By Dave Preston,
I am now back home in Seattle and finally have decompressed enough to sit down and write a small race report on Race Across the West (RAW).
First off, I had a stellar crew, loved every one of them, we truly became family by the end! I had told them briefly at our Oceanside Motel 6 parking that we would become friends for life through this, and I was not wrong. So big thanks to Manny Casillas, Tom Gunther, Andy Grow, Heather Goss, and Divya Tate for the sacrifices they made. And honestly, I don’t think I have seen a more cohesive crew – at least from my perspective – and I have had some great crew members in the past. It was a great mixture of Texas, Michigan, California, and India supporting a Seattle-ite.
We had a blast, and we shared quite a bit of the Adventure via Facebook posts, tags etc. Feel free to see the proof on my Facebook wall: www.facebook.com/preston325. But, I must say, I sound much better singing in person, Ha! At least to me I do. The crew did a great job keeping me entertained, including the singing – and apparently that is not uncommon to entertain riders by various means (after seeing some posts on what Strasser’s crew was doing).
So here is the report…
Jim Gourley in his “are-you-ready-to-rumble” announcer voice called me to start, said a bunch of “nice stuff”, but the only words I recall were “Not a stranger to gettin’ it done” – referencing last year’s 2-Man Race Across America where I had to pick up the final 500 miles over the Appalachians solo due to my teammate getting sick.
So I stood waiting for the 60 seconds to pass so I could finally get rolling at precisely 15:19:00 EST, my official start time. I love anticipation, and I had anticipated this start for 12 months – more or less after finishing two-man RAAM last year.
Meanwhile, Fred Boethling leans over and asks with a grin, “Are you nervous?” – “Ha! Yahhh”, I said a bit sarcastically, but now wondered if I should not be nervous… At any rate, any anxiety I felt I knew would leave as soon as the peddling would start. And like I said I love the anticipation, and the butterflies. It lets me know I care about what I am doing – been that way since T-ball.
I felt really great out of the gate, and had gotten all the way to Blythe, CA (CA/AZ Border town, 235 miles in), in 12 hours. Although my cardio systems were feeling great, I was having some left knee pain early on – I thought I had cleared it up the week prior, but it returned while climbing Palomar. So we had to start a painkiller regimen after descending the glass elevator into Borrego Springs. Pain was inevitable at some point during a race like this, I was just hoping it would not have come this soon. But it did, and we dealt with it – Ibuprofen, Tylenol, BioFreeze, etc. throughout the race.
After Blythe, we continued with a pretty good pace into Parker, AZ, 286 miles in. Rob White and I had been riding around each other until Parker, AZ for that 3rd place spot behind Marko Baloh and Adam Bickett who were both already way out front.
Then it was on to Salome, AZ. And I must say that the 40 mile+ stretch to Salome is one of my least favorite stretches (IN THE WORLD). It’s straight as an arrow, the scenery does not change, its uphill, but looks flat (so you think you should be going a lot faster than you are), and there is usually a slight headwind. So getting to Salome, was a mental challenge to say the least, and during that period White, and David Disney passed me. But I finally got to that left turn to head towards Congress, AZ and things got a lot better.
I caught Disney in Congress, and we were riding fairly close. He then passed me up the climb into Prescott. I continued to ride a steady 8 to 10 miles Behind Disney and was trying to catch him by Flagstaff, AZ 556 miles in, but he had made it there 48 minutes ahead of me. The climb on I-17 into Flagstaff was also a bit of a mental challenge because it was 3000 feet of gain in less than 15 miles, and it was in the wee hours of the morning (2AM – 4AM) when I hit it, and I was starting to get the “snoozies”. I am not sure where, but somewhere along there I think we went down for an hour.
After leaving Flagstaff and heading north on US-89, I got to within 4 miles of Disney, and then I heard a very loud BANG! And, I remember thinking, “What IS that?!!” Then, BANG Again! I then realized that I had just gotten hit by an RV, and a second time. Yes, a massive boxy-winnebago-type-thing crossed over the white line and the rumble strip and clipped my left arm, probably going between 50-60 MPH. I am not sure what hit my arm, probably a mirror or door handle (something with a little give, else I’d probably be dead), but it knocked my left arm forward off my handle bars and twisted me to the right, which caused my left should and upper back to “bounce” into and off of the side of the RV which caused me to ride straight again. It seemed to happen in “Slow-Mo” and during that short period of time, there were a lot of thoughts going through my head. One of which was, “Goodbye world, I’m about to become hamburger all over the road.” But I didn’t go down – God was watching out for me (again, like He always does).
I then looked down at my arm to see a huge contusion and it was swelling swelling quickly. At that instant I thought for sure my elbow was busted up inside, and that my race was over. We were in leapfrog support, and the crew had not leaped ahead yet, so I knew they would be coming up soon. Andy and Divya arrived within about a minute, and found me hunched over my bike holding my arm. Andy, a coast guard guy, and former EMT, did a minor assessment, and thought that it was probably not broken because I still had a decent range of motion – just tightness where the swelling was. Tom, a retired CHiP officer also felt the same way as Andy when he, Heather and Manny arrived.
Andy and Divya had called Manny, Tom and Heather to notify them. So when they arrived they had brought an ACE elbow thing to put compression on my elbow. So after sitting for 40 minutes, we collectively decided to move forward, and not get the arm looked at until after the race. So, I got on the bike and rode with the ACE wrap and ice on my elbow for the next 6 hours. We kept an eye on it, and after a few hours the swelling had actually gone down, so we stopped icing and I continued to ride only with the wrap.
The RV didn’t stop, I doubt he felt anything because it was one of those massive things and he was towing an SUV behind as well. There were no brake lights either. We speculate that he saw me and was looking at me, instead of the lines on the road, which actually cause him to drift and hit me ironically… But we did watch several RVs over-cook that curve and drift over the white line at that… So who knows? But thank God for no major damage and it makes for a good story. It also didn’t have any major effect on the outcome of my race other than being a little “gun-shy” on smaller shoulders and the 40 minutes off the bike to re-group, but that felt good anyway.
As far as chasing or getting chased for the remainder of the race…, I held my 5th place position until the finish in Durango at 878 miles. Disney finished when I was still about 33 miles out. Matthew Hoffmann was putting on a good chase after me at the end too, which motivated me to push hard until the end (since he and I are good friends, I think…, right Matt?). It really was a great race!
There were several take-aways for me. Primarily managing my sleep and nutrition more effectively deeper into the race. I never “felt” any major bonks, but I certainly had several periods where my average MPH would slip down substantially – It’s now a priority to get out of those periods the quickest way possible. I also think pushing the whole distance on 2.5 hours of sleep total, may have also hindered the average MPH in certain stretches.
I also realize I am far from done with endurance cycling. It was awesome to ride around all the RAAM riders all the way to Durango, so there are many more races to come, including me being serious about raising the funds for a 2016 RAAM solo.
BTW, the crew kept a small journal of some funny quotes that [apparently] I had said, most of which probably shouldn’t be shared here, but here is one that I thought was pretty funny…
“Every time you guys pull up next to me, I am worried you’re going to offend this guy right here. Then I realize it’s my shadow.” – And I was dead serious at that moment.
After the race, I had my arm x-rayed and nothing was broken – truly a miracle to me.
Thank you all for following the race and all the motivation you gave me throughout the race – It’s huge knowing people are there!
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