The Numbers of RAAM: Training, Stats, Nutrition, Costs

I often get asked about the “numbers of RAAM” – things like training, stats, nutrition, cost, etc. Below I’ve tried to summarize these numbers and give a bit of info about each area.

I split my training into 3 phases: 2 high mileage phases (one in Aug/Sep of 2011 and one in Apr/May of 2012) and 1 strength building phase. After the high mileage phase in Aug/Sep (where I rode over 3,000 miles in 2 months) I took a little bit of down time in October before focusing in on the strength training through the winter and into the spring. During this winter/spring phase I focused on intensity (spin classes at Integrate Performance Fitness), strength/power/muscular-balance (strength/conditioning classes at Integrate Performance Fitness), getting lean (I dropped my body fat percentage from about 25% to about 16% and lost about 15lbs total while actually increasing my lean body mass), and getting stronger on the bike (doing shorter rides with lots and lots of climbing, especially difficult climbing – sustained climbs with gradients over 10% – think climbs like Redwood Gulch, Jamison Creek, Alba, Montevena, China Grade, Sierra Road, Black Road, Bohlman-On-Orbit, etc.!). Then I ramped up the volume again in the spring, while still trying to keep the climbing numbers decently high (i.e. very few “junk” miles) – I did another 2 month period where I rode over 3,000 miles between mid-March and mid-May. This approach to my training really seemed to work well, and I got significantly stronger and faster on the bike. Here are some of the stats:

12 month lead-up to RAAM (June 2011 to May 2012 – includes Race Across the West in June 2011):
Distance: 10,400 miles

11 month lead-up to RAAM (July 2011 to May 2012 – the time after I decided I was going to do RAAM):
Distance: 9,300 miles

9 month lead-up to RAAM (when I started tracking elevation and time):
Distance: 7300 miles
Elevation: 511,875 feet
Ride Time: 509 hours (21.2 days)
Average Climbing Ratio: 70 ft/mile
Average Speed: 14.3 mph

Stationary trainer (October to April): 62 hours
Strength Training (July to May): 88 hours
Bikram Yoga (October to May): 75 hours

Highest mileage month: 1720 miles (April 2012)
Highest climbing month: 121,300 feet (April 2012)
Hardest climbing month: 131 feet/mile (January 2012)

Lowest mileage month: 269 miles (October 2011)
Lowest climbing month: 16200 feet (October 2011)
Easiest climbing month: 51 feet/mile (May 2012)

Highest mileage week: 610 miles (August 1st-7th, 2011, 4 days of riding in the Canadian Rockies)
Highest climbing week: 39,250 feet (April 3rd-8th, 2012, 507 miles, 77 ft/mile)
Hardest climbing week: 145 feet/mile (January 2nd-8th, 2012, 83 miles, 12,076 feet)

RAAM Training By Week RAAM Training By Month

Here are some of the “stats” for the actual race itself. Some of the nutrition data may not be completely accurate, as I believe there were some things that didn’t get recorded later in the race, but they’re still pretty good ball park figures! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to gather complete data on the exact climbing and my ride time (versus the total elapsed time). I do however know that over the last 733 miles of the race there were 41,000ft of climbing and my ride time was 53.67 hours (2days, 5hrs, 40min), so my ride-time average was 13.6mph. This was from about Bloomington, IN to Annapolis, MD, which took me about 87.25hrs (3 days, 15hrs, 15min) of elapsed time, which is an elapsed-time average of only 8.4mph. So my off the bike time during this segment was a whopping 33.5hrs! During this time I took 5 sleep breaks and 1 power nap, but I also had my crash and all of my “melt-downs” which wasted a LOT of time. Up until the first melt-down between Chillicothe, OH and Athens, OH I was on track to finish in just over 12 days – then all hell broke loose and I was lucky to finish at all! Anyway, here are some numbers!

