The racer’s report
The Honey Badger, with crew members Harry, Roy, Julie, Lana, Greg and Ed set out on the 3089 mi. road race across the US on June 14 in Oceanside, and crossed the finish line as the Masters Champion on June 25 in Annapolis. Photo: Parade finish in Annapolis.
Pre-race: The Illinois crew (Julie Turner, Roy Tykinski, Lana Pohlman and Martin Gruebele, our racer) left Champaign on Thursday June 9th, and we met up in Oceanside with Greg Scott, his dad Ed, and Harry Zink, Martin’s crew chief. Saturday though Monday were very busy: we prepped the three vehicles, did a dry run of crew exchanges, and attended the final crew chief and racer briefings, where alerts about route changes were announced.
The race strategy was worked out in detail: Martin would ride between 18-22 hours each day at ca. 100-110 bpm effort, interrupted only by crew exchanges, so the crews would have 6 to 7 hour shifts. Then Martin would bed down in the late morning/early afternoon for about 4 hours, and repeat the cycle. The idea was to break the hot day riding into a morning and an afternoon segment, and skip the 4 to 5 hottest hours mid-day altogether. Crew #1 was the afternoon crew: Julie and Lana would drive to Martin’s motel, get everything prepped, wake him up, and crew him for about 100 miles. Then crew #2 (Harry and Roy) would take over for the deep night shift, usually from around 23:00 to around 05:00. Finally, crew #3 with Greg and Ed would take over, and after 100 more miles get Martin to bed.
Day 1, June 14/15: RAAM has 55 time stations (TS), where the crew must report the racer’s passage. Martin rode the Merlin on the serious climbs and down the famed “Glass Elevator,” a steep descent into Borrego Springs. There the temperature jumped to about 100 F, and Martin hopped back onto the Superbike. Greg and Ed put him to bed in Salome, AZ (TS 5 after 342 miles, and 19h20m of riding). So far so good.
Day 2, June 15/16: The Golden Girls had everything ready for wakeup. 100 miles later, after Martin climbed Yarnell pass, Harry and Roy on crew #2 kept him well supplied with beef jerky (salt and protein), gels (2+ portions per crew shift), energy bars (2+ per crew shift), drink (a bottle of 50% HEED, 50% Gatorade per hour), and a chicken sandwich (1 per crew shift) throughout the night. This was to be the main race food routine throughout. Paul Ponder, who used to live in Champaign and ride with the ‘Cards took a photo of Martin and the van in Jerome at night. Soon thereafter, it was time to switch to the morning crew. Greg and Ed prepped the bike, changed crates with Harry & Roy, and got everything ready for the next shift, while Martin took the 10 minutes to do hygiene and avoid saddle sores. The day’s ride to Flagstaff (TS 9) was exciting, with a wildfire making the racers dodge oncoming traffic on a partly blocked road.
Photo (by Paul Ponder): The Honey Badger and the White Stallyns descending through Jerome.
Day 3, June 16/17: Martin had lost feeling in one of his left toes, and his eyes were bloodshot and swollen. Ed the MD was called in to examine the eyes, and prescribed eye drops. Martin reached a three-mile gravel section where a pro had just crashed and visited the hospital. Martin fishtailed on a 6% descent followed by a deep gravel curve, but somehow managed to stay upright. After Mexican Hat (TS 12 in Utah), Martin was unable to get his heart rate above 110 bpm anymore, and it would stay that way for most of the race: the fatigue of 19 hours/day riding and 4 hours sleep took its toll. Nonetheless Martin was moving up the ranks as planned with steady riding.
Day 4, June 17/18: Martin started in Durango rather late. After some serious climbing, we reached the Big Bad Wolf at night: Julie and Lana cheered Martin over Wolf Creek Pass, and a warm jacket that Roy had supplied saved Martin on the ice cold descent. After a quiet shift with Harry and Roy through Alamosa, cruising along as planned, Greg and Ed escorted Martin to the final destination of the day: out of the Rockies, to Trinidad (TS 20) in eastern CO. The descent to La Veta (TS 19) was the most beautiful thing Martin has ever seen in the US (see photo). Martin reached Trinidad exhausted yet unable to sleep due to jet-lag past his bedtime.
