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RAAM Race Report - July 2011

I began my training for Race Across America about two weeks after finishing the Furnace Creek 508 in the fall of 2010. I started with cross training - about 2-3 hours of running followed by 2-3 hours of riding, outside initially, then on the trainer as of the end of November when it started to get too cold/snowy in Vernon. I was also teaching spin classes (on trainers) at the time. The winter ended up being longer than usual, so I wasn't able to get back outside until mid March (as opposed to the end of January the previous year). I built up to about 11 hours on the trainer (boring, but I had no choice) and never less than six hours at a time, which would be equivalent to about eight hours out on the road (considering stopping, descending, coasting, time to rest). Following my winter training schedule, 10 hours outside by early spring felt easy - I could push hard. I was pretty frustrated by the weather conditions though - it was minus 15 Celsius on March 2nd in Vernon, and pouring rain in Vancouver. I had absolutely no climbing training until RAAM itself, since the road up to the local mountain, Silverstar, was covered in snow & gravel well into May, with temperatures consistently far too close to freezing. I stopped running in February and alternated between days on the trainer and outside, increasing the hours throughout the week, as well as continuing to teach trainer classes at the gym as well as kickboxing (to adults and kids), plus a few private clients.

As far as RAAM itself is concerned, I basically raced for 4 days and rode the remaining 7 days. Initially I was on schedule to complete the race in record time at 9 days, 8 hrs, until my neck gave out. I had made it through the scorching heat (upwards of 46 degrees Celsius) of the desert and up the notoriously gruelling almost 11,000 ft climb of Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado, in a cold headwind, when my neck suddenly collapsed without warning, making it impossible to hold up my head on my own. I ended up spending up to four hours per day off my bike for the remainder of the race between sleep, showers, and resting my neck, while my crew was frantically trying to rig and test several devices to hold up my head. This was FAR more time off the bike than I had planned on.

For the first few days, my crew had actually said that I was looking stronger and better over time. I KNOW I can go for a long time - my body recovers very rapidly. The first two days were the hardest, just getting used to things. I didn't sleep for the first two nights. Although I generally thrive in the heat, the crazy temperatures in the desert were definitely a factor, especially coming from that unusually long Vernon winter. The heat radiating off the asphalt alone was excruciating. At one point I put my foot down onto the pavement and the plastic part of my cleat melted onto the ground! I had a hard time eating and my crew was concerned about my calorie intake. We had to change bottles frequently because the liquids were heating up so fast and burning my mouth.

The Rockies finally brought some relief as far as the temperature was concerned and I did well on the climbs. Even my hallucinations of the first few days were starting to abate, when Shermer's neck struck and I was suddenly forced from race mode to survival mode. Although I had heard of the condition, named after Michael Shermer, the first RAAM racer to be afflicted with this malady during the 1983 RAAM, I had chosen not to worry about it too much, focusing instead on preparing for other potential injuries based on previous crashes - ie. weakness in the shoulders, arms, wrists and back. I had told my strength coach that I was doing the neck exercises she had prescribed, but in all honesty was barely focusing on them at all during my training. Hindsight is always 20/20 (yes Lori, I promise to listen for next year!).

Now all of a sudden my crew was scrambling to come up with a solution. Despite their best efforts, coming up with and testing different apparatuses was killing our time. I had to stop to try on different braces & devices, but nothing worked to my satisfaction. Finally, in one last desperate attempt, Lori and Janessa shaved the back of my head and applied strips of tape to pull it backward, along with elastic bandages braided into my hair and attached to the back of my bra. The dead weight hanging from these extensions made for a painful week. Descents were torturous and stops to rest my neck far too frequent, but I never once even considered quitting! However, the way I ended up winning the race was no the way I had wanted to win.

Not only had my body adapted through the temperature extremes as well as the freezing rain and storms we encountered, but I had dealt well with the altitude changes and sleep deprivation. I slept between 1-3 hours per night after the initial sleepless 48 hours. Though my crew may have lied to me a couple of times, I didn't want to go over two hours because I felt no difference between 2 and 3 hours of sleep. I had hoped that my sleep deprivation training from my time in the army would come in handy, but that had been over 20 years ago. Nevertheless, I felt fine, even with mild heat exhaustion and dehydration. My recovery was very fast - I felt fresh after a short sleep.

