Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link.
A few days ago I was riding bikes with my buddy Steve, and we got into a conversation about the most grueling sporting event on the planet.
We threw things out like climbing Mount Everest and such. Let’s face it, people have made it to the top of that peak with one leg and blind. Some have gotten to the top and skied down to the bottom.
Not to water down these accomplishments, but I know climbers who are not even as good as I am make it. And trust me, I’m not a great climber.
We tossed around Charlie Engel and the Running the Sahara film. That certainly was no easy feat.
We also threw out the adventure race Raid Gauloises. This list went on and on.
At the end of the day, we decided that the toughest event on the planet was the RAAM, which stands for Race Across America.
Why did we decide this was the grand daddy of all races? Competitors come from around the world to race across the continent of North America, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic (roughly 3,000 miles), in a non-stop race.
The competitors generally stay on the bikes 22 out of every 24 hours. They sleep for two hours and get right back on the bike. The winner is sure to come in within nine days. There is a 12-day cut-off. The pace and the lack of sleep is maddening.
I told you that to tell you this. Earlier this week I wrote a blog about my close friend and fellow competitor David Holt. As a matter of fact, I will be crewing for him in a 500-mile race in Utah known as the Hoodoo 500.
You can keep track of us on this Web site where I will be blogging (VinnieBlog.com) and tweeting (twitter.com/VinnieTortorich) as much as I can, though my first priority will be keeping David on the road.
I crewed for David two years ago in the Race Across America (RAMM), where he suffered one of his few DNFs (did not finish).
I had never seen a person so prepared for a race. Something that had never happened before, happened around the 600-mile mark. David started to get saddle sores. He was basically wearing the skin from his body.
It was my job, being one of his closer friends on the crew, to dress these injuries.
The first time, they didn’t look so bad. But I also realized that he had 2,400 more miles to finish. I wondered how we would get him there.
One of my ideas was to put two pairs of shorts on him, something I had done myself in 24-hour mountain bike racing when a similar problem happened. Let’s face it, finishing a 24-hour race is a lot easier than finishing a nine or ten day race.
The second time I dressed his sores, he had two silver-dollar round spots of skin, as if someone sanded right through it. I no longer wondered how David would make it to the finish line. I wondered how he could make it another mile, or even a pedal stroke. I watched him go another 200 miles (the next 11 hours), mostly standing up off the saddle to pedal.
I had never seen such a human feat in my life. Once again, I had to dress his wounds. He was at 900 miles at this point. When I took the old bandages off, what I saw shocked me. I was looking at raw muscle fiber. It was being pulverized as if a meat clever had been taken to it. As I re-dressed the injuries, David screamed in agony. I did everything I could to fight back my own tears. I didn’t have the heart to tell him how bad it was.
David climbed back on the bike again. He went up an 11,000-foot peak, mostly out of the saddle.
We then headed into Taos, New Mexico. David was now going into what could be considered shock as the night grew colder. He shivered. We stopped and tried to give him some warm soup in the van.
Throwing everything we had over him, he couldn’t stop shivering. We couldn’t ignore the blood stains all over his shorts.
David had an ambulance ride to a hospital that night in Taos. The attending physician said had we not stopped at that point, David’s injuries could have abscessed and caused him trouble the rest of his life. Two years and tens of thousands of miles of training ended in an emergency room.
I told you all of that to tell you this. Always use a good chamois cream in your shorts. I like to do the double application, both on my skin and in the shorts. If it feels gooey and squishy going on, add a little more then you’ll know you got it right.
One of the biggest errors people make with chamois creams is they try to cheap out on it by using regular skin lubricant. Don’t do this. Use the stuff made to get the job done. Some of my favorites are Chamois Butt’r and Assos (one of my favorites but a little pricey). It’s well worth it. They add witch hazel, which adds a disinfectant quality.
I’ve also been known to use Bag Balm. My little secret is I like to use the combination of Bag Balm with other products like the aforementioned ones.
You may ask, did David have these products available to him? The answer is yes, and he used them liberally.
We all have our theories as to what went wrong. One is the day before as he rode through the desert and the heat rose over 110 degrees, we poured a lot of water down David’s back. It could have settled in his shorts and caused friction.
Another theory is the bike shop that was a partial sponsor gave him several pairs of shorts, which he washed only once and weren’t broken in.
A third theory is David lost so much weight in the last month leading up to the race, his shorts were much looser than they should have been, causing friction. My theory: It was probably a combo dish of all three.