928 miles (1494 km) and 50.000ft (15.000m) of climbing, nonstop racing from Oceanside, CA to Durango, CO,
trough desserts and mountains across the western USA.
That’s what was waiting ahead when I meet up with my crew on June 11th.
We had three days to do the final prep before race start on June 14th
RAW is a race in “time trail” style, meaning you are not allowed to draft on other riders and the clock starts ticking when you start and don’t stop until you reach the finish line 928 miles later.
First 100 miles (161km) Start time 12.45PM local time.
Everyone was nervous, I was trying to get into the rhythm and settle down. My support crew of three people are doing the same thing.
A good start, and getting over the coastal range, with some climbing, and down onto the dessert floor, where the heat strikes at 100+ F (+43C) is key to success.
Because I finished this race in 2014, and this years field had no other previous finishers, I got to start last of all 28 riders (1 minute start intervals )
Already within the first 3-4 hours I started passing my competitors, and it had me worried, “Am I going too fast?”
On the other hand I was sticking to my numbers that I had planned with my coach Marko Baloh, prior to the race, so I just focussed on that, and forgot about the rest of the field for now.
As my Mental Coach Matic Smon had told me durning my one on one session the day before the race, “Smile and enjoy”
100-300 miles (160-483 km)
The crew worked hard to ensure nutrition and water was according to plan.We managed the heat in the dessert well. I had a bottle with a pump mounted on the bike, so i could dose water on my back for cooling, because overheating is enemy number one in this part of the race. Overheating was what had me withdraw from the race in 2015.
Thru this first night, I pushed a bit harder to get as far into the dessert as possible before dawn, and tailwinds helped me even more.400-600 miles (644-965 km)
We were now 24 hours into the race, and at Congress, AZ, the first climb to get out of the dessert started.
After a good steady climb 7 miles up to Yarnell, and some rolling hills we got to Time station 7.
(There are 15 time stations in total, where you have to call and report to race HQ)
Here I had my first sleep break. 75 minutes and then back on the road.
I was feeling strong, and everything so far was perfect.
After another 100 miles, we hit the toughest part of this years route. 102 miles(165km) with 9900ft(3500m) of climbing.
It had just gotten dark for the second time, and the crew and myself prepared for 10 hours of more or less climbing in the dark.
I knew at the time, this night would be “make or break”
However i really found the “zone” and stayed there all night, and as dawn broke, we got to TS9 in Flagstaff, AZ.
Total time so far 41 hours and 35 minutes. (75 minutes sleep)
600-800 miles (965-1287km)
The morning started out well. The first 50 miles out of Flagstaff is gradually decent, and relatively easy.
ever as we get closer to TS11, the lack of sleep started to catch up with me.
I was confused and didn’t understand why I was here. The hallucinations became pretty bad. Things like the road turning into cardboard etc. made it difficult to sort reality from fantasy.
The crew decided to pull me off the bike for a 10 min powernap along with some acupuncture. This solved the problem for now.
800-884 miles (1287-1422km)
The last 100 miles, of this part I don’t remember much of.
The crew pushed me to stay on the bike, and “carried” me thru. I was hallucinating so bad.
The roads turned into powder sugar, and chocolate, the grass and trees on the shoulders turned into odd faces starring and turning at me.
I felt we rode the same road and bridge over and over again. (There were NO bridge !!)
At this time I was in 3rd. place overall,l but I did not have a clue about what was going on, and had lost my motivation to keep going.
But the crew did not let me down, and pushed me to stay on the bike, despite my complaints and frustrations.
This is where the crew steps in and make one of many big impacts on the final result.
The last Time station and 44 miles (70km) to go.
After another 10 minute sleep break the crew finally got me to realize what was going on.
I realized, that I was in this race and had to push thru to finish the job.
We got rolling, and for a while I was ok, but again lack of sleep soon became a problem.
I fell a sleep on the bike, and woke up when falling over in the ditch.
The crew pulled me up, and suggested another sleep break, but now I was angry and determined to push through to the finish line. I was not going to let my third place slip now.
The last 25 miles into Durango became a sprint to the finish, to defend my position.
The crew informed me that, Germanys, Franz Preihs was gaining on me .
I picked up the pace and soon the gab to Franz increased again.
Then my brother in law, who followed the race live, online from his residence in Sweden, called me on a Skype connection, and made me aware that second place was within reach, if I kept pushing.
I mobilized all the strength I had, and the crew pushed me and kept updating me on the positions.
None of us had slept much, but we wanted to finish strong.
The crew was hanging out the windows screaming and cheering at me, using the cowbells they had for additional noise.
We made it to Durango in 2 days 16 hours and 25 minutes. Just enough to secure 2nd. place overall, by a 14 minute margin.
My goal going in was to finish in 72 hours and we got 64 hours and 25 minutes.
We were all very please and happy with the result. I had not even dreamt about finishing as runner-up.
The feeling of accomplishment is huge and I would like to thank my crew for all the hard work and support during the race.
You guys made it happen.!!
Also a huge thanks to all my friends and family who called me during the tough times in the race.
Thanks to all who wrote on Facebook, emails messenger etc. the crew read them to me and it all helps to stay motivated.
The support crew
My Wife Birgitte H Christensen, my cousin Orla Mikkelsen and my Friend and colleague Tim Holland.
Finally a huge thank you my sponsors who made this all possible.
Ultra cycling is all about….
Going as far and as long as you can, until your body and your mind tells you to get of the bike, -for multiple reasons. And then keep going for two more days. The reward at the end is HUGE!