The neck situation was very frustrating considering how well everything else was going. My legs wanted to go, but if you can't see the road ahead, you can't push. I felt FAR too fresh at the finish line! I went for a 20 km walk two days later and was back on my bike within a week, looking forward to future races. I may have won RAAM, but it was not satisfying for me, because I trained so hard and when I have a goal I have to reach it, even though I swore I would just put the race behind me before I started. Now I know my mistakes and will be able to correct them for next year. I now know what to expect, so the fear factor is diminished. Having the experience of having done the race before is huge - I am even more motivated for next year!

Lori Moger, owner of Breakaway Health & Fitness in Vernon, BC (where Leah works as a personal trainer), who was one of her crew members for Race Across America, will be acting as Leah's full time coach in preparation for RAAM 2012. Lori is a sports psychologist, kinesiologist and personal trainer, who will be an invaluable asset to Leah's training program. She will be monitoring her 24/7 to make sure that she's keeping up with her strength training, as well as her cycling, and especially her neck exercises!
Easthill Physiotherapy & Acupuncture Clinic, Vernon, British Columbia, Canada
February 2011
I am pleased to announce my new partnership with Easthill Physiotherapy & Acupuncture Clinic in Vernon, BC, who will be providing physio & rehabilitation work for the continuing recovery of my hands and arms following last year's crash, as well as providing lower and upper back support throughout my training toward RAAM.
Having had numerous injuries over the years throughout my pro kickboxing and cycling careers and seen literally dozens of massage and physiotherapy practitioners, I can say without reservations that the staff at Easthill are among the absolute best. I have recommended them to several of my own clients, who have likewise been extremely impressed with their services.
October 9 & 10, 2010
Following a very successful talk and cycling workshop in August, Leah will be holding a Road Racing Workshop at BreakAway Health and Fitness in Vernon, British Columbia, this time focusing on more advanced riders. The course will offer 2 days of coached riding sessions with a follow car, providing advice on racing tactics, peloton etiquette, climbing techniques & tricks, terrain and more.
BreakAway Health & Fitness - Vernon
Furnace Creek 508
October 2nd & 3rd, 2010
Leah won her second consecutive Furnace Creek 508 female solo title in California, coming in 10th overall in the solo division.

September 11-12, 2010
Leah set a new women's solo 24hr record
at the Ring of Fire Time Trial in Maupin, Oregon,
coming in second overall with 361 miles.

Leah did well but feels she could have added a few more miles had it not been for several technical problems, starting with a cracked frame which led to a bike change early on and a deer that almost ran into her on a descent, but particularly related to lighting for the night loop. Accustomed to supported night rides and training rides around at least some artificial or moon light, Leah had not realized just how pitch black the backroads of Oregon were going to be. She started out with two rather dim headlights. Her crew chief, realizing Leah only had a tiny fraction of the lighting of her competitors, got permission from race organizers to pass her a backup head lamp which helped somewhat but still only allowed Leah to see about 3 feet in front of her.
But apparently the lesson had not been driven home quite clearly enough yet, since, as if in a cartoon, all three lights then proceeded to burn out one after the other, leaving Leah in complete darkness! With only an even dimmer hand-held back light to guide her, she cautiously made her way back to the time station, but not without almost dropping her only remaining light source into a cattleguard, then taking a wrong turn just before entering town and accidentally riding part way up a steep hill away from Maupin, before realizing what she had done and turning around.
When she got to the checkpoint, her luck finally improved, since fellow solo racer Cathy Cramer had left her a spare, much more effective, head light to use! Thank you Cathy!!! Leah was finally back on track, but had lost significant time and been passed by race winner Bob Fisher. If anyone who owns a bike light company is reading this and is interested in sponsoring Leah, please proceed to the Contact page ;) ...
Ring of Fire Time Trial
RAAM logo
August 29, 2010
Leah is now officially registered for Race Across America 2011
the "World's Toughest Bicycle Race."

July 24-25, 2010
Leah won
Race Across Oregon, coming in second overall and setting a new women's solo record.
Race Across Oregon
Leah Goldstein