Friday, June 19, 2009

RAAM 2009

Check out the main blog for team updates and don't be shy about sending us personal messages of support to my e-mail

See you in Annapolis!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

11th Hour

'Twas the night before RAAM and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for Andy Claflin.

Not sure where I got the reputation as the "enforcer" on Team Strong Heart, but I'll happily oblige. I'm having a very easy time these days getting ready for RAAM. No, I'm not bragging, it just seems like the miles have come on fairly easy, with a fairly low level of stress. I think I'm in the mode, from about now until June 20, where my energy and attention begins to focus, forming around the task at hand.

Last year at this time I was racing my bike across the country solo and my biggest concern was figuring out how I lost so much damned weight in the first 50 miles of the race (5 pounds) and how in the heck I got to Flagstaff, Arizona on a bicycle. This year won't be much different, although I'm hoping and praying that my ugly, festering friends (saddle sores, not you Andy), don't make a repeat appearance on my firm, white behind.

What a difference a year makes. Yeah, I'm psyched to be racing across the country again with Team Strong Heart. We have assembled, yet again(!), an amazing group of racers, crew and supporters, who have answered the call and have committed to what could quite possibly be the most insane and incredible sporting event ever devised. Cruel and inhumane were frequented words last year. This year it's all about the speed, the comradery and the sheer force of will that will power all of us from sea to shining sea. But I digress.

As each of us narrows out the last few days before jumping into the RAAM pressure cooker, take some time to get out and enjoy a ride before you enjoy riding at 3am in the mountains (yes they are mountains!) of Virginia, or enjoy speeding west to east through Kansas (a very large state indeed).

The Race Across America is an odyssey and adventure with no peer. It is unique, challenging and exposes pretenders from the very outset.

At the 11th hour take heed of what we are about the engage in and understand that the person you know leaving for Oceanside, or leaving from Oceanside, will NOT be the person you find in Annapolis, or back in CO or MN.

See you at the start line.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Places In Between

When I was young, the worst part of Christmastime was that dang piece right before the 25th, where the church-going had been churched the goose had been cooked and all we had to do was just sit around, get a full night's sleep and then see what Santa brought us in the morning.

In a little over two weeks we, Team Strong Heart, are headed out to California to begin another edition of the Race Across America, and yes, this is my new version of Christmas.

The challenge now, as the time winds down is, how much training do we do, do I have everything I need, where is that damn chamois cream from last year, etc. All the pieces have fallen into place in the past, but every year the stress level begins to build and the head starts to feel as though it will crack open and spill the contents.

If you, or someone you love, is about to embark on this journey, then I implore you to please have patience. We, the racers of RAAM, are a unique breed and our uniqueness will start to shine through as we get closer to the race. The sort of person who would agree to race his or her bicycle across the country is not the same workaday sort who you usually encounter on the street. The person who would agree to crew for that sort of person, well, that's just sick and wrong. So...what I'm asking for is a little peace, love and understanding from everyone out there who is rolling with a RAAM racer, organizer or crew member.

We are about to embark on an absolute odyssey of the mind and body. I can guarantee that the loved one you wave goodbye to in Oceanside is not the same loved one you will get back in Annapolis. Something ever so slightly changes when you are "forced" onto your bike at 3am in the middle of Missouri and that change is powerful to the person who experiences it first hand. The meaning of hard work, sacrifice, misery, teamwork, etc., all get mashed and rearranged along the RAAM route.

The places in between are where our integrity (and crazy, super fast, killer speed) shines through.

See you in Oceanside.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Waking the Giant

I don't have much to say, but wanted to move on from my last morose posting. The ups and downs of life have been weaving through many of our lives on Team Strong Heart. This is a very "testy" time of year for we who attack the RAAM-beast, whether it be the relay or solo beasty.

We're looking for crew, buttoning up the travel logistics and mostly trying to stay sane with approximately 6 weeks to the start of the biggest, baddest race of them all.

In Colorado we're trying desperately to get the race season started, what with the snow, rain, etc. that seems to descend on our region every weekend. I'm pretty much a lump right now. A fit lump to be sure, but it's hard for me to get really excited what with the clouds (physical and mental) that seem to move into my region every now and again.

I suppose the quiet moments provide the hardest truthes and lately the silence seems to be telling me that the hardest tasks, the dearest efforts and the greatest results all start with the same first step towards the finish.

Time to harden up and get a move on.

Keep the rubber side down.


Friday, April 24, 2009

A few words

Yesterday one of my co-workers from Boulder Fire Rescue lost his only two daughters in a car crash near their home.  Heading into yesterday I was totally wiped from riding much, maybe too much, reeling from that and really just kind of feeling crappy and tired.  I pulled up to Station One on my bike ride home to say hello and found out what had happened that morning.  He found out while working, getting the call from his wife who told him to come to the hospital.  It was bad.  

