Ingolf RAAM 2023

Jun 28, 2023

My Race Across America (RAAM) 2023 Adventure

My Race Across America (RAAM) 2023 adventure ended on June 22nd in Greenville, Illinois, after cycling 2,145.4 miles toward the Annapolis, Maryland finish line.

First of all I want to thank everyone for the great online support and the kind words and encouraging comments. I also want to give special thanks to my amazing crew for helping me get through the highs and lows of that special experience and supporting me even at the time it was clear we could not continue.

I know it took me a bit to write a short statement like this but the last days have been kind of an emotional roller coaster ride. So I had to clear my head and be able to put some of the emotions aside first.

Over the course of a 3,000 mile ride there are a myriad of things that can go wrong. Some you can prepare for and control, and others you cannot. I want to share what went well, what didn’t, and the lessons that we learned along the way.

We had a great start, covering the first 1,500 miles well ahead of our targeted times. Based on our progress over the first half of the race, we could have made the finish line between 10 and 11 days, well ahead of the 12-day cutoff. The crew did an outstanding job keeping my nutrition on target and making sure I felt as comfortable as is possible in such race.

Unfortunately, just after the midpoint, one crew member and I ended up with food poisoning. How we got it will never be fully clear, but we are sure that it was caused by food from one of the gas stations. First the crew member was down, which I was not aware of at the time. Then an hour or two later I had to pull over for a rest and my stomach turned upside down. It felt awful and I fought back tears because I knew this might be game over already. Even after vomiting, I wanted to keep riding and could have ended up in the hospital if I had continued to push. However, my crew chief immediately got me to a hotel. So the other crew member and I had to undergo an extended rest and recovery time. I remember being told what the prerequisites would be to continue racing and I tried rushing into it. While I proved that I could hold down fluids and food, the crew sanitized and disinfected our equipment because we weren’t sure what had caused the illness. However, my stomach still not being OK but at least manageable, I got back on the bike around 20 hours after the illness started.

Problem was … my stomach was still not fully OK, so I could only drink water regardless how much my crew tried to push me to take in the proper nutrition. So I assume I was a bit weak fighting the 20+ mph head/cross wind that hit me for that day in Kansas.

Nevertheless as stubborn as I can be, I kept pushing through that day and we focused on getting from one time station to the next instead of looking at the main goal, which was the only option to survive those three days. I was in good spirits again two days after restart and tried pushing again, but the total time lost was almost a day and a half. And when we arrived at the cutoff time station I realized we had a 6 hour delay. So I decided to push for one more time station to see how it goes. My time was good but still those 6 hours on that distance can not be recovered that easy at that time of the race and in my condition.

That was when my crew chief and I had a discussion and we pulled the crew together where I explained to them that we are calling it off. That was at mile 2,145.4. Emotionally a very hard decision for me, but I did not want to burn out the crew for a DNF at 3000 miles while it was obvious I could not make up for that lost time.

I am happy for the crew that most went back home the day after and two actually drove with me to Annapolis so I could first of all see the finish line, even though that was a very heart breaking experience. But I had to overcome that. And we did some fun riding on the track for the hardest part to get me a feeling how that would have been and what to expect in 2024.

So even though I did only complete 2,145.4 miles of the race, I am not ashamed since my time before and after my illness was solid. Without the unexpected illness, I would have made the finish line with time to spare. My goal remains to have a good finish for RAAM, so as soon as registration opens for RAAM 2024, I am signing up again.

We have taken note of what went well and what didn’t for RAAM 2023, and will be much better prepared for RAAM 2024. I learned a lot during those 2,145.4 miles about teamwork and riding itself, and we learned from some mistakes the crew and I made during those miles. We can be better and stronger in 2024. Thanks to all who followed me through this adventure. I have many more ultra cycling races already planned for 2023 and 2024, so stay tuned!

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