on Jun.12, 2013, under raam
I know I am a lot of emails behind, a good part of which are from all of you. I will start with the news and attend them later.
It is 3:25am somewhere in the Mojave desert. The RV is cheerful – the sky is clear, the dishes are clean, and the music is country. Scott and the follow car left the camp about 45 minutes ago. He had some rest (let’s not call it sleep when it’s just 15 minutes), some food (what better place and time than a RV in the middle of the desert at 2am to prepare a full homemade minestrone for the first time in one’s life?), some cleaning.
He struggled a bit in the mountains leading to the Mojave desert – but then again, mountains are rarely the forte of a swimmer on a bike – but the morale is up and everything is alright. The time to write these lines, we passed 4 other racers – so now that the pit stops started, he seems to be moving up the leaderboard.
He wants everybody to know he feels good, but he will not personally speak to anyone apart from his crew before Colorado – when the desert and the hardest part of the race are behind us. He wants to stay 100% in his bubble until then.
As for the crew – the follow-car team (Matej, Mario, Konrad and Russ) takes turns to spend some time in the RV and rest. 3 people are always in the car, one in the RV, by 4-hours-or-so shifts. They all seem reasonably fresh and alright so far. Petrol-station-burritos keep them going. The RV team (Tom, Simon, Remy) is doing splendidly well. They have enjoyed a combined total of 12 minutes of sleep, and should therefore be all set for the day ahead.
5th racer passed since this email started
200 meters further, a 6th one – number 467, aka CSR. Viewed from the RV, the legs are turning fast, the pace is good, he seems to be in great form.
I finally managed, during scott’s dinner-break, to get the full name of our recently-acquired bike mechanic: Russel Northam. Great guy so far. He spent part of said dinner-break explaining to the crew what were the different species of scorpions that were surrounding us. Not everybody fully expected what night-camps in the desert entail, and some suddenly felt a bit less comfortable wearing flip-flops. Oh, well.
I will upload a picture of him in a bit.
And at that point of my email, we reach a road-block: border patrol. We are about 100km north of the Mexican border and just crossed the one road in that part of the desert coming from the south. That would explain it, if I had to guess. Friendly gentlemen. We are definitely not the first RAAM team they see tonight. The time to mutually wish each other a good night (or rest of), and we are back on the road.
Enough anecdotes. I’ll get to sorting my inbox, now.
2 Comments :Guest blog, RAAM, remy
This challenge, the training leading up to it and now the hell I will surely go through for the next 12 days is my graduation present to you.
Ideally, as you begin the next step in your life, you will think back to the times you saw me committed to going after my goals I set for myself; and I trust you will reflect on the focus and preparation I gave to going after my goals to the very end.
You helped me pack my bag for Marathon des Sables, you were on the boat next to me when I swam the English channel, and you held the tape as I ran through the finish and completed my 7 ironman in 7 days challenge.
We set goals …
Then we do the necessary preparation, and action to achieve our goals.
There is no luck.
By consistent dedication, focus and practice, we make our own luck.
But often times, when we go after our goals things don’t go the way we planned.
We fall down, but we have to get back up and keep climbing.
Ideally, this challenge and the memory of all the preparation and adversity you witnessed me complete and overcome … will be something you can draw upon one day on your own climb, whatever goal or dream it is that you decide to go after.
I will think of you throughout the coming days.
I will fight like crazy to ensure I complete this goal.
But in the end, no matter what …when we say we are going to do something; or we set a goal we want to achieve — it will come down to this simple thought: “finish or failure.”
There is no summit half way up the mountain.
We have to make it happen.
I love you very much.
Marie is my 18 year old step daughter and one of the loves of my life. She recently, graduated from high school and will soon move to Canada to begin university.
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on Jun.07, 2013, under raam
A few months ago, during a conversation with my 18 year old step daughter … I suggested that she try to start going to sleep earlier and waking up early, instead of staying up late and sleeping in late, and missing the morning.
As she is French, she got all passionate and nearly started shouting .. “I have tried to wake up early and I don’t like it.”
It was a funny conversation, and one that I will not forget for a while. “I don’t like it!!!”
For the past 6 months or so, I have been waking up either at 2:15am or 3am (depending on the day) every single day, including most weekends to train for my race across America.
My ritual is to wake at 2:15am … by the time I brush my teeth, and get out of bed, make my coffee and banana and orange juice its around 2:30.
I enjoy my 20 minute breakfast sat in my favourite chair where I read the news.
At 2:50, I will leave my home and walk to my car … and by the time I get to my car and drive out of the garage its 3:00am.
Then I drive about 35 minutes into the desert to a place between Dubai and Abu Dhabi … take 10 minutes to get my bike set up …
And by 3:45 – 4:00am I start training … for the past couple months, my training is normally, not less than 6 hours, and on weekends often more than 12 hours sessions.
After training, I go home, take a shower and then go to work (my work schedule is 11am – 7pm)
After work, I go home eat with (or try to) eat with my family … and then get in bed no later than 8pm …I must be in bed by 8pm so to be able sleep to start this ritual all over again the next day.
I have learned to like waking up at 2:15am every day.
I have learned to like riding my bike for 6+ hours in the desert.
I have learned to like the pain from all of this.
I have tried to teach by example … and get my daughter to understand that life isn’t always supposed to be soft, cushy and easy …
To achieve our goals, we often have to do things we don’t like or don’t enjoy doing
In 4 days, I begin my toughest challenge yet – to ride my bike across America under 12 days.
