(Update) This Bicycle Race Is No Aggie Joke

RAAM

UPDATE:

After cycling 1,550 miles — halfway into the grueling Race Across America — since he left the starting gate at Oceanside, Ca., on June 11, after heading off acute kidney failure, after topping mountain passes at nearly 10,000 feet, after fighting a case of ‘Shermer’s Neck,’ after encountering a tornado in the Great Plains, Texas A&M Dean José Luis Bermúdez posted on his Facebook page where he has been tracking the progress of his race:

Time station 27 [Maize, KS] and mile 1550 is the last for me, I’m afraid. It’s been 500 miles since I could hold the handlebars and brakes (I’ve been holding on to the arm rests for the aero bars) and I’m not making meaningful progress..

Thanks to everyone who’s been following. I had a blast and hope some of that came across.

He also thanks doctors and nurses who took care of him and thanks his crew.

One of the comments on his FB page is, “Been following you and amazed at your perseverance! You have made your Aggie family proud!”

You certainly have, Dr. Bermúdez.

Read all about Bermúdez’ struggles and accomplishments but, most of all, about what he is doing for Habitat for Humanity here.

To continue following this great race, please go here

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Original Post:

How many Aggies does it take to ride a bike?

How about seven: One to actually pedal the bike and six to support the “pedaller.”

As an Aggie, Class of ’69, I have heard hundreds of Aggie jokes, sometimes repeated them — oftentimes replacing “Aggie” with “Longhorn” — and have even made one or two up myself, but never one as lame as this one.

But bear with me because this is really not an Aggie joke…

It is about Dr. José Luis Bermúdez, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University — the “pedaller” — and six other Aggies — the support team — who will be competing in “one the most respected and longest running endurance sports events in the world,” the Race Across America, or RAAM, a race that “is seen as a pinnacle of athletic achievement not only in cycling circles but the greater sporting community as well,” according to raceacrossamerica.org.

Before describing the details of this grueling but storied 3,000 mile bicycle race, first a little bit about the Aggie Team and their cause.

Traveling with and supporting Dean Bermúdez, who bikes 200 to 500 miles almost every weekend, will be a medic, a mechanic and four drivers. They will follow Bermúdez in an RV for the duration of the race.

One of the drivers, Texas A&M sophomore Ben Westover, is responsible for “replenishing the 9,000 to 11,000 calories that Bermudez burns each day,” according to The Eagle of Bryan-College Station.

To give an idea of what that entails, Westover tells Dini Susanto at The Eagle:

… if you’re talking real food … we gave him four to eight sandwiches, 20-something protein bars, eight bottles of water with Gatorade mix and then five eggs or so during a practice ride, and that was maybe between 800 to 2,000 calories, not even close to half of what he has to eat.

When I was a young boy living in the Netherlands, I had to cycle every day through winds, rain, snow and ice to school, about five miles each way, and I hated every second of it — especially in the winter. I had no choice.

But why are Bermúdez and his team subjecting themselves to such a “torture,” in addition to the challenge and just “Because it’s there”?

They are doing it in large measure to help a low-income family in Bryan-College Station get a home through the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, hoping to raise $40,000, “just enough to build a house.”

Bermúdez has chosen an excellent vehicle to raise such money as “Racers annually raise collectively in excess of $2 million for a wide range of charitable causes,” according to Race Across America.

Race Across America points out that, in addition to raising money for a charitable cause, racers participate to set a record, to see our beautiful country, to spend time with friends, etc.

Bermúdez is no different. “You don’t see too many people (along the way), but the scenery is incredible. Just being out there on your own in the desert and up through the mountains and then the Rockies and Monument Valley. You just get into a different place,” he tells the Eagle as he recalls “his previous undertaking in the Race Across the West (RAW), which covers the first 860 miles of the RAAM course.” He adds, “It’s really a life-transforming experience.”

RAAM, which started in 1982 with four individuals racing from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to the Empire State Building in New York City and “captivated the public’s imagination” is no child’s game.

