New for 2013! Join the author of this article at a Five-Day Cycling Camp in April in the mountains east of San Diego!

Please join us for a five-day cycling retreat April 15-19, 2013 in Julian, CA in the week immediately preceding the Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic! Participants will enjoy five days of SAG-supported world-class cycling in and around the Mount Laguna - Julian - Lake Cuyamaca - Anza-Borrego area. Each day's ride will start and finish at our host hotel in Julian, with multiple distances offered each day, offering something for everyone. We'll also enjoy several yoga classes, eat pie, taste local wines, and have a group dinnerat a nearby Italian restaurant. The riding, camaraderie, and setting are so fabulous that we believe this camp will become an annual pilgrimage for all who attend.

Velo & Vino riders also have the option to extend their stay, and adventure, by another day to ride the nearby Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic, a Southern California "bucket list" cycling event we've hosted since 2010.

Located at 4200 feet elevation, Julian is the premier mountain getaway just an hour east of San Diego in the beautiful Cuyamaca mountains. Take a step back in time to the days of Julian’s beginning rooted in the 1870s gold rush. Get away from the hectic rush of city life and discover the charms of Julian. See where gold was discovered. Shop in stores housed in historic buildings, some dating back to the 1870s. Sleep in a romantic B&B or historic hotel. Sample Julian's famous apple pies. Enjoy local wine and beer tasting, as well as the locally brewed hard cider. Hike and picnic amid oaks and pines. Ride down Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage. You will love the cycling, and you will love the town. None-riding spouses and family members will have plenty to do, too, while you're out riding.

The Ten Greatest Lies of Solo RAAM Racing

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, Vol. 4, No. 4, August 1995

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Over the years since the Race Across AMerica (RAAM) was begun in 1982, many myths, untruths, white lies, and outright lies have been perpetrated upon the cycling masses and the public at large. These lies are a true disservice to the event, its image, and its participants, for they create false impressions or expectations. These lies also lead to physical injury, mental duress, impinge on the ability of the racers and the race itself to be financially viable, and encourage foolhardy and ineffective training and racing strategies. With the important caveat that I am NOT fingering anyone in particular with the following comments, let me expose some of the greatest lies in the history of ultramarathon cycling:

  1. It is a lie that it costs about $20,000 to race RAAM effectively. In fact, many very successful RAAM efforts have been made on as little as $4,000 in out-of-pocket, cash expenses. The idea that it costs 15, 20, or even 40,000 dollars to race came about because of some racers' misguided efforts to pad their race budgets with three grossly unreasonable expenses: a) Inflated rental fees for motorhomes and support vans that were either unneeded, already belonged to the racer or his family, or had been donated. b) Totally absurd quantities of cycling equipment (like four $5,000 Kestrels or Merlins, or fifteen pairs of shorts priced at $85 per pair). c) Training or preparatory expenses that would have been incurred, anyway, because the RAAM racer is already a serious, competitive cyclist who normally spends several thousand dollars a year on his or her sport.
  2. As long as this myth exists, RAAM will continue to reside in an ivory tower, unapproachable by non-WASP cyclists with grandiose dreams. Strength comes from diversity, and until a truly representative cross-section of America (or the world, ideally) races RAAM, we can hardly claim that RAAM fields the best racers available.
  3. It is a lie that RAAM racers DESERVE sponsorships and endorsement deals. Sponsorship is a form of marketing and advertising, not charity. And to make a sponsorship worth the expense involved, the athlete being sponsored has to actually do something to bring in a return on that sponsorship. Wearing a logo on a cycling jersey is essentially worthless, for starters. What idiot is going to see a logo, patch, or sticker on a RAAM racer and be so impressed that they will rush out and buy that product or service? Also, who cares if a particular cyclist gets his name and photo in the paper? How is that of value to a sponsor, when their company or service is not even mentioned in the article? How does that drive customers through their doors with money in hand?
  4. Until RAAM racers learn to handle their sponsorship arrangements like a real business, they will forever lament the lack of support they receive for their cycling efforts. Contrarily, until RAAM racers quit giving away the moon in exchange for discounted merchandise or a free pair of handlebars, sponsors from within the cycling industry will continue to expect everything and give next to nothing in their "sponsorships" of RAAM racers.
  5. It is a lie that RAAM DESERVES media coverage. RAAM racers operate under the mistaken conclusion that because they are doing something extraordinary (albeit done every year on the same route by mostly the same people with usually the same outcome), they deserve media coverage. Then they don't understand why their names and faces aren't plastered across every newspaper and TV screen along the route. Well, news is like any other commodity: there's lots of competition out there. RAAM may not be able to compete with the smut, terror, and tabloid news that most people unfortunately want. News is sold, remember, not given away. The media wouldn't exist if it weren't for advertisers, and advertisers won't spend money on programs or news that nobody cares about.
  6. The trick to remedying this situation is twofold: a) Individual RAAM racers, or their crew, must act as their own publicists and work very hard within their community and their local media to drum up coverage and enthusiasm for their own participation in RAAM. Media coverage doesn't fall from the sky; there's a specific reason that every piece of news makes it into the paper or onto the TV. b) Individual RAAM racers must make an honest and professional effort to make themselves and what they are doing interesting TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC. When was the last time you saw a RAAM racer give an insightful and interesting interview, or make sure that his or her hair, clothes, face, body, bike, etc. looked presentable? You have to look serious if you expect to be taken seriously.
  7. It is a lie that RAAM racers need to train 400 to 1000 miles a week to prepare for RAAM. This is another myth perpetrated by those RAAM racers who think it makes their cycling accomplishments seem even more impressive. Personally, I think it's more impressive that I raced RAAM successfully on no more than 300 miles a week of training. You see, farther is not better. In fact, it is counter-productive and does more harm than good to ride over, say, 400 miles a week. There is absolutely no physiological rational for training mega miles in cycling. Lots of RAAM racers talk about quality over quantity, but how many of them know their anaerobic or lactate thresholds, or regularly do structured intervals, race in USCF events, or even train in speedy group rides? Almost none, because they're scared of the competition.
  8. It's very simple: you can either have quality OR quantity, kind of like "if you're not a part of the solution, then you're a part of the problem." So quit racking up all that brain-dead mileage and do something meaningful with your training and your life.
  9. It is a lie that you have to live and train like a hermit to get ready for RAAM. There are far too many RAAM racers who train and concentrate on RAAM so much that RAAM is their life. How can they have any meaningful interaction with their family, children, friends, or even co-workers if they're constantly churning out 500 to 1,000 mile weeks, working on your bike, getting a massage, or trying to hammer out sponsorship proposals? How reasonable is it for RAAM racers to rope their spouses into slaving towards their RAAM goals, getting them to handle the crew, vehicles, and sponsorships, as well as picking up the slack around the house while their RAAM racer loved one is out training or doing yet another quadruple century? More importantly, how can RAAM racers who live like this look at themselves in the mirror each morning? It takes an ego a mile wide and a pitiful degree of self-absorption to live like this.
  10. To remedy this situation, we need the non-self-absorbed RAAM racers to step forward as role models for the rest of the community. Let's get some articles about "how to fit RAAM around a real life and a meaningful home life" or "how I showed my spouse that I really appreciate his or her help towards my RAAM goals and how next year, instead of doing RAAM again, we're going to blow our vacation and savings on something he or she wants to do instead."