Day 5, June 18/19: After lying in bed half-awake for almost 4 hours, Martin tackled the eastern CO and Kansas plains. A cross/headwind was blowing up to 20 mph. Fortunately, Martin had a secret weapon. The superbike cuts through headwinds better than any other TT bike, and made the middle 1000 miles of RAAM tolerable. Harry wisely decided to make it a shorter riding day to make up for lost sleep. Finally we made it to Ulysses (TS 23), although Martin nodded off on the bike once.
Day 6, June 19/20: The “Golden Girls” awakened Martin after a solid 4.5-hour sleep. It worked like a charm. The eye was less red, the foot less bothersome, and Martin felt strong again. The superbike did the job it was paid to do, enabling an average on-bike speed of 18 mph from legs tired by riding 1800 miles so far. Martin was devouring more sandwich and extra gel to make up for a large part of the energy deficit of ca. 7200 kCal/day. That night, Martin for the first time during the race tasted the wonders of caffeine. He rode fast the rest of the night and the next day. Thus we reached the time station at Yates Center (TS 29).
Day 7, June 20/21: Martin now began to regularly pass other Masters and Open riders, steadily moving up in the ranks. As always, Julie and Lana had a nice crispy sandwich ready, compared to the soggy food served by the male crews. The simple secret? Stick the food in a Ziploc bag and then in the cooler, not directly on top of the wet ice bag. We entered Missouri, which had serious climbs in the Ozarks around Camdenton. There were many nice fans and bystanders in Missouri. A thunderstorm caught up with us, and Martin went to bed wet and tired.
Day 8, June 21/22: We zipped over hills to the Mighty Mississippi, which we crossed at TS 35 at West Alton. In Effingham (TS 37), Jay Yost joined us in the early morning hours (see photo). We crossed from IL into IN in the early morning, making it 3 states in 1 day. In Sullivan (TS 38), Martin’s wife Nancy and daughter Valerie, his research group, and the physical chemistry support staff (Theresa, Beth, Karen) surprised us with some cheers, and we stopped for a photo op. Greg and Ed bedded Martin down on schedule at a motel in Linton. Hearing that we were at the front of the Masters’ race was welcome and energizing news before Martin went to bed.
Day 9, June 22/23: Between Sullivan and Greensburg, IN, there is quite a bit of climbing in Brown County, and Martin worked hard through the night. Oldenburg, Oxford (TS 41) and Blanchester (TS 42) passed, with some adventure: a major thunderstorm with tornadoes caught up with us, and Martin had to wait in the Explorer with Jay, Harry and Roy before it was safe again. The night’s race ended in Chilicothe, OH, after 276 miles. By now, Martin was firmly in first place among masters, approaching 6th place overall, and even during his sleep period, other contenders for the Masters title were no longer catching up. Steady sleep and steady speed, while avoiding the hot mid-day, were beginning to pay off.
Day 10, June 23/24: Martin got up in good spirits in Chilicothe. From there, crew and racer proceeded to the most horrible stretch of the RAAM route: Highway 50 through West Virginia, whose shoulder is littered with large debris, yet the truck traffic is so dense one does not dare ride anywhere but on the shoulder during the day. After that, two hard climbs between Fellowsville and Oakland, MD concluded the day. Martin kept pace with an 8-man team climber, a good sign of strength after 2800 miles. We had reached Maryland. Martin decided to sleep only 2 hours in the back of the van. This would keep us hours ahead of the #2 and #3 Masters racers.
Day 11, June 24/25: The gamble paid off. Martin slept through a thunderstorm. He was still 4 hours ahead of #2, and not feeling bad, except for the butt, which burned after 3000 miles in the saddle. After Cumberland, the hard climbing started: 6 major climbs awaited, but Martin had done most of them in 2013, and was mentally prepared. Martin slogged up the mountains relentlessly, focusing on the demon in the pain cave, and finally won: he accelerated halfway through climb #4 and from then on, the climbs felt just fine. He was greeted by former Wild Card Rick Riley, who had moved to the east coast. With a 10 mph headwind blowing from the south, Martin plodded to Odenton. Finally, the famous Ram’s Head Road House that marks the end of the race came into view. Martin rode across the official finish line (photo).
