Blog

June 24, 2014

By now you may have heard that Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes won the 8-man division at this year’s Race Across America, finishing this past Friday afternoon in only 5 days 21 hours, which was more than 4 hours and 100 miles ahead of our nearest competitor!!!

This magical result was entirely unexpected.  Clearly, someone was looking after us because of our important mission to do for others what they are currently unable to do for themselves.  In so doing, we not only arrived in Annapolis, MD, at the RAAM finish line in record time, but we also arrived healthy and intact.  During the race we suffered no major bouts of mechanical failures, bad weather, navigational miscues or permanent injuries (although we had two pretty scary bike crashes while en route).

When our team arrived in Oceanside, CA, we mistakenly showed up at the pre-race briefing dressed slovenly in flip-flops, tee shirts and cut-off shorts. Much to our chagrin, each of the other 8 teams appeared muscularly buff and neat, all decked out in fancy new cycling kits.  As we pondered the difference in our respective appearances, we thought “we might be at the wrong race!”  In the end, however, our sartorial error created a tactical advantage.  There is little doubt now that our shabby dress at the pre-race briefing contributed to our 8 competitors underestimating our abilities.

No sooner did the race start than we seized the lead, and held it for the whole 3,000-mile long course until we crossed the finish line.

As I mentioned above, someone was looking down on us during the race as we had mostly fair skies and the wind at our back.  I cannot help but believe that the essential work done by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund propelled us forward.  During the race, IFHF broke ground on its fifth PTSD/traumatic brain injury treatment center, the latest one being located at Fort Hood in Texas.

As shown in this video there can be little doubt of the importance of IFHF’s work.    With your generosity, after having raised nearly $600,000 from this event, we hope these long waits for treatment will be finally mitigated and the young men and women who gave so much for our nation may receive the prompt, expert attention that they deserve.

Once again, thank you for your support of the IFHF.  Please feel free to pass on this link to anyone else who you believe may wish to contribute: http://intrepidheroesrace.com/

Very truly yours

– Chip Marks

 

finish

finish line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 20, 2014

I’m starting this within 200 miles of the finish line … this is the hardest part of the race by far.  While the Rockies are higher, the Appalachians provide steeper climbs, one right after another.  Winston, Jimmy, Rob and Scott took on a very difficult section and crushed it; we’re doing a similarly difficult section as I write this.  It is night time – 3:24 am – and the roads are empty other than some critters and a dead deer.

This has been a difficult night.  Because we started around midnight and we have a solid lead of some 80+ miles we don’t have a lot of energy.  But we just went through Mercersburg, the sun is rising, the fog is burning off and we have woken up.

I’ve been thinking about what to say this morning.  Maybe talk about the beauty of each region we rode through.  Or how supportive people have been along the way.  Or how excited we are about winning a race which we never thought was a race but more of an event to take part in.

But as I rode towards the sun this morning I realized what needs to be said is Thank You.

–          To the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund for all they do to support our injured service men and women.

–          To our Sponsors, especially PepsiCo and Silverstein Properties.  We are almost at our goal of $600,000.

–          To our friends and families who have supported our training and travel.

–          To the support team – we couldn’t have done it without them.  Ted, Shawna, Scott, Jeff, Jake, Melanie, Ric, Anders, Cat, Turk and Andy

–          To Winston and Chip who went above and beyond in organizing and supporting this adventure.

–          To our teammates – it’s been a fun 6 months planning and training and competing.

But I mostly want to say Thank You to the anonymous folks who don’t know us at all but came out to cheer us on.  The guy in Kansas on the side of the road with the American flag and a cheer for us.  The people who came out along the route to cheer us on.  Most of all to our new friend Sheila who sent us this note on our Facebook page.

Sheila – 6/19/14: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with my husband and myself last night at the Walmart in Robinson, IL. We lost our son PFC Jacob T. Tracy in Iraq. Yesterday was the 7th anniversary and it really warmed our hearts for you to take the time to talk with us. Thank you and God bless.

Her appreciation for a small kindness after losing her son is beyond words.  We should all do whatever we can do to support our troops who protect our freedom and way of life every day.

Here’s my last entry – Hal, Chip, Stefan and I just visited Gettysburg National Military Park which is on the RAAM route.  Seems like an appropriate time to end my email.  Thank you all for your support.

– Brian

gettys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 19, 2014

Good morning!

My team of 4 is starting out in Oxford Ohio – we are in the Eastern Time Zone.  The other team – Winston, Jimmy, Scott and Rob – just killed it last night stretching our lead to 122 kms (about 65 miles).  GREAT JOB GUYS!

