RAAM Media Specialist Vic Armijo's review of
One Million Pedal Strokes

Here's a new book that's a must-read for the many RAAM and RAW racers and crew members busily getting themselves ready for June. "One Million Pedal Strokes" is a recap of Keith Wolcott's successful 2014 rookie RAAM effort. Wolcott, a recently retired Eastern Illinois University math professor, completed last year's race in 11 days, 19 hours and 18 minutes to take 5th in his age group. Prior to the start of RAAM 2014, 50-59 category racer Wolcott stated, "I'm not really racing against anyone else. My goal is to be an official finisher. I'm going to work the perfect pace that allows me to perform at my best. That's really my goal." Toward that end Wolcott and his spouse/crew chief Ellen Wolcott had worked out a highly detailed plan for Keith's RAAM assault that the book reveals in detail. Their plan included all of his caloric intake, rest stops, sleep stops and daily mileage, crew rotation, short-term goals and much more.

We at RAAM often encounter rookies with intricately formulated plans. And while we certainly encourage our racers to think through their RAAM we sometimes can't helped but be amused by some of the more intricate and optimistic plans of some—once again we refer to the famous quote attributed to boxer Mike Tyson who is said to have responded to a reporter's mention that his upcoming opponent had a plan for defeating Iron Mike; "Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face." RAAM certainly can throw riders an unexpected right hook and many of those well-laid plans are abandoned mere days or even hours after departing Oceanside. The Wolcott's completely understood this and along with their carefully considered schedule had the creed of "bend don't break," meaning that it is better to adapt to conditions and circumstances than to keep pushing a schedule that may no longer be viable. Smart folks those Wolcotts.

The Wolcott's plan called for a 5-minute stop every two to three hours, a 40-60-minute stop (including a 30-40-minute nap) every six hours, and a 4-hour stop (including 3.5-hour sleep) every 24 hours. While this plan allowed more breaks and more sleep than what RAAM’s top contenders plan, Wolcott wasn't out to break any records, he wanted to finish within the 12-day cutoff—which he did with time to spare—and without wearing himself down; he looked remarkably fresh at the finish and was far more lucid than many of the finishers we see.

Along with that meticulous planning, the Wolcott's also completed several types of "dress rehearsals" they "went to the east and rode all of the biggest hills there," Keith explained, "In mid-summer I went to the west and rode all of the big climbs there. I got a sense of what the altitude is like and what the climbs are like. So that gave me a bit of confidence." His crew had gained confidence too, thanks to a 5-day test in summer 2013, "We went out and did 250 miles a day for five days. The crew got training and a sense of what it's like. It allowed us to experiment with sleep and diet strategies and to test equipment."

While this book is a bit dry at times (the guy's an algebraic topologist for crying out loud) the information and lessons shared are hugely valuable for any UltraCyclist racer or crew member. Many of RAAM's most inspiring stores are of regular people doing extraordinary things. Keith Wolcott's 2014 race and this recounting of that race shed light on how with the right planning, attitude and preparation, RAAM truly is in reach of anyone with the desire and dedication to join that elite club of RAAM finishers.