Photo: Passing across the official finish line.
From there, we proceeded to the official finish line at the Annapolis Dock. A crowd was cheering, including Martin's sister Andrea, brother Philip, and trainer Sarah. Krish Sarkar, a former grad student, was also there to cheer him on, and several other friends. After an interview (Martin was able to jump on-stage for it) and a handshake from Head Official Jim Harms, we were off to our hotel to meet up with the other crew memberss, clean up, and head over to the RAAM banquet at 18:00. After we got stuffed with meat and beer at the banquet, the secretly hoped-for but never believed-in call to the podium came: Masters Champion of RAAM in 1st place, 9 hours ahead of 2nd place, who had not arrived yet, and 6th overall. Martin grabbed the microphone and shouted “The Honey Badger cares about one thing: I love my crew!” The Champion trophy is a nice wooden plaque of the US, with Oceanside and Annapolis marked on it (see photo).
After 3089 miles, The Honey Badger had burned 80,000 calories and climbed 170,000 feet on the road to Masters victory in the world’s biggest ultracycling race. His crew had fed him about 220 HEED/Gatorade bottles, 100 gels, 80 bars, 35 sandwiches. A large jar of Vaseline was depleted. 210 hours of music had played, from “Dark Side of the Moon” to Schubert’s “Forellen Quartett.” One dangerous sleep on the bike. Three ferries through gravel, construction or oil on the road. Two rain- and thunderstorms. A pass with 30 F wind chill on the descent. 1000 miles of cross– or headwinds. And desert heat, inflamed eyes, sandstorms, fishtailing in gravel, falling off the bike. But we made it in good time, 1.5 days behind the pros, which is a strong Masters finish. Sometimes more is more: more sleep = more average speed.
The crew #1 report: “The Golden Girls”
Pre-race: Julie and Lana did something that would add a personal touch to the spirit of the race….bicycle wheel nails! In just a short two days, we made it to Oceanside. We attended the official crew meeting, where we learned how to navigate with the route book, and most importantly, how to avoid penalties. It was really interesting to hear the racers’ stories. The most helpful thing for us was the practice crew exchanges and bottle hand-offs we did along the actual race route to get accustomed to the procedures. We successfully passed the official inspection on Monday (photo), and were all set to go.
Shift 1, June 14: After feeding Martin a granola breakfast, Julie and Lana arrived at the Oceanside Pier around noon on Tuesday to watch Martin take off. Before we knew it, “Martin Gruebele - The Honey Badger” was called to the start line. It was game on for the Golden Girls. Our first mission was to get to the Trading Post parking lot on Old Castle Road to crew Martin. An Italian team that parked next to us was fascinated by our slow moving triangle. Martin fitted the triangle with magnets, but at first glance, it looks as if the triangle is screwed into the back of the car. Julie easily removed it from the back of the car and they were very impressed. This is only one of many encounters we had with crewmembers from around the world. From there, we continued on our first 8 hour shift, about 115 miles out of California and into Arizona. Martin was staying very well fueled and hydrated.
Shift 2, June 15: In the desert! We arrived at Martin’s hotel in plenty of time to organize our supplies for the next shift. Lana had been very excited to see the large cacti in the Arizona desert, and indeed we spotted quite a few along the way. Martin awoke easily when we entered the room and got ready quickly. Apparently 4 hours of sleep was working for him. Lana called the RAAM headquarters, announcing he was ready to go back on course. We quickly got into the habit of handing Martin his drink bottle partly filled, instead of him keeping the bottle on the bike for long, so it was always cool. Lana also had to learn the hard way of the importance of looking before down before leaping out of the passenger side.
