23 days have passed since I “quit” for the first time in my life in the middle of something. (the star in the map above marks where I quit)
The saddle sores and the toxic pain that caused me to stop my adventure are now just a distant memory.
But still…every night as I lay in bed trying to sleep, esp. since I got back to Dubai, I keep thinking about the race.
…the disappoint of failing and this feeling of lack of accomplishment is terrible — i never want to feel this again.
Many many times during the race I told myself, “there is no way I am ever going to do this again!!”
But I see so many ways I should have been/could have been better this year …I have already started training and preparing for 014
I pride myself on being a positive, stoic person.
But, I wasn’t stoic in the week leading up to the race.
I wasted too much negative energy on being annoyed over stupid things.
I am 6’4″(194cm) and was 208 lbs (91 kg) at the start of RAAM.
I purposefully, kept my weight a bit higher than normal because I knew I would lose a lot of weight over the 12 day race.
This was a big mistake.
2 years ago, I was 182 lbs (83 kg) at the start of my 7 ironman in 7 day challenge.
Upon reflection, I should have been 175-180 lbs (80 kg) for RAAM … obviously, the less weight you carry, the easier it is – esp. in the mountains.
Next year, I will ensure I weigh no more than 80kg at the start of RAAM.
Not prepared at all for the hellish climbs…
Because of my work and travel schedule, 99% of my training was done in the flat desert of the UAE … although during training, I did many many 16-20+ hour rides, all the rides were on a flat course with very little climbing.
I gambled that the strong head winds I faced in the UAE desert would give me enough cycling strength training to help me get through the climbs.
… and I got spanked by God that first day at RAAM because my lack of climbing experience.
The first 4 days of RAAM are full of climbing, with many steep climbs … all of which I survived, albeit too slowly.
I was too slow, especially, the first day.
My inner thighs and ass on the saddle was not used to this new movement while climbing… and this new movement played a big part in my getting horrible saddle sores so early in the race.
I almost never got saddle sores in training, and one of the key reasons was that my coach had me change bibs every 4-6 hours.
And during training, when I changed my bibs, I poured rubbing alcohol on a sponge and used the sponge to clean my inner thighs and ass cheeks with the alcohol soaked sponge– thus my inner thighs and cheeks were clean of bacteria.
But on RAAM, I didn’t do this ritual of changing as often.
And during RAAM, I never used the same cleaning techniques I used in training.
Once the race began … (at least for me) it was craziness, and one big rush. I fell in the trap of breaking from my routine because of a constant feeling of being behind.
The first day was absolute f…ing hell.
Within 30 minutes of the start of the race, there are 14% and 17% climbs … after several smaller steep climbs.
As I was climbing up one of the steepest climbs I have ever ridden, I thought to myself about the coming days ahead … “how am I going to pull this one off?”
Once at the top of that climb, I could see the mountains in front of me … and the long climbing soon continued.
I finally arrived to the Mojave desert section at the end of the first day … where I stopped for a minute and changed bikes to my LOOK 596 ipack.
Great memories of this first evening … because the hot wind was at my back, and I rode much faster than I had all day.
I stopped for a short dinner break at 3 am, but continued through the night.
Unlike the desert in the UAE – there are many hills and some climbing in this section of the Mojave desert …I tried to finish this section before the sun came up, but I didn’t make it on time.
My life became unbearably hot around noon …
I stopped often to put ice packs on my head and neck.
Funny memory… is having (throughout the entire 7 1/2 days) Matej frequently tell me on the headset: “Scott, you need to go faster …”
(Matej was the toughest on me during the race, but he was also very positive and supportive, esp. at telling me when I was doing well)
Finally, somewhere in the Mojave desert at 12:30 in the afternoon, I stopped and hide from the sun in the RV.
Originally, we had planned to ride 400 miles before stopping … so my unexpected stop took me off schedule … but, I needed to stop.
I was scared I was going to pass out and DNF because of heat stroke.
In the RV, my Doctor – Dr. Konrad checked me out, and took great care me, and got me hydrated and cooled down.
My stop/break was a waste of time because I just laid in the RV bed and sort of slept.
“Waste of time” would become a big theme for me … because I wasted a lot of time off the bike over the 7 1/2 days
The last section of the desert is a series of climbs which I don’t remember much…
I arrived to the Congress time station at the end of the afternoon.
Laurel Darren, my masseuse … joined the team at Congress, and gave my legs the best sports massage I have ever received.
My legs were dead, stiff and sore … but Laurel worked magic on them, and they felt much better – my legs were reborn after her massage.
After a short break, I started the Yarnell climb, and it soon became night and pitch black … because I couldn’t see the steepness, it went by quickly.
(this is the same “Yarnell” where 20 fire fighter’s recently died trying to put out a fire that started a few days after RAAM finished)
On the climb, I rode up to a RAAM competitor from Korea and we rode together and talked for a short period of time.
It made the climb go by much faster, and was enjoyable … we would pass each other several times over the next few days.
The route into Utah and then Colorado was magical .. but endless rolling hills, and climbing.
I was behind schedule to make the first cut off in Durango, Colorado … I was at risk of being disqualified for being too slow.
I rode and rode, numb to the gorgeous scenery.
The ride into Colorado is just a blurred memory for me…
Because I rode for 37 hours straight, I ended up making the cut off in Durango by 6 hours.
Stupidly, once I made Durango, I took a long break for (5+ hours).