Yesterday was an interesting day.  I’ve kind of lost track of the days but I think we started in Missouri then rode through Southern Illinois and then into Indiana.  We turned it over to Winston & friends who rode us into Ohio.  So what was interesting?  Well, we passed several solo riders who happen to be very close to each other.  These are folks who started last Tuesday – about 10 days ago – and have covered 2,000+ miles.  Some look strong, others look wasted but all look happy.  Christoph Strasser won the solo race in 7 day, 15 hours, 56 minutes.  Amazing to cover 3,000 miles but we on Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund are only mildly impressed – we’re going beat his time easily!  Yes, you might note that we are 8 people to his 1 but we’re pretty proud of our results.

What else?  We crossed the Mississippi River (photo 4); we saw lots of corn fields and grain containers and other interesting structures (5);  Stefan got bored and started doing push-ups (2); I did a couple of radio interviews.  OK, none of this was all that interesting but that’s what happens in long endurance race – there are ups and downs along the way.  A highlight last night was a pizza delivery to the gas station we were parked at … yes, it’s life’s small pleasures which make a big difference.

So let’s talk a little about race strategy.  We are an 8 person team and the most important consideration is SLEEP.  The second most important is sleep and #3 is sleep.  So we break up into two 4-person teams so one team can sleep while the other team is racing.  We plan on each riding session to take 11 to 12 hours so the other team can shower, eat and sleep.  The generally means 200 miles.

We tried to make two teams of equal strength and I think we did a very good job of that.  This allows each team to play to their own strengths and weaknesses – who is a good climber or descender, who handles the flats well, who is having a good day and who isn’t.  This has worked very well for us.

We’ve come to the conclusion that each rider should go for 12 – 15 minutes and then switch.  That can change based on terrain – go shorter on climbs and longer on descents – but this is our starting point.  Some teams go with longer intervals but this works for us.

With all of that information the crew chiefs (Ted Kennedy and his daughter Shawna) organize where we will rendezvous the two teams.  They are meticulous in their planning.  And then something happens and the plan goes out the window.  First, we are going much faster than they anticipated.  So the 200 – 220 miles have only been 9 – 10 hours which is too short for the other team to get a good night sleep.  Then yesterday the bus had issues and had to be serviced.  So our team ended up taking on extra miles and rode 235 miles to give them more time.  Ted and Shawna cooked up several new plans on the fly yesterday as the day progressed.  Fortunately all we riders have to do is ride and eat and sleep while our support team, which is an excellent group of mostly young people, takes very good care of us.

Winston’s team 1 pm (local) start in Oceanside CA our team’s first turn started around midnight.  While it was very cool to be riding in the desert at night our sleep pattern was completely goofed up.  At this point in the race our team is sleeping nights and Winston & team are sleeping days.  One result is we are getting enough sleep and are feeling very strong today.  However, today we will finish around 3 pm and our next shift will be around 12 or 1 am so we’ll need to sleep during the day.  We’re at the end of the race so a lack of sleep is no big deal but at the beginning and middle of the race it is critically important.

I haven’t talked about weather … because it has been perfect.  Dry & sunny, warm during the day, cool at night, the full moon on Friday the 13th the night before the race.  But today is cloudy & wet although for the most part we’ve avoided the rain.

-Brian

pass

sk push up

SK - 6-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 17, 2014

Our team of 4 – Chip, Hal, Stefan and me  – are riding through Kansas kicking it right now.  We just passed the halfway point!!; we just got pizza from a Kwik Shop; we have the Doors on the radio; and the riding is going great.  We have the lead by more than 2 hours and are feeling strong.

In a race like this it is important to deal with challenges as they come up.  We’ve had 4 big ones – Dr. Rob’s fall on the first day; the trailer door blew off this morning; the bus’ hydraulics are having issues and Stefan crashed this morning.  Dr. Rob is fine – the trailer door was welded on – the place that services the bus happens to be on the route so it’ll get checked out / fixed – and Stefan has some road rash but he’s fine.  Our crew chief Ted told us we would have 5 – 6 challenges so we only have 1 or 2 left to overcome.

Both teams of 4 have been riding very strongly.  There is one team chasing us but we keep putting more distance on them.  We have gotten very efficient on the team transitions and rider transitions and sleep has gotten easier on the bus.  After a couple of days of struggling we feel like we have good mojo going.

The Rockies were beautiful and gave us some challenging climbing.

Sorry, I need to interrupt this email.  I’m writing this in the car that ferries the riders up to the transitions.  I just did a turn – on some crappy 4-lane divided highway in Kansas – and a car is parked on the side of the road, a guy is standing next to it and he’s planted an American flag.  As I ride up he is taking my picture and he yells “Go Team Intrepid!”  To say I was floored is an understatement.  We cannot underestimate the impact the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has had and your support has been invaluable.  Thanks to everyone at the Fund and all of you.

OK, back to the update.  The Rockies were great and now we’re into Kansas.  Flat, hot, windy Kansas.  There’s not much more to say than that. At least there’s no thunderstorms or tornados.

