Monday, June 13, 2011

A Few Equipment Tips

Last week to get ready and the last thing you want to do is lose sleep Friday doing last minute BS.  Remember, you already have appointments that day for Equipment Inspection and the mandatory evening meeting.

Here are a couple things you can consider working on now before the rush.

No Hairy Drive Trains!

It seems some of you will be racing with leg hair.  No positive comment forthcoming.  If you insist on not being a cyclist during a BIKE RACE then at least wear gloves to protect your hands and socks because I'll shoot you.  Assuming you're ridin' dirty let's not let that Tom Selleck Fur Ball mentality infect the bikes: CLEAN THEM.

The good news is you either know how to do this or you can steal my method developed over 20 years and sure to amaze all the hairy chested guys you hang out with.

METAL Cleaning System

You need:
  1. mineral spirits
  2. simple green 
  3. one plastic tub preferably able to hold your big chain ring (if you ride with one).
  4. One Tupperware container with a lid (needs to hold cassette cogs and chain), mine is 6x6x4
  5. some rags and a tooth brush
Do this:
  1. Fill the bigger tub with about 3-5 inches of mineral spirits
  2. Take off rear cassette, chain, both chain rings and soak over night 
  3. While the bike is apart clean inside of front and rear derailleur.  Get all the dirt running a rag through the front guy and consider removing the pulleys because dirt stacks up inside and what's the point of dialing this in only to leave little dirt colonies to repopulate your chain?
  4. Fill the smaller container 2/3 full with 50/50 hot water and Simple Green.  Transfer the parts minus the chain rings to the bucket and its shake-n-remove-the-cake time.
  5. At this point I go outside and turn on a hose.  Shake like hell and drain using the lid (take care not to lose anything small like a quick link) and fill up again with the hose.  Repeat this until the water runs clear.
  6. Dry parts, put bike together then put one drop of oil on every link.  Use your quicklink for reference so you hit each one exactly once.  Put a clean rag on the chain and spin backwards to remove excessive oil which invites the dirt to return.
If you do it right, you can flex the chain side-to-side and you won't hear or feel any grit in there.

Also if you do it right a clean drive train is worth serious power and your bike will jump.  A final tip on this is to put a little grease on each of the chain ring bolts, they cinch better and come off easier.

There should be some sort of Kangaroo Court for the 2010 Team: show up with a dirty bike day1 is a felony.

Bike Lights

I stole this from other riders last year, Kevin I think.  Consider mounting your handle bar lights hanging under the bars.  Its cleaner, more stable and might even reduce drag a little.  If you are rocking the $20 Performance lights you should know the head sometimes flies off.  Might be wise to roll with an extra one.

Final Tip

We had a pair of binoculars in the center consul of METAL1.  We used it a few times to identify approaching riders.  If you've seen the video of us in day one there is a quick shot of me looking down the road and calling out Brad's arrival for Jeremy.  At the top of Old Castle, Ed was spotting for me and gave a hand signal to me.  He saw him way before I did.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Medical Kits

I got a request to list the stuff one might put into a medical kit.

I used a see-through bag, big Ziplok or the pillow case bags I mentioned before are fine.  Any bag will do.  I prefer to see what I'm after from the outside.

Ours had these items:
  1. Non stick bandages;
  2. Tape, non adhesive coban is great but expensive;
  3. Neosporin or some other infection fighting gel;
  4. I had a roll of that mesh you see pros riding with the day after crashes.  Its basically one long sock that is open on both ends.  That stuff is awesome for holding the non-stick bandage in place while you race.  There is no tape glue to draw dirt.
  5. Small Scissors;
  6. Visine;
  7. Pain Killer of choice;
  8. regular band aids and regular gauze to soak up BLOOD.  Not really good for sleeping or racing because they stick.
  9. extra sanitizer
  10. extra lip balm
  11. extra sunscreen
  12. allergy, cold, antihistamine bottles depending on your allergies and tendency to take meds if you get sick on the road. 
  13. Pepto Bismo, pink tablets whatever you use when facing food poisoning.  RAAM poisoning is far more virulent.  Worth its weight in gold for the dyspeptic racers and crew.
Sounds like a lot but a little bag all stocked up can save a trip to the store which, as before, is a sleep-robber.

I packed that bag assuming I would never need most of the contents.  Life had other plans.

