Sunday, June 13, 2010

End or beginning?

Three and a half days, 857 miles, pedaling on 6 hours of sleep. 5000' climbs and descents, a massive lightning storm in the night through Monument Valley, brutal headwinds, welcome tailwinds, navigating through towns and 120 miles on one stretch of highway...

Samim rode well, proved he is a rider who belongs at a race like RAAM, and gave it everything he had, including an amazing stretch getting to Durango yesterday. He was diagnosed with influenza pneumonia this morning at about 3am. The X-ray and lab results confirmed what we had become sure of as he tried to ride in the cold of early morning: his lungs and body were succumbing to a bacterial battle, had trumped his training and mental toughness, and his compromised body was just unable to continue the race. It took a lot of convincing even after the diagnosis (no no, I can keep riding...), but Sam's bid for the RAAM this year is done.

The fact that he's been riding with this for the last couple of days just underscores the amazing mental and physical strength that he brings to this race. I keep trying to find words to describe what he must have been going through yesterday, but I just can't. I know it was hard beyond any physical endeavor I've ever engaged in.

Which is not to say that crewing for those four days was easy either! We averaged about 3 hours of sleep a day, alternating between trying to find supplies in whatever local town, and being in the follow vehicle, trying to get Sam what he needed and keep him on the road. I spent the last three nights driving about 40 feet behind him at 20 miles an hour, trying to keep him in the headlights but not run him down, for hours and hours at a time. We'd pull up next to him, hand him drinks and food, and fall back to our follow position, all while watching out for vehicles flying by on these open western roads. Whew!

So we're here in Durango, CO, hoping that with a lot of rest and down time and the medicines he was given, the pneumonia will heal and he'll be able to travel in a week or so. He actually completed the course for the parallel race, Race Across the West, which ends here instead of Annapolis. We're hoping that with the experience and knowledge gained from this shortened time, he'll be able to come back next year dialed in, knowing how it all goes, ready to rock the RAAM. Go Samim, go!

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