Saturday, June 20, 2009

Team meeting, Race eve

Our guys - Richard and Charlie

Our first full-team meeting took place in Charlie’s living room in San Diego. On the eve of Race Day, Richard spoke first:

“Tomorrow, 20 years ago to the day, my father and I were standing on top of Mt. McKinley together,” he said. “I remember when we were at base camp and looking up at the summit, it was more massive than anything we’d ever done. We told each other, ‘Just getting this far is huge, a big deal, but now, we have business to take care of.’”

And they did, successfully and safely summitting Denali together.

Richard continued: “And now, I just want to say to all of you, thank you for coming from all over the country, for giving up your vacations to support Charlie and I in this dream of ours. The same thing is true here … just getting here, just qualifying to race RAAM, is huge. But now, it’s business. We didn’t come here just to start. We came here to finish.”

Richard spelled out some simple rules for the crew to keep top of mind.

* Safety first. Always. Our number one goal is to get 11 people across the country safely in under nine days. Period. No heroes. Don’t drive when you’re too tired. Find someone fresher.

* Know where everything is in the vehicles. If a racer asks for blue gloves, he doesn’t want yellow ones. Know where the blue ones are.

* There’s no such thing as a bad question. If you don’t know something, ask.

* Remember, there will be highs and lows. “One day you will be thinking, ‘Wow, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done,’ and the next you’ll think, ‘Oh my god, what was I thinking?’” he said. “Remember that it will all pass, and it when it's all done, it will be the experience of a lifetime.”

Richard gave way to Charlie by saying, “Two years ago, RAAM was an impossible dream for me. And tomorrow, we’re going to do it. Thank you all.”

Before going over specific rules that we all need to remember, Charlie reminded us again that we are 11 adults living in tight quarters under difficult circumstances for about 8 days. “Apologies ahead of time,” he said. “We might all say and do things that we don’t mean. We will all be tired. But we're here to do something.”

Communication is key, Charlie emphasized - between crew members, between crew and racers, between the team and race headquarters. Always keep an eye on the racer, he added. A bike wheel will always be rolling, round the clock, no matter what.

Finally, he said, “Don’t give up on us, no matter how bad we look. I’ve felt really, really bad on a bike before, puked on the side of the road, and then in a few hours, felt better. We might look terrible, but we might be able to keep going. So don’t give up on us. We think we can do this, but the truth is, we don’t know what will happen. There are so many things that can happen.”

At the end of this meeting, after which we immediately piled into three vehicles to drive to an official RAAM meeting, no one was giving up on anything. We know that in a 3,000-mile race, the variables are innumerable. The possibilities are endless, and we are open to all of them.
It’s Race Day. T-minus five hours.

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