I just got finished watching the DVD Bicycle Dreams, by Stephen Auerbach. It is a documentary of the 2005 RAAM, Race Across America. The film covers the Solo rider category, not the Team Relay and Tandem riders. The gist of RAAM is the qualified riders (yes you have to earn a ticket to ride RAAM) ride from Oceanside Pier, in Oceanside California to Atlantic City Pier, in Atlantic City New Jersey in about 10 days or less, with no rest days, and they must meet time cutoffs. By that, I mean you must have reached time station X, by time Y in order to continue to ride. All riders must follow the route laid out in the race plan. Yeah, that is over 3000 miles total.
I am not RAAM material. At least not rider-material. I have wondered if I could help crew for a rider or team though. I think that would actually suit me better, for while I love to ride, I have no desire to put myself through what RAAM does to folks. The sleep deprivation alone would probably do me in! I honestly would do better on the TransAmerica Trail. That way I could be a tourista instead, and not have time cutoffs forced on my slow old self.
Dave and I were talking about two of the riders, both of whom looked like folks we would enjoy meeting--Dr Breedlove MD, and Dr Berge DVM. Dr Breedlove appears a lot in the film, and is always in a good mood, smiling and joking and having fun. This was not his first RAAM. Dr Berge I think was the only woman appearing in the film as a rider. She hails from Sweden, and has a reputation as an excellent rider, and a mentor to other women long distance cyclists.
It was sad to realize, not 5 minutes later in the film after we had been talking, that it was Dr Breedlove who was killed in a truck/bike collision. We both knew someone had been killed in the 2005 RAAM, but didn't know which rider. And then to also know Jure Robic was killed a few years later, near his home in Slovenia, in a car/bike collision. It's enough to make you think...Right or wrong, the cyclist always loses. Right or wrong, the car always wins. It's simply physics, at the point of impact.
But I will keep on riding, on the roads of NTX. It's odd, but I feel safer on the roads than I do on the Multi-User Paths. Cars are fairly predictable. Small kids and dogs, and joggers on the MUP are not...I do all I can to be safe riding. Lots of Hi-Vis clothing, Dinotte tail lights and headlight (1200 lumens OTF), helmet light, lots of reflective material on myself and the bike, and perhaps more important is having a good attitude and behaving like a vehicle. It's called Vehicular Cycling, and the basic concept is, if you act like a car (albeit a slow one), you will get treated more like a car.
If you get a chance to see Bicycle Dreams, it is a good film, especially if you ever wondered what it was like for "real people", not the pros, to compete in a pinnacle Ultra Cycling event. A good companion read is Dex Tooke's book Unfinished Business, one man's personal story of his 2 RAAM attempts.
Stay safe out there, my fellow cyclists! But have fun out riding too!