You know how sometimes you hear about people doing crazy things, amazing things that you can't actually imagine achieving, and you wonder how they got there? Samim Rizvi, a good friend here in Bangalore, has done exactly that, and it is even more amazing to watch someone you've seen work to get there actually achieve what they've set out to do.
I met Sam in 2008 at my first attempt at MTB Himachal here in India, his first time on a mountain bike. (He was in my posting then, and in the CNN-IBN video clip.) Some weeks later I visited him and several other new friends in Bangalore, and over the last year and a half we have become close friends. He's actually a road racer, and has had his share of drama and thwarted plans since then in getting to this point - a 24-hour time trial to qualify for the Race Across America (RAAM).
There's no qualifying races in India or close by, European races are prohibitively difficult for Indian nationals to get visas for, and the Cycling Federation of India is so mired in politics and chaos that it is non-functional for the purposes of officiating an event. So his sponsor, Bulldog Sports (for whom he also teaches fitness and training classes), organized a solo event with media and the support of the many people who have been there for Samim. At 8:14am on Saturday, Sam started riding 70km loops on the highway just outside town with a vehicle and several other riders following in support. The rules for a time trial prohibit drafting, so there would be no pace line, just one rider with his head into the wind.
The weather here in March is hot, so by 2pm he had slowed a bit, suffering in the heat (maybe 98 degrees?). Finally the sun went down around 6:30 and things cooled off a bit, but that's when the 12 hours of cycling in the dark start. Much of the hype has died down, the other riders are gone, and just the people staying for the duration are around to lend encouragement. His family and sponsors and cycling friends (and I) took turns riding in the support vehicle, taking video and trying to help with positive energy, biding time at the Cafe Coffee Day in between. If there are any support heros in this event, it is the driver and crew of the van who stayed up and functional for the entire duration. These seemed to be the hardest hours.
At 3am, six other riders arrived to join Sam on his circuits and provide mental and emotional support. You know who your friends are when they get up at 2am to ride 140km in the dark with you!! Wow. Again, no one was allowed to ride ahead, but talking to the rider beside you and knowing there are more behind helps keep the remaining energy in your legs flowing.
As the sun came up again, Samim completedin 23 hours the 425 miles (668km) required to qualify for the RAAM, in the middle of the plains with the crew and two riders who had stayed with him. What an amazing moment in the journey - a sweaty hug can mean so much. Then, he got back on his bike and kept riding to complete the 24 hour trial.
Back at the start point once again, Sam got off his bike at 8:13am, having cycled 701 kilometers. His sponsor was of course there, Mom and Dad and most of the people important in his life had come, as well as the media and a famous actor in local film, to congratulate him in this enormous accomplishment. No rest for the weary: interviews, questions, autographs both given and received, all these kept everyone busy for the next three hours. Those of us who got no sleep were nodding off on the way home, and I fell into bed at 12:30 and slept for 16 hours. I can't imagine Sam's exhaustion, and hope he has gotten some rest amidst the excitement of family and media.
More on the RAAM later, but in short, it's a race from Oceanside, CA, to Annapolis, MD, about 3000 miles in under 12 days. The qualifying committee still has to accept this ride to accept his entry, but he seems to be poised to come, with Ronnie of Bulldog Sports set on making it happen. The same crew will be coming with him, and I'll be joining the team, for the start on June 9. Until then, sleep, planning, and, oh yeah - more training. :-)