Thanks for all of your support.  The emails are greatly appreciated and we can’t wait to get home … with a win!!

Best,

– Brian

June 16, 2014: Video Blogs from the Race!

June 15, 2014

First, happy Father’s Day to all of the Dads.

RAAM – I barely know where to start. Saturday began in Oceanside CA with Chip Marks and I taking a 30 mile ride down the Pacific Coast Highway at 6:30 in the morning. To say was beautiful would be an understatement. The ocean, blue skies, people running and biking and surfing – it was just tremendous. The rest of the morning consisted of packing up the bus, checking out of the hotel, taking pictures, and giving interviews.  PepsiCo had a film crew film us riding and getting ready on Friday and Saturday so they can produce a short video on the team and the race.  The busses and vans turned out great – we were able to get all of our sponsors listed on one of the vans.

At noon we headed down to the beach for the start of the race.  What an exciting event with hundreds of people cheering on couple of hundred riders embarking on the 3,000 mile ride.  While the team got to stand at the starting line, one of our leaders, Jimmy Riccitello was our first rider and he did a tremendous job setting the pace for the team.

We are now a little over 24 hours into the race.  We just left Prescott AZ and are heading towards Sedona and then into Colorado.  Today it is hot dry desert; tonight it will be maybe snowing in the Rockies.  The guys have done great, currently we are in 1st place with a lead of about 16 miles on the next 8-man team.

The riding has been very interesting.  Jimmy, Winston, Scott and Rob headed out first.  Rob had a bad crash in the very beginning of his first ride so he sat out the rest of the day.  Stefan moved over from our group so 4 would be riding together.  The group staked us to a lead when their shift ended at the 230 mile mark.

Then Evan, Hal and me, along with Stefan now pulling a second shift, took over.  It was rough – we started in the dark at 11 pm so our internal clocks were all goofed up.  Stefan was tired but he’s a unique person and amazing athlete so he was ready to keep riding.  We rode through a beautiful night and a stunning sunrise and increased the lead to 16 miles.  A little while ago we passed the baton back to Winston & crew including Rob who is making a courageous effort to continue riding with the team.

So starts Day 2.  The race has been hard but so much fun.  We hope to hold onto our lead until we get to Annapolis but it’s a long way to go.

Thanks for all of your support of our team and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

Go Team Intrepid!

– Brian

 

June 13, 2014

Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes – Ready to Ride!

RAAM Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes T802 - L-R Front, S Cohen, B Collins, R DeStefano, W Fisher, Back, H Goldstein, S Kusurelis, E Marks, J Riccitello_DSC2142

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L-R Back Row: Scott Cohen, Brian Collins, Robert DeStefano, Winston Fisher,

L-R Front Row: Hal Goldstein, Stefan Kusurelis, Evan Marks, Jimmy Riccitello

 

June 11, 2014

RAAM camp – Aspen Co – May 28 to June 2

 
A couple months back, Evan “Chip” Marks had invited our RAAM Intrepid Fallen Heroes Team for one last training push before our ride across the country.  Aspen, with its gorgeous backdrop of high mountains, luscious green valleys and crystal clear lakes, was the perfect fit to make us play professional athletes for a few days.
 
Sleep, train, eat, laugh and suffer was all we needed 12 days before our departure to the west coast. The high elevation starting at 8900 feet – with the only choice to go up even higher – would be a fantastic way to boost our confidence  and hematocrit values – and in addition bond us together as a team.
 
Day 1 – Wednesday
 
“Ouch – I feel my legs, and what is that burning in my lungs?” These were my first sensations after we had left Chip’s house in the afternoon.
 
Today was travel day for most of us. After an early lunch in town and brief sightseeing in Aspen-town, Chip, Winston, Hal and I left shortly after we assembled our bikes. Turn left out of Chip’s house, and you’ll find yourself at a stunning 45 minute gentle climb up to the Maroon Bells, a crystal clear mountain lake surrounded by 12000+ feet mountains.
 
Most of the climbing around Aspen can be done at a steady, long and not overly excruciating effort, so it was nice to have this short ride as a starter. Chip gave us a quick tour of the scenic localities and soon after it was time for the fast descent back into town.
 
The town of Aspen is surrounded by a tight network of hiking and mountain bike trails, so I later ran the Maroon and Government trails for about 7 hilly miles. Nothing in Aspen is flat and I feel that any given running mile translates to 1.5 miles at sea level and normal east coast terrain.
 
Later that day Stuart and Jess arrived and we all had dinner back in town. Grocery shopping and planning the next day was all that was left before falling into our beds after a long day.
 
Day 2 – Thursday
 
Still on east coast time, it was easy for me to get up at 5am and leave for an early morning run. The local high school track is just one perfect warm-up mile away.
 
