The Feed Wagon
Sunsets and a Durango Sunrise
"When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle."
~Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills
As observed by Elizabeth West in Hovel in the Hills, the bicycle is a truly remarkable, efficient, and optimized machine. On a bicycle, a fit human can cross the country in less than 8 days or complete RAW in under 3 days, sprint in the velodrome at speeds over 50 mph, and descend mountain passes at even faster speeds. All on a machine that weighs less than 18 lbs. Sunset and twilight are equally pure and beautiful. To be able to enjoy them both at the same time is really special.
I've commuted by bike for most if not all of my professional life--nearly 30 years now. Each sunrise and sunset is special. Each is different. Each is more special while riding a bike. Even on a cloudless day, daylight gives way to the subtle hues of twilight, then darkness. As an astronomer, I've always enjoyed twilight as daylight fades and reveals the wonders of the heavens. During RAW, I'll likely see three sunsets. If all goes well, the first evening sunset should be rolling into Brawley CA--welcome relief from what will likely be 105 F heat in the desert. Sunset on day two will be near Prescott AZ, with the climb to Mingus Summit and descent down Hull Canyon into Jerome taking place during evening twilight. Sunset on day three should be somewhere between Tuba City and Monument Valley. Looking at the time sheet, it's most likely that Monument Valley will be under the full moon.
Perhaps most exciting about RAW is that my third sunrise on the bike should be somewhere between Cortez CO and Durango, perhaps near Mesa Verde, making the 44 mile "sprint" for the finish. I bet that will be a memorable sunrise.
Day 31, 181 days, 16 hours to RAW 2019.
Reflections on Endurance Block 1
This was the end of week three of the first big four-week endurance training block for RAW, and I am looking forward to a consolidation (recovery) week. I'll be posting the entire training plan shortly, and look forward to learn what people think of it, and how I could adjust it. I'll also talk about what I mean by a "consolidation" week versus "recovery". This was also week two of the double-5+ hour rides, and week 3 of 7+ hour rides. I'll recap the training block next week, but it was a good start. I got both double-long rides in, got the mid-week ride up near four hours.
First Double Long Ride Weekend
This weekend was the first of what I hope will become the new normal training weekend through the winter--back to back 100+ mile rides. I'll be posting an overview of my training plan in the next month or so, but the first phase is to make the double long ride, and 8-10 h ride the "new normal" before the traditional road racing season starts in AZ. The road season is in full swing here by February and March. I plan to use the racing, and mixing it up on the group rides as the quality as I think trying to focus on both structure intervals and ultra-long rides is too much. The Tour of the Gila in early May, will be the centerpiece of the early road racing season, before transitioning to the final preparation for RAW. I raced in the very first Tour of the Gila in 1987, its always been a special race to me.
Saturday was a most excellent team ride with my Tucson Masters Cycling buddies on the Picture Rocks loop, which contains some fun short climbs. Doing my 5-6 h rides with the team ride embedded in the middle was a key part of my Hoodoo-300 training, giving me some quality, and break from the solo monotony.
The dietary lessons continue. I have found I average only about 80-85 g of protein a day. I should be up closer to 100-120 g a day, so I have a ways to go. Then today--lessons learned and learned again. With the fun and excitement of the group ride, I only ate 1400 calories (and a 250 calorie breakfast) for a 3400 calorie ride. I paid for that over the last 20 minutes or so. While I am trying to drop 2-3 lbs before the regular road racing season, crash dieting on the weekend long rides is not the way to go about it. I finished up the ride with a 58 degree ice bath in our pool, refreshing the legs, and icing a slightly achy knee.
Standing up the organization and logistics for RAW 2019 is continuing. Its a really big component of a successful attempt, and I hope to get the organizational components in place early so that I can focus on training, and the crew can focus on planning. I expect to have at least one, and perhaps two sponsor announcements in the coming weeks. I'm really excited about both of them. More to come...
Day 15, 197 d 19 h, 21 m to RAW 2019.
New Vest for the Sonoran Desert
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.
Nutrition: The nutritional training continues, with more calories from fat on the rides. Although any normal person would conclude the mass of food I carried today would be enough for an army, it was only about 2100 calories, including the Cytomax in my four bottles (and two more water bottles)--not nearly enough to stay in caloric balance for a 7 h, 4100 calorie ride. I'll get away with that for a 7 h ride, and even loose a little weight, but that will not work for a multi day event like RAW.
