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Nick Dunne is ready to RAAM
Jun 11th, 12. 34 year old Wellingtonian Nick Dunne is in the USA about to embark on the longest road cycling adventure of his life - the Race Across America, or RAAM.
The 5000km ride across the deserts, mountains and plains of the United States starts this Wednesday on the West Coast, in California.
Sometime before the 12 day cutoff, Dunne hopes to be on the East Coast of the USA.
After conquering all of New Zealand's endurance events over the last few years, this is his first attempt at RAAM.
"I wish I knew what made me want to do this!" Dunne told RoadCycling.co.nz before he left New Zealand last week.
"That's the problem, not many people get it. I don't even really get it."
"For me, the easiest way to describe it is - after a couple of days of riding, my life becomes really simple, all I have to do is pedal. My crew does everything else. There is no mortgage, or customers, or anything. I just ride."
The RAAM first caught Dunne's attention in 2003, and in 2010 he qualified for the event by completing eight laps of the 160km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.
Since late 2010, RAAM has been an all encompassing goal for Dunne with an incredible about of training, fundraising and organisation needed to get him to and through the RAAM.
Longest training ride
Dunne's longest training ride in preparation for RAAM was 43 hours – a mammoth trek from Wellington to Napier, across to Taupo and back to Wellington again. The ride was unsupported, with Dunne carrying everything he needed himself.
Training generally happens at night when his family, including three and one year children, have gone to bed. He rides most nights from 9pm to 2am, and also spends all of Friday night on the bike. He admits his family life has suffered, "a necessary sacrifice".
He was in high spirits when RoadCycling.co.nz spoke to him the day before he departed New Zealand, saying he feels strong and ready.
"You can always prepare more, but I have done the best I can with what I have."
Riding the RAAM
Dunne has a crew of six who have travelled with him to the US to support him throughout the ride. They all know the plan and the strategy ...
"My race plan is written on my shorts, it says 'Keep Going!'"
Consistency is the key for Dunne. His general strategy is to "struggle along" at his own pace. He hopes that while he knows he is likely to start slow, he may be able to pull back time in the middle of the race.
It is not just on the bike issues to consider - the RAAM clock does not stop, there are no stages and certainly no rest days. Sleep is considered a luxury the riders cannot afford if they want to tick off each of the critical time checks along the journey. Riders get pulled from the race if they miss a time check.
Dunne's sleep time is scheduled to two short kips a day – 70min at 2pm, and then a further 20min in the middle of the night, about 2am. He will ride for the first 26 hours without sleep.
He predicts his average speed, including all off the bike time, will be about 18km an hour over the duration of the race.
The heat in the desert poses an additional challenge, one which Dunne came up with a clever way to prepare for. To replicate desert conditions, he has been doing roller sessions inside a 55 degree celsius panel beater's bake oven!
Mental coach, but no training coach
Dunne predicts the toughest part of his ride, apart from being away from his family for so long, is going to be the nutrition – by that he means the sheer amount he will have to eat. That, and the mental strength needed to keep pedalling.
Dunne has been working with a mental coach to prepare him for the internal battle that he knows he will face.
"I have a few tricks but that is a whole different world of dark magic! I'm riding my own race, the goal is to finish. But if I can get close to the 11-day mark I will be happy with that. I just want to get to the end in one piece!"
The RAAM starts in Oceanside California, travels through the scorching Arizona desert, over the mountains of Colorado, and past the Mississippi River, before finishing in Annapolis Maryland, on the East Coast.
Last year two Kiwis, Ron Skelton and Joshua Kench started and finished RAAM. This year, Dunne is the only Kiwi competitor. Skelton had hoped to ride it again this year but has deferred his second assault on RAAM to 2013.
See also - honouring the 2011 Kiwi RAAM finishers
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