Somehow I started with the illusion of speed work, which lasted for about ½ a mile. Running at 9000 feet is for sure different to my regular outings. I do love running on any track though, and scanning Google’s satellite view for the red ovals is something I often do after arriving in new cities. It ended up to be 8 miles in total, followed by quick breakfast bite.
 
Winston, Jess, Stuart and I then checked out the pool at the Aspen Rec center, a beautiful indoor facility that includes a 25 yard pool. For me, swimming seems the hardest at altitude, which probably has something to do with the inherently restricted breathing nature of the sport. Still, we created a nice 60 minute session with a mixture of skill sets and intervals.
 
The main session of the day was a 60 mile ride down north the valley, bypassing the famous Woody Creek tavern, the St. Benedict’s Monastery and Aspen Camp for the Deaf and Hard of hearing – all surrounded by gorgeous scenery and cycling-friendly roads. Not a single driver honked at us, which is another sign how this area embraces the outdoor sports.
 
Most of our way out was on a dedicated bike path, right next to Woody Creek. We used the side roads for our return, beautifully lined with horse ranches, dandelion fields and snow-capped mountains.
 
By then we had broken up into two separate pace groups. Our team mate Brian had also arrived and I joined him for a second ride to Ashcroft. Brian had gone up to the Maroon Bells earlier that afternoon. A short 30 minute transition run ended a very tiring 8 hour training day.
 
Day 3 – Friday
 
Today started out a bit drizzly on the weather side, so I repeated yesterday’s routine. This time I ran the trails for 60 minutes, with a mostly steady swim right after. For some brief period I even had the entire pool for myself, something I’m simply not used to from NYC.
 
The amenities Aspen provides for locals and visitors are outstanding, and give us the perfect playground for our camp. Half of our training group derives from a triathlon background, so we snuck in a few runs and swims along the way. My plan is to run even during the RAAM, even if it’s just a couple of miles after ending our shift.
 
But I digress. Chip had suggested riding up Independence Pass today, but the threat of rain nixed our plans. After a big and healthy breakfast at the house we all went to hit the trails. Hiking, running, power-walking – we all had our options when we jumped into the forestry and hilly area around the smuggler mountain. It’s a very intertwined trail system located just above Aspen, and we all got the best out of it. We even came up with a new tagline for the state of Colorado – ‘stay high’.  Of course in our case it just meant to find the best trails.
 
Winston then brought up the idea of scaling the infamous Ute trail, a 1 mile long, 1100 feet steep incline that challenges even the strongest. I would not call it running, rather a suffer-walk. But standing at the top of it in the slight rain was enough reward for all the pain to get up there. 
 
Quick lunch in town and waiting for weather change was all we could do at this point – any more running was just not possible. Right around 2pm the clouds went away, sunshine appeared and the smiles were back on our faces. Brian and I teamed up for a spirited 2 person time trial to Carbondale, but burned enough matches in the first half to make us crawl on the way back.
 
But the icing on the cake was Brian’s King of the Mountains jersey he received on Strava, a website that tracks and compares cyclists’ efforts. He beat 274 riders along the way, which makes me think we found our dedicated team climber for the mountains at RAAM. 
 
Day 4 – Saturday
 
There were for sure some sore legs this morning. But nevertheless Chip had something planned for us that I’d like to call the princess stage – a sunny ride to the Ruedi Reservoir. It started out as a gentle descent towards the town of Basalt, where we all regrouped for a last minute refueling at the local coffee shop, a photo session and some road knowledge from Chip.
 
The route got us on a road called the Frying Pan Road, and it for sure honored its name. It was hot! It’s essentially a long uphill, with team riders shattered in several small sub groups, and rumor is that one rider was wandering without his bike looking for water – speaking incoherently at this point.
 
The scenery was stunning – we bypassed the entire Ruedi reservoir, the Aspen Yacht club and a small remote housing settlement. The downhill back to our meeting point in Basalt was a fast and thrilling reward for all the work we had done earlier. Winston had suggested the best Taco place in town for lunch, where we recharged our empty bodies, before taking the car back to Aspen. A few of us rode the remaining 20 miles back into town, into the headwind, at this point almost running on fumes.
 
The total ride was 104 miles, which I sandwiched between 2 runs of 8 and 6 miles. It was a rock solid day for everyone.
 
Day 5 – Sunday
 
This morning Chip greeted us all with a big smile, describing our next challenge – Independence Pass just south of Aspen. Its highest point is at 12095 feet, with a relentless ascent leading towards it. It is part of the continental divide, and was featured in last year’s US PRO cycling challenge, where even tough European racers admitted that they never encountered this altitude in any of their races – the air gets a bit thin up there.
 
Luckily everybody climbed it at his ”private” pace – it’s simply so easy to blow up and not recover. It was 3000 feet of climbing in about 1hr 45 minutes, which had me racing the last meters to the high point. The entire area above 11000 feet was still covered in snow, so a quick wardrobe change was needed for the descent towards Twin Lakes on the other side.
 
