Actually not being in RAAM as a favorite to win for the first time since my rookie RAAM ride in 1994 is going to be extremely difficult for me to take. I will follow the race often on the RAAM website, but that just might make matters worse teasing myself. I might do a few 12 or 24 hour races this year, but because of riding so much less this year, I am in much worse shape so I would be merely going to finish/survive these events which I used to dominate and win. I am therefore even hesitant to do any of them, but would still like to take in the comradely and closeness which is shared in the small world of ultracycling. Even though we are fierce competitors during the race, we are good friends the rest of the time. I still e-mail Rob Kish regularly. Also I will be taking 2 college math courses this summer.

To do RAAM with good enough support to win it [all of my RAAM's have been done this way] costs between $10-15,000. Even the years that I won RAAM, I still ended up losing more money that it cost me to do the race. It is fairly easy for a potential RAAM winner to get all of the equipment sponsorship they need to train year round with, but much more difficult to get money sponsorship. The problem is that the novelty of the race has long since worn off from back in the early days [first 5 RAAM's] when ABC's Wide World of Sport's coverage earned them an Emmy Award and made winner Lon Haldaman a household name. However with the current growth of cable TV, RAAM is once again getting good airtime. The 2000 and 2001 RAAM's have aired on the Outdoor Life Network, and so will the 2002 race. The race is still seen by many people [even other short distance bike racers] as a sort of cult status event which has a small yet very loyal following.

My riding this year has been very sporadic. Because I live in a big city where it takes so long to get out into the beautiful country on nice low traffic roads, I would prefer to ride two 150 mile rides rather than six 50 milers. So I have been averaging about 300 miles per week, but compared to the 600 - 800 miles per week I would be averaging if I were riding RAAM, that seems like very little riding to me. I would also ride one very long week [1,000 - 1,200 miles] each month for the 3 months leading up to RAAM if I were doing it.

I am still looking at my long term lifetime goal of riding a million miles, but it just may take me a few years longer than originally predicted taking into consideration working a full time job and getting older. So maybe I will get it when I am in my 80's instead of my 70's. But life expectancies are getting longer, and athletic, healthy people tend to outlive the average age.

Yes it is harder to ride when I am in worse condition/shape from riding less miles. So my rides end up being slower and less intense and maybe not quite as long. The times that it seems most difficult to ride are the cold wet or snowy days of Fall, Winter, and Spring from living in Pittsburgh, PA. I ride much less on these sort of days than I used to, but am still sometimes caught out in such weather conditions and have too much pride to be picked up in an automobile and driven home. So yes I am sick of riding my bike in lousy weather conditions, but still love to ride in good weather. Getting more tired of the long, cold, tough winters up North, I might eventually move South to someplace like Virginia or North Carolina with milder winters. I still like to ride in the mountains very much even though I do not climb or even descend [take less risks as I get older] as fast as I used to.  

The downside of getting started riding so young [I rode my first double century [200+ mile ride] at age 10]] is that I know I will gradually get slower with age after reaching my peak fitness years from ages 23 - 27 which was before I even started riding RAAM in 1994. But because of the ultra endurance nature of RAAM using less power and speed, and more endurance, I would say that a person's best or prime RAAM years are from age 30 - 43. A person who was a sedentary couch potato all thru their 20's and 30's and 40's who discovers cycling at age 50 has the chance to be in the best shape of their life in their 50's which must be extremely encouraging to them. But then they might wonder how good they could have been if they started riding earlier.

What I love and are passionate about my riding? Being outdoors and going to new places and meeting new people. A sense of total freedom when I am riding. A sense of being different from the many people who accept driving around in their steel boxes known as automobiles. The euphoric high obtained from exercising. Being with friends on group rides. Competition in races. Satisfaction and sense of accomplishment of finishing an extremely long tough race like RAAM. Making the seemingly impossible task of RAAM possible. Having a crew wait on me for 8 -10 days on RAAM. Inspiring new people to take up bicycling. Learning the complex network of roads in an area by studying detailed maps. Choosing or picking out a route on a map for a future trip, and then seeing how close the actual territory matches the map or what I thought it would look like in my imagination.

What else am I passionate about? My huge music collection of alternative/progressive and classic rock songs which I love my crew to blare at me on the follow vehicles exteriorly mounted speakers. Reading maps of where I have ridden and where I will ride. Science fiction/time travel and romance movies and TV shows. Web surfing and e-mailing. My website. My detailed diaries or training journals which date way back to 1978. My million mile goal. Cleaning and maintaining my bike. Mathematics which I majored in college. Teaching math. Reading bicycling magazines and books, and the daily newspaper. EATING!



PS: During the 2000 RAAM, I had a crew member read to me [in the wee hours of the morning to keep me awake and motivate me] over the minivans loudspeakers the entire Lance Armstrong book "It's Not About the Bike" which I love! It is a very inspirational book about his long fight back from a near death experience with cancer [when he found out who his real friends were - the team he was currently on gave up hope on him and dropped him] to winning the Tour de France.  Have you read this book?  If so, what did you think?  If not, I highly recommend it to you.