Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grandiose dreams and itchy cleats

Roughly thirty years ago, when I heard of the first Race Across America/RAAM (The Great American Bike Race), I became intrigued by this new and unusual event. During the '80s, I worked at one of Milwaukee's best bike shops, Rainbow Jersey Bicycles,. And even though the owner, Jerry Pearce, was a dyed-in-the-wool (Merino wool, of course) supporter of traditional bicycle racing, he catered to my interest (maybe it was my whining) in ultra-marathon cycling, so that we became one of the world's first official information stations for RAAM updates. This was the era before the internet became a household "neccessity", so anything we learned about RAAM and ultra-cycling came via the special hot line (telephone) we had access to. And you can bet that I was checking those updates on a daily basis, since I was shop's only resident RAAM groupie.

In 1984, at the suggestion of a friend and fellow training partner, I signed up for the following year's regional 700-mile RAAM qualifier, called the Midwest John Marino Open (JMO) back then. Well, two weeks before the race, I contracted strep throat, and made a trip to my doctor. I began a regimen of antibiotics, and ignored the doc's suggestion that I shouldn't follow through with the event, considering that my health was now compromised. Of course I didn't follow his suggestion, as I had dreamed of the RAAM for several years now, and I was not about to give up the chance to find my own place on the starting line. And by now, my ultra-cleats were getting quite itchy.

...to be continued.

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