The 17 miles downhill to the Twin Lakes general store was a somewhat endless cluster – it’s hard to deeply enjoy it when every few feet of elevation loss has to be made up during the return trip. The general store in Twin Lakes is itself worth a visit and 3 chocolate bars and 3 pain pills later (with some doubting thoughts) I pushed my bike back up the mountain. It was endless.
 
But I had no choice. Today’s ride became the queen stage in my book and the perfect preparation for the Race across America.
 
Jimmy arrived this afternoon, and it was fun hanging out with him. This man knows how to tell a good story. My early morning run was 90 minutes along the slopes of the Buttermilk ski area. I took the evening off…
 
Day 6 – Monday
 
It was very fitting way to end up the last day the same way we began the camp – by riding up to the Maroon Bells. We paired up in different groups, depending on return flights and work commitments. Hal and I had one last stab at this 45 minute incline, and once I arrived at the lake I couldn’t hold back on jumping into the water – and yes – it was cold. But bragging rights last forever.
 
Brian had gone the same route at the crack of dawn, at the time when I was running through the ski area. We both saw the most stunning sunrise at 6am. Coming back to home base, I had to get my bike ready to be shipped right to the race start in Oceanside.
 
The camp turned out to be a huge success on many levels. Besides riding and running in the most scenic areas and the training at a higher altitude, we also found a new level of camaraderie, which will be essential for our ride across the country. Being under tremendous physical and emotional stress in the confined environment of a bus for 6+ days will push the strongest of us to our limits, and feeling comfortable with the people sharing this experience is an important part of this journey. 
 
I can’t thank Chip and Winston enough who made this trip so enjoyable with their hospitality, local knowledge and guidance and everybody else who joined me in moments of highs and lows – all whilst having a big smile on our faces. Guys, I’m excited to get this show on the road – ALL 3000 miles of it. Oceanside – here we come.
-Stefan

June 5, 2014

Riding in Style

One crucial ingredient for a well performing cycling team is what we bike riders call THE KIT, or our workout garments. Usually referred to as spandex, today’s truth is actually far from it. Modern fabric technology revolutionized the the original woolen jerseys into a truly amazing, performance enhancing fashion statement. Looking fast and fit is as important as being fast and fit. We selected Squadra, a California based company with Italian roots as our bespoke manufacturer.

Since the cause of our ride across the country is to support American soldiers with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress, we knew that the American flag colors had to be on prominent display. Navy blue, red, and white are the main ingredients for the uniforms. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund logo appears in a prominent spot on the back of the jersey, with the Intrepid Heroes Race logo on the front panel.

The concept called for a classic and bold design, but also something that will pass the test of time. Being visible as a cyclist in car traffic is important as well, something that will prove to be even more important when we are riding across the country in any kind of day and night conditions. The bright red stripes in front and back are in solid contrast to the navy blue, with the white fonts and logos setting the final and subtle tone.

The next critical item was the logo placement of our generous sponsors, and the white on the red background worked in our favor with the patriotic theme of our adventure.

Even the smallest details count for us, so we placed the team members initials right on the end seam of the left leg. These may appear to be upside down, but the idea was that these are to be read from a pedaling riders perspective only. There is no way to slow down when you have a constant reminder that the suffering is not just for yourself, rather for the entire team. It will be a silent but powerful encouragement.

jerseys

One day, years from now, we hope to see something like this in cyclist and fashion magazines throughout the country….

“Did The Intrepid Fallen Heroes design team have any idea that they had created an iconic, classic cross-seasonal look when they revealed the first images of this flattering and truly inimitable cycling uniform?

Ever since, cyclists from all rides of life have come to rely on their versatile cycling outfits. No matter what our body shape, the size of our bank account, or how many other options hang in our arsenal, the casually elegant IFHF uniforms will remain the standby. Dress it up, dress it down. It fits the bill for any and all occasions—long rides, social rides, latte macchiato with the boys, breakfast in Nyack, or a glitzy ride on the town.

IFHF riders, we sing your praises. Unlike many of you, I own only one of your kits. As fashion trends wax and wane, one thing is for sure. The trusty IFHF is always perfect with black socks, white handlebar tape, and a healthy dollop of Eddy Merckx attitude.”

-Stefan

May 27, 2014

Want to understand what we are fighting for?  Winston explains here:

 

May 5, 2014

Team IFHF's own Winston Fisher (third from left) after the St. Croix Half Ironman this past weekend.

Team IFHF’s own Winston Fisher (third from left) after the St. Croix Half Ironman this past weekend.

Never one to just take on a single challenge, Team IFHF’s Winston Fisher competed in the St. Croix Half Ironman this past weekend. He writes:

“I knew going into this race that it is considered one of the hardest half Ironmans (and generally one of the hardest triathlons) in the world, but suspected it might be a bit of hype. I am here to tell you the rumors are true!  