Shift 3, June 16: Martin previously assured us that by Day 3, the crew would get into the swing of things and this was most definitely the case. We perfected our bottle hand offs just before it was time for mandatory follow mode on the Navajo Indian reservation, ranging from Arizona into Utah. The scenery was beautiful, and we left Martin with crew #2 in good spirits. Their next time station, Mexican Hat, UT, was also our stop for the night. Julie and Lana concluded that Monument Valley was definitely worth a future visit.
Shift 4, June 17: Wolf Creek Pass. Arriving in Durango, we met with the other crew at Martin’s hotel. Martin’s right red eye has been giving him a lot of trouble, and Ed our crew MD ordered prescription drops. Secondly, Martin had ridden longer today, in order to make it to the checkpoint before the biggest climb of RAAM. We were able to get everything done in the 4 hour time constraint of Martin’s rest break, sacrificing sleep for the other two crews to ensure a smooth start for Martin. His late start turned out to be well worth it, because there was less traffic up to the summit and on the descent from Wolf Creek Pass. Julie and Lana were excited to accompany Martin on this special passage of the race across the Continental Divide.
Shift 5, June 18: Leaving Colorado….and nothing but a straight road. When we woke Martin, we discovered he hadn’t slept well because of the later rest break. Despite his lack of sleep and additional eye troubles, he started our shift with his usual optimism. As with most of our shifts, even though he was fatigued and hurting, he did well on our shift, and gave us his happy thumbs up at regular intervals. As we entered the nothingness of the Kansas plains, we encountered a strong headwind. Our crew chief Harry made the right decision, and made it a short day for Martin to bring the whole rest period back to a mid-day schedule.
Shift 6, June 19: Kansas and its headwind seemed to go on forever, but Martin was chugging along. Letting each other know tribulations from our shifts had become a regular interaction, and we shared some funny stories along the way. Martin’s strategy of sleeping during the hot mid-day hours and splitting the day in half was starting to pay off. Martin usually slept 3.5 to 4 hours (2 REM cycles), which proved to have him well-rested for the next ride. The other riders were beginning to struggle more about a week into the race, and started to fall behind. Things were beginning to look in Martin’s favor as we approached Missouri.
Shift 7, June 20: We entered Missouri around dusk. Martin liked to tell us bits of trivia about his 2013 two-man RAAM race here and there. We had our drink and food routines down to a science. We personally got pretty tired of eating subways, but Martin was loving the “real” food. We found it worked best if Julie drove and Lana navigated. Never having spent more than a family weekend together, we got along really well, and had our own jokes and stories to tell. Along the way we were beginning to encounter many Missouri fans cheering on the racers from the side of the road.
Shift 8, June 21: As we got closer to the mighty Mississippi, driving got a bit tricky. There always seemed to be a line of cars behind us, some more agitated than others. As we crossed the Mississippi River, you could tell Martin had a little pep to be back in Illinois. This after all was familiar territory for all! After making the crew exchange in Alton, IL we decided to make a longer drive to a hotel In Effingham, so Julie could see her husband Jeff at the Effingham time station. It meant a much shorter sleep schedule for us, but it was worth seeing Jeff and some of the Wild Card Cycling Team come to cheer Martin on.
Shift 9, June 22: Illinois was a blur as we drove into Indiana. We picked up Martin in Linton, IN, and proceeded with some climbing. Julie had to switch out the wheel set on the Merlin, to the way Martin would need it for some bigger climbs. The crews were getting very good at making sure we had the correct bikes for each stage of the race. The radar showed storms heading our way, and we were all watchful as we proceeded along the route. At first it seemed like we would might get lucky and miss the bad weather, but hours later Martin’s night crew had to deal with that storm: fallen trees and power lines.
