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I See Dots
Living My Cycling Dreams Through a Screen.
By Jason Lane
Summer riding season means prime dot watching season! The live tracking technology that allows anyone to monitor athletes competing in endurance racing is strangely addictive. TransAm (self-supported road racers on a 4300 mile journey across the United States) kicks the season off in June, followed closely by Tour Divide (self-supported 2,745 mile race from Banff Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico).
And then to top it off the really fast dots of RAAM - Race Across America (fully-supported riders start in Oceanside, California, travel 3000 miles, climb 175,000 feet, cross 12 states and finish in Annapolis, Maryland) race across the screen – and the country – in as little as nine days.
It’s easy to sit back on a couch and watch the dots trudge along, to question why they’ve stopped or slowed down, or how they made up so much ground, but you need to get out there to fully appreciate what those people out there moving the dots are doing. I’ve only done two of these races; RAAM twice (check out teamhammerfest.com), and the first TransAm where I received my bike-packing education from Mike Hall, but I like to think 3 continental crossings have given me some insight.
At one point in TransAm Benjamin Colwill was out front, a few miles ahead even of the virtual input of Mike Hall’s record, headed into some cold nights up in the mountains. The Bitterroot range is high and has few services, and then Ben will get into incredible Yellowstone likely through the night. I was only able to sleep for an hour that night in 2014 as it was just too cold, but it did provide a fun round of “real / not-real”. Real / not-real is a game I made up where I guess if what I think I’m seeing is real or not real. Most of the time the rocks and shapes that your exhausted brain see are not-real, but in Yellowstone the bison on the road I figured was some tourist statue and calling “not-real” quickly became “REAL, RREEEAAAL” as I veered wildly across the road away from the giant thing (check out Inspired to Ride on Netflix).
Ben finished TransAm last year in 20+ days, so with that experience we could see a legitimate shot at lowering the record. On one hand there are many of us who would like to see the record belong to the late Mike Hall for some time to come, though arguably a dropping record could maintain some excitement and encourage new riders to participate. I think it’s important for records to be challenged, and similar to most races in their infancy, as racers learn the course and become acquainted with the unique challenges, the record is sure to drop by large chunks at a time. As someone who likes to move dots, I’ve taken such a responsibility to begin this trend next summer.
Like many now, I’ll watch the dots go across the screen before I go to bed, and when I wake up, and about a hundred times during my day at work. We’ll go about our lives for the next two weeks,and these racers will keep pedaling 20hrs a day, every day. I rode 325 miles on Saturday, and I was briefly impressed with myself for a triple century, until I realized TransAm was 43 centuries...
Keep goin’ out there ya’ll, move your dots. Worst case, take a time-out, but don’t give-in until you’ve had a full sleep and rest to clear the cobwebs, sometimes slower is faster.
For a comparison between Race Across America and TransAm, check out my interview with George Thomas and RAAM Radio
Jason “The Hammer” Lane is a Canadian endurance cyclist – he is the current Canadian RAAM (Race Across America) record holder at 9 days, 16 hours, 3 minutes. He is the feature character in The Hammer, a documentary chronicling the RAAM experience by Hornsby Films and appears in Inspired To Ride an ultra-cycling film by Mike Dion.