  11. It is a lie that RAAM is the toughest thing you'll ever do in your life. RAAM may be the toughest sporting event in the world, but it pales in comparison to the effort it takes to just live life. Who can compare a bicycle race to birthing and raising a child, to making mortgage and credit card payments every month, to putting yourself through college in night school, or to keeping your spine straight and your breath low as you walk through life? Yes, RAAM is a great challenge and it does instill numerous meaningful insights and confidence in its racers, but let's not pretend we're superhuman just because we're wearing a RAAM ring.
  12. Bringing RAAM down to earth is the mission here. RAAM's great and I love it, there's no doubt, but it's not the toughest thing in life. We'll reserve that accolade for life itself.
  13. It is a lie that Jonathan Boyer intended to race in RAAM 86 to defend his title and record set in 85. Boyer, the first American to race in the Tour de France, came to RAAM to prove many of the points listed above. He came to prove that RAAM could be most successfully raced on low mileage, quality training, that it could be done as a financially viable, high-visibility, well sponsored effort, that RAAM is just another race in which the best cyclist wins, and that all of the above would result in Boyer winning RAAM in record time. Boyer was successful on all counts. He proved his point, then returned to his European road racing efforts and cycling products export business. He NEVER intended to race RAAM again, for there would have been no point.
  14. However, a few cyclists took Boyer's point-proving (and dominating, record-breaking victory) personally. A myth was invented that Boyer intended to come back to RAAM 86 to prove he wasn't a fluke in 85. Then when Boyer didn't race RAAM 86, thanks to the carefully devised myth, Boyer was made to look like he weaseled out. Then when RAAM 86 was set in record time, much ballyhoo was made about breaking Boyer's record. This is unfair, unreasonable, and unjustified for many reasons, however: a) Boyer never cared about the record. Yes, he broke the record when he won, but his only real concern was winning. Nobody keeps track of the winning time in the Tour, remember. b) While a comparison between the two RAAMs is inevitable, comparing RAAM 85 to RAAM 86 is a little bit bogus because Boyer and Secrest were rained on every, single day at the front of the race except Day One, while the front of the 86 race was almost dry as a bone. Also, both RAAM 86 victories benefited heavily from new technologies, nutrition, disc wheels, and more aero positions. True, these cyclists are to be congratulated for being SMART enough to employ these advancements, but that doesn't make them better ATHLETES. However, since these advancements didn't exist (as with aero positions and liquid meal replacements) or were illegal (as in the case of disc wheels), it's unfair to Boyer to compare the 86 record to his 85 record. Think of Moser's world hour record versus Merckx's. Whose was more impressive and will go down as the real record in the annals and lore of cycling?
  15. It is a lie that most RAAM racers live on 90% liquid diets during RAAM. This is another myth perpetrated by those RAAM racers trying to embellish on their accomplishments. Sure, a few (less than five, I'd wager) RAAM racers have done the event on 90 to 95% liquid diets, but what does it prove, and was it the ideal nutritional program? It's the truth that most people are successful at things DESPITE themselves. Personally I'm more impressed by a human being than a robot. Besides, how can ANY synthetic, pre-fabricated, laboratory-engineered food product (emphasis on the word product) be more wholesome and nutritious than Mother Nature? Can we bottle and powderize the gift of life, the essence of the universe?
  16. This myth serves to encourage false expectations of would be RAAM racers. When neophytes (or just weak-minded, grizzled veterans who decide to cave in and give "them new-fangled sports drinks a try") go out and race on an overpriced, 90% liquid diet and then have diarrhea, nausea, or a stopped up digestive system, they think it's their own fault, that they "must not have what it takes." This myth is not fair to all who aspire to RAAM greatness!
  17. By all means, I'm not coming out against liquid nutritional systems. (I've used UNIPRO's system for ten full years, after all, with great success). What I'm saying is let's quit stretching the truth. It's OK, after all, to be human, to admit that you ate a greasy hamburger or had a DQ Blizzard during RAAM (or even every day during RAAM). An honest, down to earth sports idol is the best kind of idol, even one who eats, and admits to eating, a 75% liquid diet during RAAM.
  18. It is a lie that aero handlebars are primarily "arm rests" for leaning on and being comfortable during RAAM. This is another myth perpetrated by RAAM racers who wish they'd been a part of the cashing in on aero handlebars when they came out in 1987. The myth also holds that a cyclist can not be simultaneously truly aerodynamic (by being reasonably low with the forearms parallel and essentially directly together) AND comfortable. Somehow a cunning few have convinced RAAM racers (and many of the cycling public at large) that the only way to be comfortable on aero bars is to have the arms as far apart as possible and the bars as high as possible, potential aerodynamic benefits be damned.
  19. This is untrue. A cyclist who rides in the real aero position (remember: arms directly together from fingertip to elbow, with the bars somewhat lower than the seat) can be VERY comfortable. All it takes is commitment to the position, and, horror of horrors, a little effort OFF the bike doing stretching, limbering, and strengthening exercises for the neck and back.
  20. The result of getting past this myth is the ability to comfortably and quickly ride right away from another RAAM racer or cyclist struggling through the wind in an un-aero and dubiously comfortable position.
  21. It is a lie that RAAM is the ultimate goal, an end in itself, rather than a starting point. Remember, RAAM is not brain surgery, not nuclear disarmament, nor even the Tour de France. However, RAAM can be a portal to a more transformative lifestyle, one of balance and harmony and health. With the right approach and attitude, RAAM can lead to more and better things in life, but with the wrong approach, finishing, or even winning, RAAM leads to a deflated feeling of "what next?" This type of finish line mentality can only lead at best to another finish line, usually another RAAM finish line, but not to self-enlightenment and a softer walk on the earth. But leave this one-track lifestyle behind and you, as well as RAAM, will be well on the way to a new image and a higher, more wondrous place in the collective hearts and minds of America and beyond. Now that's an ultimate goal for an ultimate athlete!

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