Last week, I went home to Austria and did my final RAAM test with my coach Mario Huys.
Sophie and I consider Austria our second home in Europe, 2nd to France and I especially love the Tyrol area.
This final test was a bit rushed and organized over a long weekend because I had to change the dates to accommodate my schedule in Dubai, and to be honest, because of the rush and change of dates, I was nervous for this final test.
Especially, considering the climbing I knew would be scheduled.
This final test: 4 x 20 hours in the alps of Austria and Germany … in rainy, cold, windy weather conditions.
The test was organized to experience sleep deprivation, thus from the night before I began until the night I finished, I was allowed only 2.5 hours of sleep maximum each night.
The day before my training test began, Mario drove me around the course I would do for the first 2 days … which was essentially, a 71km loop that included several good climbs with the loop ending with a 2km climb at 12% – 13% gradient.
Ultimately, I did this course more than 7 times a day … for the first two days.
The first day, went well and I felt good. The 71km lap/course is gorgeous, along bike paths and back roads …
The first day, I rode the first 9 – 10 hours alone which made time go by very quickly.
At the 10 hour mark, I stopped for food at Mario’s house … he set up his garage like a mini base camp with food, drinks, and clothing that I needed.
As always, Sabine (Mario’s wife) took great care of me, and made me all my meals throughout the training test – thank you Sabine!
For the next 6 hours, Peter Leo, one of Mario’s top athletes followed me. I have known Peter for a few years, and I enjoyed having him as my crew.
On the 12-13% gradient climb he blasted “Til I collapse” by Eminem on his stereo … which made me smile, and helped push me up the steep climb.
At the 17 hour mark, I ate dinner and Mario took over as my crew… and with him, came the cold, pouring rain.
For the last 3 hours, it rained nearly non-stop … perfect training conditions.
Mario organized that each day ended at my house which was at the top of the steepest climb.
Day 2: 20 hour ride started well .. but very cold.
I met Franz at Mario’s house and he followed me for the first 8 hours. Franz is 48 years old, but looks like he is in his 30’s … his personal best ironman is 9:40 … Franz is the real deal.
We did the same 71km loop, and Franz was a great crew … because he pushed me.
In the afternoon, Mario took over and with him came the cold rain … and it started to hail.
There was a point where my Puma rain jacket was completely covered with hail stones. Incredible. I kept thinking to myself, “surely, Mario is going to stop me and have me wait out this storm…its dangerous!” but he never did.
And I continued to get rained on, even after the hail stopped … It poured down rain.
We had terrible visibility.
I was cold and soaking wet.
At first, I got annoyed that Mario didn’t stop me … but then I realized it was an ideal situation to experience what I am surely going to experience over the 12 days of raam.
A funny memory of this day .. was at 2am and I am just about to take the final 2 km climb to my home, thinking my 2nd day was nearly complete … but Mario pulled up next to me and told me “you need to ride 30-45 minutes more because you wasted too much time off the bike today, and we have to make up for this … “
To accommodate my time off the bike this day, Mario changed my route and I rode another 45 minutes.
I was dead tired, and looking forward to the 2nd day being over … but I enjoyed doing an extra 45 minutes, thus ensuring I rode 20 hours that day.
Each morning, I woke at 5:30 (I began each training day at 6am)
My ritual was coffee, oatmeal, and bananas.
As soon as I got on the bike, and got my heart rate up a bit, I felt great and positivity came back to me.
In Austria, I made a point to say hello to everyone I saw … cyclists, people on the street, in the yard .. cars driving past me, etc… I either waved or said hello to everyone.
And nearly everyone waved or said hello back to me.
Because I was doing the same loop so many times, I saw the same people over and over … and it became sort of a game….to say hello, and be friendly to everyone i saw.
At the end day 2, a group of people on a balcony in a village more than 50km from Fugen, shouted “come Scott, come!!” (they meant “go scott, go…”)
I was surprised how these people knew my name, and I never figured out who they were or how they knew me.
The afternoon of the 2nd day, a group of drunk kids came rolling down the hill, so I stopped and took a picture with them. Very nice people, but they probably dont remember meeting me.
Day 3: 20 hour ride started off well … Mario came with me right away because Peter and Franz were not available.
But on day 3, Mario changed my route …
30km into the ride, as I passed another cyclist, the cyclist pulled up next to me and asked how my training test was going …and I told him about my 4 x 20 hours test.
To my surprise, he said that he knew and that he was following me on facebook.
Silvio! What an incredible surprise …
Far from Fugen … and I bump into a guy who knows about my challenge and is following me on facebook.
Silvio rode with me for a portion of the ride, and I enjoyed the time we rode together. He came out later in the evening to support me again. Thank you Silvio!
But after the first portion of the ride, Mario took me into the alps … at first through the Archense and then the long steep, difficult Geryalos climbs.
I didn’t have the climbing cassette on my bike, and I was still wearing a hard cast on my right arm .. thus, climbing was a major challenge.
Each of the 10-14% climbs kicked my ass.
I think we were somewhere in Germany when it started to rain and hail (again) … and I was riding up the mountain, in pouring rain which turned into hail.
And Mario had driven far ahead. So it was just me … trying to get to the top and not get killed and I was wet and freezing cold.
I started to get negative (where the f… is Mario??) … but quickly, realized that it was great training and a great chance to gain experience for raam.
Peter Leo took over from the 12 hour mark so Mario could sleep …
Once Peter took over, it seemed to rain harder, and become colder. The rest of the 3rd day was miserable, and I really thought I would get sick because I was shivering, wet and crazily cold for 8 hours non stop on the bike…
(I never got sick, and days later, I am still fine)
That night, I took a long hot shower before I went to sleep for 2 hours.
Day 4, I woke up feeling like crap, but excited for the final 20 hour ride of the week.
I rode (20 – 30 minutes) to Mario’s house where I met Franz … Franz followed me for the first portion of the day … and then Mario took over.
We did a big, steep climb … again my bike did not have the proper climbing cassette, and I couldn’t get leverage with my broken wrist, thus climbing was a major challenge.
Once we got to the top of the steepest climb, Mario told me “that’s the toughest climb of the day … now it’s fairly easy for the rest of the day…”
But after lunch, we went back to the steepest climbs … and it definitely, wasn’t easy at all.
It rained hard again, and at Mario’s garage … our base camp, I changed into warm cloths and my Puma rain jacket.
Franz followed me the last portion of this day … and it rained so hard that neither he in his car, nor I on my bike could see …
But I kept pushing on.
To point out how mental things can often can be …
I didn’t have an issue with saddle sores until I was sitting in the strong rain, miserable.
I only had 3 hours left of the 4th and final 20 hour ride, but my ass started to hurt to a point where I couldn’t sit. I had to stand and peddle for long portions because of the pain. Surely, the sores came about because I was sitting in soaking wet shorts.
But then I started to think about the concept of stoicism … and how I was feeling the pain because I focused on the pain.
Once I stopped thinking of the pain, it seemed to go away.
I was happy with my performance over this final test. I have come a long way over the past 6 months.
But I understand, 4 days .. isn’t even close to half of RAAM, so I am keeping my head down and focusing on the tasks at hand.
I fly to Los Angeles on June 7th and my RAAM race begins at noon on June 11th ideally ending less than 12 days later in Annapolis, Maryland.