OK, let's face it. There's not much more that I can do to be ready for RAAM. I've ridden long, I've ridden hard, I've ridden long AND hard. I've got jerseys and team gear. I've got two GREAT bikes, complete with the worlds' pinkest, trickest, nicest idlers. I've got an amazing crew and my vans are secured. I've even got my crew organizing my vans. Last weekend Mandy's dad Chris put the first of the RAAM beds into Eggplant (my purple minivan; sorry Greg, but your white van has already been dubbed "Beluga"). Dang - that's some cabinetry!
So - although there are still about a million tiny details to work out, the hard logistics are done, and I can sit in just a bit. And after a lot of solo training, I've got an unspeakable urge to connect. It feels right - part of RAAM is "going home" in a very real way - and so I'm giving in to it.
Last weekend after a tough training week I kicked back a little bit - I was a clipboard holder/sign waver at the Deschutes River Valley TT Festival. Normally I'd be racing this event. It was cool to be watching, though, and I got to get some riding in as well as some social time with a bunch of local racers. After the last racer was off, I faced down Bakeoven Hill. It was hills like this - not just long, not just steep, but long and steep - that put me into the "recupright" division last year at RAO - I was too new to recumbent geometry and handling to be secure on the steep stuff. Sunday morning, I slithered right up. Doing it without a thought about "what if" was pretty cool. Once I was past the steep part of the climb, on the false flats, the "real" racers started pouring by, already heading back on the out-and-back course. I knew almost everyone by name - something that wouldn't have happened if I'd been racing - and I had a great time cheering. Pretty cool.
The trip down was a blast, too -I had the iPod going at full throttle. Here's what I got for the final descent:
which made me think that I should have a "designated descender" playlist! I'll take nominations for what (else) should be on it...
This weekend I'll get to do a 400k with the Oregon Randonneurs. Believe it or not this will be my first rando ride of the year! Wow. I've been busy doing other things. Randonneuring rides don't set any speed records, but that's okay. It will be good to hang out with that tribe, too, and enjoy the covered bridges of the Willamette Valley. I'll probably manage to sneak in a corn dog or two at the controls.
The following two weekends are going to be particularly special. First, I'm going to tackle the mother of all bike-commutes: I'm going to ride down to the Tour of the Unknown Coast. David Bradley is kindly hosting a double century option for this ride, which is enough of a beast in its own right (nearly 10k' of climbing in the century). The double century? Easy - just turn around and do it...again. Yikes. I can't wait to connect with the Arcata folks again, and to be in the company of a bunch of happy riders and really big trees.
If a 500-mile training weekend is a good thing, the following weekend will only be half-good. We're going to ride the back half of the RAO course. Dennis Johnson - an amazing ultradistance 'bent rider from Texas - is spearheading this one, and I'm tagging along with a few friends. This will be our opportunity to troubleshoot, do a test run on the electronics, the comm system, etc. Rumor has it that George Thomas, RAO race director, and his RAW teammate Mick Walsh will be out there training on the course at the same time. I'm sure they'll rocket past us at a high rate of speed, just like they will as we're approaching Durango this June. Again, it'll be great seeing everyone, being part of something a little bigger than a solo ride, being immersed in the world of vans, coolers, and walkie-talkies, and growing all our stories just a little bit bigger with one more telling....
Times like this I'm reminded of my "parting gift" from Susan Notorangelo, after I DNF'd RAAM in 2002. She told me something that it took me a very long time to understand, and a bit longer still to get right - that I'd be ready for solo RAAM when I had the right people around me.
And here we go.