My day started at 4 a.m. when I woke up and chugged 20 oz. of apple sauce, ate a banana and drank a protein powder shake. Heading to the start in the sticky pre-dawn darkness, I met up with friends who were racing with me.  

The starting area had the familiar buzz of nervous energy before a group of nut jobs (like me!) were to put ourselves through hours of torture on a quest to push our bodies to new limits.  Lining up with about 60 other guys on the beach, we waited. Everyone was rocking back and fourth ready to explode!  The horn goes off and we all started sprinting!!  Within five seconds we dove into the water and swam as hard as we could for position.  

After you round the first buoy and head out into the bay, the first thing you notice is the waves and current. The whole time you can see the bottom and the marine life. Every now and then a scuba diver would wave at you.  I was swimming hard, and felt as though I was crushing it. When I finished and checked my watch, I realized it was my slowest swim time to date! Already I had been shown what a tough course this would be.

I bounded out of the water and headed for my bike.  The first 20 miles was easy, with a series of rollers and the wind at my back.  Then I hit “The Beast:” a just under 1-mile climb that I think was designed to destroy your soul! At one point the course goes from a 14-degree incline to a 26-degree incline. People got off their bikes and were walking, it was that hard.  

Once you make it to the top, you bike for 36 miles into the wind, up multiple steep hills with the sun blazing overhead. There is no reprieve from the harshness of this course. But with all my RAAM training, I was in heaven! It still wasn’t easy; with every mile, your legs get heavier and the sun gets stronger. Your heart rate is increasing as does your anticipation to get off the bike and start the third part of this madness we call fun.

I racked my bike, changed into my running gear and bounded out of the transition area. The first thing I noticed was the intense heat.  My heart rate shot up to 160 before I reached the first water station.  The first two miles, we were on black top, up short steep rollers. You then turn into the Buccaneer Hotel and run around the golf course. There was no shade, massive hills (including one hill called the “Baby Beast”) and a limited breeze, with high humidity.

At every aid station, I was dumping ice water all over myself. Nothing was cooling me down. It took me until mile 7 to realize I should put ice in my hat and put it on my head. The ice burned my scalp but finally I felt my internal temperature start to drop.  All I kept thinking was “Live in the Pain Cave!”  I walked more than I wanted to but I managed to finish the run in 2:02. 

Overall, I finished the race in 5:57. I am psyched I broke six hours but still little disappointed I was not closer to 5:30. I learned a lot about what I am doing right in training and areas that clearly need work. This race is not for the faint of heart, but I finished it. Another notch in my triathlon belt!” 

 

April 23, 2014

Want to see what we’re training for? Watch this:

https://vimeo.com/86633049

 

April 22, 2014

2013-03-20 PHOTO-PainCave1

Stefan (left) and the rest of the IFHF RAAM Team train on a regular basis in the “Pain Cave” in NYC.

It’s been about three months since our Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund RAAM Team started weekly evening training sessions, and what a ride it’s been so far.

When Winston offered us the use of a space close to his office for use as base (now dubbed “The Pain Cave”), I knew that training in a group environment would make all difference – athletically, socially and practically:

  • Athletically, since training in a squad environment is a great way to keep up the motivation;
  • Socially, since we are all getting to know each-other months before the actual race;
  • Practically, because – I don’t even know where to start on this one. But having a home and destination without having to haul bikes around all over Manhattan is priceless (Plus, think Netflix, big screen, nutrition and a 36 inch diameter sound system!).

Most of the IFHF RAAM team is NYC based, with the exception of the amazing Jimmy Riccitello from Tucson, AZ.  A former USA Triathlon Professional, Xterra triathlon world champion, coach to the best, and a wealth of knowledge, Jimmy’s full list of accolades is too long to list.

So as we began to train, we were just a bunch of guys, trying to balance life, work and training for what might be the most challenging event on earth. We reported for duty either as formerly in-shape, just getting into seasonal shape, ramping it up for the main events of the season, or getting over injury.

As the team members who would create the training regiment, Jimmy and I had our work cut out for us.

If people already call triathlon a fringe sport, think about the subcategory that RAAM falls into.  How does one approach a 6-and-1/2 day race across a continent, with macro and micro “shift” work, little sleep throughout, riding all day and night, no matter the weather, in tight proximity to your team mates?

Looking at it more closely reveals the trek will not be all-out pedal/rest/repeat as it may seem.  Yes, we will bike all out for 20-40 min, then completely rest for 90 min in the back of a van, then get on the bike again. No warm-up. No cool down. We might get an extended period of hours completely off for sleep, hygiene, food or reading emails – but then it’s on again, for six to seven days.

