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RAAM Eastern Shore Crew Training Weekend

by on May 16, 2011

Team Randy Mouri, solo racer in the Race Across America (RAAM) hosted a crew training event Friday evening into late Saturday night.  There were three key goals.  (1) Make sure the crew knew their tasks and had some practice at those tasks, (2) Create the opportunity for bonding between crew, and (3) provide an opportunity for Randy to get some miles in.

The training weekend was delayed an hour or two because of traffic around Washington, D.C.  We arrived at crew member Troy’s summer home near Cambridge, MD between 8:30 & 9:15 p.m.  As we gathered, we ate (a theme that will continue through the next month).  Troy is a Culinary Institute of America (New York) graduate, and he knows how to cook.  He used this training event to help calculate food portions and to develop a budget for our meals while on RAAM.  Let me tell you.  We will eat well, with an eye on making sure we have proper nutrition for the high stress and little exercise or sleep over the duration of RAAM.  We then spent some time preparing the follow vehicle with lights and sound, and reviewing the tasks and crew assignments.

While on RAAM, there will be three vehicles for 10 crew members divided into 3 teams plus one individual.  The follow vehicle is equipped to provide whatever support Randy needs, from nutrition to clothing, to spare bikes, to bike repairs.  Three tasks in this vehicle include Driver (who drives and is responsible for the bike on the stops), the navigator (who navigates and communicates with Randy), and the Nutritionist (who prepares and provides the food/water/clothing needs for Randy as well as maintaining the official log).  These tasks are specific, both while Randy is riding and while he is stopped to make the time on the bike as efficient as possible and to minimize time off the bike.  The support vehicle is an all-purpose vehicle.  Tasks while crewing the support vehicle includes scouting the route and the turns, reporting in at the controls, shopping for supplies, doing laundry, searching out shower facilities, and providing back-up.  The RV is available for Randy’s sleeping, crew sleeping, food preparation, emergency restroom.  The one individual that seems to be “extra” is the massage therapist, who is on call 24 hours a day, and will also serve as driver of the RV.  At least, that is the plan.  We will adapt as necessary.

After preparing what needed to be prepared, the crew and Randy proceeded to the Chesapeake High School where we planned to stage the training.  The bike was prepared.  Randy was dressed.  Crew 1 (I was part of Crew 2) prepared to follow.  Randy pushed off at about 12:15 a.m. Saturday morning, hardly waiting for the follow van.  Crew 2 packed the RV, making sure there was room for our gear, and then settled down for a quick nap.  The cycling plan was for 50 mile loops of about 2.5 – 3 hours each, so the nap would be short.  I plugged ear buds in with some thunderstorm “white noise” to assist in getting to sleep, and just as I was dozing off, someone drove up next to the RV in an El Camino, and just sat for about 3 minutes.  Our curiosity was peaked, and so peering out the window, we witnessed something none of us could have imagined.  A man got out of the car, moved to the back of the vehicle, and began pushing it.  He pushed it for about 50 yards … stopped … moved to the front and pushed it back.  He repeated this about 5 times, with slightly longer breaks between pushes, then got back in the car, and drove off.  Odd exercise at 1:00 a.m.  Our crew chief received a couple of phone call updates from the follow team.  I dozed for what was probably close to an hour with intermittent periods of wakefulness.  Soon it was time to get up and prepare for the change of crew and our chance to follow Randy.  But first, we had to adapt.  The follow van’s oil light came on, and I went to the Royal Farms to buy some oil.  While there the heavens opened up with a torrential downpour.  But that was nothing compared to what Randy encountered during his first 50 mile loop.

Part of the planned course was flooded.  Not only that, but the flooding was deep enough that Randy’s feet were completely submerged on the down stroke.  Not only that, but the water was deep enough that there were fish in the water on the road, and one 18 inch long fish bounced off the spokes of Randy’s front wheel.  Rather than ride loops through this water each time, we went back to Troy’s house for our new staging area, and switched up crew so that Troy could map out a new route as Richard wrote down the route for later and I drove.  We were delayed significantly as we worked out all these logistical changes, and didn’t push off until shortly after 4:00 a.m. in what was now light, steady rain.  The rain lasted until dawn.

RAAM rules state that at night, the rider must be in the follow vehicle’s headlights at all times.  The driver maintains appropriate follow distance while watching the rear view mirror for passing traffic, watches the course and the rider and keeps an ear tuned to the other crew in the van.  I caught on very quickly except that I often forgot to dim the headlights for oncoming traffic.  The navigator did a nice job reminding me.  Randy rode well.  Soon we were back at Troy’s house, for a fine cooked breakfast and Randy took a nap.

The other crew then took Randy out for another 50 mile loop.  After a little maintenance we settled for another possible nap.  Just as I was falling asleep, a neighbor of Troy’s came knocking around checking out the odd goings on at this house.  She just couldn’t figure out why all the coming and going all night, and was determined to find out what was happening.  The biggest impact of her visit was destruction of a nap.

A previous crew training revealed that the crew was usually so busy that it was hard to post to Randy’s blog and keep those lines of communication open.  We all tried hard to feed information to Leo, who is doing all the posting from his home.  We communicate what is happening, and he keeps the blog updated.  Even so, it requires us to feed him the information, take the photos, and doing this all while supporting Randy’s ride.  I blew through the battery on my smartphone pretty quickly. We had a great lunch, then we received a call from the follow crew and the plan was for a quick transition.  We accomplished it pretty well.

My second stint in the follow van was mile 150-200 for Randy.  It was warming up, and watching his fluid and calorie intake was my job.  That’s done from the back seat of the van, and organization, speed, and accuracy is key.  When Randy wants twizzlers, or sports beans, or a banana, the Nutritionist needs to know where it is and record every calorie.  We had a pretty good time with the team in the van, some good connections were made.  At the end, we planned another quick change, practiced it, but Randy was ready for rest.  He tried to nap, but with everyone in the house in the same room, he drifted into sleep and back out multiple times.

We ate dinner.  Another amazing meal.  We reviewed our learning.  And then it was decided to try the first route again to see how the flooded roads were doing.  Randy had done the new route 3 times, and it was pretty dull.  We will need to find ways to keep him engaged and keep boredom at bay.

Since it was my rest shift, and I needed to get back home to prepare for church the next day, I left early (as planned).  Randy was only going to do one more loop and then all would be headed back home.

This was a great event.  I connected with some good people, and we learned a lot about what it is to support Randy in this ride.

I’m looking forward to our next crew meeting, the last one before we travel to California for the start of RAAM.

I’ll load some photos tomorrow.

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From → RAAM

One Comment
  1. From my military experience, I think this rigorous (as opposed to rigid) definition of jobs bodes well for the big ride. Exciting stuff….

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