I was sending photos of my wounds to my doctor from my phone during the race to check for proper healing.  I ended up performing a surgical debridement on my arm in the hotel each day.  This meant, stick it in the sink and scrub down to fresh flesh to promote healing.  I was developing Eschar during each ride.  Even though that sounds like a cool pirate wound its actually a brown crusty thing that Toro started calling Creme Brule.  He's mean.  So if you crash the main way to avoid amputation is to control the infection.  A couple days my Dr. nearly made me go to an ER for some more advanced care.  The kit saved me from that time waster.

Not a lot of people realize that the scar I ended up with on my right arm is shaped like Satan's head complete with two horns.  METAL.

The medical bag rides in the rear window shelf on the driver's side.  Right behind the racer, in plain sight.

Photos later if I've got them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Truck Navigation

As Andrew documented, you can get pretty creative in your mobile city that will become your new home for the next 6 days or so - as you should!  While I may not have the writing creativity, nor pictures to document our living situation last June, I can assure you that it worked for us.

First, what Andrew said about racing out of the left side - YES.  I raced RAAM for 2 years, and rarely did I get out of the left side.  Even when I did, it never appeared to me that this was superior - despite stepping in mud on a downslope while getting out, or having to muster a lot of upper body strength climbing into a truck which appeared to be at a 45 degree angle.

Off shift in the truck - where you spend a third of your time
How are truck was "setup" in 2010 was I, with the compact 5'7" frame, occupied the back seat of the SUV, while the sick, taller one occupied the middle seat.  This allowed both of us to get horizontal without bothering anyone else - at our convenience.  This was hands down the best part of the whole setup, as we didn't really have to deal with moving things around, or dealing with each other.  This allowed for a common view like this:

Note: Feet above heart and in compression pants, as described in previous email.
The cons of this setup while off shift placed a little more responsibility on the guy in the back seat, as it was his responsibility to distribute various belongings from the hatch to the recipients.  There was an unspoken rule that whatever you needed for 5-7 hours of driving, you would request within 15 minutes of a shift ending.  This whole process can be complemented by Andrew's efficient packing approach described in the prior post.  Personally, I only had 2 bags: 1 gear bag, and 1 non-gear bag (civilian clothes and toiletries).  The reality is that you don't need much non-gear.  The sweatshirt and t-shirts you are given should suffice for the entire week, and flight home.  Who cares if you lived in them for a week - you're a bad ass for doing RAAM.  Just wear deodorant in public (and in the truck).

Our caveman truck wasn't equipped with a sun shower, but to mitigate the smell, I brought along a small container of baby wipes.  4 wipes after each shift seemed sufficient to get the grease and smell off of me, along with deodorant and maybe some gold bond.  All you consume for 5 hours is water, salt and sugar, so you don't really smell all that much - maybe a sweet aroma of Andrew's favorite CRAN-RAZZ, but it ain't that bad (unless you're Brad).

Additionally, I had 7 pre-made baggies of a sugary powder, amino acids, whey protein, salt - that was dropped into a water bottle (w/ water), and chugged immediately after a shift.  Another bottle of water was used as a chaster.  Recovery is paramount in RAAM, so be prepared beforehand.  Then it was into compression, laughing, getting horizontal, with some light stretching and massage.

Solid food followed about 45-60 minutes after a shift (whenever I was hungry).  I personally brought 8 containers of brown rice pasta/sauce/chicken, and sweet potatoes/veggies/chicken.  I consumed road food only when I didn't feel like eating said items, which wasn't that often.  In my opinion, have at least one "normal" meal off shift that you are used to eating, rather than constantly bombarding yourself with endless carbohydrates.

A couple other snacks were brought, and a few purchases on the road (if only just to fart more to piss of Dave and Tobias).

Regarding Caffeine, I use it, and had great results with it.  When you are sluggish, it gets you out of a rut.  If you are hurting, it helps a little too.  Even when you are feeling good, it can help.  I might have crashed from it once or twice, but having a caffeine crash during an off-shift is never a bad thing, as it may just force you to relax, or better yet, sleep.  I'd never use sleeping pills or the like, as I generally didn't have issues sleeping, and also for fear of being super groggy upon waking.

It starts while you are still off-shift.  Prepare at least 3 bottles before your shift starts.  This means doing so in the hotel room shortly after you first get there, or in the 2 hours between waking up and starting your shift.  Make sure you put them in the freezer or on ice - especially in the midwest.

