Terry Zmrhal and Tracy McKay
When Terry first approached me about crewing for
him on his two-person team RAAM attempt last winter, I tried to
turn him down. I'd been unemployed for a few months and hoped
to be back working by the time of RAAM. As it later became obvious
that the economy was not recovering as well as some press would
have us think, I realized I would probably still have time on
my hands in June. But then I worried about how I would do on a
crew. When Terry and I crewed for my husband John in TNT
in 94, I was so totally focused and committed to seeing John finish
that I couldn't sleep at all. RAAM is too long not to sleep. I
told myself that while Terry is a dear friend, he isn't my SO,
so I should be able to detach! If only! If someone knows
how to shut the brain down for a few hours of sleep, and still
be able to get up after just 3 or 4 hours, please let me know.
Both our riders and our crew came from the far
corners of the continent. Terry and Tracy had met on the phone,
when Tracy called in some record attempts. (Terry is the UMCA
records coordinator.) Tracy lives in Alabama, where he teaches
spinning classes in a non-air-conditioned studio - good training
for the repeated short pulls of a team effort, especially as the
race enters the hot and humid zone. Terry lives in Seattle, and
gets lots of training on nearby mountain passes in cold and rain
- good for feeling feel right at home early on in the cold wet
Terry was meticulous in his planning. This
race has been his dream for almost ten years. He qualified for
solo RAAM at Furnace Creek, and has crewed on many qualifiers,
including a few Furnace Creeks (both solo and team efforts), as
well as RAAM. He also rode a few team events, including Race Across
Oregon just before RAAM. Terry compiled loads of information from
all his experiences, and tried to pass as much of it as possible
on to Tracy and the crew. He sent out lots of emails and even
put together a guidebook, composed of many articles from other
veterans as well as many of his own articles. It's worth a read
for anyone planning a RAAM!
We had crew members from Alabama, Washington,
Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Minnesota, Idaho, New Jersey and
Toronto. Muffy Ritz, who has completed RAAM three times was to
be our crew chief for the first half. Prior obligations meant
we'd lose her after a week, but Lulu Weschler was scheduled to
arrive just as we were to lose Muffy. Our hope was the crew would
be in sync and able to function well by that point. Muffy's considerable
experience both riding and crewing for RAAM would be invaluable.
Her sense of humor and ability to do push-ups wouldn't hurt. Lulu
has completed Furnace Creek as part of a four woman team (with
Muffy, Anne Schneider, and Susan Barr), and also brings her expertise
as an orthopedic physical therapist.
Ed Flemming was our next most experienced
crew member with lots of RAAM and RAAM qualifier crewing experience.
Unfortunately Ed's boss refused to let him come at the last minute.
After getting a call from Terry, I scrambled to try and find a
replacement a week before, but it is tough to find someone who
can drop everything on a moments notice to spend two weeks driving
slowly across the country. My best hope for a last minute replacement
had just injured her back. We had no luck finding anyone else,
but felt 9 would be enough.
We also had two nurses, Mary Weeden and Sharon
Dollar. Sharon is also a licensed Massage Therapist, midwife and
former Navy Captain - bringing many great skills to the crew.
She also has lots of riding experience too! James Sedis is a doctor,
specializing in pediatric sports medicine. Sharon and James are
both good friends of Tracy, so brought a bit of insight into working
with Tracy and his needs. Mary and her son Philip (who brings
youthful exuberance) have known Terry even longer than I have,
and bring that special connection that comes with longtime friendship.
Chris Gunnerson, a former housemate, also shares a long friendship
Steve Scholl, Michael Robinson and I share some
bike mechanic experience. Terry met Steve and Mike on tours with
John Hughes. Some of the crew knew each other beforehand, but
for the most part, we were a group of strangers, with a common
goal, thrown together for a brief, but intense encounter. You'll
get to read all about how this evolved over two weeks...
But for now, back to the start...
The team presentation. RAAM has lots of pomp and ceremony. The
teams were introduced several times the day before and day of
the race. Here's the whole crowd the day before.
Tracy is making a few last minute adjustments to his climbing
bike. Sharon is playing bike stand. The vehicle in the background
is Da Bus. It is a 15 passenger van, with the primary purpose
of shuttling crew up the road for sleep. It also carried lots
of spares and Sharon's massage table.
We discovered our CB's weren't working well, and Muffy ran out
and bought battery powered handheld radios at the last minute.
These had a short range (<5 miles), but seemed to work better
than the CB's and were great for communicating between vehicles
when in close range. They were a lifesaver, since the CB in Tracy's
pace van never seemed to work. We also had a wealth of cells phones
(one official one for each vehicle, plus our personal phones),
but often found ourselves out of service areas. We also had a
few phones seemingly stop working part way through the race, and
had to substitute some of the personal phones. It would probably
be worth having crew members get the entry level technician class
ham radio license (which does not require Morse code) and should
be more reliable for longer distance communication. I'd definitely
recommend this for the future. Communications was one of our biggest
issues. Following route directions also caused some problems.
We never had an issue when with a rider - the whole route
is marked, and we were moving slowly enough to see the markings.
But on a couple of occasions, crew heading off for sleep, or back
on duty got lost and suffered major delays. .
This is Terry's pace van, code named Zephyr. It had an
easy access bike rack off the hitch, as well as racks on the roof
for bikes and wheels. We had two bikes on the roof and loads of
spare wheels. When he wasn't riding it, Terry's primary bike,
a blue Titanflex, was on the rear rack. The purple Titanflex pictured
above was his rain bike (note the front fender). It also has a
quick release rear fender (not shown). He used the bike a few
times, when weather warranted, as well as other times because
it offered a slightly different riding position. He also had a
third red Titanflex set up with wide range gears in case the hills
seemed really steep. As testimony to his training, that bike never
The inside of Terry pace van was impressive. All the rear seats
were removed. There are several sets of drawers containing food,
clothing, batteries, lights, drugs, etc., all organized and labeled.
Atop this is a platform with a very comfy bed. In the team event,
the rider will often sleep between pulls, and the bed was quite
handy! There is also a chair, so Terry (or crew) can sit and get
to stuff. A couple of coolers had liquid nutrition for rider and
crew, as well as things like fruit and cold cuts. Turkey proved
quite popular for both riders as they tired of liquids. Finally
there was a small, but quite complete bike toolkit, as well as
emergency supplies for the car - like a puncture repair kit!
Tracy brought tubular tires. I gave a quick demo for how to fix
a clincher and suggested Tracy give the sewup lesson. I sold my
last tubular wheel, about 10 years ago, and honestly can't see
much of a reason for using them today, especially on something
like RAAM, where your crew may have no idea how to mount a new
one after a puncture. I was a bit surprised that Tracy didn't
have preglued spares, or at least tub-tape to make things easier
for the crew. I eventually found some tub-tape in Ogden, Utah,
which I added to his tool kit. He also had deep section rims,
and seemingly just one valve extender. I picked up a couple more
of this in Ogden as well, since occasionally a crew member would
take one away in a pocket from a shift accidentally!
The vehicle in the background is a Ford Escape, code named Typhoon.
When Muffy handed me keys for it and said here are your escape
keys, I apparently looked like I'd just been handed a get out
of jail free card, and tried to figure out how to use it. The
Escape was not actually part of the plan, but a mix-up at the
rental car agency meant poor Tracy would have to deal with a small
cramped pace vehicle. The pictures at the end show just how cramped
it was inside.
Muffy and Chris are looking over the stop and
eat sheets. We kept track of what the riders ingested throughout
the trip. The idea was to keep on a consistent schedule and make
sure riders were drinking enough and getting enough calories along
Steve and Muffy