Shift 10, June 23: Passing through Oxford, OH, we were asked to stop at the time station tent that had been damaged by the storm. The people there were hovering under their makeshift tent and appreciated our praise for their commitment. After making it out of a slow parade in Grantsville, we passed through Athens, OH. Our best fan story happened in this town. An oncoming cyclist began yelling “The Honey Badger”. He asked how Martin was doing, and if we thought he would mind some company. He said, “It says in the rules I can ride for 15 minutes.” We told him Martin would love the company. The fan guided Martin through the small college town. Martin enjoyed the friendly chat and soldiered on after saying goodbye to the rider after a few minutes
Shift 11, June 24: This is it! We got a call early in the morning that Martin was planning on a very short nap and then would be pushing on through some difficult climbs in Maryland. After the Honey Badger nodded off, we all desperately needed some food, and took off to the local KFC. An official from the local time station was worried about Martin, but we assured him that our racer was sound asleep. We made our way back to Martin, and we heard a tap on the window from Martin’s vehicle. Martin was wide awake and ready to go, having slept through the thunderstorm. We made our way to Cumberland, MD over hard climbs and through pop-up storms which made the roads slick. Out of all the shifts, this one made us the most nervous.
The Finish, June 25: We spent the morning sightseeing around historic Annapolis and enjoying a well-deserved crab cake lunch. We met Martin’s family, and all were eager for his arrival at the finish line. When he finally made the turn into the finish line, excitement filled the air. We were proud of our racer for completing such a feat, and of our crewmates for making this such a great experience. Martin’s meticulous planning for many years, from monthly email missives to the crew, to a practice race, to crew time in Oceanside, truly made this endeavor a success. Our crews functioned so well as individual pairs and as a whole. We are so proud of you, Honey Badger!
The crew #2 report: The White Stallyns
Shift 1, June 14/15: With some jitters we hopped into the crowd that was lining the start. Seeing Martin go out, it was clear he had a plan. Slowest off the line and down the beachside road, Martin was on a mission to carefully manage his energy from the start. Our crew exchange was smooth, as we had practiced. The road was essentially straight for our shift. Occasionally there was a pass, a give and take, but Martin pedaled on at his pace. Temperatures were cooler during the night, but ice-cold bottles and salt tablets were needed throughout our shift. Despite dodging sand drifts, we exchanged with Crew #3 an hour ahead of time.
Shift 2, June 15/16: We were awakened early: With Martin’s reserved room not yet available, we vacated our room for him. We did get another room after having breakfast with crew #3. Martin got stuck behind someone who passed, but passed and dropped him quickly as the 12 mile climb before Cottonwood started. We were a bit surprised buzzing through Jerome on the descent to come across a friend of Martin's, Paul Ponder, taking some great photos. As we climbed out of Camp Verde, temperatures dropped very close to freezing and pushed the limits of Martin’s clothing. Day broke as we exchanged with Greg and Ed on crew #3 at Happy Jack.
Shift 3, June 16/17: Roy found that the housing to the TCR0 shifter was a little short. Re-routing allowed the front wheel to turn 90 degrees, without popping out of the cable guide. Problem solved! Halfway through the Navajo Reservation we picked up Martin. We exited the Reservation at quite a pace following a quick descent, A quick crew exchange followed after a few steady climbs before Colorado.
Shift 4, June 17/18: We were going to see freezing temperatures tonight on Wolf Creek Pass. While crew #1 was ferrying Martin up the pass, we went to the Time Station past Wolf Creek Pass. After waiting for 3 hours, we finally got Martin for our shift. The day went smoothly as Martin toughed it through temperatures well below 40. Eventually we passed the Rio Grande at a point where the river didn’t seem so grand. Shortly afterwards, we were feeding Martin all we had as the sun rose over Mt. Blanca, at 14,351 ft. The climbs had taken their caloric toll.
Shift 5, June 18/19: Before we went to sleep in Trinidad CO, we got word from Greg that Martin’s eyes had gone wide at the thought of pizza, so we had a mission. After feeding him pizza and putting him to bed, all three crews met to hash out plans for bikes for the next few days, and what was happening with Martin’s hydration and sudden kick for food. Post meeting, Lana and Roy re-sorted the bikes and wheel sets. Our shift had a 20 mph south-east wind: no fast push through the plains during this RAAM. Once Martin arrived with crew #1, off into the howling wind he went on the deep tri-spoke wheels! His line was more than a bit wobbly in the strong cross winds. Not much happened throughout the night, as Martin rhythmically powered through the plains of eastern CO and Kansas.