We didn't have a giant thermos like METAL1 did, but rather we had a cooler.  It stored our cold food items, and also our water bottles when we were on shift.  When we needed them, we grabbed them out of the cooler.  When we didn't, we put them back in.  As long as there is ice in there, you're good to go.  Always pay attention to how much you have left in them, so you aren't parched finishing a pull, only to find an empty bottle when you get back in.  Regardless, make sure you have some solid calories near by (door handle, seat back, etc) in case you are jonesin for solid food.  We generally put the cooler where Andrew and Jeremy put there's (in the middle), and didn't have many problems. 

Additionally, any gear you may need on the shift (eg. cold weather gear), just take it out of the bag beforehand.  There's not much worse than trying to fish around and find gear that you packed efficiently, but was thrown around in the pedal-to-the-metal accelerations, and slam-on-the-brakes actions your driver has to go through.

Which brings me to the part that when you do pack everything, try to fit it in kinda tight so that it doesn't fly around on-shift.  This may be the last thing from your mind, but as the guy who sits in the back and has to grab stuff for people, organization is key.

Your driver will also be under as much stress as you will, so keep an eye on them too.  If you are feeling good, and they are flustered with directions, turning, yada yada yada, help them out.  However, they are there for you to do just about anything, not to mention they are the communication link between you and your other partner.  Be cognizant of how your "city" is doing.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Truck Packing and FOOD

This edition we'll cover some of the packing you can think about now a few weeks before the race.  These photos convey a lot of what we did, look them over closely and steal what works for you.  I'll direct your attention with a few comments.

METAL1 in race mode: RAAM 2010 Ozark Lakes 0hDARK:30

Ed's got his route book and GPS on the dash.  You can see the water cooler mount Toro cooked up, its basically the center passenger drop down.  He put that seat belt TIGHT.  Notice how the spigot is angled to the left side seat from which we both raced.  You keep a small rag there for any spillage.  Cytomax was within reach and we both would mix bottles as needed during the shift.  No fumbling, takes only seconds.

This shot was taken in the Ozark Lakes area of Missouri.  Shift number five of our seven.  Wei can tell you, our shift started with a couple hours of Torrey Pines repeats.  No steeper but much longer, I actually thought of Torrey Pines during the shift and was thankful to have grinded out so many repeats out in training.  It sure paid off that shift.

What you cannot see is the left side of the passenger seat is rocking multiple power strips hooked up to a robust power transformer.  We daisy chained Belkin mini power strips that have USB plugs.  That meant we charged Garmins, Cell phones, laptops and bike lights en route.  We offered power outlets and full meals to joining crew as well.  We also had a wireless network METAL1 for in truck users.  Showers available.  Its was a self contained city and we never went to a restaurant.  We did stop for Indiana.

Side View Race Mode:  We left the second row passenger seat permanently up.  We actually wanted to remove and throw it in the follow vehicle but learned that Chuck was using the back of the truck as a hotel.  Off shift, Toro would sit in the third row seat and this was the "Biker Lounge."  You can see a Cytomax container on the floor within easy rider reach.  The big red thing is a pillow and you will also want a blanket for sleeping in the truck.  Your driver and visiting crew will likely want/need more AC than you want blasting you during your post ride and post eating stupor.

Kansas Hotel

This shot shows four of my bags in front of the first bed.

1. The black Carry On holds stuff you don't need during racing.  Civilian clothes for the trip home, personal hygiene and the like.  All three of our carryons were packed into the truck first, right behind the second row left side race seat.  You don't need it, bury it.  I eventually removed my little black shaving bag from the carry on and stopped lugging it into the hotel each night.

2.  The green bag directly in front of the carry on: that is my Riding Gear Pack.  Extra shoes, cold weather gear, socks, bibs, jerseys, base layers, gloves, etc. This bag is not to be buried during racing because you'll be grabbing for it if you don't have the right stuff during your shift.  Rain Kit Tip: I took my $20 Performance racing shell and used it as a bag to hold my other rain/cold kit.  This included: spare cleats already wearing neoprene rain covers, rain gloves and the like.  Used the sleeves to tie it up tight and self-contained.

3. The larger green bag: this is the dry, Durable Food Bag.  Buy a big box of large Ziplocs and go nuts.  This saves space and its easy to see what you have.  Here are some of my packed bags:
  • Protein powder
  • Raisins 
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Shredded Wheat Cereal
  • Bars (2 bags)
  • Gu's
I also store my meal kit (more on this later) and sundries such as Salt, Peanut Butter, napkins and trash bags.  You only need this bag while racing if you fail to put enough chow in your Ride Pack.