Distance: 2993 miles
Elevation: ~120,000 feet (~40ft/mile)
Elapsed Time: 12 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes
Average Speed: 9.76 mph (this includes off-the-bike time)
Placing: 2nd place woman, 1st Canadian woman to ever finish solo RAAM, and the 31st woman to ever finish solo RAAM
My Official Results: RAAM website
Percentage of Solo Women Racers Who Finished: 75% (3/4)
Percentage of All Solo Racers Who Finished: 62% (28/45)
All 2012 RAAM Results: RAAM Website
Sleep: ~2hrs/day
Longest Distance Without Sleep: 395 miles in 28hrs (Oceanside, CA to Congress, AZ)
2nd Longest Distance Without Sleep: 310 miles in 24hrs (Trinidad, CO to Greensburg, KS)
Calories: 83,000 calories
Average Calories: 270 cal/hr (6,480 cal/day)
Fluid: 3,500 ounces
Average Fluid: 12 oz/hr (288 oz/day)
Money Raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: $13,500
Crew Members: 10 from Oceanside to Durango, 11 from Durango to Annapolis
Highest Elevation: 10,800 feet (Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado)
States Crossed: 12 (California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland)
Weight Lost: ~5lbs
Flat Tires: 6 (4 rear, 2 front)
Bicycle Chains Used: 2
Bikes Ridden: 1
Bikes Available: 3
Tears Shed: Too many to count!
Ice Baths Taken: 5 – all facilitated by an evil crew member! ;)
Times Ridden Off The Road Due To Falling Asleep: 6+
Crashes: 1 (just before leaving Ohio – I fell asleep and drifted into a concrete barrier)
Temper Tantrums Thrown: More than I care to admit to!
Number of Times a Bike was Purposefully Thrown into a Guardrail or to the Ground: 2
Number of Times a 2-Way Radio was Purposefully Thrown to the Ground: 1
Times I Lost My Mind: Pretty much at least once a day starting on day 5
Ladybug Hitchhikers: 1 (just after passing into Colorado)
Red Trucks Spotted in Missouri: Lots!
Sightings of Men In A Coconut Bra and Grass Skirt: Mike (x?), Justin (x1), Wayne (x1), Alan (x1)
Cow Costume Sightings: Doug, Justin, Mike
Super Hero Costume Sightings: Justin
Scantily Clad Men Sightings: Mike, Wayne, Justin
Frog Hats: 1 (Doug’s!)
Corn Fields Passed: Way too many!
Corny Jokes About Corn: Way too many! (Mike, Tracey)
Number of Crew Who Want to Move To Kansas: ZERO!
Unidentified Road Kill in Missouri: Way too many!
Number of Cases of Athlete’s Foot on a Butt: 1 (mine!)
Number of Times the Crew Questioned my Taste in Music: Unknown…
Number of Times Macaroons Were Made in a Laundromat: At least once!
Max Number of Women Who Fit Into A Bathroom Stall at Once: 5 (Tuba City has spacious bathrooms!)
Number of WalMarts Visited: More than the crew would have liked!
Number of Times a Crew Member Was Spotted Shaving in a WalMart Parking Lot: At least once! (Mike)

After the first night when I didn’t sleep at all, I slept about 2hrs per night. The strategy was to not sleep the first night in order to try and get through more of the desert at night when it was cooler. Here are the segments between my sleep breaks:

Oceanside, CA – Congress, AZ: 395 miles (28hrs)
Congress, AZ – Cottonwood, AZ: 87.7 miles
Cottonwood, AZ – Bluff, UT: 266 miles
Bluff, UT – Pagosa Springs, CO: 164.3 miles
Pagosa Springs, CO – Trinidad, CO: 218.3 miles
Trinidad, CO – Greensburg, KS: 310.2 miles
Greensburg, KS – Yates Center, KS: 207.5 miles
Yates Center, KS – Jefferson City, MO: 231.7 miles
Jefferson City, MO – Effingham, IL: 244.5 miles
Effingham, IL – Batesville, IN: 218.4 miles
Batesville, IN – 40miles past Chillicothe, OH: 182.9 miles
40 miles past Chillicothe, OH – Little Hocking, OH: 47.2 miles (sleep break after crashing)
Little Hocking, OH – Grafton, WV: 104 miles
Grafton, WV – 15 miles past Hanover, PA: 239.4 miles
15 miles past Hanover, PA – Annapolis, MD: 76.2 miles

