The day shift awoke at midnight in Trinidad, Colorado Monday night with the Rockies at their backs and nothing but 600+ miles of the Great Plains before them. The night crew had knocked off 120 miles of these flatlands when the two met up at an all night truck stop just west of Walsh, Colorado, leaving the day crew with 480 miles of Kansas to hammer through.
Jerome, the human cannon ball, got the shift rolling at 5am sharp, just as he’s done every day so far. There was a partial tailwind that helped push the riders along at 25 mph for most of the day, but they knew that those friendly winds can turn from friend to foe with a change in direction. Sure enough, by the end of the day they were dealing with a strong cross wind. This didn’t slow our riders much, and by the end of the day they’d covered 272 miles at a 22.6 mph average.
The team’s goal was to hit the midpoint of the race on Tuesday, meaning 1510 miles in 3 days, and at 2 days, 22 hours and 30 minutes Libby crossed that point! Then they added another 34 miles to their 3-day mileage.
Meanwhile, the night shift awoke in Ulysses, Kansas after a blissful 5 full hours of sleep… only to find out they had to hurry because the day shift made such great time with tailwinds across Kansas! By the time they reached the transition point, it had turned into a 30 mph crosswind…. not as much fun. Ben kicked things off and the team took shorter pulls in the 96 degree humid heat. Jeannie even had the pleasure of riding next to a plow blowing dead grass all over her and the highway!
Animal sightings were different in Kansas. Dave Gluck spotted a couple of big snakes slithering across the highway. When asked what kind they were, he was pretty sure they were “evil”. Aside from snakes, it was all about the livestock and road kill. They saw thousands of cows in a massive stockyard… burros… and while the gray van passengers were all out of the van awaiting Ben, about 50 cows made their way to the fence to say “hi”. And of course there were the dead turtles and raccoons and other indeterminate species to dodge as you biked the shoulder.
The word to describe the day is SLOG! It’s manageable, but they are hard miles with a huge wind blowing all the time, never ceasing – even as the darkness settled in. The night shift slogged their way across the eastern half of Kansas and made it to Missouri. Almost immediately after crossing the border the terrain changed to rolling hills and trees and creeks (in the dark you hear the water and the frogs) and curvy roads – they certainly welcomed the variability. At the very end of the shift, the wind finally died down a bit to welcome the day shift. The night shift was tired and didn’t make quite the progress they had hoped for, but it was still a strong day!
It seems like the riders are getting stronger as the race goes on, which is a true testament to all the training they put in over the last 9 months. It also has to do with each of them gaining confidence with the miles and getting acclimated to the crazy round the clock schedule. Our five rookies – Libby, Andrew, Dave Gluck, Ben and Jeannie – are all so impressive. Each have really pushed themselves to their limits, knowing they ride for their teammates and for their loved ones.
The crew continues to be exceptional. It’s known that RAAM crew members have a tough job, and it’s said that it’s often thankless and unrecognized – but our riders don’t want to go a second without thanking and recognizing our tireless 10-person crew. They certainly could not have a successful race without each of them! From driving and navigating 12-hours straight, being alert to follow close behind riders at times, to being a constant source of enthusiasm and emotional support to the riders, to helping with bike mechanics, unloading and reloading vehicles, laundry, errands for food… and even the simple things like keeping everyone entertained with great music along the way. Each of them do it with a smile and nonstop positive attitude, and we are so thankful for that.
And while the lack of sleep is certainly wearing on everyone, the good news is we are starting to imagine the finish line! There are a lot of miles to go and the 2nd half of the race is harder than the first half, but if we keep up this pace we’ll finish in less than 6 days!