To achieve this goal, I will have to ride my bike at least 20 hours a day.
I will get saddle sores … that will become so painful that sitting will become hell.
I will get so sore that I will have trouble getting on and off the bike.
I will get sick, and have to stop along the roads to vomit or use the toilet on the side of the road!
I will become sleep deprived … if I want to have a chance to finish this race under 12 days, I will not be able to sleep more than 2-3 hours a day.
I am going to hurt badly …
But to experience all of this pain and suffering; and to see if I am strong enough physically and mentally … is exactly, why I have organized my life for the past 6 months in a way to train, and put myself in a situation where I can achieve my goal.
Life isn’t always about comfort and ease – and the best things in life are often the hardest, most painful to get.
To be able to reach the summit of our mountains, we often have to learn to like things we don’t like to do.
On June 11th my RAAM challenge begins. I will see if I am strong enough physically and mentally to achieve my goal of finishing under 12 days.
Finish or failure.
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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.
The power of the mind.
This past tuesday, I successfully completed my 3rd training test .. 18, 20, 18, 20, and 20 hour rides. What made this week more fun was these rides were done with a broken wrist, wearing a large cast on my right arm.
I tried to consistently ride at 25km/h; 26.3 km/h and then 27.3 km/h on average for each ride, but the incredibly strong head wind often made this a big challenge.
I stayed in a RV parked at Babel Shams resort (which is the area I like to train) for the 5 day training test, and Bob was my great, loyal crew who assisted me for the week.
Riding for 18-20 hours a day for 5 consecutive days with an uncomfortable cast on my arm … brought about many emotions.
On the 3rd day, my wrist hurt so much that I nearly quit. There were a few hours where in my head … I was done.
I felt the pain was too much, and I must be hurting my wrist by riding my bike.
But I called Dr. Yusef during my 15 minute lunch break at the 9 hour mark … and my Dr. told me that the pain was normal because I have 2 broken bones in my wrist … “of course it hurts!” He reassured me that my wrist was fine and because I was wearing a cast, it would not be damaged further. At the end of the call, he told me: “Fight on!”
But still….I kept moaning to myself and to Bob about the pain and I kept thinking that I should stop, etc. Ohhh I wanted to stop.
I got passed by several cyclists throughout the day, so I started to think about how weak of cyclist I am … and all the people who passed me on the bike path touched my ego … and I kept wondering to myself if I am ready for RAAM??
Then it started to rain (again) .. riding in the rain with a strong headwind … with a cast that became soaking wet … doing the same 50km loop over and over and over again was absolutely miserable…especially, since thats all I focused on for this period of time — was negative thoughts.
At the end of the 18 hour ride, my wrist hurt badly … and before I went to sleep, I spoke to my coach, Mario Huys and I told him how I felt.
Mario has been my coach for 4 years and knows me well. He gave me a sort of pep talk about how tough I am, and how doing this with a broken wrist was impressive, etc … so it got me pumped up for the last 2 days. He told me that he was certain I am in shape to complete RAAM, and now it was just up to seeing how mentally tough I am/and will be during RAAM. He told me in his firm Austrian accent: “stop being such a pussy and just focus on making this happen.”
As I laid in bed for my 2 hour sleep, I reflected on the pain and started to understand that it was more mental than anything else. I was just looking for an excuse to stop.
I woke up at the usual 3:10 the next morning and told Bob that it was showtime … that I was back and my wrist was fine – no more moaning.
The last two 20 hour rides were both the fastest, best rides of the week, and probably the best bike training I have done. My wrist did not hurt much at all after I decided to stop focusing on it — the pain disapeared.
The last 20 hours … I was off my bike for a total of 18 minutes the entire day … and I ended up riding 20 hours and 31 minutes. (bob kept a stop watch and timed each 90 second water break or 15 minute lunch to ensure I stuck to my schedule – but the last day, I took only a 7 minute lunch break and never left my bike – which made a massive difference in the way I felt and rode – much much better than the rest of the week.)
I don’t want this blog to be just a training journal entry…
But think about the power of the mind. And how can you relate to my story above?
When I thought of positive things… I rode very well.
But, when I felt sorry for myself, I rode terribly … and nearly quit.
Day 3 – My wrist hurt .. to the point where I couldn’t even touch the handle bar because of the pain.
But as soon as I started to think of positive thoughts, and stopped focusing on the pain, it went away.
To be completely honest, I have no idea if I can complete RAAM … but if/when I do … it’s going to be a great story.
And this “great story” is what is going to drive me across.
My last training test is May 19th – 22nd where i will do 4 x 20 hour rides. I will still be wearng a cast!
Mario will be with me to do a test run of my nutrition, schedule of breaks, my experience of sleep depreviation, etc
A friend of mine in Dubai who is a strong cyclist doesnt understand why I am doing so much training …but, unlike him, I have no historic cycling base so I have to cram in as much hours as possible.
I am certain in my Coach and his training program he gives me.
This past test week – I woke at 3:10 each day to ride from 4:00am.
I rode with 3 water bottles and stopped for 90 seconds every 5 hours.
At the 9 or 10 hour mark, I stopped for a 15 minute lunch break. Bob kept a stop watch and kept me on track …
I noticed my best day of training was the last day where I ate and drank the least throughout the day, but I probably need to eat more over the day rather than have lunch breaks where I ate too much all at once.
I rode at 25 km/h for the first part of the day, and gradually increased over the day. I noticed that I ride the fastest around 4pm, once the sun started to go down.
We shall see how mentally tough I am…