Add to that the little knowledge about the event that is out there is guarded very tightly means we have to rely on a lot of common sense, experience, some crazy experiments, plus our motivation.

It will easily be the greatest challenge of our athletic lives.

So we’ve broken our training into three pieces: short intervals of 2-15 min with varying rest periods in between, up to 2 1/2 hrs in length; spacing these session 12 – 24 hours apart, to mimic the stress of riding day after day; and long weekend training rides up to 110 miles, including longer periods of steady and moderately hard efforts. These are helpful to deal with general fatigue and improve our metabolic rates. We rely, too, on the science behind the training, as the graphs we’ve posted here have shown.

The clock on the wall of the Pain Cave continues to tick. And the pages fly from the calendar at an alarming rate. But I know we will be ready.

As the saying goes, “Races in the future tend to be closer than they appear.”

– Stefan

***

April 2, 2014

Team member Stefan Kusurelis (we call him “Diesel”) wrote this update to the rest of the squad after a particularly grueling training ride, and we thought we would share with all of you. (the bullet points correspond with the graph):

“A rather easy one today — right, fellow compatriots? (LOL!)

  • 5 to 25 min warmup – depending on arrival
  • 7 min at 105%
  • Team IFHF Training - March 28, 20145 min at 30%
  • 7 min at 105%
  • 5 min at 30%
  • 7 min at 100%
  • 5 min at 30%
  • 7 min at 100%
  • 5 min at 30%
  • 4 min at 105%
  • 4 min easy
  • 4 min at 105%
  • 4 min easy
  • 10×1 min at 110%/1min at 60% – the trick was to go straight without break into the 60% and try to recover within that time
  • Cool down

Total workout was about 2hr 15 min.

Team update:

  • Brian has lost 18 lbs since January, and he is back at his college weight.
  • Hal raised his LT by 40 watts since December.
  • Scott looks now like a man who knows how to suffer, and already needs new suits.
  • Everyone felt is was really great to hang with Dr. Rob last night!
  • Chip is doing the running man when riding 105%, meaning we will have to re-test him (a sandbagger for sure!).

More stats when available…

BUT I’m proud of ALL of you – it’s been a fun ride so far.”

– Stefan

***

April 1, 2014

“Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue?  Where is the frenzy with which you should be inoculated?  Behold, I teach you the overman: He is this lightning; he is this frenzy.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

PHOTO-WinstonFisherHalf-MarathonSelfie

Winston Fisher after a recent Half-Marathon.

Good Morning!  It has been awhile since my last update. As you can imagine, I have been training relentlessly, now deep into Race Across America training.  I also have the hardest half Ironman I have ever done coming up May 4th.  I’m learning to accept the fact I don’t do anything halfway – which means I am also perpetually tired!

Before I jump into my training update I wanted to share an email I received recently from a woman who inspired and impressed me with her effort and results.  If this doesn’t fire you up to change your life rather than go grab a bowl of ice cream, sit on the couch call it quits! She writes:

“I just wanted to share a personal fitness accomplishment with you.  On February 1st I signed up for an 8 week fitness challenge at the place where I work out, CATZ. The challenge consisted of having to meet certain workout and running bench marks (which because of work, I did mostly at 5:45 in morning, yikes!) and meet nutritional goals as well, over the course of the eight week challenge. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I’m proud of myself for accomplishing it. Today at the final results meeting, I discovered I lost 7 pounds, 6% body fat and shaved 20 seconds off of my performance fitness test from when I started.  I hope I can keep up the results but today I’m just going to feel happy with my accomplishments.  I wanted to share with someone and I thought you would appreciate it!”

Everyone needs to pause and read that again!  This woman started already in great in shape, and still improved!  It shows me that there are no short cuts to self improvement: put the time in and you get the results.

As for my training, I have been on a strict regimen of swimming, biking and running plus strength/HIT training and teaching fitness classes. My biggest challenge is keeping my energy level up and training smart so I don’t blow myself up. Not easy, I assure you!

While the training is always hard – the group camaraderie among our team is amazing and every class gets us all closer to our goal of kicking butt in our bike race across America to support our wounded troops.

I hope everyone earns their shower today!

– Winston

***

March 18, 2014

Evan's Pain Cave Workout

Evan’s Pain Cave Workout

I arrived at the “Pain Cave” eager to take up Stefan‘s challenge and emulate his grueling Saturday workout. As you will recall, Stefan did all of his intervals at 100% LT. There were 8 of them in all. They were 6×15′ and 2×10’.

I knew I had to finish in short order, to make my orthopedic for bi-lateral Euflexxa injections in my arthritic knees (Euflexxa is a lubricant to ease the bone-on-bone condition I have).

After Saturday’s totally sick pedal-to-metal OTB ride with Winston and Jessica Marino (both of whom left me in their dust), I was reluctant to commit to do all of Stefan’s intervals at 100% LT, feeling some residual fatigue in my legs.