The good news was the two new foods on the bike. The first, FBOMB Nut Butter, by Love You Foods. I was skeptical, but it was highly recommended by Maria Crawford. Simply awesome. Twice the calories of Gu, my stomach tolerated it well--did not even hint at a complaint, and tasty Macadamia with Sea Salt flavor. Love You Foods is a small Flagstaff company. It was a major discovery. The second was a bag of Snak Club raw almonds... another 450 calories and 39 g of quality fat from the Giant gas station on Oracle. That got me home. The nutritional training goes well.
Not your low key grass roots race...
Welcome to the blog if this is your first time to find it... Click a "like" or leave a comment on the blog and let me know you visited.
Race Across the West is still 207 days away, but there seems like there is so much to do. I'm discovering it's not just a low key grass roots ultra. The logistics of crossing a third of the country, finding crew, figuring out team kits with the RAW sponsors on it too, finding some sponsors to help offset costs... it's more than I expected. I even have a logo...
Three are already 16 solo racers signed up, and 5 teams. You can see the roster at
This weekend in Tucson is "El Tour". If you are a New Englander in town, please look us up. I'll be dodging out of town around the tour for a long solo ride or two, but would love to hear from you.
Day 5: 207 d 5 h to the RAW 2019.
Today was the day I internally committed to attempting the RAW 2019. 931 miles, 47,660 feet of climbing, four states, two time zones, all in 3 days.
As I told someone before Hoodoo 300... "If it did not seem like too much, it would not be what it is."
After a few weeks of socializing the idea around, and a week of testing the interests of family, friends and teammates to crew, I decided, I'm in. Today is Day One of the journey--not so much a new journey, but part of a continuing one with a new destination along the way.
I anticipate RAW 2019 will be lots of different things, but mostly I expect an awesome (212+3.5) days of learning more about myself and the limits of what I can achieve, climaxing in the three day crossing of four states.
A bit ironically, yesterday's long ride turned into 4 1/2 strong hours, followed by a 30 min bonk... I only ate 600 calories or so over 5 hours, compared to the 2000 or so I knew I needed. Today's 1.5 hour ride was one that left me wondering I times how in the world I would ride 931. There are still lessons to learn, and relearn.
Lots new to learn over the next 212 days... how to adapt and prepare for a continuous multi-day event through two, or perhaps three sleep cycles. How to train my body nutritionally to utilize more fat. How muster a crew, prepare the logistics, solicit sponsors. How to be physically and mentally prepared to make the team proud as they work as hard as I do for 70 h or so across some truly epic scenery.
Part of the story will be sharing the story. When I was still considering RAW (and maybe someday RAAM), I was googling "Wide World of Sports RAAM". Recall that seeing the early RAAMs in the early 1980s on Wide World planted a seed, that I would later discover. I also found several stories from athletes they had shared similarly recounting the same story. Seeing those stories reinforced my commitment.
Perhaps this FB page, and my blog will just serve to help me discover and refine my thoughts and perspective. Perhaps it will lend some encouragement to someone else on the verger of attempting something beyond what they think is possible now. I hope it will help my friends, family, teammates, and supporters follow and share my journey.
Day 1: 211 d, 15 h, 45 min to RAW 2019.
After all the fun at Hoodoo, I’m considering making a run at the RAW (Race Across the West) in June 2019. 931 miles, Oceanside CA to Durango CO, starts with the RAAM. Ever since high school when the first record attempts were made, I’ve had a fascination with RAAM, and remember watching the highlights on Wide World of Sports in the mid 1980s. RAW is the second step in the progression.
I’d like to commit by the regular entry deadline at the end of November, and am looking for crew. Most of Day 2 (June 12 2019) will be crossing AZ, passing NW of Phoenix on US 60/AZ 71, through Flagstaff, and on up to the Durango. Northern AZ (likely daylight on Day 3, June 13) will be particularly tough on the crew, as a follow vehicle is required from north of Flagstaff to the UT/CO state line even in daylight, and by CO, it should be night, and follow will be required again. Flagstaff is about 600 miles into the event, so by then the Oceanside crew will really need a break.
Any help getting me across AZ and getting my crew a break would be super appreciated. Crew can join en route, and would be a great help at giving my wife and son who will likely start with me in Oceanside a much needed break. I’d still like another couple for the Oceanside start too, if you are excited about a road trip across some spectacular western landscape.
You can e-mail direct at firstname.lastname@example.org and would very much appreciate any help anyone can offer. Thanks.
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.