Wednesday, April 18, 2007

24 Hour RAAM Simulation

Greg, Neil, Tim and I and our Crew Chief, Bill did our first "RAAM style" 24 hour simulation with support vans this weekend. We had two goals in mind. First, team building. This was the first time that all 5 of us were able to get together and ride. Second, we really wanted to get a feel for what the logistical challenges are for leapfrogging vans and rider exchanges in 3 and 4 rider rotations as well as learning to navigate with GPS and mapping software.

We learned lots! First off, we are blessed to have such a great group of people in Team Strong Heart! We work and ride exceptionally well together. Second, we really got a feel for the challenges that come with rotating riders every ~30 minutes. To make things a little more difficult, the riders also had to crew for each other! It's was valuable for the riders to get the opportunity to learn crewing. Although 30 minute rotations might seem odd for a simulation that last 24 hours or a race that lasts 6 to 7 days, it allows the riders to keep the intensity significantly higher without tapping into reserve stores or breaking themselves down. Being competitive in RAAM means keeping the average speed over 3100 miles at 20+ mph!

Most competitive RAAM 4 person teams employ a rotation strategy that keeps two of the riders out on the road for 2 to 5 hours (depending on conditions and time of day) while the other two rest in the RV. The two riders on the road each are assigned a support vehicle (mini van) and two crew members. The first rider puts in a 30 minute ride with the support vehicle closely following for safety. The second rider gets in the other support vehicle and drives about 8 to 10 miles up the road and waits for the first rider to overtake. The two riders overlap wheels or tag and the second rider with his support vehicle heads up the road for a 30 minute effort while the first rider is driven up the road 8 to 10 miles. On and on...during the RAAM we anticipate up to 350 rider exchanges in the 3100 mile course!

If one rider gets injured or ill, the rotation goes to a 3 person rotation that gets more complicated. Each rider will be on a 3 hour shift with a new rider rotating in every 1.5 hours while maintaining the same 30 minute efforts. This requires more work from the riders and crew.

We started off at noon on Saturday on a loop around the Stillwater area. Great scenery, good hills. Greg was taking college tests and couldn't make it out until 4pm so we worked on rotating three riders. At 5 pm, we rode over to Champlin to get experience with night riding on some safer roads and base the "graveyard" shift out of my house. Since the riders were also crewing, no one would get any rest or sleep unless we stopped the driving. Even with that no one got more than 2 hours of sleep. Neil and I got done with our shift at around 6am. I whipped up a big batch of waffles and we all got up wolfed down our first "real meal" and headed back out for more practice...only this time Angie was with us and having 2 crew made life significantly easier!

Our next big practice session is scheduled for May 12 & 13. We've planned a 36 hour simulation with 6 crew members, all 4 riders, two support vehicles and an RV to learn how to run things just like they are planned to happen in RAAM. I've heard that the best plans are typically blown away after 24 hours of RAAM, so this experience is extremely valuable in teaching us how to adapt and roll with the punches!

1 comment:

Jo Jo Fat Stuff said...

Awesome article - thanks for the lesson in RAAM racing!