Shift 6, June 19/20: We drove on from our prior night’s crew exchange in Springfield to Ulysses, KS. There we got Harry his first taste of Sonic food ... there probably won't be a repeat. We pulled up next to Martin, blaring “Living On a Prayer,” as we passed the 1540-mile halfway point! As we passed through Kingman, we finally had a flat caused by a stray bead wire in the road. A quick switch of bikes and Roy’s expertise as back seat mechanics while Harry was driving, and the problem was no more. Buzzing on a caffeine tablet all night, Martin dashed past TS 27, Maize, KS to hand off to crew #3.
Shift 7, June 20/21: We were unsure of the weather, which could bring storms that were blowing to the southeast, roughly on a collision course with our race route. Once we actually hit RAAM’s first rain, we ducked under an overpass past Camdenton to suit up Martin. As Nature (or Murphy's Law) would have it, the rain immediately lessened, so we straddled the line of Martin being ready for harder rain, and sweating himself silly in the rain gear. We rode that tightrope all the way past Lake Ozark where we turned over our racer to crew #3.
Shift 8, June 21/22: We headed across the Mississippi River to be greeted by RAAM fans, and set up the crew exchange. Shortly into our shift, we celebrated with Martin for hitting the total distance of this year's Tour De France. Of course Martin and Harry were shouting back and forth in French, with the crew putting on awful duct tape mustaches, “C’est magnifique!” Martin ate and drank right on schedule every 15 minutes. In Effingham, a few Wild Card riders, including Scott Dahman, Neil Fortner, and Jay Yost, waited for us and gave Martin a big ole’ smile. The Honey Badger was elated to talk with friends for a few minutes. We picked up Jay Yost into our crew. He was a welcome addition because the night driving and less than perfect sleep during the day had gotten Roy and Harry quite tired.
Shift 9, June 22/23: Outside of Brown County we picked up Martin for some more big climbing. Jay was doing a lot of the driving, and everyone was powered by his juicy beef jerky, including the racer. The TCR0, perfect for this area of mixed climbs and flats, now had well-worn back brakes. With new pads in, the brakes were rubbing the rim, so Roy hopped into the trunk with the TCR0 and we started on our way with Martin on the Merlin. Roy hunkered down and scraped down the brake pad with his utility knife, which had already saved more than one situation. Roy felt very sacrilegious. Then Martin stopped to swap bikes. A massive thunderstorm with tornado warning caught us (photo, all crammed into car). Once the Honey Badger was back on the bike, we saw the aftermath, dodging branches and rerouting around downed power lines.
Shift 10, June 23/24: Just before the West Virginia border, we picked up Martin in a nice thick fog. Thus began the dreaded 100 mile highway stretch on US 50. Day broke, but the increasing traffic wouldn’t brake for us. It was shoulder time to avoid a 70 mph rear-end collision. Zig-zagging around on the shoulder, Martin was avoiding tons of debris as we watched our mirror almost get knocked off by a passing truck. In the car, we were talking to each other when we should be brace for impact to protect Martin. The US 50 was the tensest part of the race for crew #2.
Shift 11, June 24/25: Martin still had plenty of climbing left. The gradients went up past 15% at a few points, real grinders, yet Martin miraculously managed. As we danced back and forth between Maryland and Pennsylvania, we had forgotten to wash his drink bottles, and Martin’s stomach was sensitive to the mold that had grown. After some back seat bottle washing by Harry, a quick restroom stop, and temporarily switching Martin to fresh Mountain Dew for calories, it was an issue no more. Mistake learned from. We passed the renowned Appalachian Trail, and raced across the storied battlefields of Gettysburg. Shortly thereafter, we left Martin in the hands of Greg and Ed for the final push into Annapolis. We jumped ahead to the official finish line, where Martin stopped elated right after the red tape finish line, to give Jay a hug and shake hands. Then we were off through the tight streets of Annapolis, and Martin rolled through the parade finish to stamp the seal on his RAAM Masters victory.
The crew #3 report: “The Black Beasts”
Morning of the race start We drove the crew vehicle behind our racer in the parade start, then headed to Blythe, CA, to rest. We checked into the Budget Host Blythe and ate BBQ next to the motel. It was 100 °F outside, but the clerk at the motel told us it that it was cool for this time of year.
