We have been taking advantage of Christmas sales to pick up a few items for RAW 2019. One of them arrived today, my TechKewl Hybrid Sport Cooling Vest. I got the idea from Eva Hansen's 2015 story on the Strongher web site, and researched the technology. In 2014, pro teams warming up at the Tour de France started using the vests to keep core temperatures down while preparing for hot stages (see Tour de France Cooling Vests). After reading Eva's experience, I decided to go with a hybrid vest, which has a phase changing Coolpax material that should last several hours, and a quilted material that cools evaporatively. I can't wait to try it.
The RAW and RAAM are rather famous for early crossing of the Sonoran Desert. After passing through Ranchita CA, at about 75 miles (this should be about 5:30 pm on Day One, the route plunges down the Glass Elevator descent to Borrego Springs. In just under 11 miles, the route drops 3500' in elevation. What a difference a few miles and 4000 feet of elevation make! By 6 pm, I should be in the desert heat, beginning the crossing with about 2 hours left until sunset.
From there, after a relatively flat 12 miles, you descend again, pass south of the Salton Sea, and reach the lowest point on the RAW course at about 170 ft. below sea level. The average high temperature in Brawley CA on the desert floor in June is about 105 F. From here, the course crosses the Algodones Dunes (mile 166), and for the next 200 miles across the Sonoran Desert. Many DNFs in the RAW and the RAAM happen in the desert. Fortunately, after surviving those first few hours out of Borrego Springs, much of the hottest part of the desert will be at night.
I'm pretty used to training in the heat in Tucson. During the summer, I regularly commute home from work when the temperature is well over 100 F. One day last year, I actually did the commute when it was 117 F. The commute is only a bit over an hour, and there is plenty of time to recover. The challenge at RAW will be riding several hours across the desert while staying hydrated, cool, and ready to continue riding another 600 miles. Hopefully the vest, a few refill CoolPax's, and a water sprayer to keep the material wet will help me through it.
Today was a bit of a milestone... less than 200 days until RAW. At times I feel a bit like a kid that climbed up to the top of the high dive when all his friends were watching. The initial outpouring of offers of support and encouragement have been incredible. The crew is taking shape. I hope I make it across the desert.
Day 13, 199 d, 18 h, 39 m to RAW 2019.
My interest in ultracycling dates back when I first started seriously riding a bike in college in the early 1980s. This is my RAAM story preparing to compete in the Race Across the West in 2020 and RAAM 2021.