RAAM 2012 Race Report – Part I: Tapering, More Dangerous Than Training!

Let me start my RAAM race report by sharing a bit of the chaos that went on in the lead-up to RAAM. My training all year long had been going fabulously well, so I guess I was overdue for some “issues”, but the timing of everything that happened in the month leading to the start of RAAM seemed a bit cruel! Plus with several issues developing, I felt like I was being attacked from all sides and it was all I could do to keep my head above water! It was just one thing after another – perhaps foreshadowing what RAAM itself would be like…

In the middle of April I’d come down with a cold or flu, and while I was over the worst of it within a couple of days, I got a nagging cough that just hung around afterwards. I had the cough through the remainder of my high volume training, including the back-to-back weekends of doing 600km brevets the first 2 weekends in May. I finally went to the doctor mid-May and they prescribed an antibiotic and some inhalers. The 3rd weekend in May we headed to Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierras to do some altitude/climbing training (we bagged 3 of the 4 highest paved roads in California during this trip – Upper Rock Creek Road, Horseshoe Meadow Road, and East Tioga Pass), and the cough seemed to continue getting worse. I went back to the doctor and was prescribed a new course of antibiotics, a prescription anti-inflammatory to try to calm my lungs down, and they did a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia. Several days later things were improving, but still not better, and I was seeing my primary care physician anyway to get a couple of prescriptions to have on hand for during RAAM, so she additionally prescribed another cough suppressant. I also started using a NetiPot nasal rinse which seemed to start helping, and was drinking a hot lemon and ginger drink twice a day (several tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger and the juice of a lemon steeped in hot water with honey). At this point we were into June with less than 2 weeks until the start of the race and I was still coughing and feeling pretty miserable – I saw all the hard work I’d put into preparing for RAAM slowly spinning in a spiral motion towards the drain of a giant bath tub! Thankfully the last course of medications finally seemed to get the cough under control, and I slowly started to feel better, although I certainly didn’t feel 100%. This was not how I’d wanted to go into RAAM! I didn’t feel like I was fully recovered, but the clock had run out.

While this was all going on, I was also having “bike issues”. I had a bike fitting the week after the last 600km I did in hopes of getting my back-up bike fit a bit better. While looking at the fit of my “A” bike for reference, my bike fitter (Curtis Cramblett of Revolutions in Fitness) discovered that the saddle on my main bike was actually on its last legs and was significantly worn out stiffness-wise on the right side. This was causing the saddle to drop and my hip to drop as I pedaled, which was putting extra strain on my mid-back (finally an explanation as to why I’d had some mid-back tightness/pain during my training!!). This close to RAAM we were afraid of changing things up, but at the same time it was clear that the saddle was putting me in a compromised position that could definitely cause some issues over the course of 3000 miles (even though I’d been riding this saddle for all my training, my longest training ride was just over 400 miles, a far cry from 3000!). We decided to keep the old saddle and seat-post as they were so that they could be reverted to if needed, but to try and get some new saddles and seat posts setup that wouldn’t be putting the extra stress on my mid-back. It was a bit of a calculated risk, but we were keeping the old saddle/seat-post as a contingency plan.


3 new saddles

What followed was not a cleanly executed plan though – we had difficulty securing the new seat posts, which delayed getting the new saddles setup. Then after finally getting the new saddles setup, there was an incident where the saddle must not have been tightened quite enough, because when the mechanic at the bike shop test rode it, it completely rotated, and so we lost the horizontal position that we’d had it set at… Talk about frustrating! At this point we were 2 weeks from the start of RAAM, and the longest ride on my new “A” saddle was a whopping 31 miles (mind you this was a saddle I’d ridden on a different bike, so it was at least worn in)! And that was with a horizontal angle that may not have even been where it had been fit to.  Again, this doesn’t do much to instill confidence in how things are going to go out there. At least I knew we had the old saddle/seat-post as back-up.

At the same time that this was happening, the trifecta of this pre-race taper madness was unfolding – first the cough/cold, then the saddle issues, and now my own clumsiness was to throw a wrench in the cogs! The Saturday before we were to drive down to Oceanside, I tripped on a curb while walking and carrying some packages, fell hard to the ground, and tore a good chunk out of my left elbow. I think I was so embarrassed with how it happened, that I didn’t go have it checked out by a doctor, and instead I just tried to clean/dress it myself. Well 2 days later it was clear that something was wrong, so I went to the doctor and sure enough it was infected…


Elbow vs. Curb

This wasn’t a good sign considering that I was already on antibiotics at the time for my respiratory issues, so the doctor was concerned about what kind of infection I had. He promptly put me on a 3rd course of antibiotics for the infection, and had a culture done to make sure nothing too serious was going on. The doctor also put my whole arm in a giant splint so that the elbow was immobilized so that the wound would have a better chance of healing.


Giant splint for elbow scrape

So the week leading up to our departure for RAAM I was in a splint, on more drugs, and unable to ride my bikes at all to work out the kinks in the new saddles/seat-posts. Not exactly the pre-race plan that you want to be following in an ideal world!! Trying to pack and organize everything was also a challenge with the giant splint on my arm – thankfully my sister arrived mid-week and was able to help with a lot of that.

Isn’t a taper supposed to be “restful” and “stress-free”??? This taper was far from it! So as we headed to Oceanside on June 9th, rather than feeling rested and ready to go, I was feeling I’d just gone through a battle just to get to the point of being able to drag myself to the starting line. I had a lot of doubts and concerns swirling through my head. Was I really over the cough/cold? Was my elbow going to flare up again and get reinfected? Were my saddles and bike fit going to cause me problems? Was I rested or was my body a torn up battlefield from all that it had been through, and would my immune system just keel over under the stress of the race? When you’ve put more than a year of your life into preparing for something, and spent huge amounts of money on it, and found a dozen other people to give 2 weeks of their time to you, you certainly want to go into the event feeling good and ready to go – instead I went in with a lot of apprehension, doubt, and questions. There was no backing down at this point – time to get to the starting line and see what happened!

Continue reading about RAAM in the next installment:
RAAM Race Report – Part II: RAW Revisited

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8 Responses to RAAM 2012 Race Report – Part I: Tapering, More Dangerous Than Training!

  1. Peg Miller says:

    OMG Joan! What a story, yet you never lost sight of your goal! Amazing!

  2. Jayne says:

    Whoa. I knew you’d been having some issues in the taper but I had no idea just how beat up you really were. I didn’t think it was possible to admire you more than I already did, but now I do! If that makes sense.

  3. Paula says:

    Joan- Wow! You certainly have dedication! So much more to celebrate your achievement!!

  4. Pingback: RAAM Race Report – Part II: RAW Revisited | Joan's Blog

  5. Pingback: RAAM Race Report – Part III: Mississippi Ho! | Joan's Blog

  6. Paulette says:

    Wow, that sounds awful and terrifying going into a race. You are amazing to get through all of this and to be so successful in RAAM!

  7. Pingback: RAAM Race Report – Part IV: Angels and Demons, the run-in to Annapolis | Joan's Blog

  8. Al says:

    Whoa, I had no idea this happened!!!

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