4. The most important bag is that farthest pack, the Ride Pack: this bag has your gear for the next morning.  This bag must be packed smart.  Its good to have a bunch of pockets, divide stuff logically and you will learn to grab the right thing in an instant.  I would use one set of side pockets for electronics: race radio, bike lights, mounts, spare batteries, iPod, headphones, bike light charger units.  The other side pockets was race essentials: visine, sunscreen, lip balm (I know,sounds prissy but peeling lips, burning eyes and smoked skin all sap energy).  I drop twice as much food as I thought I might need per shift in there.  Put some food that you think is gross because your tastes might change during the race.  For example, I really hate Cranberry Shot Blocks but at one point in the race another Gu or Cliff Bar was gonna get ejected.

The ride pack should be "race ready" when you go to sleep.  That way when you get the "Oh S&$*!" bolt of bad news that you might be late, you can run out the door and race.  Pack it right and double check.  I'd stuff socks into my cleats, check for gloves...get it right then enjoy your 2-6 hours of sleep.

We'll talk more about this if we need to.

Meal Kit

METAL Post Ride Food

This sort of photo is rare because its immediately post ride and who can even grab a camera at such a moment.  Note these items:
  • Post race sandals to let the feet breathe but you can hop out of the truck and stay clean.
  • 32oz of Protein Powder with water, I use ProComplex which has 110grams of Protein
  • Bag of Almonds and Bag of Raisins.  If you mix them the nuts get soggy in a couple days.
  • Green Sea Salt shaker, hand sanitizer, route book and trash bag.
What's to eat?
  • Grilled Chicken breast with romaine lettuce on whole wheat bun with sliced Swiss cheese
  • Baby Lima beans with tons of garlic and salt.  High glycemic index (recipe upon request).
  • celery and baby carrots
  • My desert is floating in the beans, that's a peanut butter hamburger bun.  I did not feel able to stomach the really hearty whole grain breads from Panera I'd generally have.  Improvised, I ate this about four hours later right before the hotel.  Did not have to waste time at the hotel or bother with making it.
  • My Tupperware square which I ate meals from and used as storage the rest of the time.
  • After racing we'd park and transition from Race to Rock Mode.  Fast as possible, I'd say we would averaged 20 minutes.

METAL Pre-ride Breakfast
This is breakfast before Kansas.
  • Note the meal kit is back
  • Butter from the cooler
  • HEAVY grain breads of two species from Panera
  • Shredded wheat, no sugar: like every other day of my life
  • Pineapple slices from the cooler
  • Ice Coffee: I was too lazy to make hot coffee.  This little product is good to have in the cooler.  Breakfast time saver and I also found I could down a couple of these during the HOT days in the second half of the race when your appetite gets screwed up and nausea becomes a factor.  Find ways to avoid under eating.  Not really a healthy food but it got me through some hot, exhausted moments mostly in '09 but also here as a time saver for breakfast in 2010.
  • Also: syncing up the iPod, uploading video from Vado, copying from SLR card, checking race status and writing e-mails.  Set up your laptop before sleeping to get results when you first wake up, also drivers first job when waking up is to hit the follow and racing team and start figuring out where its going down.  We always woke up two hours before ride time.

Toro Fuel

Here we have Toro eating a pound of his pasta salad from the cooler and he seems to have tossed two chicken breasts on top.  He's sitting in his home the Biker Lounge.  We were going to rotate this place but the guy is like nine feet tall and I was happy living in Blood and Guts (the race seat) when we were off.  Things to note:
  • The wheel bag is always on top, throw it in last.  You don't want stuff crushing them, you sure want them when racing and they wedge on top pretty good.
  • Those rear window side rails are an excellent place to store your medical kit, tool bag and extra helmets.  I also filled extra Cytomax bottles before racing so my first four bottle were always ready.
  • You can see Toro's race towel.  Gotta have one.  You will use it like no normal towel and might want to throw it out when the race is over.

Maximize "complimentary" Hotel Breakfasts

I think Wei put this little display together and if I am not mistaken it was eaten like a pig by the next crew who joined us after racing.

Ed Thuggery:  We took over 25 feet west of our hotel in Missouri.

So that's plenty of information for now.  Let me know if you have other subjects you'd like to see discussed.  Forgive the typos and shotgun approach.  I just want to get the general information out there so you can grab what you want.