - greatly simplified and altered for a RAAM rider). Stephen will eat, shower, massage, and take his first sleep break. There's nothing between here and Prescott, but Prescott is a relatively large city, we'll be able to get any supplies we need.
 
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  Starry, Starry Night

I had the most amazing experience. We had pulled the auxiliary van over to wait for Stephen and the follow vehicle. I stepped outside to give Robin the full seat so she could sleep and I laid down on the ground to get my feet up. I had the most amazing view of the night sky. A million points of light glistening and sparkling stared back at me. The milky way spilled across the center. Shooting stars exploded overhead. I couldn't help but wonder if one was a toilet from the International Space Station. Dale, with sharper eye sight than me, was able to pick out satelites. Dale had a fear of sitting down, he was afraid of getting tagged by a scorpion those "mean little crabs on steroids"
 
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  Saturday

I was in a major panic the night before. It felt like there was no way we were going to be ready on time for the inspections. We hadn't received the light bar yet (big yellow thing on the roof of the vehicle), we'd get it about an hour before inspection. We hadn't received the other van yet, we would have about two hours to get it stickered up and ready for inspection. On top of that, we needed bike supplies, food, and we needed some sort of bed set up in the follow vehicle for Stephen to get some rest.

John was able to keep us focused on getting through inspection and then we dealt with the runs to Performance Bikes for parts, and Walmart for supplies, and Home Depot for equipment. Dan built this amazing neck brace just in case Stephen gets the dreaded Shermer's neck (A condition in which the neck muscles give out and the rider can no longer lift the head to see down the road, named after Micheal Shermer who suffered horribly during his Races Across America).

The team has really come together and I get the feeling that they'll be able to handle anything that comes their way. It feels really good to be a part of this team.

Friday, Stephen missed a mandatory rider meeting and incurred a 1 hour time penalty. John broke the news to Stephen at dinner tonight. It's not the end of the world, even though it may feel like it right now. it represents about a 0.3% of the allowable time. Basically, when he hits time station 52, they'll hold him there for an hour, he'll get a chance to sleep during that time, he doesn't have to sit in a penalty box or anything. I'm guessing tomorrow will be a leisurely breakfast, followed by some short shopping trips for last minute items, then we'll see Stephen off at the pier. Followed by a madcap dash to Annapolis with wacky fun along the way. Stay tuned, I've got a feeling there's going to be some great stories coming soon.

P.S. I got my In-N-Out Burger today.

 
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  What A Day

We arrived at the first support point and jumped out of the follow vehicle ready for action. Riders were blowing by at high warp. Eventually, we were a bit worried that we missed our rider, but then we saw Jure Robic. "There's no way our rider could be in front of Jure, he promised us he would take it easy at the start." Then we saw the Bachetta recumbent, and again I said, "There's no way our rider is in front of the recumbent." Gradually, all the other riders came in and their crews followed them out, until we were left wondering where was our rider. We got the word from the officials that CHP had cleared the road for traffic.

We hopped in the van and booked up the road until we found him. He had gone out with Perpetuem and was in desperate need of water. We pulled over at the first safe spot, handed off a bottle of water, and then got a stern warning from the officials for violating the approved support points. We didn't care, he needed the water and the next approved support point was 7 miles away.

For some reason, he had been avoiding water, but he had been taking 3 endurolytes per hour. We pulled him off the road a couple of times before Lake Henshaw to get water in him. We did a long stop at Lake Henshaw, to massage him and push fluids. After leaving there, we kept him slow and in recovery mode, emphasizing water. I wanted him in good shape for the descent into Anza Borrego, we had already seen him fall once and knew that he had fallen before that. The descent into Anza Borrego has steep drop offs on the side, if he had fallen, we would have been picking up the pieces on the bottom. His descent was tentative and slow, he rode the brakes all the way done, didn't rotate the pedals at all...If I had to sum up the first 2 time stations it was rookie mistakes.

We found out the crew in the auxilliary vehicle had their own problems, they got locked out of the van in Oceanside. The key started working again, so we just have our fingers crossed that the problem doesn't re-occur.