Shift 1, June 15 We got up after 3 hours of sleep and prepped in the parking lot for the first exchange. In the early stages of the race, with all the RAAM solos, RAW solos and RAW teams close together, we saw many racers with their crew vehicles. Martin rode well and was hours ahead of schedule. Martin ate only sport nutrition (gels, bars, HEED/gatorade mix). He said his stomach didn’t feel good enough to eat the planned on-bike sandwich, and that he would eat it at the motel. Then crew #3 drove to the Happy Jack Lodge between Camp Verde and Flagstaff, stopping for groceries and supplies in Camp Verde.
Shift 2, June 16 When Martin rolled up with crew #2, he said “I need you to set the car to 80°.” It was below 45 °F and Martin was cold, particularly his hands. The Honey Badger changed and warmed up. At 30 minutes, this was one of our slowest crew exchanges. We decided to stop in Flagstaff. Martin also told us he hadn’t been able to keep his heart rate up as high as he’d like it (100-110 bpm). Martin’s entire ride with us was tough and slow-going after the cold. We went past the Motel 6 to the time station, called our racer in, put Martin in the car and drove back to the Motel 6 to put him to sleep after feeding him. We drove ahead to Mexican Hat, UT, through the Navajo and Hopi reservations and Monument Valley.
Shift 3, June 17 We passed the active crew near Bluff, UT and set up for the exchange. A crew member from another crew walked up from his hotel. We learned that their crew had 10 people and they were using three vehicles. The third vehicle was shuttling 5 people forward. Despite having a larger crew than us, they were working longer shifts. After the exchange, we headed from Utah into western Colorado. We passed MSCA Team E, one of the Masters leaders. He was moving very slowly, and it would be the last time we would see him during the race. After some dangerous adventures on gravelly roads, we called in Martin at the Durango time station, and got him medicated eyedrops. We had a hard time finding a place to stay in eastern Colorado because there was a biker (motorcycle) event in Alamosa. We finally found a place to stay at the Fort Garland Motor Inn right along the race route.
Shift 4, June 18 After receiving our usual early morning wakeup call from crew #2 and quietly exiting our motel, Martin began his 13 mile climb to La Veta summit at 9418 feet. As advertised in the route book, Cuchara Pass is one of the most scenic in Colorado, and Martin continued his relentless climbing up a 6% grade to the second summit climbing from 7017 feet to 9939 feet. It took much longer than anticipated to cover the remaining 37 miles of rollers into Trinidad. After days of eyedrops, Martin’s eyes were looking a little better as we put him to bed. Martin had gotten to bed too late today, and we needed to make it a shorter ride the next day to get back on the mid-day sleep schedule to avoid the heat.
Shift 5, June 19 We staged along the route on the edge of Springfield. We knew Martin had barely slept the night before because of his jet lag and getting to bed late in Trinidad, and he was clearly fatigued. There also a stiff crosswind coming from the southeast, which made riding tough. Shortly after we crossed into Kansas, Martin stopped pedaling and started to veer toward the right edge of the road. He had fallen asleep on the bike, and went off the road. Fortunately, the drop from the shoulder to the grass was small, and Martin did not over-react. He was able to expertly ride into the grass and coast to a stop. For the rest of the ride into Ulysses, we set a timer and pulled up frequently to make sure our racer was not getting too drowsy.
Shift 6, June 20 We jumped ahead to Maize, KS to pick up Martin just west of Wichita. He was making good time and it was hard for us to catch up. Martin had a good day and we did some leap-frogging with the Aske Søby team. One of their crew members loved getting on the PA to shout about how the ”Honey Badger didn’t give a s&%t.” We got Martin settled at the Townsman Motel in Yates Center, KS. It was right next to a Casey’s and Martin asked for a specific type of donut. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of those. Racers can have peculiarly specific urges on the road! We drove ahead to Osage Beach, MO at the Lake of the Ozarks, and stayed at the Scottish Inn. We got in a swim at the public beach before running errands.