Haven't been sleeping much or well lately, stressed about RAAM and other random stuff that comes and goes but mostly comes on strong overnight when things get lonely, regardless of where you are or who you're with.  Last night was a tough night.  I have absolutely no idea what it's like to lose both of your daughters in an instant, the one basically dying on scene and the other waiting to have her organs donated.   

I got called into work this morning and felt like that was where I needed to be.  Figured I maybe got a couple hours of sleep last night, but still felt like I needed to come in and commune with the guys I spend a good portion of my life with.  

Riding home from Station One didn't hurt as bad yesterday and really we shouldn't complain. Life is stressful.  RAAM is inherently stressful and tests our mettle well before we turn over the first pedal stroke, enroute to Annapolis.  It's odd, but I'd give up every single night of sleep for the rest of my life if my co-worker and his family could have their daughters back for one more hour.

It just ain't as tough as it could be.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Not much to write about at the moment. Watched the Paris Roubaix last night and was reminded that there are some major bad asses in European cycling. I guess we can all sort of get to that bad ass status in some manner, whether it's killing it on a group ride with friends, attacking the last hill at the business park criterium, whatever it is.

That's one of the great things about cycling. How many people watch NASCAR and then go out and race their family sedan at Daytona? Oh yeah, instead they drive like morons locally. I call those people my meal ticket, if you know what I mean. We, the cyclists, can go out, buy the bike that Lance races on (if you'd like to take out a second mortgage), get out on the road and imagine ourselves crushing the slopes of Hautacam or Alpe d'Huez, etc.

I don't dream in terms of climbing a switchback, I dream of wind, wet and cold cobblestones. I dream of windswept farm roads on a bleak day in northern Belgium (or Minnesota). And so, that is generally what I train for. Last weekend I rolled out with some friends for a tough, tough group ride filled with climbing and cold and rain and snow and wind. Those guys were climbing like mountain goats and I was struggling to maintain contact at all points, except on the way back when we hit a wall of wind and cold and rolling terrain. I even remarked to one of my miniature climbing friends that we had finally hit the part of the ride that I could enjoy, after 4 hours and into a nasty head/crosswind.

Lance famously said it's not about the bike and I say it's all about preference. Call me the "rolleur" of the group, the guy that gets up front and drags you home after many hours of hard riding. I'll never be pulling away on a climb (unless you let me ;)), but I'll certainly pay you back for dragging my ass up and over mountain passes by letting you get a sweet draft when the cards are down.

Last night I watched the hard men of the peloton enact their version of the "passion play," with their entire body quaking over the cobbles, but making it look oh so easy. Overnight I drempt I was bloody and battered and dusty, with grit and grime wedged in my teeth and ears, pounding out mile after mile of pave and when I leave work Thursday morning I'll jump on my bike and continue the dream.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cruelty, Thy Name Is...

The WEATHER is actually the cruel and unusual punisher this time of year out in Colorado. Boo hoo...we actually haven't had much of a winter and I've definitely been sporting a cycling tan since late February, so the past week or so has really thrown me, and much of Colorado for a loop. Between work and the weather I really haven't ridden much outdoors for a week, or so. The race last weekend was cancelled and this weekend ain't really looking much more promising (it's raining as I type). Yep, I said ain't.

So we all have choices. Not feeling 100%? Lots of work, not enough time? Weather got you down? HTFU. E-mail me for the acronym. Really, it's "easy" being an athlete when the weather's great, the wind is at your back and work is smooth sailing. I can count on maybe one hand those sorts of moments, in the past year, where I was dead-on, fully rested and kicking butt out on the road. Those sorts of moments are pure gold, but let's face it, how often do we find ourselves in that exact situation? We have progressive overload, periodization, etc., etc., all designed to get us to the start line of that "A" race fully charged and ready to go. But really, how often does that happen.

I know since moving out to Colorado from the crap weather capital of the U.S., Minnesota, that I've grown soft and accustomed to the March tan lines, but frankly, it is damn windy out here, like so windy that it might as well be 10 degrees outside, like if I open my mouth into the wind I look like that test subject from the Air Force gyrotron with my cheeks splayed against my ears. Like that kind of wind.

Blah, blah, blah. The true test of an athlete, in my little world, is what she or he does when no one is looking. How do you handle yourself when weather or work or family throws its worst at you? Yeah, I haven't ridden outdoors this week, except for a failed mountain bike ride a few days ago, but I'll have you know that since last Saturday, I've put in 12 hours on my bike, been to the gym 4 times and have posted about 20 hours of workout time in less than a week. What have you been doing? That isn't a brag or a challenge, because honestly, if you aren't on my team, I could care less what you're up to, but just understand that when you're watching the boob tube or getting shammered at a bar, chances are I and my team are on the bike, training or sleeping so we can get up and do it all over the next day.

We all have choices to make and weather this time of year sucks in many parts of the country. I read Jure Robic and others postings on various social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Those guys are pounding hard, day in and day out, following the righteous path of the endurance athlete who's answered the call, does what nobody else is willing to do and shows up on race day ready to kick butt.

So there...

Keep the rubber side down.