 
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Sunday, June 08, 2008
  Road Movie To Berlin

I was in a major panic the night before. It felt like there was no way we were going to be ready on time for the inspections. We hadn't received the light bar yet (big yellow thing on the roof of the vehicle), we'd get it about an hour before inspection. We hadn't received the other van yet, we would have about two hours to get it stickered up and ready for inspection. On top of that, we needed bike supplies, food, and we needed some sort of bed set up in the follow vehicle for Stephen to get some rest.

John was able to keep us focused on getting through inspection and then we dealt with the runs to Performance Bikes for parts, and Walmart for supplies, and Home Depot for equipment. Dan built this amazing neck brace just in case Stephen gets the dreaded Shermer's neck (A condition in which the neck muscles give out and the rider can no longer lift the head to see down the road, named after Micheal Shermer who suffered horribly during his Races Across America).

The team has really come together and I get the feeling that they'll be able to handle anything that comes their way. It feels really good to be a part of this team.

Friday, Stephen missed a mandatory rider meeting and incurred a 1 hour time penalty. John broke the news to Stephen at dinner tonight. It's not the end of the world, even though it may feel like it right now. it represents about a 0.3% of the allowable time. Basically, when he hits time station 52, they'll hold him there for an hour, he'll get a chance to sleep during that time, he doesn't have to sit in a penalty box or anything. I'm guessing tomorrow will be a leisurely breakfast, followed by some short shopping trips for last minute items, then we'll see Stephen off at the pier. Followed by a madcap dash to Annapolis with wacky fun along the way. Stay tuned, I've got a feeling there's going to be some great stories coming soon.

P.S. I got my In-N-Out Burger today.

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  Friday Night's All Right For Fighting

I met up with Dale Phelps in the Atlanta airport. While I had graduated from Blair Academy Class of 1990, Dale was class of 1996 and quite coincidentally, we ended up on the same crew for this year's Race Across America. Dale was checking out his hometown newspaper when he saw an article about Stephen, impressed Stephen was racing across the country to support a Breast Cancer charity, he got in touch with Stephen. One thing lead to another and Dale joined the crew. I wanted to crew for a racer and and also thought Breast Cancer was a worthy cause, (my mom, Donna is a survivor; I have two Aunt's that are survivors, Sue and Gaetana; and my mother's cousin Linda is a survivor).

Arriving in San Diego, everything seemed like it was under control, but based on my previous experience, I couldn't shake the feeling that we were supposed to be busier than we were.

After checking in with RAAM headquarters, Stephen left to visit with relatives, what we didn't know at the time was that they were around an hour away. He returned to the hotel around 9:30pm local time, which for us East Coasters was round midnight. We managed to get a lot done by 11:30 local time.

As I scanned Stephen's equipment, I couldn't help but think I could have brought a few things to make his life easier (bento boxes-attach to the top tube and store a couple energy bars, spare tubes, spare tubular tires, spare tail lights, etc.)

Midway through our scramble to ready the vehicles some drunks spilled a beer over the railing at the hotel and drenched me. Then they sputtered out, "Sorry, don't worry it was only beer, not water."
"Great, Thanks, Have A Nice Day."
I saw them later stumbling over to the casino next door.

 
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Thursday, June 05, 2008
  RAAM 2008

I'll be flying out to San Diego early tomorrow to help Stephen Bugbee compete in RAAM. He's racing to raise cash and awareness for The National Breast Cancer Foundation. Check out the Race Across America website to follow along. The race starts in Oceanside, Cali and ends in Annapolis, MD this year.
 
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008
  Things Fall Apart, The Center Cannot Hold

The fun never ends. I got the gout. On Saturday I woke up with some pain in my feet, it's gotten progressively worse. Today the Nephrologist said he thinks its gout. Argh. Walking is extremely painful.

He's also worried that my fistula might not be ready by the time I need dialysis; in that event, he'll have the surgeon put a central line in.

 
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Monday, June 02, 2008
  A Cyclist's Worst Nightmare


It's more important than ever to be safe out there.
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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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