I often get asked what I ate during RAAM and during my training. I’ve found that I can only stomach “sports nutrition products” for about 10hrs before I start getting sick of them – obviously RAAM (and the training) is much longer than 10hrs, and taking in enough nutrition is critical, so I decided to abandon sports nutrition products completely in the lead up to RAAM, and focus on eating “regular” food. Yes, I ate some bars and gel blocks during training, but I also ate things like trail mix, muffins, sandwiches, burritos, donuts, etc. And I drank things like juices, chocolate milk, iced coffee drinks, iced tea, and sodas. I’m blessed with an iron stomach, so I’m able to eat almost anything while I ride. This was my strategy going into RAAM – regular food, with an emphasis on variety so that I didn’t get sick of any one thing. Basically if it sounded appealing or I was craving it, then I was going to eat it. Yes, I planned on some “junk” calories (fast food, sodas, etc.), but I also planned on healthier options as well (sandwiches, pasta, mashed potatoes, etc.).

Since you’re trying to consume a LOT of calories (upwards of 7,000 calories per day, or over 80,000 calories during the race – the equivalent of 40 days worth of food crammed into 12 days), you want to eat calorie dense food (just think of the stress that you’d put on your gastrointestinal system if you tried to do this quantity of calories on high volume low calorie foods!!). Since I also don’t have very good luck with taking salt tablets (they tend to upset my stomach), I also needed to get a lot of sodium from the food I was eating. So I wanted calorie dense foods that were high in sodium. As Tim Woudenberg said one time when talking about food on RAAM, the American fast food industry has mastered the ability to serve you a meal with over 1,000 calories that still leaves you hungry for more – i.e. fast food can certainly help you get some calorie dense high sodium foods! I hadn’t intended to eat as much fast food as I ended up eating, but some of that was due to the fact that often when I was stopping for my sleep break and taking my big meal of the day it was in the wee hours of the morning and food options were limited.

In general I think nutrition was one area that we had relatively few problems with during the race – sure, there was some room for improvement, but my physical energy levels seemed to be pretty good throughout (far better than I’d expected in fact!), and I was riding “stronger” than I’d expected to later in the race. I don’t think that would have been possible if we were way off base with nutrition. Much bigger issues that caused us to lose time were sleep deprivation and butt issues. Anyway, here are some of the numbers in terms of what I consumed during RAAM on my way to taking in over 83,000 calories (the equivalent of what is stored in about 24lbs of body fat!) and 3,500 ounces of fluid (over 27 gallons)!

Some Examples Of Totals During RAAM:

75 Gogurts (5250 calories)
19 KFC drumsticks (2300 calories)
4 McDonald’s Quarter Pounders (3000 calories)
7 Milkshakes/Malts (3480 calories)
8 McDonald’s Breakfast Sandwiches (4800 calories)
6 Hot Pockets (3540 calories)
4 Subway Tuna Sandwiches (2120 calories)
8 Banana/Nutella Sandwiches (4000 calories)

21 Mountain Dews (3570 calories)
14 Sunkist Orange Sodas (2660 calories)
11 Sprites (1540 calories)
8 Cokes (1120 calories)
13 Chocolate Milks (2470 calories)
22 Iced Mochas (3300 calories)
24 Grape Juices (3360 calories)
19 Orange Juices (2090 calories)
10 Cranberry Juices (1260 calories)
11 Iced Teas (990 calories)

5 cups blueberries
2.5 cups strawberries
10 bananas

The costs of RAAM are pretty intimidating. The entry fee alone is over $3,000 for a solo rider. Then you have all the costs of vehicle rentals, assembling a crew (flying crew to/from the race), accommodation (pre/post/during the race), fuel costs, food/supplies for the rider and crew, equipment to outfit the vehicles (power inverters, splitters, flashing lights, external sound/PA systems, communication systems [satellite phones, 2-way radios, cell phones], navigation systems [netbooks, GPS], first aid kits and medical supplies, safety equipment, etc.), extra bike equipment, bike clothing to handle any kind of weather conditions that might be encountered along the way, etc.!

Some of these items could be viewed as “capital expenditures” in that once you have them you don’t have to buy them again for subsequent races (examples would be things like the electronics, external PA/sound systems, a lot of the bike clothing I purchased, etc.). Since this was the first time I did RAAM, I didn’t have a lot of that equipment, so adding them into the totals makes the number even larger than I’d anticipated it would be (I’d estimated/budgeted between $20,000 and $30,000, hoping it would be closer to the $20k number – instead we ended up spending over $35k).

