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Inside RAAM – The Aftermath

by on July 16, 2015

RAAM Team Beau, Babe, & Buds crossed the finish line in 7 days, 3 hours, 41 minutes.  We didn’t set a record.  We did win the 4 person mixed gender (60-69 year old) division.  In a series of posts, I intend to take you inside this RAAM team ride, describing as much as possible what it was like and how we responded to challenging circumstances.

This first post describes the week following the race.  It was a week full of surprises.

As prelude, let me simply say that I suffered some dramatic sleep deprivation symptoms during the race, and most of the last 24 hours of the race were completed in chilly 60 degree temperatures in pouring rain.  You will be able to read about those details later.

As fatigued as I was at the end of RAAM, it took a full week for me to return to something like a normal sleep schedule.  For a full seven days, I slept no more than two hours at a time.  At night, I was constantly dreaming about rider exchanges and bicycle racing.  I would wake up when it was “my turn” to ride.  I’d get up, go to the bathroom, and head back to bed for another two hours of sleep.  On day 8 I slept 4 hours and didn’t dream of racing.  On day 9 I slept something like 6-7 hours without waking.  There were no dreams that night either.

The first night back home was the worst.  I think I had become hypodermic during the last day of racing.  In addition to sleeping only a maximum of two hours at a time I had symptoms other than the dreaming that impacted my sleep.  The first was night sweats.  I sweated heavily until the sheets were soaking wet and then became chilled to the point of shivering.  I’d throw a sheet back over me to warm up and start sweating all over again.  There was no middle ground.  In addition, sometimes the shivering seemed to be more like muscles firing uncontrollably so that my whole body shook as if I were locked in a whole body tremor.  I’d describe it like a seizure except that there was no real rigidity of the muscles.  These shaking episodes lasted only a few seconds but would leave me exhausted.  Needless to say, after that first night, naps were in order during the day.  I think I got two.  I did take my temperature the first morning after RAAM and it registered about 1 degree below normal for me.

The second night the night sweats continued, but were not as bad.  The tremors also diminished but were still there occasionally.  By the second morning, I was ready for the dreams to stop, but as I said earlier, they continued for a full week.

By the third night, there were no more night sweats or tremors.  I was still getting up every two hours.  Getting back to sleep usually wasn’t a problem.

On Wednesday (the race finished Saturday evening) I developed a bad cold.  A friend had commented on Tuesday morning that given what I had done to my immune system, he was surprised I wasn’t sick.  I blame him.  The very next morning I was ill.  I had sinus congestion, lung congestion, and simply felt miserable.  I had to sleep for 3-4 days with my head elevated in order to sleep my two hours at a time, and if I got a little too warm, I started coughing hard.  That meant that some of the time I slept in a chair with no blanket or sheet just to stay cool enough to keep from coughing.  Lori and I went away Wednesday evening for a mini vacation, and I was pretty miserable at night the whole time.  To keep from coughing I had to stay cool enough that it was uncomfortable.

When I finally did sleep for a 4 hour stretch on the 8th night, it was wonderful!

I got out on the bicycle for a ride on the Tuesday following the race.  It felt good to be out and ride a 20 mile stretch with friends.  I didn’t take the bike on the mini vacation.  I have found that even though riding the bike feels pretty good, I’m quicker with an excuse to not ride.  I’ve not ridden more days than I’ve ridden in the nearly 3 weeks since RAAM, putting in fewer than 150 miles.  I’ve enjoyed every ride.  It is just getting out the door that seem harder than it used to be.

My ability to focus on a task longer than about 10 minutes was severely compromised the first few days after RAAM.  I fully intended to begin writing about my RAAM experience on day 2 & 3 post RAAM, but I really couldn’t pull together the thoughts or organization needed to begin.  I’m really glad I didn’t go back to work immediately because I simply had trouble focusing on tasks.

I will also admit that 20 days after the race, there is not a day in which I haven’t taken at least a short 15-20 minute nap.

I started by saying that I was surprised by these post race symptoms.  I expected sore muscles, tender tissues, etc.  Even though I rode about 800 miles that week, it seems that since they were in relatively short “bursts”, the physical exertion didn’t reach the level where there would be the residual physical effects I’ve experienced after other long rides.

Thanks for reading.  More later.

From → Cycling

  1. john corse permalink

    Thanks. That doesn’t sound like an experience I want to suffer through!

  2. Georgi Stoychev permalink

    Glad to know the effects of RAAM. WHat an effort

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