Shift 7, June 21 We exchanged between Osage Beach and Etterville, MO. We went thorugh a massive detour in and past Jefferson City at rush hour. It was raining in fits and starts. Martin rode through highly variable conditions on US 50. He got the attention of a RAAM media van for a long stretch. We decided to rest in-between towns to avoid getting our racer to bed late again. We stopped for lunch and bought ourselves and enormous piece of cake to eat later, then drove ahead to near Effingham to stay at the Altamont Motel.
Shift 8, June 22 We staged for our exchange at the time station in Effingham, IL. Several of Martin’s friends from Champaign had driven down to witness the pre-dawn exchange. We took a nice video of Martin’s “Pavlovian response to the cowbell:” We had trained him a few days before to drink when we rang the cowbell because we could not always pull up next to him to remind him of his 15 minute, ¼ bottle drink. The stretch east on the detour toward Sullivan was the worst pavement of the trip. We finally made it into Sullivan, where Martin had his family, research group, and the chem support office staff waiting excitedly for him. We made a ten minute stop with many photographs, then headed on to Linton, IN where we settled Martin at the Park Inn.
Shift 9, June 23 We woke up after a torrential storm and discovered that Greg had left one of the rear car doors open. The car got quite wet inside, but fortunately nothing was missing. The aftermath of the storm had left many hazards on the road. At one point, Martin was riding directly toward a large branch in the middle of the road. We said “He sees that, right? Surely, he sees that. Martin? Martin?!” As we were about to honk a warning, Martin looked up (he had been looking at the GPS on his phone) and skidded to a stop. Shortly thereafter, there was a large mudslick that covered the entire road. Martin smartly opted to get off the bike and walk across it to avoid another close call. We got Martin to the Chillicothe Inn. We did bike maintenance and headed to Clarksburg, WV. Greg went out for a run on “Benedum Run Rd,” which seemed to say “Been a dumb run road.”
Shift 10, June 24 There was much traffic through little towns in West Virginia. We saw many 4 and 8 person RAAM teams along the way, and there was a lot of camaraderie among the RAAM crews. Martin climbed and descended several miles at 9% with multiple hairpin turns. He stopped after to let his hot rims cool down. Martin was very hungry. Greg jumped out and bought a homemade ice cream sandwich. Martin woofed it down enthusiastically. In Oakland, MD, we pulled everything out of the Expedition, and quickly got Martin to rest in the back. We heard knocking on the glass after just 1 hour and 40 minutes. Julie went over to find Martin pulling up his bibs, ready to ride. She told him that it had been less than two hours, but he responded “90 minutes is a full REM cycle. Let’s go.” Greg asked him, “Did you sleep through that thunderstorm?” “What thunderstorm?” Martin had clearly slept well!
Shift 11, June 25 – The Finish! As we packed up in the morning to meet crew #2 for the final exchange of the race, Greg’s in-laws (who live outside Harrisburg, PA) met up with the crew. We exchanged with crew #2 just east of Gettysburg. Martin tried to press the pace, but a sub-2-hour sleep followed by no sleep this afternoon was taking its toll. While Martin had previously avoided stopping the bike whenever possible, Martin stopped several times on the side of the road just to chat for a minute. During one of these stops, Martin said to Greg “It’s an interesting hallucination, but it seems like I have a stiff headwind.” “Martin, there is actually a stiff headwind,” Greg replied. At one point, another 8-man team crew vehicle pulled up and talked to Martin for a bit and we overheard Martin say “Why? Because it’s the Mount Everest of Cycling.” They must have asked him why he was crazy enough to race RAAM solo. Finally Martin crossed the finish line victorious. He had a few minutes at a Shell Station to prep before the ceremonial finish at the docks in Annapolis. Amazingly, Martin jumped onto the stage at the finish for his interview. We all shared some champagne and took some pictures, then hurried back to the awards banquet. Finally back at the crew #1 hotel room to reminisce, Martin couldn’t keep himself awake, so Greg walked him to his room to get a good night’s rest. Thus ended our final day of RAAM.