Other factors that played into us exceeding our budget was the fact that I opted to go with a bigger crew. Some folks do RAAM with only 2 vehicles and 6 crew members, but I felt that this would be spreading things too thinly and the crew wouldn’t get enough opportunities to rest, and I’d be possibly setting myself up for failure. I didn’t want to “cut corners” and jeopardize my chances of finishing (or my safety or the safety of the crew) by being “cheap” – after all, this was a HUGE investment of my time, energy, and money, so I wanted to set myself up for success. So I decided to go with 3 vehicles and 10 crew members (I actually had 11 crew members from Durango to the end). This obviously increased the costs as well.

We rented 2 of the vehicles (a one-way minivan rental and a return Sprinter van rental) and used our own personal minivan for the 3rd vehicle (we essentially bought the minivan last fall with the main motivator being to use it for RAAM). We bought 2 vehicles back across the country (the Sprinter van plus our minivan), so that was additional fuel costs and food/accommodation for the return trip too (but it also allowed us to get all the gear back easily). We opted to use a Sprinter van instead of an RV for our crew sleeper vehicle – one of the large motivators for this was to save costs, but in the end given how much money we spent building the sleeping platform for in the back of the Sprinter, and the number of hotels that we stayed at during RAAM anyway (more than originally anticipated because of all the butt issues I was having that necessitated accessing showers more frequently), it probably wasn’t much cheaper than an RV would have been.

Anyway, I’ve added up all the direct costs during the race (including the trip back), as well as the purchases directly related to RAAM that happened in the months leading up to RAAM (by no means have I accounted for every penny that I spent in the year leading up to the race, but I’ve tried to account for most of the bigger expenditures, so the numbers should be fairly accurate). It’s amazing how quickly it all adds up! Here’s the breakdown:

Vehicle Rentals: $5,250
Flights: $1,600 + 193,000 air miles (20 flights total)
Lodging: $3,400
Race Registration/Fees: $3,300
Gas/Diesel: $3,700
Food: $5,600 (food, medical, supplies, etc. during the race)
Equipment: $8,000 (electronics, netbooks, GPS, phones, radios, crew supplies, medical supplies, etc.)
Bike Equipment: $4,700 (spare parts, clothing, etc.)
Building Supplies: $900 (to build sleeping platform in Sprinter van and shelving in Follow vehicle)
TOTAL: $36,450

So there you have it! RAAM is by no means “cheap” or “easy” on ANY level! Since I’ve committed to doing another similar race next year (Tour of BC), you can see why I’m going to be working extra hard to try and find some cash sponsors! If you or the company you work for are interested in sponsoring an ultra-cyclist, certainly get in touch with me!

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5 Responses to The Numbers of RAAM: Training, Stats, Nutrition, Costs

  1. Eric Budd says:

    How much did you sleep after finishing?

  2. Tom Beechinor says:

    Im doing an assignment on sleep deprivation and caffeine supplementation during the RAAM. I was just wondering if you could tell me how often, and for how long you slept for each day? (or if you didn’t sleep every day a sleep schedule perhaps?). Your story is incredible and highly commendable. Congratulations on having the sheer guts to even attempt this!

    • joan says:

      Hi Tom,

      I didn’t sleep the first night, but after that I generally took 1 sleep break per day, and they were about 2-3hrs long. There were a couple of exceptions. After I fell asleep and crashed on my bike on day 11 I took an additional sleep break during the day for 2hrs I think it was. The day before I’d also taken a nap just after sunset because I was so sleepy. Basically the sleep deprivation by this point was really starting to cause problems and it was becoming increasingly unsafe. The hallucination/mental problems associated with sleep deprivation began after the 4th night when we got to Eastern Colorado, and pretty much continued and were a regular occurrence from that point on.

      Hope that info helps!

  3. Dan says:

    How did you train for the sleep deprivation?

  4. Steven says:

    Hello……truly an inspiring story. Wow! What a memory and a test of TRUE dedication to say tge least. Great job on breaking things down. Prices times etc. Thanks for sharing

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