During the break, I tried a different pain medicine for my saddle sores that made me sleep and completely knocked me out.
Even after Konrad woke me up, it took me a long time to get this sleepiness from my body. I was liked a drugged zombie.
Konrad and Laurel took great care of me during this stop–thanks guys!
(But if I could do it over again – I would have stopped for maximum 60 minute in Durango, and not taken the pain medicine)
Another big mistake was that I went to a hotel so I could shower …this was a total waste of time.
During this long stop … my saddle sores completely exploded.
I think all the time off the bike in Durango gave the sores the perfect chance to fester, infame, and fill with puss.
After wasting so much time off the bike, I finally got back on it, but rode only 50 miles or so and had to stop again because of my saddle sore pain.
I stopped for another hour or so, took another pain pill that didn’t cause drowsiness … and the pain went away, and I continued the climbs in Colorado.
Before the race, I was concerned about altitude sickness … but as I rode through Colorado – I didn’t notice anything different, and completely forgot about the altitude.
When I arrived to the top of the highest climb (Wolf Creek pass) we all sort of celebrated because I had survived the longest, toughest climbs of the race, and its downhill for the next few hundred miles. But because of the long stop in Durango and then the extra 60-90 minute stop, I was behind schedule.
A funny memory…
One night (I think it was on the ride into Colorado) on a 12 miles gravel road that was under construction…
I saw two RAAM cyclists in front of me both stop and put their bikes in their follow cars; and I saw both riders drive away, thus saving them miles and miles of having to ride on this terrible road and the pain it caused my ass and hands.
I told Mario “those people are not riding this road because its un-ride-able … ”
Mario told me to just keep riding and stop talking.
I remember being furious… because I didn’t believe the Pro’s would ride on a gravel road under construction …
I was certain that I was the only fool in the race to do so.
I spent the entire miserable, rough ride upset and angry at the people I saw cheating.
I would learn after the race that there were NO riders in front of me putting bikes into cars – because of my sleep deprivation, I was hallucinating and seeing things and people who were not there.
(the gravel road in the photo above is not the same road I am talking about, but its similar to what that road was like)
I have only a foggy memory of the last few days … but I remember having an incredible feeling of deja vu.
Many times I would be riding and feel like I knew where I was; I felt like I had been there before. Weird.
In Kansas, I arrived to a time station when a storm was just beginning with black clouds and lighting everywhere … tornado like winds.
I arrived right in front of the storm…so I got to ride with the wind at my back for more than an hour or so, and got up to speeds of 20 – 30 mph.
The crew told me that I gained 3 hours on the time I was behind schedule.
That night, I don’t remember, but after a 1 hour sleep break, I began to ride again, but fell asleep on my bike and nearly crashed – so Simon and Russ put me to sleep for an extra hour.
This extra hour worked well because immediately, after the rest, I had my best ride of the week and I felt great.
Although I had saddle sores, I had mentally, managed to block the pain (probably with the help of pain medicine) and I rode well, esp the 6th day.
I was confident that I would finish, and I started to dream about my finisher photo. I was not tired.
I never ever ever once considered failure .. never once.
That night, I stopped for a 90 minute sleep break, and took off my bike shorts which tore open my sores.
Each time I would take off my shorts to change them … to minimize the pain, I would have to take them off as fast as I could because I would tear open several large blister like sores on my ass that were stuck to the shorts, almost as if they had become glued together.
Its like tearing off a piece of paper .. the slower I took them off, the slower it would tear my sores open, thus I had to rip my shorts off as quickly as possible.
I don’t remember much of my last night .. I think I slept for 90 minutes or so, and started off on a long, easy flat section with the wind at my back near the Missouri border with Simon, Russ and Matej following me.
Ideal dream like riding conditions….wind was at my back.
But this morning, I could no longer sit on the seat anymore … even after a few hours the burning pain would not go away.
Pride lasts longer than pain … unless you are super sleep deprived and have raw, open sores under and on your ass … then (at least in my case) pride is all but forgotten.
1,710 miles into the race….somewhere near the Kansas and Missouri border, I just stopped, and told Simon that I couldn’t manage the pain anymore, and could no longer sit on the bike.
It burned so badly, I wanted to vomit, but nothing would come up.
I called Sophie and started (shamelessly) sobbing like a baby (the lack of sleep brings about floods of emotion … many times over the race, I would have tears come to my eyes and often I would have to make an effort not to start crying when speaking to my crew) – that morning call with Sophie, I haven’t cried like that since I was a child, and I told her I couldn’t sit on the seat, and couldn’t continue.
My coach and crew were surprised that I quit because just a few hours before, and the day before, I had my best ride of the week. I was riding well, and my legs, neck and lower back felt great – not a problem at all.
Upon reflection … I think the problem happened the last time I change my shorts it ripped open too many sores.
I tried to battle the burning pain, but in the end I could no longer sit.
After all the training, preparation, money, time, not to mention the 7 days of hell I had conquered ….
I quit — and very quickly, I was sat in the back of the van … my rookie RAAM experience was over.
I can’t wait to try again.
I have already started training for RAAM 014.
Its going to be a long 11 months …
Special thanks to my crew: Chuck, Dr. Konrad, Laurel, Mario, Matej, Remy, Russ, Tom and Simon. Thanks to you all – I have so many great memories of the adventure.
I am especially thankful to my sponsors.