So, I took some of the bite off of Stefan’s intensity by doing the 6×15’s at 90% (actually, 3×5′ at 88%, 90%, 92%). However, the final 2×10’s were both at 100%. After a 20′ cool down, my total ride time was 3h,6′,14″ with a workout TSS score of 235. (A TSS score is a time-weighted measurement of total effort that permits you to compare different workouts of unequal time.) By comparison, Saturday’s ride with Winston had a TSS of about 280.

Post-ride, I must say, I was not as gassed as I thought I would have been. The reason is that — by doing all of these intervals in our “Pain Cave,” week after week, everyone’s LT is now higher than when we first started 5 or 6 weeks ago. Therefore, my 100% LT number is now obsolete; it’s current value is probably now only at 95% of my real threshold.

Bottom line: Thanks to Stefan I know I am stronger. And so is everyone else.

– Chip

***

March 13, 2014

Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes

The view from inside the “Pain Cave” where Team IFHF is training

With just three months to go, Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes is ramping up our training efforts to prep for the fast approaching Race Across America!

The past few weeks have been packed with solid and diligent training, with each team member doing his share and improving by the day. Collectively, we’ve pushed to increase our stamina and strength through an assortment of biking and endurance sports:

• On Saturday, Winston ran a half marathon in 1:42, and topped it off with a 35 mile bike ride.
Scott tackled a 60 mile ride with the NY cycling club, going up single-legged State Line Hill.
Brian braved the cold in solid solitary rides on both Saturday and Sunday across the hills of Connecticut.
Jimmy conquered the harrowing Madera Canyon/Helmet Peak ride in Tucson, biking over 100.94 miles.
Hal and Stefan ripped a few new holes in their soles by riding close to 3 hours on the trainer.

Not only is Team IFHF averaging two hours of training per day, we’ve paired rigorous workouts with the harsh winter conditions of the northeast, to best prepare for any and all challenges that lay ahead.
We’ve also incorporated running, swimming and snowboarding into our regime to help increase speed, stability and, most of all, endurance.

As we look for new ways to train and push ourselves toward our goal, we’re getting ready to organize what we’re calling “Man Camp” – an intense, customized weekend of race simulations, night riding and video analysis (as well as some team bonding time) to make sure we will be ready for whatever RAAM throws at us!

***

February 12, 2014

Evan Marks on Snow Hike

Dear Teammates,

My cardio (workout) today involved a high altitude hike up to the top of the Highland Bowl here in Aspen, Colorado. Started the hike at about 11,300 feet. Then I walked 1.5 miles in my ski boots along a spooky narrow and snowy ridge that climbed up another 1,100 feet of vertical to the top of the bowl, which is at 12,400 feet…and I did this with my heavy downhill skis slung over my shoulders…gasping for oxygen all the way. Now, I could have caught a lift from a snowcat for the first half mile of this hike, but I figured: “Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot! I’m training for RAAM.” So…I decided to walk the entire distance. Hope you guys like the attached pictures. An epic amount of recent snowfall out here.

– Chip

***

February 10, 2014

PHOTO-WinstonFisher

“Enter every activity without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat. Concentrate on your strengths instead of your weaknesses, on your powers instead of your problems.” – Paul J. Meyer

What a week!! Snow, ice, rain and that was only Thursday. To say this has been a long winter is an understatement. Good news is, while it is nasty out things are really picking up on the training front.

Last Thursday was our kickoff RAAM (Race Across America) Intrepid Fallen Heros Team training session. We are using an empty office at Fisher Brothers as a training room. Brian Collins, Scott Cohen, Evan Marks, Hal Goldstein, Stefan Kusurelis and Dr. Rob DeStefano and yours truly brought our bikes and bike trainers, set up a stereo and started doing power drills. We are now meeting twice a week for four hours (minimum) to practice together for RAAM.

The RAAM begins in San Diego and ends in Annapolis. The race is non-stop (morning, noon and night) until you reach the end of the route. We are racing for personal glory and more important to raise money for the Fallen Heroes Fund to help build its set of NICoE Satellite Centers to diagnose and treat Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress. They say this is one of the most grueling bike races in the world, can’t think of a better group to share this adventure with.

Besides getting in some hard core bike time on Thursday I also managed to do a swim lesson, do an ftp bike test, run nine miles, swim 2000 yards and do vigorous hot yoga this weekend. I still need to get prepared for my triathlons!

My biggest issue right now is pacing myself so I don’t burn out or worse get an overuse injury. My zeal to train does not always match up with my body’s limitations. Hard to believe, but I have been known to over do it!

I am off to make my protein, peanut butter, banana, spinach shake for breakfast. I throw in blueberries for good luck and a few beats to shake things up. All the energy I need to charge forward!

I hope everyone earns their shower today!

– Winston

###