I kept my trap shut publicly after our successful RAAM experience in June. I’ve talked to the team, family and close friends. To really understand it, you had to be there.
There was an interesting mix of characters, lots of little stories, challenges met, highs, lows and out right wonder at what we saw and experienced. There will be a book and video which will tell those stories.
The fund raising for ECPAT continues with the race as a powerful back drop. I’m fiercely proud of what we did and especially of why.
As some time has passed, it has all sunk in. Some lasting themes have surfaced. It appears to have changed me.
These themes don’t relate to the story or specific events or places. Nor to any particular individual. They relate to the nature of the experience and how that has changed how I think and behave.
The first thing to emerge was a sense of calm. At first I thought this just relative to the intensity of the race. It is now almost three months since we got back. I still feel calm, relaxed and simply quite happy.
The preparation, the race and the days of clear up after were a crucible. I’ve experienced a few before. They changed me too. This was easily the most intense. Bloody hell I enjoyed it.
We faced a hundred challenges in each stage. All had one thing in common. They simply had to be faced and resolved. Usually right there and then. Almost always with just the people and tools we had to hand. On perhaps just one occasion, I threw a little money at a problem, to buy a tool (that was not for sale, but in the tool kit of a bike shop) to fix a bike.
The unending sequence of problems nagged at me. Especially as we raced. There were so many, that at the back of my mind was this knowledge that at some point a problem may arise that we could not solve. There were a couple of times when that looked possible. On each occasion, we solved the problem and kept the team moving. Sometimes inelegantly, but always moving. We also kept getting better and better at the basics and at anticipating problems.
Through all that, there was a common theme that made the impossible, the stressful, oddly easy.
Put simply, there was nowhere to hide. No alternative than to work the problem, solve it, however clumsily, and move on.
Logistically, RAAM is a sleep management exercise with some extreme cycling thrown in to make it even harder. You get up every 16 hours as a rider and crew and every 8 hours as Crew Chief and on the RV team. Except when the crew send you to bed, as happened twice to me. Once after I’d got 2 hours sleep in 40 and again when I did something similar and had to just go sleep.
I learned a lot about fake work. You can’t waste time on RAAM.
I learned about the value of connections. Arriving somewhere new every 8 hours, we always made friends with whoever was there as a priority. We very often needed help and equally often gave it back. Competing teams helping each other out was literally a joy.
The way the team built trust and interdependence flowed straight out of the knowledge that there was mostly just us and that we knew conflict would kill us. The number of times I saw exhausted disagreement resolved through raw intelligence and the shared resolve to never ever give up was heart thumping to watch.
There was no let up. No leeway. There was just us and a few people we bumped into.
I’m sure that back at the office we’d have kicked the can, asked for more people, time or money.
It was a great lesson on what can be done when there is nowhere to hide.