These are the grueling facts for the 2013 RAAM, the 32nd “edition”:

Route Map

• Start: Oceanside, California – Oceanside Pier
Solo Racer – Tuesday June 11
Relay Teams – Saturday June 15

•Finish: Annapolis, Maryland – City Dock June 20-24

•Route: 3000 miles, 170,000 feet of climbing

•Crosses 12 states, passes through 88 counties and 350 communities

•Format: Solo, 2-, 4- and 8-Person relay teams

Unlike the three great European Grand Tours (Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Giro de Italia), RAAM is one continual stage, similar to a time trial. Once the clock starts it does not stop until the finish line. RAAM is about 30% longer than the Tour de France. Moreover, racers must complete the distance in roughly half the time allowed for the Tour.

Teams will ride 350-500 miles a day, racing non-stop. Solo racers have a maximum of 12 days to complete the race, with the fastest finishing in just over eight days. Solo racers will ride 250-350 miles a day, balancing speed and the need for sleep.

Finally, RAAM organizers point out:

Racers come from all over the world and all walks of life. Racers are both amateurs and professionals. But, the majority of racers are ordinary people with a passion for riding their bicycle. Racers range in age from 13 to 75. Every year there are racers from at least 15 countries. Over 25 countries have been represented over the 30-year history of the race. Approximately 40 % of the racers are from outside the US. About 15% of the racers are women.

On average 50% of the solo racers and more than 95% of the teams finish RAAM.

We know you can do it, Dr. Bermúdez.

Good luck to you and your team and Gig’em Aggies!

To learn more about this fantastic race, please click here.

To learn more about Bermúdez and his team and to support his cause, please click on Bermúdez’ Facebook page.

To make a donation directly to the Bryan-College Station Habitat for Humanity click here and select “Bermudez RAAM Challenge.”

Sources: Race Across America and TheEagle.com

Images: Courtesy of Race Across America

Crossposted from The Huffington Post

         

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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7 Comments

  1. An incredible event that starts near my home and over local cycling turf. There are some great causes woven into the stories each year. Best regards to the Aggie team and Dr. José Luis Bermúdez.

    As someone who has cycled over 150,000 miles, in the last 14 years I can feel his pain in advance.

    To add context: we can overcome the physical discomfort; but the ability to operate safely without sufficient sleep and the need to assimilate enough calories under duress, turn out to be critical limiters of success.

    Most riders have the mental strength to ignore the normal body’s request to stop. The result of that is the inevitable disorientation, hallucinations and literal physical shutdown. That is why medical personal are a must. They have to save them from themselves.

    As well, the body has an unconcious ‘governor’ if you will. It acts as a built in survival guide. If you try to do something your brain sees as life threatening, no matter how fit you are or determined you are, it will shut down. Like, Boom! So these events are long planned and the unconcious mind is expanded in a series of extreme ways to learn that you are not dieing (hopefully).

    Having raced twenty Ironman triathlons (2.4 mile swim / 112 mile bike / 26.2 mile run) I can tell you that the planning (sleep and caloric intake) are at least as important as the fitness. Having said that, Both have to be top shelf!

    ¡Vamos! Dr. JLB! Giddy up!

  2. Thanks for your insight, KP.

    I hope to be updating this story as Dr. Bermúdez winds his way through our beautiful country and would love to continue to benefit from your experience in this sport. My only (reluctant) experience is the aforementioned slugging through rain, snow ad ice… :)

  3. Cheers, Dorian. I am so glad you shared this adventure.

    Endurance sport is fascinating. It takes a bit of a twisted mind to view it as fun, and it entails gradually educating the central nervous system or CNS to allow you continue.

    Teaching others how to do that has been my full time job for 13 years.

    The RAAM is serious business. Please keep me informed!

    A guy most of us knew:

    http://www.outsideonline.com/o.....ecked.html

  4. Sounds like a great excuse to eat 3 lbs of bacon a day for awhile :)

    Seriously, those sound like 3000 hard miles. Mountains, deserts, and everything in between. Doing it in 12 days solo just seems like a superhuman feat.

  5. Thanks for the update! Lots more miles in JLB’s future!

  6. Thanks, slamfu and KP.

    I remember your initial comments on this race, KP, where you said something about the human body having a subconscious governor that will tell you when to stop, otherwise…

    Fortunately it worked with Bermúdez.

  7. In ultra endurance sport, we often learn as much or more (literally) when we fall short as we do when when we succeed.

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