After riding 1,663 miles in less than eight straight days, could you still ride at 14.5 mph? That’s the pace my client Michael Glass (age 55) is riding on Wednesday morning, June 20th, in the solo Race Across AMerica (RAAM). He is 1,963 miles into the race with 1,107 miles to go. He’s averaging 251 miles per day at an average riding speed of 13.1 mph, with only about five hours a day off the bike.
In the solo race, as of Wednesday morning, Christoph Strasser is 433 miles ahead of second place and is projected to win in 8 days. Strasser also won RAAM in 2017, 2014, 2013, and 2011. A few experienced elite riders race at the front. For most riders it’s an expedition to get to across the country rather than dropping out. So far only nine riders have dropped.
Of the 32 solo riders who started RAAM, 14 are age 50 and older. These racers aren’t gifted athletes. They are ordinary roadies who have made training for and participating in RAAM a high priority. Michael has a family and is an attorney with his own law firm. He had a good base when I started working with him in mid-February 2018. Since then he averaged 15 hours a week of training for 18 weeks totaling about 3500 miles to the start of RAAM.
I have raced solo RAAM and in my 23 years of coaching I have coached dozens of solo and team racers including racers who set solo age 60+ records and four-man teams who set age 60+ and age 70+ records.
I interviewed Michael briefly as he approached the Mississippi River. I asked him how he is feeling in his rookie RAAM, “I feel great. I’m getting stronger on the bike every day.” He’s eating carbs: gummies, caramels and Gatorade. His cook is making him balls of pasta, potatoes or rice, each with bacon for flavor and for sodium.
Typically a rider sleeps about 1:30 to 3:00 hours a night. I asked about his sleep, “I can’t sleep that long. I sit up after an hour and am ready to get on the bike. When I get too sleepy on the bike I stop for a 10-minute nap. I actually fall asleep briefly and am revived when I wake up.”
“Any physical problems?” “My neck is giving out and I’m having trouble holding my head up. I can’t ride my tri bike anymore with the lower aerobars and still see down the road.” I chatted with his crew chief, Jared. He’s going to try to rig a neck brace so Michael can still see down the road. Jared said, “I’m pushing him, but not so hard that he falls asleep on the bike, crashes and suffers a permanent injury. It’s not worth it.”
The solo riders left Oceanside, CA on June 9, 2018 and will finish 3,070 miles later in Atlantic City, MD. The race is arguably the world’s toughest bike race. Unlike a pro race with daily stages, RAAM is one continuous stage. The clock starts in Oceanside and doesn’t stop until a rider reaches the finish line.
Time management is critical. A rider must finish under 12 days, including all the time riding as well as all the time off the bike. Each racer has a 6 – 12 person crew to take care of everything except riding the bike: driving and navigating the pace van that’s always with the rider, feeding the rider and keeping him hydrated, taking care of flat tires and other mechanicals, playing music and talking to keep the rider awake during the wee hours, driving go-fer car that fetches food, ice and other supplies and driving and navigating the RV where the rider and crew sleep.
There are also two-, four- and eight-person relay team divisions who started on Friday, June 12. 28 teams are racing this year including eight teams in the age 50-59 division, three in the 60-69 division and one team of 70+ riders! The clock also runs continuously for the teams.
The riders raced through heat in the triple digits in California and Arizona and over Wolf Creek (10,857 ft.) and Cuchara (9,938 ft.) passes in Colorado. The race leaders are in the Eastern mountains while most of the riders are now crossing the Midwest.
These age 50+ roadies are great examples of slowing down the aging process.
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Remember, aging is a state of mind.