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Thursday, February 23, 2012

RAAM / Oh Rocky!

After judging beer on Saturday, Corinna had texted me saying she'd bought us tickets to a documentary about Race Across America, aka RAAM.

Everything I ever knew about RAAM I heard from Corinna. And it all sounded vaguely impossible. As in, the Tour de France must be the consolation ride for pussies who can't hack RAAM. I've ridden as much as 108.5 miles in one day, and while these guys aren't carrying fifty pounds of kit on a thirty-five pound bike, that century and change was all I could do. And I didn't do anything close to a century the day after.

RAAM riders cover three to four hundred miles a day, most of it at a clip I can't sustain even briefly. They ride coast to coast in less than two weeks.

This is, of course, impossible. You'd have to not only average twenty plus miles per hour but also sleep no more than an hour or so a day. This would mean psychotic breaks, hallucinations, and the possibility of death.

Which is to say, if you're willing to sign up for psychosis and death, sure it's possible.

The funny thing was, I recognized some of the distressed thinking pattern competitors were coping with from my own riding, especially the Memorial Day three-state tour. Small beer by comparison, a bit over 200 miles in three days.

Near home, Corinna led me on a shortcut I thought we'd agreed not to take, then not only did way take it, but I realized it wasn't actually a shortcut at all. I thought she should be charged with war crimes. How far gone was I? I actually had the though that I might never want to ride bicycles with her again.

Laughable, I know.

I won't spoil the film for you, you ought to see it. To give you an idea how tough this trek is, over 4,000 Americans have been to the Olympics, but only 169 people in the world have ever finished RAAM.

Two of that 169 were on hand for a Q&A after, and I asked what might have been an insensitive question: What about doping?

I tend to believe that Lance probably blood-doped on the Tour de France. I don't think it takes away from his record because if U.S. Postal was doing it, so was at least half the field. But RAAM's extreme sleep deprivation, I'm thinking these guys must eat amphetamines by the fistful.

One of the veterans said he was clean and he thinks most if not all the riders who do it are clean. He said you reach a point where it hurts so bad to get off the bike you might as well keep riding. I don't doubt him on that, but anyone who wants something bad enough to compete that hard is a candidate for doping if it can be gotten away with.

I looked at RAAM's website, and I haven't finished reading the rules, but the FAQ doesn't even address doping, so I'm not sure if they test at all. I'm engaged to an Olympian, and her take on it is if they don't test for it (the IOC doesn't even allow caffeine or asthma inhalers—things they show RAAM participants using in the documentary), it's the same as allowing doping.

Anyway, we enjoyed the film. One rider had to drop out because he had pneumonia completely infecting both his lungs. I think they described it as 'double pneumonia in both lungs.'

I whispered to Corinna, "I wonder how many people they get in a the E.R. with that who rode their bicycles to the hospital." In Kansas. Riding from California. Yeah.

It turned out to be a double feature: Screenland was doing Rocky Horror that night. I hadn't been to RHPS since I was in high school.

I made a Rocky Horror reference the other day to Corinna, and it went right by her. When I tried to explain, you know, Rocky Horror, she was like, That boxing movie?

Different Rocky. Really different.

If you think you've seen Rocky Horror because you got it on DVD from Red Box, allow me to disabuse you of the notion you've seen the film. This is an audience participation movie and you can't experience in the privacy of your own home. It's marvelous, but you actually have to go out and be in the same room with perverts, sluts and depraved degenerates to really see the movie.

That's it's selling point.

Screenland doesn't let you throw rice at the wedding scene (we blew bubbles like Michael Jackson instead) or toast when Frankie makes his toast to absent friends and bad B-movies, but they have a full troupe of actors with fishnets and tuxedos and whatnot, prop bags for sale (complete with cards for sorrow and pain).

Instead of every Friday at midnight, it's one Saturday a month at ten. I'll be there in March, with my oldest daughter if things work out right.

Yeah, I know. I'm a bad influence.

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